9.16.2005
 
Saturday Football
UPDATE: Guest picks are in as well, straight from the courthouse steps:

NCAA NFL
Minn -31.5 FAU
Miami -7 Clemson
Cal -21 Ill
Pitt +9.5 Neb
UCLA -6.5 Okl
Mich -29 E Mich
KC -1 Oak
Dal -6 Wash
NE -3 Car
Bal -3.5 Tenn
Det -1.5 Chi

 
Florida State at Boston College Preview
AP PREVIEW

There's really only one game I'm looking at this week because, to me, there is no other game that features such a glaring mis-match of public opinion versus the teams that will be on the field.
    Boston College will start at quarterback red-shirt senior, 6'5 235 lbs Quinton Porter, and although in many ways Porter is warming the seat for sophomore QB Matt Ryan to take over next year, Porter is more than a capable quarterback. On the road in BC's season opener, he completed 77.1% of his passes against BYU and then last week vs Army he connected on 75% of his throws. In those two games, Porter has thrown 4 TDs and 0 INTs and he's going to be facing a Seminole defensive backfield that looked very shaky against Miami.

    At running back, the Eagles sport a couple of talented sophomores in L.V. Whitworth and Andre Callender. Whitworth, a powerful 225lbs back, is the starter but the 5'11 200lbs Callender will get plenty of playing time as well. The duo has combined for 47 rushes and 230 yards so far this season. They are running behind an offensive line that features the mamoth LT Jeremy Trueblood, a projected 2006 first round draft pick by many. From LT all the way across the line to RG, the Eagles feature red-shirt Juniors or higher. (Their starting RT is a 6'7 310lbs red-shirt sophomore.) In total, this starting five has an average size of 6'6 and 313.6lbs. That's bigger than the Kansas City Chiefs' starting five. In fact, that's huge.

    None of the Noles' defensive ends play at a weight more than 250lbs. FSU's defensive tackles are their strength, but their linebackers are also very light and they are poor tacklers against bigger backs. Had Tyrone Moss not missed most of the Canes' second half in Tallahassee, Miami probably beats FSU in the opener. On Saturday, Whitworth should feast upon this defense.

    On the outside, FSU's young corners will have to deal with speedy, 6'0 200lbs senior Will Blackmon. FSU lost Antonio Cromartie during the spring and not only was he one of the best corners in the nation, he's also the only reliable outside cover guy the Noles had. FSU has been playing predominantly man defense since the late 80s and Blackmon should get plenty of chances against these inferioir dbacks.

    When the Eagles are on defense, they will be led by preseason All-American Mathias Kiwanuka. This 6'7 261lbs red-shirt senior will line up anywhere to provide all kinds of pressure on the quarterback. FSU's only chance to slow him is to run right at him but the Seminoles just don't have the talent along their offensive line to keep Kiwanuka in check for an entire game.

    FSU RB's Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington are as good as anyone, and Boston College doesn't really have anyone to matchup against them one on one. But if there's one thing that we can count on, it's that FSU's offensive staff will fail to envision schemes to get their guys like Booker in a position to make plays. And the Eagles' front seven, as a group, can play with anyone. So while the Noles have talent in their backfield, they don't have much up front to block for them.

    BC's pass defense is their weakness but that's why I like them so much in this game. If the game stays close after the first quarter, there's no way the Seminoles will be able to sustain a balanced offense into the second half. With FSU's biggest hole being at the quarterback position- as the nation saw two weeks ago against Miami- I'll take BC's suspect DBs any day against Drew Weatherford.

    FSU's best players are their freshman. And the Seminoles' best chance to win is if they play QB Xavier Lee and WR Fred Rouse as much as possible. Both will be among the top athletes available on Saturday, and the only way I can see FSU beating BC in this game is if the Noles get gamebreaking plays from their athletes. But since both Lee and Rouse will probably be on the sidelines for much of the game, it's therefore hard for me to FSU winning.

    Bobby Bowden's teams have historically been comprised of superior athletes who are historically poor at executing the game's fundamentals. On the flip side, the fundamentals are exactly what Tom O'Brien's teams are known to do best. BC has a tradition of being big, tough, and well-coached.

    Then consider FSU's struggles on the road over the last 4 seasons:
    Eight of FSU's 13 regular-season losses dating to the 2001 season have been on the road - including crushing defeats to North Carolina in 2001 and Louisville in 2002. In addition to regular-season losses, FSU lost twice in bowl games.
    And look at these stats from the above link that I've copied into a table for easy viewing:

    FSU ROAD OFFENSE IN 2004
    Miami 16, FSU 10
      FSU first-quarter drives (Score: FSU 3-0): 3 and punt; 28-yards/8 plays ending in 45-yard FG: 3 and punt.
      Starting QB: Chris Rix (12-28-108, 2 Int, 0 TD).
      Offensive TDs: 0.
    FSU 17, Syracuse 13
      FSU first-quarter drives (score: Syracuse 10-3): 9 plays, 32 yards, punt; 8 plays, 40 yards, 28-yard FG.
      Starting QB: Wyatt Sexton (15 of 26-169, 1 int., 0 TD).
      Offensive TDs: 2 rush.
    Maryland 20, FSU 17
      FSU first-quarter drives (score: 3-3): 5 plays, 37 yards, punt; 4 plays, intercepted; 9 plays/39 yards, 48-yard FG.
      Starting QB: Sexton (14-30-164 yards, 2 Int. 0 TD pass).
      Offensive TDs: 1 pass.
    FSU 20, Wake Forest 17
      FSU first-quarter drives (score: Wake 7-0): 3 plays and punt; 8 plays, blocked FG attempt; 5 plays, punt; 2 plays, interception returned 19 yards for WF TD.
      Starting QB: Sexton (17-39-194, 2 Int, 2 TD).
      Offensive TDs: 2 pass.
    FSU 17, N.C. State 10
      FSU first-quarter drives (score: 0-0): 5 plays, punt; 3 plays, punt; 3 plays, punt; 3 plays, punt.
      Starting QB: Sexton (5 of 18 - 73 yards, 1 int., 0 TD).
      Offensive TDs: 2 rush.

    This game is being played at night, on ESPN and the Gameday crew will be there all day, firing up the fans. Reports are that Noles' center David Castillo will also miss this game with a foot injury. That's really what seals this game for me, as Castillo is by far the leader of FSU's line when he's healthy. When he's not, the Noles are vulnerable at all three interior spots.

    The Eagles are now a +2 dog at home and I still can't believe that BC covered the spread last week against Army. It was clearly a game that BC was looking ahead to this game against FSU, but still they won 44-7 despite their lack of focus:
    ''Everyone's been talking about Florida State since last year,'' said linebacker-turned-running back Brian Toal, who scored two touchdowns against Army. ''A couple of guys, including myself, were looking ahead a little bit.''
    Despite all that, they rolled over a hard-fighting Army team. So essentially, what you have in the game this Saturday is a bunch of talented freshman going on the road to play in their first college football away game. And they are going up against a seasoned, powerful, and eager squad of experienced upper-classmen looking to make their mark in their school's first ACC game ever.

    The Boston College Eagles easily covered the 28 points they were giving away last week. And still, they are getting +2 at home in this one. I don't know what the public is thinking, but I have a feeling they are going to pay.

9.15.2005
 
Thursday Football
  • Patrick Ramsey has said publically that he did not ask for a trade, as was being reported around the league on Monday.

  • Stephen Davis feels 'no repercussions' after carrying the ball 13 times for 81 yards in week one.

  • Larry Johnson claims he's innocent and says he won't miss any playing time as a result of Tuesday's arrest.

  • Eric Allen likes what he sees in the Cheifs' defense. Allen notes that the addition of Sammy Knight is just as important as Surtain's, Bell's, or Johnson's:
    Knight is always around the ball and forcing turnovers because he's smart and knows the tendencies of opposing teams through his film work. He's an excellent addition because he's able to quarterback the defensive backfield and will make plays.
  • Jeremy Shockey is questionable for this week.

  • Dallas Clark is still listed as questionable, but he practiced on Wednesday and should play this week vs Jacksonville.

  • Interesting move in Chicago, as Lovie Smith has named rookie Chris Harris a starter at free safety this week. Reportedly, Mike Green made a number of mistakes in the Bears' loss to Washington. Smoth decided during this off-season to swap the position his two safeties, Green and Mike Brown. It appears that Green has been slow to adjust.

  • Mike Anderson is questionable for this week. This status of this injury report probably has more importance than any other single report. Watch out for Ron Dayne here too. Mike Shannahan clearly doesn't trust Tatum Bell yet.

  • Steve McNair called Donovan McNabb with some advice on how to deal with a sternum injury.

  • I forgot to hit on PFW's Whispers earlier this week, but here's some key points:
  • Rookie speedster Troy Wil­liamson has big-play ability, but Vikings sources say the team believes that Koren Robinson can emerge as the No. 2 receiver opposite Nate Burleson.
  • Our sources in Atlanta won’t be surprised to see rookie WR Roddy White, who missed most of training camp with an ankle injury, earn a starting spot with the Falcons soon.
  • Cardinals head coach Dennis Green on rookie Adam Bergen, who is expected to be the team’s primary receiving threat at the TE position: “He has exceptional hands, and so he came in here and was everything we were hopeful that he would be. He also has very good poise. Nothing bothers him.”
  • Although WR Jerry Porter made a few nice plays in the season opener, expect the Raiders to continue to pick and choose their spots with him until he shows he is completely healthy from the hamstring strain that kept him out of the entire preseason. The same goes for fellow WR Ronald Curry, who admitted last week he still isn’t 100 percent and suffers through bouts of soreness with his surgically repaired Achilles tendon.
  • And from PFW's 'The Way We Hear It:'
  • NE- DE Jarvis Green proved in the season-opening win over the Raiders what many observers have suspected regarding the Patriots — the strength of the defense has shifted from the LB corps to the defensive line. Once Green was inserted into the lineup at end, along with fellow DE Ty Warren and DTs Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork, the Patriots’ defense stiffened after a shaky first quarter and contained the Raiders’ explosive attack."
  • DEN- Head coach Mike Shanahan has labeled 2005 as the “true year to evaluate Jake Plummer.” After an offseason spent reinstalling the offense and its basic concepts with the team’s quarterbacks, Shanahan and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak are quite satisfied with Plummer’s grasp of the system entering his third year as a Bronco and have admitted that that they would be surprised if Plummer fails to put up big numbers this fall.
  • CHI- Head coach Lovie Smith can draw from his experience with the 1999 Buccaneers as a model for this Bears team to copy. That Tampa Bay team won 11 regular-season games and finished as the NFC runner-up on the strength of its defense. Another similarity? The starting quarterback, for part of the season, was a rookie, second-round pick Shaun King. Smith is leaning on rookie fourth-round pick Kyle Orton as his starter in Chicago and expects first-round pick Cedric Benson to soon become a key cog for a run-first offense. Until that happens, the defense has center stage.
  • DET- In February, [Lions' OC Ted} Tollner reviewed film of the last eight games of the Lions’ 2004 season, when Jones ran for 906 yards and four touchdowns, and was awestruck. “He’s got a chance to be one of the premier backs in the league,” Tollner told PFW. “He showed that in the second half of the season. It’s that he’s playing with so much confidence and aggressiveness.”
  • SF- Of all the numerous Niners defenders who have been asked to switch positions in the team’s new 3-4 scheme, we hear nobody has made a smoother adjustment than fourth-year pro Mike Rumph, who has switched from cornerback to free safety and is getting more comfortable in his new role by the day. “I’m loving it,” Rumph enthusiastically told PFW. “I think it was a great move.”

9.14.2005
 
Wednesday Football
    I absolutely love Directv's new Sunday Ticket feature: Short Cuts. It was offered this week as a free preview, but as a result, I know that sometime this next weekend I'm going to be $99 dollars lighter. Being able to watch an entire game in less than a half hour... well by then I'll have convinced myself it's worth it.

    Anyhow, here are some notes from two particular week one contests that I caught on Short Cuts:

    Broncos at Dolphins
  • Denver blizted Gus Ferrotte an awful lot. And Gus looked rather poised in the face of it.
  • Ronnie Brown has the spin move of Warrick Dunn in a body closer to T.J. Duckett's.
  • Denver should have been tied at half time. They went for it on fourth and goal inside the five and missed. Later, in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins almost held Denver out of the end zone again on four straight plays inside the five, but Broncos fullback Kyle Johnson scored on fourth down.
  • The reverse Chris Chambers took for 61 yards should have been a touchdown. He had plenty of blockers in front and did actually reach the end zone but it was rightly determined that he stepped out of bounds around the 18 yard line. Miami needs to show that play again soon.
  • Tatum Bell's fumble was inexcusable. He's not going to earn himself more playing time with moves like that. Still, he got a lot more playing time than most expected because of Mike Anderson's injury.
  • Miami ran more four man defensive fronts than I expected.
  • Nearly every time Wes Welker touched the ball, on returns and on catches, he looked like he could score. Welker is a Texas Tech product, so he should know what he's doing with the ball in open space. He did give up a key fumble early in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't a careless one. Welker was hit from three directions and had the ball pop out from behind.
  • Both of Denver's tight ends, Putzier and Alexander, struggled mightily.
  • As I mentioned in the Tuesday Targets, both of Ashley Lelie's red zone targets were indeed jump ball fades in the end zone.
  • Also mentioned in the above link is that Chris Chambers was everywhere. He had 13 balls thrown to him but only made 5 catches. He also picked up an extra 28 yard pass interference penalty on Dominique Foxworth.
  • This game re-affirmed everything I wrote about Jake Plummer here. Of course, none of this is new. Still, both of his INTs on Sunday were essentially garbage time picks. He earned the first one, but certainly not the second.
  • Titans at Steelers
  • Tennessee drove 61 yards on 11 plays on their first drive of the game. They were up 7-0 to start.
  • Willie Parker's speed has certainly been talked about over the past few days. But he also has shown good ability to break off or elude the first tackler behind the line of scrimmage. Since he only needs two steps to be at full speed, Parker running behind Kreider and this O line is a dangerous guy. The one thing I kept thinking he looked like was a pinball. He would bounce off of one guy, curl around another, and then plow right over a third all in the matter of two seconds. Keep in mind also that Parker did not touch the ball in the fourth quarter and he still had 209 yards from scrimmage. Also keep in mind that he shredded the Buffalo defense in week 17 last year when the Bills were playing for a playoff berth.
  • This game could have easily been 17-17 with five minutes left in the first half.
  • Travis Henry's fumble wasn't horrible. James Farrior stuck him right in the gut/football and the ball popped loose. The fumble wasn't at all reminiscent of the fumble problems Henry had early in his career.
  • Steve McNair's INT really wasn't his fault either. It came out of the hands of Drew Bennett, who was going over the middle at the time and should have been securing the ball into his chest. The pass would have fallen incomplete had it been an out route instead of a slant. McNair's other turnover, a lost fumble, wasn't unforgiveable either. He had barely got back into his drop before Joey Porter came screaming around the edge and stripped the ball while McNair was loading up for a throw. This Titans' offense really isn't as bad as it may seem. They only had one unproductive drive all day.
  • The Titans secondary really is that bad.
  • Ben Burger was (again) very much a half field passer throughout this game. He still threw for 218 yards on just 9 completions. I mentioned on Tuesday that the Steelers probaby won't do anything special this week againts Houston. So if you're watching, count how many times Ben looks off his first receiver and still stays in the pocket. I'd be surprised if he did it once. Burger really takes himself out of plays sooner than he needs to and it's hindering his development. He's not a bad quarterback, not at all. And I only call him Ben Burger cause I have enough carpal tunnel problems thatI don't need to be going through Rothifskfvnsl every time. Sorry. Pajamas.
  • Courtney Roby didn't do much on Sunday. He returned a few kicks. I'm sticking by it though. This guy can really play. Just wait for it.

9.13.2005
 
Tuesday Targets

Targets are probably my favorite football stat. Few numbers tell me more about what an offense is doing than a compilation of where the passes are going. Unfortunately, 'targets' is not an official stat and is therefore not tracked by regular media sources.

All praise to the guys at footballguys.com for being, yet again, the number one resource for target stats. Like last year, I plan to go over these numbers each week along with whatever relevant game notes.

    ARZ- Larry Fitzgerald led all WRs in week one with 13 catches and 155 yards. He caught all but two of the 15 passes thrown to him. Also of note, TE Adam Bergen (an undrafted free agent I've liked since the combine) was thrown 4 of the 5 passes directed at Cardinals tight ends.

    ATL- Alge Crumpler led the team (as usual) with 8 targets. Also of note is Michael Jenkins' 3 catches on 4 targets. Anyone who has watched Jenkins play this preseason/season knows that Jenkins is a rising star.

    BAL- Lots of passes were thrown in the Ravens loss to Indy. Derrick Mason picked up 12 targets and caught 8 passes. The tight ends were heavily featured as well, with Daniel Wilcox taking in 10 targets and Todd Heap 7. In total, 53 balls were thrown to nine different targets. Clarence Moore looked a little out of step, as he hauled in just two of the eight balls thrown to him.

    BUF- On the contrary, the Bills threw only 26 passes on Sunday. Eric Moulds led the way with 7 and Lee Evans had 5- averaging 22.7 ypc and 13.6 yards per target.

    CAR- Welcome back Steve Smith. You had nearly 41% of the team's passes (13 of 32)thrown to you against the Saints. And considering that you were being covered by Mike McKenzie for most of the time, that shows that Jake Delhomme has a lot of confidence in you. You are about to continue on your path to become part of an elite group of wide receivers. When the Panthers aren't running the ball inside the 20, they're usually throwing to their TEs. Both Kris Mangum and Mike Seidman each received a RZ target.

    CHI- Muhsin Muhammad is earning his money. While the Bears swapped Justin Gage, Mark Bradley, and Bernard Berrian in and out of the lineup (combining for 7 targets tota) Muhammad picked up 12 by himself. That's good for 68% of Orton's throws.

    CIN- Tight ends got 1 throw all day from Carson Palmer. C.J. led the team with 10 and T.J. was behind him with 7. Also of note is the number of chances Chris Perry got (six).

    CLE- I honestly don't know who Frisman Jackson is. I didn't watch much of the Browns in the preseason cause I didn't think there would be a reason to. I saw Antonio Bryant make some plays, but I must have tuned out by the time Jackson was playing. He had 9 passes thrown his was on Sunday against the Bengals. I would attribute his 8 catches for 128 yards more to the lack of depth in the Bengals secondary than anything else. Bryant led the team with 10 targets and I still consider him the best long term WR option on this team.

    DAL- Surprisingly, Jason Witten was only thrown 1 ball against the Chargers. Bledsoe only threw 24 passes all day, 6 went to Patrick Crayton, 6 to Keyshawn, 6 to Julius Jones, and 5 went to Terry Glenn. Good distribution there and it's nice to see Jones getting some balls thrown to him.

    DEN- As I expected, the Broncos use of Darius Watts was low. In fact, he didn't get one pass his way. Charlie Adams, the guy who really beat Jerry Rice out of a job, picked up 3. TE Jeb Putzier tied for the team lead with 12 targets. Lelie also picked up 2 red zone targets, an indication that the Broncos may be more willing to use his height and leaping ability this season. Lelie only picked up 8 RZ targets all last year.

    DET- Roy Williams only caught two passes, but he was still targeted with nine throws. Joey Harrington looked to both Williams receivers once in the red zone, and Marcus Pollard twice.

    GB- Obviously, this team is without its top receiver now. Favre leaned heavily on his backs against Detroit, throwing 17 passes their way.

    HOU- This offense has been awful through five games. Just awful. David Carr threw just 22 passes. And they were losing the entire time. How? At least Andre Johnson picked up 7 of those passes.

    IND- Brandon Stokely had the highest % of catches to targets among the receivers. He pulled in 70% of the 10 passes thrown his way.

    JAX- Before the season started, there were concerns about Jimmy Smith's consistency after a few drops during the preseason. He caught 7 of 13 passes for 130 yards and 2 TDs. That's 42% of Leftwich's throws. Reggie Williams also looked sharp, bringing in 4 of 5. Matt Jones got 2 red zone looks.

    KC- With an early lead, the Chiefs probably saved a lot of their offense for week two against Oakland. Priest Holmes got the ball 9 total times inside the twenty. Tony Gonzalez went just 4 for 7 and breakout TE candidate Kris Wilson did not see a ball go his way. Expect that to change this weekend.

    MIA- Chris Chambers was all over the field against Denver. He ran the ball once for 61 yards, caught 5 of the 13 balls thrown to him, and was targeted twice inside the twenty. Overall, he was a very troublesome player for Denver's banged up secondary to contend with. Keep an eye on Wes Walker too. He earned his way even or past David Boston on the depth chart with a strong preseason and Walker caught all four of the passes thrown to him.

    MIN- Most fantasy leagues scored Daunte Culpepper's week at or below zero points. Jermaine Wiggins led the team with 8 targets, not including a couple of touchdowns that were called back by penalty. Moe Williams got the only two red zone chances the Vikes gave to their running backs.

    NE- Like Steve Smith, injury slowed Deion Branch's ascension as a top 10 WR. Seven catches on 11 targets for 99 yards in week one. Ben Watson was targeted 5 times by Brady while Daniel Graham was left to pass block on many occasions. Watson is the Patriots' TE you want on your fantasy team..

    NO- Ernie Conwell was most of the Saints' offense before he left with a concussion and jaw injury. He was 6 for 6 in targets to catches. Donte Stallworth was reliable, picking up 4 catches on 5 targets, but Joe Horn led the team with 8 targets. Deuce McAllister picked up 12 total chances inside the red zone, scoring 2 touchdowns.

    NYG- Jeremy Shockey's injury doesn't look to be serious, but he did score on one of the two passes thrown to him. Plaxico Burress led all receivers with 11 targets (2 inside the twenty), almost half of Manning's 23 passes.

    NYJ- Another team that looked awful, it seems like the Jets are going to need a few weeks to work out the wrinkles. Still, they spread the ball around well. And TE Chris Baker, who beat out Doug Jolley for the starting spot, went 7 for 8 for 124 yards and a score. Justin McCareins was targeted 3 times inside the red zone.

    OAK- Kerry Collins only completed 46.2% of his 39 passes against the Pats. But 15 balls went to Randy Moss. Courtney Anderson is the leader of the tight ends. He brought in 3 of 4 passes and scored twice.

    PHI- Speaking of... TO was targeted 18 times by Donovan McNabb. Brian Westbrook had 11. That's 29 of McNabb's 45 passes. The Eagles are in trouble if that keeps up.

    PIT- Ben Burger went 9 for 11, so there isn't much here. The Steelers are at Houston this week, so don't look for them to unveil anything new before their week three matchup against New England.

    SD- Without Antonio Gates, Drew Brees went to his wide outs 80% of the time against Dallas. That number was closer to 50% last season. Keenan McCardell picked up 5 red zone targets. He caught 9 passes for 123 yards and 2 TDs. The Chargers travel to Denver this week.

    SEA- Bobby Engram is still the most sure-handed of the Seahawks, going 8 for 9 against the Jags. Jerramy Stevens was highly featured, with 7 targets. Look for Joe Jurevicious to become more involved. He caught 3 of 4 is playing in a relatively familiar offense.

    SF- The Niners got an early lead and managed to hang on to it against the Rams. They really shut things down after half time too. Arnaz Battle was thrown 6 passes, he threw 2 more himself, and he ran the ball once.

    STL- After an off-season of talking about running more, Mike Martz had Marc Bulger throw 56 passes. His splits are yet up on NFL.com, but I'd love to see how many passes he threw after halftime. Isaac Bruce picked up only 6 targets, while Kevin Curtis (a top sleeper pick by many) got 14 and 3 inside the twenty. Shaun McDonald was active too, with 10 targets, but Torry Holt led the way with 16.

    TB- Gruden spreads the ball around a lot, and now that Alex Smith has 2 TDs on the year, it's likely that he'll be used as a decoy over the next few weeks inside the red zone. Still, Smith is a good talent who should have a nice first half to the season. Joey Galloway, finally healthy, looked great against Minnesota. If Brian Griese had a little better arm strength, Galloway would have finished the game with 6 catches on 7 targets, 140 or so yards and a score.

    TEN- The Titans had a number of chances to score, but three turnovers put a damper on that. Steve McNair threw just as many passes (13) to his TEs as he did to his WRs. That's good news to Ben Troupe (5) owners.

    WAS- Chris Cooley was highly featured with 6 targets, second behind Santana Moss' 9. And in the red zone, both Cooley and fellow TE Robert Royal were the only receivers targeted against the Bears. The Skins are on the national stage on Monday night against Dallas.

 
Tuesday Football
  • The Eagles/Falcons Monday Night Game proved more than anything that Philly is going to need to get Lamar Gordon ready to play as soon as possible. McNabb threw way too many passes (45) for a 14-10 game and the Eagles had only 2 of their 18 first downs via the ground. At 6-1, 223 lbs Gordon should be able to give the Eagles the kind of runner they lost when Correll Buckhalter (6-0, 222) went down with another knee injury.

  • I've got a question for Joe Gibbs and Brian Bilick. If you guys are so quick to replace your quarterbacks, why didn't you just do it in the preseason? Adam Schefter is also reporting that Patrick Ramsey has asked to be traded.

  • The Panthers' loss of Kris Jenkins is huge. Bigger than the Packers' loss of Javon Walker. I know it's early, but I don't see how Carolina can go to the Super Bowl (as many have predicted) without their top DT.

  • Jon Gruden rode Carnell Williams hard on Sunday. Cadillac had 26 carries for just 77 yards (2.96 average) before he broke off a 71 yard touchdown on third in short late in the game. Many of those first 26 carries were tough ones and Williams took a lot of hits. Mike Alstott had one carry all game and Michael Pittman did not have any. I would assume Gruden was just setting a tone, and that he doesn't intend to use Williams like this all year, but if it does keep up, Carnell will be out of gas sometime around week 11.

  • With Kenny Watson out for the year, Chris Perry is offically the guy you want to keep an eye on if something happens to Rudi Johnson.

  • Bill Parcells on Patrick Crayton:
    "Crayton is going to be a good player," Parcells said. "There's no doubt about that. He's going to be a good player. That was a real good seventh-round draft choice. I hope he turns out to be like (New England veteran and former seventh-round pick) Troy Brown."
  • It looks like Willie Parker will be getting at least one more start, maybe more:
    No matter how anyone tries to spin it, the Steelers have a new starting tailback, even after Bettis and Duce Staley return to health.

    Bill Cowher didn't bother to attempt a spin when he was asked who'll start next week, saying, "I see no reason to make a change at this point."

    How about later on?

    "We'll take this week to week."
  • Reuben Droughns is looking more and more like the best option in Cleveland.

  • Expect Jerome Pathon to end up in Green Bay.

  • Watch out for Sean Taylor as a receiver this season:
    The Redskins showed a new wrinkle on offense, putting a defensive playmaker into their goal-line formation.

    Twice, safety Sean Taylor lined up as a receiver near the end zone. Washington dressed only four wide receivers yesterday; the fourth, Antonio Brown, is primarily a return specialist and dropped many passes in the preseason. "He's huge with a big wingspan," Coach Joe Gibbs said of Taylor. "It may be something we continue to work with, because he's certainly an unusual guy."
  • Ronnie Brown didn't get a ton of work on Sunday, but to me he looked very impressive. Brown ran like an elite playmaker, with a rare quickness/size combination.

  • I've said it before and I'm saying it again, Jim Mora, Jr. is a great football coach. One of the best in the league.

9.11.2005
 
Sunday Football
    BIG UPDATE: Stephen Davis is listed as the starter but early word has Rudi Johnson not starting due to violation of an unspecified team rule. Thanks to membengal for the tip.

    ANOTHER: Chris Mortensen just reported that Johnson's demotion was due to a missed team meeting and it is only a symbolic downgrade. He will get carries. Mort also reported that Reuben Droughns is starting for Cleveland.

  • Fox's John Czarnecki has some bold thoughts about today's games:
    DeShaun Foster will start at running back for the Panthers because coach John Fox doesn't believe Stephen Davis took enough physical punishment this summer. Davis will play, though.

    Minnesota is worried about RB Michael Bennett's neck strain and plans to give the bulk of the carries to Moe Williams and Mewelde Moore.

    Fred Taylor will wear a knee brace, but says he's capable of 25 carries.

    Although rookie J.J. Arrington will start for Arizona, Marcell Shipp will see plenty of action in order to protect Warner.
  • Willis McGahee says he's finally 100%. We should get to see, starting today, if his breakaway speed has returned.

  • From PFW's trends, these are the only ones that mean anything to me:
    • Denver is 11-17-3 against the spread in its last 31 contests, including playoffs, but is 6-3-1 against the number in its last 10 contests as a road favorite. … The Broncos have covered their last five season openers.
    • Pittsburgh is 13-5 vs. the number in its last 18 regular-season contests but is 1-6 in its last seven games as a favorite of more than seven points, including playoffs.
    • The Bears have failed to cover their last four season openers
    • New Orleans has covered eight of its last 10 road contests and 10 of its last 13 away from home
    • Carolina is 5-11 against the spread in its last 16 regular-season home games and 2-7 vs. the spread in its last nine home contests as a favorite of between 3.5-7 points. … The Panthers are 1-4 vs. the number in their last five home openers.
    • Minnesota is 5-15 vs. the spread in at last 20 games as a favorite, and seven of their last nine contests have stayed under the total.
    • In Jacksonville’s last 11 home games, the score has stayed under the total 10 times.
    • New York is 4-0-1 against the spread in its last five road openers.
    • The Chiefs are 1-3-1 against the number in their last five home openers.
    • The Giants are 10-20-1 vs. the number in its last 31 games as a home favorite.
    • St. Louis is 0-4-1 against the spread in its last five season openers… The Rams are 3-12 vs. the spread in their last 15 contests as a road favorite
    • Green Bay is 8-2-1 against the spread in its last 11 road contests, including playoffs, and is 10-5 vs. the spread in its last 15 games as a road dog.
    • The Cowboys are 4-10 vs. the spread in their last 14 road games, including playoffs.
    • San Diego is 6-1-1 against the spread in its last eight games as a favorite and has covered six of its last seven games vs. NFC opponents.
    • Indy is 11-5-1 in its last 16 regular-season road contests and has covered five of its last six openers.
    • Of the Colts’ last 13 regular-season games on grass, 10 have gone over the total...Of the Ravens’ last 13 regular-season home games, 11 have gone over the total.
    • The Falcons are 4-10-1 against the number in their last 15 regular-season home contests and 1-9 vs. the spread in their last 10 games as a home dog.

  • Here's more:
    • The Broncos are 7-2-1 ATS in their last 10 road openers.
    • The Bills have lost three of their last four home openers.
    • The Jets are 3-1 SU and 3-0-1 ATS in road openers with Herman Edwards as head coach.
    • The Packers are 4-6 SU, 2-8 ATS at Detroit in the last decade.
    • The Ravens are 3-7 ATS as an underdog the last two seasons.

  • A couple more trends, this time from SharpJuice:
    • Denver is 0-6 in Miami, and 1-5 ATS in their last six against the Dolphins.
    • Seattle is 7-14 on grass fields over the past 3 years

  • Bill Simmons reminds us: "Don't forget that AFC teams went 44-20 against NFC teams last season."

  • Covers.com has something to consider about rookie coaches in season openers.

  • Adam Schefter:
    In each of the past two seasons, the Bengals have opened a disappointing 1-4 and finished 8-8. If the Bengals are going to make the jump they need to, and get to the playoffs, they're going to have to win in September even more than December.

    Bengals coach Marvin Lewis realizes it, too. Throughout the offseason he has put an emphasis on starting quickly. He shortened training camp, gave more players one-a-days, did whatever he thought could enhance his team's chances at getting out of the gate quick.
  • I'll look to add to this post as they day goes on, but here's some final thoughts, again uncorroborated, that I've seen this week:
    Over the past six seasons, NFL home teams in week one are just 38-50-8 ATS (43%). This of course implies that roadies are a 57% winning proposition during this time. The public at large has a tendency to overvalue home teams and this is especially true in week one when there is no current season data to make predictions from. Consequently, the oddsmakers almost surely shade the home teams, by and large making road teams the choice for the value player.

    Favorites are just 38-50-8 ATS (42%) in the opening week over the past six NFL seasons (Coincidentally, home teams hold the same ATS record as noted above)
UPDATE: Picks are up. Taking Jacksonville, Kansas City, Tennessee, Arizona, the Colts tonight and the Falcons tomorrow.


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