1. Jets head coach Rex Ryan did a masterful job in 2009 of bringing his team to within a game of the Super Bowl, succumbing to the Colts in the AFC Conference Final. However, he hasn’t had that same success this season. The team returned Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis to the starting line-up too soon after he injured his hamstring and it remains to be seen whether that decision will affect his performance over the balance of the season. At this point, the consensus is that he has not performed up to his 2009 standard. This week, Ryan released defensive tackle Howard Green knowing that the Jets opponent, the Green Bay Packers, were desperate for help along their depleted defensive line. Green stepped in for the Packers on short notice and played well in helping the Packers restrict the effectiveness of the Jets rushing attack. And finally, the Jets not only lost to the Packers at home, they were also shut out and that is inexcusable considering New York was coming off a bye week and two weeks to prepare. Ryan is a solid coach, just not as solid this year as last.
2. Speaking of bad coaching, Redskins head honcho Mike Shanahan, another coach who always thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room, takes the prize this week for the biggest coaching blunder following his decision to bench quarterback Donovan McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman so Grossman cold run the two-minute drill. No, folks, that wasn’t a typo. Grossman in for McNabb. Grossman stepped in and promptly fumbled on his first play, leading to a fumble recovery and touchdown for the Lions Ndamukong Suh. Shanahan’s initial reasoning was that Grossman was more adept at running the team’s two-minute offense. When that rationale was questioned, he stated that McNabb was not conditioned well enough to run the two-minute offense. Hey, if you’ve already dug a hole for yourself, why not dig deeper? He forgot to mention that McNabb has engineered 25 fourth quarter comebacks in his career.
3. Lots of bad coaching this week so next up on the hit list is the Texans’ Gary Kubiak. Kubiak has done a fine job of turning around the Texans program but with a chance to make a statement this week by beating the Colts in Indianapolis and sweeping the season series with them, he fell flat in a big play. In the Texans Week 1 win over the Colts, running back Arian Foster ran wild, gaining 231 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries. In that game, quarterback Matt Schaub was a non-factor, passing for 119 yards. Despite that, Kubiak came out throwing on Monday night on the road in a loud Lucas Oil Stadium in left tackle Duane Brown’s first game back from a four-game suspension, squaring off against Dwight Freeney. It took all of three plays to figure out that Brown was no match for Freeney. However, Kubiak kept dialing up the passes and Schaub finished the first half 5 of 15. He reasoned to ESPN reporter Michelle Tafoya at half-time that they needed more balance and that they couldn’t pass protect one on one or in maximum protections. Frankly speaking, there was more than a little fiction in that statement since almost all of the pass protection schemes in the first half did not include running backs or tight ends. As for the comment about needing balance, that’s another fiction. The Texans won in Week 1 without any balance. They could have won last week without any balance. They just needed to give the ball to Arian Foster. He had 102 yards on 15 carries and 65 yards on nine receptions. The Texans threw it 38 times. That’s not balance. Kubiak clearly outthought himself in this one, despite having two weeks come up with a game plan.
4. Here’s to stating the obvious. Broncos Chief Operating Officer Joe Ellis, speaking on behalf of owner Pat Bowlen, was asked by the Denver Post to comment on head coach Josh McDaniels job security. Ellis refused to guarantee that McDaniels would be back in Denver in 2010. I guess when a head coach has lost 14 of his last 18 games and the team’s fans are hurling their fury at him, it’s no surprise when upper management refuses to guarantee the coach will be back the following year.
5. It seems like the Rams got it right with the selection of Sam Bradford with the first overall pick in the draft. Bradford has showed poise in leading the Rams to a 4-4 record that leaves them a half-game behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West Race. Despite having a wide receiver group missing Mark Clayton and Donnie Avery, Bradford has moved the ball effectively with an array of short passes. All the more impressive is that he has been able to accomplish that and avoid interceptions despite lacking a true deep threat. He has thrown 96 straight passes without an interception.
6. If the Rams hit the nail on the head with Bradford, the Lions did the same with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick in the draft. He has been a beast for the Lions and has already emerged as the team’s most disruptive defender less than halfway through his rookie season. This week, he scored on a fumble recovery to seal the Lions win over the Redskins, although he almost got caught hot dogging it too much Leon Lett style with Santana Moss nearly stripping him at the one-yard line. Suh has six and a half sacks on the season, tied for eight overall in that category. It’s not often that the top two selections in the draft prove themselves to be potential Hall of Fame players mere games into their careers but that seems to be the case with the 2010 draft.
7. How about those poor Buffalo Bills? Two overtime losses in a row. I don’t know if that’s a record but somehow it doesn’t seem all that surprising that it would happen to Buffalo. Maybe linebacker Shawne Merriman can bring some much needed pass rush to a Bills’ defense that struggles mightily in putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
8. Fantasy owners of Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles are disappointed by head coach Todd Haley’s refusal to insert Charles into the starting line-up over Thomas Jones. However, Charles has put up decent production in a backup role despite being used in a change of pace role and not getting any goal line work. It’s also encouraging that with their 274 yard rushing effort this week against the Bills, the Chiefs have now surpassed 200 rushing yards in three straight games.
9. Don’t look now but the Oakland Raiders have actually made their presence felt in the AFC West for the first time since Jon Gruden was coaching the team. They sit at 4-4 but are on a roll, having trounced the Broncos in Denver in Week 7 and the Seahawks in Week 8. This marks the first time they are playing .500 ball in November since the 2002 season. With 92 points over their past two games, the offense is clicking behind a solid rushing attack and big plays in the passing game on play action. Al Davis must be smiling in his grave. Err, he’s still alive, you say? Who knew Chiefs at Raiders would be a feature matchup in Week 9?
10. Keeping with the Raiders, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey showed some toughness for the first time in his career this week, playing through a shoulder injury he suffered during the game to haul in five passes for 105 yards and a score. He also had a 30-yard run to pad his fantasy stats. While it was nice to see him display some toughness, the production shouldn’t be emphasized too much since the Seahawks have a suspect pass rush and played the game without two of their top three cornerbacks.
11. Get your wide receivers in this week against Cincinnati. Their secondary is banged up and extremely thin heading into this week’s game against the Steelers. At cornerback, Adam Jones was placed on injured reserve two weeks ago and Jonathon Joseph will likely gut it out this week with an ankle injury. If he can’t go, Morgan Trent will step in. At safety, Nedu Ndukwe and Roy Williams will both try to play through knee injuries. If they can’t go, the Bengals will have to rely on inexperienced Tom Nelson to man one of the safety positions. The Bengals need a lot of things to break their way if they’re going to field a decent secondary over the next few weeks.
12. After watching wide receiver Donald Driver unsuccessfully try to play through a quadriceps injury for two straight weeks (no receptions in either game), the Packers quickly ruled him out for this week’s contest against the Cowboys. With the team having their bye in Week 10, that gives Driver two full weeks to recovery. Owners in deeper leagues likely have James Jones and Jordy Nelson stashed on their benches in the event Driver went down. Early this year, it looked like Jones had locked down the third receiver role but Nelson has been the steadier performer of the two over the past few weeks. Jones has the flashier numbers with 19 receptions for 284 yards and a score. However, it’s taken him 40 targets to reach that production and he has been prone to drops. Meanwhile, Nelson has caught 62.8% of his targets and is clearly the more sure-handed of the two.
13. IDP leaguers take note that Rams defensive end Chris Long is finally living up to his potential after being taken second overall in the 2008 draft. He has sacks in three straight games and four and a half sacks in his last five contests.
14. With Mike Tolbert topping 100 rushing yards this week, the Chargers broke a streak of 16 consecutive games without having a running back top the century mark.