Welcome to the Tuesday Morning Buzz! Week 14 was a fantastic week for non-stop action on Sunday with another less-than-entertaining Monday Night Football. Regardless, drama is running high as the fantasy playoffs are underway and the NFL postseason looms. Watch for each week to get even more tense and unpredictable as the season draws to a close.
Let the praise of Roethlisberger begin anew and with more fervent adamancy than ever before! The man behind the Steel Curtain came back into the game on Thursday night after an ugly ankle injury and played it out. While it was certainly admirable how Big Ben returned to play, Vinny Testaverde could suit up for the Steelers right now and win a half of football versus the Cleveland Browns—with two high ankle sprains, no less. I don’t mean to overstate the Browns’ ineptitude, but it seems their lack of play knows no bounds. Also, has Antonio Brown outperformed Mike Wallace, or is Wallace’s talent opening up the path for Brown? You decide, but next week I may sit Brandon Marshall or Greg Jennings for Brown. As for Cleveland … hey, there’s always next year.
I can’t figure what to make of this game. On the one hand, you’ve got the Ravens coming out of it with another victory, and if they win out, they’ll get the number one seed. Run of the mill, right? Well, not so fast. This is the Colts! This team is purposely trying to lose the game and you, the best of the AFC, can only hang 24 points on them? Where was the offense? Where was the ball control? Somehow, the mighty Indianapolis Colts had almost 24 minutes of possession with no weapons and no will power. I’m sadly disappointed that the Ravens didn’t put a little bit of a harder stomp on them. For the Colts, see my Cleveland Browns analysis.
Khaaaaaaaaaan! Surely it must be the new impending ownership that inspired the Jaguars to score 41 points when they were only averaging 12.7 points per game coming into the week, right? Surely it is that epic ‘stache that brought the MJD of 2009 back to score an inordinate amount (4) of touchdowns, right? Perhaps it was the might and prowess of Shadid Khan that scared the Bucs into a sickening slump in the early going of the second quarter. Whatever the reason, if I see more of that next week in the Georgia Dome, I’m going to feel a lot better about starting MJD in the championship round. For the Bucs, who are 1-8 since Week 5, there’s always next year!
P.S. I’m sensing a trend here. It’s amazing how clear the NFL all of a sudden gets around Week 12, isn’t it?
Lucky for their fantasy owners, the Packers really want to go undefeated. They want it so badly that Rodgers was still in the game slinging the ball around well after everything was in hand. If I were Mike McCarthy, I would’ve had Rodgers, Jennings, and Finley on the bench after Grant’s touchdown, with a shade over seven minutes remaining in the first quarter. I understand wanting to win and playing your starters, but there is no need to risk your season and your franchise when you’re up by 31 points. For the Raiders, there’s always next year! I’m kidding; they’re obviously still in their division race. However, the Tebow seem to be predestined to be the AFC West team that gets bounced in the first week of the playoffs.
P.S. Watch for Darren McFadden’s return this week versus a middling Detroit defense in Oakland. It could be big.
I don’t believe that being outdoors has much of an effect on the Saints. Sure, they are 3-2 with much less impressive stats when outdoors this season. However, I think this has far more to do with not being in New Orleans than it has to do with being outside. The Saints seem less inspired when away from their adoring crowd and the Superdome, and this is why it was 3-3 at the half. It had nothing to do with playing under an open sky. That being said, the Saints got hot late (as they usually do in close competition), and Drew Brees brought Marques Colston to life with two sweet touchdown passes.
For the Titans, I’m confident that they would’ve won the game if Hasselbeck had been the quarterback on that final play. Locker looks to be the future in Tennessee, though, and if I were a Titans fan, I would be excited about that. He seems to have many of the same qualities of Vince Young without the immaturity and off-the-field issues.
Brees for MVP
Alright, you win. I’ll argue, but only because I love you so. Last week I told you that I believe Brees is the best quarterback of this era, that he’ll retire as the best of his contemporaries, and that this season will end with Brees as the top quarterback. But those three statements are all totally subjective and can’t really be proven. Pick your favorite quarterback and you can argue the same for him. Here is my case for Brees.
As many of you have pointed out, Rodgers is on a record-setting pace for single-season passer rating with 123.3 through 14 weeks, and Brees is only at 105.9. However, this is the only category in which Rodgers truly is head and shoulders above Brees. Here is the stat sheet for both quarterbacks:
As you can see, no other category is overwhelmingly in Rodger’s favor. More touchdowns and fewer interceptions on fewer pass attempts certainly gives Rodgers a strong and well deserved passer rating. However, you will also notice that Brees, the most accurate quarterback the world has ever seen, is edging Rodgers in completion percentage by a full point, made more impressive by Brees’ 80 more completions on 105 more attempts. If you look at total turnovers, Rodgers is only two better than Brees. You’ve also heard Tony Dungy live on television saying he’d never blame a quarterback for an interception. Fumbles however? Those are all the ball carrier’s fault.
These points are very nit-picky, but that’s how it has to be when comparing two phenomenal athletes who are playing the position at a higher efficiency and explosiveness than it has ever been played. Now for the point that matters most, the point I had in mind when I originally made my claim: What will truly determine who has the better season? The playoffs, of course. A Super Bowl appearance or win will make up for any edge either quarterback may have over the other at the end of Week 17. The Saints have had a couple of slip-ups, but they have ranked number-one overall in offense and 27th overall in defense (outranking New England and Green Bay in both categories). If Brees ends this season just behind Rodgers in stats, but with a second Super Bowl ring, then I don’t see how anyone could say Rodgers had the better season.
P.S . Let’s not even get started on Marino’s 29-year-old record that Brees will soon surpass, Johnny U’s consecutive games with a touchdown record that Brees could eclipse next season, and the completion percentage record that Brees already owns.
For the Chargers, its start ‘em time. Rivers is Infinity times 2 in the month of December, and it doesn’t seem like that is going to change any time soon. I think the Tebow will win this division, but you won’t be able to say the Chargers didn’t try for a comeback. For the Bills, Steve Johnson continues to be the only player on the team I really want to start. I had such high hopes for Buffalo playing spoiler to the big boys in their division, but they simply do not know how to be a good team. Combine that with management that is interested in saving money rather than winning big, and you have an organization that will never succeed if things don’t change.
As Tebowmania continues to rock the nation, I’ve heard many sports analysts exclaim, “The Bears played them well for 55 minutes! They had it! They were pressing the receivers and pressuring the quarterback! Why did they back off?! Why did they give up the sideline?!” I’ll tell you why. Because in the last five minutes of a game, Tim Tebow puts the fear of God in defensive coordinators. If you press the receivers and send blitzes, it leaves too many opportunities for heroics. In the mind of Lovie Smith, the only chance was to play coverage and hope to break up the passes and keep the runs short. The sideline was open because defenders were crowding the middle of the field to stop Tebow if he ran. Tebow may not have magic powers that make him the ultimate quarterback in the fourth quarter, but he has a tangible advantage in the fourth quarter as impending doom sets in for his opponents.
For the Bears, I have one word (sort of): Yikes. It is going to be hard to pass the Lions for second place in the division, and it isn’t even a sure thing that second place in the North will garner a wild-card spot. Cutler could’ve taken this team to the playoffs, but with so many other teams in the final stretch here…well, there’s always next year.
The Cardinals, not to be outdone by the Dolphins, are proving to be quite the spoiler team through the final stretch. Just one week after setting the Cowboys up for a potentially fatal loss to the Giants, the Cardinals added a rare tick to the “L” column for the Niners. San Francisco owns the tiebreaker, but if the immortal Ben Roethlisberger can find a way on Monday night next week, the Saints have a legitimate shot at a first-round bye. As for fantasy, there aren’t many on these teams that are performing week in and week out that you’d want to trust your playoffs to. This late in the season, I say go with who got you here. And if that means Larry Fitzgerald plays, then play him!
How about that T.J. Yates? The most untalked-about rookie quarterback this year went into Cincinnati and beat a Bengals D that has been good all year and phenomenal at home. And he did it to the tune of 300 yards and two touchdowns on a day when his running game was mostly shut down. Not only that, but he notched a dramatic and much-coveted comeback win by throwing the game-winning touchdown with two seconds on the clock. For the Bengals, keep riding that A.J. Green wagon and don’t play another man.
To say that Christian Ponder has struggled this season might be seen as an understatement. Still, he certainly has this offense performing at its best since Favre took it to the championship game two years ago. But then that’s as comforting as the faint praise the Jaguars get for shattering their 12-points-per-game average. What I saw was nearly a 50/50 split between Webb and Ponder in which Ponder looked better in every category except interceptions. If he could’ve kept his cool (tough to do against a Lions team full of thugs and ne’er-do-wells) he may very well have thrown his team to a “W” in Detroit. Ponder could get hot next week when the Saints come to town, but look for that to affect Gerhart and Harvin more than Ponder in fantasy. For the Lions, it’s a tough stretch ahead, but all should be good in the fantasy world as they are likely to get into three straight shootouts to end the season.
Well, now that the Eagles are all but mathematically eliminated, they sure did look good against the Dolphins. These guys played spoiler to the spoilers! Look for the Eagles to light up the scoreboard in the final weeks to save the final scraps of their reputation as a dangerous offense. For the Dolphins, do you think Sparano had a situation like Coach Boone in Remember the Titans? One loss and you’re done, despite how awesome your team has been in previous weeks? Sure seems like it. I wonder how Sparano would fit with the Chiefs.
Not that we can ever try it out (each game is different), but I wonder what an actual competent offense would’ve done this day against these Chiefs. I mean, the Jets scored 37 points? Unless you started Mark Sanchez, you didn’t feel much of the benefit in the realm of fantasy, but it sure did look crazy on the score ticker. For Kansas City, I’m really looking forward to next year. If I’m a Chiefs fan, I’m very excited to see the talent retake the field after their injuries heal. Watch for the Chiefs to be in the thick of it as long as similar injuries don’t make an appearance next season.
The ‘kowskis once again handled the majority of the scoring for the Pats, but Welker did manage to squeeze a touchdown out of the Skins as well. I’ve run out of analysis on these Pats, and I refuse to give any credence to the Brady spat on the sidelines. If you haven’t figured it out yet, you really don’t want a New England running back in your lineup for the fantasy playoffs. For the Redskins, they’re going to try awfully hard to put a stop to Eli Manning and a Giants team that’s on a roll right now, but I wouldn’t feel too comfortable about starting any Redskins either.
P.S. Close your eyes and forget about Helu. As is well documented, it’ll bite you in the end if you stick with a Shanahan running back.
In defense of Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan threw for 320 yards, four touchdowns, and no picks, with a 58 completion percentage, and he still finished three points below Rodgers’ average passer rating for the season. The Falcons won through the air, but Michael Turner still got the ball 21 times. Turner has run hard and often for many years and just seems beaten up and worn down this season, and I wouldn’t be overly surprised if this year is his last. If so, it will be a sad day in Atlanta, as the Falcons haven’t proven that they can win without a heavy dose of Michael Turner.
For the Panthers, the future looks brighter every week. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart are feeling the pain of losing John Fox, but Steve Smith is feeling the joy of gaining a real quarterback. Watch for the Panthers to pick high for a Julio Jones-esque wide receiver who will take this passing game to the elite level. For this year, however, I don’t know that I’d trust any Panther not named Cam with the keys to my fantasy season.
Oh those poor, poor Dallas Cowboys. How frustrating it must be to be Jerry Jones! He has watched squad after ultra-talented squad fail and sputter mentally as the seasons have wound down. Expect for frustrating play out of these Cowboys as long as they are in contention. If a catastrophic loss to the Bucs or Eagles occurs, watch for the Dallas offensive stars to take off as the games become meaningless and the pressure to succeed drops off. For the Giants, you have to love what you’re seeing out of the offense. Eli is looking the best he ever has, and this wide receiver corps may be the best that New York has ever seen. If they can shore up the defense a little and keep their nose clean until Week 17, they probably have the East in the books.
$#^% Chris Collinsworth Says
On the dominance of Jason Pierre-Paul:
“He’s just too much! You know, you’ve got to chip him, you know, the Cowboys just have to make the adjustment! There’s no way around it, you’re not going to block him one-on-one with anybody! I just haven’t seen it done all year. You watch him on tape enough and he’s like an octopus coming at you! Arms and legs, you think he’s got eight different arms flailing at you! Just… quick moves… a dynamic player!”
If the rest of the Giants D can play to the level of Pierre-Paul—who CC wisely pointed out, has yet to reach the apex of his game—then their path to the playoffs is clear. Wild Card Weekend for the NFC should be absolutely crazy.
I’m not going to honor this matchup with a lot of analysis. The game was terrible. As was brought up multiple times by the commentators, the Rams have placed ten cornerbacks on IR this season. And they have next to no talent on their roster, so you can’t expect much, if anything, from them. That lack of talent may extend beyond the roster. They had seven downs at the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter on Monday night and only ran the ball on the first and seventh down. Instead of giving the ball to their best talent, they had their injured quarterback throwing to their C-class receiving corps. Spagnuolo may be the next coach to go after this performance. An empty space on your roster may be as valuable as most of the men on the field in this game.
And that’s it! Week 14 is in the books. I don’t know how much fantasy goodness will come from it, but I’m looking forward to the Ravens–Chargers matchup on Sunday Night next week. Also, your Cardinals, Lions, Raiders, Titans, Bengals, Saints, and Vikings should all have good fantasy weeks. Thank me later.