Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick, Dallas Cowboys, Desean Jackson, Green Bay Packers, J.J. Watt, Joe Flacco, LeSean McCoy, Logan Mankins, Matt Ryan, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, NFL Competition Committee, Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles, Ray Rice, RGIII, Richard Sherman, Robert Griffin III, Rolando McClain, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tom Brady, Tony Romo
There is nothing more satisfying in football than seeing ‘bad’ teams win, and all of your predictions and forecasts going out of the window in one quarter. Unlike any other sport, the NFL has created an environment where every team is trying to compete; one of a handful of reasons the NFL is the dominant sport in America.
Of course the NFL is trying to ruin it.
The NFL is trying to clamp down on the physical contact between defensive backs and wide receivers, because once a year an owner or coach loses a game and throws such a tremendous tantrum that they get the rules changed. The NFL has ceded control of the game to attorneys, because there is a strong correlation between tort and gameplay.
Those rule changes are decided by the Competition Committee, who had a combined 2013 record of 63-80-1. I don’t know if I want these guys determining how the rest of the league plays, but at the very least they need to change their name.
The first game of the season was between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. The defensive rules were enacted because of the Seahawks last year, but there were few calls against them in the actual game. In fact, there were very few calls this week for defensive/offensive holding or pass interference…except for the Cowboys/49ers game which came to a halt every five seconds. It’s like it was called by a completely different referee crew. It’s another year where no one knows what the rules are and it completely depends on the crew you get.
For some reason Aaron Rodgers got criticism for the game he played, but I also have to blame a gameplan that concedes one side of the field to a single player. Green Bay didn’t even try to contest Richard’s Sherman’s side, which meant that Rodgers was immediately stuck throwing to really small windows on one side of the field, against the best defense in football. If you’re a receiver or tight end for the Packers, your coach just told you they don’t think much of you.
I’m also defending Tony Romo. 37 pass attempts doesn’t sound like a lot, especially when you realize he was down most of the time, but this doesn’t pass the smell test. Romo was rusty, he has a bad back, he was taking shots, and Dez Bryant went down. Meanwhile, DeMarco Murray was cutting through the depleted 49ers defense at 5.4 yards a clip, behind the best run-blocking line in the league. Controlling time of possession through running would have preserved Dallas’s shaky defense, so of course, in key situations (and from the 2 yard line in the red zone!) Dallas passed leading to turnovers and failed conversions.
It’s also worth noting that Dallas was roundly mocked for starting linebacker Rolando McClain who had been out of football getting himself together as he recognized that he was going down the wrong path, because apparently that’s crazy. McClain had 8 tackles yesterday, 7 of them solo.
But that’s how the day went. The Dolphins always play the Patriots tough, but this time they finished strong, aided a great deal by Bill Belichick’s idiotic trade of Logan Mankins, which allowed the Dolphins pass rush to devastate their offense. Tom Brady accepted a team-friendly contract, hoping that the Patriots would build a great team around him. Instead they stored assets for the future and refused to spend money. I think I just described the first Wall street bailout.
Atlanta beat the Saints, with Matt Ryan having a jaw-dropping day. Fun fact, in my fantasy league Matt Ryan went in the second to last round of the draft, after kickers, defenses and backup Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. I thought they took Ryan too soon at the time.
Buffalo beat the Bears. You hope this is the year that Buffalo is at least dangerous, since their defense has been vicious for years. The Texans won, and J.J. Watt continued to demonstrate that we are watching all-time great. The Bengals beat the Ravens again in what’s starting to feel like it was a changing of the guard.
Jesus, the Ravens are depressing. Ray Lewis retired, they resigned Joe Flacco, and things started to fall apart. He wasn’t worth that kind of money, and they lost Anquan Boldin. Every great offense needs that one guy you can go to when you need a first down, or in the red zone and that’s what Boldin and Todd Heap did for the Ravens. Well, they’re gone, and the offense has suffered, because Flacco just wants the deep ball.
And Ray Rice. Wow.
Look, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. No one did. We didn’t know what happened in that elevator. You shouldn’t hit women, but Rice is a powerfully built man, and we didn’t know if maybe she struck him and he pushed her and she hit her head or what. I know everyone is on their soapbox now, but I wasn’t sure what actually happened.
Well, the tape leaked, and it literally couldn’t have been worse. Rice hit her harder than the last five boxing matches I’ve seen. I don’t know what ‘investigation’ the league could have done without seeing this tape, but it calls into question any other research they’ve done recently, because this guy shouldn’t have sniffed a two game suspension and this tape had to be easy to get. How does TMZ have better resources than the NFL?
Cleveland and Jacksonville looked very competitive, which was a good sign for the rest of the year.
Also, a sprain is a tear. Just say it with me, a sprain is a tear. Evan Mathis went down with what was diagnosed as an MCL sprain and everyone went “whew, thank God it isn’t torn.” A sprain is a tear; it’s just not a complete tear. A lot of offensive lineman went down this week, and that’s going to play a big factor this year.
We have a tendency to compare quarterbacks to all-time greats. Honestly, Andrew Luck reminds me of John Elway, a mobile gamer with a cannon for an arm, and a flawed team around him. Watching him nearly beat the Broncos again, reminded me of how thrilling this guy really is. The problem with praising Luck is that people tend to view him as a winner and RGIII as a bust, even though Luck has a career passer rating of 81.6. But Kenneth Arthur of Rolling Stone Magazine puts it best:
…Per ProFootballFocus, [Luck] had a lower percentage of “air yards” than 25 other quarterbacks, with just 49.7 percent of his passing yards coming from his throws alone. This means that over 50 percent of his total passing yards came after the catch, implying that his receivers did much of the work…[Luck] had 60 throws to targets that were 20 or more yards down field and completed 17 of those attempts…a lot is made of his poor offensive line, but he was considered “under pressure” on 37.5-percent of his drop backs, good for 10th-highest percentage in the league. Luck had 327 dropbacks with at least 2.6 seconds in the pocket, fourth-most in the league. He’s had plenty of time to throw.
Conversely, Robert Griffin III has a career passer rating of 91.8 with a lousier team. But he’s a bust, right?
One last thing. I live in the Philadelphia area, so of course, the Eagles game was a big deal. Nick Foles threw for 322 yards and two touchdowns. That sounds great.
In actuality, this was the most terrifying game that could have possibly happened to the Philadelphia fans. Once DeSean Jackson left, Eagle coach Chip Kelly assured everyone that it wouldn’t matter that the only guy on the team that could stretch the field and demanded a double team had gone to a division rival for nothing.
The moment the game started, Nick Foles was in obvious panic mode, because no one was as wide open as he was used to. He looked terrified and unprepared. He missed easy throws, held the ball way too long, and looked utterly outmatched.
I rarely do this kind of thing, but if it weren’t for the fact that Jacksonville forgot to cover a wide receiver, giving up a big play to Jeremy Maclin for 68 yards, we’re talking about Nick Foles going for 254 yards with 1 TD, one pick, and two fumbles against one of the worst teams in the league.
Star running back LeSean McCoy was limited to 3.3 yards a carry (karma for being a bad tipper?) as the Jaguars dared the Eagles receivers to get open…and they were mostly right.
The Eagles are going to face stiffer competition outside of their division, and this was an alarming. Its rare to see a starting NFL quarterback look as terrified as Nick Foles did, and the backup is Matt Sanchez. Ye Gods.