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Archive for October, 2010

Halloween was all treats and no tricks for me as I got to watch the Rams beat the Panthers.  It was the first time I’ve watched them since they beat the Redskins.  I saw a lot of positives and will share my observations below in the Quick Takes.

Let’s get right to the Average Guy’s NFL Week Eight Awards:

Waving the Packers flag

The Packers got a huge win on Sunday

Most Impressive Win

Green Bay Packers – 9-0 over the New York Jets

Most Important Win

San Diego Chargers – 33-25 over the Tennessee Titans

Worst Loss

Dallas Cowboys – 17-35 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Dallas

Biggest Surprise

Oakland Raiders

Biggest Disappointment

Washington Redskins

They Are Who We Thought They Were

Arizona Cardinals

Offensive MVP

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions – 9 receptions 101 yards 3 TDs

Defensive MVP

Aqib Talib, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 45-yard interception return for TD 2 interceptions 5 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Dan Carpenter, Miami Dolphins – 5 field goals

Most Surprising Performance

Jason Campbell, Oakland Raiders – 15 completions 27 attempts 310 yards 2 TDs 120.9 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Seattle Seahawks offensive line

Offensive Rookie

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – 25 completions 32 attempts 191 yards  TDs 112.4 QB rating

Defensive Rookie

Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions – 17-yard fumble recovery return for TD 2 sacks 5 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Brandon Lloyd, Denver Broncos – 7 receptions 169 yards 1 TD

Welcome Back Mike Williams

Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 4 receptions 105 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • From watching the Rams I can tell you that when he gets some more talented receivers around him, Sam Bradford is going to be unbelievable.  He makes good decisions, puts the ball where it needs to be, buys time by scrambling and exhibits strong leadership.
  • I was really impressed with the Rams defense.  It has improved quite a bit just in the weeks since the win over the Redskins.  Chris Long and James Hall are getting good pressure, the linebackers are reading plays quickly and the secondary showed some good one-on-one skill and an eye for the ball.  The only concerning thing was their two-minute defense, which gave up some big plays.
  • The tackling from both the Rams and Panthers was excellent.
  • Today was Isaac Bruce day in St. Louis.  It was great to a see a player who was one of my favorites for about a decade back on the Rams’ sideline.
  • This is now almost a weekly thing – I have to give big props to Steven Jackson for being out on the field and turning in an inspired performance just four days after having surgery on his left ring finger.
  • The two games that shocked me the most – Green Bay shutting out the Jets and Oakland blowing out Seattle.
  • I think the third down conversion statistic is one of the most important stats in the game.  Consider: Buffalo converted 11 of 23 third downs and almost beat Kansas City; San Diego converted on 12 of 18 third downs and beat Tennessee; and Seattle was one of 16 on third downs and lost to Oakland.

One BIG Question

Can Mark Sanchez find the form that helped him lead the Jets to wins over the Patriots and Dolphins?

What performances did you think were Sunday’s best?  Let me know by posting a comment below.

Photo source: Paul Kehrer

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The most important NFL game of week eight is:

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
Monday, 8:30 pm

The Texans started the season off with a bang, beating division rival Indianapolis 34-24 and sending a message to the Colts, who had beat them in 15 of their 16 matchups all time.  Since then Houston has alternated wins and losses.  They’ve struggled in pass defense, allowing more than 306 yards per game, good for last in the NFL.  They’ve also been dealing with suspensions and injuries.  Running back Arian Foster, who got off to such a good start against the Colts, has been slowed recently.  He’s only run for 96 yards total in the last two games. 

Indianapolis Colts flag

There will be a lot of hooting and hollering in Indianapolis Monday night

The Colts have won four of five since that week one game in Houston.  Their loss was a puzzling one in Jacksonville.  Indianapolis has also been battling injuries, the worst of which is a season-ender to Dallas Clark.  All of their top three backs are hobbling as are most of their receivers.  Still, Peyton Manning is there to guide them through the challenges, although he has not looked like his always accurate self at times this season. 

Both of these teams are coming off a bye so preparation will not be a problem.

The Texans win if:  Arian Foster gets back on track.  The Colts are 26th in the NFL against the run.  If Foster can run for four-five-six yards a carry early then the Colts will have no choice but to bring their pass rushers over to the sideline, which will help the Texans open up their air attack as well.

The Colts win if:  They can keep their offense humming after they cross over midfield.  Against the Texans in week one the Colts did not have a problem moving the ball until they got to between the 30 and 40 yard lines on Houston’s side of the field.  They need to keep the momentum going and to score touchdowns.  That task is more complicated without Clark on the field.

Who do I like:  Indianapolis Colts 31-27

Why:  With two weeks off and facing the worst pass defense in the NFL, I think Manning is going to make sure the Colts score touchdowns.  Another key is the Texans pass rush.  It was excellent against Indy in week one but has not been nearly as strong since then.  Also, the loss of DeMeco Ryans is big.  Expecting Brian Cushing to come right in to play middle linebacker well against the Colts passing game is too much to ask.  You can bet this will be an exciting offensive battle.  The only reason I don’t have a higher score is because I think there will be long possessions.

Who do you like in this AFC South matchup?  Let me know how you see the game playing out by posting a comment below.

Photo source: Paul J Everett

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The second most important game in the NFL in week eight is:

Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints
Sunday, 8:20 pm

New Orleans Saints fans

Expect this to the 100th power on Halloween in New Orleans

Fresh off of what could be considered as one of the worst losses in franchise history, the Saints host what may be the best team in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers.  At 4-3 and in third place in the NFC South New Orleans really needs this win.  If they do lose it will already be their third loss at home.  The Saints just can’t seem to pull it all together.  Their offense has sputtered.  Drew Brees has not been the same.  The defense has not been as explosive as they were in 2009.

On the other side of the field will be a team that has been performing as well as any team in the NFL.  The Steelers lead the league in rush defense and just won a big game in Miami last weekend over the Dolphins. 

The Saints win if: They don’t turn the ball over.  Brees already has 10 interceptions.  He threw 11 all of last year.  They’ve moved the ball through the air but turnovers are killing them.

The Steelers win if:  The can run the ball.  In the loss to Baltimore they only gained 84 yards on 27 carries.  In the near loss to Miami they were worse, with just 58 yards on 27 carries.  They need to get Rashard Mendenhall off early.

Who do I like:  New Orleans Saints 28-24

Why?  Mostly because the Saints have their backs against the wall and really need to win.  Most people will say that the Saints will not be able to run the ball at all, especially without Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas.  I disagree.  After Aaron Smith was injured last week the Dolphins started to gain yardage on the ground.  I don’t think New Orleans will gouge Pittsburgh with the running game but I do think they’ll gain enough yardage here and there to make them respect it.  Plus it’s Halloween in New Orleans – the Saints have to win.

Am I putting too much faith in the New Orleans voodoo gods to help the Saints get the win?  Will the Steelers pull off another big win on the road?  Let me know your thoughts by commenting below.

Photo source: JaseMan

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NFL week eight has its share of good matchups.  I’m going to preview the three games I think are most important, but I also think it’s worth paying attention to these three in addition:

  • 4-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 3-3 Arizona Cardinals – I think the East Coast travelling to West Coast rules will apply here and the Cardinals will get the victory.
  • 4-2 Seattle Seahawks at 3-4 Oakland Raiders – It’s strength versus strength as Oakland’s 3rd ranked rushing offense faces off against Seattle’s 2nd ranked rushing defense.  I like the Seahawks because I think their defense will hold the Raiders to below 20 points.
  • 2-4 Minnesota Vikings at 5-1 New England Patriots – This game will get the most attention this week.  There’s a number of storylines, not the least of which is the return of Randy Moss to New England.  I think he could present trouble for the Patriots secondary but I’m still picking them to get the W.

Now, on to the third most important game of NFL week eight.

3.  Green Bay Packers at New York Jets
Sunday, 1:00 pm

Mark Sanchez

Will Sanchez and the Jets Knock Back the Packers?

No team has been hit harder by injuries than Green Bay.  They’ve lost two major pieces of their offense while also dealing with numerous injuries on the other side of the ball that have caused key defenders to miss games.  Despite all of that they are 4-3 and are coming off an important win over Minnesota.  At 5-1 the Jets have had an excellent season so far and should be mostly healthy and well rested after having their bye last weekend.  Right now I’d rank them as the top team in the NFL.  And this week Darrelle Revis has pronounced himself 100% healthy.

The Packers win if:  Their defense can slow the Jets running game.  Green Bay has struggled against the run and currently ranks 23rd in the NFL.  New York has excelled in the running game, ranking 2nd in the NFL.

The Jets win if:  They can get to Aaron Rodgers early.  The Packers have done a better job in pass protection this season.  The Jets pass rush has not been as explosive as last year but this could be their breakout game.  Rodgers will be Green Bay’s entire offense so him staying upright is critical.

Who do I like:  New York Jets 27-13

Why?:  The Packers were my preseason NFC Super Bowl pick but their injuries are just too much to overcome to beat the Jets coming off a bye week in New York.

Am I selling the Packers short?  Will the Jets easily handle Green Bay?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo source: Seamus Murray

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Sunday was another crazy day in the NFL.  There were some huge defensive performances and a lot of defensive touchdowns, including nine from interceptions.  There were a number of receivers who had big games.  And throughout the day there were scores that just kept making you scratch your head. 

With it all shaken out before the Monday night game, here are the Average Guy’s NFL Week Seven Awards:

Oakland Raiders fan

This guy was surely happy on Sunday.

Most Impressive Win

Oakland Raiders – 59-14 at Denver Broncos

Most Important Win

Green Bay Packers – 28-24 over division rival Minnesota Vikings

Worst Loss

New Orleans – 30-17 at home to the Cleveland Browns

Biggest Surprise

Buffalo Bills

Biggest Disappointment

San Francisco 49ers

They Are Who We Thought They Were

Chicago Bears

Offensive MVP

Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans – 7 receptions 225 yards 3 TDs

Defensive MVP

DeAngelo Hall, Washington Redskins – 92-yard interception return for TD 4 interceptions 7 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Reggie Hodges, Cleveland Browns – 68-yard run on fake punt

Most Surprising Performance

Matt Moore, Carolina Panthers – 28 completions 41 attempts 308 yards 2 TDs 1 interception 96.4 QB rating

Most Disappointing Performance

Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings – 16 completions 29 attempts 212 yards 1 TD 3 interceptions 50.4 QB rating

Offensive Rookie

David Gettis, Carolina Panthers – 8 receptions 125 yards 2 TDs

Defensive Rookie

Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs – 1 interception 4 tackles 2 QB hits

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills – 29 completions 43 attempts 374 yards 4 TDs 2 interceptions 106.2 QB rating

Welcome Back Mike Williams

Mike Williams, Seattle Seahawks – 11 receptions 87 yards 1 TD

Quick Takes

  • I watched the entirety of the Steelers-Dolphins game.  It was an excellent matchup.  Miami was able to keep the game closer than I thought they would.  I was really impressed with their pass protection.  They only gave up one sack and kept the Pittsburgh pass rushers away from Chad Henne.  Their defense was also excellent.  Their pass rush was strong and their coverage was solid for the most part.  They were also stout defending the run.
  • This was my first chance to see Cameron Wake in action.  He brought everything I expected as a blitzer and also did a good job in run support.
  • I thought Ben Roethlisberger looked mostly solid but his habit of trying to hold the ball forever to wait for something to develop almost cost the Steelers the game.
  • It stinks that the replay call had such a big effect on the game, but I can’t think of any other way they could have called it. 
  • The Dolphins clock management, play calling and execution were all atrocious at the end of the game.  Just plain terrible.
  • The Bears were again involved in a game that produced some putrid offensive stats.  They combined with the Redskins to go four of 23 on third down conversions, one of four in the red zone and to turn the ball over nine times.
  • I’m absolutely shocked at the poor performance of the Baltimore defense.  They gave up 506 yards to the Bills – 506 YARDS.
  • The Chargers defense put up a valiant effort, holding the Patriots to 179 yards.  It’s too bad for them that the offense blew it with four turnovers.
  • A couple of Browns defenders had phenomenal games – Scott Fujita in his return to New Orleans had an interception, a sack and 11 tackles while David Bowens set an NFL record with two interceptions returned for touchdowns.

 One BIG Question

What in the world has happened to the Saints?

Which games and performance surprised and disappointed you?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: the_junes

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1.  New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Monday, 8:30 pm

With a 1-4 record the Cowboys have to be considered the most disappointing team in the first six weeks of the NFL season.  With the high level of talent they seem to have, much was expected of this group.  But one game after another they find ways to lose, mostly by shooting themselves in the foot.  Now it’s getting to the point where you have to start wondering if they really do have a high level of talent.  How long do you continue to say that a team is better than how it is playing before that poor level of play is their new reality?

Cowboy deep in thought

Will the Cowboys fight or fold?

Like the Cowboys, the Giants struggled in the early going.  The difference is they rallied after starting 1-2 and have won three straight.  Their defense has been stellar against the pass and they currently rank second in the NFL.  Much of that is because of the monster pass rush they’ve been able to generate, especially during their three-game winning streak.  New York has also been utilizing Ahmad Bradshaw very effectively and now ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing.

The Giants win if:  They can get to Tony Romo with their front four.  The Cowboys have only let up seven sacks, which is good.  But, they have also allowed 30 QB hits, which is bad.

The Cowboys win if:  They avoid penalties and turnovers.  They’ve outpenalized their opponent in all five games this season and have been called for double digit penalties in three of their four losses.  The only game they’ve finished with a positive turnover differential was the win at Houston.  Otherwise, they have committed nine turnovers while only causing one.

The Giants are playing good football and the Cowboys are not.  It’s very tempting to give up on Dallas at this point in the season.  I’ve picked them week after week only to regret it after the game is played.  BUT, I still think they have a high level of talent and I believe they will win this game.  When they went into Houston in week three with their backs absolutely against the wall they were able to buckle down and get the victory.  They’ll be playing the Giants in Jerry’s World on Monday night with the world watching.  This is a critical game for the Cowboys and I’m picking them to get the W.

What do you think?  Will the G-Men go into Dallas and get a win?  Or do you think the Cowboys will finally start to play to their talent level?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo source: crowt59

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2.  Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Sunday, 8:20 pm

Viking Statue

Will the Vikings conquer Green Bay?

I don’t think there is a single NFL prognosticator out there who predicted that these two teams would be a combined 5-6 when they met in week seven.  I certainly did not.  I expected the Packers to get out to a fast 5-1 start.  Instead they are just .500 and have already suffered enough injuries to potentially keep them out of Super Bowl contention in the NFC. 

Minnesota’s offense has sputtered, in large part due to the Sidney Rice injury and Brett Favre’s refusal to join the team in training camp.  The trade for Randy Moss certainly gives a boost to the offense but have they already dug themselves a hole that they will never be able to get out of?

The Vikings win if: Their pass rush can get to Aaron Rodgers.  Green Bay should struggle when they try to run the ball so it’s up to Minnesota’s front four to get to Rodgers and slow the passing game.

The Packers win if: They can hold Adrian Peterson to short gains on first down.  They need to put Favre at seven, eight or nine yard distances on third down and force him to gamble more.

A big key for Green Bay will be who is able to fight through the injuries and play.  In their loss to Miami last week they proved that they have a really hard time getting pressure on the passer without Clay Mathews.  The Packers need him to play against the Vikings.  But even if he does I’m picking Minnesota to claim the victory.  Their defense has proven to be opportunistic and I think Favre will find some magic in what should be his last game at Lambeau.

Who do you like in this game?  Do you agree with my analysis?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: Mykl Roventine

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