Monthly Archives: October 2010

Rise/Sink/Float Week 8

Each week, we preview teams that are moving up and moving down in our weekly Football Relativity comparison. We’ll analyze all 32 teams on Tuesday.

Ronnie Brown of the Dolphins against the Bengals. Photo via espn.com

Rise – Miami Dolphins – We believe in the Dolphins, and all the more so after they bounced back from a 14-3 deficit to put up a 22-14 road win in Cincinnati over the Bengals. The Dolphins have faced a brutal schedule, and the fact that they’ve gotten to 4-3 despite it is a testament to their chops. Miami is going to be in the playoff hunt throughout the year, and

Sink -Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys played a trick on their fans on Halloween, laying a complete egg in a 35-17 home loss against the Jaguars. Backup QB Jon Kitna threw four interceptions, although three of those were tipped or dropped by his receivers. The Cowboys have talent, but at this point they’re the most obviously undisciplined team in the league. That has killed their playoff hopes, made Wade Phillips a firing-line certainty, and proved that it takes more than talent to win in the NFL.

Float – New York Jets – The Jets saw their five-game winning streak fly away in a 9-0 home loss to the Packers. It was the first game of the year in which turnovers, a bugaboo last year, really hampered the Jets. But that can be chalked up as a bad game, and we still believe the Jets remain among the NFL’s scariest team. Now, they know exactly what their Achilles heel is and the kind of game they must play to win.

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Panthers/Rams Thoughts

Each week, we focus on one game and share our thoughts on it, both from an on-field perspective and a fantasy football perspective. Given the paucity of top-level matchups this week, we turned our attention to St. Louis, because we wanted to see with our own eyes how the Rams’ rebuilding project is going. The Rams continued their strong home play in their 20-10 victory over the Panthers. St. Louis is now 4-4, including a 4-1 record at the Edward Jones Dome. We’ll focus our on-field thoughts on the Rams, since the Panthers are completely out of any sort of contention, but we will include some Panthers thoughts for fantasy football owners.

Rams LB James Laurinaitis returns an interception. Photo via espn.com

On-field perspective
*Sam Bradford is obviously the keystone of the Rams’ reclamation project, and he looked good in this game. He completed a high percentage of passes (25-of-32), and he avoided throwing an interception for the third straight game, although most of his throws were short passes or checkdowns. Part of the reason for that is that the Rams lack real breakaway receiving threats after injuries sidelined WRs Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton, while part of it is to protect Bradford and keep his confidence high. But Bradford did flash a big arm on a 33-yard out pattern to Brandon Gibson, and as he gets more comfortable at the NFL level we should see more intermediate and long passes from him. For now, though, the Rams have to be happy with Bradford’s development over the first half of his first season.
*The Rams’ defense is also developing impressively. Second-year MLB James Laurinaitis (pictured) had both an interception and a sack while also doing his normal yeoman work as a tackler.
*We were also impressed by fourth-year SS Craig Dahl, who forced a fumble and made his share of plays in coverage. Dahl, like fellow safety James Butler and DT Fred Robbins, played for Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo when he was a coordinator for the Giants, and they are helping Spagnuolo instill his kind of defense. With those vets and talented plays like DE Chris Long, CB Ron Bartell, and S O.J. Atogwe, the Rams have the building blocks for a solid defense.
*You have to love Steven Jackson’s willingness to play for the Rams despite a broken finger. Jackson is a tough runner and proved to be a tough player in this one. While Jackson only ran for 58 yards, his toughness and leadership are beyond question, and they left an impression on a young team that still has a chance in the mediocre NFC West.

Fantasy Football perspective
*Jackson is the only Ram who’s a consistent starter for fantasy purposes. If we had to choose a second option, we’d go with WR Danny Amendola, who had six catches and a touchdown. Amendola is an underneath option, which is why he averaged less than five yards a catch in this game, but he’s a decent bet to get in the end zone for the Rams, as he has two games in a row. Gibson, who had six catches for 67 yards, probably has the most potential of the current Rams’ wideouts, and he may be worth a speculative claim at this point.
*Bradford, meanwhile, is not a fantasy option despite throwing two touchdowns in this game. Because his yardage totals are so low, he’s very TD dependent, and the 20 points St. Louis scored in this game will likely be the normal output. In a keeper league, claim away, but for this year Bradford will find it hard to crack the top 20 among fantasy QBs.
*For the Panthers, Jonathan Stewart had a chance to prove his fantasy mettle with DeAngelo Williams sidelined, but Stewart struggled, averaging just over two yards per carry and finishing with just 38 yards from scrimmage. If Stewart can’t perform with Williams out, fantasy owners really don’t need to expect him to provide much if anything once Williams returns. After this game, we feel comfortable saying that Stewart is droppable in normal sized leagues of 12 teams or less. Given the Panthers’ struggles, WR Steve Smith is the only player worth being a fantasy starter, at least until Williams gets healthy.

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Mathias Kiwanuka and other Week 8 Transactions

Each week we share insights, analysis, and opinions of the week’s transactions. To see previous posts, click here and start working back. 

Mathias Kiwanuka of the Giants

The biggest name to cross the transactions wire this week was Giants DE Mathias Kiwanuka, who was officially ruled out for the season with a herniated disc in his neck. Kiwanuka had four sacks in the first four games playing as a defensive end this season before his injury, and the former first-round pick has also played outside linebacker in the past. That kind of versatility has made him especially valuable to Big Blue, and it may make him an attractive option to 3-4 defenses in free agency this offseason. Luckily for the Giants, they can use rookie Jason Pierre-Paul as the primary backup to starting DEs Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, which should allow the front four to remain a strength for perhaps the NFC’s best team.

Now for the other transactions of the week…

DeMeco Ryans

Texans (add DT Damione Lewis, put LB DeMeco Ryans on IR) – Ryans is a vaccuum cleaner of a middle linebacker who cleans up everything in the middle. Houston will really miss him now that he’s out for the season with an Achilles injury. Lewis is a veteran DT who can occasionally create pressure up the middle.

Jaguars (add OT Erik Pears, put OT Eben Britton on IR) – Britton, one of two rookie tackle starters for the Jags last year, has emerged into a promising right tackle, but he’ll now miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. Pears adds depth, but the Jags will struggle to replace Britton.

Rams (add S Michael Lewis) – Lewis, who was benched in San Francisco and then asked for his release, lands in St. Louis. He’s a nice veteran but not nearly the playmaker he once was. Still, he’ll add some veteran wiles and should get on the field at an injury-plagued position for St. Louis.

Buccaneers (cut TE Jerramy Stevens) – Stevens, a former first-round pick in Seattle, was released after another arrest this week. He’s a talent but has never come close to living up to his ability at any of his NFL stops.

Chiefs (add LB Mark Simoneau) – Simoneau is a solid linebacker who has been really banged up in recent years, but he could help the Chiefs if he stays healthy enough to get on the field over the rest of the year. Now that the Chiefs are a contender, adding a vet like Simoneau makes sense.

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Football Relativity: International Destinations

In honor of the fourth annual International Series game in London this week between the Broncos and 49ers, we thought we’d compare the best cities to host NFL games. We’ve included cities that have hosted regular-season or preseason games in the past, former NFL Europe cities, as well as a few wild-card ideas of our own. As with all of our Football Relativity comparisons, the 10 level indicates the best host cities, and the 1 level indicates destinations the NFL should just avoid.

One of the reasons we’re doing this is because of the rumored expansion of the NFL season from 16 games to 18. With several NFL teams struggling to sell out eight home games, moving a home game overseas may be even more appealing. Not only will doing so help a team develop an international following and market; it will also ensure a payday greater than a partially filled stadium would.

Feel free to disagree or add your own suggestions via comment.

Wembley Stadium in London

10 – London, England – London has hosted regular-season games for four years now, selling out each one. Wembley Stadium is a great host site, and with the Olympics coming to London in 2012, more potential stadiums will be available as well – such as Emirates Stadium, home of soccer’s Arsenal. As long as the NFL is playing internationally, London will be a host.

9 – Mexico City, Mexico – Mexico City has hosted NFL games with great success, including a 2005 game between the 49ers and Cardinals that was the first regular-season NFL game played outside the United States. It also hosted 112,000 people, the largest crowd in NFL history, for a 1994 preseason game. Maybe Mexico City doesn’t fit as an annual host, but it makes sense for the NFL to tap into this sizable market with a regular season game twice a decade. For a team like the Chargers or Raiders that is in a Hispanic-heavy market and is struggling to sell tickets, a consistent alliance with Mexico City could be even more fruitful than the Bills’ Toronto deal is.

8 – Toronto, Canada – Toronto is also an annual host of NFL regular-season games, but it is a secondary home field for the Buffalo Bills. While other teams might like to play in the Rogers Centre (also home of baseball’s Blue Jays), including Toronto in their market is key to the Bills’ long-term future. Toronto remains a key part of the NFL’s future.

7 – Munich, Germany – Germany ended up being the prime market for NFL Europa, and while Munich didn’t host an NFL Europa team or an American Bowl, it’s a prime spot for two reasons. First, it’s close enough to Frankfurt, home of a huge U.S. military base, to draw plenty of Americans. Second, it has two 69,000-seat stadiums opened in 2005. That combination of factors makes Hamburg a more attractive option than Berlin (with a 1936 stadium), Frankfurt (with a smaller, 52,000-seat stadium), or Hamburg (52,000 seats).

6 – Tokyo, Japan – Tokyo has hosted 12 preseason games between 1989 and 2005, and so it is a natural to host a regular-season game. The problem is travel, because Japan isn’t easy to get to, even from the West Coast. But if the NFL is looking to grow internationally, Japan’s large population makes it a natural to host a game that counts.

5 – Bejiing, China – The NFL tried to host a China Bowl preseason game in Beijing back in 2007, but it was delayed because of building delays leading up to the 2008 Olympics. The game, rescheduled for 2009, was then cancelled because of the massive recession that hit during that time. But China is a huge market, and the NFL will rightly seek to move into that area soon.

4 – Rio de Janiero, Brazil – Rio has never hosted an NFL game, but it’s the most important city below the equator in the Western Hemisphere, and as host of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, it’s building state-of-the-art stadiums. That makes it the natural spot for the NFL to go to for at least a preseason game to see if the U.S.’s game can catch on in South America.

3 – Gelsenkirchen, Germany – Like Munich, Gelsenkirchen is home to a newer stadium (built in 2001) that can hold 61,000 people. Plus, Gelsenkirchen has hosted a Champions League final, and it is in the Rhein area that hosted an NFL Europa team for 15 years. So Gelsenkirchen gets the nod over Dusseldorf as the second-best German option to host an NFL game.

2 – Glasgow, Scotland – With the success the NFL has had in London, it makes sense to look elsewhere in the British Isles to host games. Glasgow hosted 13 NFL Europa seasons (the only place outside of Germany to have a team that long), and it has three different stadiums that seat 50,000 people or more. Plus, going to Scotland makes more sense than going elsewhere in England, to somewhere like Manchester, or to Dublin, Ireland.

1- Amsterdam, the Netherlands – Amsterdam hosted NFL Europa for 13 years, and it is home to one of Europe’s biggest soccer stadiums. So it could handle the NFL, and its location would draw a different group of fans than Germany, England, or another option like Barcelona would. As the NFL looks for easier trips to Europe for regular-season games, Amsterdam will become a natural option. It won’t grow a huge new market, but it may be good enough to support a game every four or five years.

Other former preseason game hosts: Montreal, Canada; Dublin, Ireland; Barcelona, Spain; Monterrey, Mexico; Vancouver, Canada; Sydney, Australia; Osaka, Japan

Other former NFL Europa hosts: Cologne, Germany; Frankfurt, Germany; Hamburg, Germany; Dusseldorf, Germany

Other potential options: Dortumund, Germany; Calgary, Canada; Manchester, England; Madrid, Spain; Milan, Italy

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Pick ’em Week 8

We finally got some momentum in the pro picks. Let’s keep this ball rolling in the right direction.

NCAA
N.C. State +3.5 vs. Florida State
Georgia -3 vs. Florida (Jacksonville)
Missouri +7.5 at Nebraska
Michigan State +7 at Iowa
Oregon -7 at USC
Michigan -2.5 at Penn State

NFL
Washington +3 at Detroit
N.Y. Jets -6 vs. Green Bay
Denver E vs. San Francisco (London)
Tennessee -3.5 at San Diego
New England -5.5 vs. Minnesota
Pittsburgh -1 at New Orleans
Indianapolis -5.5 vs. Houston

Last week: 2-4 college, 6-1 pro, 8-5  overall
Season: 25-31-1 college, 21-27-2 pro, 46-48-3 overall

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Suicide Pool Suggestions Week 8

This is getting embarrassing… But here are three more good ideas and a couple of traps to avoid this week.

Brandon Flowers with a pick against the Bills in 2009

1. Chiefs over Bills – The Chiefs have been good at Arrowhead this year, and they’re significantly better than the Bills. Buffalo has produced a lot of yards and even points in the passing game, but their defense is epically bad. We feel confident the Chiefs will get another win this week.

2. Jets over Packers – The Jets have been one of the league’s best teams this year, while the Packers are so banged up that they’re not able to play anywhere near their capabilities. It’s a little scary to pick against a winning team like the Packers, but the Jets are a pretty safe pick this week. There may be better opportunities to take the Jets this year, but this is a safe time to pull the trigger.

3. Rams over Panthers – This pick is riskier than our normal fare, but the Rams have been really good at home this year, while the Panthers have struggled. We’ll take Sam Bradford over Matt Moore, especially in the dome.

Traps to avoid – Redskins at Lions – The Redskins have played close in just about every game this year, but they were blown out in St. Louis against a team they are probably better than. Plus, the Lions beat the ‘Skins last year, and Matthew Stafford is returning this week. We smell a rat here, and so you should stay away from Washington in this one.

Cowboys over Jaguars – The Cowboys are a mess, and now Jon Kitna must take over for Tony Romo. The Jaguars are a mess too, but we need to see how well Kitna can play before we put any credence in the Cowboys’ ability to win.

Results
Week 7 – L New Orleans (vs. Cleveland)
Week 6 – L Chicago (vs. Seattle)
Week 5 – L Houston (vs. N.Y. Giants)
Week 4 – L Tennessee (vs. Denver)
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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Football Relativity Week 7

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 6 comparison.

Thomas Jones

10 – Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers caught a break but still ended up beating a tough Dolphins team 23-22 on the road. That’s another statement of just how good the Steelers are. The Jets were on bye, and we discussed why the Ravens maintained their spot at the top level in Rise/Sink/Float.

9 – Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, New York Giants (UP A LEVEL) – The Patriots jumped out to a big lead in San Diego and then held on to get a 23-20 road win. Their offense seems to be clicking along just fine without Randy Moss. The Giants fell behind early on Monday night, but came back to win 41-35 against the Cowboys. The Giants’ defense is talented, and when they get their passing game going, they’re tough to beat. The Colts were on bye.

8 – Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints (DOWN A LEVEL), Philadelphia Eagles, Tennessee Titans (UP A LEVEL) – We discussed the Falcons’ credentials in this week’s game thoughts. The Packers are incredibly banged up, but they still pulled out a 28-24 win at home against the Vikings. With the Bears and Vikings imploding, the Packers still have a shot to take the NFC Central, which would be an accomplishment with so many players out for the year. The Saints suffered a devastating home loss to the Browns 30-17, and they are really starting to struggle. They need to turn things around lest they fall too far behind the Falcons and even the (gasp) Buccaneers in the NFC south. The Titans continued their strong play by riding a 27-point fourth quarter to a 37-19 win over the Eagles. We won’t dock the Eagles too much for losing on the road, because the Titans are one of the most impressive teams in the league right now, whether Vince Young or Kerry Collins is under center. The Texans were on bye.

7 – Kansas City Chiefs (UP A LEVEL), Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins (UP A LEVEL) – We discussed the Redskins in Rise/Sink/Float. The Chiefs took care of business against the Jaguars, and with a home game against the Bills this week, K.C. could move to 5-2 and really take control of their playoff destiny. The Dolphins fell to 0-3 at home, although their home schedule has been a murderer’s row this season. Miami is 3-3 despite a tough opening slate, and they’re a quality team that will be dangerous moving forward.

6 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (UP A LEVEL) – The Bucs may not be the NFC’s best team as head coach Raheem Morris claimed, but Tampa has shown an incredible propensity to rally late behind second-year QB Josh Freeman. That led us to make this conclusion via Twitter.

5 – Chicago Bears (DOWN A LEVEL), Dallas Cowboys (DOWN A LEVEL), Minnesota Vikings (DOWN A LEVEL), Seattle Seahawks – The Bears blew a golden chance against the Redskins, throwing four interceptions and losing 17-14 at home. The Bears are 4-3, but they haven’t played nearly as good as that record. The Cowboys not only lost a lead at home against the Giants; they lost Tony Romo to a broken collarbone. They’re now 1-5 with a backup quarterback, and that’s basically the end of their 2010 hopes. The Vikings fell to 2-4 in a close loss at Green Bay, and whether or not Brett Favre plays, they’re not performing well enough righ tnow to be contenders. A weak division means they have a chance, but that circumstance doesn’t change their shoddy performance. The Seahawks continued to ride their home field advantage in a 22-10 win over the Cardinals. If they can continue to win at home all year, they’ll win the NFC West over the Rams.

4 – Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals (DOWN A LEVEL), Denver Broncos (DOWN A LEVEL), Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers (DOWN A LEVEL), St. Louis Rams – The Cardinals lost in Seattle, and they look pretty punchless offensively, whether Max Hall or Derek Anderson is at quarterback. The Bengals rallied from one deficit vs. the Falcons but then lost their brief lead. The defense that carried them last year isn’t nearly the same this year. The Broncos can throw the ball, but they laid the biggest egg of the 2010 NFL season at home against the Raiders. That abysmal performance calls into question whether the Broncos care enough to rally out of their current hole. The Jaguars fought gamely against the Chiefs with a third-string quarterback, but ultimately they fell to a good team. The Chargers tried to rally against the Patriots but fell short when a game-tying kick clanked off the upright in the final seconds. The Chargers keep making mistakes that kill them each and every week. The Rams lost a 14-point lead against the Buccaneers. The Rams’ next step is to step up on the road, but the good news is that they’re moving in the right direction despite this loss.

3 – Cleveland Browns (UP A LEVEL), Oakland Raiders (UP A LEVEL) – Both of these teams move up after impressive road wins. The Browns used two interception returns by David Bowens and a crazy kicker to win in New Orleans, while the Raiders ran it down the Broncos’ throats en route to a 59-point outburst. How these teams build on these wins will determine how much further they rise.

2 – Carolina Panthers (UP A LEVEL), Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Panthers got their first win thanks to a comeback against the 49ers that resulted in a 23-20 win. If Matt Moore can continue to perform well, the Panthers may add a few wins the rest of the season. The 49ers, meanwhile, keep dropping games and now must find some way to reverse momentum. The Lions were on bye.

1 – Buffalo Bills – The Bills performed well offensively against the Ravens, but they ultimately lost in overtime. You have to admire the Bills’ feistiness, but they just don’t have enough, especially defensively, to overcome quality teams.

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