Another week, another lousy picks record. Here’s the breakdown:
Sunday 1 PM: 4-5
Sunday 4 PM: 3-1
Weekly Record: 7-9
Season Record: 15-17
This week I whiffed on every prime time game. Yikes. The Colts and Saints continue to make me look bad, and I bit too early when it came to Detroit and Atlanta. Eliminating knee-jerk reactions will be crucial moving forward. Let’s take a look at how the league stacks up following a turbulent week two.
1. Denver: It wasn’t as easy as I thought it’d be, as the Jamaal Charles-less Chiefs put up a fight, but ultimately Alex Smith couldn’t deliver. Denver appears to be getting Wes Welker back to add to an already loaded arsenal. Seattle is up next on the slate. Will it be the Superbowl Massacre part II, or Peyton’s payback courtesy of some Sand Diego blue prints?
2. Cincinnati: The Bengals have been fantastic in the early stages of the 2014 campaign. Just when you thought it was safe to assume the Falcons offense was back in business, they get rolled over by a ferocious Cincy front and sticky secondary. The offense has been efficient and the ground game has been versatile and effective, but a major storm cloud could be brewing with AJ Green’s turf toe. The injury is an unpredictable and pesky one, and it would be a shame if the young star suffers any prolonged issues with it.
3. New England: The Pats looked back against an AP-less Vikings. The defense was on another level, blocking and returning a field goal for a touchdown, shutting down Cordarrelle Patterson and doing more for the Teddy Bridgewater campaign than anyone else ever could. It’s hard to say if Tom Brady has had many easier days at the office than a quiet 15/22 149-yard, one TD performance. If the defense can continue to spot him a score or two, there’s no reason to think the Pats can’t go back to the AFC title game.
4. Indianapolis: An 0-2 team shouldn’t be this high right? As bad as blowing a 14-point lead looks, this is still the clear cut favorite in the AFC South. Andrew Luck had a rare failure in the 4th, throwing the pick that set up the Eagles game-winning drive. Don’t expect that to be a recurring theme.
5. San Diego: A big jump for the Chargers after upsetting the defending champs. Phil Rivers channeled his brash style into successfully attacking the best defense in football, and Antonio Gates looked like the springy power forward fresh out of Kent State. The defense had an easy afternoon having only to see the field for 40 plays, or 17 less than their 2013 game average. There was one negative; Russell Wilson was able to move the ball effectively in that limited stretch, throwing for 202 yards and two touchdowns while completing 68 percent of his passes on 25 attempts. Not the numbers you’d like to see out of your secondary. Regardless, the Chargers appear to be continuing the resurgence Ken Whisenhunt began last year as the offensive coordinator. Expect two very entertaining battles with the Broncos later in the year as they grapple for the West.
6. Baltimore: Baltimore bounced back from Ray Rice and a tough division loss with a resounding drubbing of their arch rival Steelers. The defense smothered Pittsburgh and forced three turnovers. The offense was effective in dinking and dunking, and the arrow is pointing up for the Ravens as they head into their third straight divisional game, a winnable match up with the Cleveland Browns.
7. Buffalo: Hats off to the Bills for doing what the Patriots should have done in squishing the fish. A predictably hyped Ralph Wilson crowd was on hand following to witness Buffalo’s defensive line manhandle the Dolphins. The unit produced three of the four Bills’ sacks and held the Dolphins to 80 rushing yards. Sammy Watkins broke 100 yards and caught a touchdown for the first time in his career and C.J. Spiller tapped into his inner-playmaker, bringing a kickoff back 102 yards for a touchdown. If E.J. Manuel can continue his steady play, the Bills may emerge as a legitimate threat to the 6th seed.
8. Pittsburgh: Even after a futile, humiliating loss to Baltimore on Thursday, there’s no way I’m putting a Ben Roethlisberger-led team below the likes of any of the signal callers for the remaining teams on this list. At least not yet. As many holes as the Steelers have right now, weeks four through seven provide match ups with the Buccaneers, Jaguars, Browns and Texans, all beatable opponents. If recent history of struggling with poor teams is any indication, the Steelers may come out of the easiest stretch of their schedule with a .500 record, something they simply can’t afford. They can’t afford to go anything less than 3-1 especially with the difficult Panthers on tap for Sunday Night Football. Look for a profile on the team later this week.
9. Miami: The Dolphins continue their perpetual dance with mediocrity. Nothing about this team pops. Sure Mike Wallace has his speed and Cameron Wake has his sacks, but Ryan Tannehill still seems to be the same stagnant quarterback he’s been since the Dolphins drafted him. While the offensive line is better than it was, and as Buffalo’s defensive line demonstrated at the Ralph Sunday, Miami’s front five still has a ways to go. With Knowshon Moreno projected to miss anywhere between 4-8 weeks, good luck generating much offense with teams keying on Mike Wallace.
10. Houston: I don’t care that they’re 2-0. This is not a playoff team. Ryan Fitzpatrick will not sustain this level of play over a 16-game season, and while the skill positions and defense have been impressive so far, it’s only a matter of time before the Fitzmagic show begins, the turnovers flow and the losses mount.
11: Tennessee: After a tough fall back to Earth, can the Titans pick themselves back up? Probably, but when you consider the fact that Jake Locker is your starting QB, Shonn Greene your starting running back, and your defense is in a state of flux transitioning to the 3-4, expect more than a few stumbles on the way.
12. Cleveland: Should Cleveland go higher after pulling off a stunning upset of the Saints on Sunday? Perhaps, but if you think Brian Hoyer is going to do the same against defenses with a pulse (the Saints are still searching for their own and Pittsburgh’s looks like it’s flat-lining), think again.
13. Kansas City: Two weeks in and the Chiefs are one of the few teams to have validated one of my preseason opinions this September. Nothing more than marginal receiving talent? Check. Jamaal Charles unable to withstand the centerpiece workload? Check. Alex Smith failing to live up to his contract? Check. This team faces an uphill battle it simply won’t win.
14. New York Jets: Talent-wise the Jets could be higher. Discipline-wise they could be lower. A lot lower. Whether it was blowing an 18-point lead, calling timeout on a play that would have yielded a game-tying touchdown late, smiling after getting ejected from a game for post-play punching, or wiping an interception off the board for 12 men on the field, the Jets are still the Jets, and the circus is still the circus.
15. Jacksonville: They’re heeeeeere. That would be the old Jaguars, who looked utterly pitiful against an average Washington squad. What was so pitiful? Take a pick from the grab-bag: as many sacks allowed as points scored (10), Chad Henne out running Toby Gerhart’s by more than double (17 to 8), the passing game gaining 76 yards on 12 completed passes compared to 117 on two others, or the fact that Blake Bortles still won’t start. And that’s just the offense. Sure you want to protect Bortles from the same absent pass-protection Henne endured, but just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, offensive lines often take a few years to complete. Are you prepared to sit Bortles for those few years? Maybe next time, don’t trade away a franchise left tackle in Eugene Monroe to Baltimore for peanuts peanut shells.
16. Oakland: I made mention of it on my radio show at some point last week, but the Raiders post week one looked like a team that would average about 13 points a game offensively. Though it’s early, thus far their average sits at a healthy 13.5. Baby steps for a rookie QB play a part in this, as they should, but I don’t think it could be said any better than as Charles Woodson so eloquently stated “We suck.”
Tim Mullhaupt (@TimakaHines) is the editor of The Buckets Blog.
1. Seattle: So the Seahawks are mortal after all. I don’t believe that Richard Sherman was exposed as much as the Chargers may want you to believe but there’s still something to be said for the fact that he only stays on one side of the field. Even so, it’s not every week that the Seahawks will be held to 40 offensive snaps. No need for the 12th man to panic just yet. Denver is coming to town this week; any questions regarding blue prints and the true mettle of the Seattle defense will be posed/answered this week.
2. Philadelphia: On one hand the Eagles shouldn’t be too pleased with falling behind to two double-digit deficits in as many weeks, but on the other, they became the first team in NFL history to successfully comeback in both instances. If nothing else, it proves the Eagles are good enough to overcome their own mistakes…against mediocre defenses. They need to be better from the opening whistle as even their high-paced offense won’t be able to dig themselves out of holes against the league’s better stop units.
3. Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers awoke. I still have a good number of doubts about this defense, but as long as 12 plays like he did against the Jets, the Packers are a contender. The NFC North doesn’t look like the bastion of great defense it once was which should only help Green Bay’s case.
4. San Francisco: The good news? They christened the new Levi Stadium with a 17-straight points. The bad news? They blew that lead in the second half, allowing the supposedly battered Brandon Marshall to torch San Fran for three touchdowns.
5. New Orleans: The Saints are 0-2. I know they’ve had an awful start defensively, but honestly are we really going to sit here and give credence to the wild theory of a Drew Brees-less postseason? Of course not…yet. I have to believe that Rob Ryan’s players will right the ship. There’s just too much talent there.
6. Chicago: The Bears rallied back impressively on the road, erasing a 17-point Niners lead on the way to their first victory Sunday night. Jay Cutler was in top form, tossing four touchdown passes while connecting on over 67 percent of his 34 passes. Rookie corner and first round pick Kyle Fuller was sensational, grabbing two interceptions on the day, giving hope to an aging secondary. The Bears have staying power if Willie Young can continue to provide consistent pass rush to go along with players like Jared Allen and Lamar Houston.
7. Arizona: The Cards had a bit of trouble initially with the woeful Giants, but it should be be taken with a grain of salt given the fact that Drew Stanton was starting in place of an injured Carson Palmer. Even with that handicap, the Cardinals were able to come away with an 11-point victory. Is Arizona for real? They may play in the toughest division in football, but they certainly are winning games they need to to remain relevant in the wildcard and even division race. Time and Carson Palmer’s health with tell.
8. Carolina: The Panthers are on the rise. I won’t dub them “favorites” in the NFC South yet, as their running game needs to be better and a third target needs to emerge after Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen. Defensively they looked great against Detroit, limiting Stafford and Megatron to mortal totals of 291 and 83 yards respectively. They’ve built a nice two-game lead for themselves over their primary division competitor in New Orleans, the next nine games feature a brutal tour through NFC powerhouses. Get your popcorn ready as Super Cam is about to get the hardest test of his career.
9. Detroit: Forrest Gump put it best; “Life is like watching the Detroit Lions, you never know what you’re gonna get.” After annihilating the lowly Giants, the Lions looked lost against Carolina. Not only did they manage to score just seven points, but they also suffered a significant injury to their already lousy secondary when they lost Nevin Lawson for presumably the season. Safety James Ihedigbo is also questionable moving forward with a neck injury. How are the Lions going to beat teams when they’re giving up 400 yards through the air every game? They have an offense that might, but won’t unless Stafford has truly put his questionable on-field decision-making behind him and someone not named Megatron steps up.
10. Atlanta: Similarly to the Lions, the Falcons are an enigma six years into the Mike Smith-Matt Ryan era. Yes there’s offensive firepower in the Georgia Dome but neither the running game nor the defense have distinguished themselves this year, and without much beyond Julio Jones and Roddy White, the ceiling for this team stuck in the highly competitive NFC South just isn’t very high.
11. Washington: Yeah they picked up 10 sacks (four from absolute BEAST Ryan Kerrigan), yeah Kirk Cousins completed his first 12 passes in relief of RGIII, but come talk to me when you come anywhere near close to duplicating those numbers against a team better than the Jacksonville Jaguars.
12. Tampa Bay: Losing to the hapless Rams is not a good way to endear yourself in these rankings. Tampa has talent in a number of spots but the execution for a largely young roster just isn’t there yet. Add that to the mysterious decline of Doug Martin and there’s legitimate cause for worry. Bobby Rainey should get more looks moving forward.
13. Dallas: Alright so they laid down some hurt against Tennessee. Can’t say that I’m impressed with anyone save for DeMarco Murray who again showed why he’s one of the league’s better backs when healthy, rushing for 167 yards and a score. It was for this reason in part, that Tony Romo only threw for 176 yards, but outside Dez Bryant’s 10 catches, 103 yards and one score, is there anyone that scares me on the rest of this roster? The answer is no.
14. Minnesota: It’s Teddy time. After getting blown out by the Pats without AP then inexplicably bungling his off-field situation (they have it right now), the Vikings need to make a bold move to prove they are headed in a new direction. While it would be unwise to rush Bridgewater for the sake of PR, from strictly a performance perspective, can it really get much worse than what Matt Cassel showed you Sunday? Get the young buck in there and see if there’s some hope this season.
15. St. Louis Rams: Hey the Rams picked up a win! Credit to Jeff a Fisher for keeping this team motivated to play along side the likes of Austin Davis. Moral victories are almost as nice as actual victories in some instances. Expect to see more of the former than the latter as we move forward. Such is life in the NFC West.
16. New York Giants: At this point it appears the Giants will be drafting in the top five come April. Even when Eli has a halfway-decent day Big Blue still finds a way to lose against a team led by Drew Stanton. As tempting as it may be to look at defense, the quickest rebuild is through the quarterback position and with what looks like a good crop on the way, the Giants should not hesitate. Sure it’s still too early to talk draft and discount too many teams but sadly it looks like the Giants are among the few exceptions.