For two years I have been really impressed with the Crimson Tide, but always put an asterisk next to them. Scholarship reductions and probation has affected their depth. This also is a team that cannot afford any injuries. If quarterback Brodie Croyle had stayed healthy last year, Alabama would have given Auburn everything it could handle in the SEC West. Mike Shula's Crimson Tide is the team to beat, not only in the SEC West but the SEC -- as long as Croyle doesn't get hurt again....
No. 11 Purdue at Minnesota -- Both teams are unbeaten and thinking about making a run at a Big Ten championship. Minnesota has the best running game in the country (335 yards per game), while the Boilermakers have the best run defense in Division I-A (allowing 18.0 rushing yards per game)...
Florida State should be 8-0 heading into November, but I don't think the Seminoles are a legitimate national title contender until they develop more of an offense. FSU is a team with great athletic ability and its front seven is one of the best in the nation. But with cornerback Antonio Cromartie out for the season, their secondary is vulnerable against a good team....
Rich Podolsky is off to another slow start this season, but he's still on with this:
Last year we pointed out how successful Double-Digit Home Dogs (DDHDs) were, winning at a near 70 percent clip. This season there have been few the first three weeks and they are 3-2-1 to this point. But this week there are eight DDHDs, and we're grabbing three of them and taking our chances against one. This week's DDHDs are Army, New Mexico State, Illinois, South Florida, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Washington and Oregon.
Both Army and New Mexico State were DDHD last night and covered.
Illinois may have its hands full with Michigan State, or the Spartans may lose it outright, based on their performances last year against unranked teams.
South Florida and Louisville square off tonight in their first Big East Conference clash (the two were both C-USA last year). USF may have the defense and running game to keep this one within three touchdowns, but both the Bulls quarterbacks are easily rattled and Louisville will bring all kinds of heat.
Georgia plays its first road game of the season tonight against Miss State, who played Florida well in a night, home game last year.
Kentucky hosts the Gators in a sandwich game, as UF gets Alabama in their next game.
That Washington game is against Notre Dame, so there's all kinds of things going on there.
And Oregon hosts USC, so it's just a matter of chance because both teams are going to score a lot.
So after a 2-0 night yesterday, DDHD's ill probably need to be lucky to go 3-3 today.
But there may be one outright winner lurking among them.
My picks will be up by noon EST.
Plus, a sneak peak at tomorrow's NFL with The Mirls' Week 3 Picks- which I am still tied for the lead among 33 others.
UPDATE: Special Guest picks are in late, after spending the night in the clink for contempt. Our SG went 4-2 in NCAA last week, and 1-4 in the NFL.
For this week:
BAL- In their first game with Anthony Wright at quarterback, Derrick Mason was the most active Ravens receiver. He caught 8 passes on 10 targets for 60 yards and a score. The tightends, all three of them, were again heavily featured. Heap, Wilcox, and Dinkins had 11 total passes thrown their way. With a bye this week, Baltimore's top priority is to find their running game.
BUF- J.P. Losman was lucky he didn't leave Tampa with two or three interceptions to his credit. Josh Reed picked up 7 targets, as did Eric Moulds. But the real story with the Bills right now is with their running back, Willis McGahee. He and Coach Mularkey have had a minor media fued this week in reference to McGahee's running style lately. I, too, noticed in the preseason that he looked hesitant. The 1-1 Bills face another tough defense this week as they host Atlanta, and McGahee needs to show that he can dominate games because J.P. Losman can't.
CIN- After picking up 4 more targets against the Vikings, Chris Perry now has 10 total on the season. He also had an impressive 87 yard flare pass called back on Sunday by a holding penalty. Chad Johnson was again the team leader, with 13. He's on pace for a 184 target season (last year he had 158). Chris Henry looked good, catching 4 of the 4 passes thrown his way. And T.J. Houshmandzadeh picked up 4 red zone targets.
CLE- Trent Dilfer is doing a good job so far this season at getting the ball out of his hands quickly. He's also spreading his targets around well. Steve Heiden led the team with 8, as the Packers have been hurt by tight ends a lot this year (Marcus Pollard in week 1). Billy Miller also got a chance in the end zone that was knocked away by a defender. As expected, Frisman Jackson only had two passes thrown his way and everyone saw what Braylon Edwards did with three of his four targets. The Browns will face a very fast Colts defense this week, and I expect their rather immobile offensive line to have all kinds of troubles.
DEN- The Broncos did all they could to lose to the Chargers, but it didn't take. Denver turned the ball over twice inside the Chargers' 30 and Elam missed two field goals in their first 8 possessions. But 10 fourth quarter points led them to a key divisional victory. Rod Smith (11) and Ashley Lelie (10) led the team in targets and Jeb Putzier had a surprisingly low 3. Charlie Adams seems to still be the #3 WR, as he got 4 passes thrown to him. Darius Watts had just one. The Broncos host KC on Monday night, and they should doing so with an 0-2 record. Still, they also could have beaten San Diego by three touchdowns. Denver's defense played well.
IND- The Colts are going to expload this week, I can just feel it. They've faced two of the best defenses in the league, and yes they are going against Romeo Crennel this week but his Browns just don't have the talent to do what the Pats have done in the past. Dallas Clark played his first game of the season and he picked up 3 targets. The WR trio maitained their form; Harrison 8, Wayne 7, Stokely 5.
JAX- Reggie Williams continued his rise, with 4 catches on 5 targets. The Jags also kept Matt Jones involved with 3 targets. But Jimmy Smith is still the clear #1. He picked up 7 passes.
KC- Almost by default, Eddie Kennison is still the top WR on the Chiefs. He had a career high 1086 yards in just 14 games last year. He picked up 102 targets last year and is on pace for 104 this season. But I still like #2 guy Sammy Parker. He had 6 passes thrown to him against Oakland, catching 3 for a 28.7 ypc average. In the red zone, the Chiefs went to their running backs 10 times in week one, and 11 times last week. Tony Gonzalez has just two RZ chances on the season. He's a little behind his three year average of 21.6 and he's got those talented Denver linebackers to deal with this week.
MIA- Randy McMichael was busy against the Jets, pulling in 8 passes on 11 targets. On the year, he has 14 catches on 18 targets, and four looks inside the red zone. Chris Chambers is also getting a lot of passes, as he has 20 targets on the year and five inside the twenty. But Chambers only has 6 receptions so far.
NE- Daniel Graham only got one pass thrown his way in week two, but it was a 1 yard touchdown strike. Ben Watson is still the top TE target, he got 5 more passes thrown to him against Carolina. Deion Branch (14, 25 in two weeks) is the clear #1 and David Givens (9) a solid #2 guy. New England's offense really struggled last week. They only ran one play in the red zone (Graham) and that was only after Troy Brown's 71 yard pass play that ended on the 1. Their best starting field position was from their own 33 and they made it into Carolina territory just four times (TD, INT, FG, Fumble).
NYJ- Laveranues Coles and Justin McCareins had identical target numbers in week two (10 and 8, respectively). Not too much else going on here. The Jets are still finding their way around their new offense.
OAK- Lamont Jordan had a tough time hanging on to the ball against the Chiefs. He caught just 6 of the 11 passes thrown to him. Many of those incompletes were due to Jordan trying to run with the catch too soon. I still think he's a above average receiver, especially considering his size. The errors he made Sunday night were not really physical; he definitely has the hands to catch 70-80 passes this year and he's obviously going to get the chance to in this offense (see the OAK preview). After two weeks, it looks like I might be wrong about Randy Moss. He's got 10 catches and two scores so far and that's in line with the projections I had him at. But the 257 yards he's racked up is way ahead of the pace I'd thought he'd go on. In fact, he's on pace for 2056 and even though it's only two games, I didn't see him getting to 1600. But that looks to be where Moss is headed. He's getting the ball thrown to him plenty (22 total targets). Jerry Porter had 11 targets in week two and with Ronald Curry out of the year, Porter should see an increase in his production. Also look for Doug Gabriel to make an impact as he returns this week from a finger injury.
PIT- All of these crazy Pittsburgh stats are either very misleading or they underscore how fantastic this team is playing. We'll find out this week, but from my point of view, it looks like they are rolling.
SD- The Chargers got Antonio Gates involved right away, as he went 8 for 8 in passes. Keenan McCardell continued his high pace with 8 more targets, giving him 22 on the year. And not only has LT not caught a pass all season, but he's only been thrown one ball.
TEN- Steve McNair used his back heavily against the Ravens, throwing 15 passes to the trio of Chris Brown, Travis Henry, and Troy Fleming. In turn, the tight ends saw considerably fewer balls (4, down from 13). The wide receivers were led by Drew Bennett (8) and Brandon Jones (6). The Titans are back on the road to St. Louis this week.
And from the NFC... CAR- The Pats were focused on slowing Steve Smith. He only had 4 catches on 6 targets for 34 yards. Keary Colbert had 7 balls thrown his way but didn't come down with one. Ricky Proehl stepped up for the Panthers, catching 3 of 3. And Rod Gardner, who reportedly has been slow to learn the offense, picked up one red zone chance. It's Stephen Davis' team inside the twenty, he scored 3 RZ touchdowns on 6 chances.
Well, the football guys locked the door to the targets stats they left open last week. Here's the NFC notes:
ARZ- The Cards really struggled against a Rams defense they should have performed better against. Arizona failed to score a touchdown on four different drives inside the 30. Kurt Warner, despite throwing for 327 yards, had a tough time finding targets when it mattered most. After getting 15 throws in week one, Larry Fitzgerald only got 5 against the Rams. Anquan Boldin led the team with 9 in week two, including three looks inside the red zone. Poor Bryan Johnson has just 4 catches on 18 targets through two weeks.
Marcel Shipp had a solid game, but he was underused with just 12 carries. He did catch five of the six passes thrown his way. With J.J. Arrington struggling (he's not a good fit for this offense), I've expected Shipp to take over the running duties for the Cardinals.
And just on a side note, there's not a better home field kicker in the NFL right now than Neil Rackers.
ATL- Rising star Michael Jenkins had another strong game, he led the Falcons with 6 targets. But inside the twenty, Vick looked to Brian Finneran three times. Since there's a good chance that Matt Schaub is starting this weekend against Buffalo, I expect Finneran to have another good week- especially if he gets matched up against the 5'9 Terrance McGee near the goalline.
CHI- Mushin Muhammad is going to led the way as long as he's healthy, and the former Panther got 9 passes thrown to him on Sunday. But inside the 20, with a rookie QB, the Bears are a running team. On the season, Thomas Jones has 6 redzone carries and Cedric Benson has 1, while Orton has thrown just three passes (all against the Redskins).
DAL- Jason Witten picked up 6 targets on Monday night after just getting one pass thrown his way in week one. Terry Glenn was the Cowboys' leader against Washington, with 9 targets, 6 catches, 157 yards (long of 70) and a score.
DET- Joey Harrington is still staring down his receivers and against the Bears, he focused on Roy Williams 13 times. Kevin Johnson tied Charles Rogers for second on the team with 9, and it looks like Harrington has a lot of confidence in Johnson- leaving rookie Mike Williams with very little playing time. Detroit threw the ball way to much against Chicago. What success they had last year, they did by running Kevin Jones 25-30 times and not the 8 he got in Chicago.
GB- With Javon Walker out, Terrance Murphy picked up 6 targets. Donald Driver was the team leader for the second week in a row, this time with 8. Also for the second week in a row, Favre threw to his backs heavily, giving them 13 passes (17 last week). Favre has thrown 44 passes in each of the first two games of the season. It's going to be a long year. The Packers host 2-0 Tampa Bay this week.
MIN- Daunte Culpepper showed me a side of him I haven't seen in years, as he threw 5 interceptions to the Bengals. Most of those came late in the game, and after they got down 14-0 early, I can only describe Culpepper as being on Tilt. I don't know if he's frustrated with the playcalling, but I sure would be. Losing Randy Moss didn't have to be a big deal if the Vikings took the off-season to refocus their strategy towards the current strengths of the roster. That seems to have not happened. It's like they're still running the same exact offensive system.
Up until the very end of the third quarter, Minnesota's plays were as unimaginative as they were unproductive. There were few or no slants, hitches, screens, draws, and traps called. Instead, it looked like: run, go deep, go deep, punt. But then towards the fourth quarter, things started to open up. The Vikings started throwing those shorter slants and quick hitches. They mixed in a few runs on pass looks, and they looked to exploit the first 15 yards from scrimmage more than the second. At home against the Saints this week, I expect this offense to finally produce.
That said, I just don't see how Michael Bennett can be this team's starting running back. He doesn't catch the ball exceptionally well. He doesn't run with exceptional power. He doesn't really do anything really well except run fast. Bennett did start the Bengals game with a couple of great runs on the edge, but then he fumbled going up the middle and then fumbled again a few minutes later twice and it was all over from there for him and for Minnesota.
And I don't know if Mewelde Moore is the answer for this season either. The Vikings really need more of a playmaker at that position They need someone like Lamont Jordan. So keep an eye on Ciatrick Fason.
Travis Taylor took in 12 targets against the Bengals, and he caught 7 of them. With Minnesota down 27-0 at halftime, rookie Troy Williamson got some action in the second half. He took in 2 passes on 4 targets.
NO- For as long Aaron Brooks in the Saints' QB, Joe Horn is as steady a target as they come. After getting 13 targets on Monday night, Horn has had one game since the start of 2004 with fewer than 7 passes thrown his way. I'm also impressed with Donte Stallworth this year. He pulled in 8 passes on 12 targets against the Giants. For the year, Donte has 12 catched on 17 throws. For the second straight week, Ernie Conwell had two red zone targets and he has 10 anywhere targets on the season. Conwell is a big part of this offense.
NYG- Eli seems to really enjoy throwing to the 6'5 Plaxico Burress. After giving him 11 passes in week one, Manning threw 10 more Burress' way on Monday night. But Burress has just 10 catches on those 21 targets so far this season. Jeremy Shockey went 5 for 6 and is now 7 for 8 on the year.
PHI- After relying to much on TO and BW last week (29 of McNabb's 45 passes), with a big lead the Eagles were able to spread it around against the 49ers. Greg Lewis was clearly the #2 WR on Sunday, getting 7 targets over the entire game. Rookie Reggie Brown picked up 3, all in the second half. TO had 7, but the team leader LJ Smith broke out with 9 catches on 9 targets, 119 yards and a touchdown. Smith is still the only viable TE on this team and this kind of game won't be out of the ordinary for the tight end. The Eagles' offensive line did a real nice job protecting McNabb in the face of a very good SF pass rush.
SEA- Bobby Engram is still going strong, with 8 more targets on Sunday. Darrell Jackson was the team leader with 11, but Jerramy Stevens was again well featured, with 5 targets.
SF- Not much doing for the 49ers against Philly, but Arnez Battle is indeed the best receiver on this team. With 6 targets last week and 7 more this past Sunday, Battle has 9 catches on the year for 103 yards. Alex Smith did come in and run three plays before going off for a punt.
STL- Marc Bulger only had to throw 29 times against the Cardinals. Holt and Bruce are still the top pair, with Holt getting 7 targets and Bruce 8. Kevin Curtis has an ankle injury, and he was limited against Arizona, but he still got 4 passes. The Rams should look to strike through the air this week, as they host the Titans.
TB- With an early lead at home, the Bucs didn't have to throw much. Joey Galloway's numbers fell hard, with just 2 targets. Michael Clayton got 8, however, and with the 7 he got in week one, he's Griese's top threat.
WAS- Of course Santana Moss caught the two big ones, but he also pulled in three other of the 7 total passes thrown his way against Dallas. David Patten got 5 targets, but the production just hasn't been there so far. There were no trips to the red zone this week, but Robert Royal still got 4 passes thrown to him and Chris Cooley got 3.
Len Pasquarelli's morning after is usually a good read. This week, he leads with the Vikings' struggles (which I'll have more on when I get to the targets stats). Len's scouts takes are especially strong this week:
"It's going to big a big year for [Colts tailback] Edgerrin James, at least if defenses keep trying to play the way Jacksonville did on Sunday. It seems like the philosophy now is to just drop eight [defenders] against [Peyton] Manning and try to get him to grow impatient and force some balls."
"If you saw [tailback] Ron Dayne on Sunday, you'd swear the Broncos could put anybody back there and he'd gain yards.
"Jeff Fisher [of Tennessee] can flat-out coach. That team was absolutely [lousy] last week, but he worked them hard, got them fired up about playing a [Baltimore] team they don't like, and just whipped the Ravens."
I noted last week that Carnell Williams took a lot of hits in his first game as a pro. Well this past Sunday against the Bills, he took even more. Williams is hard to tackle, but he also makes a lot more contact with defenders than most backs do. As a result, I fear for his long-term health. On Monday, Carnell was walking in a boot cast.
The Texans' firing of Chris Palmer is a very loud warning shot to everyone involved in Houston's offense. There is really no excuse for why the Texans have looked like they are still learning their system.
The Bengals were flagged for 17 penalties against Minnesota, many of them were dumb penalties too. I did some research during the offseason to track how teams did the week after registering 80+ penalty yards. I guess I'll post those charts later, but essentially, teams who win with a lot of penalties continue winning and teams who lose with a lot of penalties continue losing.
Praise from the Seattle News Tribune for Shawn Alexander
MIA- Early returns from South Florida indicate that veteran DT Keith Traylor is the lynchpin to the Dolphins’ defense. Said fellow DT Vonnie Holliday, “The only time he’s moved is if he guesses wrong and steps with the wrong foot or goes the wrong way. But nobody’s going to move him up out of there. Double-, triple- (teaming), he’s not going to lose his ground. He stays there.” A big beneficiary of Traylor’s play is undersized MLB Zach Thomas, who was freed up to make 26 tackles in the first two games.
NYJ- We hear that the sideline altercation in Week One between DT James Reed and MLB Jonathan Vilma — which culminated with Reed punching Vilma in the face — is likely an early sign of how much the Jets miss NT Jason Ferguson, who signed with the Cowboys via free agency this offseason. Reed is undersized compared to Ferguson and seemed to have some problems holding up at the point of attack.
OAK- With all the offseason hype surrounding the additions of WR Randy Moss and RB LaMont Jordan, it was quietly assumed the offensive line would be a very solid group. But sources in Oakland now say they may have overrated Oakland’s blockers a bit and question whether they can regularly provide the time necessary for QB Kerry Collins and the Raiders’ downfield passing game to thrive.
MIN- Michael Bennett’s unimpressive Week One outing vs. Tampa Bay (six carries, minus-1 yard) and then his critical fumble in Week Two helped pull Mewelde Moore out of the doghouse. Moore, versatile but inconsistent in pass protection, had been on the bad side of head coach Mike Tice since Moore missed almost half of his rookie season recovering from a high left ankle sprain... But as questions arise about Bennett as the No. 1 back, Moore is squeezing back into the picture. He’ll be on a short leash once again, but the job appears to be there for the taking if Moore can remain healthy.
ARZ- At the root of the Cardinals' rushing problems is an offensive line that, if anything, has gotten steadily weaker in Green’s tenure as head coach. Clearly, his curious decisions to release talented linemen such as C Pete Kendall and OT L.J. Shelton look even more ill-advised considering the state of his current O-line.
Jaguars QB Byron Leftwich clearly is being showcased as the team’s featured offensive player until RB Fred Taylor proves he is 100 percent. The team wants to pass to get a lead and then hand the ball to Taylor to kill the clock.
Word out of Kansas City is that we shouldn’t be surprised if OLT Willie Roaf misses more than just Week Two with his strained hamstring.
While it would appear Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram and Joe Jurevicius have settled nicely into the Seahawks' Nos. 1, 2 and 3 WR spots, respectively, our sources in Seattle suspect ex-Bengals first-round pick Peter Warrick has a chance to push his way into the three-deep picture or, at the very least, figure much more in the mix as the fourth receiver in four-WR sets.
Our sources in Charlotte indicate that WR Rod Gardner is not picking up the Panthers’ offense as quickly as they had hoped and that’s why he was inactive for Week One.
It should be noted that the Giants list RB Derrick Ward as Tiki Barber’s backup, even though rookie Brandon Jacobs has gotten most of the attention. The team thinks it has one of the best RB situations in the league and is able to give Barber more rest with such good depth.
Last monday was the one year anniversiary of this website. So this past week, I went working on this new banner. I'll be tweaking the language a bit in the future, I'm sure. But there it is. I'll also be on the lookout for more breakaways to include.
UPDATE: Yeah, I don't like the colors. They're too busy. Doesn't fit in well with the simple nature of the rest of the site. Soon to change.
- posted by jrf @ 9/18/2005 08:57:00 PM
There is a chance that Arizona rookie RB J.J. Arrington won't play because of an illness.
'Pacman' Jones, a healthy scratch in the opener, is expected to start at RCB for Tony Beckham
QB Ben Roethlisberger is expected to start despite a bruised bone in his left knee.
Look for the Seahawks to come out and use as many as three and four receivers because the Falcons not only lost top nickel back Kevin Mathis (major knee surgery) but also kick returner and sixth defensive back Allen Rossum.
Ex-Eagle DT Corey Simon reported at 344 pounds to the Colts; he's lost 20 pounds already.
In four straight losses in Denver's Invesco Field, the Chargers have scored only three first-half points.
Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer (3-13) never does well in Denver.
The Packers tried to sign Koren Robinson on Monday, but the ex-Seahawk decided to remain with the Vikings.
Jets new WR Laveranues Coles dropped two TD passes in the loss to KC.
Jets LB Jonathan Vilma was sporting a left-eye shiner after being punched on the sideline by defensive teammate James Reed during last week's loss to the Chiefs.
With the Chiefs minus DT Ryan Sims (foot), look for the Raiders to come out running with Lamont Jordan and Zack Crockett. It's also part of the keep-away strategy to keep the Oakland defense off the field.
Michael Strahan, despite being listed as questionable, vows to play on Monday night.
Rookie RT Jamaal Brown did a good job against Julius Peppers last week, and if Strahan does play tomorrow night, he'll have faced in back to back games the top two LE's in the league.
Finally, a note about the FSU-BC game: I willingly broke one of the golden rules (don't pick one game more heavily over another) and in the process Jeff Bowden became a real life football coach. It was a nice second half by the Noles offense- as they finally figured out how to beat the Eagles defense. FSU so rarely makes good halftime adjustments on offense, I'm still really surprised by it. But there it is. BC did well what I thought they would, but I also knew that if FSU jumped out to an early first quarter lead, the Eagles probably wouldn't be able to win it. Time will come to get that one back.
Picks in by 12:15 EST. Here is the Mirls' weeks two chart, all are straight up.