Re-Watch Review: Week 4
A great week of football, including, but not limited to a game in London, that resulted in the firing of a head coach… again.
Really though this week belongs to kickers. Both good and bad ones.
Let’s start in our capital though.
New York Jets 27 – Miami Dolphins 14
- Joe Philbin: From top to bottom the Dolphins have been a mess, so it’s no surprise that a loss in London is the final straw for a Head Coach that was already out of favour. A general lethargy on the field combined with stories of Tannehill being embarrassed by practice squad members, which led to what seemed like bullying to me and the story of Suh turning up to practice in trainers says to me that they have a fundamentally flawed team with players that have been allowed to develop serious character issues. What’s even crazier is that this isn’t the 1st year we’ve had stories like this coming out of Miami. 2 years ago we had the bullying case of Jonathan Martin by Richie Incognito, which was allowed to boil over by the coaches and hindered any chance they had of progressing that year by taking 2 starting linemen out of the team. Don’t forget too that this was a team that traded both Brandon Marshall and Vontae Davis on the basis that Philbin didn’t like guys with character issues. This team has been off the rails for more than just this year, they have allowed character flaws to become issues that affect the team and now in an act of desperation the Dolphins make a move they should have made 2 years ago. At this point it’s too late and the promotion of an inexperienced tight end coach in Dan Campbell says to me that there are a lot of coaching issues on this team that will more than likely need to wait until next season. This team needs to seriously look at every position from GM down and decide if they need to make some serious moves on a team that in itself has massive character issues.
- Chris Ivory: Chris Ivory probably quite enjoys playing in the UK. Ivory finished the game with a career best 166 yards and touchdown, great game from Ivory who is enjoying the form of his career. Ivory had 110 of his yards after contact. If they can keep him healthy, we could be witnessing Ivory emerge into a top 10 running back.
- Leonard Williams: It’s always good when we see a player become who we thought they’d be, which is exactly what’s happened with Williams. Williams and Wilkerson will be joined by Sheldon Richardson, who finishes his suspension next week, but could miss more time for further misdemeanours over summer.
Baltimore Ravens 23 – Pittsburgh Steelers 20
- Either, ‘Can They Kick it?’ or ‘He Doesn’t Have a Scobee’, if you Prefer a Pun: There is a theme to this week, which can be looked at, as kickers winning big games or kickers ruining potential winning performances, either way, I have to mention some of the game changing moments that kickers were responsible for. There is a thought that Heinz Field is a difficult place to have success as a kicker, which can maybe provide some comfort for now ex-Steelers kicker Josh Scobee missing 4 of 10 attempts in 4 games. But when your closest rivals kicker comes into Pittsburgh, plays a perfect game, including an overtime 52 yard game winner, you probably realise it’s time to move on. Scobee had multiple chances to win a game against a team that has given up great field position continually, it is time to look elsewhere.
- Ravens Wide Receivers: A brutal game for an already limited Ravens receiver corps as they lose Steve Smith for at least their week 5 matchup and Michael Campanaro for the rest of the season. With rookie Breshad Perriman already out indefinitely, this leaves Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Chris Givens and Darren Waller as their receiver corps. Despite a good game against the Ravens, Kamar Aiken isn’t a great option as a number 1 receiver.
- Justin Forsett and LeVeon Bell: With Mike Vick struggling to move the ball and the Ravens weapons being virtually n0n-existent, both teams will have to ride 2 of the top running backs in the league, who both had great games this week. Forsett next week goes up against a Browns defence that can’t stop the run, so it’s another opportunity to continue his momentum from this game. Bell looks like he hasn’t missed a step following his 2 game suspension, with his usual intelligent, patient running style working particularly well in this one. Arguably the best nose tackle in the league Brandon Williams made it difficult to move the ball down the middle, forcing Bell to bounce outside which seemed like no problem at all for him. Bell could end up leading the league in yards, whilst having played 2 less games than nearly all of them.
Jacksonville Jaguars 13 – Indianapolis Colts 16
- The Jags game to lose: A lot of blame can be heaped on the Jags kicker in this game. But the fact is, they failed to beat a team with a backup QB that threw the ball 47 times and ran for a combined 60 yards. The defence did their job, keeping the score low, forcing short passes to Fleener and Moncrief. The offence stuttered. They converted 7/18 3rd downs and punted the ball 8 times. As bad a perform as Myers had, they should have had this game wrapped up.
- Colts Protection: So they changed the protection for Matt Hasselbeck, to something that would work really well with Andrew Luck. The Colts used a lot of 2 tight end sets, which they haven’t done all season. Jack Doyle came in predominantly in on the run game for protection, but did play some snaps in pass protection. Hasselbeck got sacked 3 times, but you have to think Luck would thrive in this system, much like last year.
- Colts Secondary: This seemed to make changes in areas where they were pretty good, one of which being their secondary. The biggest issue seems to be Darius Butler, who looked great in the slot, but has struggled being kicked to outside. In this game alone he allowed 10 receptions and 134 yards. This team might need to make some changes to their defensive backs, if they’re to beat a team not in the AFC South.
Dallas Cowboys 20 – New Orleans Saints 26
- Cowboys Injury Woes: There is little question that this team is hurting from a number of injuries to players that are vital to their success. Last night they added Sean Lee and Lance Dunbar to the list, with the latter looking done for the season, after being the most effective weapon whilst he was on the field in this game. The team looks like a shadow of itself, with an immense amount of pressure now on Weeden, Randle and Beasley, who are essentially backups. Not good.
- Delvin Breaux: Breaux has had a long tough career in football, but now it looks like he’s making the most of it. Breaux broke his C4, C5, C6 Vertabrae in high school, leaving him unable to play football in college. Breaux decided to play football again, playing for a semi pro team, then moving up to the Arena league, then moving to Canada, before he ended up in the NFL. Breaux’s story should be a movie. On top of all his achievements he can add an exceptional NFL performance, massively outplaying the double Super bowl winner Brandon Browner and silencing Terrence West. Breaux was one of the best players on the field yesterday.
- Drew Brees: Drew Brees celebrated his 400th touchdown pass with an excellent performance, that was reminiscent of the player we’ve seen in previous years. Brees spread the ball between receivers and pass catching backs, to keep a decent Dallas defence on their back foot, keeping them in a game long enough for him to win it in a ‘blink and you’ll miss it play’ in overtime. With the defence as poor as it has been, Brees will need to keep up this form if the Saints are to stand any chance of catching the Panthers and Falcons who are still undefeated in the NFC South.
Oakland Raiders 20 – Chicago Bears 22
- Jay Cutler: Cutler is a comedy villain. He is surly, rude and comes across as massively disinterested with seemingly every facet of American football. But do you know what, he’s unquestionably the best option the Chicago Bears have at QB. You have to accept that in every game there will be a boneheaded mistake, but sometimes it’s worth it to see him occasionally do something magical, like the pass to Eddie Royal on a crossing pattern in this one, that he got off despite being in the process 0f being dragged to the ground by his feet. So at least for this season I won’t be throwing my hatred in the direction of Jay Cutler, because right now, he’s the most exciting thing about this team and makes them watchable.
- Tight-End Woes Continue For the Raiders: There is little doubt that this is the best Raiders team we’ve seen in a very long time. However their inability to cover tight ends is a head scratcher. There is a chance that it’s a teething issue from a transformation from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defence. It certainly seems like the middle line backers are struggling in coverage. Particularly Lofton, who actually came from a 3-4 defence. The only player that had any kind of success in coverage against Martellus Bennett, was Charles Woodson, who picked off a pass, but until they figure out how to get around this. I’d be playing whatever tight end is up against the Raiders on my fantasy team.
- Changes on Defence For Chicago: The talk about the Bears defence has been mostly about the exodus of players that don’t fit the scheme and we were witnessing essentially a fire sale… which was the case, don’t get me wrong. But it felt like the Bears did have a more cohesive unit. The lack of Alan Ball didn’t hurt, with his replacement Tracy Porter, I think playing a decent game against an Amari Cooper that has been tearing defences apart. The rotating outside line backers did a great job too, despite Willie Young stating he wants out, we saw a decent performance here. Pernell McPhee, according to reports has taken on the role of leader and it seems to be having an effect. I want to make it clear that I still think the Bears are not very good, but the basis of a vaguely competent 3-4 defence seems to be there, which for Bears fans like myself at least something we can take from a dreadful season.
Houston Texans 21 – Atlanta Falcons 48
- Atlanta’s own Legion of Boom: In an effort not to talk about my love for Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, I thought I’d look at something special that’s going on, on defence. Dan Quinn has turned them into a Seahawks clone. the front 4 constantly rotate, showing a variety of different looks with talent at every level. Justin Durant is an every down line-backer, but he went down injured. No problem though as Joplo Bartu comes in and does an excellent job, playing every snap from that point. It’s the secondary though, that has been moulded into something really special. Desmond Trufant, currently is the best cornerback in the league. I really don’t think there’s any question there. Robert Alford though is looking a bit good too, playing in the form of his career. Ricardo Allen and William Moore have been doing a great job at safety, but an injury to Allen meant Robenson Therezie had to step in and played every snap like he wasn’t an undrafted free agent rookie. This Falcons defence is insanely good and it’s time to start taking notice.
- Texans QB Issues: Bill O’Brien. You can keep rotating the QBs after poor performances, but the simple fact is, that the future QB for that team, is not on the roster. Mallett and Hoyer just aren’t that good. It’s time to move on. You might as well see what Tom Savage has got. Rant over.
- Devonta Freeman: Quiet game for Julio Jones, which simply meant we saw what Freeman’s got. Freeman looks like the running back we’d been promised last year. Freeman is a powerful runner, with crazy next level acceleration. Freeman’s record over the last couple of games is also a credit to how impressive this offensive line has looked. The Falcons have Coleman, Freeman and Ward running behind one of the league’s best full backs in Patrick DiMarco. This team seems to be deep everywhere.
Kansas City Chiefs 21 – Cincinnati Bengals 36
- Andy Dalton: There is nothing he can do to shake the stigma that he can’t win playoff games right now. But we need to start taking him seriously. through 4 games he’s thrown 9 touchdowns to 1 interception, for 1100 yards. At the moment he is unquestionably a top 5 QB. Aside from the Arizona Cardinals the Bengals have scored the most points in the league. This is an exciting team and with 4 great games, Andy Dalton has won the right to, at least in the regular season have the benefit of the doubt, that he is a decent quarterback.
- Cairo Santos: I said I was going to mention kickers a lot, so it should be no surprise that I bring up Santos, who singlehandedly score all of the Chiefs points with 7 field goals. As much of an achievement as this is for the kicker, it’s a massive red flag for the Chiefs, that despite 461 yards total offence and 35 minutes with the ball, they couldn’t score a single touch down. This wasn’t an offensive breakdown, they just couldn’t convert chances.
- Are the Bengals Actually For Real? I said earlier that we can’t judge Dalton until he’s shaken the playoff monkey off his back and it rings true for the entire team. What I would say is that the abundance of talent at every level is exciting. On offence the sheer volume of weapons and, what in my opinion is the best offensive line in the league (1 sack all season), has gelled in an unreal way. On defence they’ve not changed a great deal, but they’re healthy, which they weren’t last year. The line combined for 6 sacks in this one, whilst the secondary were responsible for a complete red zone shut out. This in my opinion is the most complete team in the league and right now I have zero evidence that they can’t keep up this pace. But I am still aware they’re the Bengals.
Philadelphia Eagles 20 – Washington 23
- Sam Bradford: It turned out that Bradford having a decent-ish game worked out badly for this team (more on that later). With the run game failing for a 3rd time this season, the game was on Bradford to score points, which he did picking up 3 touchdowns. Bradford through the ball downfield 8 times completing 4 passes. It was however his mid-range passes that just fell short, was an issue. There is no that Bradford moved the ball, but it cost the team dearly that they gave up on the run game…
- The Eagles Dilemma: Right so I said that Bradford’s best game worked out badly for the Eagles and I should explain myself. Bradford only completed short passes under 10 yards and bombs over 20 yards. this meant that they had few 1st downs (14 in fact) and failed to convert a ton of 3rd downs (only managing 4) which means either way, whether it’s deep passes or being forced to punt means the offence isn’t on the field very long, which puts a huge amount of pressure on the Eagles defence who eventually wear out. This week they were on the field a staggering 42 minutes and by the end of the game, Washington were moving the ball at will. this is what was different last week. They ran the ball a ton and controlled the time of possession. This is a good defence that is not being put in a position to help the team.
- Kirk Cousins: For my liking they still put too much pressure on him, but they were definitely more balanced than last week, with yet another running back having a big game in 5th rounder Chris Thompson having a great game. It’s similar to the Eagles for Washington. If they can run the ball they’ll win games.
Carolina Panthers 37 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23
- Josh Norman: I’m putting him in this 2 weeks in a row and it’s well deserved. Norman has picked up 2 pick 6’s and 4 interceptions. Norman is having a career year, stepping out of the shadows of that exceptional line-backer group. This was a game with no Kuechly and a continuation of issues with defensive ends. Norman is currently the star of an exceptional defence.
- Jameis Winston: We all knew he’d throw interceptions, but in this game he threw 4. That’s not good and for the season has 6 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. The progress that Winston is making is undeniably slow, which is hindered in part by a poor offensive line. If Winston is to take the next step, we need more touchdowns or less interceptions, it just doesn’t feel like it’s going to happen this season.
- Panthers Offence: The last 2 years I’ve been very critical of the way the Panthers do business, with a lack of money invested in the offensive line and wide receiver group. Well it seems to be working in no small part to a fully healthy Cam Newton, who has turned his patchwork receivers into relevant weapons. Who’d have thought we’d ever see Tedd Ginn as anything other than a gadget player. Excellent work Carolina.
New York Giants 24 – Buffalo Bills 10
- Giants Defence: This team is near impossible to get a read on. The defence was considered a real issue but this week they stopped Tyrod Taylor and the Bills playing the game they wanted to play. The Giants have always had success on defence when they can get away with just rushing 4, which they did masterfully in this game, meaning the line backers could line-up in coverage and only allowing 3, 3rd down conversions. Tyrod Taylor will always struggle if the game deviates from a very specific game plan.
- Tyrod Taylor: I have zero doubt that he has what it takes to be the starter for this team, he just needs to be able to stick to the game plan and be surrounded with talent, which he was missing in this game, without LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins. Although a very different player from Kirk Cousins, the thought on how to use him is still the same. You simply can’t put the game on his back, which when they went down 17-3 in the 1st half they were forced to do. McCoy might not be the same player from a couple of years ago, but he is still a vitally important part of this team.
- Masterful Game-planning: The general consensus with the Giants is that if they don’t get results, there will be some big coaching changes, which is unfortunate if this game is anything to go by. On offence and defence they took away Buffalo’s best pieces. On offence they moved the ball quickly and often, lots of no huddle, short passes that were out before the Bills exceptional defence could get to Eli. On defence they forced the receivers in front of them and just didn’t allow big plays. If the Giants can game-plan this well every week, they should clinch the NFC East.
Cleveland Browns 27 – San Diego Chargers 30
- Cleveland Defence: Cleveland have a losing record and a large chunk of the blame rests on the defence. The Browns to their credit held their own in this game and if not for a crazy finish. But again this year the defence just can’t stop their opposition moving the ball. This was supposed to be one of the best defences in the league, but with 102 points allowed their ranked 21st. This team will not win shootouts, it’s just not set up that way. If this team are to have anything resembling a decent record, they need to make changes on defence.
- Philip Rivers: Every once in a while it’s nice to be reminded how good Philip Rivers is. Despite my belief that the Browns need make some defensive changes, Rivers performed exceptionally under pressure in this game. One play in particular stands out, which was Inman’s catch and run that came from a throw that Philip Rivers made whilst he was being brought down. Unreal play. Whilst his completion percentage wasn’t stellar, he did manage to spread the ball 3 or more times to 5 different receivers. When coming up with ‘top 10 QB lists’, it’s definitely worth remembering that Rivers is still very relevant.
- The Importance of Staying Onside: This game like many, for better or worse was decided by a kicker, who on 1st attempt missed, but thanks to Tramon Williams stepping offside was granted a 2nd chance by the fickle kicking gods. Williams had played pretty darn well until this point, only allowing 2 completions. An unfortunate end for someone who’d played pretty well.
Green Bay Packers 17 – San Francisco 49ers 3
- Colin Kaepernick: With all the losses this summer on defence, I think we were all expecting, huge scores against the Niners. Where they have struggled however is on offence and in particular it’s Colin Kaepernick that’s hit what feels like an irreversible rough patch. Kaepernick looks lost on this offence. He’s not hitting his weapons and despite being a naturally mobile quarterback, seems to let his decision making get him into situations he simply doesn’t have the skills or football intelligence to get out of. Some blame can rest on a poor offensive line and a questionable weapons group, but everyone on the Niners offence is rightfully miffed that Kaepernick could be the reason everyone finishes the season with average stats and struggle to find a job next year. With 2 touchdowns to 5 interceptions and a lousy 6.2 yards per attempt on most teams it would be time to bench him. But with Blaine Gabbert as a backup the Niners don’t really have a viable option. It’s going to be a long season for the Niners, but much like Houston, there really is nowhere to turn for them.
- Packers Front 7: There is no denying that without Rodgers this team would struggle to win this game (see his 1st touchdown pass, ridiculous feel for pressure), but sometimes it must be nice to know that the defence is also rolling. I’ve been impressed with a few players over the last couple of weeks. Mike Daniels has had an insane amount of pressure and whilst he didn’t cap this game off with a sack, he was personally responsible for chasing Kaepernick into a number of players that did bring him down. The key for this unit seems to be insane versatility. Capers loves a player that can play in multiple positions (Capers used Charles Woodson as a line-backer as often as a safety). Clay Matthews switching between the inside and outside has worked remarkably well. I’ve never really been his biggest fan, generally believing he’s a little overrated, but this system seems to make the most of his natural talent as a quick, big player to put it simply. Matthews split coverage and pass rushing almost in half and was effective in both areas.
- Aaron Rodgers: Yup… he’s still good. The most insane pocket presence I’ve ever seen.
St Louis Rams 24 – Arizona Cardinals 22
- Todd Gurley: You’ll hear a lot about ‘maturity beyond his years’, this week thanks to some great plays at the end to keep the clock moving and it’s definitely true, but this somehow cheapens his overall performance, which was exceptional. Some of the credit does rest on the shoulders of an offensive line that had a season best performance against a swarming Cards defence. With Gurley able to move the ball, it took the pressure off Foles, who may not have had a crazy amount of yards, but played well enough to convert plays when given the opportunity whilst not being asked to put the game on his back. Gurley could be a very smart pick up for this team.
- Cardinals Stalling in the Red Zone: The Cards did manage to move the ball against a great Rams defence and arguably this could have been a different result had the Rams not recreated the helmet catch with an interception by Janoris Jenkins, but there were serious issues converting in the red zone. The Cards made it to the red zone 5 times, yet could only convert it once, as a result they picked up 16 pts of their 22 from Catanzaro’s boot. If not for that, this could have been a similar result to what we’ve seen the Cards do in the 1st 3 games.
- Is it Over for The Cards? Heck no. This is still a great team. Despite the loss they still lead the league with a +75 points differential, because on the whole they can score a ton of points, whilst keeping the opposition’s score low. The Cards, in my opinion are still the best team in the NFC West and the 2nd best in the NFC.
Minnesota Vikings 20 – Denver Broncos 23
- That Broncos Defence: There will be a lot of focus on the fumble from Teddy Bridgewater at the end of the game, which is an unfortunate turnover for a QB that performed quite well, but really it’s what this unit did throughout the game that is unreal. The Broncos defence picked up 7 sacks in this game, from a variety of different players. T.J Ward picked up 2, blitzing from the safety position. This unit is deep and can attack you from anywhere. As a result they lead the league in yards per attempt allowed, with 4.4. The Broncos defence needs to be good though…
- Peyton Manning: With a different QB, or with a Peyton Manning from 2 years ago, this team becomes a favourite for the Super bowl ( one of a few). But this is a different Peyton. Manning isn’t moving the ball particularly far, with 6.3 yards per attempt and his touchdown to interception ratio is 6/5. This is working fine for games they’re in full control of, just don’t expect him to be able to lead a comeback. This team in December/January will be leaning heavily on Anderson and Hillman to move the ball and hoping they don’t suffer any injuries on defence. Just to cap this off. I’m not a Manning hater, I’m a huge fan, this definitely isn’t the QB we saw tear up the NFL 2 years ago.
- Teddy Bridgewater: I actually think Bridgewater played pretty well, just constant defensive pressure and a lack of Charles Johnson, made his job incredibly hard. This match was reminiscent of a game last year, where Bridgewater simply didn’t have a chance to complete passes. Bridgewater definitely has franchise QB potential, but he’s got to have the line help him out.
Detroit Lions 10 – Seattle Seahawks 13
- Another Poor Last Minute Call at Century Link: This will get all the attention from what was essentially a pretty dull game. By now you’ll have seen the play in question, but just in case… As Calvin Johnson was close to finishing off a 90 yard drive with less than 2 minutes left, Kam Chancellor knocked the ball lose, in a perfect combination with Earl Thomas who was bringing him to the ground. As the ball was bobbling towards the end zone KJ Wright batted the ball through the back of the end zone. So I can’t claim to know every rule and if this ended like this and no one said anything then I’m none the wiser and I’m talking about a great play made by the league’s 2 best safeties to close out the game. But apparently you’re not allowed to bat the ball out of the end zone and the Lions should have had the ball back on the 1 yard line, which makes sense really as it takes away the Lions chance of attempting to retrieve the ball in the end zone, which is a pretty exciting thought. It’s fine for me not to know this rule. It’s not fine for the Official who watches the whole thing happen not know this rule. That is an issue. That being said, we’re not even talking about this if the Lions offence played better throughout the game and were able to capitalise on a low scoring game. The Lions can’t remain completely blameless after this loss, but it stinks that they had the play taken away from them.
- Russell Wilson: Easily his best game so far this season. Wilson was making accurate plays on the move under pressure, keeping drives alive intelligently, both through the air and with his feet. Only Aaron Rodgers is better at that moment when you see him run towards the line of scrimmage and you just can’t tell whether he’s going to make a throw or run for the line. Wilson’s accuracy in this game was exceptional putting the ball in positions that only his receivers could make plays and hitting them in stride. Kearse and Lockett, combined for 80 yards after the catch. I, at the time questioned the Graham pickup, believing that a decent center and a 1st round pick was a lot for a player that really doesn’t fit in with what I believe Wilson excels at and that became more evident in this game. I’m not saying he didn’t do a good job, but I just think Luke Willson could have done the same thing, whilst allowing them to retain some valuable commodities.
- Theo Riddick: Ameer Abdullah looked great in pre-season and could move the ball in week 1. But since then has been somewhat stagnant. For me it’s time to try Theo Riddick as a starting option. Riddick’s best trait is catching the ball out of the backfield, which he did pretty well in this one. Riddick could be a multi-purpose distraction that could see more single coverage for both Tate and Johnson. Also, seriously Stafford, it’s time to get the ball to Tate, come on… it’s getting silly.