The 3 Point Play, A Quick Review of Week 1
I feel like I’ve never really “nailed” a format for my weekly reviews, so we’re trying something a little different. I’m going to bring up 3 points for each game that I find interesting, whether they’re immediately obvious or not. Hopefully from this you’ll get a rough idea of what happened in the game.
Let’s get into it!
Carolina Panthers 20 – Denver Broncos 21
The Offensive Lines: Derek Wolfe described the Panthers line as “dirty” (more on dirty hits later), I would describe them as maddening. Holding is so abundant in the NFL that it’s genuinely a surprise when it gets called. Yes there was some holds, but all in all it was a good performance from a line that was contending with one of the best pass rushes in the league. Denver’s line deserves praise for creating gaps against some of the best run stuffers in the league, with a stand out run for full back Andy Janovich into the end zone being the centre piece of a great performance from the big guys up front.
Those Dirty Hits: Broncos fans aren’t going to like this… Despite being in my opinion a historically good defence, they are dirty and it needs to be stopped. The Broncos almost seemed to be aiming for his head after the initial helmet to helmet clash between Brandon Marshall and Cam Newton. Here’s what I think. Can you blame the Broncos, if they keep getting away with it? This for me as much an issue with officiating as it is with a team being “dirty”. If the officials don’t start making these calls against them it will get worse and they’ll gain a reputation, Once that happens, they’ll start getting called for clean hits simply on reputation. Officials need to nip this in the bud now. I want to see this team play without being hindered by a reputation. It’s also worth noting that on the other side of this, some investigation is needed to double check that Cam Newton was never playing with a concussion. All reports seem to be leading that way, but it still needs to be looked at.
Trevor Siemian: I think it’s probably fair to say he did enough to keep the job for the time being. Siemian isn’t the guy you want in if you need to win the game with a last minute drive, but he can sell play action and whilst he doesn’t have the strongest arm, he made the throws he needed to, with the screen the screen to CJ Anderson being the standout play. As long as the defence can keep the score below 25, Siemian should be fine and a definite asset to Anderson who has got off to a flying start.
San Diego Chargers 27 – Kansas City Chiefs 33
Justin Houston’s Injury is an Issue: The pass rush was ineffective. Putting little to no pressure on a QB like Rivers is only putting your secondary in an unwinnable situation. For me though the inability to make a play on the running back is a huge issue. Danny Woodhead and Melvin Gordon is a good duo of backs, but this is a Chiefs defence that last year allowed 4.1 yards per carry and just 7 TDs. In this game it was closer to 4.9 yards per carry and 2 TDs. Houston is a huge loss, but the Chiefs defensive front need to sort this issue out fast. Next week they play the Texans who ran Lamar Miller 28 times, which could be a little too much for this front.
Alex Smith: Does Smith still have any doubters that he can run this team? Smith led this team to victory, throwing 48 times for 363 yards and 2 touchdowns. Smith connected with Spencer Ware on 7 throws for 129 yards. We need to stop looking at Alex Smith as a game manager. Smith combines accuracy, good decision making and the most underrated ability to run in the league, which was demonstrated by Smith’s rushing TD in overtime. The Chiefs QB made a statement by leading his team back from a 24-3 deficit and it’s time to pay attention to a player that has lived in the shadow of his number 1 overall 2005 pick.
Keenan Allen: Above anything else it was heart-breaking watching Keenan Allen being carried off the field, with what we have since discovered is a season ending ACL tear. Allen missed all of last season too with a lacerated kidney and the Chargers missed him in a big bad way. This season they are slightly better set up with the addition of Travis Benjamin, but players like Tyrell Williams will need to step up if this team is to make a playoff run.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31 – Atlanta Falcons 24
Jameis Winston: It felt like with the attention facing Marcus Mariota in the off season, that Winston came into this Season under the radar. Not anymore. Jameis Winston’s game against the Falcons looked remarkably like a large number of his college games. Rough 1st half… blistering 2nd. Looking unaffected by pressure Winston made great decisions and hit 2 of his touchdowns deep, hitting players in stride. Winston looks set to take a step up this season.
Buccaneers Defence: This is the best this defence has looked in a long time, with what feels like a long term rebuild. The front 7 looks incredible. McCoy is a massive distraction in the middle, meaning that Robert Ayers can get to the QB quickly and force QB’s to make throws the don’t feel comfortable about. Behind the line, Kwon Alexander, LaVonte David and Daryl Smith might be one of the best 4-3 line-backer trios in the league (yes, the Panthers group is probably better). Alexander started strong last year by struggled in the back half. With 15 tackles and a sack in this game, it’s fair to say he’s set up for a good year. These guys will cause a lot of problems and in this game made defensive coordinator Mike Smith’s return to Atlanta that much more enjoyable.
Tevin Coleman: I owe fellow Gent, Duncan an apology. Throughout the off-season he’s been banging the Tevin Coleman drum, believing he’d take a few carries away from Devonta Freeman, something that I have generally laughed off. Whilst I still think Freeman will have a solid year, I do think Coleman might see the field a fair bit, but maybe in a different way. Coleman finished the game with 22 yards on the ground, but 95 through the air, either from the backfield or the slot. It’s very possible there is room for both Coleman and Freeman on the same field and Coleman could see more time in the slot than the backfield, which he excelled at in this game. Coleman could be an interesting fantasy pickup.
Buffalo Bills 7 – Baltimore Ravens 13
Joe Flacco: Flacco’s performance will be overshadowed by some more flashy QB performances, but it’s worth noting that Flacco is back and as good as ever. The Bills seemed intent on slowing down the run game leaving some big one on one matchups against the secondary, which with Gilmore and Darby have one of the best CB duos in the league. Flacco somehow still managed to carve up the defence, hitting Perriman and Wallace for big gains. With Joe Flacco on this team, the Ravens have definite playoff potential, although it’s pretty unlikely he’ll face coverage as empty as this every week. It’s also worth pointing out that despite playing a decent game, they only made into the red zone once and failed to convert on that play, something worth looking at with the exceptionally potent offences in the AFC North.
Ravens Secondary: This was an area of concern for me in the off-season, but seems to be a strength to this defence, as much for run stuffing as for covering wide receivers. Shareece Wright and Eric Weddle were dominant at forcing running backs down behind the line. The secondary also limited the passing game to just 111 yards and leading the Bills to complete just 3 out of 13 1st downs. I slept on the Ravens secondary, but I’d be very scared if I was the Browns, facing the Ravens next week.
Mistakes… I’ve Made a Few: The Bills inability to stop the Ravens, to get the ball into the offences hands and to actually do something with it when they had it, came down to, what I believe is a lack of discipline, something we’ve seen often with Rex Ryan led teams. From penalties alone they lost 89 yards, which is worse when you realise they only generated 160 yards. Then throw in the drops, the missed assignments and it becomes clear that with a little more discipline this could have been a very different game. If the Bills are to succeed Rex Ryan needs a complete change of attitude.
Chicago Bears 14 – Houston Texans 23
I Wanna Brock? On paper Osweiller’s job is pretty easy. For starters he gets to hand the ball off to Lamar Miller 28 times per game, a trait that we should have seen coming after the Texans ran Arian Foster into the ground. Secondly he gets to pass the ball to DeAndre Hopkins and the explosive rookie Will Fuller, who took advantage of a weakened Bears secondary. So in his 1st outing I’d say he was pretty solid considering the amount of talent around him. What I liked most was his decision making. Generally he was mistake free, with the 1 interception he threw being a great play by cornerback Tracy Porter on DeAndre Hopkins. There is definitely reason to feel happy about the Texans QB situation, but I’d be concerned if they fall to bigger deficit.
Texans Front Seven: A slowish day for JJ Watt doesn’t stop the Texans defensive front having a good game, which should show the talent in depth. Brian Cushing is a player that has had a spotty at best injury history and his latest one could keep him out for some time, so in steps Max Bullough, who had a busy, yet decent performance filling in. The line-backers in general had a decent game, taking full advantage of the giant holes that defensive front made, with Whitney Mercilus picking up 2 sacks of the 5 in total this year. Even with a half speed JJ Watt this unit is very scary.
Bears Line-backers: This was the 1st showing of the newly revamped line-backer corps and they looked pretty good. Trevathan alone gives this unit some much needed leadership. With Freeman the 2 combined for 16 tackles and were significant in slowing down a heavily set upon Lamar Miller. This duo combined with Leonard Floyd and Willie Young/ Lamarr Houston, could be something quite special for this team.
Green Bay Packers 27 – Jacksonville Jaguars 23
Aaron Rodgers: Where else is there to start. Rodgers made the kind of plays we’ve come to expect from him, with great help from an offensive line that for the most part kept him upright. Here’s where I start a mini rant. His weapons just didn’t perform. Jordy Nelson is a massive concern. Nelson’s longest catch was 8 yards and combined for a total of 32 yards. Any belief that Jared Cook would solve any of Green Bay’s tight end issues seem to have been unfounded after a single catch for 8 yards in this one. That leaves Randall Cobb and Davante Adams, who each on paper had good games, but watching the game it’s a different matter. There is no way the Packers will ever get to a similar situation as the Indianapolis Colts, but the Packers might need to start thinking about a few replacements for this team. Regardless Rodgers was special in this game, a near miracle worker in fact, it’s just a shame they’re so reliant on these plays.
Packers Defence: Where this team has improved is on defence. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has stepped up as a defensive leader and marshalled a great performance by the secondary, with Burnett, Clinton Dix, Randall and Shields combining for 21 tackles. According to PFF, Randall was targeted 6 times and only allowed 13 yard from 2 receptions. The front seven look really good, with line-backers Joe Thomas and Blake Martinez looking good in the middle (along with Jake Ryan) and the front 3 dominating the Jags offensive line. The Packers defence looks the best it’s looked in a long time with potentially Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews being the weak link, although really it’s too early to tell.
Jaguars Pass Rush: This could be a concern for Gus Bradley’s career. They’ve spent a silly amount of money on this defensive front and they failed to get much pressure, if any pressure. Between Odrick and Dante Fowler, they’ll need to find a way of getting something going or Bortles will be under a lot of pressure, in a lot of shoot outs.
Oakland Raiders 35 – New Orleans Saints 34
Derek Carr: When we look back on this game, we’ll remember 2 names. Derek Carr and Drew Brees, who both played excellent games. Derek Carr continued his connection between Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, hitting them both 13 times for 224 yards. Carr kept calm in a game winning drive in the last minute of the game, including a gutsy 2 point conversion to win the game.
Drew Brees: When Drew Brees passes for 423 yards, with 4 TDs on 42 attempts it shouldn’t be a surprise. Drew Brees turned Willie Snead into a genuine game changing receiver. It felt that every pass that Brees connected with, was inch perfect hitting his target in stride, as demonstrated by his 98 pass to Brandin Cooks. This was a great performance among many great performances, but…
The Saints Defence: When Drew Brees passes for 423 yards, with 4 TDs on 42 attempts and they lose…it shouldn’t be a surprise any more. The Saints defence actually looked like they might be able to stop the Raiders, but an injury to Delvin Breaux too away any control they had. The Saints defence lacks depth and while this isn’t a surprise, it is a problem. A problem that won’t get solved till 2017, maybe.
Cincinnati Bengals 23 – New York Jets 22
AJ Green: When we ranked our top 10 wide receivers this year, I had Green at 4, ahead of Odell Beckham Jr. If I had to do it again, I’d probably put him at 3, ahead of DeAndre Hopkins. Green had about as solid a start as you can have to a season against one of the most notorious corners in the game. AJ Green dragged this team kicking and screaming to a victory, whilst allowing Brandon LaFell to have one of the best games he’s had in a long time with 91 yards. If you took away AJ Green’s 180 yard performance, with 1 TD then Andy Dalton would have had a very much below average day.
Jets Defensive Line: I don’t believe that over the space of an off season the Bengals offensive line became terrible, which means that the Jets defensive line could be one of the scariest in the league. The 3 big men up front (Leonard Williams, Mohammed Wilkerson and Steve McLendon) combined for 6 sacks and 13 tackles against Andy Dalton who spent a good chunk of the game on the floor, as well as keeping Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard relatively quiet. The Jets lost this game, but this might have been one of the best defensive unit performances in the league this week.
Matt Forte: Not much to say other than he had a very Matt Forte day. Forte had 22 carries for 98 yards and 5 receptions for 59 yards. Forte will be important if this team is to push for a playoff run.
Cleveland Browns 10 – Philadelphia Eagles 29
An Apology: Cleveland I’m sorry. I put my faith in your team, which is historically the kiss of death and for Cleveland this year it’s no different. RG3 was looking decent, but now he’s on IR in the most typical RG3 way possible. Whilst I do believe that this team can and will be special in the future, it is clearly the early building blocks for a team that still needs a lot of work. What I would say though, is that this is being done in the correct way for the Browns and as long as Jimmy Haslam shows some uncharacteristic patience with what’s being done, they should be okay. With that I’ll try not to jinx any more teams.
Carson Wentz: There is no doubt that there is an element of Wentz playing well against a defence that still needs a lot of work, but still the calm cohesive performance from the 2nd overall pick was about as decent as you’d like it to be. Wentz hit under fire wide receiver Jordan Matthews for 114 yards and a touchdown, which once again, despite a favourable matchup is still an improvement on anything we’d seen so far. Wentz gets eased into the NFL with a game against Cleveland, followed by a Monday night game against the Chicago Bears next week, so we could have to wait till week 3 in a game against Pittsburgh before we see just how good Wentz is, but this is definitely a good sign.
RG3 Out: As a Bears fan my memories of Josh McCown are happy ones. I understand that since his great season with the Bears, McCown hasn’t really been nearly as good, but I genuinely believe (and prepare to laugh), that this is the best situation he’s been in since then. Terrelle Pryor is looking pretty decent, as is Corey Coleman. The line is okay, although Cameron Erving is yet to live up to his 1st round pick up (see the snap that gave up a safety), but players like Bitonio and Thomas make a QB’s job much easier. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Season isn’t over for the Browns and whilst I think 6 wins might be their target, I do think they’ll look better as the season goes on.
Minnesota Vikings 25 – Tennessee Titans 16
Vikings Defence: The opportunistic nature of this unit means they are still relevant, which is something we at the Gents clubhouse, have been saying since Bridgewater went down. Eric Kendricks continues to impress, with a number of big plays including the interception for the touchdown. The fact is the offence failed to get into the end zone and relied on a shaky Blair Walsh to hit 4 field goals. The Vikings 2 defensive touchdowns won this game, whilst outscoring the offence. expect big things from this unit.
Vikings Offence: Okay the last 2 points have been pretty broad but relevant to what I’m trying to say. The offence, despite a great game from Stephon Diggs, stalled. Adrian Peterson contended with a loaded box and a defence that knew where the real threat was. Shaun Hill made some plays, but with him at the helm, they looked pretty toothless. With a big game against Green Bay next week, I’d fully expect to see Bradford installed to try and provide an extra threat against a team that won’t be quite so careless on offence.
Same Old Titans? I don’t think so. There is little doubt that they’ve improved. Tajae Sharpe and Derrick Henry make this offence much more fun and the defence proved they can slow down the run. This was a hobbled Vikings offence, but they did prevent them from scoring a touchdown. So maybe we need to calm down the hype a little bit, but there are definite improvements on this team.
Miami Dolphins 10 – Seattle Seahawks 12
Russell Wilson: A quiet game from the vocal QB, but he did do enough to win the game, which when the Seahawks are pushing in a playoff drive will be the only thing that matters. Wilson played through an ankle injury to lead the Seahawks to a last minute score of the Seahawks TD in this game. The offensive line in Seattle is a huge issue and Wilson can expect more injuries unless they improve very quickly.
Legion of Boom: Time to eat more humble pie… With so many cornerbacks leaving Seattle to get big paydays with other teams, I thought this year we might finally see a drop off. I was wrong. Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman were all decent, but with the revolving door line-up on the other side, it seemed to be an area of weakness, which I quickly realised it isn’t. DeShawn Shead stepped up in a big bad way and in my mind cemented himself into the position. This would mean you could play Jeremy Lane in the slot, the position where he is one of the best in the game. If there was any doubt how good they’d be, this should have settled that. They’ll be just as good as they always are.
New York Giants 20 – Dallas Cowboys 19
Dak Prescott: Where else can you start? Prescott had a solid, if not outstanding game, that saw his leading receiver disappear after an early 8 yard catch. Prescott managed to move the ball for 24 1st downs and converted 10 of 17 1st downs. I think this was always the performance we were going to get and a nice reminder that you can’t tell anything from pre-season play.
Giants Receiving Corps: If you had any concerns about this unit, you can lay them to bed. They’re really good. Beckham’s talent was never in doubt, but with Shepard being an unknown entity and Cruz recovering from an injury they had a few variables, which I believe the Giants can relax about, after a decent performance against a surprisingly good Cowboys secondary and with an Eli Manning, who like he does every season, needs some time to find his feet. Very encouraging for this Giants team.
Giants Defensive Line: With the 2 additions of Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison, this defensive line can now do something that every Super bowl winning Giants team has been able to do. Get pressure with just the 4. As important as the 2 new additions is that Jason Pierre Paul is looking back to his very best and provides an excellent bookend to Olivier Vernon. With the Jets insanely talented defensive line, New York seems to have the monopoly on game changing defensive linemen.
Detroit Lions 39 – Indianapolis Colts 35
Andrew Luck: Luck is in a similar situation to Drew Brees. He’s doing what should be enough to win games, but a lack lustre defence is holding him back. The positives are that Andrew Luck is very much back, completing 31 of 47 passes for 385 yards, 4 touchdowns and most importantly, zero turnovers. The bad news is that the defence looks pretty beaten up, meaning that against teams that can score big points they’re really going to struggle. Still it’s nice to see some of those wonderful Andrew Luck throws, it’s just a shame the defence will cost Pagano and Grigson their jobs.
Matt Stafford: Who is this person making competent plays, looking off defenders and spreading the ball evenly between 7 different receivers? The promotion of Jim Bob Cooter to offensive coordinator last season has turned Matt Stafford into a QB with top 10 potential. Stafford now looks like the QB we’d been promised and makes the Lions immensely watchable.
Both Defences: Both the above QBs look set for exceptional seasons that go nowhere because their defences can’t stop anything. This is a huge concern, considering both QBs seem to be in their prime. Both secondaries were 2 of the best a couple of years ago, but due to injuries or players moving on their some of the weakest in the league. Expect many a high scoring game with these 2 teams.
New England Patriots 23 – Arizona Cardinals 21
Jimmy Garoppolo: Nate Solder. Out. Rob Gronkowski. Out. With that in mind this performance was rather good and to lead the team to a win against a capable team like the Cardinals sets the Patriots up for their usual playoff run, although historically they’ve started slow. Garoppolo wasn’t particularly flashy, but he was efficient and intelligent, targeting players not named Mathieu and Peterson, an area that is an obvious weakness currently for the Cardinals. If Garoppolo can lead the team to a 2-2 record, it keeps the Pats in a really good position when Brady comes back.
Patriots Defensive Front: The Patriots front 7 could be one of the deepest units in the league with play makers coming from everywhere. The Patriots have put their hat in the ring for the “best defence in the league” title. Chris Long in particular could be a player that the Rams will really miss this season.
David Johnson: In a game that tabled a number of big concerns for this Cardinals team, it was nice to see that David Johnson looks like he’s going to be about as good as we all expected with a great performance both catching the ball and running it. J0hnson behind a decent Cards offensive line, should help Palmer lead this team to a playoff spot, despite there being a chance that they missed their window.
Pittsburgh Steelers 38 – Washington 16
The Pittsburgh Triplets: It’s impossible to separate Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams in this one who were the biggest influence on this game. If anyone was concerned that a lack of Bryant or LeVeon Bell would mean they’d struggle this year, they’d be wrong. DeAngelo Williams looked great in this game taking full advantage of the best Steelers O-line we’ve seen in years, running for 143 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was a typical game from Antonio Brown, who took full advantage of the Bashaud Breeland match up. Breeland is a player that I thought would take a leap forward this year. Hopefully this game was just a blip. Roethlisberger managed to spread the ball around, but was at fault on an early fumble that he got lucky with, when Ryan Kerrigan dropped the ball. This is a slight concern, but there’s no doubt about his ability to spread the ball around.
Ryan Shazier: I’ve criticized Shazier in the past for an inability to make meaningful tackles. Well in this game he was outstanding, with 5 tackles an interception and a forced fumble, whilst keeping up with Jordan Reed step for step. If Shazier can keep this up we could see a career year from the inside line-backer.
Washington’s Running Backs: Washington have in my opinion, the worst running back group in the league and could lead to massive problems for a QB that relies at least a little bit on a running game to free up some of his receivers. If they can’t move the ball on the ground, don’t expect them to reach the playoffs again.
LA Rams 0 – San Francisco 49ers 28
Niners Defence: Sneaky good defence in San Francisco. No, they won’t shut out any other team, but they could stifle a few unexpectedly. After the exodus of retirees last year, they seem to have replenished the team with some decent names, particularly in what looks like a loaded secondary. The Niners at least have the base for a very good defence for the future.
Blaine Gabbert: I wanted to talk about Carlos Hyde here, but negativity towards Gabbert has me standing up for him here. Gabbert has been criticised for some of his throws, which I think is a little unfair. Gabbert managed to do the one thing that no one in a Chip Kelly offence in the NFL has managed and that is manage to hold onto the ball for more than 30 minutes and keep the defence from being utterly exhausted. Gabbert managed 28 1st downs and 8 3rd down conversions. This is what makes Gabbert a better fit than Kapernick and a decent QB for this offence… yes, I’m serious.
LA Ramifications: It’s not looking good for a Rams team that gave up an awful lot for a QB that is 3rd on the depth chart and has never called a play in the huddle. Jared Goff shows a decent amount of potential, but the chances of him being effective enough this year to make a difference, are slim. This will be unquestionably the Rams worst game (I mean… I don’t think we’ll see Aaron Donald get ejected again), but they look set for a thoroughly average season, with no 1st round pick next year. There could be some massive changes in LA next year.
And that’s week 1 in a nut shell. Don’t forget to listen to the pod, to hear us go in deep on next week’s games!