Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Weekend Football Roundup - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Peyton Manning: Still good at football.
 By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe

Every Tuesday during football season, editors Jeremy and Joe will bring you the good, the bad and the ugly from the college and pro football weekend that was. 

The Good

Carolina's Front Seven

It's hard to say how much they had to do with the absolute dismantling of the Giants that took place Sunday afternoon, considering this is the third straight week in which the Giants have appeared to be firing bullets into their own cleats, but in any event, the Panthers' defensive front dominated this game from start to finish.

Even despite a depleted secondary, the Giants were held to just 90 net passing yards (thanks to seven sacks of Eli Manning) and at no point in the game did it appear that the Giants were capable of moving the ball. Their only "positive" play was a seventeen yard would-be touchdown run by David Wilson that only occurred because Will Beatty bear-hugged the defender in front of him, and the only reason they had the ball in that position was because their defense forced a turnover. Carolina's front seven spent more time in New York's backfield than they did on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Considering they also did it Week 1 against Seattle (who beat up San Francisco's front last week) makes me think it's not a coincidence.


Miami/Kansas City 

Seriously, they're both 3-0. Go ahead, you can look it up, I'll wait.

So yeah, Kansas City put the clamps down on the Eagles' explosive offense in Andy Reid's return to Philly Thursday night, and Miami has notched back-to-back "show me" wins. First, on the road against a playoff team (The Colts, who have since taken it to the Niners in San Francisco), and at home against a preseason Super Bowl favorite (Atlanta).

I'm still not sold on Alex Smith's ability to gun it out with the league's top signal callers, or Miami's ability to run the ball and salt games away against good defenses, but every team has questions this time of year. What I will say is that both of these teams have to be considered in the Top-3-5 of the AFC right now, behind Denver in a group with New England and Cincinnati.


Peyton Manning

In case you didn't know, he's pretty good at football. In the first half of Monday night's game against Oakland, he only threw two incompletions. Both were drops. He finished 32-for-37, which is a completion percentage of 86.5%. I'm not a statistician, but that seems pretty good.


The Bad

This Weekend's Slate of NCAA Games

The best game this weekend was No. 23 Arizona State at No. 5 Stanford. Arizona State was only ranked  because they barely won a game on a dubious call the previous week against Wisconsin. Stanford led the game 39-7 entering the fourth quarter before letting their foot off the gas and eventually winning 42-28. And this was the BEST game of the weekend.

Of the 19 games featuring ranked teams, seven of them were decided by at least 46 points - three were decided by 70 points. No. 7 Louisville hosted Florida International, and the game was so out of hand that the two teams agreed to use a running clock for the fourth quarter. No. 16 Miami was favored by as much as 60.5 points against Savannah State, and they covered that spread by the end of the third quarter (they led 77-7 entering the fourth, then didn't score in the final quarter - they also scored 28 points in each of the second and third quarters). No. 4 Ohio State almost scored more points (76) than their opponent, Florida A&M, had yards of total offense (80).

The only real competitive game of Saturday was Michigan at Connecticut, and keep in mind that this is the same Connecticut team that lost, at home, by fifteen points, to Towson. And they almost beat Michigan.

That was your weekend of college football.


The Steelers'/Giants' Offense 

The Steelers and Giants both have "franchise quarterbacks." However, the Steelers and Giants both have terrible offenses. For the former, it's a matter of an offensive line that continues to struggle, a lack of talent at running back and depth at receiver. For the latter, the offensive line play is slipping, but really this is about the erratic play of Eli Manning.

We've known the Eli can be up and down for years now, and that's why it's foolhardy to claim he's better than Peyton based on the one criteria of "two championships is greater than one." In the first three games of the season Eli has thrown for as many as 450 yards and as few as 119. He also has a pair of three interception games under his belt, and has only completed 60% of his throws in one game.

Both teams are in trouble, but the Steelers have a myriad of issues, while New York just needs Eli to stop sucking so badly. Plus, with the Bengals and Ravens looking like they're each going to win 10 games, the AFC North is going to be much harder on the Steelers than the NFC East (With inconsistent Dallas, fading Philly and seemingly not so good Washington) is going to be on the Giants.


The Ugly

Washington's Defense

This may be well-tread territory, but Washington's defense is about as bad as an NFL defense can be. In fact, through three weeks, they've allowed 1464 yards of offense, which is the most in NFL history through three weeks.

Last week, when Reggie Bush went to the sideline, Detroit's offense pretty much fell apart. Against Washington, with Bush still out of the lineup, Joique Bell looked like 1999 Marshall Faulk, totaling 132 yards from scrimmage on 24 touches. And mind you, this is the same Joique Bell who went undrafted out of Wayne State (apparently a real school), was on four rosters (Indianapolis, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Detroit) in two years in 2010 and 2011 and touched the ball a whopping zero times in those two seasons. And he gashed Washington's defense.

Also having a big day for Detroit was Nate Burleson, who I was surprised to learn was still alive, let alone playing NFL football. I thought if anything, he'd be in Calgary, playing for the Stampeders. Burleson gained 116 yards, his first 100-yard game in almost three calendar years (November of 2010 was his last).

I'm not an expert on these matters, but when Joique Bell and Nate Burleson are torching your defense, it's probably a bad sign.


Ravens Party Buses 

By now you've probably read the TMZ report on Ravens tackle Bryant McKinnie's birthday celebration. McKinnie and several of his Ravens teammates hit the clubs in DC and were leaving on a party bus when things became heated between Baltimore's Pro Bowl kick returner Jacoby Jones and a stripper named Sweet Pea.

Apparently, she wasn't so sweet after all, because she broke a champagne bottle over Jones' head, prompting one of Jones' buddies to "retaliate" against her, but McKinnie stepped in and fought Jones' friend.

Basically, all McKinnie wanted for his birthday was a big booty ho, but she started a giant brawl on the defending Super Bowl champions' party bus. Coach John Harbaugh was less than impressed.


Philadelphia's Secondary

In particular, their ability to make tackles. In terms of actually covering receivers, they were mostly fine on Thursday night - Dwayne Bowe was held to just once catch off of three targets, and it only went for four yards. But Donnie Avery (another guy I was surprised to learn was still playing professional football) was a monster, converting three separate third downs where the Chiefs offense needed to gain at least 10 yards (including a third-and-nineteen). He finished with 141 yards, but the overwhelming majority of them came after the catch, both on that third-and-nineteen (where he took a crossing pattern across the field before cutting up the sideline for the first down), and a 51-yard catch-and-run where Patrick Chung would have missed the tackle even if Avery was standing still with his eyes closed.

I was unable to find a precise number, but after watching the game twice, I estimate that Philadelphia's safeties (Patrick Chung and Nate Allen) combined to miss between 77 and 141 tackles on Thursday night. If a receiver catches a pass in the middle of the field, or a rusher gets past the linebackers to the second level of the defense, it's basically guaranteed to be a 20-yard gain because the Eagles' safeties can't tackle anyone. At all.


Rashad Johnson's Finger 

At least one member of the Cardinals lost more than a game when Arizona made the trip to New Orleans and got spanked by the Saints. Rashad Johnson doesn't exactly remember how it happened, but what he does know is that when he took off the glove on his left hand, the tip of his middle finger stayed in the glove.


So yeah, Johnson lost a piece of his finger, and stayed in the game. Football players: They're tougher than you or I. Plus, as I said, the dude doesn't even remember it happening. That's absurd.

"I'm not even sure how it happened," Johnson said Monday. "If I had to take a guess, I would say maybe it dug into the turf there and snapped back and broke it that way. My glove was torn or ripped, which makes me think it didn't get caught in a facemask or a cleat stepped on it."

And just because we want to be gross, here's the picture Johnson posted on Twitter of the finger in question.


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