Tuesday, November 15, 2011

week 10 results and writing schedule

So I'm just going to over the results for this week, probably in a little less detail than days of old. My work schedule is already starting to catch up me! Writing schedule is at the end.

So we'll start with the Harbaugh brothers and their contrasting fortunes. Honestly, if John (Baltimore) ends up bald by the end of the season then I won't be surprised because that guy must be pulling his own hair out in private watching the film. Two fumbles from David Reed made a huge difference but the play calling has to be the most annoying thing for John right now. You have Ray Rice, one of the truly elite backs in the NFL right now, coming away from that game with 5 measly carries. Five. Meanwhile Flacco throws the ball 52 times, completes just over half.... for 255 yards? How can you throw 52 times and only pick up 255 yards? I hate the Ravens. And you know what? I think Harbaugh does to.

The other brother, Jim, had a much better day. Christ even I'm starting to believe in the 49ers now, and this after years of bitter cynicism built from watching my team struggle in the NFC West (incidentally, every team in the NFC West won this weekend). Well... I'm starting to believe a little more at least. I'm still trying to decide who is my favourite defensive player from the game. Is it Carlos Rogers who had another two picks? Maybe Justin Smith who batted down a last gasp fourth down pass by Eli Manning? Or perhaps Patrick Willis, who on that same fourth down play committed the most blatant case of defensive holding I think I've ever seen. How he didn't get flagged for that is beyond a mystery. In a way it's a shame because it's a sour way to ruin what was otherwise a great last drive from Manning. Then again, the 49ers won, so I can't complain too much!

Staying in the NFC West, the Cardinals visited the Eagles and my God how the mighty have fallen. Vick busted his ribs on a running play (I believe the latest reports say they're broken), giving people a visible answer as to why coaches in the NFL aren't big fans of having their $10 million per year quarterbacks trying to run the ball too much. John Skelton of the Cardinals certainly isn't a $10 million a year guy, but he overcame four sacks and two interceptions to hit three touchdowns and seal the win. Credit especially has to be given to the Cardinals offensive line and to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, both of whom came up good when it mattered the most. Maybe we'll give the Cardinals a bit of love this week and look at some of those plays? The "Dream Team" meanwhile really is as bad as advertised. The Philly press, as expected, wants blood.

On to St. Louis and the Rams squeezed a win over Cleveland, which doesn't say a whole lot about either team. Colt McCoy found himself suffering from Cam Newton Syndrome, where one plays their best football as part of a losing effort. He actually did really well but the Browns inability to convert yards into touchdowns killed them once again (0/4 in the red zone). The Rams got the one score and this time it was enough. Still I'm surprised they couldn't do more. With Steven Jackson at running back and basically all day to throw for Sam Bradford due to the absence of a Browns pass rush, the Rams still only managed one touchdown in their four trips to the red zone. Both sides have a mountain to climb to get back to relevancy.

Which brings us neatly to the Jaguars and Colts. Ah the Colts. Now this is a once mighty team that has fallen. Part of the problem is that the Colts O-line seems to have become dependent over the years on Peyton Manning to get the protection set up right for them. With Painter in, defenses can mess about with their blitz packages and the Colts don't seem to have an answer for it. Maybe if I get time I'll have a look at this as well this week. The end result for Indy was to give up no less than 5 sacks, including 2.5 to Jeremy Mincey alone. Blaine Gabbert hardly stunned once more as the Jaguars quarterback, but then I've been harping on about that for ages now.

And from one rookie quarterback to another as Cam Newton was brought back down to Earth. Sitting in the pocket he held the ball for too long, giving up 5 sacks in the process. The interception was unlucky and you can't really pin it on him, but some errant throws in there didn't help either. Nor did the lack of a Panthers running game. Still, Newton has all kinds of freaky athletic ability. It's actually a ton of fun to watch someone that tall effortlessly cutting behind defenders like he was some 5 foot 9 inch running back. And it was a short running back that made a big difference in this one as Chris Johnson put up 130 yards and finally seemed to be getting back to his old self. The Titans O-line getting its act together played a big part in that, while Matt Hasselbecks quick decision making got the passing game right back where it needed to be. Kind of.

One passing game that was back to full strength and full effect was the Cowboys. Tony Romo absolutely nailed it on Sunday, hitting 23/26 for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns, including two for Laurent Robinson who is having a great year in Dallas. On the ground DeMarco Murrary continued his rise to fame with another 135 yards. The story of the day though was the Cowboys defense that harried Ryan Fitzpatrick and bagged 3 interceptions. It was a torrid day for the Buffalo quarterback and even running back Fred Jackson couldn't save the sinking ship on this occasion, despite going over 100 yards yet again.

Hmm, I need a segue from 'sinking ship'? Ah Washington, you never disappoint! Or should that be 'they always disappoint', at least their fans (and taxpayers)? Rookie Ryan Kerrigan had another hot day on defense, forcing two fumbles with his two sacks, but the Redskins just don't have an offense right now. Rex Grossman threw two interceptions and no touchdowns, while the Redskins running game continues to be non existent without Tim Hightower, largely because the Redskins don't really give it a chance to get going. Miami's defense was also pretty solid, coming up with those two interceptions, including one for Karlos Dansby, who also had a sack and nine tackles. But it was Matt Moore that stole the show for me with some impressive throws to push the ball downfield and set up Reggie Bush for two touchdowns.

On to Bush's old team the Saints who just about snuck past the Falcons, in no small part thanks to what has been a hot talking point all day long. With the game tied at 23 it went to overtime and the Falcons found themselves facing 4th and inches from their own 29 when Head Coach Mike Smith decides to go for it. Instead of a quarterback sneak the Falcons elected to try a run up the gut and Michael Turner was stuffed, turning the ball over. Now a lot of people who dabble in statistics related to football have since come out and said that Smith was right to go for it, but I don't see how. It seems at times like these people just agree with these fourth down decisions for the sake of being contrary and proving how smart they are. Except in this case, as so often in these situations, it proved to be a costly mistake. As for the wider game, Drew Brees went about showing people why he's the class of the NFC South at the quarterback position. Just some unbelievable throws that he made.

The question of who's the class in the AFC North still remains unanswered though. Yeah, the Steelers won this one. But the Bengals were driving near the end until Dalton was picked off and they stuck around all game long, delivering some serious punishment to Ben Roethlisberger who was sacked five times and hit plenty more. Even in defeat I think there's a lot of positives for the Bengals to take out of this game. They look like they're one good free agency/draft away from putting together a highly competitive (re; playoff game winning) team. Dalton (I refuse to call him 'The Red Rifle') still needs some work, but the foundation is definitely there.

Which coincidentally is what we all thought had happened with the Lions, with the drafting of Nick Fairely just being the final piece of icing on the cake that would set the Lions up for a great 2011 season. As the season got going however it became increasingly obvious that all is not what it seems in Detroit. Well, at least to me it was. For a while now I've been using the tag 'over rated' for the Lions and hopefully after their 13-37 butt whuppin' at the hands of the Bears that tag will spread around the interwebs. Because it was a butt whuppin'. 63 passes for Matt Stafford, of which just 33 were completed and 4 were picked off, including two pick sixes. Jay Cutler and Matt Forte had relatively insignificant games, but that didn't matter with the defense dominating the way that it did, adding two sacks and two forced fumbles to their interception tally. A Devin Hester punt return for a touchdown meant that 21 of the Bears 37 points came on returns.

No interceptions this week for Tim Tebow though, thanks in no small part to the fact that his coaches only trusted him to throw 8 passes. I mean that's brilliant. 8 passes? Give the Broncos credit, they're trying to make their tools work the best way that they can and so far it's paying off. A big chunk of that was down to playing the Chiefs, who simply didn't have firepower to take advantage of the Broncos. Matt Cassel barely threw for 25 more yards than Tebow, despite completing 13 passes to Tebows 2. The Broncos D came up with 4 sacks, with 1.5 credited to Von Miller who had another great game. So a win for the Broncos, but ulimately though they're going to need to come up with something for Tebow other than just running the zone read. Might I suggest a) teaching your receivers how to catch the ball and b) try doing something other than just constantly asking Tebow to throw the ball 60 yards downfield. The game footage is there from last season. Try using it.

Speaking of struggling quarterbacks, it's Mark Sanchez! Who actually didn't play all that bad, except for the two interceptions, one of them returned for a touchdown. Oh, and calling a time out near the end of the first half because you didn't have the right play or personnel or whatever, even though there were 20 seconds left on the shot clock which, had he used, would have probably prevented Tom Brady from scoring on the final Patriots drive. Having Andre Carter snapping at his heels for most of the game didn't help either, as Carter went on to rack up 4.5 sacks! On the offensive side the Patriots started out a little shaky but recovered well, helped by the disorganisation of the Jets secondary that routinely didn't have the Patriots receivers covered properly. Brady went over 300 yards with 3 touchdowns, Ron Gronkowski went over 100 yards receiving and caught two touchdowns and hell, even Chad Ochocino had 65 yards on 2 receptions. That's how bad the Jets were.

Not quite as bad as the Buccaneers however, who slotted former Patriot Albert Haynesworth immediately into their starting defensive line up. It didn't help. Actually I lie. He blocked an extra point. It wasn't enough though. The Texans defense shut down Josh Freeman, who completed just 15/33 passes and threw three interceptions, giving up four sacks along the way. Offensively the Texans just stuck to the game plan, reverted to the heavy, two tight end sets, and leant on Arian Foster for 84 yards, another 63 from Ben Tate and even Derrick Ward got a shot against his old team, picking up 36 yards and a touchdown. Matt Schaub was 11/15 for 242 yards and 2 early touchdowns, but that could be the last time the Texans see him in a uniform this season, as he's now out with a fractured foot. Matt Leinart, your spotlight awaits. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com has suggested the Texans call Brett Favre. The worst thing is he wasn't actually joking. It annoys me no end that an idiot like that gets paid for his blog.

And lastly the Monday Night Football clash between the Packers and the Vikings. And you guessed it, the Packers won. Four touchdowns for Aaron Rodgers, which has basically become a standard day at the office for him. It amuses me that people still think that if they give the Packers receivers a free release off the line of scrimmage and don't blitz that they'll be able to cover them down field long enough for the three or four guys up front to get at Rodgers. Every week the Packers make this approach look somewhat foolish. It's almost as bad as the Vikings putting Percy Harvin in the backfield. I guess it makes sense to them, I mean, it's not like Minnesota has a top tier running back or anything...

So that concludes Week 10 of the season. I only had picks for 15 games this week, of which I came up trumps twelve times for a 12-3 week, my second best showing of the season. That takes my season tally to 90-60, which is precisely 60%, so some nice round numbers there.

This week coming I'll remember to include Thursday Night Football as well. Article wise this week, I'm thinking a bit about quarterbacks changing protections at the line of scrimmage and a look at the Cardinals offense from this week against the Eagles.

If you have any suggestions, questions, or just want to vent some anger at somebody dial; keepingthechainsmoving@live.co.uk

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