Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Open Letter To Eric Mangini: How To Keep Your Job

With the Cleveland Browns’ season going up in flames, Eric Mangini’s job security is suddenly very much in question.

As Michael Lombardi notes in the National Football Post,“Nothing has changed since his move to Cleveland. The stupid fines, the secrets, the pretending to be like someone else, the lack of communication with the staff, the second-guessing have all surfaced on the shores of Lake Erie. What player is going to want to sign up next year for a chance to play for him? Since being labeled 'Mangenius' and dining at Vesuvio on “The Sopranos,” Mangini is 13-22 the past three years and falling -- rapidly."

On top of that, former first round pick, Brady Quinn is looking more and more like a dud (1-5 career record, 64.5 passer rating), and Derek Anderson hasn’t looked much better since his 2007 break-out season (3-6 record, 62.1 passer rating).

So my suggestion to Eric Mangini on how to possibly turn around the franchise and potentially save your job? Brett Ratliff

Brett Ratliff you say? Who’s that? Well, as many of you may not know, Brett Ratliff is a 24 year-old, undrafted third year quarterback out of Utah, who would have been the starting quarterback for the New York Jets this year over Kellen Clemens if not for the Mark Sanchez trade.

Yes, the very same trade that Browns’ fans everywhere are regretting since the emergence of Mark Sanchez, who has won his first three NFL starts.

So what better way to make people forget about this awful trade? Play the quarterback that Mangini insisted on being thrown-into the Sanchez trade!

With Quinn and Anderson’s stock dropping very rapidly, the only way to reclaim some value with either of them is to win with one of these quarterbacks (which doesn’t look very likely!). So at what point do the Browns completely give up on these guys? Mangini already has given up on Quinn after 10 quarters, and the season looks to be a goner after only 3 games.

So my proposition to Mangini: This Sunday’s home game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals should be Derek Anderson’s one last chance. Win and he keeps playing. If he doesn’t, let the Brett Ratliff era begin!
Mangini has nothing to lose, since he would most likely be fired at the end of the season anyway.
If Ratliff gives Browns' fans any excitement, Mangini can claim that he found this unknown (Ratliff) and that he was the secret to the Sanchez trade!

Mangini: Playing Ratliff is your only hope…

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

QB Shuffle: Week 3 Notes (continued)...

THE non-CLUTCH (continued)

Down 13-7 with 5:57 remaining, Jake Delhomme threw a pick six the other way to give the Cowboys a 21-7 lead and eventual victory. Monday Night Football commentator was quick to point out that both of Delhomme’s interceptions weren’t necessarily his fault. However, I would suggest that it is the quarterback’s responsibility to get everyone on the same page, and in Delhomme’s case, it looks like his team may be giving up on him (especially Steve Smith).

COACHING

With Second and goal on the Carolina’s 1 yard line, up 10-7, Dallas decided to run two consecutive jump ball plays to the wide receiver. Yes, on the one yard line. Both attempts went incomplete and resulted in a field goal, which begs the question, why do teams continue to run this play in close to the goal line situations? This is obviously a low percentage play for success, and since it’s essentially a jump ball, it is somewhat risky.

This, on top of Dallas’ scared-y-cat punt on fourth down at Carolina’s 38 yard line with 6:05 remaining, the Cowboys coaching staff could have cost the Dallas the game. Luckily for them, Delhomme didn’t make the Cowboys pay, throwing a pick-6. However, for all the hype offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is getting, he sure does make some head-scratching decisions.
VEGAS IMPLICATIONS:
Up 13-7, Dallas (-9.5) covered because of Delhomme's pick-six late in regulation, and later benefited from a garbage time Delhomme fumble to secure the cover for Dallas.

SOUND OFF:

In lieu of Chad Pennington’s injury leading him to miss the remainder of the season (on top of his poor play), I just wanted to proudly say, “I told you so.”

From my August 24th post: “Before 2008, Chad Pennington has made the playoffs three times. In all three post-playoff years, Pennington has either played poorly, gotten injured, or all the above, going a combined 6-14 in those years. Pennington has proven he can’t put together two consecutive good seasons...and wouldn't you know, Pennington is coming off a great season.

So for Betting reasons - Do not take the Dolphins 15-1 to win the Conference or 11-2 to win the division. Also, take the under for wins at 8.0. However, if there were odds that back-up Chad Henne will start some games this year for Miami, I would take those odds.”

Looks spot on to me! Pennington is now 6-17 in years after making the playoffs.

HOMER REPORT

Two weeks in a row, Rex Ryan implemented the anti-prevent defense at the end of the game, and I love it.

Sanchez, although shaky at moments, pulled through, and yes, “showed poise”

Confidence Scale (out of 10): 10 – If we beat the Saints, the Jets will then have four consecutive winnable games (@ Miami, vs. Buffalo, @Oakland, vs. Miami) before the bye week.

Amazingly, the Jets could cover their Vegas seasons wins over/under of 7.0 by week 7 or 8! I am giddy.

FOURCADE FORMULA

Based on my Fourcade formula, here are the top 5 and bottom 5 quarterback performances from week 3.

BEST:
1) Peyton Manning: 379 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception
2) Kevin Kolb: 327 yards, 2 touchdowns
3) Joe Flacco: 342 yards, 1 touchdown
4) Aaron Rodgers: 269 yards, 2 touchdowns
5) Jay Cutler: 247 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception + clutch performance

WORST:
28) Chad Pennington: 54 yards, injured
29) Marc Bulger: 23 yards, injured
30) Brady Quinn: 34 yards, 1 interception, benched
31) Byron Leftwich: 22 yards, 1 interception, benched
32) JaMarcus Russell: 61 yards, 2 interceptions

Monday, September 28, 2009

QB Shuffle: Week 3 Notes...

Week 3 is in the books. Here are my post-weekend notes:

THE CLUTCH:

Brett Favre threw a game-winning 32 yard touchdown with :02 remaining to lead the Vikings over the San Francisco 49ers, 27-24. Favre drove the ball 80 yards with 1:27 and without using a time-out. Lesson be learned, Mike Singletary! Don't give good quarterbacks multiple chances to win the game! (see "Coaching"..)

Down 31-24 with 4:25 remaining, Matt Schaub led the Texans 50 yards for the tying touchdown, but failed to score because of two unfortunate circumstances. Schaub had a touchdown pass nullified due to a penalty, and running back Chris Brown fumbled on the one inch line to cost Houston the game.

Down 24-19 to Seattle with 5:03 remaining, Jay Cutler led the Bears on a 71 yard touchdown drive, to give the Bears the 25-19 lead and eventual victory.

Down 20-15 with 5:14 remaining, Carson Palmer led the Bengals on a 16 play, 71 yard drive, capped off with a 4 yard touchdown pass with 18 seconds remaining to beat the Steelers, 23-20. Palmer also converted on two key fourth downs on that last drive.

THE non-CLUTCH:

Jason Campbell, down 19-14 with 1:05 remaining in the game, from their own 22 yard line, failed to lead his team for the score, only getting off six plays (none in the end-zone), before time ran out for the loss.

Down 24-17 with 11:30 left in the game, Kerry Collins had four drive opportunities to tie the game, and the team ultimately stalled because of him. Collins failed to complete any of his final 13 pass attempts, which included an interception, and a loss of downs to put the game away for the Jets.

After leading the Seahawks 61 yards, down 24-19 with 1:52 remaining, Seneca Wallace’s comeback attempt came up short, failing to convert on a fourth and 2 on Chicago’s 29 yard line to lose the game.

COACHING:

On the verge of Detroit’s first win, and after a 24 yard strike by Matthew Stafford, Lions’ coach Jim Schwartz shriveled up and ran three run plays with 2:21 left in the game, instead of going for the win. Detroit ended up punting, and Washington got the ball back with 1:05 left. Luckily for Schwartz, Washington failed to score. When your team has lost 19 games in a row, maybe you should go for the win, instead of hoping not to lose!

Washington coach Jim Zorn, elected for a short pass on the last play of the game on Detroit’s 36 yard line. Washington not throwing a hail-mary into the end-zone was essentially a gift to Detroit, and gave Washington another reason why Zorn most likely won’t be around next season.

San Francisco coach Mike Singletary played the end of their heartbreaking loss to the Minnesota Vikings extremely conservative. With 1:49 remaining, up 24-20, Singletary elected for three straight run plays, to give Brett Favre another shot for a victory. Favre ultimately burned Singletary, and threw a game-winning touchdown with :02 remaining. Lesson be learned, sometimes you need to go for the win, instead of hoping not to lose!

After being uncharacteristically conservative last week vs. the Jets, Bill Belichick came back to form, going for three fourth-downs, and converting on all three, leading to a 26-10 victory over Atlanta.

Kudos to Rex Ryan for going in the anti-prevent defense at the end of the game for the second week in a row. Again, how many times do we see teams inexcusably go into the prevent strategy only to have it blow up in their faces?
Breaking News: After going 0-3, Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris finally named Josh Johnson their starting quarterback with Josh Freeman as their back-up. Byron Leftwich is now 3rd on their depth charts. Good thing they wasted three starts on "the veteran" Leftwich, right?

Did You Know:

Marc Bulger has won only four games in his last 30 starts. Perhaps his latest injury is a blessing in disguise for St. Louis.

Brady Quinn is now 1-5 as a starter with a career 64.5 passer rating. All signs so far are pointing to this: Quinn stinks!

Jay Cutler’s Chicago Bears are 2-1. Kyle Orton’s Denver Broncos are 3-0.

Kyle Orton’s career record is 24-12 (66%!)

Joe Flacco’s career record (including playoffs) is 16-6 (72%)

With seven teams still undefeated, don’t forget both Carson Palmer and Shaun Hill were each fluky plays away from also being 3-0.

Part two comes out tomorrow...stay tuned!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Week 3 Picks...

Note: Home teams are in CAPS. All Lines courtesy of ESPN.com

Pittsburgh (-4.5) over CINCINNATI
DETROIT (+6.5) over Washington
Green Bay (-6.5) over ST. LOUIS
San Francisco (+7.5) over MINNESOTA
Atlanta (-4.5) over NEW ENGLAND
NY JETS (-2.5) over Tennessee
Kansas City (+9.5) over PHILADELPHIA
NY Giants (-7.5) over TAMPA BAY
Cleveland (-13.5) over BALTIMORE
HOUSTON (-3.5) over Jacksonville
Chicago (-2.5) over SEATTLE
New Orleans (-5.5) over BUFFALO
Denver (+1.5) over OAKLAND
Miami (+5.5) over SAN DIEGO
Indianapolis (+1.5) over ARIZONA
Carolina (+9.5) over DALLAS

Three Best Bets: San Francisco (+7.5)
Pittsburgh (-4.5)
Carolina (+9.5)

Suicide Pool: Baltimore Ravens

Upset Delight: San Francisco over Minnesota

Last Week: 9-7
Season: 18-14
Best Bets: 3-3
Suicide Pool: 2-0
Upset Delight: 2-0

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Off-Topic: How to Fix NHL...My Plan

In lieu of ESPN running several NHL realignment ideas, here is my idea on how to make the NHL better.

The Plan: More Canada, Mid-Season Outdoor Tournament, Eliminate Point System, Increase Excitement!

League: 30 teams down to 28 (14 per conference)

Who’s Out: New York Islanders, Atlanta Thrashers, Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals, Nashville Predators, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes

Who’s In: Winnepeg, Hamilton/Toronto, Houston, Seattle, Quebec, and Hartford

Easter Conference:

The Orr Division:
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Hartford
Montreal Canadiens
New Jersey Devils
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers

The Lemieux Division
Columbus Blue Jackets
Hamilton/Toronto
Ottawa Senators
Quebec
Pittsburgh Penguins
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs

Western Conference:

The Howe Division
Chicago Blackhawks
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Houston
Minnesota Wild
St. Louis Blues
Winnepeg

The Gretzky Division
Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames
Colorado Avalanche
Edmonton Oilers
San Jose Sharks
Seattle
Vancouver

Schedule: From 82 games to 66 (play divisional teams four times, and everyone else twice).

Introducing Hockey Week:
A mid-season tournament with games played at 5 pre-determined locations (i.e. Chicago, Green Bay, etc.) with all games being played out-doors. The tournament will be held the week after the Super Bowl (in February).

Hockey Week Format will be:
1st round: 8 seed vs. 9 seed, 4 seed vs. 13 seed, 5 seed vs. 12 seed, 6 seed vs. 11 seed, 3 seed vs. 14 seed, 7 seed vs. 10 seed.

1st and 2nd seed in each conference gets a bye to second round.

1st round (Tuesday): 4 locations (2 for each conference) with 3 games per location on same day (12 games total)
2nd round (Wednesday): 4 locations (2 for each conference) with 2 games per location on same day (8 games total)
3rd round (Thursday): 4 locations (2 for each conference) with 1 game per location (4 games total)
Conference Championship (Saturday): the 5th location for both games
Finals (Sunday): same location as Saturday
Hockey Week Implications: Conference winners are guaranteed playoff spot and home field advantage for first round (at least 4th seed).
Finals winner is guaranteed home field advantage throughout playoffs (1st seed).

All games played during Hockey week will be included in regular season standings.

Regular Season Rules changes: Overtime is extended to 25 minutes and after that there will be a shoot-out.

Standings will be determined by record only, with no points system (you either win or lose a game).

Tiebreakers will be: 1) Record in games decided in regulation, 2) record in games decided in overtime, 3) record in games decided in a shoot-out

New Playoff Overtime Rule: One 30 minute overtime, followed by a shoot-out.
So who doesn't like this plan? Make sure to leave comments, telling me what you think!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

QB Shuffle: Week 2 Notes (continued)...

THE CLUTCH (continued)

When Miami coach Tony Sparano went conservative on 3rd and 6 with a rushing play to settle for a field goal, giving Miami a 23-20 lead, was there any doubt that a field goal wouldn’t be enough when Peyton Manning is on the other team? Manning easily leads the Colts to a 80 yard touchdown drive in 32 seconds to take a 27-23 lead and eventual victory.

THE non-CLUTCH (continued)

Conversely, Chad Pennington ran one of the ugliest, and slowest drives I have ever witnessed. With 3:18 remaining, and needing a touchdown, Miami only got to the Colts 30 yard line to lose a game in which they controlled the ball for three full quarters. Watching this late drive, it is clear that Pennington is no Peyton Manning. However, it wasn’t entirely Pennington’s fault, because…

COACHING

Tony Sparano displayed laughable clock management skills that ultimately cost Miami the victory. With 3:18 remaining, and needing a touchdown, Miami took 78 seconds of precious game time to run two running plays for 6 measly yards. At the two minute mark, Sparano decided to speed up his offense a little, but the team ran three consecutive short passing plays for 21 yards, eating up 50 seconds, before a bad Pennington sack and recovered fumble.

On top of this, Miami was running play action passes under two minutes. Who were they fooling faking a rush play? Miami eventually got two long shots at the end-zone, from 42 yards, and 30 yards, and did not convert. Ultimately, it took Miami 3:18 and 2 timeouts to move the ball 52 yards for a hail-mary pass. Yikes!

Sparano’s poor clock management skills on top of his conservative play for a field goal on the previous possession cost Miami the game.

SOUND OFF:

Can we all agree the wildcat offense is a fad? Wouldn't it just be easier to have an elite quarterback on your team (i.e. Colts) instead of running a trick play 30 percent of the time? It took Miami 45 minutes to score 23 points, whereas Indianapolis scored 27 in 15 minutes.

Also, the Monday Night Football Announcers literally would not shut up about it.

Let’s just say if there was a drinking game played last night for every time the word “wildcat” was mentioned, people would have died from alcohol poisoning 37 times over.

HOMER REPORT

Wait- the Jets beat the Patriots at home? This can’t be the Jets, right?

With Rex Ryan’s anti-prevent defense at the end of the New England game, and Sanchez showing so much poise – the Jets are more fun to watch than ever.

Confidence Scale (out of 10): 9 – and looking forward to watching Kerry Collins vs. this Jets defense.

FOURCADE FORMULA

Based on my Fourcade formula, here are the top 5 and bottom 5 quarterback performances from week 2.

BEST:
1) Matt Schaub: 357 yards, 4 touchdowns + clutch performance
2) Eli Manning: 330, 2 touchdowns + clutch performance
3) Peyton Manning: 303 yards, 2 touchdowns + clutch performance
4) Drew Brees: 311 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception
5) Kurt Warner: 243 yards, 2 touchdowns

WORST:
28) Chad Pennington: 183 yards, 1 interception + non-clutch performance
29) Brady Quinn: 161 yards, 1 interception
30) Matt Hasselbeck: 97 yards, injured in 1st half
31) Matthew Stafford: 152 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions
32) Tony Romo: 127 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions

Monday, September 21, 2009

QB Shuffle: Week 2 Notes...

With week two almost in the books, here's my post weekend notes. Part two will come out tomorrow...

THE CLUTCH:

Tied at 31-31, Matt Schaub led the Texans on a late time-consuming field goal drive to take the lead over Tennessee with 2:58 remaining.

Despite a very poor game, JaMarcus Russell got it together and led a 69 yard touchdown drive to take a 13-10 lead with 1:12 to go for an Oakland Raiders’ victory.

Tied at 14-14, Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a what-should have been lead taking drive. However, kicker Jeff Reed missed a 43 yard field goal attempt, which ultimately led to…Jay Cutler leading Chicago 41 yards with 3:18 remaining, for a game-winning drive to win 17-14.

Down 31-30 with 3:40 remaining, Eli Manning coolly led the Giants 56 yards to a game-winning field goal drive as time-expired in their victory over Dallas.

THE non-CLUTCH:

Down 28-20, Jake Delhomme drove Carolina down to Atlanta’s 17 yard line with 3 minutes to go. After three straight incompletions, Delhomme threw an interception on fourth down to essentially lose any chance of winning for the Panthers.

Aaron Rodgers’ comeback attempt fell short as a false start at the Bengals 10 yard line ended the game for the Packers. Green Bay was down 10 points with two minutes remaining, and recovered an onsides kick after Rodgers led the Packers to a quick field goal.

Down 34-31 with 2:55 remaining, Kerry Collins' fumble cost the Titans any chance at a comeback victory against the Houston Texans.

Down 13-10 with 1:07 to go and all their timeouts, Matt Cassel failed to get the Chiefs in field goal range, throwing an incomplete pass on fourth down to end the game.

Down 16-9 with 1:48 to go, Tom Brady threw four straight incompletions for a loss of downs, resulting in a loss to the New York Jets.

Down 9-7 with 1:55, Marc Bulger gave the Rams no hope, pinned at their own 4 yard line. Four incompletions later, Marc Bulger is inexplicably still the Rams starter.

Philip Rivers came up short late on two occasions in the Chargers loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Down 28-26, Rivers threw a costly interception with 4:35 remaining, which put Baltimore up 5 with 2:54 remaining. With the Chargers having to score a touchdown, Rivers led San Diego all the way to Baltimore’s 15 yard line with :41 seconds to go. However, Rivers threw an incomplete pass and Ray Lewis ended the game jumping a rushing route on fourth down for a Chargers' loss.

Coaching:

Kudos to Rex Ryan for going in the anti-prevent defense up seven with 1:48 to go against Tom Brady and the Patriots. How many times do we see teams inexcusably go into the prevent strategy only to have it blow up in their faces? As a Jets fan, I am sold on the Rex Ryan regime.

Kudos to Redskins’ coach Jim Zorn, who tried to put the game away, up 9-7, going for a fourth and 1 on the Rams two yard line right before the two minute warning. Even if Washington didn’t convert (which they didn’t), they would be leaving the Rams pinned back inside their own five yard line, essentially with no hope (since their quarterback is Marc Bulger).

Did You Know:

Marc Bulger has won only four games in his last 29 starts…and is still their starter!

Shaun Hill is now 9-3 as a starter.

Brady Quinn is now 1-4 as a starter with a career 66.2 passer rating.

Jay Cutler’s Chicago Bears are 1-1. Kyle Orton’s Denver Broncos are 2-0.

Vegas Implications:

Atlanta (-6.5) up eight points avoided a hail-mary pass at the end of regulation to secure both the win and cover over Carolina.

Kansas City (-3.5) up 10-6, failed to cover due to Oakland’s touchdown drive late to take a 13-10 lead.

Jeff Reed’s late field goal cost Pittsburgh (-2.5) the game and the cover.

Part two comes out tomorrow...stay tuned!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Week 2 Picks...

Note: Home teams are in CAPS. All Lines courtesy of ESPN.com

ATLANTA (-6.5) over Carolina
DETROIT (+9.5) over Minnesota
Cincinnati (+9.5) over GREEN BAY
Houston (+7.5) over TENNESSEE
Oakland (+3.5) over KANSAS CITY
NY JETS (+5.5) over New England
New Orleans (+1.5) over PHILADELPHIA
WASHINGTON (-10.5) over St. Louis
Arizona (+3.5) over JACKSONVILLE
SAN FRANCISCO (-1.5) over Seattle
Tampa Bay (+4.5) over BUFFALO
Pittsburgh (-2.5) over CHICAGO
Cleveland (+3.5) over DENVER
Baltimore (+4.5) over SAN DIEGO
DALLAS (-2.5) over NY Giants
MIAMI (+3.5) over Indianapolis

Three Best Bets:
New Orleans (+1.5)
Washington (-10.5)
Baltimore (+4.5)

Suicide Pool: Washington Redskins

Upset Delight: New Orleans over Philadelphia
& if Brodie Croyle starts for KC….Oakland over Kansas City

Season: 9-7
Best Bets: 1-2
Suicide Pool: 1-0
Upset Delight: 1-0

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Good Move/ Bad Move starring Tom Cable

Good Move:

Down 17-13- 4th and 14 at their own 43 yard line with 2:41 left, Tom Cable decides to go for it on 4th down and as a result, JaMarcus Russell throws a 57 yard touchdown pass to take the lead 20-17.

Many people thought they would punt in this situation. However, if they did punt, either way they needed a stop to get the ball back. So kudos to Tom Cable for taking a chance while they could.
Also, even if they did not convert, Oakland still had to stop San Diego from getting a 1st down to stay in the game. If San Diego got close to a first down and were in field goal range to take a seven point lead (i.e. an 8 yard drive- would be a 52 yard field goal attempt for San Diego), Oakland still has to score a touchdown. This was a smart move to seize the moment while they had a chance, even if they didn't convert on 4th down.

Bad Move:

As noted by ESPN’s Gregg Easterbrook (TMQ), “The Raiders, with 21 ticks showing, inexplicably called timeout, in effect granting the Chargers an extra snap. (San Diego needed to conserve its own timeout for a field goal attempt to tie and force overtime.) On the bonus snap, Sproles ran for the winning touchdown. Where was Oakland's football IQ?”

This time-out call could have directly cost them the game, especially if Sproles didn't score on that play. Bad move, Tom Cable!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

QB Shuffle: Week 1 Notes (continued...)

THE CLUTCH (continued)

Down 24-13 with 5:32 remaining, Tom Brady led two consecutive touchdown drives, including a touchdown pass to Ben Watson with 55 seconds remaining to cap off an improbable comeback victory over Buffalo, 25-24

Down 17-13, JaMarcus Russell threw a clutch 57 yard touchdown pass to give the Raiders a 20-17 lead with 2:34 remaining. However, this left way too much time on the clock for…

Philip Rivers, who nonchalantly led the Chargers 89 yards down the field for a game winning touchdown to win the game, 24-20.

THE non-CLUTCH (continued):

As good as Trent Edwards looked in Buffalo’s touchdown drive to put them up 24-13 with 5:38 to go, with the game on the line, Edwards looked lost. With :45 seconds left, down 25-24 and two time outs, Edwards had a great chance to get his team in position for a game-winning field goal. However, Edwards ended up taking two awful sacks as confused coach Dick Jauron looked on. By the way, doesn't Jauron look like Simple Jack from Tropic Thunder?

SOUND OFF:

With New England down 24-19 with 2 minutes remaining and all three timeouts, Monday Night Football announcers were debating whether New England should go for an onsides kick or kick it long. Super Bowl winning coach, Jon Gruden, stated that this was a no-brainer- because New England should kick it onsides to give the team two chances (not one) to get the ball back. Ron Jaworksi disagreed, stating they should kick it long because they should trust in their defense.

Jaworski’s strategy makes no sense! Relying on your defense is a given. Why does it matter if the offense gets the ball around the 50 yard line or their 20 yard line? The defense still has to prevent them from getting a first down or the game is over. Wouldn’t anybody take the 10% chance (as noted by the commentators) of recovering an onsides kick over essentially 20-30 yards of field position? Like Gruden said, why limit your team to one chance at getting the ball back, when you can take two.

Jon Gruden came off like he won a Super Bowl championship, whereas Ron Jaworski came off as a washed-up quarterback who went 23-38-1 in his last seven seasons. New England ultimately kicked it long (huh?), but recovered a fumble on the run-back (very lucky).

UNIFORMS:

I must say- those AFL uniforms looked great last night, especially during the Buffalo-New England game. All of these teams should keep the throwback uniforms full-time (especially Buffalo!). I can understand why New England would be against this idea though for karmic reasons.

HOMER REPORT:

I am very pleased by how the Jets' season has started. Their defense looked great, and I am absolutely giddy about Mark “Dirty” Sanchez.

Confidence Scale (out of 10): 8 – and I think we have a legit chance vs. the Pats next week!

FOURCADE FORMULA/ QB RANKINGS:

Based on my Fourcade formula, here are the top 5 and bottom 5 quarterback performances from week 1.

BEST:

1) Drew Brees: 358 yards, 6 touchdowns, 1 interception
2) Tony Romo: 353 yards, 3 touchdowns
3) Tom Brady: 378 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception + game winning drive
4) Joe Flacco: 307 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception
5) Matt Ryan: 229 yards, 2 touchdowns

WORST
28) David Garrard: 122 yards + non-clutch performance
29) Matt Schaub: 166 yards, 1 interception
30) Jay Cutler: 227 yards, 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions + non-clutch performance
31) Matthew Stafford: 205 yards, 3 interceptions
32) Jake Delhomme: 73 yards, 4 interceptions

Monday, September 14, 2009

QB Shuffle: Week 1 Notes…

Week 1 is in the books (well almost). Here are my post-weekend notes:

THE CLUTCH:

Ben Roethlisberger led not one, but two game winning drives to defeat the Tennessee Titans, 13-10. Roethlisberger led a potential game winning drive in regulation under two minutes before Hines Ward fumbled at the four yard line. Roethlisberger then led his team to the game winning points on the first possession of overtime.

Carson Palmer led an almost six minute, 91 yard touchdown drive to put his team up 7-6 with 34 seconds to play. However, his team lost because...

Kyle Orton’s tipped pass to Brandon Stokley via Brandon Marshall went 87 yards for an improbable game winning touchdown. Usually, Palmer should get a mulligan here because he should have won…but he also only led his team to seven points at home vs. the Broncos.

Joe Flacco led a 74 yard game winning drive with under six minutes to give the Ravens a 31-24 lead over the Chiefs with two minutes to go.

With over 10 minutes remaining and down 16-13, Shaun Hill led the 49ers on an 80 yard touchdown drive that gave his team the 20-16 lead and eventual win.

On 3rd and 1 with 1:18 remaining and down 15-13, Aaron Rodgers threw a 50 yard touchdown pass to give Green Bay a 21-15 lead over Chicago.

THE Non-CLUTCH:

In a two minute drill, down 14-12, David Garrard led the team to only two yards, while throwing three incompletions to lose the game for the Jaguars.

Brodie Croyle, down seven with two minutes remaining, threw two incompletions and took two sacks as the Chiefs lost.

Kurt Warner had a few opportunities at the end of the game, down 20-16, to put his team in position to win. With 7:26 remaining, the team gained 18 yards and punted. With 3:11 remaining at San Francisco’s 38 yard line, Warner threw three incompletions and failed to convert on a fourth down on the 49ers 33 yard line. Warner then gets a third opportunity with 43 seconds left and no time outs, but takes a sack to end the game, on what would have been a Hail-Mary attempt from their own 46 yard line.

With 1:11 remaining and down 21-15, commentator Cris Collinsworth stated “Well, let’s see your franchise quarterback” in reference to whether Jay Cutler can actually lead Chicago to victory on a game winning drive. Cutler then throws an interception on the very first play of the drive to lose the game, capping a four interception game by Cutler. Can I coin the phrase, “You can’t spell Cutler without a L”?

Coaching:

New Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell earned a lot of my respect for a gutsy move yesterday. With 2:06 left on Jacksonville’s 35 yard, Caldwell went for it on 4th and 1 to essentially clinch the game. Although the attempt failed, this move essentially stated that he has a lot of confidence in his team to win the game by dismissing a possible 52 yard field goal attempt or calling for a punt. Many coaches in this position would have elected against going for the fourth down to win the game, because it would defer any possible blame from themselves if they ended up losing. So kudos to Jim Caldwell for going against the grain and showing some guts!

Browns coach Eric Mangini pulled a fast one on the Ravens by not officially announcing who his starting quarterback would be prior to Cleveland’s opener. Boy was Baltimore fooled by this decision! Brady Quinn? Who knew! Mangini continues to be the king of deception.

If Hollywood made a movie about the extremely mediocre Houston Texans organization, is there any doubt coach Gary Kubiak would be played by Dennis Quaid?

Did You Know:

Brodie Croyle is now 0-9 as a starter.

Carson Palmer is winless in his last five starts.

Marc Bulger has won only four games in his last 28 starts!

Matt Schaub is now 10-15 as a starter.

Jake Delhomme in his last two games has a total of 11 turnovers, including nine interceptions!

Shaun Hill is now 8-3 as a starter.

Brady Quinn is now 1-3 as a starter with a career 68.0 passer rating. It’s still early, but just saying.

Jay Cutler’s Chicago Bears are 0-1. Kyle Orton’s Denver Broncos are 1-0.

Vegas Implications:

Steelers (-5.5) over the Titans: Hines Ward’s fumble at the four yard line prevented a probable game winning touchdown and cover, and forced over time. Pittsburgh ended up winning by a field goal, and as a result Pittsburgh did not cover.

Ravens game (-8.5) over the Chiefs: The Chiefs failed to convert on 4th down on their own 9 yard line to essentially lose the game. When the Ravens took possession, up seven, they punched it in for a touchdown four plays later (on fourth down) to win by 14 and cover.

New York Giants (-6.5) over the Redskins: Washington, down 23-10, gets a late touchdown to cut the Giants lead down to 6, causing the Giants not to cover. Washington’s onsides kick attempt failed, and the Giants won the game.

Packers game (-3.5): Down 15-13 and under two minutes to go, Green Bay just need a field goal to win. However, Rodgers throws a 50 yard touchdown pass to give his team a six point lead and the cover!

Part Two of My Notes coming tomorrow! Stay Tuned!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Week 1 Picks...

Note: Home teams are in CAPS.

ATLANTA (-4.5) over Miami
Denver (+3.5) over CINCINNATI
CLEVELAND (+3.5) over Minnesota
Jacksonville (+6.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
Detroit (+11.5) over NEW ORLEANS
Dallas (-3.5) over TAMPA BAY
Philadelphia (+0.5) over CAROLINA
BALTIMORE (-8.5) over Kansas City
New York Jets (+4.5) over HOUSTON
NY GIANTS (-6.5) over Washington
San Francisco (+6.5) over ARIZONA
SEATTLE (-7.5) over St. Louis
Chicago (+3.5) over GREEN BAY
NEW ENGLAND (-10.5) over Buffalo
San Diego (-6.5) over OAKLAND

Three Best Bets:
San Diego (-6.5)
Dallas (-3.5)
New England (-10.5)

Suicide Pool: San Diego Chargers

UPSET DELIGHT: San Francisco over Arizona

Season: 0-1

The Season Starts Tonight: My Thursday Pick

The opening Thursday NFL game has featured the defending Super Bowl champions the past five seasons. This year, the game features defending champs, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh is a 5.5 point favorite at home vs. the last year’s best regular season team, the Tennessee Titans.

Things to keep in mind: The last five Super Bowl Champions are 5-0 during this opening Thursday game, with an average margin of victory of 12.8. Taking out the 2007 blowout of Indianapolis Colts over the New Orleans Saints, 41-10, the margin of victory is still 8.25 points.

On top of the fact that Tennessee is secretly going to have a down year (as I predict here), I think the Steelers will prevail at home, and cover the spread.

Pick: Steelers 28, Titans 16

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2009 NFL Predictions

Note: I have tweaked my original AFC Playoff picks, switching the Jacksonville Jaguars out for my hometown New York Jets. Yes, I am a homer…and yes, I am very confident about the Dirty Sanchez era in NY.
Here they are:

AFC East:
New England (13-3), NY Jets (9-7), Buffalo (6-10), Miami (6-10)

AFC North:
Pittsburgh (11-5), Baltimore (10-6), Cleveland (7-9), Cincinnati (5-11)

AFC South:
Indianapolis (10-6), Jacksonville (9-7), Tennessee (8-8), Houston (7-9)

AFC West:
San Diego (12-4), Kansas City (7-9), Denver (6-10), Oakland (4-12)

NFC East:
NY Giants (11-5), Dallas (10-6), Philadelphia (9-7), Washington (5-11)

NFC North:
Green Bay (11-5), Chicago (9-7), Minnesota (9-7), Detroit (4-12)

NFC South:
New Orleans (10-6), Atlanta (9-7), Carolina (7-9), Tampa Bay (4-12)

NFC West:
San Francisco (10-6), Arizona (8-8), Seattle (7-9), St. Louis (3-13)

Wild Card: Pittsburgh over NY Jets, Indianapolis over Baltimore
Atlanta over New Orleans, Dallas over San Francisco

Divisional: San Diego over Pittsburgh, New England over Indianapolis
NY Giants over Atlanta, Dallas over Green Bay

Championships: New England over San Diego, Dallas over NY Giants

Super Bowl: New England Patriots over Dallas Cowboys

Yes, I realize people might be counting out Dallas- but the NFC is very wide open. If Romo doesn't get injured last year, Dallas makes the playoffs. I think Romo makes the jump in 2009.

10 Over/Under Season Wins' Bets:

Take the over:
San Diego (take the over 10.5 wins)
New England (take the over 11.5 wins)
NY Jets (take the over 7.0 wins)
NY Giants (take the over 10.0 wins)
San Francisco (take the over 7.0 wins)
Green Bay (take the over 8.5 wins)

Take the under:
Buffalo (take the under 7.5 wins)
St. Louis (take the under 5.0 wins)
Washington (take the under 7.5 wins)
Tennessee (take the under 9.5 wins)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bad Teams Have Bad Quarterbacks: 2009 Edition

It’s been easy to distinguish which teams, prior to each NFL season, will most likely not make the playoffs simply by looking at how bad their starting quarterbacks are for week 1.

In 2006- Houston (David Carr), Oakland (Aaron Brooks), Tennessee (Kerry Collins) and Detroit (Jon Kitna) went a combined 19-45

In 2007- Buffalo (JP Losman), Cleveland (Charlie Frye), Oakland (Daunte Culpepper), Detroit (Jon Kitna), and Atlanta (Joey Harrington) went a combined 32-48.

In 2008- Kansas City (Brodie Croyle), St. Louis (Marc Bulger), and Detroit (Jon Kitna) went a combined 4-44!

None of these teams made the playoffs….

Going into 2009, there are fewer teams as usual, especially since the Detroit Lions came around and smartly named Matthew Stafford the starter over Daunte Culpepper (hmm, maybe they had some help?).

So without further ado, here are the four teams with the worst quarterback situations going into week 1.

Cincinnati Bengals (Carson Palmer): Palmer is only 15-21 the past three seasons. I think it's officially safe to say Palmer isn't that good.

Tennessee Titans (Kerry Collins) Even after a 12-3 season last year, Collins is still under .500 with a 79-85 career record. Why isn’t Vince Young starting again?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Byron Leftwich). Leftwich won the uninspired quarterback competition over Luke McCown, despite two younger options on their roster (Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson). Leftwich has made it clear that he is a back-up quarterback in this league.

St. Louis (Marc Bulger): Bulger is 14-37 since 2005 and 4-23 in the past two seasons. It feels like I have mentioned this before...hmm

I expect the Bengals, Buccaneers, and Rams to be some of the worst teams in the league (that aren't Oakland), with Tennessee missing the playoffs after high expectations from their successful 2008 campaign. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Monday, September 7, 2009

NFL Cuts Could Lead to Potential Upgrades...

Over this past Labor Day Weekend, NFL teams trimmed down their rosters to 53, leaving alot of quarterbacks out of work.   However, some quarterback in particular shouldn’t be out of work for too long.   Here are the six best options, young and old for teams looking to add depth or upgrades.


Veterans:


3) AJ Feeley: 7-8 career record; cut by Philadelphia who didn’t want to carry four quarterbacks.


2) Damon Huard 15-12 career record; cut by San Francisco who felt no need for a veteran presence when they are trying to develop Shaun Hill and rookie Nate Davis


1) Jeff Garcia - 58-58 career record; cut by Oakland who didn’t want to put any added pressure to JaMarcus Russell.


Attention to New England (Brian Hoyer), New York Giants (David Carr), Dallas (Jon Kitna), and Chicago (Caleb Hanie).   Garcia and Huard in particular would be an instant upgrade to any of these teams.    


Young:


3) Brian Brohm: second year out of Louisville


2) Chase Daniel: Rookie from Missouri


1) John David Booty: second year out of USC


Attention to Cincinnati (JT O’Sullivan/ Jordan Palmer), Jacksonville (Josh McCown), Oakland (Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Frye), and St. Louis (Kyle Boller/Keith Null).   Each of these teams would benefit from adding another young quarterback to their pipeline, especially since their starting quarterback situations aren't exactly stable.


Tomorrow I will discuss the worst quarterback situations going into the 2009 season.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Forecasting Eventual Pink Slips: NFL Coaches On The Hot Seat

Since the end of the 2000 season, there have been 62 new head coaches, which makes for an average of 6.88 each year (there’s 11 this year). With that- it would be a good bet that 6 current coaches will be fired by the end of the season.

If only we can wager on this in Vegas…

If I could- here are my picks for coaches who might be poised for the pink slip by season's end:

10) Jeff Fisher: As I pointed out here, if the Titans fail to make the playoffs with Kerry Collins under center, Fisher could (and probably should) be fired. If that happend, Fisher would have only taken the Titans to the playoffs 6 times in 15 full seasons, on top of a 5-6 playoff record. Not that impressive. Plus, Fisher has handled the Vince Young situation terribly. At least Fisher could have a future in the adult film industry!

9) Jack Del Rio: If the Jaguars have two consecutive losing seasons, the Jags might have to reconsider both the Del Rio and Garrard eras.

8) Gary Kubiak: Despite being one of the best back-up quarterbacks in Super Tecmo Bowl, another non-playoff year is probably not going to cut it in Houston. Kubiak is currently sitting at a 22-26 record.

7) Wade Phillips: Dallas is basically just waiting for a higher profile coach to come along. Phillips has secretly done well as a coach (70-49), despite some playoff woes under irregular circumstances. Yet, unless the Cowboys win the Super Bowl, Jerry Jones will find a reason to fire Phillips if a more appealing name becomes available in the offseason.

6) Marvin Lewis: Considering he has a 46-49 record with the Bengals, Lewis has exceeded Cincinnati’s expectations. However, on top of the inner turmoil, and the stalled progress of Carson Palmer- another losing season for Cincinnati will cost Lewis his job.

5) Norv Turner: Expectations and talent are very high in San Diego. Everyone knows that Turner is a major redflag (77-95-1 career record). If San Diego implodes (even an early playoff exit)- Turner will and should be the scapegoat.

4) Brad Childress: As I pointed out in my Vikings preview, I am almost positive Childress’ will cost the Vikings a few critical games this year. Add that to the fact that this will be Favre’s last year (right?), expectations are maybe too high in Minnesota. This puts all of Childress’ lame brain moves in the spotlight.

3) Jim Zorn: Zorn is Washington’s 5th coach since 2000, which exemplifies how little patience Washington's management has. If Washington struggles (which I think they will), perhaps Washington starts over with a new coach and quarterback for 2010.

2) Dick Jauron: In my opinion, one of the worst coaches currently in the league. Buffalo should have fired him by now, and since Buffalo probably won’t make the playoffs- they will most likely finally pull the trigger. Jauron has a career 57-76 record, and as I joked in my AFC preview column, he clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing. Again- For hilarity's sake: Check out how Jauron mistakenly ran the clock out at the end of the second quarter, down 3-0, during last year’s finale at New England’s 12 yard line.

1) Tom Cable: I would put this one at a 100% possibility. Cable should have never been given a head coaching position in the first place. This is a guy who has won 28% of his games in college, coaching Idaho. At least Cable will put up a fight! (zing)

Picks to Be Fired: Cable, Jauron, Phillips, Zorn, Childress, Lewis & (surprise) Fisher

Mulligan of the Week: Starring Jon Kitna

Yesterday, ESPN’s Jeffri Chadiha wrote an extensive article on NFL back-up quarterbacks, and in particular, Jon Kitna. For Chadiha, this marks his second time to be focused in my “Mulligan of the Week” segment, for writing another head-scratching article in which he grossly overrates a quarterback's effectiveness.

Chadiha states, “You really can't blame Jones for trading for Kitna. Like every team in the NFL, the Cowboys are well aware of how quickly fortunes can change if you don't have the right man as a backup quarterback.”

My question is: Hasn’t Jon Kitna proven that he isn’t the right man for any job in the NFL at this point? Dallas struggled last year when starter Tony Romo went down for three games with washed up Brad Johnson and journeyman Brooks Bollinger, going 1-2 in his absence. How would Jon Kitna even be any upgrade?

Kitna’s career record is 46-69 (40%). He’s never won 9 games in a season in his 12 years. In fact, Kitna is 10-26 (28%) in the past three seasons, most notably being the starting quarterback for the 0-16 Detroit Lions. Experience? Technically. Bad Experience? Very much so!!

So why are we celebrating Dallas for continuing the NFL’s re-tread policy of hiring people who have failed repeatedly? Would a business company hire the guys at Enron because having experience (even if it’s negative) is better than having no experience at all? Obviously ESPN has no problem with the re-tread policy. This is like hiring Bernie Madoff to teach a Social Responsibility class!

Chadiha goes on to write, “Teams with less-experienced starters or some playoff-caliber teams are far more likely to go with an older veteran as a backup. For the teams with younger quarterbacks, the benefits here are twofold. A franchise gets a backup who is capable enough to play in a pinch and also ends up with a mentor for the starter, who's usually a high-round pick. Consider how much Kitna meant to Carson Palmer in 2004.”

My counter to that is why would you want your young quarterback to learn from an already-failed quarterback? Wouldn’t their bad playing habits and losing mentality rub off on them? Chadiha’s Palmer example is also weak at best. You could argue that Kitna’s losing ways have finally rubbed off on Palmer, who is only 32-33 as a starter, and is 15-21 the past three seasons. Are you listening Detroit?

There’s more- the article goes on to celebrate Giants’ insurance policy, David Carr, or as some of you may know as “Sacked for a loss of 10.” David Carr is a career 23-56 (29%), and averages a career 3.1 sacks per game. Another great example of “experience,” right?

The article then goes on to talk about the success of Matt Cassel last year- which is a great example of how teams should handle their situation. However, the article does not mention that New England’s approach is the exact opposite of what Dallas has done with Kitna.

My feeling about quarterbacks (and I talk about this extensively in my book, “The Pro Quarterback Manifesto”) is that teams should abide by my laid-out manifesto and use history as a tool. Without getting too in-depth, my manifesto has a few simple notions that all teams should stand by which basically include the following premises:

1) The goal for every team should be to have a B+ of higher level quarterback (aka a franchise quarterback). Having a B+ or higher quarterback has a direct correlation to playoff appearances and the Super Bowl (proof and grading formula can be viewed in my book).
2) If your team does not have a franchise quarterback- the team should continuously attempt to get one by using starts wisely on quarterbacks with little NFL experience to see if they are good or not. All NFL teams should carry at least one young quarterback on their roster because of this.
3) Never waste starts on a quarterback that is already known not to be good. This basically wastes everyone’s time, including fans and management.
4) If you’re a team with a franchise quarterback- the chances are that your team still winning if your franchise quarterback goes down are minimal- so why waste starts on a re-tread failure like David Carr, when you can see if a young quarterback can play or not? (i.e. Tom Brady, Matt Cassel)
5) Having a veteran back-up quarterback only makes sense if the playoffs are still in reach. However, even that only works for a veteran quarterback who has a good track record. For example, back-ups Jeff Garcia, Michael Vick, and Damon Huard are all veteran quarterbacks with experience winning. Quarterbacks like Jon Kitna, David Carr, or Dan Orlovsky do not fit this criterion.

With that- I’d like to ask both Cowboys and Giants fans how comfortable they would feel with their back-up situations if either starting quarterback (Romo or Manning) went down for an extended part of this upcoming season?

In that event, I bet in almost every case, a realistic fan would invest in some blindfolds.