Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wake Me Up When September Ends: Steelers Win

"Brutal" is about the only word that can summarize last night's game. But as Coach said in his press conference, "this is the NFL."

There was no traffic downtown before the game, so I was able to get there incredibly early and catch warmups. The Steelers look great in their throw-back jerseys. We had a little debate with those around us in the stands as to whether or not they should go to the throw-backs full time. Jeff Reed made a 53-yarder with room to spare in the open end during warm-ups.

The Defense gets the nod on introductions, and rightly so after their performance last week. Some local singer lip-synchs through the national anthem, but the pain of that got washed away by the fireworks over the river before the game.

The Steelers win the coin toss and flip off Harvey Dent by deferring to the second half.

First Quarter

Reed blasts the kickoff into the end zone but Figures brings it out and gets upended by Timmons inside the 20. All the emotion got drained right out of the stadium when Andre Frazier didn't get up after the kick. The training staff came out and took Frazier off the field on a stretcher. Luckily, with JD off scared, our boy Jack was there to take care of his spinal injury.

As scary as it was, Frazier was up and walking around after the game and might play next week.

The Ravens come out and, reminiscent of how the Bungles started this week, fumble the first snap from center. McGahee goes nowhere on second down and Deshea jumps a slant route to break up a pass on 3rd down, forcing a punt. Bruce Davis picks up a totally unnecessary block in the back penalty on the punt, setting us back and eliminating our good field position.

Mendenhall gets stuffed on first down and Ben hits Heath heading towards the sideline with a defender right on him for a measley 2 yards on second down. This was just the start of the terrible offensive play-calling that would ensue in this game. Ben hooks up with Holmes to pick up the first down and more and keep the drive alive on 3rd down. Ben throws a risky pass over the middle for Spaeth that almost gets intercepted. Mendenhall powers for 8 yards to set up 3rd and short. In a crazy turn of events, Simmons gets called for a false start, but the penalty is offset by personal foul penalites on both teams, keeping us at 3rd and 2. Ben hits Nasty Nate on a quick slant to pick up and get the ball to the fringes of field goal range. Mendenhall blasts through a hole for 12 yards to get close to the red zone, but then gets set back for a loss of 2. The Steelers stay with him and he picks up 5 yards that are wiped out by a false start on Simmons. 3rd and long? You know what's coming...

Ben gets sacked, pushing the Steelers back to the 31. But Jeff Reed comes out and blasts a 49-yarder through.


Reed pounds another kickoff and Patrick Bailey, fresh off his shout-out from us last week, comes out of nowhere and makes a great open-field tackle at the 12.

Flacco comes out and goes play-action against a 4-man rush and bombs one deep. Ryan Clark makes a terrible play on the ball, but was in good enough position to block force the receiver to try and jump over him to catch the ball. After the incompletion, we all catch our breath. McGahee goes nowhere on 2nd down, forcing a 3rd and long. Monday Night. Throwbacks. Baltimore. We've seen this before. We know what's coming.

James "Some Kind of Monster" Harrison comes up with the huge sack to force a punt. Holmes gets tripped up near the 45, giving us excellent field position and a chance to expand our lead.

Ben comes out and runs a great play-action fake and has plenty of time to throw. Freeze frame this moment. Hines is streaking open down the middle, blowing past a safety. Holmes is outrunning a DB down the right sideline. Heath is open in the flat near numbers on the right side of the field. Mendenhall is open along the right sideline. Enjoy that picture? Good, because you know what Ben does next.

Ben throws a dump-off over the middle where there are only Raven defenders and one of the linemen tips it to himself and comes down with the interception.

McGahee gets stuffed again, and they get set back on a holding penalty on Todd Heap-of-$&^#. But Flacco comes back and hits Mason for 18 to get to 3rd and 3, which the Ravens convert on a short pass. Foote applies the heat on the next play, causing an incompletion. McGahee picks up 4, setting up another 3rd down that our defense blows. Mason pulls one down over the middle and gets wacked by Polamalu, but holds on to the ball and gets the birds into the red zone. McGahee picks up 2 to get the 15 and Flacco takes a shot for the corner of the end zone, but Mason can't get his feet down, setting up 3rd down. Timmons makes a great break on the ball and almost picks it off, but the breakup is good enough to force a field goal that Stover barely sneaks inside the upright.


Mendenhall runs for 2 yards to run out the quarter.

Second Quarter

Taking a crap is more exciting than this quarter was. Depending on your personal digestive health, your time on the crapper might be longer than the Steelers time of possession in this quarter (which was 4:41).

Ben is pressured and can't get the ball to Holmes on second down, setting up 3rd and long where he overthrows Heath, forcing a punt.

Figures muffs the punt, but recovers, giving Baltimore the ball at the 35. After doing nothing on 2 plays, Flacco hits McGahee over the middle with a short pass that he runs with for the first down. Mason beats McFadden down the sideline and Flacco throws one up for him, but Troy comes over the top and punches the ball away. McGahee tries to go around the outside, but puts his tail between his legs and runs out of bounds when Harrison cuts off the corner. Harrison comes up big again with pressure on 3rd down to force an incompletion and a punt. After the Eagles punter was able to flip the field on us last week, the Ravens took full advantage and Koch booms a 56-yarder to pin us inside the 10.

Backed up near the goal line, there's only one thing for Arians to go with: the motif offense. Run-Run-Pass-Punt. Sadly, Berger is nowhere near as good as Sepulveda or either punter we faced the last 2 weeks. A 40-yard punt gives Baltimore the ball at the 50.

Three runs by McGahee later, the Ravens are in field goal range inside the 30. The Steelers defense gets confused and has to use a timeout. Flacco dumps one off to McGahee who picks up 5. McGahee picks up 5 more on first down, and has to get helped off the field, clutching his ribs. Flacco hits Mason to get the ball inside the 10. McClain gets stuffed by Foote and Flacco can't connect with Clayton on 2nd down. McGahee comes back in and plows for 6, but Ryan Clark wraps him up to keep him out of the end zone. Stover comes on and makes another one.


If things couldn't get bad enough, they got worse. The last 4 minutes of this quarter was worse than listening to "We Built This City."

Ben is sacked on first down by Suggs. Ben avoids the pressure by dumping one off to Mendenhall on second down to get back to 3rd and about 10. But...

Is it overkill that I use this graphic this much? Maybe. Then again, maybe our offensive coordinator shouldn't call plays that put our $100 million quarterback in harms way as much. Sh*t Arians, put some more blockers in there. To make matters worse, Berger (who is on his way to earning the nickname "Lob Wedge") can only muster a 35-yard punt, giving the Ravens the ball on the Steelers 45.

With a short field, the Ravens come out attacking. Flacco throws an out-route to Mason on the sidelines and he gets called out of bounds, but replay shows he dragged his toes and got them in. McGahee got stuffed by Polamalu on the next play, and had to get walked off the field to the locker room with another injury, forcing Baltimore to take their 2nd timeout. Flacco hit McClain in the flat on the next two plays, the latter of which McClain took all the way down to the 3 as he eluded tacklers. That's right. 6-foot 260-pound LeRon McClain out-maneuvered some of our defense.

Baltimore takes a timeout with first and goal at the 3. They run Ray Rice out of the backfield in motion and noone on the Steelers defense goes over to cover him. Flacco throws the ball short of a guaranteed TD. But we dodge another bullet because Baltimore got called for an illegal formation. After another incomplete pass and offsetting personal foul penalites, Woodley jumps offsides, giving them the yards back. Flacco goes play-action out of a triple-TE set and lobs one for the corner of the end zone that one of his tight ends runs down for the score.


The Steelers come out and kneel it to run the clock out on the first half.

Third Quarter

The Steelers get the ball to start the second half. Mendenhall gets a touch for 3 yards. Unbeknownst to us, Mendenhall broke his shoulder on the play, and is done for the season. Ouch. Ben hooks up with Heath who gets popped by a Raven just short of the first down. Ray Lewis celebrates doing nothing on the play and getting credit for a tackle. On 3rd and 1, the Steelers...throw the ball?! Arians, what the &*#$? Carey Davis gets hit in the backfield on a swing pass and fumbles the ball, luckily, it goes out of bounds. Berger manages a 38-yard punt.

The Ravens try an end-around to Clayton, but B-Mac stays home and seals the corner, stopping Clayton in the backfield for a loss. Flacco couldn't hook up with Mason on second down, bringing up a 3rd and long. Flacco has all kinds of time and rolls out to the left where Aaron Smith bears down on him. Smith takes a bad angle and Flacco is able to get away from Smith and scramble back across the field because of lack of pressure from anyone else and hits Mason deep along the right sidelines for 26 yards. The boo birds come out from the fans again as the Ravens move the ball into Steelers territory. McClain runs twice to get the ball inside the 40, but Flacco can't find a receiver on 3rd down and the Ravens are forced to punt. Their punter, who actually kicks the ball like an NFL punter, pins the Steelers at the 7.

Ben hits Hines for the first time in the game for 8 yards to get the ball to the 15. Davis goes around the end for 8 yards for our first first down since 9:42 of the first quarter. This came at 9:28 in the 3rd quarter. That's right, let that sink in. The Steelers offense went over 30 minutes of game time, or half the game without getting a first down.

And how does Arians respond to his first first down since their opening drive? The motif offense, of course. Run-run-pass-punt. Berger's punt goes 44 yards and is downed by Patrick Bailey at the Ravens 39.

McGahee apparently hadn't been injured enough, so he came back in for more punishment and carries for a yard. Hoke was injured on the play, but he returned later. Flacco throws an incompletion on 2nd down then tries to go downtown again on the exact same play they tried before, and Polamalu makes an identical breakup along the sidelines, forcing a punt. Koch comes out and shanks one, making Berger's 35-yarder look like a Tiger Woods drive.

The Steelers take over at the 33. Nate Washington gets the ball on an end around and almost gets stopped twice in the backfield, but somehow makes enough moves to gain 8 yards. A Raven hit him out of bounds after the play, tacking on 15 more yards for a penalty. Ben busts out the no huddle version of the motif offense. After two terrible plays (Davis carry for 2 and a QB sneak for 4) Ben has a choice to make on 3rd and 4. He goes to Santonio on a quick slant with pressure in his face.

Holmes breaks the tackle of Chris McAllister...

...then blows by Ed Reed to take it to the HOUSE.


Not only were the Steelers back in the game, the crowd was back in the game too. The Steelers should pay the person who is in charge of the PA announcements/video sequences/music selection extra for what followed. The "Ooooooooh mama" of Renegade blasts through the stadium and the crowd jumps to their feet as the Defense Pump-up video plays and the crowd gets more and more frenzied.

The crowd is the loudest it might have ever been for a kickoff as Patrick Bailey comes up with a huge tackle of Figures.

On the first play from scrimage, Harrison blindsides Flacco and knocks the ball loose. As the ball lays there....

LaMarr "Big Stick" Woodley makes the heads up play of just falling on the ball to make sure he has control of it.
None of the Ravens seem too intent on touching him down, so Woodley gets up and takes it to the HOUSE.

Woodley jumps into the stands and Harrison joins him.


20 seconds. 2 touchdowns. Gamechanger.

Reed throws them off with a short bloop-kick that Baltimore almost misplays. McClain gets 4 yards on first down as the crowd roars in support of the defense. Flacco has never heard anything like it and has to take a timeout because he can't audible. Harrison brings the heat and Flacco throws a bad pass to bring up 3rd down. It's Teddy Roosevelt time.

The Big Stick Policy comes through for the sack. Flacco fumbles the ball but the Ravens were able to fall on it this time. Koch booms a 61-yard punt to flip the field on us.

It was at this point in the game where you had the feeling that a touchdown would pretty much seal the deal and put the Ravens out of it. The Steelers feel rejuvinated and Ben comes out with a big completion to Nasty Nate. With the ball on the 50, Arians goes back to the motif offense. Run-run-pass-punt. "Lob Wedge" Berger drops one in nicely at the 9.

McClain rumbled for 6 yards as the quarter expired.

Fourth Quarter

McClain carries again for 2 yards to start the 4th. Foote comes in on a blitz and gets his hands up to knock down Flacco's pass on 3rd down, forcing a punt.

Davis carries for 2 on first down. Ben scrambles on a broken play for some positive yards, but the play is called back on offsetting penalites on Hines and Ray Lewis. Ben doesn't like what he sees in the defense and calls a timeout. After the breather, the Maginot Line almost crumbles as Ben has to make a fancy move to avoid some pressure, but he scrambles and finds a wiiiiiide open Hines Ward down the right sideline who tries to cut inside the safety, but loses his footing and falls down at the 10. The Steelers bring in Mewelde Moore and run a swing pass to him that he takes to the sticks, but the refs come in and blow the play dead, saying that Tomlin called a timeout from the Pittsburgh bench before the play started.

The boo birds come out during the timeout and people are pissed at Tomlin.

Davis carries for 2 yards. Ben goes play-action out of a power-I set with McHugh (3rd string TE) lined up as a blocking back and looks for McHugh in the flat, but he's covered, forcing Ben to improvise. While avoiding pressure, Ben is able to throw it away out of the end zone. Baltimore gets called for defensive holding, giving us a first and goal at the 4. After an incompletion on first down, Mewelde Moore is into the game as Davis is out with an ankle injury. Moore carries for 3 yards to get the ball to the 1. On 3rd and goal from the 1, they try to run Moore to the outside and he gets stopped. ARRRGH. We have a 6'5 220-pound quarterback. Just sneak it! Or run straight up the middle. Reed comes on to hit a field goal as the crowd is split over whether or not we kick or go for it.


Personally, I was in the "kick" camp. It was a dumb call on 3rd down, but take the points to put you up by a touchdown.

Flacco hits Mason on the second play to move the Ravens across the 40. McClain powers for 11 yards to get the ball across midfield as the nerves start to creep back in. Flacco goes back to Mason for 10 more to keep the drive rolling into Pittsburgh territory. McClain goes nowhere on first down and Woodley and Harrison team up for a sack on second down, forcing a 3rd and long. Flacco hits Mason down the sideline and he streaks down to the 5 before Polamalu knocks him out. It takes McClain 2 carries from the 5 to break the plane.

The Steelers get the ball at the 30 with 4 minutes to play. If we ever needed a scoring drive, it was now. Arians comes out with the motif offense. But Mewelde Moore says "motif this" as he carries for 7 yards on 2 tries, then catches a pass to pick up the first down. Moore runs again for 5 yards to get the ball close to midfield as the 2-minute warning rolls around.

Ben can't hook up with Moore on 2nd down and Santonio drops a deflected pass that was still very catchable on 3rd down. Lob Wedge comes in and drops the ball inside the 15. Figures tries to pick it up, but is too close to the sidelines and goes nowhere.

With 1:40 to go, Baltimore is determined to run out the clock and force overtime, but it seems as though this will never happen. McClain carries 3 times and gets hurt on the 3rd play, forcing Baltimore to use their last timeout. With 7 seconds left, Flacco kneels on it, but the Ravens get called for illegal formation, so the play doesn't count and they have to kneel it again.


Harvey Dent gets us back for deferring at the beginning of the game as the Raves win the OT coin toss.

Reed pounds the kickoff, but Figures brings it out across the 50, but wait! There's a flag. Two actually. Two different Ravens get called for holding and they get sent back to the 15.

McClain gets 1 yard on first down. Flacco tries to go deep on second down, but B-Mac is there to say no. The play doesn't matter anyways because McClain gets called for a chop-block. On their second try at second down, McClain carries for 7 yards to get back to 3rd and 10. 2007 First Round Draft Pick Lawrence Timmons busts through and comes up with a HUUUUGE sack, forcing a punt.

Enter Mewelde Moore: Overtime Hero. Moore carries for 2 on first down. Pressure from Lewis forces an incompletion on 2nd down. Ben dumps one off to Moore in the flat on 3rd down who stiff-arms a Raven and runs towards daylight, getting by another before he's finally dragged down at the 31 yard line after a gain of 24 yards. I thought we should have just gotten the ball to the middle of the field and kicked it, so as not to risk a fumble or anything. But Arians makes the decisions, not me. Though I'm starting to wonder how much longer he'll be doing it. Moore carries for no gain, then gets stuffed in the backfield for a loss of 4.

On a play that could have made or broken our season, Arians calls the awful 5-wide set. The Ravens show blitz from the left side. You know Ben is going to get hammered in the shotgun. Ben takes the snap and lobs the ball to Moore over the top of the blitzing defenders along the sidelines to pick up 7 huge yards.

Out comes Jeff Reed. 46 yards is well within his range. Baltimore calls timeout right before the snap, so Reed gets a practice kick that he makes. But then it's go time. Everyone's breath is held....


Players of the Game
Offensive Game Ball: Jeff Reed. I would say Jeff Reed is money in the bank, but with the way the banks are going right now, I think it's a lot safer to call him Mr. Automatic.
C0-Defensive Game Balls: James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Harrison had 10 tackles with 2.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. Woodley had 8 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Honorable Mentions:
Mewelde Moore- Overtime Hero. He single-handedly got us into field goal range
Lawrence Timmons-A big pass breakup to halt the Ravens first scoring drive and a huge sack in overtime.
Kick and Punt Coverage teams- they did a great job containing Figures all night. Came up with some great tackles.
Santonio Holmes- he dropped a few balls he should have caught, but his touchdown single-handedly got us back into the game and reenergized the crowd.

Mr Yuck Sticker of the Game
Mitch Berger
As much as Bruce Arians deserved this for the second week in a row, our punting was not only downright awful, the opponent was able to flip the field on us by having a significantly better punter. You may wonder what the difference is between Berger's average of 40 and Koch's average of 47. Well, factor this in. Koch's long was 61, a full 17 yards longer than Berger's long of 44. Additionally, if you take out Koch's shank, his average shoots up to over 50 yards per kick, a full 10 yards more, on average than Berger. This is killing us on field position.

Final Thoughts
  • We need to throw to Heath Miller more. He needs to be getting 8-10 looks a game like Witten does in Dallas, rather than the 2-3 he's getting now.
  • Besides the 20-second stretch in the 3rd quarter where we put up 14 points, our offense did very little. We had 45 yards on our first drive and 1 total yard the rest of the first half.
  • If you take away Ward's 49-yard reception and Santonio's TD catch, the Steelers only had 104 yards in the 2nd half and OT. All things considered they had 237 total yards. The two big plays by Hines and Holmes accounted for 37% of our total yards in the game.
  • Najeh Davenport re-signed with the team today. That's probably the best signing they could make. Willie needs to get well soon.
  • Kendall Simmons is out. If Darnell Stapleton can't do it, will Colon move over to make room for Starks? Or will the coaches use Trai Essex, who was very successful at guard in the preseason?
  • We run the ball SOOO much better with a blocking back in the game. Sean McHugh threw some great blocks. I want to see more of him in the running sets.
  • We need to fire Bruce Arians. Offensive play-calling is downright terrible

Costly Victory

The Steelers may have won their Monday night clash with the Ravens, but the losses they suffered could cost them later this season. With Willie Parker already sidelined with a sprained knee, Rashard Mendenhall went down with a fractured shoulder and will miss the remainder of the season. Additionally, right guard Kendall Simmons is also done for the year after tearing his Achilles' tendon. These are huge losses, especially Simmons, who is arguably the team's best O-Lineman (although I'm not a fan). However, I don't think the line play could get any worse than it was last week. I'm just not sure how much the line can improve without Simmons in there. I expect Willie Colon to shift inside to guard, while Max Starks, the highest paid backup in the league, will start at right tackle. While Mendenhall's injury certainly is disappointing, hopefully he can still learn some things by watching "Fast Willie" and Mewelde Moore the rest of this season. Look for Gary Russel to get a lot of carries next week in Jacksonville with Parker still out and Carey Davis coming off an ankle sprain (also suffered in tonight's victory). Once Parker and DT Casey Hampton get healthy, the Steelers will be ready to go for the remainder of the season.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Game Day 8

Damn straight.

With T-minus 4 hours until game time, it's time to be blasting the pump-up music and cracking open the Iron.

The Flash is out tonight, which means Rashard Mendenhall gets the first start of his career. Chris Hoke gets the start for Hampton.

We torched the Ravens secondary last year on Monday Night and James "Some Kind of Monster" Harrison had a game that got him to the Pro Bowl.

Look for big performances from SKOM and Big Stick tonight.

The Ravens are starting a rookie quarterback who is 2-0, but both of those games were played at home.

Baltimore fans are too probably busy ruining other people's lives to notice.

Our man JD ran away once he found out Kelso was a Ravens fan, so he's out for being our inspirational figure for tonight's game.

The Ravens seem to think they have the upper hand in the AFC North. A win tonight means a light at the end of their tunnel. We need someone who can stop them from getting there.

Who better to defend our home turf?

Friday, September 26, 2008

NFL: Week 4


Here's your Week 4 preview:

Best Game: Washington at Dallas - The Redskins are a different team than the one the whole nation watched lose to the Giants on opening night. Quite simply, they better be. They can ill-afford to lose a second divisional game, especially to the undefeated Cowboys. A loss would set Washington 3 games back only a quarter of the way through the year. The Cowboys displayed their offensive firepower two weeks ago in beating the Eagles, and followed that performance with an impressive defensive showing last week in dominating the Packers on the road. I'm not ready to crown the 'Boys yet, but a win this week would go a long way toward changing my mind.

Most Intriguing Game: Green Bay at Tampa Bay - This former divisional rivalry renews this week with some serious questions needing to be answered. The Packers did not look good in their first real test of the season last week, and ended up losing what could be a key tie-breaker for playoff positioning. The one bright spot is that Aaron Rodgers did not turn the ball over against a good defense. How will the young QB respond to his first NFL loss, especially on the road against a very good defensive unit? The Buccaneers managed a come-from-behind OT win over the Bears last week, but the close call has some people worried. The QB switch to Brian Griese appeared a success on the surface (407 yards, 2TD), until one sees the three INT's and 67 pass attempts. Also, who gives up 24 points to the Bears anymore (not counting week 1)? Is the defense slipping? Can Griese perform at a high level on a consistent basis without making mistakes? This week will provide a great test for both teams to find some answers.

Upset of the Week: Chicago over Philadelphia - Let's be honest - the Eagles aren't as good as they played against the Steelers. They brought 6 or 7 guys almost every play, and the Steelers simply couldn't adjust. Additionally, after the first quarter, their offense was no better than the Steelers in moving the ball. This week they get a pissed off Bears team that should have beaten T.B., and Brian Westbrook will be out. The good feelings from last week will carry over a little too much, and the Bears will surprise.

Best Performance: Derek Anderson - This match-up with the Bengals couldn't have come at a better time for Anderson. Amongst rumors of him being benched, Anderson will come out and hold onto his job for at least another week by torching the pathetic Cinci defense. Expect over 300 yards and at least 2 TD's.

Stay Away From: Donovan McNabb - My upset of the week coincides with the player you should avoid. McNabb was ridiculously accurate last week, albeit he did not attempt many passes beyond 7-10 yards. The Bears' defense is equally as good, if not better, than the Steelers', and playing in Chicago will make matters even more difficult for the slightly banged up QB.

Let's shoot down the Purple Birds!


Thursday, September 25, 2008

John's Week 3 Power Rankings

First off, I would like to thank Ian for his great work recently, especially since I've been busy lately. His game recap made me cry as much as I did watching the game live. Anyway, on to the rankings.

High Five


The Bills reign supreme for the third straight week after pulling off a fourth quarter comeback for the second consecutive game. True, their opponents have a combined 3 victories, but 3-0 still equals an undefeated record no matter what. Buffalo should gain another easy win this week at St. Louis, but my gut says this one will be closer than people think. The Bills are winning with defense this year, sporting the 6th best scoring unit, and allowing the 5th fewest yards per game in the NFL.


Much like the Bills, the Giants struggled against an inferior team last week. However, they eeked one out in OT to move to 3-0. One also has to remember that the Bengals were a potential offensive juggernaut waiting to explode, while the Giants aren't exactly the gold-standard of the league offensively. A solid win keeps them atop the toughest division in football with a "bye" coming up this week. A major point of concern is the one game suspension of Plaxico Burress. I don't understand why he would risk causing a distraction to the team, especially considering their undefeated, and he got his new contract.


Dallas is a team that worries me, but as long as they keep winning, they will remain in the top 5. They are 16th in scoring defense, but their offense can atone for almost any mistake. The 37 points allowed to the Eagles still baffles me, but their two road victories have been impressive. A key divisional and rivalry game with the Redskins is up next. Despite dominating Green Bay on the road last week, I'm not ready to say how this team compares to the one that choked in the playoffs last year.


The Titans are "Buffalo South," winning with a stifling defense, albeit against teams with a 1-7 combined record. While Vince Young can make plays with his feet, Kerry Collins brings a more consistent arm to the position, easing the pressure on a superb running attack. Collins will have to do more the next two weeks against the Vikings and Ravens, two of the best rush defenses in the league. On the rookie watch, Chris Johnson is averaging 5.5 yards per carry through the first three weeks.


The Redskins beat out the Broncos mainly because Denver should be 1-2. Call me a hypocrite after saying 3-0 is undefeated no matter what, but I don't believe in the boys from the Rocky Mountains, plus the Broncos lack what the other two undefeated AFC teams have - defense. Washington has consecutive wins over two NFC offensive powerhouses, and now faces the Cowboys in an early season rivalry game. Jason Campbell is looking better and better, and the coaches are finally starting to use all of their weapons in the same game plan.

Just Missed: Denver Broncos

Dive Five


At 0-3, there's one stat that sums up the first three weeks for the Rams: outscored 116-29. With the Bills coming to town, it won't get much better. The Rams will always be dangerous at home, so expect a more "spirited" effort against Buffalo, but this team is staring an 0-10 start right in the face.


Quite frankly, I'm shocked the Lions are this bad. Did I have them overrated in my pre-season predictions? Obviously. But this is ridiculous. The Lions have allowed 113 points, and they've played the Falcons and 49'ers. The bright spot is that Matt Millen was finally fired, meaning the team can actually draft for the defensive side of the ball. Can anyone say Michael Johnson (DE, Georgia Tech)?


Now this is the Browns team we all know and love. High school level offense. Inconsistent defense. Looking as bad as they sound. Derek Anderson hasn't thrown for more than 166 yards, Jamal Lewis hasn't rushed for more than 62 yards, and Kellen Winslow has the biggest receiving day at 55 yards. Plus, they just gave up 28 points to the Ravens. Ouch. Is it Brady Quinn time? Probably not this week, as the Browns get an even worse Cincinnati team before their bye week.


At least the offense actually tried to show up last week. Too bad it wasn't enough. The Bengals are 0-3 due surprisingly in large part to their offense, which has averaged less than two touchdowns a game. How bad are things going to get when they play a team with a real offense (like Dallas in 2 weeks)? Here comes my crazy, yet interesting proposition of the week: Cincinnati is destined for a top-5 pick, if not #1 overall. Since I believe Carson Palmer's time to do well in Cinci is past, should the Bengals trade him to a team with a QB need (St. Louis, Detroit, K.C.) for their first round pick? I, for one, can picture the Bengals doing this and selecting teammates Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno in the Top 5. Just a (semi-scary) thought.


The offense is bad (sorry LJ). The defense is improved, but still porous. It seems as if the players don't want to play for Herm Edwards (why he left the Jets is beyond me). They've given up 61 points the last two weeks to the Raiders and Falcons, and they play the hottest offense in the NFL this week (Denver). Brodie Croyle hasn't made the anticipated progressions, and LJ's time is wearing thin. They still need help at receiver, and the secondary is a mess. Enough said.

Just Missed: Steelers' O-Line/Houston Texans

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ian's Week 3 Power Rankings

The NFL set things up quite nicely for power rankings this week. So I'm going with the bread and butter of the league with a nice, easy straightforward set of Power Rankings.

Better than Sliced Bread

Dallas moves into the top spot this week after their shellacking of Green Bay. I know I said the Giants wouldn't drop from the top spot until they lost, but there's some simple logic here. Dallas handily beat a team that was in my top 5 and is still a division leader. The Giants barely beat a team that was (SPOILER: and still is) in my bottom 5. Therefore, Dallas moves up into the top spot. Their offensive line has been spectacular in their protection of Romo. Jason Witten is the best tight end in the league. He can do it all. Felix Jones and Marion Barber make a better running back combo than Julius Jones and Barber did last year. This team is scary good. The real test will come in the playoffs.

The defending champs start 3-0? Their Super Bowl win obviously was more well-deserved than people gave them credit for at the time. Their D-line has played great after losing Osi. The Giants suspended No-Catch-ico for the next game for missing a team workout this week. But with their bye week coming up, he has an extra week to appeal the suspension. The offense came through when it needed to against the Bungles, but their defense buckled when it needed to clamp down. Still, going into the bye week 3-0 is no small task.

Just how good is Tennessee? They're 2 games up on Indy and Jacksonville in the division after 3 weeks. They face two good defensive teams in Minnesota and Baltimore before their bye week, but neither of those teams posesses much offense either, which means Tennessee's incredible defense will probably have a field day. Look for two low-scoring battles where defense and field position will make the difference. The tandem of Chris Johnson and LenDale White is paying huge dividends, but as Carolina found out in Minnesota this week, you can't beat the Vikes with just a running game. Kerry Collins has played well in replacement of VY, but he hasn't seen a defense like Minnesota yet.

This isn't anywhere near the Bills team you remember fondly from your childhood. This team runs the ball, plays sound defense, has a quarterback who is coming into his own, and is in the driver seat in the AFC East. They got a scare from Oakland this past week, but they should have a much easier time with St. Louis this coming weekend. Their only test before their bye comes in Week 6 when they have to travel to Arizona. Paul Posluzny for Defensive Player of the Year.

Let's face it, this team is a field goal and a blown call away from being 1-2. Nevertheless, the offense looks nigh unstoppable. Jay Cutler is playing great, but one has to be a little concerned about the defense. However, they have a 2-game lead in the division with wins over both San Diego and Oakland and get the hapless Chiefs this week. San Diego plays Oakland this weekend to determine 2nd in the division as Denver will hold their 2+ game lead on both teams no matter who wins.

Just missed: Baltimore

Churning Butter is More Fun than Watching These Teams

With Miami beating New England, the Rams take over the bottom spot in the rankings. Their offense can't move the ball and their defense can't stop anyone. This is a bad combination. Behind Lane Kiffin, who is always on the hot seat by definition of his job, Scott Linehan is frying right now. He might be gone before the bye week. Which means if he survives this week, he had better find a way to get something done against Buffalo, because the bye week is right after that, which is the perfect time for a coaching change.

I know Herm Edwards is going through a rebuilding process, but this team really needs some run defense. Glenn Dorsey was supposed to help, but they've been run all over by Oakland and Atlanta. This team is falling to the bottom fast. There isn't a team on their schedule they have a chance to beat again until Week 13 when they have to travel to Oakland. If they lose there, they get 2 shots against Miami and Cincy in the last 2 weeks to avoid a losing season. The QB shuffle continues with Damon Huard back at the helm this week.

They fired Matt Millen today, so they have the chance to turn things around here. It might be too late to save this season, particularly with losses to Atlanta and San Francisco on the board already. They needed this bye week badly. They're going to have to figure out a way to spark the offense, because they get Chicago and Minnesota right out of the break.

The offense started to come around a little bit against the Giants. They showed some resiliency battling back to tie the game and send it to overtime. Chad Johnson must have traded his hands for his new name. He can't catch anything. They need to beef up the offensive line if they want to run the ball as much as they're trying to. Palmer still has mostly the same weapons as in years past, but this offense isn't nearly as explosive.

Their showdown with the Bungles this week will get one team off the shnide. The other? Well...it's going to be a long year. Cleveland fans know how we felt 2 years ago when Ben got concussed before the season and was never really himself. Anderson is struggling and Edwards can't hold on to the ball. The running game is going nowhere and they are injured up and down the lineup. Everyone who predicted Cleveland to win this division is hopping on the Baltimore bandwagon now.

Just missed: Houston

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Week 3 Recap

Week 3 Recap

Some teams got their reality checks this week. Some teams resurrected their seasons. Some teams just proved how much better their division is than everyone else in the league.

The NFC East is the best in the league, hands down. Dallas rocked Green Bay, the Giants scraped by an overtime victory against Cincy, Philly dominated Pittsburgh, and Washington pulled it out against Arizona. I've been a big fan of Jason Campbell since his days at Auburn, and it's great to see him finally coming into his own. The Giants got a scare when their defense couldn't stop the Bungles, but did enough to win, which is the mark of a champion.

Reality Checks
Green Bay

Teams that Saved their Season
San Diego

You may be wondering why I didn't include New England or Miami on this list. Well, Miami had the gameplan of a lifetime against New England's defense. Ronnie Brown had a game that will be remembered for a long, long time. After losing Brady, New England was off my list of projected playoff teams, which means their loss to Miami is not so much a reality check, but a better indicator of their real level.

This week was filled with great games. Both the Giants and Tampa Bay won in overtime, while Buffalo and Jacksonville won on last-second field goals. Additionally, Denver edged out New Orleans as Martin Grammatica missed a 43-yard field goal in the last 2 minutes. Baltimore's defense won the game for them as it set up 2 scores and Cleveland's offense looked terrible. Minnesota won a defensive battle against Carolina. Washington was able to convert 2 Arizona turnovers into points, including the game-winning touchdown.

Best Game of the Week: Jacksonville at Indy. Hey, I called this one. Flashback to my Week 3 Preview -- "Upset of the Week: Jacksonville over Indianapolis. If the Jaguars want to resurrect their playoff hopes, they need a win this week. Otherwise, they are 0-2 in the division and 0-3 overall with Tennesse and Indy at least 2 games ahead of them. Even though the Jags have had some injuries along the offensive line, Indy's run defense has been disgustingly weak this year, which sets up MJD and Fred Taylor to have big games on the ground. Indy will put up points, but if Jacksonville can control the clock, look for them to have a shot to win at the end of the game." Well...this game not only made me look smarter than I actually am, but it was a darn good game. Taylor and MJD both had over 100 yards on the ground, Manning brought his team down the field at the end to score the go-ahead touchdown, only to be outdone by a 51-yard field goal by Josh Scobee with 4 seconds left.

Most Disappointing Game of the Week: San Diego over NY Jets. This game had the setup but the Jets didn't mount a real drive until the 4th quarter, with their two first-half TDs coming off an interception return and a 94-yard kickoff return. San Diego took the lead at 10-7 with about 2 minutes left in the first quarter and never gave it up from there. San Diego took a 31-14 lead into the half, leading to an incredibly boring second half.

Top Performance:
Ronnie Brown. 4 rushing TDs, 1 passing TD, 117 rush yards. Honorable mention here goes to Brian Griese who racked up over 400 yards against the Bears defense, but he attempted 67 passes, where as Brown didn't even have 20 rush attempts. Brown's performance was probably the performance of a lifetime, particularly coming against the hated Patriots so he gets the nod this week.

Games with Playoff Implications:
Jacksonville over Indy
Dallas over Green Bay
Washington over Arizona
Minnesota over Carolina

Waaaay Too Early Playoff Picture: