Monday, October 26, 2015

NFL 2015 Week 7 Snap Judgments

As boring an opening as this will be, Tom Brady was something special yesterday.  The Patriots hosted their divisional rival Jets on Sunday, and for a while the score showed the Jets had a shot at winning the game.  Then reality set in, and the Patriots took over in the 4th quarter.  Brady's stats for the game were pretty standard for him - 34-of-54 for 355 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no picks - but he was also the Patriots' leading rusher on the day (4 carries for 15 yards, which otherwise would be pretty laughable if that was any team's leading rushing number).  The Patriots went into the game knowing they wouldn't be able to run the ball on the Jets, so they didn't really bother with it.  Instead, Brady dropped back to pass on 90.9% of the Patriots' offensive plays, but that's not even the most mind-blowing stat of that game.  In the last 10 years, Brady is 4-0 when he drops back to pass at least 80% of the time in a game.  The rest of the league?  3-109.

Is there any question as to who is this week's MVP?

1. The Dolphins are a radically different team under Dan Campbell.  Once is a fluke, but twice is a trend.  The Dolphins blew out the Titans last week 38-10, and jumped out to a 41-0 lead over Houston yesterday before the Texans put up some garbage points and made the final 44-26.  Ryan Tannehill might have been the MVP of the Week had it not been for Brady.  Incidentally, the Dolphins play Thursday night in New England, so Campbell's new hard-ass attitude will get its real first test after the last two opponents rolled over on Miami.

2. The Goat of the Week is Ryan Mallet.  When the Texans had acquired Mallet from New England a couple years ago, I thought they had their long term quarterback of the future.  Shows how little I know about football.  In Mallet's tenure so far with Houston, Mallet missed a practice during training camp after he lost the starting QB job to Brian Hoyer; news later came out that Mallet had missed the practice because he claimed he had overslept.  This past weekend, Mallet missed the team flight to Miami and had to fly commercial on his own, claiming he was stuck in traffic along the way.  Houston would have been blown out by Miami even if Mallet had taken the field, but his unprofessional attitude has been showing itself pretty heavily.  For a guy who spent his first three years in the league in New England and studying under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, you'd think he would conduct himself more maturely.  Then again, Belichick might have seen some warning signs in Mallet during those years, which was why they had no problem shipping him off to Houston.

3. The Raiders are a whole lot better than most anyone thought.  Well, maybe everyone except Jack Del Rio.  They are certainly not the laughing stock they've been for well over a decade.  Derek Carr is a quality quarterback.  Rookie Amari Cooper is a stud wide receiver in the making.  Their offensive line can adequately protect Carr and even make a block when necessary.  They may not win the AFC West this year since Denver has a pretty solid stranglehold, but they're a whole lot closer to competing for the division title than anyone could have guessed going into this season.

4. Rex Ryan just doesn't qualify as a head coach in the NFL. Oh, he's an excellent defensive mind, but the Jets offense was terrible under his coaching, and the Bills offense is equally inept.  The Bills even have much better playmakers than anyon Ryan had in New York in LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins, though Watkins has battled injury this season and has missed three games.  The point here is that Ryan is a coach who is much better suited as a coordinator and not a head coach, similar to Wade Phillips, Norv Turner, and Romeo Crennel.  Ryan just hasn't yet figured that fact out for himself yet.

5. I wasn't as wrong as I thought I was about the Giants.  For the first couple weeks of the season, the Giants looked like one of the worst teams in the league, unable to protect 4th quarter leads.  They are now 4-1 in their last 5 games, and made Matt Cassel a turnover machine on Sunday.  Their defense is pretty terrible, but their offense can put enough points on the board that they can compete with most teams in the league.  Nobody in the NFC East is going to win more than 10 games this season, but the Giants have enough that they could be the last NFC East team standing in January.

6. Don't crown the Seahawks as officially back yet.  The Seahawks did beat up a hapless 49ers team Thursday night (how did that same 49ers team beat the Ravens again?), but Russell Wilson was still sacked five times and he threw two interceptions on the night.  Wilson has been sacked 31 times already this season, and he's within striking distance of the single season record set by David Carr in 2002 (76).  Marshawn Lynch is still the most important player on that offense, so if he can still run the ball effectively the Seahawks will be in the mix for the playoffs, but Russell Wilson is taking way too many hits on his dropbacks.

7. The Steelers are primed to go on a major win streak.  Ben Roethlisberger could return for the Steelers next game, a showdown against the unbeaten Bengals in Pittsburgh. If he plays, get ready for a big win streak for the Steelers.  Four of their next five games are at home, with their bye week and a road game in Seattle in that stretch.  It's very possible they could win all five games, leading into their second game versus Cincinnati on the road.  They managed to tread water without Ben the last four games, which is really all they had needed.  They had just better hope Ben doesn't re-injure himself the rest of the season.

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