Week 4 Thursday and Early Games

We are now a quarter of the way through the season and its really becoming obvious how teams size up against each other. Also we had a game in London, which was arguably the best yet.                    

San Francisco 49ers 35 St Louis Rams 11

Very important result for the Niners as the Seahawks refuse to slow down. I think the real story for the Niners is the balance they showed on Offence and how they played to their strengths. Gore stood out though for a very calm, poised Niners team, with 153 yards on 20 attempts and getting a touchdown, with Hunter chipping in for some decent yardage. In the air Boldin stepped up as a no. 1 Receiver and Kaepernick never looked like a QB under pressure, making few mistakes and making room for Gore to shine. On Defence this was the Navarro Bowman show in a Defence without Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis. When I look at this game, I would find it hard to believe this is on the back of two loses, this team seem to be back on track for their early season predictions.

The Rams could be in trouble after a flying start to the season. Bradford seems to be in question as the man to lead this team out of mediocrity. That could be considered unfair; after all he was called on to throw the ball 40 times thanks to a stunted run game. Tavon Austin continues to disappoint and we still aren’t seeing these dynamic plays we were promised by the Rams in the off-season. The Defence was constantly fighting fires and as a result seemed to struggle against an Offence that seemed to have re-found its form. When I look at this team, I genuinely think they are in danger of free fall and could plummet down the power rankings.

Baltimore Ravens 20 Buffalo Bills 23

Four months ago this result would have been a huge surprise, but after a few weeks into the NFL season this result just showed the talent in the AFC East. So the big story for the Ravens is Flacco throwing 5 Interceptions. There is no denying, that is unacceptable, but for the majority of the game they were coming from behind and only went to the run game 9 times, compared to the 50 attempts Flacco had to make through the air which must be difficult when your opposition know exactly what you’re going to do. The Defence managed to keep them in the game as best as they can, but there is only so much you can do when the ball keeps being thrown to the other team. On the subject of that however, the Ravens did do pretty well keeping them in the game even with 5 interceptions. Alarms bells aren’t ringing yet for the Ravens as it appears they could be in the weakest Division in the League (as predicted by this Gentleman), but their lack of weapons does worry me that an appearance in the playoffs would be short.

The Bills showed their cards with a run heavy display that got them the win. Both Spiller and Jackson looked outstanding when handed the ball, which helped cover up a below par performance by rookie QB Manuel, which was in turn covered up by an even worse performance from Joe Flacco. The Bills Defence just seems to get better and better with every game. Kiko Alonso who has been praised by the Bills in previous games, hit the spotlight with 2 great interceptions, this player is clearly pretty special and looked outstanding, even in a front 7 full of big names. Worried about a Bills Secondary without Byrd? Well don’t, they have been consistently on form and seem to function perfectly as a unit. So can the Bills make the playoffs? It really depends how good this Miami team actually is and whether they can keep up their current form, but it is fair to say, this Bills team is the best it has been in years.

Cincinnati Bengals 6 Cleveland Browns 17

How crazy is the AFC North this year? No-one seems to want to win it. The problem with the Bengals Offence is the same as the problem I think the Chiefs might have. If they go up against a Defence that can stop the run and take away the short yardage game, then they’re in trouble. That’s what happened here. Dalton isn’t dynamic enough to win a game against a Defence that stifles the short yardage game. He just couldn’t get it going at all. I still like the Bengals Defence, but this game was about who could stop the other team scoring rather than who could score the most, basically the Browns brought them down to their level. Can the Bengals make the playoffs? Yes, will they? Who knows this Division is crazy.

I think it is fair to say Weedon won’t be starting any time soon. What Hoyer gives the Browns is just enough to win games, with a lot of help from the current best Tight End in the game Jordan Cameron and the return of Josh Gordon. But for me the real story is the Defence. They can stop the run. They can stop the short yard gains through the air, that so many teams rely on at the moment and they dare you to air it out against arguably the best Corner in the league Joe Haden. What we saw this week was the Browns team I thought we would see, ok I was wrong about Weedon, but everything else is as expected. This team will only get better and could still push for the playoffs.

Chicago Bears 32 Detroit Lions 40

What we saw from this game, is what the Bears fans had been fearing. Bad Cutler. Cutler struggled against the rush and started making some awful throws. On the plus side, generally the decision making was spot on, but the way he made the throws left him regularly over throwing or under throwing. By the 4th quarter he managed to pull it together and the bears came within one score, but by that point it was too late. As bad as Cutler was, it wasn’t all on him. The Defence again struggled gaining any pressure on Stafford and consistently missed tackles on Reggie Bush who regularly gashed them for decent yardage. I think it’s important to remember, this is one game and the Bears have definitely come back from worse. If you’re a Bears fan (like myself) and are interested in them, I will be putting a separate post up on them this week.

The Lions did everything they promised to do. Reggie Bush further established himself as the signing of the Off-season with an incredible game, rushing for 139 yards on just 18 attempts, giving him an average yards per carry of 7.7, and at the end of the first half this was considerably higher. Stafford carried out his QB duties as a game manager this week as Bush did most of the heavy lifting for this team. On Defence Suh and Fairley dominated the O-line and even combined for fumble and touchdown at one point. This D-line could be the scariest in the league and are exactly what the Lions need if they are to carry on scoring as many points per game as they seem to plan to. This Lions team is much improved on last season and could be good to push the Bears out of the way for a playoff spot.

Seattle Seahawks 23 Houston Texans 20

Clearly a close game here as the Seahawks go 4-0 after an overtime win and for a lot of this game they weren’t even close. But where were they dominant? What is the best part of this team? The scary part is it’s all good. The Defence is insane, so so good, particularly the Legion of Boom in the Secondary. Lynch played a great game and Wilson used his legs to create yards in this game and exploit a few weaknesses on the Texans. Whilst I am not on board with Wilson yet (NEVER!) and I worry about his passing in this game, he does exactly what he needs to, to get the win. My only concern with this team is I don’t think Wilson will be able to get those long runs in every game, especially behind what is beginning to look like a slightly worrying O-line. I don’t however think I’m exaggerating when I say this team could be the best in the NFC at the moment. Let’s just hope they can keep it up.

When the Texans look back at this game, I think they can say they performed admirably against an insanely talented team. Schaub threw for decent yardage, but also managed to throw 2 interceptions. We had an Arian Foster sighting, who looks like he might be getting back to his best. Despite some serious talent on Defence, you have to worry about the collapse in the second half and how they allowed such large plays. When the Off-season rolls
around I do expect to see this team in the play-offs but there are some serious holes here.

Indianapolis Colts 37 Jacksonville Jaguars 3

It is difficult to judge what we can take away from this game as nearly every team so far has looked like fantastic…when they play the Jags, but let’s give it a go. From what we have seen so far this Colts team is very much for real. Richardson seems to have fit in to this Offence like a missing jigsaw piece and is enough of a distraction to make the passing game massively potent. Luck played the game like a General, passing the ball around to a variety of Receivers with Reggie Wayne taking the larger share, who is on for another cracking season. On Defence, well all I can say is they let the Jags be the Jags. The Colts could be the best team in this division that is looking a lot stronger than anyone suspected.

The 2013 Jags could be the worst team I’ve ever seen. Yes there are some bright sparks, with the odd Defensive play but nothing that stops me coming to one conclusion. There is a very real chance this team doesn’t get a win all year. I said in the pre-season, this was another rebuilding year, that they still have a lot of missing pieces; well they are missing pretty much a whole team. Trading MJD was my big suggestion, get a first for him, use the draft for a rebuild. Now I think they’d be lucky to get a 3rd for him. But the major problem is at QB. Blaine Gabbert cannot lead this team to a win. It took the Browns a season to figure this out with Weedon, so how is Gabbert still the starter here. At Wide Receiver they can look forward to the return of Blackmon which should help Shorts who is looking like a decent Receiver, but there is no hope for them while Gabbert is at QB. But what do they do? Do they trade for another QB? Lose a draft pick that they desperately need, do they put Henne in? A player who also could not get it done, or do they do they listen to a plane with a banner that was flown over the stadium before the game, which simply read ‘Tebow, why not?’. I agree with the plane on this one…they can’t get any worse.

New York Giants 7 Kansas City Chiefs 31

The Giants should have gone past panicking by now. They are in SERIOUS trouble. But where are they going wrong? On Offence they have serious issues with their O-line, which seems to constantly need patching up. As a result Eli either doesn’t have time to go through his progressions or he hits the ground. The one touchdown they did score is proof there is still some talent in this Offence, when Manning hit Cruz for a 69 yard touchdown, but was then shut down for the rest of the game. The run game looked a little better but still not as dynamic as this team needs. If the Offence is to improve, it has to be through the O-line. On Defence, they are in a serious state. The Giants generates success by just rushing the QB with 4 and sitting everyone else back. But this hasn’t been working, so they start to rush with 7, but the Corners aren’t set up to deal with this. Throw into the mix that they are leaving huge spaces that are perfect for QB’s who rely on short yardage passes and you have a dangerous combination against Alex Smith. I still think this team win a few, even though I can’t see how they’d do that at the moment.

The Chiefs improve to 4-0…yup 4-0. What the Chiefs have done is play heavily to their strengths and its working. Smith will get the credit but to me the star of this team is Charles, who is proving to be not just a top 5 Running Back, but also great in the Receiving game. The O-line has stepped up too, giving Smith enough time to get the ball out, if the Defence Blitz he hits his safety valves, if they rush just 4 then he always has plenty of time to figure out where he wants to get the ball. That being said in this game he threw an uncharacteristic 2 interceptions, but made up for it with 3 touchdowns. On Defence they look insanely talented. Hali keeps getting better and better and managed to get to Eli a couple of times. If this team can keep playing like this I have zero doubt they make the playoffs, if they can win in the playoffs… I’m not so sure.

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Minnesota Vikings 34

We had a close game in London as the Steelers fell to 0-4 and the Vikings finally got a win. Although they are now 0-4 I felt there were some positives from the Steelers in this game. Bell looks like a decent back and Cotchery and Brown look like they can handle themselves as Receivers, without this obvious talent this game wouldn’t be close. But that is about it. This is another team with some serious issues that stem from the O-line. What makes things worse with this team, is it’s not even like Ben can get the ball out quickly, it’s not in his nature, no instead he holds on to the ball until it is absolutely too late, which can’t happen against a sack machine like Jared Allen. It has been a while also since we saw a Steelers Defence this bad. Regularly getting gashed by Peterson and Jennings, they seemed to have no answers against a team that is in a fairly similar situation. This team has some serious worries and will be welcoming the Bye Week.

The Vikings managed to get their first win, but they didn’t half make it look difficult. The Offence looked in fine form with Jennings and Simpson both looking dominant as Receivers and Adrian Peterson looking more and more like his former self with every carry. Cassel seemed to add a new dynamic to this team and works well with a yards after catch receiver like Jennings. The Defence looked great Jared Allen looking like the menacing Defensive End we’ve come to know and fear. Despite letting the Steelers back in the game, it feels like this team might have turned the corner and the trip to London could have a lot to do with it. One thing became clear when me and Charlie spent some time at the Vikings Hotel and Practice ground this week, this team were treating this as a business trip, but at the same time an opportunity to spend some time together, GM Rick Spielman described it as a training camp mentality and it looks like it paid off. Compared to the Steelers who turned up on Friday, the Vikings spent the week here and acclimatised themselves to their surroundings and it looks like it paid off. I still can’t see this team making the playoffs but they are a much better looking team with Cassel in charge, expect a few more wins.

Arizona Cardinals 13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10

There will be some talk this week over the run game and how it’s been shut down. This game is unfortunately proof of this. The Cards get a win here, but there is still a lot to work on and in truth it felt like neither team wanted to win this one. Palmer had a below average day at the office and for a large part of the game couldn’t find Floyd or Fitzgerald, only managing to get back in to the game. But it wasn’t all bad. Peterson continued to put his name forward as an elite Corner, with 2 interceptions and Matheau continued to make important plays when needed, but all in all this would be a performance to forget.

My first prediction for the end of the season was Schiano being fired at the end of the season. Now I don’t know if he makes it that far. This team are a mess. Glennon came in and picked up where Freeman left off, by being massively underwhelming, Doug Martin looked awful as he simply couldn’t get anything going and rushed for a mere 45 yards on 27 attempts. On Defence there were some bright spots. Derrelle Revis being the one that springs to mind, but they have some serious issues. If this team keeps playing as hard as they are, there is going to be some suspensions coming. This in my eyes rests solely on Schiano, there needs to be a change in Ethos if this team is to turn this season round, but I cannot see it.

So that is Part 1, Part 2 up very shortly.

Main Image:AP Photo/Stephen Morton

Featured Image: Simon Cooper/PA Wire