As we all know Hindsight is 20/20. This weekly column is devoted
to learning from common mistakes and serves as FFToday’s “Fantasy
Ray Rice would get Willis McGahee healthy:
McGahee had 112 yards and 2 scores against the Texans Sunday,
just after Chris Mortensen and the rest of the non-McGahee-starting
world thought Ray Rice would get the majority of the carries.
Lesson Learned:: We should have expected McGahee to get healthy
quickly. It’s just human nature to step up your work when
the threat of losing your job looms close. Just look at L.J. Smith
getting back on the field after Brent Celek had his huge day for
the Eagles. The Texans are mediocre versus the run at best, so
it’s no surprise someone would get be productive on the
ground for the Ravens. Just remember that McGahee didn’t
have a gain over 12 yards in this contest and the competition
head isn’t going to be far stingier (Can you tell I’ve
been down on McGahee since training camp?). I just believe McGahee
is a slightly above average NFL runner and I expect the Ravens
to part ways with him by June of 2009. Meanwhile, McGahee will
continue to use his experience to hold off Rice.
The Titans runners would gain a combined
20 yards on the ground and still win: That’s right
ladies and gents, Lendale White and Chris Johnson had 22 yards
and Kerry Collins and Ahmard Hall had a total of –2 yards
against the Chicago Bears, but they still managed to score 21
points and win by seven at Soldier Field.
Lesson Learned: The Titans offense
is an excellent unit when it comes to converting long drives.
This is not a quick-strike offense unless Smash or Dash breaks
a long one. As a result, most of the passing is done within 5-15
yards from the line of scrimmage. Although they only had two drives
of more than 5 plays (including an 11-yard drive in the third
quarter resulting in the game-winning TD), Tennessee had seven
drives of 6 plays or more against Green Bay and drives of 11,
14, and 13 plays respectively against Indianapolis the week before.
In order to move the changes this consistently, you have to be
a disciplined football team that is composed, has good rapport
with each other, makes good decisions, and has few penalties.
It may be flashier to hit the big gainer, but it’s far more
impressive to sustain drives – it may not show up as domination
on the scoreboard, but it has for the Titans in the win column.
A rookie TE would outscore the rest of
Brett Favre and Marc Bulger’s receivers: Dustin Keller
out-gained the sum of the entire Jets receiving corps this weekend
with 6 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown in route to a 47-3
victory over the Rams.
Lesson Learned: We learned
that the book on Keller was right: he’s fast, he has good
hands, he can adjust to the football, and get yardage after the
catch much like a running back. What he needs to continue to do
is apply better form at route running, learn the complexities
of the pro passing game, and becoming a better in-line blocker
when necessary. Keller had a good start to the season, but then
slumped a bit in October. If he can build on this performance
down the stretch, he could be on track to become a star TE as
soon as 2009.
Ben Roethlisberger couldn’t resist
holding onto the ball: I talked about this last week. Roethlisberger
is hurting his team because he tried too hard to extend every
play. It appeared he learned his lesson early in Sunday’s
game. He was hitting Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes with a quick-strike
passing game. The turning point was actually a terrific play on
a flea flicker where Roethlisberger avoided the rush to hit Ward
Lesson Learned: Although this
was a great play, Roethlisberger behaved like a shark smelling
blood in the water, because from that point forward, Big Ben went
into a frenzy of extending the play against a heavy rush. He could
no longer resist holding onto the ball and stopped getting rid
of the ball as quickly. The Colts defense also gets credit for
clamping down on the shorter passes which also resulted in a couple
of sacks, three picks, and a sputtering offense. Still, Pittsburgh
nearly pulled it off on the last play drive of the game. Roethlisberger
has elite player skills and guts, but his inability to make the
necessary adjustment (and getting punished regularly) keeps him
from joining the ranks of the best in the game.
Never to listen to talk show sports personalities:
Tony Kornheiser was on Monday Night Football expressing surprise
about the 49ers winning at halftime. He said they didn’t
think they had enough talent. This is the same team that selected
David Baas, Justin Smiley, Jason Hill, Josh Morgan, Patrick Willis,
Vernon Davis, and Frank Gore in the draft and added Isaac Bruce,
Michael Lewis, Nate Clements, and Takeo Spikes through free agency.
The problem isn’t talent; the problem has been lack of strong
leadership to mold these players into winners.
Lessons Learned: First, Tony
Kornheiser may be on Monday Night Football as an announcer, but
it doesn’t mean he knows any more about football than Dennis
Miller or you and me. In fact, with all the time spent talking
about every imaginable sports issue that pops up each day, Kornheiser
probably knows less about football than fans that watch multiple
games per week. He simply doesn’t have the time. His views
are interesting, but his knowledge of the game isn’t something
to count on.
Secondly, the Niners do have talent. When you consider the parity
in the NFL the gap in talent between a bad team and a good team
is much smaller than it is at any other level in football. Jason
Hill has enough skill to become the next Isaac Bruce. Patrick
Willis could be the next Ray Lewis. Frank Gore, the next Emmitt
Smith. When Mike Singletary says he sees great things from these
players, it’s more than a motivational ploy. He understands
the difference between a winner and a loser in the NFL is more
about the attitude than it is about the physical skill.
Nagging Feelings—Week 10
When you hear Drew
Brees throws for 422 yards, you normally think the Saints
won. But three interceptions – two in the end zone – demonstrate
that there’s not a great deal of rapport with this receiving corps.
Look at the revolving door of players that have seen significant
time in games this year: Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert
Meachem, David Patten, Lance Moore, Billy Miller, and Jeremy Shockey.
Throw in the fact that Reggie Bush would qualify as a receiver
that has missed time in this offense – a receiver with a significant
number of important offensive packages that they cannot find a
substitute player – you realize that Brees and his offense has
lacked rapport. It’s going to show up in those tight spaces inside
the opponents’ 20-yard line.
The Lions signed Daunte
Culpepper to a 2-year deal this week and the former Viking-Raider-Dolphin-retiree
threw for a coin flip percentage (5/10 for 104 yards and a pick),
getting 88 percent of his production from two throws to Calvin
Johnson. The one good thing about Culpepper was that he has played
enough to recognize decent single coverage opportunities despite
not being familiar with the Lions offense. This is probably why
they went after him rather than give Drew
Stanton a chance. More on that in a moment…
But back to Johnson, he is one of two players that could produce
with a better team surrounding them. It’s astonishing that
Johnson is the top fantasy receiver heading into this week despite
production alternating between two and four catches from weeks
three through eight. Kevin Smith is another player getting better
every week. He had 96 yards on 23 carries but also had two big
plays – a 27-yard reception and a 32-yard gainer on the
ground, imagine if the Lions actually had linemen on both sides
of the ball.
One thing is for sure, the Drew Stanton show was something the
Lions were desperately hoping to avoid putting on air. Stanton,
a Michigan State product, is a nice-looking athlete, but I can
personally tell you that his ability to read defenses, make good
decisions under pressure (see the dump off he made to a TE on
a 4th and 34 play during Sunday), and keep his body out of harm’s
way. This was as puzzling of a pick the Matt Millen regime had
made during his tenure. But with Culpepper already hurt, it appears
they may have to allow Ruprecht
a seat at the table. I have a nagging feeling NFL Films will be
able to do a Football Follies Special on Stanton alone.
Former Ole Miss Runnin’ Rebel, BenJarvus Green-Ellis-Hatfield-McCoy-Junkman’s-Daughter’s-Brother’s-Goldfish,
ran up the gut of the Bills defense with 105 yards and a score.
Throw in another gut shot from Matt Cassel and that was basically
the ball game. When the multi-moniker running back wasn’t
moving the chains for New England, Wes Welker took over with a
typical 10-grab for 107-yard game. It looks like New England has
a great shot to at least earn a wild card spot. I think this team
will be a first-round playoff loser, but they deserve credit for
hanging tough after losing one of the best players in the league
in week one.
Miami continued to be the most unlikely contender of 2008 and
the Wildcat formation helped them out again. This time, Ricky
Williams had one of the highlights of the day – a 51-yard
run up the gut. I only wish Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann were
pieces of turf under Williams’ feet, so I didn’t have to hear
another pot joke. Both of then sound as if NBC strong-armed them
into reuniting to do sports highlights because they sound bored
with it. Based on NBC’s track record with David Letterman and
Howard Stern, I wouldn’t be surprised.
In a related matter, it would make my year if someone would spike
Bob Costas’ Dr. Brown’s soda with some LSD. He would
be infinitely more bearable to watch. Maybe Dr. Brown’s
will actually pay Costas not to plug their product. Chris Berman’s
act has gotten old, but at least he’s not stiff. Other than
Collinsworth, Bettis, and Barber, the rest of the team looks stiff.
They are the Lions of NFL wrap-up shows.