Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Pryce is wrong for Ravens

Pryce

The NFL transaction wire got interesting Thursday when the Jets swooped in and signed DT Trevor Pryce, who had been released by Baltimore early in the week. The Ravens assumed they could bring Pryce back later this season, and he didn’t even bother to pack up his locker anticipating a return. The Ravens actually cut Pryce to bring back S Ken Hamlin in a similar role, and the Steelers (Baltimore’s Week 4 opponent) executed the same strategy with Byron Leftwich earlier this year. But Pryce’s $2 million 2010 contract with Baltimore was guaranteed because he’s a vested veteran, so when the Jets swooped in with an offer, he had the chance to make double money for the rest of the season, and that proved too juicy a proposition to pass up.

 

It’s a blow to the Ravens, who lost backup DEs Justin Bannan and Dwan Edwards via free agency in the offseason. Pryce didn’t start any of the first three games of the season, as Cory Redding came to town and started, but Pryce is still a solid 3-4 defensive end who can hold up against the run and provide some pass-rush punch. Losing him as depth hurts the Ravens, and losing him to the AFC-rival Jets hurts even more. Thet Jets can use Pryce at end so that Sione Pouha can move inside to team with Mike DeVito on the nose to replace the injured Kris Jenkins.

While the Ravens may be irate at what Pryce for choosing to leave (and Michael Lombardi thinks they should be), they’re the ones that took the risk. They’re the ones who put Pryce on the open market. To put it bluntly, they’re the ones that fired him, whether or not they intended to bring him back. You can’t blame Pryce for pursuing double payment for the year, especially when he’s 35 and in the twilight of his career. And the Jets are a natural landing spot for Pryce since he played under Rex Ryan in Baltimore and knows new teammates like Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard. It’s a coup for the Jets, and they deserve credit for swooping in when Pryce hit the market.

As it ends up, the price of the Pryce roster gamble ended up being much higher than the Ravens expected.

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Eliminator Pool Suggestions – Week 4

We rode an obvious pick to a win last week, and now we’re 3-0. This week, we’re going back under the radar in search of a winner.

1. Tennessee over Denver – This pick is a little off the board, but here’s our reasoning. One, the Titans have looked good this season – winning convincingly at home against the Raiders and on the road at the Giants while playing good defense against the elite Steelers. And Denver, despite putting up a bunch of passing yards, hasn’t played consistently in the red zone in losses at Jacksonville and at home against the Colts. They do have a home win against the Seahawks, but the bottom line is that this team that’s 3-10 in its last 13 games isn’t good enough to go on the road and beat a quality team like the Titans. So take the Titans this week to keep you alive in your eliminator pool.

2. New Orleans over Carolina – The Panthers have looked as bad as any team in the NFC this year, and now they go to New Orleans to face the Saints. The Saints haven’t been blowing people out this year like they did last year, but we just can’t imagine the Panthers’ moribund offense producing enough points to keep up with Drew Brees & Co. This is a safe place to cash in the Saints if you’re so inclined.

3. Atlanta over San Francisco – This is an attractive matchup, given how well Atlanta has played against good teams and how awful San Francisco has looked. But we are going to try to save the Falcons for late-season games against the Bucs and Panthers, and we also still believe the 49ers will develop some friskiness before it’s all said and done. We don’t consider this a trap game, but there are better options on the board.

Trap to avoid – N.Y. Jets at Buffalo – Laugh if you will, but remember that the Bills beat the Jets last year and that the Bills have been within a score of both AFC East opponents this year. The Jets will likely win this game, but there’s just enough history that opens the door for a Bills win that using the Jets on the road isn’t wise.

Results
Week 3 – W Baltimore (over Cleveland)
Week 2 – W Oakland (over St. Louis)
Week 1 – W N.Y Giants (over Carolina)

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OP: Can the Wests be won at home?

One of the things you’ll see from time to time here at Football Relativity is our outlandish prediction. We’ll analyze things that seem far outside of the realm of possibility and try to decide if they’ll happen.

In this post, we’re going to look at two teams leading the West divisions – the 3-0 Kansas City Chiefs and the 2-1 Seattle Seahawks. The thing these teams have in common, besides first-place standings, is massive home-field advantages. But can these home-field advantages lead these teams to division titles? Let’s look at the facts and then try to predict the future for these teams this season – even if that prediction ends up being outlandish.

The Chiefs are off to a 3-0 start thanks to home wins over the Chargers and 49ers, along with a road win at Cleveland. Both home wins figured to be tough, at least when looking at the schedule before the season, so the Chiefs’ record is truly a surprise. While the Chargers and 49ers are slipping enough that we don’t want to read too much into these wins, the Chiefs have a lot more weapons than they did last year. Last season, the Chiefs claimed Chris Chambers off waivers from San Diego in a desperate attempt to add explosiveness to their offense. This year, that explosiveness is there in spades. Rookie slot receiver Dexter McCluster and TE Tony Moeaki have both proven to be dangerous targets (along with holdover Dwayne Bowe), and Thomas Jones adds some solid aspects to the running game while Jamaal Charles remains a threat to break a big run at any time. Those targets have helped Matt Cassel overcome a slow start. Suddenly, the Chiefs offense (under new coordinator Charlie Weis) is a legitimate NFL attack. And on defense, the addition of rookie DBs Eric Berry and Javier Arenas, along with bounceback efforts from former first-round disappointments DEs Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey and LB Derrick Johnson, have made the Chiefs scarier to face. Tamba Hali, one of the few Chiefs’ first-rounders who had performed OK in previous years, had three sacks last week, and Brandon Flowers continues to be a pretty good cornerback. New coordinator Romeo Crennel has pulled the right strings and made the most of the talent available, which is a good sign.

But will it last? Road games at Indianapolis and Houston after this week’s bye will probably drop the Chiefs to 3-2. But K.C. then has home games against Jacksonville and Buffalo, along with a winnable road games at Oakland and Denver, mean that winning six or seven of the first nine games is possible. If the Chiefs do that, steal another road game at St. Louis later in the season, and hold serve in five of their six remaining home games, they can get to 9-7 or even 10-6. That’ll be good enough to win the AFC West – to the point that we’ll now make the outlandish prediction that the Chiefs will in fact win their division.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, are 2-1 after a convincing home win against San Francisco and hard-fought win over San Diego this week. This week’s seven-point win is due to Leon Washington’s two kickoff-return touchdowns, which is something the ‘Hawks can’t expect to do every week. Seattle’s offense has been OK, as Matt Hasselbeck has been healthy (which will be easier going forward now that OLT Russell Okung is playing), and TE John Carlson has emerged as a dependable target. Seattle needs receivers to emerge, whether it be reclamation project Mike Williams, promising rookie Golden Tate, or someone else. They also need a run game that produces more. On defense, offseason additions Raheem Brock and Chris Clemons have provided some pass-rush punch, and rookie S Earl Thomas has two interceptions already. The Seahawks have added to their talent base this offseason, although they’re not as far along as the Chiefs are. Still, Pete Carroll has undoubtedly put of jolt of energy into this franchise and the players currently on the roster.

So where does that leave the Seahawks in terms of their division? Seattle is tied with Arizona with a 2-1 record, so the two games between the teams could mean a lot. Arizona is more talented than the Seahawks, but Seattle has more consistent QB play. For Seattle’s playoff hopes, this week’s trip to St. Louis is key, because it’s a winnable road game that can help the “Hawks get to nine wins. Trips to Oakland, Tampa Bay, Arizona, and San Francisco could also prove fruitful, and if Seattle can win a couple of those and ride home-field advantage to wins against opponents they should beat, big things are possible in Seattle. They’ll likely be favored in every remaining game at home except for perhaps Atlanta’s visit.

But while the schedule looks good, our hunch is that the Seahawks’ lack of depth and premium players will cost them as the season goes along, and they’ll top out at eight wins. Maybe that’s enough to win a flagging NFC West, but our outlandish prediction still leaves Seattle out of the postseason picture.

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Football Relativity: Week 3

Each week, we compare all 32 NFL teams using our Football Relativity tool. There are some significant shifts this week as we now have three weeks of results with which to evaluate teams. We’ll indicate as we go which teams are moving up and down from the Week 2 comparison.

10 – Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers (UP TWO LEVELS) – Instead of moving the Saints and Packers down after losses, we’ll move the Steelers up to join the league’s elite. We discussed the Steelers and Saints in Rise/Sink/Float this week. The Packers lost on the road in Chicago and shot themselves in the feet with 16 penalties. We’re not overly concerned about a road division loss, but the Pack needs to come back with another win to reestablish their street cred.

9 – Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots – The Texans fell from the ranks of the unbeaten with a home loss to Dallas, but that loss to a desperate team isn’t real reason for concern. The Colts put together an impressive road performance to take down the Broncos. The Ravens won a division game against the Browns to move to 2-1 and stay within shouting distance of the Steelers heading into this week’s AFC North showdown. The Patriots took down the Bills at home, and while the run game was suprisingly good, the defense once again showed some holes.

8 – Atlanta Falcons (UP A LEVEL), Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets (UP A LEVEL) – The Falcons got a big-time road win in New Orleans. Even though it took a missed field goal to happen, it’s a sign that the Falcons are going to be in contention in the NFC South. If Atlanta runs the ball with that kind of success all year, they’ll be tough to beat. Dallas got a much-needed win at Houston, and they’re only one game back in their division, which means their slow start shouldn’t be fatal. The Jets won in Miami 31-23, which is a sign that the Jets have rectified their offensive issues from Week One well. Dustin Keller and Braylon Edwards are both making huge plays for Gang Green. Meanwhile, the Dolphins’ offense did a good job against the Jets’ vaunted defense, which is a good sign going forward. Miami’s home game against the Patriots this week is once again huge for the Fins.

7 – Chicago Bears (UP A LEVEL), Cincinnat Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles – The Bears won a big Monday night game at home against the Packers, indicating that they’re really a contender. Jay Cutler may get beaten to a pulp this season, but he’s doing a nice job in Mike Martz’ offense. Cincinnati put together a methodical road win at Carolina, which is the kind of win playoff contenders must get. The Vikings got their first win against Detroit, silencing some of the big-time questions that were floating around the Twin Cities. The Eagles moved to 2-1 in Jacksonville, and Michael Vick once again lit up a bad defense. But Vick is no certainty to light up a more talented group of defenders.

6 – Kansas City Chiefs (UP TWO LEVELS), New York Giants (DOWN A LEVEL), San Diego Chargers (DOWN A LEVEL), Tennessee Titans – We discussed the Giants in Rise/Sink/Float this week. The Chiefs shoot up two levels after moving to 3-0 with a convincing 31-10 home victory over the 49ers. Rookies Tony Moeaki and Dexter McCluster have added some punch to K.C.’s offense. The Chiefs now have a two-game AFC West lead over the Chargers, who gave up two kickoff returns for touchdowns in seven-point loss in Seattle. Tennessee had an ultra-solid road win vs. the Giants, but they’re still not as scary as division foes Indy and Houston.

5 – Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers (DOWN A LEVEL), Seattle Seahawks – The Cardinals eked out a home win against the Raiders, and although it wasn’t impressive, it made them 2-1 in the lackluster NFC West. Seattle moved to 2-1 with another home win. The Seahawks are taking advantange of their massive home-field advantage thus far, and if they can continue to do that they’ll contend for eight wins, which could be enough in their division. The 49ers fell to 0-3 and fired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, but there’s still time for a spark to help the Niners back into the division race.

4 – Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (DOWN A LEVEL), Washington Redskins (DOWN A LEVEL) – This is now the level of teams that can step up and beat someone but are inconsistent. The Broncos threw for a ton of yards but still were manhandled by the Colts. The Lions lost at Minnesota to fall to 0-3, and more importantly rookie sensation Jahvid Best was injured. Oakland lost in Arizona on a last-second field goal miss. The Buccaneers fell from the ranks of the unbeaten when they got blasted at home by the Steelers. We still believe the Bucs are on the way up, but that game shows how far they have to go. The Redskins fell apart in St. Louis, losing a chance to stay atop the NFC East. They’re contenders for .500 but not for a long playoff run.

3 – Jacksonville Jaguars (DOWN A LEVEL), St. Louis Rams (UP A LEVEL) – Sam Bradford got his first win in St. Louis over the Redskins, and the Rams once again demonstrated they can be kind of tough at home. The Jaguars were thumped at home against the Eagles, which is a bad sign for a team that lingered in contention last year almost exclusively because of home-field success.

2 – Carolina Panthers (DOWN TWO LEVELS), Cleveland Browns (DOWN A LEVEL) – We’re re-calibrating the bottom of the comparison this week, and that means moving the Browns and Panthers south. The Panthers showed little offensive life with Jimmy Clausen under center, and until the passing game emerges, the Panthers are an easy out. The Browns hung tough in Baltimore, and they continue to play hard, but they too lack offensive punch, which is a fatal flaw.

1 – Buffalo Bills – The Bills once again fell to 0-3, and to top it off they cut QB Trent Edwards, who started just one week ago. The Bills aren’t giving up in games, and rookie C.J. Spiller can provide a little pop, but the Bills have so little talent that most good teams will simply wear them down.

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Raye out by the bay

The 49ers made the first coordinator change of the 2010 season Monday, firing offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye. Raye is a veteran coach who has had several chances as an offensive coordinator (although they didn’t usually turn out well). The 49ers have struggled offensively, which is a shame given the quality of targets like Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Frank Gore. But even worse, the 49ers have struggled with the mechanics of getting plays in, which is unacceptable for a pro team.

Raye might not have been the only problem in San Francisco, but he wasn’t making things better, and as the 49ers try to dig out of a 0-3 hole major changes are warranted. Mike Johnson, the new offensive coordinator who may have been angling for Raye’s job, now must deliver.

Raye, meanwhile, must try to find another home as an NFL coach, which he has been since 1977. His veteran experience could help somewhere, but chances are that this is Raye’s last shot as a coordinator. And the way his resume reads, that’s probably fair. He’s a good coach but not a quality coordinator.

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Edwards Buffaloed

TrentThrow

Trent Edwards completed a remarkably swift fall from grace Monday when the Bills released him. Edwards, who started the first two games of the season for the Bills, is a former third-round draft pick who started 32 games over the past three-plus years for Buffalo. He showed promise in his first two seasons, but his struggles last year caused him to be benched, and this season new head coach Chan Gailey quickly pulled the plug on Edwards. Ryan Fitzpatrick took Edwards’s starting job last week, and now Edwards is without a job completely. Edwards is a big quarterback with a decent arm, and he’s a smart quarterback as well. But he’s never been able to take advantage of deep threat Lee Evans, and the Bills’ offense has lacked passing-game pop. The Bills reportedly turned down offers for Edwards in the offseason, and given the way things have turned out, that was a mistake, because getting even a late-round draft pick for a player who ended up being cut in September would have been a better resolution than this. Edwards is probably better suited as a backup than a starter, but a change of scenery could help. Edwards wasn’t the long-term answer at quarterback in Buffalo, but his absence shows once again that the Bills haven’t been able to find a quarterback of the future since the Jim Kelly era.

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Fantasy Football Applaud or a Fraud Week 3

Which fantasy football standouts from Week 3 do you need to trust, and which performances should you write off as unpredictable flukes? Each week we answer these questions by going through these performances and deciding whether to applaud or whether it’s a fraud. As always, with each verdict, we’ll give context for what it means.

Roy Williams breaks free for a 63-yard TD reception. Associated Press via espn.comQuarterbacks

Matt Cassel, Chiefs – After throwing for just 244 yards and one touchdown in the first two games of the year, Cassel led the charge as the Chiefs moved to 3-0 by throwing for 250 yards and three scores. That’s a nice game, but relying on Cassel to produce every week just isn’t wise. Even with bye weeks coming, there are other options who are better bets for your fantasy lineup than Cassel is. Verdict: A fraud

Joe Flacco, Ravens – Flacco had thrown for just one touchdown in the first two games, but he connected with Anquan Boldin for three touchdowns against the Browns in Week 3. That offensive explosion is a reminder that Flacco has a good arm and good weapons and should be a consideration for a top-12 quarterback spot. With bye weeks coming, Flacco will be a premium fill-in option in 10-team leagues. Don’t be afraid to put him in your starting lineup. Verdict: Applaud

Kyle Orton, Broncos – We discussed Orton in our Colts/Broncos post. Verdict: Applaud

Running backs

Kenneth Darby, Rams – After Steven Jackson was injured, Darby stepped in with 49 yards and a touchdown. His yards-per-carry average wasn’t great, but Darby showed enough pop that he’s worth a claim as insurance vs. Jackson’s injury or as a potential bye-week fill-in if Jackson can’t play. Verdict: Applaud

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots – With Laurence Maroney traded, Kevin Faulk on injured reserve, and Fred Taylor injured during the Patriots’ win over the Bills, Green-Ellis stepped up with 98 rushing yards and a touchdown. Danny Woodhead also had a rushing TD for the Pats, but if Taylor’s out long term, Green-Ellis (aka the Law Firm) becomes a nice fantasy option who can fit in a flex spot in 12-team leagues. Verdict: Applaud

Peyton Hillis, Browns – Hillis not only scored for the third game in a row; he also piled up 144 rushing yards with Jerome Harrison out. Hillis, not Harrison, is the running back you want out of Cleveland, and at this point Hillis is a top-30 back who’s good enough to start as a flex in 10-team leagues. Verdict: Applaud

Thomas Jones, Chiefs – Jones isn’t nearly as flashy as teammate Jamaal Charles, and he won’t pile up nearly as many yards as Charles does. But Jones had 95 yards and a score against the 49ers, following an 83-yard effort in Week 2. Jones deserves consideration as a bye-week fill-in. He doesn’t have massive upside, but he should be good for 70 yards or more most weeks, which is nice in a spot-start situation. Verdict: Applaud

C.J. Spiller, Bills – Spiller only had 39 yards from scrimmage against the Pats, but the rookie from Clemson scored twice, on a short reception and on a kickoff return. That kind of explosiveness is what makes Spiller so appealing for fantasy owners. Spiller won’t be consistent, however, which means that he’s a boom-or-bust play in your starting lineup. Most of the time, the bust will be too damaging to your chances of winning, which means you can’t start Spiller no matter how appealing it may seem. Verdict: A fraud

Beanie Wells, Cardinals – In his return from injury, Wells ran for 75 yards on 14 carries. Those aren’t eye-popping fantasy numbers, but it’s a good first game for a guy we believe can be a solid fantasy starter. Verdict: Applaud

Wide receivers

Austin Collie, Colts – We discussed Collie in our Colts/Broncos postVerdict: Applaud

Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Lloyd, Broncos – We discussed Gaffney and Lloyd in our Colts/Broncos post. Verdict: Applaud for Gaffney; A fraud for Lloyd

Jeremy Maclin, Eagles – Maclin had four catches for 83 yards and two scores against the Jaguars, and he now has four TD catches this season. At this point, he’s a must-start. Verdict: Applaud

Lance Moore, Saints – Two weeks ago, we mentioned that Moore is back to having a role in the Saints offense, and Moore proved that to be true with a 149-yard, two-TD performance against the Falcons. At this point, Moore is the second-most valuable fantasy receiver in New Orleans behind Marques Colston, and Moore’s return means that Robert Meachem has little chance of repeating his solid 2009 fantasy season. Moore’s worth a pick-up if you can get him. Verdict: Applaud

Mike Wallace, Steelers – Wallace had just 87 receiving yards in the first two games combined, and it appeared that the Steelers’ lackluster QB situation would limit his breakout potential. But Charlie Batch was able to hit Wallace for two touchdowns against Tampa Bay, as Wallace piled up 100 receiving yards. Wallace is going to be a starting-caliber fantasy receiver for Pittsburgh as soon as Ben Roethlisberger returns in Week 6, but we don’t recommend starting him against Baltimore next week. Call this delayed applause for a good young player. Verdict: Applaud

Roy Williams, Cowboys – Williams has been a big disappointment since he landed in Dallas, and the first two weeks of this season are no exception. But Williams (pictured above) exploded for 117 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans. We don’t buy this kind of output from Williams consistently, because he remains below Miles Austin and Dez Bryant in the pecking order. Maybe Williams is worth a waiver claim, but we can’t imagine a scenario in which Williams is worth starting anytime soon. Verdict: A fraud

Tight ends

Kevin Boss, Giants – Boss returned from a Week 1 concussion with 88 receiving yards against the Titans. It’s a reminder that Boss is a decent fill-in option at tight end during a bye week. For that status, we’ll give some mild applause. Verdict: Applaud

Tony Scheffler, Lions – Last week, Brandon Pettigrew had a big receiving week for the Lions. This week, Scheffler posted 60 receiving yards and a touchdown. Both tight ends will have their moments, but predicting which will produce when is so unlikely that neither is worth a fantasy start. Verdict: A fraud

Jeremy Shockey, Saints – We’ve been shocked in the Saints games we’ve watched thus far how often Shockey has been targeted. Against the Falcons in Week 3, he finished with eight catches for 78 yards and a score. After two three-catch games to start the season, Shockey showed this week that he’s worth consideration as a fill-in starter when your team’s tight end goes on bye. Verdict: Applaud

8-78-1

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