Tuesday, September 24, 2013

NFL Week 3 Snap Judgments

We're now three weeks in to the season already, and the good teams are now starting to separate themselves from the bad teams in the league.  After Week 4, I may switch up my Snap Judgments a bit more, but I will refrain from talking about details over that until next week.

1. If you want to check out the bad teams, start with the Giants.  If anyone had told me on Friday the Giants would not only lose to the Panthers, but be shut out 38-0, I'd have laughed in their face.  I don't even know what the Giants' main problem is.  They're obviously turning the ball over at alarming rates, but is that a by-product of awful offensive line play?  Eli making bad decisions again?  The defense failing to make plays and stop opposing offenses?  I know I wouldn't want to be watching film of Sunday's game with Tom Coughlin this week, that's for sure.

2. In fact, the Goat of the Week Award goes to the Giants' offensive line.  Through three games, Eli Manning has been sacked a total of 10 times.  That puts him on pace for 53 sacks on the season, which is a brutal beating for any quarterback to take.  He's also thrown 8 interceptions thus far, which isn't always directly related to poor o-line play, but he's certainly been forced to make some bad throws thanks to his line not protecting him.

3. I was originally going to say the Browns were playing for a .500 season in 2018, but they actually have a little fight in them.  Arguably the biggest surprise of the weekend was the Browns' offense giving the Vikings the business.  Bryan Hoyer - Bryan Hoyer!!! - looked like a competent quarterback, and could possibly have the starting job the rest of the season, given how the organization clearly is not enamored with Brandon Weeden.  Trading away their best offensive weapon in Trent Richardson looked like a sign the team was waving the white flag in Week 3, but they can clearly put some points on the board. They will still likely end up with a top 10 pick (and maybe even a top 5 pick) in the draft next year, but they aren't the pushover they were perceived to be.

4. The Ravens' defense has brushed off the cobwebs.  After a dismal opening game in Denver, the Ravens' defense has started to show just how good it can be.  They haven't allowed a touchdown in their last two games, including this weekend's dominant performance against the high-powered Houston offense.  They took Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, De'Andre Hopkins, and Owen Daniels out of the game.  And not to be outdone, but Marshall Yanda on the offensive line also took out Houston's best defensive player in J.J. Watt.  That's a very impressive feat.

5. Meanwhile, just who are the Texans?  They managed to win their first two games on their final possessions, including an overtime win over the Titans last week.  This week, they struggled to move the ball after the first quarter, and even with the offensive weapons they have they couldn't find the end zone at all.  They were heavily expected to beat the Ravens, but once again they could not beat one of the top tier teams in the AFC.  I still stand by my prediction that the Colts win the AFC South this year, and the Texans are forced to fight for one of the Wild Card spots.

6. Raise your hands if you expected the Dolphins, Chiefs, Bears, and Saints to be 3-0 at this point so I may promptly bop you on the head for lying to my face.  It's easy to proclaim the Chiefs as the most improved team in the NFL this year since they've already eclipsed their entire win total from last year, but how 'bout them Dolphins?  Did anyone think they'd be 3-0 at this point, beating the likes of the Colts and Falcons along the way?  The Bears and Saints are less surprising, though the Bears' first two wins were pretty miraculous.  All four of these teams will likely be in the hunt for the playoffs come December, and I'm even more convinced now that the Dolphins will wind up winning the AFC East than I was prior to the season starting.

7. The 49ers could be in real trouble.  I've seen quite a bit of discussion over the fact that the 49ers are under .500 for the first time under Jim Harbaugh as head coach.  To say such a statement is an insane overreaction is putting things mildly.  However, they are going to be without Aldon Smith for the foreseeable future following his DUI last week, which means their pass rush will take a major blow.  Their next 4 games include at St. Louis, Houston and Arizona at home, and then at Tennessee.  If they went 2-2 during that span I'd be impressed, though that still wouldn't get them back to .500.

8. When was the last time you saw a game where a team was penalized 20 times and still won?  I caught the tail end of the Jets/Bills game, around the point where the Bills had scored a touchdown and a game-tying 2-point conversation midway through the 4th quarter.  Had the Jets gone on to lose the game, Kyle Wilson would have easily been the Goat of the Week for me since he had committed three back-to-back-to-back personal foul penalties on Stevie Johnson.  He was eventually taken back to the sidelines to cool off, and amazingly the Jets still held on to win the game despite being so undisciplined on the field.  I'm really surprised the Jets are 2-1 at this point, though I expect reality will settle in over the next few weeks for them.

9. Another game, another incredible performance by Peyton Manning.  Honestly, is anyone getting tired of what to say about Peyton?  I think I'm out of words to describe him without resorting to cliche after cliche.  I have to admit, I'm at the point where I care more to see what he can do come December and January than what he can do in September.  He has crashed and burned in the playoffs far more often than not, so until I see him able to play at or near this kind of level in cold weather I will remain skeptical over Denver's chances of playing in Super Bowl 48.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

NFL Week 2 Snap Judgments

Week 2 has already come and gone, and here are my thoughts...

1. Stop me if you heard this before, but an entire division stunk except for a single wide receiver.  Last week it was the AFC North; this week was the NFC East's turn.  If not for a crazy day from Dez Bryant, the entire division laid an egg.  Oh sure, the Eagles put 30 points up on the board thanks to big days from LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, but the defense gave up 419 yards passing to Philip Rivers.  Not many football teams will win a game while giving up that kind of yardage.  The Giants continued turning over the ball which led to their demise, and the Redskins couldn't save a turkey from becoming Thanksgiving dinner.  In fact, speaking of the Redskins...

2. What do the Redskins do with RGIII?  From a fantasy football perspective, I wanted nothing to do with drafting RGIII as my quarterback on any of my teams.  He hadn't played a down in any football game since January, and spent the entire off-season rehabbing his knee.  He didn't play at all during the preseason either, so there were bound to be cobwebs and rusty play for at least the first week or so.  Still, yesterday he looked very uncomfortable throwing the football and avoiding any hits.  Tony Dungy even said on Sunday Night Football that the Redskins should consider benching him after next week if he continues to play poorly.  Personally, I think that's extremely premature, but the Redskins also can't afford to continue digging a deeper hole for them while waiting for RGIII to get back into playing shape.

3. The Patriots are in serious trouble.  When was the last time those words found themselves in the same sentence?  I expected the Patriots to take a step backwards this season given their extremely weak group of receivers, but even I was surprised at how bad they looked last Thursday night against the Jets.  I'm a firm believer in the Bill Parcells philosophy of "You are what your record says you are," but barely squeaking by the Bills and Jets is a huge concern for a team who was in the Super Bowl two years ago, and was in the AFC Championship Game last year.  Miami is looking really good after their first two games, which puts the Patriots in the position of someone actually breathing down their necks.  That's a very foreign situation for them.

4. The rest of the NFC could face a daunting task if the Seahawks wind up with the #1 seed in the playoffs.  The Seahawks' home field advantage has always been somewhat skewed due to how sound travels in their stadium.  I don't know much about the mechanics or engineering of it, except that the stadium's design and location near water makes sound much louder than most other NFL stadiums.  It showed Sunday night thanks to Seahawks fans aiming for setting new noise records during a game.  That would disrupt any opposing team's communication from the sidelines to the field.  Even though we're a long way off from January, the Seahawks have shown over the last few years they are extremely tough to beat in their own house.

5. The Goat of the Week Award goes to the CBS affiliate station WKMG in Orlando.  This is a really outside the box pick, but check this out.  How pathetic is that if a station in the Jaguars' home market has to apologize for the "inconvenience" of showing the Jaguars game instead of the Broncos/Giants game?  Maybe the more appropriate goat is the Jaguars for being as awful a team as they are, but I think it's pretty telling if a local network knows how bad the team is and feels ashamed for being contractually obligated to televise them.

6. The Cardiac Kodiaks have been pretty remarkable so far.  Seeing how the Bears have made two fairly big comebacks in the first two weeks of the season, I'm reminded of a two-week stretch for the Bears way back in 2001:

Incidentally, how much better was NFL Prime Time with only Chris Berman and Tom Jackson?  Man, those were the good ol' days.  Sigh....

7. Ron Rivera can't last much longer in Carolina.  This season marks the third year for the Panthers with Ron Rivera as head coach, and it's the third straight year they've started slow.  They find new and bizarre ways to blow leads late in games, putting themselves in a deep hole by mid-season.  The last couple years, they find some kind of stride fairly late in the season and wind up winning 5 or 6 of their final few games.  If they lose next weekend and start 0-3 - which is a real possibility since they are playing against the desperate Giants - ownership may have to consider making a coaching change at some point this season.

8. I wouldn't be surprised if the Chiefs wound up winning double-digit games at this point.  I know, talk about jumping to potentially irrational conclusions.  But considering the Chiefs have already equaled last season's win total - albeit one of those games was against Jacksonville - they're clearly one of the most improved teams in the NFL right now.  Plus, they have yet to turn the ball over even once.  Don't get me wrong, though; I don't necessarily think they are good enough to win the AFC West yet, but they could very well compete for a Wild Card come December.

9. The Todd Haley Experiment in Pittsburgh is imploding.  I'm not sure if there's any one thing that's caused the Steelers to struggle so much in the first two games of the season.  The offensive line is clearly a weakness, so I can't imagine that the line coach will have a job there much longer.  But when the offense (and the team as a whole) only scores two touchdowns through the first two games of a season, that's about the worst kind of omen.  Even as a Ravens fan, I wouldn't have expected this kind of showing from the Steelers for a prolonged period of time.  The Steelers usually have one down year in every 5-year span or so, but last year's struggles have slopped over into this season, and there's no sign of things changing any time soon.  The Steelers are back at home next week against Chicago, so there's a real chance they could find themselves at 0-3.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

NFL Week 1 Snap Judgments

This was an idea that I had for last season, but it never got off the ground.  I didn't want to start mid-season in writing my weekly recaps and thoughts, so I figured I'd hold off till now to get it going.  Hopefully I won't run out of steam during the course of the season at all.

It's worth noting that almost all these thoughts are going to be unfair given we're only 1 week into the season, but that's what snap judgments are for.

1. The AFC North looked absolutely awful this weekend aside from A.J. Green.  I'm super grateful that I have A.J. Green on a couple fantasy teams of mine, but wow.  The Ravens fell apart in the second half of their season opener Thursday night in Denver; Cincinnati couldn't hold on to a 21-17 lead in the 4th quarter against Chicago; and Pittsburgh and Cleveland were both so bad on offense they were offensive to offenses around the league.  A.J. Green was the lone bright spot for the entire division this weekend, and he put his team on his shoulders in an effort to win on Sunday.  The rest of the team just couldn't back him up.

2. What did I say about Larry Fitzgerald?  I told you in my season predictions that Larry Fitzgerald will be the Comeback Player of the Year now that he has a quarterback who can actually play the position.  I know, it's only one game, but he looked every bit as awesome Sunday as he did with Kurt Warner. 'Nuff said.

3. Even with replay and the actual officials, we will always have blown calls in games.  I'm talking about the blunder in offsetting penalties in the Green Bay/San Francisco game.  Hey, I would never claim to know the rule book in the NFL, and I don't envy the refs who have to make calls like that on the field at a moment's notice.  But when refs have time to blow a call even after having time to review the play and discuss it before making an official announcement during the game, that's a major black eye.  I don't know what the solution to the problem is, but I'd really hate to see what would happen in a playoff game or the Super Bowl if such a blown call affected the outcome somehow.

4. I might have picked the wrong team to go 0-16.  I said in my predictions that the Raiders have a chance at going 0-16 this year, assuming they don't beat the Jaguars in Week 2.  Ironically, now it looks like it's the Jaguars who look more likely to go 0-16 if they don't win this coming weekend in Oakland.  I'm not sure which position(s) they need to address in order to become a competitive team again, but they somehow managed to look less competitive than the Raiders did.  And that's saying something.

5. The Goat of the Week Award has to go to Lavonte David.  The Bucs were up 17-15 with less than a minute to play in the game when Jets QB Geno Smith scrambled for 10 yards.  He was on his way out of bounds when Lavonte David of the Bucs pushed Smith, even though Smith was already out of bounds.  That kind of play will always get a flag for unnecessary roughness, which tacked on 15 yards on the end of the play, putting the Jets in field goal range.  With 34 seconds left on the clock, the Jets kicked a game-winning field goal, thanks to the dumb penalty on David.  Nice one, Lavonte.  You not only cost your team the game, but I bet a lot of people playing Survivor leagues in fantasy football were eliminated in Week 1 thanks to you (I took the Colts, so I'm safe).

6. The Broncos will be really good again, but I still don't trust their defense.  They will be without Von Miller for another 5 weeks, and I don't know when Champ Bailey is expected to come back from his injury.  Still, they're going to win 11 or 12 games this season.  However, I don't think they're a Super Bowl team because of their defensive issues and Peyton Manning's history of collapsing in the playoffs.  Don't get me wrong, though - Peyton Manning was by far the single best player who took the field in Week 1.

7.  I'm not sure what to make of the Bills/Patriots game.  The Bills have played the Patriots close in a few games over the last couple years, and they've fooled me into thinking they could pull off the upset in the past.  However, I've made no secret over how down I am on the Patriots this year, so the question here is where do the Bills' positives end and the Patriots' negatives begin?  Danny Amendola wasted no time in pulling a groin injury during the game (though he did return after a brief absence), so it's only a question of when he winds up injuring himself to the point of having to miss a couple weeks.  The Patriots still did what they have done countless times in the past, and that's kick a game-winning field goal late in the 4th quarter.

8. The only reason why the Eagles might not win the NFC East is because of their defense.  I'm still sticking to my prediction of the Eagles pulling off the improbable by winning their division this year.  I'm actually more confident of my prediction now than I was prior to this weekend, though it's clear the team's major weakness is its defense.  How else does a team at one point lead a game 33-7, and then wind up with a final score of 33-27?  Despite this glaring weakness though, I am still believing in the team winning the division and making the playoffs.

9. Nearly all these snap judgments will be moot a month from now.  That's the great irony to Week 1.  Football fans and talking heads are all so excited to have the new season start, but after the first weekend, teams are either looking like Super Bowl champions or utter disasters.  Eyes are particularly on the defending champs, and plenty of writers and fans are wondering if they'll even make the playoffs this season.  Reality is always somewhere between extremes, and I think the Ravens will still win the AFC North and make a deep playoff run.  Accuse me of wearing purple-colored glasses all you like, but they won't be as awful as they were in the second half of the game Thursday night.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Recognizing My Greatest Fault

I wrote a while back about my intention to find a therapist after a recent issue that came up with me.  I haven't talked about it since because most of our discussions so far have been too personal for me to want to write about them openly on here.  This week's session, however, really shed some light on a big picture issue that I've been somewhat aware of for a long time, yet chose to ignore.

As far back as I can remember, I've avoided conflict as much as possible.  I've long thought of myself as a very agreeable and easy-going person, one who doesn't let too much get under his skin.  If someone did something to hurt me, I'm more than willing to forgive and forget, provided the person recognizes what he/she had done was wrong and hurt me in the process.  I've never been a person who has either been comfortable with or enjoyed chewing someone else out, even if I'm in the right.  I hated the idea of getting emotionally worked up over something to the point of really getting angry, only to find out my anger wasn't justified in the first place.  I often talked myself out of being angry, thinking I was being mature and level-headed in analyzing the situation in question, and then deciding if it was really worth getting upset over at all.  More often than not, I opted for burying the hatchet and moving on.  Life was too short and precious in my eyes to agonize over someone hurting my feelings.

Trouble is, this line of thinking formed a pattern of passive aggressiveness.  It's clearly been a part of my life since childhood, and it's affected many relationships over the course of my life - dating and otherwise - and even now in the present.  My fear of rocking the boat morphed into fears like making bad decisions, saying something that I would regret later, and an inability to really express my feelings to others.  Having a preoccupation of being a people pleaser at my own sanity's expense was anything but healthy, even though in my mind I was convinced I was taking the high road in avoiding expressing anger.

Up until now, my therapist has allowed me to talk about any subject that I wanted to discuss, but this week's session she took a left turn.  She said now that we've been meeting for several weeks, she's gotten a feel for who I am as a person, how I'm likely to respond in certain situations, and what kinds of comments or recommendations she has for me.  She gave me a homework assignment to do in preparation for our next meeting, and I have to research passive aggressive behavior.

So far, the one piece of information that caught my attention the most was a form of covert abuse.  When the word "abuse" comes to mind, I always picture something of a physical or emotional nature. It's very direct, and easily identifiable.

This kind of abuse is much, much different.  From what I've read, it involves behaviors like forgetfulness, blaming, procrastination, lack of anger, and victimization - all of which I've definitely been guilty of in the past.  While I'm sure that I wasn't fully aware of what I was doing at the time, it doesn't change the fact that what I did was hurtful and selfish.  The crappy part is that most people probably wouldn't get too upset with me if I simply chose to speak my mind and communicate my feelings.

I almost didn't want to write about this because the subject could easily turn into one of two things: a pity party or a cry for attention.  It certainly isn't meant to be either of those; I'm finally being honest with myself, and this blog is probably the most healthy venue to get my thoughts out.  I mentioned this blog to my therapist last week too, and she agreed that it's a good way to get my emotions out when I need to, even if I write a post that I opt not to openly publish (which I have done several times).

I don't expect or want a pat on the back for making this kind of realization.  If anything, I'm hoping that this opens the door for more breakthroughs that are for my benefit, even if the initial reveal isn't something pleasant.  Then again, there's little point in trying to become mentally healthy if I don't confront some unpleasant things about myself at all.