Monday, October 15, 2007

Monday Morning Hangover 10-15-2007

This weekend, I’m flying a little more blind than usual, largely due to the fact that I was taken to the Jets game as a very sweet late birthday present this past Sunday. As frustrating as it’s been rooting for Gang Green this year, the experience of being at the Meadowlands was a great one. Watching a football game with rowdy fans is always great, and you can really feel the history that the 2007 Jets are tearing down week after week. In any event, thanks to the magic of TiVo and VCR’s (oh yeah, I get old school with it), I was still able to review most of what happened this past week. Suffice to say that I’m still very, very confused about this season.

- Okay, let’s get the most important business out of the way first: Yes, the New England Patriots are very, very, very good. Watching them play the Cowboys, you got the same feeling you did watching a college powerhouse play an upstart underdog that takes them to the fourth quarter, only to eventually wear down the competition thanks to the overwhelming quantity of their talent. That said, let’s all ease back on this “they delivered the whipping to the Cowboys” talk. That was a good game up until garbage time, and if Wade Phillips had played for the kill instead of playing to stay respectable toward the end, I have a feeling the game would have been even better. The Cowboys showed they’re one defensive playmaker away from being in the same league as the Pats or the Colts, and I’d LOVE to see this rematch take place in January. Just a great game to watch, with both teams finding fun ways to play off of the other’s weakness (and yes, the Pats DO have one…the middle of their pass coverage was getting EXPOSED yesterday). Note to other teams: You don’t need to figure out how to stop Randy Moss; you need to figure out how to stop Wes Welker.

- Oh, and Boston sports fans have officially become the most obnoxious fans in the universe. If you’re rooting for a Boston team and you didn’t grow up there, you really are the worst kind of person. That, and you’re probably a black hating racist.

- The dirty little secret of how the Jets went from playoff team to struggling for dignity is this: The worst thing to happen to the Jets offense over the offseason was the acquisition of Thomas Jones. This has nothing to do with the caliber of player Jones is; he ran very well yesterday in a loss. It has EVERYTHING to do with the coaching staff’s reaction to him. Last season, the Jets lack of a clear number one back forced them to do the two things that helped them play above their talent level: They created smart, tricky offensive plays, and they found unique ways to get the ball to playmaker Leon Washington. This year, thanks to the fact that they felt they didn’t HAVE to, they’re not doing either, except the offensive line is nowhere NEAR ready for a between the tackles run game. The other big problem is on defense, where creative blitz packages have disappeared. I was watching the game with my female friend who knows very little about football, and her comment (besides "those are very ugly uniforms") was as follows: “Why does it look like nobody is doing anything on your defense?” Why? Because apparently God is punishing me for leaving church early so I could get to the Meadowlands, that’s why.

- Oh, and as long as we’re going to force incredibly talented but undersized linebacker Jon Vilma to play in a 3-4 system that runs totally contrary to his talents, why stop there? Let’s go ahead and line up Lavernaeus Coles at defensive end, use Chad Pennington to spell Thomas Jones on third downs, and use Brad Smith as an NFL quarterback (oh, wait…). We’re wasting the talents of one player, why not make them all look bad, right? Dumbasses.

- Final note on Gang Green (my doctor says I need to lower my stress level): You can go ahead and replace Handsome Chad with The American Dream Kellen Clemens, but it’s not going to turn the team around. Chad’s not winning games, but he’s certainly not losing them. Still, it’s probably time for a change, if only to see what Clemens has as a starter. I will miss being able to go get a soda and come back in the time it takes Chad’s deep passes to reach their targets.

- While I understand letting Tony Romo, the future of your franchise and proven gutsy QB, stay in the game after six turnovers, can someone explain the justification for doing the same with Gus Frerotte? Could Scott Linehan look like he cares LESS about how his team is playing? After the third INT, I’m pretty sure you start scouring the stands for people who played high school ball. And what team doesn’t have a third string QB when your backup is Gus Frerotte? Are you scared of damaging the fragile, superstar psyche that Gus Frerotte has built over his years of mediocrity in the NFL? Sweet lord, if you’re one of the many injured players on that Rams offense, and you’re rehabbing an injury, you might want to just sit it out until your team looks remotely like a competitor. On that note, see you in 2010, Steven Jackson.

- Moments in brilliant drafting: Adrian Peterson put up 361 total yards on Sunday against the Bears defense. Adrian Peterson is exactly what Reggie Bush was supposed to be.

- Moments in stubborn coaching: Tavaris Jackson continues to start at quarterback for the Vikings with a completion percentage of 49% and 5 interceptions in three games. Tavaris Jackson is exactly what Akili Smith was.

- This is where I should be calling for Cedric Benson to be benched, but he’s starting on my fantasy team. So…way to show loyalty to your boys, Lovie Smith!

- LT2 being thrilled with his team’s two touchdown win over the Oakland Raiders is the surest sign this year of how lost the Chargers are. Marty would NEVER have put up with these guys being so happy about wailing on a clearly inferior team. That said, the team finally seemed to get the picture: GIVE THE BALL TO THE MOST DYNAMIC OFFENSIVE PLAYERS IN THE LEAGUE!!! Between LT2’s performance, Antonio Gates’s three catches for 58 yards, and the return of Phillip Rivers to game managerial status, the general crappiness of the AFC West should worry teams, because if the defense clicks, the old Chargers could show up to play come playoff time.

- You know how sometimes, when a tragedy strikes a team, like a bus crash or the whole team catching a contagious illness, they’ll cancel the season so that the damaged parties can recover, regroup their lives, and decide whether or not to come back next year? I’m hoping the entire NFC West does that by next week.

- Why am I getting the sinking feeling that by removing any and all unpredictability from his offense, save for the mobility of his quarterback, Jack Del Rio has turned the Jaguars into the scariest team in the AFC South? They took the same Texans team that came within one score of beating the Colts, and crushed them. For all the crap I give him for being a Neanderthal, Del Rio seems to get what few coaches of good-not-great teams do: What separates an ok-but-not-scary team from an ok-and-terrifying team is limiting mistakes. Garrard has six TDs, no INTs, and is averaging just under eight yards a pass. The team is averaging five more minutes with the ball than their opponents, showing a knack for taking the ball out of opposing offenses' hands. Oh, and MJD seems to have remembered that he’s pretty good at this whole “football” thing. They win next week against the Colts, and I’m ready to throw another team on the list that could contend this year.

- I am thoroughly enjoying the possibilities of a Carolina/Tampa Bay race for first in the NFC South. Any matchup in which Jeff Garcia is the “young upstart” taking on the “proven veteran” makes me chuckle.

- On that note, why are we all so stunned by Vinny T starting at age 43? I can name at least five other teams besides the Panthers that would be better off with him under center. The Panthers should be psyched that they were able to put together the best contract offer (a free Rascal and complementary early bird specials at Denny’s).

- If Eddie Kennison comes back and plays well, allowing Dwayne Bowe to get better matchups, I’m prepared to deliver a handwritten apology to Herm Edwards. I don’t doubt that he has next to nothing to do with it, but his team hangs around in games where they shouldn’t, and is pulling out wins against teams that have more talent on paper.

- Oh, and my new take on Carson Palmer is that he’s amazingly talented, probably throws the prettiest ball of all the elite QBs, and he can’t play from behind. He’s a panicker. Maybe that’s why my colleague Alex loves him; she’s a panicker, whereas I’m more of a “lingering sense of impending doom” person. The problem is that while you can succeed as a QB as the latter (Eli Manning always looks like he expects to throw an INT on the very next play), you can’t as the former; it forces you to make too many stupid plays.

- Cleveland is my new AFC wild card team. Laugh now, think about it, remember that they’ve got the best young wide receiver and best young tight end in the league, note that they’ve finally realized that Jason Wright is a speedy back who can catch passes and is better suited to their scheme, remember that they could easily be 4-2 right now, put a little money on it, and thank me later.

- Question: What happens when the Dolphins get the first overall pick and are forced to consider Darren McFadden, even though they already have Ronnie Brown? That team is effed with a capital EFF.

- Summing up my feelings after week six, I was really happy with the games we got this weekend. Pats/Cowboys was a good matchup, and set the stage for a potential Super Bowl rematch. Meanwhile, the AFC South got even sexier thanks to the Jags performance, the NFC East, North, and South began to look like tight races, and the AFC West showed signs of life. Also, the AFC East made a strong case for the worst division in football. The suckitude of the other three also-rans is definitely strong enough to cancel out the force of this Patriots team. Kudos to those guys (/weep).

That’s all for today. Tune in tonight to watch the Giants play close against an overmatched Falcons team, only to have Plaxico Burress decide he cares in the second half and turn it on to crush the Atlanta defense. Or don’t. Alex will tell you all about it tomorrow anyway.

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