I'm still in the process of watching every game in its entirety (Directv's Short Cuts is well worth the 99 bucks.) For now, some notes on things I already saw and thought.
1. Brett Favre is worth 4 wins to the Jets. It's just not the 4 wins people think, because he's the difference between 4-12 and 8-8. Their Offensive Line is not good, and it's appropriate to start calling D'Brickashaw Ferguson a bust at this point. The play-calling is unimaginative, which is shocking from a coordinator with the Schottenheimer name.
2. The Patriots will be home underdogs against the Broncos. They're suddenly a close-to-the-vest team, and their defense will have nothing for the Broncos' offense. The game with the Jets was very short (23 minutes to show every play in the Short Cut,) and I am sure that was part of the Belichick strategy. They'll be okay against teams that don't throw it well (Deltha O'Neal as a #1 CB?) The Broncos, Chargers, and Colts will crush them, though.
3. Speaking of the Patriots, why don't teams pay attention to Kevin Faulk when he lines up in the shotgun? He's a killer, and he's been doing it for about 10 years now.
4. I'm a lover of big plays that go unmentioned, and Tim Jennings (#23) of the Colts should take a bow. He made a suberb play to get his hand up quickly and prevent a punt from going into the end zone, and then down it at the 1. That play was enormous, because if Minnesota gets it at the 20, they are not nearly as conservative as they are from the 1. The resulting field position gave Peyton Manning the chance he needed to make the play to Reggie Wayne.
5. I told you last week that the Jaguars can't pass-protect. It turns out that they can't run-block much either, missing all those guards to injury. They're stout against the run on defense, but it is difficult to imagine them winning more than 6 games this season with that terrible offensive line. David Garrard hasn't played well yet, either.
6. Trent Edwards impressed me Sunday, and I am not naturally inclined to be a fan of a guy like him. I like strong-armed/athletic guys like JP Losman. He's an average-armed, average athlete, with above average poise and feel for the game. The Bills are for real, and will win the AFC East this season.
7. I'm happy for Domenik Hixon, who looks like a good football player in New York. I don't think he'd play much in Denver, but I'm glad he's having success somewhere else.
8. Miami's defense is terrible.
9. That doesn't mean anybody should sleep on Arizona, who is going to get double-digit victories for the first time since 1975. They'll win the NFC West, and not by default. Ken Whisenhunt made a great call going with Kurt Warner, and it jumps off the screen how hard the team is playing for them.
10. Most of my local friends here are Cleveland Browns fans, and they wouldn't like this if they looked at MHR. The Browns are not ready for prime time, which is problematic since they have an NFL-high 5 appearances on prime time TV this season. It seems like Braylon Edwards is trying to assist Derek Anderson in his own admirable efforts to get the Brady Quinn era underway. The right side of the Cleveland Offensive Line looked horrible last night, and they can't cover anybody in the secondary. They look like a 6-10 team right now, considering the schedule they play.
11. Pittsburgh is not as good as advertised either. They're going to get Ben Roethlisberger killed one of these days. It's no small accomplishment to have the worst pass-protection in the NFL, but I think Pittsburgh wins that award. Of course, the MSM is not hip to this yet, but they'll catch up to me, eventually. By then, I'll be on to something else, though.
12. My opinion of Carson Palmer was only strengthened by what I saw Sunday. I think he's finished as a good quarterback, because he does not have adequate mobility for what he is asked to do. Mike Lombardi agreed today on Nationalfootballpost.com.
13. Sometimes, a Tampa-2 scheme is not just a Tampa-2 scheme. The Bucs play it better than the Lions, and Matt Ryan had a really hard time. TB dropped a safety into the box a lot, essentially showing a 46 presnap look with zone principles, which is a very smart thing to do against Atlanta. Expect everybody to do that to Ryan, until he proves he can beat it. As a side note, he has the arm of a 3rd round pick, and struggles to get it to the sideline with any velocity.
14. Brian Griese has become a pretty good team guy over the years, and Jeff Garcia is totally a me-first guy. I suspect that this is at the core of the change in Tampa, because Garcia is definitely more talented.
15. It's kind of amazing how durable Warrick Dunn has been in his career. As I watch Chris Johnson, I think he has a very bright future if he learns how to avoid big hits the way Dunn always has. That's a skill set that can be learned, making yourself small at the opportune time. He is one hell of a dynamic playmaker, in any case.
16. I am beginning to think Reggie Bush has some LDT in him, in a negative way. Despite the best efforts of his marketing people, LDT has always shown signs of being kind of a boorish jerk, with both his comments and his body language. Bush is even more heavily marketed, and maybe more of a jerk. Brees missed him on a 3rd and short swing pass, and Bush threw a tantrum afterward. Also, the waving on the touchdown is Bush league. He needs to grow up.
17. Could it be that the Redskins have figured out that Jason Campbell can only play in a vertical passing game? He lacks rhythm and feel for the timing game.
18. The play-by-play guy in the Bucs-Falcons game called a stiff-arm a "stiffie." I hope nobody at the FCC gets too upset about it.
19. Deion Sanders had it pegged last night on NFL Network, when he said playing Kansas CIty was like Homecoming. They may be winless heading into Week 16, knowing they have Miami at home and Cincinnati on the road, to avoid being the first 0-16 team ever. Those strike me as KC's only winnable games.
20. Oakland was better, but they can't beat a good team if they can't throw the football. They and Seattle have the worst receiving corps in the NFL right now.
21. JT O'Sullivan can't play at the NFL level. The best thing I can find to say about him is that he has average accuracy and mobility. In terms of arm strength, touch, poise, and feel for the game, he looks way below average.
22. It's going to get lost in the shuffle, because Seattle is suddenly a bad offensive football team, but John Carlson is a very impressive rookie tight end. Matt Hasselbeck clearly doesn't trust the receivers he's throwing to, and his eye level is really low, like he's watching the pass rush. He looks very Derek Anderson-like.
23. LaRon Landry showed why he was such a high draft pick on Sunday. Dude was just everywhere, all day long. I'd hate to think how they'd look on the back line if Sean Taylor hadn't been killed.
24. Chris Horton looked like a ballhawk for the Redskins at the other Safety position. He got 2 interceptions and recovered a fumble. I'd never even heard of him, so I looked him up in the Pro Football Weekly draft guide... only he didn't make their list of the top 25 safeties. It was an impressive performance, and I'll be interested to see if he has long-term success.
25. The Saints offense looks like it did last season, as opposed to its breakout year in 2006. I generally mentioned last week that they struggled to run between the tackles. Their problems are deeper than that, though. They really miss Marques Colston, and they don't seem to know where to go to get a first down. They tried Shockey a couple times, and he struggled to beat CB coverage from a split end position. I think they are undertalented on offense right now, with the exception of Bush. Shockey was a great player as a rookie, who has become a completely average one as his career has worn on. Their only hope is Robert Meachem emerging, which could happen. Everybody else they have is medium-to-lousy.
26. Their pass defense is still abysmal too, by the way. Our guys have to be getting excited.
27. The Titans looked better with Kerry Collins than they did the week before with Vince Young. I think you'd have to call Vince's future career questionable at this point. This is America, and we love redemption stories, but I think he just doesn't understand or have what it takes to be an NFL starting QB. Read this Jason Whitlock column for more insight on it. His 2006 ESPN.com pre-draft column was right on the money too.
28. The Detroit Lions just make me scratch my head. They have good enough players to be dangerous, as we saw last season. They just make the kind of mistakes that lose games for you. Ill-timed penalties, dropped passes, missed tackles. They cover every base, like they want to lose the game or something. It made me wonder how many guys on their team was ever a key player on a winning team. The best answer I could come up with was 1, that being Brian Kelly, who was a good corner in Tampa, but is now pretty much washed-up. He made one of the game-costing mistakes, failing to even try to get a bump on Jordy Nelson on Green Bay's 3rd Touchdown. Loseritis Footballus must be contagious in Hockeytown USA.
29. It's shocking how good Aaron Rodgers looks, even if he has done his thing against two terrible pass defenses. If you watch Mr. Rodgers play, he's doing exactly what Brett Favre did for all of those years, except he's more accurate and more mobile. The inference which I draw from this is that he was likely very actively coached over the past 3 seasons. The rumor is that Favre mostly ignores position coaches, and deals straight with the Head Coach. I wonder if that didn't leave their QB coach a lot of time to develop Rodgers, more than a backup usually gets. You have to take a look at this guy, it's amazing how good he has been,
30. Chicago has very self-destructive tendencies on Offense. I think Ron Turner is not a very good coach. The Bears would do well to realize that there is no rule that says that they are required to have unimaginative offensive schemes and subpar QBs. It seems to me that they've been trying to win with both since the days of Sid Luckman.
31. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams make a really nice combination for Carolina. That's quantity of quality.
32. Speaking of RB committees, all I can say for the Giants' trio is Wow. They have a hammer (Jacobs,) a slasher (Ward,) and a speedster (Bradshaw,) and they get contributions from all of them. I know a lot of people don't like committees, but I would honestly think about taking that trio over any one back in the NFL (except Adrian Peterson.)
33. Marc Bulger needs great talent around him, and doesn't have it. He looks tentative and just really terrible. They are obviously squarely in the Matthew Stafford sweepstakes, and ought to take him (or Tim Tebow) if they have a chance next spring.
34. Who do you think the Rams would rather have right now? Jay Cutler or the marginal Tye Hill, and the suspended (and underwhelming) Claude Wroten? Just asking.
35. Speaking of QBs, the Chiefs sure could use one. Tyler Thigpen looked like an arenafootball2 caliber player. They need to face the reality that they share a division with Jay Cutler and Phillip Rivers (who are franchise QBs) and JaMarcus Russell (who has the potential to be one.) It's the Quarterback, stupid.