Fact, Fiction and Farce Heading into NFL Week 11
Fiction: The new emphasis on player safety will keep quarterbacks upright.
Farce: Ties in NFL games.
Alright folks, it is that time of the week once again to highlight which popular NFL topics are a fact and which are a fiction, while also pointing out what is just a straight-up farce.
Here are 10 nuggets which will help prepare you for glorious comprehension of the state of the league and fantasy football dominance.
Ben Roethlisberger's Injury Will Doom the Steelers
Don't expect Ben Roethlisberger back on the field anytime soon. Roethlisberger's toughness and ability to play through pain is unquestioned, but this injury is different.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette explains the situation succinctly with this tweet.
#Steelers Ben Roethlisberger has a rare rib injury that could kill him by pressing against his aorta. Too big risk. Has to wait until heals
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) November 14, 2012
Now, I'm no doctor, but I feel confident in saying it is best to avoid puncturing the aorta. Obviously, there is no circumstance that would warrant Big Ben stepping onto the field while that remains a possibility.
Rotoworld's Evan Silva gives us an idea of how long this healing process could take.
Per ESPN's Bob Holtzman, doctors have advised Big Ben to not return until his rib is completely healed, and "that could take up to 6 weeks."
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) November 14, 2012
It is hard to overstate how much this will effect the Steelers. Big Ben is currently on a very short list for MVP candidates. He has held this Steelers' offense together while enjoying what has been his finest season in a stellar career.
While Byron Leftwich is an experienced backup, this offense will have to completely change. Under Roethlisberger, the Steelers have seen many of their biggest plays come from the zany improvisation of Ben.
Leftwich does not have that ability. Shoot, it takes him about eight seconds just to go through his throwing motion when standing still.
If it does take Roethlisberger six weeks to get back on the field, that would take us to Week 17. That would leave the Steelers scrambling to regain continuity for the playoffs and that is if they can even make the postseason.
The Steelers will play the Ravens twice in the next three weeks. They also have a game at Dallas in Week 15 and then will host division rival Cincinnati in Week 16.
Pittsburgh now faces a tough road to the playoffs.
The Jets Need to Stop Talking About Tim Tebow
Really, we should all just stop talking about Tim Tebow, but the Jets especially need to.
That is clearly not happening. In a recent report by Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News there were several quotes from Jets, mostly anonymous, like the following:
It would take extreme poor play...something where it was just ridiculous. It would take Mark to totally just **** the bed and become unglued [before there was a quarterback change].
Look, I get these guys are sick to death of questions about Tebow, but deal with it and be professional. And at the very least, just don't comment.
I agree with them that Tebow is a terrible quarterback, and there is no way he could succeed in that offense, but that is exactly why the Jets need to just stay mum on Tebow.
The Jets have lost five of six. This isn't because of quarterback play. It isn't because of the distractions.
This team is bad; they lack talent and no one is rising to the occasion. How about just passing on the topic of Tebow and saying everyone needs to step up.
These comments don't help anything. They lack accountability, and it just shows the fractured nature of a sinking team.
The Saints Can Still Make the Playoffs
I've been writing off the Saints all season, and I am going to continue to do so, but with a caveat. This team has recovered from their poor start far better than I ever envisioned. They deserve a ton of credit for that.
The problem is, they play in the NFC, and it is going to be a hotly contested race to get into the playoffs. There are currently seven teams in the NFC at 6-4 or better, and the Buccaneers are right behind them at 5-4.
It is going to take a 10-6 record to get into the NFC playoffs this year, and at 4-5, the Saints have next to no room for error.
The Saints will play the Raiders this week, and then they start a tough stretch as they will host the 49ers, play at the Falcons and Giants, host the Bucs, play at the Cowboys and then wrap up with a game against the Panthers.
There is no way the Saints' offense can overcome the shortcomings of this defense to not lose at least two of those games.
The Surging Buccaneers Will Make the Playoffs
Winners of three straight, the Buccaneers are now 5-4 and just a half game back of the sixth-seeded Seattle Seahawks.
What a remarkable turnaround from last year. Still, despite the emergence of this big-play offense, the Buccaneers do not have the power to make the playoffs.
The Bucs' five wins this season haven't exactly come against the cream of the crop, and of those five, only Minnesota has a winning record. In fact, the combined record of those five teams is 16-29.
The Bucs' schedule is about to get much more difficult. They have two against the Falcons and games at Denver and New Orleans among their final seven games.
What do all those teams have in common? They can pass the ball.
This is not good for the Bucs and their 32nd-ranked pass defense.
This will be too much for the Bucs to overcome. They already have four losses, and can only afford three more to have any chance at the playoffs. And I don't even think 9-7 will cut it in the NFC this year.
This year has been a rousing success for the Buccaneers, but let's not get carried away with playoff talks yet.
The Bengals Have No Shot at Making the Playoffs
Here comes the AFC West to save the Bengals.
Cincinnati is a disappointing 4-5 on the season, and they have looked straight terrible at times this season. The offense has battled long stretches of ineffectiveness and the defense has been routinely victimized.
Well, they looked fantastic while demolishing the defending champion Giants last week and now they have a chance to keep that momentum rolling against the members of the AFC West that do not have Peyton Manning at the helm.
The Bengals' next three games are at Kansas City (1-8), vs. Oakland (3-6) and at San Diego (4-5). They could and should win all three of those.
That would put them at 7-5 and right in the thick of the playoff race. They then have two more winnable games following that as they will host Dallas and then travel to Philly.
They will close the season with tough games at Pittsburgh and hosting the Ravens, but by then, this should be a hot and confident team.
The Jacksonville Jaguars
As the bountiful empty seats in Jacksonville during the fourth quarter of another noncompetitive loss to the Colts last Thursday will attest, the Jaguars are a disgrace.
This team lacks direction and it is giving its fans nothing to feel good about.
Jacksonville has not finished a season over .500 since 2007. The hope of an up-and-coming 8-8 team in 2010 was quickly erased by a five-win team last year and this current group of ineffective players.
Things have gotten so bad for the Jags that fans are now forced to tolerate this bit of malarkey from their head coach, Mike Mularkey. The Associated Press' Mark Long shared this quote via Twitter:
Mularkey says #Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert is making "a real serious attempt to grow at that position."
— Mark Long (@APMarkLong) November 14, 2012
Oh, well that's good. As long as he is serious about the job he is getting paid millions to do and currently sucking at, the Jaguars should be in good hands.
Gabbert is terrible, and less than two seasons into his career, it is already time for the Jaguars to move on.
Let us not forget that this year's No. 1 draft pick for Jacksonville, Justin Blackmon, is also looking like he was way over drafted. The one player for fans to feel good about, Maurice Jones-Drew, is injured, and the franchise has shown no interest in showing the gratitude he deserves in the form of a contract.
This team is systematically disconnecting from its fans and the product they are putting on the field is only getting worse.
Nick Foles Will Make the Philadelphia Eagles Better
With each passing fumble and loss there has been a growing faction of fans calling for rookie Nick Foles to take over the starting quarterback job in Philadelphia from Michael Vick.
Well, those fans will likely get their wish this week as Michael Vick tries to battle back from a concussion. However, as Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reports, head coach Andy Reid is unwilling to rule him out of Sunday's game.
Either way, the fact remains that Nick Foles will not turn the Eagles' season around.
This is not a knock on Foles. The tall, strong-armed QB has big potential, but he won't be able to live up to that potential on this team. The Eagles have no pass blocking!
The offensive line has been dealing with injuries and severe ineffectiveness. Having allowed 77 QB hits this season, the Eagles far and away are the worst team in the league in this category.
That is the same line that would be blocking for the relatively immobile, rookie quarterback in Foles.
If there is a quicker way to destroy a young quarterback than with poor blocking, I have not seen it. It leads to a skittish nature, bad footwork, a poor release and bad decision making.
Foles was a not terrible 22-for-32 passing with 219 yards, a touchdown and an interception while filling in for Vick last week, but those aren't numbers that will turn the Eagles' season around, and those numbers aren't going to improve while Foles is playing behind this offensive line.
Vernon Davis' Fantasy Decline Is Here to Stay
Vernon Davis was a fantasy stud the first three weeks of the season. He scored at least one touchdown in each of those games, and was putting up decent catch and yardage numbers to go with it.
He has not scored a touchdown since and over his last three games, he is averaging just two catches per game.
The reason for the decline is not due to Davis, and this is why the decline is here to stay, at least for this season.
The opposition has made guarding Davis a priority, especially in the red zone, and with the 49ers' beefed up passing game, there is not a need to force the ball to Davis.
Check out this telling stat, which was brought to light by ESPN's Mike Sando: Since Week 3, Davis has been targeted in the red zone precisely zero times, while six other 49ers have been targeted in the red zone at least one time.
This stands in huge contrast to last year, when, as Sando points out, Davis was second on the team in red-zone targets.
It's not just the red zone either. Sando also drops this gem:
Overall, Davis accounted for 22.1 percent of the 49ers' pass targets last season. That has fallen to 16.4 percent this season. The 49ers are targeting wide receivers 59.9 percent of the time, up from 53.2 percent last season. The target percentage for tight ends has fallen from 29.9 percent to 25 percent.
Davis remains a supremely talented player, but his role in this offense has evolved and his fantasy production has taken a major hit as a result.
Ryan Tannehill Is a Big-Time Playmaker
Ryan Tannehill is throwing the best deep ball in the league. I know, I'm just as shocked as you about this.
This isn't a subjective claim on my part either. ESPN's James Walker hits us with this nugget:
Tannehill leads the NFL in long-ball accuracy, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He's completed 54.2 percent of passes 21 yards or more and has a 127.1 passer rating when throwing deep.
What an impressive display from a rookie, who I didn't think should see the field this season given his inexperience at the college level.
Making these numbers even more impressive is the fact that he isn't exactly chucking deep balls to Calvin Johnson.
The Dolphins' leading receivers are Brian Hartline and Davone Bess.
There is a lot more to playing quarterback than throwing a great deep ball, and Tannehill still has plenty of strides to make. But combine this talent with his athleticism and it's clear this guy is going to be an exciting presence in this league for years to come.
The Chicago Bears Are in Trouble
I feared for the Bears' season before Jay Cutler's latest concussion. Now, I'm just convinced they are headed towards an abrupt disappointment.
Now, hopefully Cutler will quickly pass this concussion and get back on the field, but as CBS' Gene Chamberlain points out, the concussions are mounting for Cutler, and with the Bears' less-than-stellar pass blocking, Cutler will be just one snap away from another concussion.
But let's move away from Cutler's injury. The Bears have other things working against them.
The Bears are an impressive 7-2, but the two best teams they have played, the Packers and Texans, have dealt the Bears a loss. Chicago's schedule is only going to get more difficult.
They have two games with the Vikings, will host the Seahawks and Packers, and then end the season with two straight road games against the Cardinals and Lions.
What is especially troubling about the Bears' chances is that their hot start was a bit of smoke and mirrors.
A huge part of the Bears' success has come via turnovers. They lead the league with 3.3 turnovers forced per game.
While there is unquestionable a talent involved in forcing turnovers, this is a pace the Bears cannot uphold. These things have a way of evening out a bit, and it is harder to force turnovers against more quality opponents.
Also, the Bears have turned an insane amount of these turnovers into points. They have a league-leading and unsustainable 0.8 defensive touchdowns per game. Last year the Bears tied for the league lead with 0.4.
The Bears built up insanely high expectations with their promising start—expectations they simply aren't good enough to fulfill.