Monday, September 21

The Return of NFL De-Cleeting: Week 2

A new week and the ASD is hoping to get back into regular functional mode. Of course any discussion begins and ends with the football right now. The space between week 2 and week 3 is always an interesting one filled with hyperbole. Teams at 2-0 have their fanbases thinking Super Bowl. The 1-1 teams appear to be on the fence and either falling into "we're ok" territory or into panic mode in week 3. The 0-2 teams will certainly be faced with "the sky is falling" prognostications. In this recap of week 2 a team at each record will be profiled as well as assumptions about the state of all teams will be made even though I believe it is too early to make them. If the mainstream media can be duplicitous, why can't I?

2-0: Baltimore Ravens

Last year it was Joe Flacco learning as the season progressed and being carried by the defense. You get the sense so far this year Flacco and the offense will be pulling their own weight. The Ravens' QB has 497 yards and 5 TDs in the young season. The running game has also been impressive led by Willis McGahee who had 2 scores yesterday in their 31-26 win over the Chargers. The defense has been intense as always but maybe something is not quite there without Rex Ryan and Bart Scott. The Ravens' have given up 24 and 26 points in their first 2 games. Last season they only gave up those numbers 5 times. Confidence has to be high for the defense to right the ship, the hope for them is that the offense continues to roll. The addition of Al Saunders as a "consultant" for the offense has put some new imagination into the passing game, particularly the short passing game and it has the Ravens offense in a good place right now. Baltimore gets the early season nod, especially since they can say they hold sole possession of first place in the AFC North after the Steelers lost in Chicago. Baltimore does not have to face Pittsburgh until the final week of November and it may be then when we find out what this team is truly capable of.

1-1: New England Patriots

It is always good to admit when you are wrong, at least that is what the female population tells me, so I feel a bit like Happy Gilmore apologizing to Chubbs today. Not only did I think the Patriots were going to win this game, I thought Mark Sanchez would be brought down to Earth. While it was not the embarrassment Kerry Rhodes desired during the week's chatter, it was an impressive performance by the Jets' defense 16-9. Sanchez did not turn the ball over and made some key passes early in the second half to get the job done. It is hard to decipher what this all means for the Patriots. The company line this week will certainly be that it was just one week and that they can work on improving, but huge questions loom for this team.

Although rookie Julian Edelman had a nine catch day filling in Wes Welker who was hurt, he had some communication errors and dropped passes. The Jets knew with Welker out, they couldfocus even more onstopping Randy Moss who only had 24 yards receiving. The one time Brady tried to go deep to Moss he was picked off. The offensive line was a question going into this season for the Pats and after the first 2 games the question has been answered: this line is failing to protect Brady. I always enjoy analysts saying that "Brady does not throw as well when he is getting pressured." or "He does not like to get knocked down and hurried." Can you tell me what quarterback does? Add the knee recovery and Brady seems off on a lot of his throws. The passes that he was hitting with ease two years ago are now going high, off target, or a split-second too late. The lack of a running game also puts more pressure on Brady's shoulders. The Pats offense is evolving into the Colts offense of the early decade before they started running the ball. On defense it is a simple numbers game. Belichick is known for being able to plug players into roles filled by veterans and have them perform well, but he has never had to replace this many at one time. The injury to 2nd-year linebacker Jerod Mayo does not help either. Mayo was essentially taking Bruschi's role as leader of the defense but he is out until mid-season. It is hard to bet against this team from improving, and yesterday they did only yield one touchdown. However, anyone with delusions about the Brady return bringing about a repeat of 2007 can wipe that notion from their head quick, this team is going to be in a fight for a playoff spot.

0-2: Carolina Panthers

Moral victories get you nowhere in the NFL, just ask the Lions. The Panthers were a 12 win team last year and expectations were high for this season. Carolina had a hard fought loss 28-20 in Atlanta yesterday but playing better than their week 1 blowout at the hands of Philly does not comfort Panther fans. Once again turnovers hurt the Panthers but Jake Delhomme was not the biggest source of the problem. He and Steve Smith connected 8 times for 131 yards but a late fumble by DeAngelo Williams was very costly. The Panthers defense could not stop the Falcons from moving the ball and had problems guarding Tony Gonzalez near the goal line. With the Panthers facing Dallas next week in the new behemoth of a stadium, 0-3 is a definite possibility.

Despite Carolina's 12-4 record last year there are few in media that know much about this team. They know Steve Smith and Julius Peppers and they can wax poetic about how foolhardy it was to give Jake Delhomme a 5 year extension in the off-season, but they glance at a roster sheet and say, "Can you believe that the same team that went 12-4 last year is winless this year?!" Therein lies the great mystery. This is the NFL, the most covered league in the country and national media still have no clue what goes on inside small(er) markets. The entire O-line is back for the Panthers yes, along with "Double Trouble" at RB and pretty much their entire offense. They did lose two key back-ups on the line though and have a new QB coach. Defensively is where the team has suffered the most change. They lost their big run stopper Maake Kemoeatu in training camp, their safety Chris Harris has not played a down this year, and have a first-time starter at CB. People like to point to Julius Peppers as their big defensive signing but he swallowed up over $17 of cap space and those who watch this team know Pep is not always max effort all the time. Add a new defensive coordinator to the mix and it means the Panthers are facing more internal challenges than a year ago. Not a comforting thought when they have repeatedly mortgaged future draft picks away to keep this version of the team on the field.

The rest of the early season praise/panic:


Jets- Before you get all excited Jets' fans, remember how last year started...and ended.
Denver- Ladies and gentlemen, Kyle Orton is 2-0 in Denver. Everyone has to be thinking this won't last.
Giants- Former defensive backs from the U had all the interceptions for the Giants last night, I assume a fruitbasket is in the mail to Romo.
Minnesota- Things are going according to plan.
Atlanta- This team looks strong. Beatable, but strong.
New Orleans- They struggle for a game or two with their own mistakes, but it is hard to see any team outscoring them.
San Francisco- Break out the Catfish surprise playoff team that he projected at the end of last year.


Buffalo- Team showed grit bouncing back, but I still see .500 in their future.
Cincinnati- Who knows? Week 1 they looked putrid against Denver and yesterday they go into Lambeau and score 31.
Pittsburgh- Played well enough to win yesterday, no one is panicking at all nor should they.
Houston- Much like Cincy they are hard to nail down. Horrific performance week 1, and surprising win in Tennessee week 2.
Oakland- If Louis Murphy had just held onto that ball the Raiders would be 2-0. This team has talent, too bad it does not appear to be at the QB position.
San Diego- Here we go again. We thought the Chargers could coast to the AFC West but it looks like another long road.
Dallas- More shots on television of Jerry Jones please.
Philadelphia- For all the talk of quarterbacks, I don't think this team can win without McNabb.
Washington- This team is pathetic. Something has to change, the QB, the coach, something there is no way this team should look as poor as it does on the field.
Chicago- The comeback win yesterday could turn the whole season around.
Green Bay- Cannot afford losses like yesterday's if they want to finish ahead of Minnesota.
Arizona- This team is not finished yet, especially if they take down Indy at home next week.
Seattle- No Hasselbeck, no chance.


Cleveland- Good night Cleveland! There will be no encore.
Jacksonville- The bell tolls for thee, Del Rio.
Tennessee- I cannot think that a Jeff Fisher team will not turn this around, but if Houston is for real it gets dicey.
Kansas City- Not so simple is it Todd and Matt?
Detroit- They are inching ever so being able to win 1 football game.
Tampa Bay- That "we're rebuilding" crutch might break under the weight of its extensive use.
St. Louis- Not a pretty sight. Not at all.

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