Monday, September 26, 2011

So Many Things to Talk About - Part 1 - The NFL

Just a crazy NFL Sunday yesterday, the baseball wild card races are on fire, all kinds of crazy stuff going on with soccer in Europe, a new #1 in college football... Lots to talk about. So let's get after it.


1) Bills 34 Patriots 31 - Wait, what? It gets better. New England led this game 21-0 with 6 minutes left in the second quarter. So Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills outscored Tom Brady and the Patriots 34-10 in a little over one half of football to beat New England for the first time in like 8 years. How does that happen? Well, for one, Tom Brady threw 4 interceptions. Tom Brady threw 4 interceptions all of last season, but in one game this year he equaled that. Second, the Patriots gave up a ridiculous amount of yards. AGAIN. In three games this year, New England has allowed Chad Henne (416 yards), Philip Rivers (378 yards) and now Ryan Fitzpatrick (369 yards) to throw the ball all over the field. Yeah, for the most part the Pats defense bends but doesn't break, but yesterday it BROKE. New England wastes a 16 reception 217 yard and 2 TD day from Wes Welker and another 100+ yard day for tight end Rob Gronkowski who also scored twice. Meanwhile Tom Brady threw for another 387 yards giving him a ho-hum 1327 yards through 3 weeks. Speaking of which...
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2) Dan Marino's Record - In 1984, Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino - at the age of 23 - threw for 5084 yards, a record that has stood for almost 30 years now. Only one other quarterback has eclipsed 5000 yards in a single season, and that was Drew Brees for the Saints in 2008 (he ended up with 5069). Tom Brady threw for 4806 yards in 2007, the Pats' undefeated season, good for 4th most all time. Right now, Tom Brady is one pace to throw for 7077 yards. Good Lord. To break Marino's record, Brady only has to average 289 yards per week over the final 13 games. But back to the Bills...
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3) Is Buffalo For Real? - The Bills destroyed Kansas City in Week 1. But that was easy to dismiss as the Chiefs look terrible right now. I watched Buffalo play the Raiders in Week 2 and pull out a late win in a shootout and convinced myself that it was a fluke. Now they've beaten the Patriots, picked off Tom Brady 4 times, came from 21 points down... And I'm STILL not sold on these guys. I dunno. Maybe they've just been so bad for so long, that I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that the Bills might actually be good again. Maybe I'm forever tainted by the fact that my beloved Oilers blew a 35-3 lead in a playoff game against Jim Kelly's backup (no the Music City Miracle didn't fix that, but let's watch that again!).

But the fact is, they're 3-0, Ryan Fitzpatrick has passed for 841 yards and 9 touchdowns through the first 3 weeks, Fred Jackson has 303 yards on the ground at 6.4 yards a carry... I dunno. Give me a couple more weeks to process this information. But for right now, there's no disputing the fact that the Buffalo Bills are in first place in the AFC East.

4) 49ers 13 Bengals 8 - This game was 3-0 at halftime, and the game's only touchdown was scored in the 4th quarter by 49er rookie running back Kendall Hunter. Bengal rookie quarterback Andy Dalton had a rough go of it throwing for just 157 yards and a pair of interceptions, and the Bengals converted just 1 out of 10 3rd downs. The crazy part about this result is now the 49ers are 2-1, and if not for an insane Tony Romo comeback last week, San Francisco could be 3-0. 49er quarterback Alex Smith, while unspectacular, has been picked off just once so far this season.
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5) Browns 17 Dolphins 16 - Add the Browns to the list of things I don't understand about this year's NFL season. They lose to Bengal backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski in the opener, had a tough time with Kerry Collins and the struggling Colts in their win in Week 2, and now with Peyton Hillis sidelined with strep throat in Week 3, they find a way to beat the Miami Dolphins. Colt McCoy completed less than 50% of his passes, but threw touchdown passes to Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi, the latter coming with 43 seconds left in the game to drop the Dolphins to 0-3. Miami's not completely without bright spots though as rookie running back Daniel Thomas has gone for 202 yards on the ground the past two weeks and he's been outplaying Reggie Bush in the Dolphins backfield.

6) Titans 17 Broncos 14 - Tennessee suffered a devastating blow in the first half when their big play receiver Kenny Britt tore his MCL and his ACL and now the Titans will be without him for the entire season. Still, despite the loss of Britt and yet another subpar rushing game from Chris Johnson, Matt Hasselbeck and the Titans were able to find a way to get a win. Eleven different Titans caught passes and the Titans defense came up with a goal line stand to keep Denver's lead at four, and an interception on the final drive to clinch the victory. Speaking of Chris Johnson...
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7) The Titans Paid $50M for this? - Chris Johnson has not rushed for 100 yards in a game yet this season. Wait. Scratch that. Chris Johnson hasn't rushed for 100 yards yet this season. TOTAL. In three games, the same guy who ran for 2006 yards in 2009, and 4598 yards in his first three NFL seasons, has just 98 yards on the ground this year... on 46 carries... and he's yet to get in the end zone. Now I don't know if teams are just overplaying the run a ton when they play Tennessee, or if this is a product of his holdout, or some combination of the two, or something totally different, but I think it's safe to say this isn't what Titans management envisioned when they gave Johnson his monster contract. However, the Titans are winning games right now, so I guess as a Tennessee fan I can't complain too much. And as bad as Johnson was this week, his backup Javon Ringer was worse going for -6 yards on 6 carries. Here's what Johnson has done so far this year:

8) Lions 26 Vikings 23 (OT) - For one half of football, this looked like the Lions team that we've been accustomed to watching over the past decade or so. The Vikings put 20 points on the board, Adrian Peterson had 73 yards and a touchdown, and the Lions were held scoreless. Then we saw the Lions team that hasn't lost yet this year. I don't know what head coach Jim Schwartz said to his guys at the break, but whatever it was, it worked. Detroit came storming back behind Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson aka Megatron, and company and actually went ahead 23-20 before the Vikings tied it late and sent the game into overtime. But Stafford hit Megatron on a 40 yard pass play on Detroit's first possession to set up 41 year old Jason Hanson's 4th field goal of the game giving the Lions their first 3-0 start since 1980, i.e. before I was even born. It also marked the first time since 1997 that the Lions have won in the Minnesota. Exciting stuff for a franchise that went winless back in 2008. Unlike the Bills, I am convinced the Lions are for real. Oh yeah, and the Vikings have now blown halftime leads of 17-0 and 20-0 in back to back weeks and have blown double digit leads in all three of their games. Brett Favre never would've let that happen. Kidding.

9) Saints 40 Texans 33 - Just a good old fashioned shootout here as Matt Schaub and Drew Brees combined for 743 yards and 6 touchdowns. It was back and forth throughout, but the Saints prevailed at home thanks to Mark Ingram's first NFL touchdown, scored with just under 3 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Even without Arian Foster, the Texans offense was able to go toe to toe with New Orleans, but Houston paid for its inability to convert in the red zone in the first half being forced to settle for 3 field goals and Drew Brees and Company made them pay.
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10) Giants 29 Eagles 16 - Dream Team. BAHAHAHAHAHAHAH. Good one, Vince Young. The Eagles lost Michael Vick to an injury for the second straight week, and the vaunted Eagles secondary gave up 254 passing yards and 4 touchdowns despite the Giants missing starting wide receivers Domenik Hixon and Mario Manningham. Victor Cruz, undrafted out of the University of Massachusetts a year ago, entered the game with 2 career catches and wound up with 110 yards and 2 touchdowns and Eli Manning and company enjoyed a HUGE divisional win dropping the Dream Team to 1-2. Mike Kafka threw a pair of interceptions in just 7 pass attempts in relief of Michael Vick who left the game due to what was thought to be a broken. Apparently it's not broken after all, so we'll see if he's out for any appreciable amount of time.
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11) Panthers 16 Jaguars 10 - Cam Newton is finally a winner. Blaine Gabbert is going to have to wait a bit longer. In a battle of rookie quarterbacks, neither was particularly impressive, but the number one overall pick in last year's draft was able to put together a 4th quarter drive that ended with a touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olson and give Carolina their first win of the year. Newton, who threw for over 400 yards in each of his first two starts, finished with just 158 on a rainy afternoon in North Carolina, but he didn't turn the ball over. His counterpart Gabbert finished with 139 yards but was sacked for a safety in the first quarter, fumbled 3 times (although he didn't lose any of those) and was intercepted once.

12) Raiders 34 Jets 24 - Oakland's offense amassed 234 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns, 171 of those yards and 2 of those scores by Darren McFadden, as the Raiders gave the Jets defense a pretty good punch in the mouth. That's something we haven't been accustomed to seeing lately. Mark Sanchez threw for 369 yards, but was stopped on a 4th and goal late in the 4th quarter stalling any hopes of a Jets comeback. I've heard the excuse that they had to travel all the way across the country to play on the West coast as to why they looked so bad, and while I'm not going to discount that as a factor, it still doesn't explain how they just got beat up the way they did. This is a team with Super Bowl aspirations and they did not look the part yesterday. McFadden now leads the NFL with 393 rushing yards including 5 runs of 20 yards or longer.
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13) Ravens 37 Rams 7 - No Lee Evans? No problem! The Ravens have rookie Torrey Smith, their second round pick out of Maryland. Smith didn't catch a pass in his first two regular season games and came out and caught three passes, ALL TOUCHDOWNS, in just the first quarter!! Smith finished with 5 catches for 152 yards and the 3 scores, as the Ravens bounced back after last week's loss to Tennessee. Rough start to the season for the Rams who've been matched up against the Eagles, Giants and Ravens through three weeks while dealing with injuries to Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola.

14) Chargers 20 Chiefs 17 - This game was a lot closer than I thought it would be. After getting outscored 89-10 in the first two weeks of the season and losing Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki, and Eric Berry for the year,  Kansas City wasn't exactly inspiring confidence in me, you know? I'm not sure if it was the absence of Antonio Gates, but the Chargers usually prolific passing attack was out of sync as Philip Rivers threw for 266 yards, no touchdowns and a pair interceptions. Fortunately their ground game picked them up as Ryan Mathews went for 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Chargers snuck by at home.

15) Packers 27 Bears 17 - Last year the Packers didn't have Ryan Grant or Jermichael Finley for the bulk of the season. This year they're both healthy and you're starting to see what a difference it makes. Grant led the Packers ground game with 92 yards rushing and Jermichael Finley hauled in 3 touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers as the Pack knocked off Chicago on the road. The Packers defense wasn't too shabby either as they held Matt Forte to just 2 yards rushing on 9 carries. Jay Cutler threw for 302 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but was picked twice and sacked three times as the Bears wrapped up a brutal stretch where they had to play Atlanta, New Orleans and Green Bay to start the season. Things should get a little easier for them next week when they host Carolina before they have to travel to Detroit in Week 5.
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16) Seahawks 13 Cardinals 10 - Tarvaris Jackson ran one in from 11 yards out in the 3rd quarter, and that would be the last time anyone scored in this one. Jay Feely missed field goals of 51 yards in the first quarter and 49 yards in the 4th and that cost Arizona who wound up 3 points short. I don't have much to say about this game, but it does drive me to my next point:

17) The NFC West is awful - I really thought this was the Cardinals division to lose with the addition of Kevin Kolb, but after losing to Tarvaris Jackson and the Seahawks I'm starting to think we could see a sub .500 team win the division for the second straight year. The 49ers are 2-1, but after barely sneaking by the Bengals 13-8, can you really be sold on them? I mean, honestly, the Rams could still win this division even after an 0-3 start.
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18) Bucs 16 Falcons 13 - Tough to figure out the Falcons right now. Get waxed by the Bears, win a shootout with the Eagles, get shutdown by Tampa Bay. Zero consistency. The Bucs defense sacked Matt Ryan 4 times, recovering fumbles on two of those, and Josh Freeman ran for a score as Tampa held on for a second straight win, only this time they didn't need to come from behind. Roddy White and Julio Jones combined for 15 catches and 255 yards, but the Falcons gained only 30 yards on the ground in the loss.

19) Steelers 23 Colts 20 - Well, I was right about one thing. The question as to whether or not Curtis Painter should start over Kerry Collins has officially jumped to the forefront. I just didn't think it would take a concussion to Kerry Collins to make it happen. Painter was just 5 for 11 for 60 yards, but engineered a late scoring drive that actually tied this game at 20 in the 4th quarter. Ben Roethlisberger had the last laugh though, driving the Steelers 60 yards on 10 plays to set up the winning field goal. Crazy fact for you: the turnover forced by the Steelers in the 4th quarter was the first turnover they'd forced ALL SEASON. Mike Wallace hauled in 5 catches for 144 yards for Pittsburgh putting him 2nd in the league behind Wes Welker in receiving yards with 377.
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20) Cowboys 18 Redskins 16 - I honestly didn't watch most of this game opting instead to watch baseball and the Wild Card races. I did catch the end though. Rookie Dan Bailey, last year's Lou Groza Award winner while kicking for Oklahoma State, tied a rookie record by kicking six field goals and accounting for all of Dallas's scoring in an 18-16 win. Tony Romo, playing with a fractured rib, had the play of the game when he was flushed out of the pocket on a 3rd and 21 play late in the 4th quarter and delivered a 30 yard pass to Dez Bryant to set up Bailey's game winner. Romo finished 22 of 36  for 255 yards despite playing without Miles Austin and led a gutsy comeback effort. The Cowboys overcame 7 fumbles to get their second win of the season.

Whew... ok, so that covers the NFL. Moving on to Part II...

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