Tuesday, October 1, 2013

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

Love him or hate him, it's good to be the commish.

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

The Best Job in the World

Lost somewhere in ESPN's borderline insane article where Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs accuses NFL commissioner Roger Goodell of everything short of the Kennedy assassination, is the fact that it's good to be the commish. In the piece, a conspiracy theorist Suggs accuses Goodell of orchestrating the Super Bowl blackout ("I was like, ahh, Roger Goodell, he never stops, he always has something up his sleeve. He just couldn't let us have this one in a landslide, huh?") and of having favorite teams, because one time he saw Goodell talking and laughing with John Elway.

Look, you can hate Goodell all you want, but T-Sizzle is coming off as a little paranoid here. One of the perks of the job is yucking it up with owners and executives on the field. The other thing Suggs didn't like about Goodell?

"I definitely don't think he's doing a good job, and I don't think he should be making $10 million a year. That's just my personal opinion."

Well don't worry Terrell, because he's actually making just under $30 million a year, according to the NFL's tax return. It's good to be the commish.


Diminutive Third Down Running Backs 

It was a big week for receiving backs under 5-10. On Sunday, San Diego's Danny Woodhead had his best game in his new uniform, gaining 86 yards from scrimmage and scoring twice lined up against overmatched linebackers. Woodhead has pretty clearly out-played Ryan Mathews so far this season, gaining 6.14 yards per touch to Mathews' 4.11, so it will be interesting to see how much, if at all, San Diego will move away from Mathews going forward.

Not to be outdone, however, Darren Sproles went off against Miami on Monday night, generating 222 all-purpose yards and scoring twice, once on the ground and once through the air. When he was lined up opposite a safety or nickle corner, he won handily. When lined up against a linebacker, it wasn't even fair. Sproles is, without a doubt, the best all-purpose back in the league, and he showed it on Monday.


Drew Brees

The Dolphins were 3-0, largely on the back of an improved defense and play making offense. Well, Brees tore the first of those two things apart Monday night, throwing for 413 yards and four touchdowns on 30-39 passing. The Saints defense took care of Miami's up-and-coming offense, intercepting second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill three times and recovering a fumble.

But this game wasn't about Miami being bad, it was about Brees and the Saints reclaiming their place among the NFL's elite and telling the Dolphins "Not quite there yet young bloods."


The Vikings' Passing Game

The Vikings are at their best when they run the ball effectively, but doing so has been a bit of a struggle this year without an effective passing game. With Christian Ponder under center, the Minnesota aerial attack has resembled the old Randall Cunningham/Daunte Culpepper/Randy Moss/Cris Carter teams, only the exact opposite. However, with Matt Cassel at quarterback, against a respectable Pittsburgh defense, Minnesota was able to move the ball through the air, especially in play-action targeting Jerome Simpson.

Greg Jennings had 92 yards and two touchdowns, but most of those yards came after the catch on a long 70-yard touchdown catch-and-run in the first half. Simpson was the target of 11 of Cassel's 25 passes, and he picked up 124 yards on seven receptions. If Minnesota's play-action game can develop with Simpson, Jennings, tight end Kyle Rudolph, and promising rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota could turn their season around.


The Bad

Miami's Pass Rush

In their first three wins of the season, Miami's front seven was a major part of their success. Monday night, their pass rush was nowhere to be found, thanks in large part to Cameron Wake's absence. The back half of Miami's defense just doesn't cover well enough to hold up if the opposing quarterback has time to run through his progressions. Drew Brees put that on display on Monday.

Granted, Brees and the Saints will do that to a lot of teams, but New Orleans has had problems keeping Brees upright this season - he was sacked four times in each of his last two games against Tampa Bay and Arizona. Miami, however, brought Brees down just twice, and failed to generate substantial pressure even on plays where they didn't grab him for a loss. Miami plays Baltimore next week, and Joe Flacco is the type of quarterback that becomes much more effective when he can stand in the pocket and rifle throws. If Wake still isn't healthy, Miami could be in trouble again.


The Steelers

Pittsburgh couldn't seem to do anything right (Run the ball, throw the ball, stop the run, maintain possession) for three quarters against the Vikings in London. They made it a game at the end, but still lost 34-27 when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger fumbled inside the Minnesota 10 yard line.

The loss gives Pittsburgh its first 0-4 start since 1968. Notable events that have occurred since then: Man walked on the moon, racquetball was invented, the first personal computer hit stores and the Steelers became a respectable franchise. 


The Ugly

Lane Kiffin

Lane Kiffin, the man who has failed upward better than anybody in history, was fired by USC Athletic Director Pat Haden after the Trojans were blown out at Arizona State. Initial reports said he was fired on the plane, then sources emerged saying he was fired as soon as he got off the plane, and told not to ride the team bus back to campus with the players.

Either way, he was fired in the most brutal and embarrassing fashion Haden could think of.

Making matter worse, Kiffin was bad mouthed publicly by four-star USC receiver prospect, and son of rapper Snoop Dogg, Cordell Broadus. Yeah, I know it's shocking that Snoop Dogg's son is named Cordell Broadus, but what he said was not very shocking.

"I feel he should have been fired a while ago."

The miniature Dogg is also mulling over offers from UCLA, Cal and Nebraska.


The Jacksonville Jaguars

I think this is just one of those things where we keep putting the Jaguars here until we have ANY reason not to. There wasn't any reason based on Sunday's performance, where they lost by 34 points and were out-gained by 240 yards at home. Blaine Gabbert completed 53 percent of his passes, threw three interceptions, and the team rushed for a stellar 2.2 yards per carry. As a team, the Jaguars have thrown for one touchdown and seven interceptions. They've been outscored by 98 points in four games. They play St. Louis on Sunday, a 1-3 team that has lost by three-plus touchdowns in each of their last two games, and the Rams are STILL giving 12 points. The Jaguars are historically bad.


Football in Tampa

As bad as things are in Jacksonville, Pittsburgh and New York, no town has experienced more football pain than Tampa. First of all, the Buccaneers and USF Bulls are a combined 0-8, but it's about more than just being winless. These two teams have lost in the two most frustrating ways imaginable.

First you have the Bulls, who are 0-4 and losing each game by an average score of 38-15. That includes a 53-21 home loss to FCS McNeese State and a 28-10 home loss to otherwise winless Florida Atlantic. The Bulls also have a loss at Michigan State where they failed to score a touchdown, and a blowout loss at home to Miami were the Canes pulled their starters and accused USF of dirty play. The Canes were leading 35-7 at the half, before ultimately winning 49-21.

Then you have the Buccaneers on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Other than a bad loss in Foxboro, the Bucs have had a good chance of winning every other game they've played. How good of a chance? Well, according to Advanced NFL Stats' late-game win probabilities, the Bucs have now lost three games in which they had a 95% chance of winning, or better, in the final five minutes.

Reddit user cookmeplox was the first to bring this up, so I'll let him/her take it away from here.

"-Jets 18, Bucs 17, 98% chance with 0:15 left. Lavonte David tackled Geno Smith out of bounds to get the Jets in field goal range, which they converted.

-Saints 16, Bucs 14, 99% chance to win with 2:36 left. The Bucs attempt a questionable 47 yard field goal, which they missed. Then the Saints marched down the field 43 yards in a minute to kick a chipshot field goal.

-Cardinals 13, Bucs 10, 95% chance to win with 4:12 left. Mike Glennon gets picked off deep in his own territory, and Arizona promptly scores. Tampa Bay gets the ball back, goes backwards, punts, gives up 30 yards in 30 seconds, allows a go-ahead field goal, and then Glennon gets intercepted again.

You could question how accurate ANS's late game win probabilities are, but the end result is that Tampa Bay gave away three games it had well in hand as the game closed out. I've never seen anything quite like it.

Damn, Tampa.


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