Daily Archives: September 14, 2010

Football Relativity: Week 1

Let’s compare all 32 NFL teams after Week 1. We do this on our Football Relativity scale, with 10 being the most dangerous teams and 1 being the least effective. On the comparison, we’ve noted where teams have moved up or down from our preseason comparison.

10 – New Orleans Saints – The Saints got a hard-fought win over the Vikings, and showed they can win a low-scoring contest and not just shootouts. The defense’s ability to shut down the Vikings’ passing game in the second half is a nice surprise. That high-profile win is an auspicious way to start the season for the defending champs.

9 – Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts (DOWN A LEVEL), New England Patriots (UP A LEVEL) – The Cowboys lost a division game on the road when ORT Alex Barron committed a holding penalty that wiped out the potential game-winning touchdown. Dallas must rebound from that, but getting Marc Colombo back in the spot Barron filled in at is key. Still, we won’t dock them for one division loss. Green Bay went on the road and took a 27-20 victory over the Eagles, which is a great start to the season. Indianapolis falls down the comparison not because they lost in Houston but because they had no chance of stopping the Texans’ running game. The Patriots move up after dominating the Bengals early en route to a 38-24 victory. New England’s D got off to a good start before giving up meaningless yards late, and that’s a good sign given the Pats’ questions on that side of the ball. The Ravens turned the ball over more than they would prefer, but they also got some big plays out of Anquan Boldin in the passing game and played terrific defense to beat the Jets 10-9 on the road. If Flacco can play more consistently, the Ravens are going to be really dangerous.

8 – Houston Texans (UP A LEVEL), Minnesota Vikings – We talked about why the Texans move up in Rise/Sink/Float. The Vikings played tougher than we expected on the road at New Orleans, but the passing game must show more fire than it did in the second half if the Vikings are truly going to contend this year.

7 – Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles (DOWN A LEVEL), San Diego Chargers (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Falcons lost a tough overtime game in Pittsburgh. The Falcons couldn’t get their offense going, which is a bit troubling even though the game was against the tough-nosed Steelers. The Dolphins went on the road to Buffalo and got a win, which is a good result even if the score wasn’t dominating. The Giants made their share of mistakes but forced more in a pretty convincing home win against the Panthers. The Eagles lost by seven to the Packers, which isn’t awful, but the fact that they lost FB Leonard Weaver and C Jamaal Jackson for the season to injuries and QB Kevin Kolb and MLB Stewart Bradley to concussions is a damaging injury list. The Chargers lost on the road at Kansas City, which is a bad sign given the fact that their big hope for the season is their terrible division. The Jets lost a home opener to the Ravens, and they looked like the offense from the first 14 games last season and not the offense from the playoffs. Mark Sanchez must play better to get the Jets into the playoffs through a stacked AFC East.

6 – Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals (DOWN A LEVEL), Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers (DOWN A LEVEL), Tennessee Titans – We talked about why the Bengals move down in Rise/Sink/Float. The Cardinals were in danger but pulled out a road win in St. Louis. They can be encouraged by Derek Anderson’s ability to pile up yardage in his first game as a starter. The Steelers’ defense keyed their 15-9 overtime victory over Atlanta. Fill-in QB Dennis Dixon wasn’t great, but he didn’t kill the Steelers, which may be enough if the Steelers D continues to play this well. The Titans whipped the Oakland Raiders in a game that was a good start. We have a hunch that the Titans will end up moving up this comparison, but we need to see another good performance first. The 49ers got lit up by the Seahawks, which is a bad start to what most people think is a NFC West division-winning run. San Francisco must respond well against New Orleans this week.

5 – Carolina Panthers (DOWN A LEVEL), Washington Redskins – The Panthers played a mistake-prone game and lost at the Giants 31-18. QB Matt Moore was inconsistent and threw some terrible interceptions, and if he continues to do that Carolina’s playoff hopes will be dashed. The Redskins eked out a tough division win against the Cowboys 13-7, and that’s a good start. But there wasn’t much to be inspired about in the way the Redskins won.

4 – Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders (DOWN A LEVEL), Seattle Seahawks (UP A LEVEL) – We talk about why the Bears stay at this level in Rise/Sink/Float. The Broncos lost to the Jaguars 24-17 in a game that reflected home field more than a distinction between these two teams. Jacksonville doesn’t have a high upside, but it’s unlikely that the Jags will lose a ton of games because they have a great running back in Maurice Jones-Drew and a competent quarterback in David Garrard. The Broncos didn’t get lucky, like they did in last season’s opener, but QB Kyle Orton moved the team pretty well. However, Denver’s defensive questions persist. The Raiders were handled on the road at Tennessee, which isn’t a surprise because the Titans are a good team. But the way it went down was not an encouraging start, and the Raiders’ defense that looked better in the preseason looked terrible in the opener. The Seahawks got off to a flying start with a 31-6 home win over the Niners. Maybe Pete Carroll’s intense roster turnover will result in a better-than-expected season with six or seven wins.

3 – Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs (UP A LEVEL), Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Buccaneers beat the Browns 17-14 in Tampa Bay, in a game that showed both teams are still rebuilding. Josh Freeman’s comeback ability is a positive sign for Tampa Bay, while Jake Delhomme’s two interceptions are a warning sign for the Browns. Still, both teams showed that they’ll compete this year. The Chiefs got a big 21-14 home win against the Chargers, and rookie Dexter McCluster provided the kind of explosive play that K.C. believed he could make. More impressive, though, was a defense that limited the Chargers to two touchdowns.

2 – St. Louis Rams – The Rams had a last-minute chance to beat the Cardinals, but they ended up falling 17-13. The defensive showing was decent against an offense with a lot of targets, and Sam Bradford showed promise. Bradford will win the Rams a couple of games this season.

1 – Buffalo Bills – The Bills couldn’t muster any offense in a 15-10 loss to the Dolphins, not even with their solid stable of running backs. Buffalo’s terrible offensive line and sub-par passing game spells doom for the Bills.

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Patriot games plague Mankins and Moss

Logan Mankins

Image via Wikipedia

In a week full of on-field news, what’s happening off the field in New England is a fascinating warning flare. First, ESPN reported that a potential end to OG Logan Mankins’ contract stalemate with the team fell apart when the franchise demanded first a private and then a public apology from the Pro Bowl guard. Then, after the Patriots’ 38-24 Week One win over Cincinnati, WR Randy Moss ranted and rambled about not having a contract past 2010.

So as we look at this double rainbow of dissent in Foxboro, we must ask the question – what does it mean?

Bill Belichick has long made his living on being the first and the last word in New England. And that meant that Belichick made the calls about who got new contracts and who got shown the door. Tedy Bruschi got to stay; Lawyer Milloy had to go. Vince Wilfork got paid; Richard Seymour got shipped to Oakland. Belichick made ruthless evaluations about star players, and he was never afraid to say goodbye if he thought the price tag outweighed a player’s value going forward.

That’s what’s happening with Moss. At age 33, his decline is coming. Receivers don’t maintain their speed into their mid-30s. And frankly, you can’t blame Belichick and the Pats for not wanting to give Moss a golden-parachute contract – at least when you look at the decision in a vaccuum.

But Moss doesn’t live in a vaccuum. He lives in a diva receiva world in which you can pout your way out of most problems and quit your way out of the rest. Moss talked and acted his way out of Minnesota and out of Oakland, and you have to wonder whether he’ll do the same now in New England. The finishing manuever is in his arsenal, and he’s not afraid to use it. And that adds a degree of difficulty to Belichick’s cold, calculating decision.

While you can give the Pats the benefit of the doubt in the Moss situation, at least before considering Moss’ history, what they reportedly did to Mankins was downright petty. Mankins hasn’t just been holding out; he has publicly criticized the organziation. And because Belichick’s organization in sacred in New England, the Pats demanded that penace be paid before Mankins was.

So in the last minutes of positive momentum toward a Mankins contract, the team told Mankins that he needed to apologize for questioning owner Robert Kraft’s integrity. Mankins did so in a conversation with Kraft. But 90 minutes later, the Patriots asked Mankins to make a public apology. Mankins not only refused but got offended at the additional demand, and he walked away from a deal that could have been worth $50 million plus on paper.

And that’s where the Patriot games became counterproductive. By trying to ensure that the organization won not only the negotiation but the PR battle, the franchise actually pushed Mankins further away. There was nothing to gain in demanding a public apology from Mankins, and any face that an apology would have saved has been far outpaced by the downside of the public-apology demand becoming public.

Before, you could call the Patriots cruelly effective in their free-agency decisions. But after the Mankins news, they now look more spitefully petty. That’s the kind of attitude that can lose the locker room if wins don’t pile up.

Maybe the Patriots will win enough games to survive the fallout of their latest Patriot games. But if they don’t, Mankins won’t be making an apology for them. Neither will we.

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