Oct 092013
 

Rats RankingsWe lost a couple of the unbeaten teams this week, as the Seahawks fell to the Colts and the Bengals bested the Patriots in a defensive struggle. That leaves us with the Broncos, Saints and Chiefs all locked at 5-0. On the flip side, the Giants and Jaguars have both started the year at 0-5, while the Steelers and Buccaneers benefited from byes to stay at 0-4. In the stunner of the week, the Jets outplayed the Falcons on Monday Night Football, while the Raiders got out to an early lead and then held on the beat the Chargers in another relative surprise. Our contributors have been polled, and here are our rankings and questions as we move into Week Six. Last week’s rankings are in [brackets].

1. Denver Broncos (5-0, six first place votes) [1] – Can anyone but the Broncos beat the Broncos?
2. New Orleans Saints (5-0) [4] – Can Drew Brees keep taking a beating and keep on ticking?
3. Seattle Seahawks (4-1) [2] – Still the best team in the NFC?
4. Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) [7] – Will it be the 9-0 Chiefs versus the 9-0 Broncos?
5. Indianapolis Colts (4-1) [12] – Does the AFC South belong to Indy once again?
6. New England Patriots (4-1) [5] – Is that a Gronk sighting?
7. San Francisco 49ers (3-2) [8] – Isn’t Frank Gore amazing when he gets the ball?
8. Chicago Bears (3-2) [3] – Has the inevitable drama involving Jay Cutler begun?
9. Miami Dolphins (3-2) [6] – Does Miami now have two teams to cheer for?
10. Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) [10] – Was this a statement win, or just the rain?
11. Green Bay Packers (2-2) [13] – Ready to roll, or more hot and cold?
12. Detroit Lions (3-2) [14] – Why did they move up? Because reality settled in for #s 16 and 17.
13. Dallas Cowboys (2-3) [15] – Why is it that Tony Romo always manages to kill a brilliant performance with one stupid decision?
14. Tennessee Titans (3-2) [16] – Can they manage with Jake Locker gone?
15. Baltimore Ravens (3-2) [17] – Can they slow down the Packers?
16. Houston Texans (3-2) [9] – Will it be five games in a row for Matt Schaub to throw a pick six?
17. Atlanta Falcons (1-4) [11] – Is Mike Smith trying to coach the Falcons out of the playoff hunt?
18. New York Jets (3-2) [20] – Will the real Geno Smith please stand up?
19. Arizona Cardinals (3-2) [23] – When is the last time the Cardinals won games in spite of their quarterback? Oh yeah… guess nothing has changed.
20. Cleveland Browns (3-2) [27] – Is Brandon Weeden’s return the worst thing that could happen to this suddenly resurgent club?
21. St. Louis Rams (2-3) [18] – Think they are missing Steven Jackson? Yeah, and so are the Falcons.
22. San Diego Chargers (2-3) [22] – With this record, is it like Norv Turner is still there?
23. Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) [21] – Is Chip Kelly wishing the Eagles could play the Giants every week?
24. Minnesota Vikings (1-3) [25] – Is it time to move from one failed quarterback to another?
25. Carolina Panthers (1-3) [19] – They played like that AFTER a bye week?
26. Buffalo Bills (2-3) [24] – Is there a spike in barrels going over Niagara Falls with EJ Manuel injured?
27. Oakland Raiders (2-3) [30] – Is anyone else thinking this team is going to be deadly after they spend $50 million in the coming off-season?
28. Washington Football Club (1-3) [31] – Is that Daniel Snyder’s final answer on the name of his team? This is ours.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4) [28] – Is this team really going to lose to the Jets?
30. New York Giants (0-5) [26] – How is Eli still standing with an offensive line this bad?
31. Tampa bay Buccaneers (0-4) [29] – Did the bye help, or is this just an extra week between losses?
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) [32] – So what will the Broncos’ team tweets be like AFTER the game?

To be fair to Sharpe, he had a really good question that got preempted by our commentary. For Washington, he asks: “Do they need more French players?” It’s a fair question.

See you next time!

Jun 132013
 

Mike Munchak and Jake Locker10. Tennessee Titans
Head Coach: Mike Munchak
2012 Record: 6-10
2012 Offense: 330 points scored, 23rd in points, 26th in yards (22nd passing, 21st rushing)
2012 Defense: 471 points allowed, 32nd in points, 27th in yards (26th passing, 24th rushing)

Key Additions
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Shonn Greene, G Andy Levitre, TE Delanie Walker, WR Kevin Walter, WR Roberto Wallace, LB Moise Fokou, S Bernard Pollard, G Chance Warmack, WR Justin Hunter, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson

Key Losses
RB Javon Ringer, TE Jared Cook, QB Matt Hasselbeck, G Steve Hutchinson, DL Sen’Derrick Marks, DL Dave Ball, LB Will Witherspoon, LB Zac Diles, DB Ryan Mouton, S Jordan Babineaux

Why 2013 will be better
Chris Johnson remains one of the best backs in the league, and adding Shonn Greene makes the Titan’s running game even more dangerous. Adding Levitre and Warmack immediately improves the offensive line and will give both Johnson and Greene better running lanes. Jake Locker had a so-so first year as a starter, but could be poised for a breakout year if he and new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains get their heads together on the Titans’ variation of a read option offense. Locker is athletic and mobile, but injuries are a legitimate concern. His backup, Ryan Fitzpatrick, was a short-lived wonder in Buffalo who dried up as soon as he got paid. Will getting cut and becoming a backup fuel him if Locker should go down? Titans’ fans are hoping they won’t have to find out. On defense, the linebacker corps features Zach Brown and Akeem Ayers, two young players with complementary skill sets who promise to disrupt opposing offenses. Fouku joins the group inside along with Colin McCarthy, and as a group the Titans are capable of defending both the pass and the run with better proficiency than they did last season.

Why 2013 will be worse
Kenny Britt is the anchor of the Titans’ receiving corps, which is problematic for Tennessee given Britt’s proclivity for off-field mischief and his failure to put together a full season in four years as a pro. Nate Washington is a reliable target, but the team may be forced to find out early whether or not Justin Hunter was worth trading up for. Kendall Wright had a strong rookie campaign, and Delanie Walker is a serviceable receiving tight end, but the Titans’ receivers don’t give the appearance of a group that will scare teams. Still, the group doesn’t have to dominate to help the Titans win games; they simply need to complement what promises to be a run heavy offense. They have potential, but it is a generally unproven group. If the Titans are going to have a more successful 2013, it will be because there is significant improvement in the defense, and this will have to begin up front, where Derrick Martin and Kamerion Wimbley return as reliable defensive line bookends. The biggest improvement here is the addition of Sammie Lee Hill to Jurrell Casey and Mike Martin inside, but I’m not sure it’s enough; the Titans have depth on the line, but lack big playmakers. The secondary is also problematic, where Jason McCourty landed a big contract despite not being a solid #1 corner. He is good in zone but struggles in man coverage. The next two nickel spots are an open competition, but the Titans will continue to be susceptible to passing attacks like the ones they will face from Indianapolis, Houston, San Francisco, and Denver. At safety, Tennessee landed the physical Pollard, but Michael Griffin has decent range, but was mistake prone in 2012. He has to rebound in order to help the Titans avoid being a porous pass defense. The kicking game may also be an issue if Rob Bironas continues the decline he experienced in 2012.

Outlook
The Titans look to be improved from 2012, but only marginally. The biggest improvement seems to be in the offensive line, which should aid the Titans in pounding the ball, and keeping the defense off the field after a season in which the Titans gave up the most points in the league. Given that the Titans play the Jaguars twice and get to play the AFC West, it’s conceivable that the Titans will break even at 8-8 this season… somewhere between five and eight wins appears to be their range. But the team is still a year or two away from being a legitimate contender.

Dec 202012
 

christmas-treeMy goodness, Widows. We are nearing the end of the road on this year’s regular NFL season. I am sure that your fan is eagerly awaiting the most exciting day of the year. The day that fills a football fan’s home with sounds of cheer and delightful smells of food from the kitchen. The day when friends and families gather to celebrate that which is truly important…FOOTBALL! Oh, wait…did you think that I meant Christmas? Sorry, Widows. I meant the Superbowl.

Just so all of you know that I have not been truly converted from Widow to Fan, I turn to one of my tried and not-so-true methods of choosing my teams for this week. Quarterbacks. In particular, which one that I would rather see in my stocking this year if Santa were giving me a cute Quarterback for Christmas. To be short, sweet and to the point so that I can get back to wrapping presents and baking cookies- I appreciate the ability to see nice looking young men when I watch the games and if you can’t be grateful during the holiday season, when can you?

This week, due to the way the holiday falls, we have no Monday night game. In fact, no more Monday night football until next fall. (pausing for any shouts of joy…). Instead we have a Saturday matchup between the Falcons and the Lions. I find Matt Ryan more aesthetically pleasing, so I choose a Falcons win.

Here’s the rest. Happy Holidays to all three of my readers!

Week 16 Widow’s Picks

Falcons over Lions (see above)

Packers over Titans (Locker is cute. Rodgers is cuter)

Panthers over Raiders (I love a Cam Newton smile)

Dolphins over Bills (Ryan Tannehill…and his wife is gorgeous too)

Bengals over Steelers (I usually don’t go for red heads like Andy Dalton, but I can’t wrap my head around finding Ben Roethlisberger the slightest bit attractive and I certainly don’t want to wake up Christmas day and find him under my tree.)

Patriots over Jaguars (Probably not a surprise, but I NEED Tom to come through for me this week and show us that is a far more than a pretty face.)

Colts over Chiefs (Two nice looking quarterbacks, chosen by likelihood of actual winner)

Cowboys over Saints (Tony Romo over Drew Brees)

Redskins over Eagles (I am a big RG III fan)

Buccaneers over Rams (Freeman over Bradford)

Ravens over Giants (I don’t find Eli attractive. At all.)

Texans over Vikings (Matt Schaub over Christian Ponder. I just prefer his looks)

Browns over Broncos (Sorry Manning…See comment above re: Eli…)

Cardinals over Bears (I like the Cardinals’ new guy)

Seahawks over 49ers (Tough call. Colin Kaepernik is a cutie. In the end, I opted for less ink.)

Chargers over Jets (I had to change this one 6 times during the season due to the Jets quarterback crisis.)

Nov 212012
 

This week’s power rankings show some stability at the top of the rankings, with the exception of the Bears taking a dive after getting pounded by the 49ers on Monday night. We expect that even the most fervent Bear’s fan would recognize that Jay Cutler would have made little difference on Monday and, given the performance of the Bears’ offensive line, he might well have left the field on a stretcher. The bottom of our rankings saw some shifting, thanks to a gutsy Jacksonville performance  against Houston, another poor performance by the Chiefs, and another lousy outing by the Raiders. As always, feel free to heckle or agree below.

Week 11 Power Rankings

1. Houston Texans (9-1, U) – That may have been a little close for comfort on Sunday, but the Texans gritty comeback win keeps them atop our rankings this week

2. San Francisco 49ers (7-2-1, +1) – Up one spot after dominating the Bears on Monday night; the Niners appear to have a keeper in Colin Kaepernick

3. Atlanta Falcons (9-1, -1) – They overcame six turnovers to win against the Cardinals, but that was not their most impressive outing of the season

4. New England Patriots (7-3, U) – It’s amazing what a fine line it is between a close game and a 35 point blowout; handling the loss of Gronk will determine their playoff seeding

5. Baltimore Ravens (8-2, U) – We’re not sure that anyone should be overly impressed with beating a Ben-less Steelers squad

6. Green Bay Packers (7-3, U) – Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have to have gaudy statistics to lead the Packers to a win; this team could be dangerous in the playoffs

7. Denver Broncos (7-3, +1) – Speaking of dangerous in the playoffs, watch out for this team

8. New York Giants (6-4, +1) – Does the players-only meeting signal a turning of the corner, or is this team lacking the magic?

9. Chicago Bears (7-3, -2) – They were the worst one loss team in the league, then the worst two loss team; are they now the worst three loss team in the league as well?

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4, U) – Barely hanging on in our top ten after a dismal outing against the Ravens; is Plax the answer?

11. Seattle Seahawks (6-4, U) – Winning on the road at Miami would help separate Seattle from pretenders

12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4, +2) – Doug Martin is doing wonders to revitalize Josh Freeman’s young career

13. New Orleans Saints (5-5, +2) – Can the Saints’ defense stop enough teams to make their way to the playoffs? The 49ers promise a stiff challenge on both sides of the ball this Sunday

14. Minnesota Vikings (6-4, -1) – They might be visiting Chicago at just the right time to steal a win

15. Indianapolis Colts (6-4, -3) – After allowing 59 points to the Patriots and executing poorly in all three phases of the game, a visit from the Bills might be just what the doctor ordered

16. Cincinnati Bengals (5-5, +3) – Contests against the Chiefs and the Raiders promise to get the Bengals back into the hunt

17. Dallas Cowboys (5-5, +1)– If the Cowboys were playing anyone but the Browns, they lose that game

18. Detroit Lions (4-6, -2) – At the beginning of the season I thought their lack of discipline on defense would set them back, but a lack of consistency on offense isn’t helping either

19. Arizona Cardinals (4-6, -2) – Linebacker Daryl Washington thinks they can win six straight; try one in a row to start

20. Washington Redskins (4-6, +1) – Impressive win over the Eagles has the Redskins hopeful they can stay out of the NFC East’s basement

21. San Diego Chargers (4-6, -1) – Norv Turner is changing his resume paper from powder blue to more of an earth tone; he’s also leaving off the past several seasons as Head Coach of the Chargers

22. Buffalo Bills (4-6, +4) – Our big mover of the week after a good showing against the Dolphins

23. Tennessee Titans (4-6, +2) – There is still time for Jake Locker and the Titans to make it an interesting wildcard race

24. St. Louis Rams (3-6-1, -2) – After a good showing against the 49ers, they didn’t show at all against the Jets

25. Miami Dolphins (4-6, -2) – Miami fans need to come to terms with the fact that their team is more than just a quarterback away

26. New York Jets (4-6, +1) – Once again, the Jets do just enough to convince their fans that all might be ok, at least for one week

27. Cleveland Browns (2-8, +1) – Fat Jesus is right; Pat Shurmer needs to be fired

28. Philadelphia Eagles (3-7, -4) – Speaking of coaches that need to be fired…

29. Carolina Panthers (2-8, U) – And speaking of teams that are more than just a quarterback away…

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9, +2) – Another moral victory helps a team escape from our basement

31. Oakland Raiders (3-7, -1) – Is Al Davis still running this team? Is it too soon to ask?

32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-9, -1) – Let speculation begin that Romeo Crennel will be the Patriots’ defensive coordinator next season

Nov 142012
 

Through ten weeks, there is one thing for certain; there is no dominant team in the NFL this season. Just when we thought the Falcons might make it a couple of more weeks without a loss, they fall to the Saints. The Texans took care of business against a tough Bears team, but the 49ers flopped against the Rams, salvaging a tie in a game they should have lost. The Patriots won, but not without great drama, and the Steelers struggled against the hapless Chiefs, escaping only because of a penalty. The Giants look pretty bad at this point in the season, but they always look bad at this point of the season. As a result, our power rankings fluctuated mightily this week.

Here are our Week 10 Rankings:

1. Houston Texans (8-1, +1) – The Texans rolled into Soldier Field and took care of business; how will they do against a team with a better offense?

2. Atlanta Falcons (8-1, -1) – It was a game they could have won, but no real harm done to the Falcon’s ambitions

3. San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1, U) – The Niners are still a favorite in the NFC, but they need to demonstrate some consistency; Quarterback Concern #1 of the week, though Alex Smith might be ready to return

4. New England Patriots (6-3, +2) – The win over the Bills was not an impressive win by any stretch of the imagination, but the Patriots are on a three game winning streak and now hope to improve their beleaguered secondary with the move of McCourty to safety and the acquisition of Aqib Talib

5. Baltimore Ravens (7-2, +3) – Still not convinced their defense will hold up against better offensive teams, but their schedule makes the division title looking like a good bet

6. Green Bay Packers (6-3, +1) – Can they play the second half of the season the way they finished the first?

7. Chicago Bears (7-2, -3) – Quarterback Concern #2 of the week; even though the Bears would rather have their defense on the field all game, the Bears with Jay Cutler are better than the Bears without Jay Cutler

8. Denver Broncos (6-3, +2) – Manning and the Broncos getting better every week; this is a dangerous team if their defense holds up

9. New York Giants (6-4, -4) – The Giants are just out of sorts right now and Eli is playing without confidence; is this is this a real problem or do they just have the rest of the league exactly where they want them?

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3, -1) – Quarterback Concern #3 of the week; the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger are better than the Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger

11. Seattle Seahawks (6-4, U) – This team just stubbornly refuses to go away

12. Indianapolis Colts (6-3, +1) – Playoffs? You’re talking about playoffs? Yes, they really are

13. Minnesota Vikings (6-4, -1) – Solid win over the Lions means the Vikes are legitimate playoff contenders; that will hold up as long as Adrian Peterson does

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4, +4) – Doug Martin looks like a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate; Bucs looking like a legitimate threat

15. New Orleans Saints (4-5, +8) – They probably should have been ranked higher last week, but we will correct that now that they took out the Falcons; playoffs still appear unlikely

16. Detroit Lions (4-5, -2) – Just when the offense starts waking up, the defense lets them down

17. Arizona Cardinals (4-5, -2) – You know what a bye week is? In this case, it could just be a week between losses

18. Dallas Cowboys (4-5, +3) – Another team trying to steer its way back into the playoff race; beating the Browns would help, though it’s exactly the kind of game they are capable of losing

19. Cincinnati Bengals (4-5, +3) – Just when we get ready to write them off, they spank the Giants and thrust themselves back into the playoff picture

20. San Diego Chargers (4-5, -4) – The Norv Turner watch is now officially on; a loss to the Broncos just might be the end of his run

21. Washington Redskins (3-6, -4) – They are building a good base for the future; but it’s not a team that is going to make waves this season

22. St. Louis Rams (3-5-1, +4) – What a difference an Amendola makes

23. Miami Dolphins (4-5, -4) – At least when they got pummeled by the Titans they didn’t have Tony Sparano fist-pumping after the field goal like it was a major accomplishment

24. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6, -4) – Quarterback Concern #4 of the week, though in this case Nick Foles looks like an improvement over Michael Vick; the Reid and Vick eras are coming to a close in Philly

25. Tennessee Titans (4-6, +4) – Jake Locker and Chris Johnson are doing their best to try and get this team back to respectability

26. Buffalo Bills (3-6, -1) – This team is its own worst enemy

27. New York Jets (3-6, -3) – If the Jets are lucky, they can put themselves in a position to draft Matt Barkley, another USC quarterback who is less accurate and less athletic than Mark Sanchez

28. Cleveland Browns (2-7, -1) – They even lose ground in a bye week

29. Carolina Panthers (2-7, -1) – Who would have thought that offensive production was going to be their primary problem this season?

30. Oakland Raiders (3-6, U) – They are one Carson Palmer away from being hapless

31. Kansas City Chiefs (1-8, +1) – They finally got a lead against the Steelers, and should have had a victory; moral victories don’t count for much, but this was a huge improvement

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8, -1) – It’s like they’re not even trying; expect some big-time house cleaning in the off-season

Week 8 Recap

 Posted by
Oct 292012
 

Another Sunday, another wild slate of games in the NFL. The theme of this week’s outcome is job security, or in some cases the lack of job security for key coaches and players. There’s still half a season left to play, but some themes are beginning to take shape.

Here are your results from Week 8:

  • The Buccaneers whip the Vikings 36-17 and show that they may not yet be a serious playoff threat, but are a dangerous team to play; Doug Martin has a huge game with 135 yards rushing while Josh Freeman is effective in throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns
  • Da Bears edge the Panthers 23-22 with late rally in ugly win on a game-winning field goal by Robbie Gould; Ron Rivera edges closer to the door depite a game effort from Carolina
  • Yes, it was played in the slop, but Norv Turner’s job security hangs by a thread after the Browns upset the Chargers 7-6; Trent Richardson runs for 122 yards in a solid outing
  • Matthew Stafford finally looks like Matthew Stafford for a week as the Lions edge the Seahawks 28-24 behind 352 yards and three touchdown passes by the Lions’ quarterback; Jim Schwartz moves off of the hot seat while Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch look good in last minute loss
  • The Packers struggle against the Jaguars’ defense but emerge with a 24-15 win; Blaine Gabbert outduels Aaron Rodgers but Rodgers earns the win
  • The Dolphins help edge Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez closer to finding a new color with a convincing 30-9 win; Reggie Bush wins the war of words and the game; perhaps the Jets should be apologizing to their fans
  • Andy Reid and Michael Vick updating their resumes after Matt Ryan and Julio Jones team up to whip the Eagles 30-17; Falcons now 7-0
  • Ben Roethlisberger, Jonathan Dwyer, and swarming Steelers defense halt RG3 and the Redskins 27-12
  • Patriots light up the Rams 45-7 as Brady is sharp and Ridley surpasses 100 rushing yards again; defense improved as both teams head into bye week
  • Andrew Luck and Vick Ballard connect for beautiful game winning touchdown in overtime as the Colts beat the Titans 19-13; so much for thinking that Matt Hasselbeck would claim the starting job back from Jake Locker
  • Raiders top the Chiefs 26-16; Brady Quinn’s reign lasts twelve and a half minutes while Darren McFadden rushes for 112 yards
  • Giants win a wild one as the Cowboys commit six turnovers in a 29-24 loss; Jason Garrett and Tony Romo now 3-4 and will no doubt evoke some reactions from Jerry this week
  • Broncos crush Saints 34-14 behind big performances from Peyton Manning, Willis McGahee, and DeMaryius Thomas; worst defense in the league just gets worse for the Saints
  • still to come: San Francisco – Arizona
Sep 102012
 

It was really nice to have football back on my television this weekend after a seven month wait. Football season has taken on a new meaning for me with the invention of Gridiron Rats, as I live blogged the Patriots game while doing my best to stay on top of the other action (thank you, DirecTV). Here are some of my early take-aways from Week One, with Monday night games still on the way.

1. The officiating was not good. There were many blunders in the 49ers-Packers game, and in the Broncos-Steelers contest last night. Some were benign, like misplacing the two minute warning in the Broncos’ game, while others were rather impactful. Tennessee fans in particular might be upset today that Jake Locker got hurt on a play that should have been blown dead and likely would have been with regular officials. Peyton Manning also got burned by the officials on a play that was vintage Peyton and should have worked to his advantage. He quick-snapped the Steelers, who had players still rotating off of the field. With regular officials that would have resulted in a free play and a penalty, but the replacement officials didn’t see it. I guess Peyton has to dumb his game down until the replacement officials can catch up. And there was a particularly bad call over a fourth timeout in the Seattle-Arizona game that was not only wrong, but then explained incorrectly. In any event, Mike Pereira can make a living off of criticizing the new officials, and anyone with the NFL who says that the replacement officials are adequate should probably be drug tested.

2. The Jets shocked everyone yesterday by scoring 20 points in the second quarter on their way to a 48-28 blowout win over the Bills. this tells us two things; that the Jets offense isn’t as bad as it looked in the pre-season, and that the Bills’ defense isn’t nearly as good as advertised. Clearly, Mark Sanchez needed a game like this to keep the boo-birds at bay and the cries for Tebow at a minimum. Yet in every silver lining, the Jets manage to find (or create) a dark cloud. After the game, linebacker Bart Scott teed off on the media, calling for a “media mutiny”.  When approached by a reporter, Scott opened up.

“You guys treat us like we’re a (bleeping) joke,” Scott said. “You all want us to feed your papers, but then you all talk (bleep) about us. So why would I want to give you all quotes to sell papers with if you all treat us like (bleep)? That doesn’t make sense. You all talk stuff about us, and then when we win you flip the story. You all win either way. I’m just going to be quiet.”

Where do I begin with Scott? First off, genius, I am pretty sure you mean “boycott” and not “mutiny”. I will refrain from commenting on his Southern Illinois University education, as someone very close to me holds a degree from that school, and I do happen to believe that it offers an outstanding education. Perhaps Scott slept through any classes in high school or college that might have included any vocabulary terms. And his frustration about the Jets’ being treated like a circus rings hollow with me. Why? The Jets act like a circus, which is ultimately what led to them being treated like one by the media.  This is the dark side of life with Rex Ryan, and Scott just doesn’t seem to comprehend that the New York Jets ARE a circus, even by New York media standards. Finally, on Scott’s final point that he will just keep quiet… from his mouth to God’s ears, my friend… can’t wait!

3. It’s going to be a long season and we have only seen Week One, but after yesterday I am absolutely convinced (as I was throughout the pre-season) that the Patriots’ defense is far more improved than that of the Packers. I realize that Jones and Hightower are only one game in, and that teams will learn to scheme against them, but with players like Wilfork, Mayo, Cunningham, Spikes, and McCourty on the field, there are plenty of players to make big plays. The Patriots suffocated Chris Johnson and look to have one of the league’s best run defenses. They might still give up a lot of yards, but I suspect there will be a lot of garbage time passing yards once again as the Patriots establish early leads and force teams to  throw, throw, and throw. The Packers were the fashionable Super Bowl pick this year with the rationale that an improved defense would be enough to vault them to another crown, but it’s the Patriots defense that looks far more improved, at least at this point of the year…. there’s a long way to go.

4. Speaking of the Patriots, I am of the opinion that Wes Welker is on his way out of Foxboro, and sooner rather than later. I noted yesterday that he was a non-factor in the game, catching only three passes for 14 yards. What I didn’t realize yesterday was that he was schemed out of the game, splitting his snaps with Julian Edelman, who caught one pass for seven yards. But it is the addition of the promising young slot receiver Greg Salas likely means that the Patriots are probably sitting by the telephone, waiting for a good offer to unload an amazing player who made the mistake of making his contract dispute public, a major no-no in Bill Belichick’s world. It’s entirely possible that this is a one game anomaly as a result of a scheme developed for the Titans,  but I’ve seen the Patriots make enough surprising moves over the years to know that when you fall out of favor in New England. you find yourself wearing new laundry in short order. We’ll see what happens as the season progresses and the trade deadline gets closer.

5. Speaking of sitting by the telephone, I suspect the Patriots and Brian Waters will want to work out their contract differences this week. While the Pats’ offensive line had an outstanding game yesterday, depth looks to be an issue, as Connolly got hurt during the course of the game. Waters’ return would help shore up the front five.

6. Because I live-blogged the Patriots-Titans game yesterday, I actually found myself far more focused on collecting data about the game rather than on cheering for my team. Don’t get me wrong, I still cheered, but did so with a far more objective lens than I normally would. I think that was reflected in what I recorded yesterday, but I’ll leave that up to the reader to decide. By the way, thanks to my three readers yesterday! For everyone else, check out the blog and see if you’ll visit me when I do it again.

7. Finally, maybe it’s just his change of laundry, but why do I suddenly like Peyton Manning a whole lot more than I used to? I couldn’t stand the man when he was with the Colts, and when the Colts they were certainly a much tougher rival than the Jets. Part of it is that he came off (to me) as an oaf who could put up stats but couldn’t win the big game, especially not against Tom Brady and the Patriots. That changed the year the Colts won the Super Bowl, but even that was due to a monumental collapse on the part of the Patriots’ defense in the AFC Championship Game. Part of my disdain also goes to his father Archie, who I despise for acting like the ultimate helicopter parent in forcing Eli’s trade from San Diego to New York. Yet strangely I have never disliked Eli, even though his Giants have twice beaten us in the Super Bowl. But last night I admired his performance in returning from a year off of football to lead the Broncos to a dramatic win over the Steelers. Part of it is my disdain for the Steelers and for their quarterback, who I suspect is devoid of character. But a large part of it was the perspective that Manning portrayed in the post-game interview, where he seemed to be far more mature than the Manning I used to loathe, and who had a greater humility than I have ever seen him display. I made the comment to Rat’s Widow as we watched, and I suddenly found myself liking the guy after all of these years. I’m sure I’ll feel differently in Week Five when the Broncos visit Foxboro, and I am not sure if this says more about me or more about Peyton, but it was nice to appreciate his work last night and not root for him to lose.

See you next time!

Sep 092012
 

Welcome to our live blog of the Patriots-Titans contest. This post will be updated as game events unfold. Feel free to leave your comments below. Be kind. :-)

Three Keys for the Patriots

If you are a Patriots fan, here’s what you are looking for in Week One:

1. 3rd down defense; The Patriots were the worst in the league last season for getting off the field on third down. Will the new look defense with Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower be able to get the ball back into the hands of Tom Brady with more frequency?

2. Offensive line; The line had troubles in the pre-season and looks to be without Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters, but Mankins, Solder, and Vollmer are all back on the field. Will they give Brady the time he needs to pick apart opposing defenses?

3. Better secondary; The front seven has a lot to do with how good any secondary looks, but what about the performance of the Pat’s corners and safeties? Will McCourty rebound from a tough sophomore year? Will Dowling stay healthy? Is Dennard a diamond in the rough? Will Gregory, Wilson and Ebner be a step up from last year’s nightmare rotation at safety? Locker and the Titans should only be effective if Chris Johnson is having a monster game.

Three Keys for the Titans

1. Is Jake Locker ready? Look for the Titans to try and spread things out to give Locker opportunities to make plays with both his arm and his feet. Locker looked adequate in the pre-season but was not close to stellar.

2. Will Chris Johnson return to Pro Bowl form? Is a full training camp and pre-season all that Johnson needs to return to form? The Patriots defense projects to be stout against the run, but Johnson is capable of turning any play into a big gain. This is a good early test for both sides.

3. Is the defensive line as good as the Titans think it is? The Titans greatest weakness of 2011 might well be a strength of 2012, if the Titans can bring pressure to bear on opposing quarterbacks. Expect the strength of this unit to be up the middle as the defensive ends progress more slowly, but injuries may make the middle susceptible this week.

Note – the Titans will be without wide receiver Kenny Britt, who is serving a one game suspension.

PREDICTION: Patriots 28 Titans 17

Players listed as “Out” or “Inactive”  are:

Patriots –
DE Jake Bequette
CB Alfonzo Dennard
TE Daniel Fells
DL Marcus Forston
DL Justin Francis
OL Nick McDonald
RB Shane Vereen <sarcasm>shocker</sarcasm>

Titans –
QB Rusty Smith
RB Javon Ringer
LB Zac Diles
T Mike Otto
T Byron Stingily
DE Pannel Egboh
DT Sen’Derrick Marks

GAME BLOG

Pre-Game: CBS reporting more trouble coming for the beleaguered New Orleans Saints as a result of a DEA investigation. A civil settlement is being negotiated but this will no doubt carry more penalties from the league. Nice ship you’ve been running there, Coach Payton.

Pre-Game. The game hasn’t started yet and I already love NFL Sunday Ticket! Also, wearing the silver “54” Bruschi jersey today. Let’s see how it goes. :-)

FIRST QUARTER
15:00 – It’s officially New England football season!

Titans possession:
Good containment on first two plays. Good pressure on third down but Titans convert for 17 yard game. Same problem as last season on third down. PI against Dowling. So far the Titans are giving Locker short, safe plays. Titans go on fourth down after bad spot for Johnson. Great pass from Locker to Washington for big gain. Pats stiffen up but McCourty gets away with obvious PI. Titans get field goal for early 3-0 lead.

Patriots possession:
Begin at 26 yard line after McCourty return. Hernandez nice catch and run for 9. Ridley looks tentative on short carry, but then tears off a big gain for 17. Lloyd misjudged ball and misses an easy touchdown. Walker drops a sure first down to end drive. Patriots punt.

Titans possession:
Tennessee starts on own 19 after short Mesko punt. Chandler Jones stuffs Johnson for three yard loss. Run defense looking stout so far. On third and twelve Pats stop Titans for quick three and out.

Patriots possession:
Patriots get nice punt return from Edelman to start at the at their own 32 yard line. Brady hits Gronk for big 28 yard gain. Ridley rips off another big gain for 16. Brady to Hernandez for 23 yard touchdown strike! 7-3 Patriots.

Titans possession:
Titans start at own 18. Locker starts with three straight passes as Titans convert on third down again. Need to see where the coverage breakdown was. Fourth straight pass for four yard gain as Pats maintain containment.

END OF FIRST QUARTER

SECOND QUARTER

Titans possession:
Titans open with stretch pass for first down. Pats pick off Locker on next play In the end zone. Gift wrapped for Tavon Wilson – welcome to the NFL.

Patriots possession:
Pats start with acrobatic catch by Lloyd for 28, challenged by Titans. Bad challenge as Lloyd definitely caught the ball; play confirmed. Ridley gets 7 on quick pass before getting stuffed on the next play. On third down Brady gets sacked by Wimbley, forcing a Patriots punt, which the Pats down near the 10. Wimbley’s knee hit Brady in the face, drawing blood. Giselle is not going to be happy. ;-p

Titans possession:
Pats snuff run again after Washington drops an easy pass. Hightower looks good so far today. Pats strip Locker of ball, Hightower gets easy touchdown. Pats up 14-3. This defense is definitely looking like an improvement over the 2011 model. Chandler Jones forced the fumble. Good day for Pats rookies so far.

Titans possession:
Titans start at own 18 after blatant hold on return. Chandler Jones stuffs Johnson on first down run. Short pass for two but Mayo shuts it down. Locker scrambles nicely for first down. Locker misses open pass after Pats shut down anoth run, bringing up third down. Johnson catches pass from Locker but comes up a yard short. Titans punt. Edelman muffs punt but the was pretty clear interference by the Titans. First down Patriots.

Patriots possession:
Ridley tears off 15 yard run to open drive. Sideline pass to Lloyd for 9. Brady muscles out first down on the sneak. Brady misses Welker on long pass. Woodhead makes smart play to create manageable third down. Injury timeout for a Titans defender. Hernandez takes direct snap for first down. Brady to Gronk for 7. Edelman for another first down. 5 more yards with connection to Welker. Woodhead runs it to the 10; third down. Titans confused on coverage assignment but Brady calls Pats first time out. Ridley takes it to the 2. First and goal. Brady to Gronk for two yard touchdown. Woot! Pats up 21-3.

Titans possession:
Cook stays in bounds after short completion but Reynaud gets out after first down catch. Locker sacked by Jermaine Cunningham. Williams catch brings up 3rd and 5 aft second Tennessee timeout (first used on challenge). Titans receiver Williams doesn’t use head on third down play, short of first down, forcing punt. Pats take second timeout.

Patriots possession:
Pats start at own 12 after short Edelman return. Pats take knee into halftime.

END OF SECOND QUARTER

Halftime reactions: Rookie defenders are looking great for the Pats. Troubling sign for Jake Bequette that he is inactive today. Locker doesn’t look bad at all, but Chris Johnson can’t find room to run on the defense and the Titans defense can’t keep up with Brady and Co. Ridley is looking like a premiere running back today. Patriots get the ball to start the second half.

THIRD QUARTER

Patriots possession:
Pats open on their own 20. Pass to Hernandez for 4. Ridley muscles out a first down- solid running day so far. Ridley another nice run for 7. Quick stretch play to Hernandez for another 12. Ridley loses one on nice play by Morgan. Brady misfires short on blitz. Edelman angry on called incomplete- looks like he caught the ball off his shoe. No challenge by Belichick and Patriots punt.

Titans possession:
Locker opens with big 35 yard completion to Jared Cook. McCourty breaks up next Locker pass. Chris Johnson gets 15 on short pass. Locker to Washington on pretty play as Locker was on his way to being sacked. Pats 21 Titans 10.

Patriots possession:
Brady opens with a bounce to Lloyd. Ridley gets 4 to set up a long third down. Gronk saves a low pass for a first down. Ridley ridden down for 4 yard loss by Jason McCourty. Hernandez gets five back to set up another third and long. Another first down completion to Gronk. Brady to Lloyd for another 11 yards, then to Welker for just one. Hernandez for 7 more. Brady can’t find a receivers on third down and throws the ball away. Patriots punt and Mesko pins the Titans at the 9 yard line.

Titans possession:
Johnson snuffed on opening pass. McCourty picks off Locker on errant throw, but it is a questionable pick. Play being reviewed. Play overruled – good call by official. Third and ten. Designed quartback for big gain, but Titans held, so the play comes back. Titans stuffed at 2 yard line to bring up punt.

Patriots possession:
Edelman brings punt to the Titans 47 to set up the offense. Brady to Gronk for six yards. Ridley runs throu a big hole to get it to the Titans 26. Lloyd for six more, then Ridley pounds another first down. Ridley to the one yard line. Patriots wearing down the Titans front line. Ridley touchdown. Pats 28 Titans 10.

Titans possession:
Johnson hammered for one yard loss. Fans booing, but the Pats defense is just soffocating the run. Locker incomplete as Wilfork hammers him. Locker to Williams for the first down. Wright for 12 to end quarter.

END OF THIRD QUARTER

FOURTH QUARTER

Titans possession:
Johnson underneath for three. Free play (offsides) covered by Chandler Jones. Second and short. Nate Washington hammered after big gain, loses ball to Patrick Chung. Locker gets Hurts left shoulder during the tackle. Washington not getting up; injury timeout. Clean hit to cause the fumble. Play overturned as incomplete, but Hasselbeck on field. Good call on replay. Hasselbeck to Johnson for big third down conversion. Williams for seven yards, then Hawkins for a first down. Raynaud runs for two. Mayo PI for another first down. Stevens for five on a screen. Wright on a quick pass to the Patriot two. Johnson snuffed by Wilfork for loss off four. Johnson now has 11 carries for 4 yards. Wow. Hasselbeck misfires on second down. Incomplete on third down; good no-call on Chung. Titans nail field goal. Pats 28 Titans 13.

Patriots possession:
Ridley catches a pass out of the backfield for 20 yards. Woodhead for three and then Brady to Lloyd for a first down. Lloyd looks good today – 5 catches. Woodhead runs for two. Welker for 8 after Phil Simms calls the Titans defense cows standing in a pasture. Woodhead for six. Woodhead for two more. Ridley rips through the defense down to the 10 yard line. Ridley for one yard. He has 123 yards today (unofficial). Patriots take first time out with 4:33 left. Connolly in locker room – Brian Waters might be getting a call soon. Ridley for two as Titans take first time out. Brady scrambles out of trouble but misses Hernandez in he end zone. Ghost makes it a 31-13 margin with a field goal. 4:15 left.

Titans possession:
Titans start at the 20. Wright for four. Next an incomplete pass. Hasselbeck misfires on third down, forcing a fourth down attempt. Bad pass by Hasselbeck leads to turnover deep in Titan territory. I question doing that on fourth down. The game is decided and now they are inviting the Patriots to step on their throats.

Patriots possession:
Brandon Bolden for nine, then for two more. First down. Bolden for two more as the Patriots take it to two minutes. Looks like the Patriots are invoking the mercy rule. Bolden stuffed on next run. This is Brady’s 125th, moving his past Fran Tarkenton. Bolden loses ground to the 15. Ghost adds three more for 34-13 advantage. 31 seconds left.

Titans possession:
Titans run out the clock.

END OF FOURTH QUARTER

FINAL SCORE: PATRIOTS 31 TITANS 13

Post-Game Analysis:

The Titans are a good team and appear to be in the verge of being a contender, but they were simply no match for the Patriots today. The Patriots displayed excellent balance on offense, with Stevan Ridley racking up 125 yards on 21 carries and one touchdown, and the Patriots defense looked much improved over last season, stuffing the run and forcing the Titans into a one dimensional offense. This game set a good tone that the Patriots hope to follow up on next week.

When the Patriots ran:

As noted Ridley racked up 125 yards and the Patriots rushed for 162 yards overall as the caught the Titans off guard with their attack. Ridley ripped off several large chunks of yards as the Titans could not contain the Patriots’ attack. Advantage: Patriots

When the Patriots passed:

Tom Brady was his usual efficient self, going 23 for 31 (74%) for 236 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. Gronkowski and Hernandez each had six catches and Brandon Lloyd had five in his Patriots debut. The balance among receivers also had the Titans guessing all afternoon. Wes Welker had a quiet three receptions for 14 yards, and was a non-factor in the game. Advantage: Patriots

When the Titans ran:

Chris Johnson finished with 4 yards on 11 carries, and the Titans only rushed for 20 yards. The Patriots front seven simply suffocated the Titans run game all day, and Titans had no answer for Vice Wilfork, Chandler Jones, and Dont’a Hightower. Advantage: Patriots

When the Titans passed:

Although the Titans were turned into a one-dimensional offense today, Locker performed admirably. He was 23 of 32 (71%) for 229 yards with one touchdown and one interception before leaving with an injured left shoulder. Matt Hasselbeck went 6 of 11 for 43 yards when the game was well out of hand. The 272 yards of passing offense was commendable, but the Patriots limited the Titans to short catches for the most part, with the longest plays being for 35 and 29 yards. Advantage: Tie

Special Teams:

No major plays on either side, and no major blunders. Both kickers posted two field goals. Advantage: Tie

 

Key Moment: Chandler Jones’ strip of Jake Locker that Dont’a Hightower brought in for a touchdown

This week’s game ball goes to Stevan Ridley

Aug 312012
 

The fourth pre-season game is generally pretty meaningless, as most starters are held out or only make brief appearances. It certainly helps coaches solidify their roster decisions, but as we saw this week also brings the hazard of season-ending injuries. I am not an advocate of an expanded season, but also not a fan of four pre-season games, but we all know the NFL will never shrink the pool of money they can bring in from ticket sales.

Anyway, here’s our recap for the final week of the pre-season; now on to the games that count!

Aug 242012
 

Can you feel it? It’s getting closer. The start of the 2012 NFL season is a mere twelve days away (as of 8/24) and the pre-season results keep rolling in. Some teams are looking a little more ready for the regular season than others, but it’s all speculation until the Cowboys kick off against the Giants on September 5th.

Here is a re-cap of the games this week: