Tuesday, November 12, 2013

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

Drew Brees has his sights set on the NFC Playoffs. (flickr)
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 pro and college football weekend.

The Good

Derek Mason

As the first line of his Wikipedia page says, this man is not to be confused with former NFL receiver Derrick Mason. Unlike the former Titans/Ravens star, this Mason has made a living keeping the ball out of the end zone as the defensive coordinator at Stanford the last three years. While the Cardinal struggled with offensive juggernaut Oregon in Mason's first year as associate head coach/co-defensive coordinator, Stanford has held the Ducks' prolific offense in check the last two seasons.

How in check? In Stanford's last two wins over Oregon, the first of those coming in Eugene, the Cardinal have held the Ducks to a combined 34 points. To put that into context, Oregon had scored at least 34 points in THE FIRST HALF of five of their eight wins coming in.

What is even crazier is that, despite the growth and maturation of Ducks QB Marcus Mariota, Stanford's D put an even bigger whooping on the Duck O this year. In 2012, despite only surrendering 14 points, the Cardinal did allow the Ducks to run for nearly 200 yards on 5 yards per carry, leading to a respectable 405 yards of total offense.

This season, Stanford allowed only 62 yards rushing and less than 315 total yards.

With a combination of discipline, strength and a total lack of fear, Mason has turned the Cardinal defense into the ultimate spread and zone read busting team. All hail the hottest coaching name of the spring, because if you struggle to defend these principles in either college of the NFL, why wouldn't you reach out to Mason?


The Carolina Panthers

I've been saying it for about a month now - the Panthers are legit Super Bowl contenders, or at the very least, a team that nobody wants to play in the postseason. They've won five straight games, and finally "proved" themselves in the eyes of many by going into San Francisco and beating the 49ers (how a one-point win "proves" more than than four straight wins by a combined 82 points blows my mind, but that's just me).

The 49ers came into the game averaging 34.8 points over their last five games - they were held to three field goals against Carolina's defense. They held Colin Kaepernick to 91 passing yards, just 46 net after you account for Carolina's six sacks. The 49ers gained 151 total net yards of offense. For context, that's fewer than the Jaguars (the NFL's worst offense) gained against Kansas City (the NFL's best defense) in Week 1. It was a dominating performance by Carolina's defense from start to finish.


The New Orleans Saints

Not to be outdone, the Saints followed up Carolina's close win over San Francisco with a 49-17 drubbing of Dallas, raising the never-ending question of "Which Is More Impressive?" - a one-point win on the road against an elite team, or a 32-point win at home against a mediocre team.

As much as I want to say Carolina going into San Francisco and beating last year's NFC Champions was more impressive, the Saints gained 625 yards of total offense, and accumulated 40 first downs, the highest single-game total in NFL history. On top of that, the Cowboys are probably slightly better than most give them credit for. Their SRS score of +2.7 is on par with the 6-3 Colts (+2.8) and 6-3 Lions (+2.6) and only about a point removed from the 7-2 Patriots (+3.9).

Beating any team by 32 and gaining 625 yards is impressive - doing it against a fairly good team is even more impressive. The Saints hold a one-game lead over Carolina in the NFC South in what is shaping up to be perhaps the most intriguing division race in football. If the Saints win the division, playing at home (and probably getting a bye) will be a major coup - the Saints have never lost a home playoff game under since Sean Payton and Drew Brees came to town.


The Bad

The "QB Duel" in Baltimore

With the combined hype of Joe Flacco's Super Bowl run and what everybody is saying the Cincinnati offense can be with Andy Dalton at the helm, we should all be surprised both quarterbacks were so dreadful in Sunday's Bengals-Ravens game.

But really, we weren't.

That should say a ton in itself, that two QBs coming in with hype and division title hopes disappointed on such a grand scale, and it was met largely with a shoulder shrug. Both of these guys have their moments, but both have struggled with consistency throughout their young careers.

Now, it was windy in Baltimore, but that still shouldn't lead to two good quarterbacks combining for six turnovers and 10 sacks taken, especially while Dalton was under 50% passing and Flacco was averaging less than 4 yards per attempt.

Bot have potential, but neither of these guys is there yet.


The Ugly

College and Pro Football in the State of Florida (Except FSU)

I think the fact that Tampa Bay and Jacksonville both just picked up their first wins this week is still a black eye on Florida football, especially since the Bucs delivered a crushing blow to the playoff chances of another Florida team in the process. After watching Tampa and Miami's Monday Night snoozer, I was left with a  few thoughts.

Tampa Shouldn't Be this Bad: I mean, they have Darrelle Revis, Dashon Goldson, Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers on defense. They should at least be decent. Also, Dave Wannstedt is their special teams coach. Who knew?

Miami is Kinda Effed: Yeah the Incognito-Martin situation effectively ruined their offensive line for the rest of the season, but the Phins have deeper issues. First of all, if Mike Wallace isn't going deep, he does absolutely nothing for that offense. Seriously, it's embarrassing how worthless he is when he isn't running a go route, and I was a big fan of his in Pittsburgh.

Secondly, and this is really related to the O-Line issue, but my God they couldn't run the ball. The Phin defense wasn't spectacular like it was against Cincinnati, but it played well enough to win this game. When you can't run the ball and your most explosive receiver does, effectively, nothing, then you're in some trouble.

Jacksonville Should be This Bad:
Unlike Tampa, who has lost a ton of close games and finally broke through Monday, the Jags have barely played with anybody. Then, they go and bust out the whooping stick on Tennessee. If you're a Titan, you should feel bad about it, because the Jaguars have virtually no talent on defense, a bad O-Line and one of the worst QB situations in the league. It's sort of a miracle they won a game.

The U is Falling Apart: As bad as things are in the pros, only Florida State (And a solid UCF squad) redeem the state in college. Miami started 7-0 in the least impressive fashion in school history, then was promptly annihilated by the Seminoles 41-14, losing star running back Duke Johnson for the year to a broken ankle in the process.. They followed that effort up with a loss to unimpressive Virginia Tech, and those promising BCS bowl hopes now seem to be down the tubes. Guess we'll have to wait yet another year for the U to be "back."

Bowl-Less Gators:
The last time the Florida Gators missed a bowl game, only the fifth-year seniors on the current team were alive. Yeah, you have to go back 23 years to 1990 when Steve Spurrier returned to Gainesville to coach his alma mater. Even then, the Gators went 9-2 and would have claimed an SEC championship and trip to the Sugar Bowl if not for being on NCAA probation.

The last time Florida actually finished below .500 was a disastrous 1979 seasons that saw the Gators go 0-10-1.

This season, Will Muschamp's Gators can only blame themselves if they miss out on the postseason. After last weekend's Homecoming loss to Vanderbilt (A team that hadn't won in Gainesville since WWII), Florida finds itself sitting at 4-5 with a trip to South Carolina and home game against Florida State left on the schedule.

If they don't pull off the upset in one of those, it won't be happy holidays for the boys from old Florida.


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