NFL Week Seven: Pressures, Hurries, and Knockdowns
I'm feeling pretty good this week after my Raiders showed up and played with pride and passion in beating the Eagles last weekend. I'm also tempering my enthusiasm for a turnaround until we see how they play this weekend.
Speaking of the Jets...
New York Jets
So the "Sanchize" has come crashing back down to earth after his first three weeks in the NFL which were filled with impressive third down conversions, TD passes, GQ spreads, supermodel interaction, and Rex Ryan jokes.
Nobody's laughing now. Except maybe the Pats, Bills, and Dolphins.
The kid is a rookie, and a talented one. He's looked far more like a rookie in the last few weeks than he did in the first three, when he was coming through in the clutch and protecting the ball. He'll get back on track; but this weekend's game is crucial not only for Sanchez, but for the entire Jets team.
Rex Ryan is entertaining. He reminds you of one of your uncles, the one who's always bragging about everything because he's good at stuff and oozes confidence. He's usually drunk, and often fat like Ryan (his athletic glory days behind him). But always loud. always blustery, and always entertaining.
After flapping his gums and motivating his team to come out of the gates hard, Ryan has been unable to pull a victory out of this team in the last three weeks. They downright blew it last weekend, wasting a phenomenal effort by Thomas Jones on the ground by turning the ball over 20,000 times and playing uninspired and often porous defense. Ryan must be so mad right now, he can barely eat a couple of briskets.
The departure of Ryan from the Ravens is having a two-fold effect. The Ravens defense is a shell of their former self, and the Jets defense isn't scaring anyone anymore. That beautiful marriage ended in amicable divorce, and now both parties are trying to adjust to life without the other.
They've also lost Kris Jenkins for the season, a huge blow. Jenkins is a beast in the middle who clogs running lanes, but more importantly occupies the big dogs up front to allow the fast and active Jets linebackers to make plays unabated. His presence will be missed in many ways by many players.
They travel across the country to Oakland this weekend to play their annual Heidi reminder against the Raiders. Don't be surprised if the talking heads spend more time (especially on CBS) showing clips and discussing the Heidi game than breaking down the actual matchup. It's a little ridiculous, actually. I digress.
The Raiders are coming off their best performance of the season so far, beating the Eagles 13-9. The Raiders offense is still struggling, but their defense is looking very solid.
With the Raiders' reputation as a terrible team, this is a must-win game for the Jets. So many people were anointing them after they beat the Patriots. Hell, they were anointing themselves. Now that they realize they're not quite an elite team yet, they need to come in and beat a team that most people feel they should beat.
With Sanchez and the defense struggling, look for Thomas Jones and Leon Washington to pound the rock. The Raiders have long had troubles stopping the run (like Lindsay Lohan has had trouble staying sober; or attractive) so it stands to reason that it'll be a heavy dose of run, run, run.
The pressure is on Sanchez to regain some of the magic of his first three weeks, and to hold onto the ball and make smart decisions. A California kid, he's coming back home to nicer weather and that may allow him to throw the ball better.
But it hasn't just been his throws; he's been so jittery, confused, and scared in the pocket that it's downright pitiful at times. And trust me, as a Raider fan, I know what I'm talking about in that regard thanks to JaMarcus Russell (whom I still support and think will be great).
The pressure is also squarely on Ryan. He talked a big game and backed it up at first. But his words are ringing more hollow every week, and nobody likes a braggart that doesn't come through. He needs this team to play better to avoid personal embarrassment.
The pressure is on this squad to show they are more like the Jets of the first three weeks than of the last. If they lose to a Raider team who I personally (for obvious reasons) think will win this game, then they will be below .500, and will have lost to a team with a reputation for being terrible.
All that will spell a very unpleasant plane ride back to New York, and depending on the role Sanchez plays in a victory or loss, the removal (for now) of the "Sanchize" tag.
Fans in Philadelphia are as spoiled as they are fickle. Despite consistently posting top-10 numbers, winning more than he loses, and guiding his team to the playoffs year in and out, whenever McNabb has a poor game like he did last Sunday against the Raiders, Eagle fans want to toss him on the slag heap like so much garbage.
Attention, Eagle fans. You're in Super Bowl contention almost yearly. McNabb is a great quarterback who wins games for your team. Would you rather have Derek Anderson? Or Brady Quinn? JaMarcus? I can guarantee with those guys, at this point, you're not a playoff team.
No, you've become spoiled, and with the play of Kevin Kolb, when McNabb went down with his rib injury weeks 2-3, you now have a viable backup and all the more ire to throw at Donovan when he doesn't perform well.
Maybe it's residual, since you never wanted the guy in the first place. Booing a kid from college who should be having the greatest moment of his life? Nice start to the relationship, guys.
Regardless, due to otherworldly and unrealistic expectations from a demanding and spoiled fan base, McNabb is under pressure to perform well against the horrid Redskins on Monday night.
Back-to-back poor games against mediocre teams would certainly spell rancor from the fan base, but Andy Reid isn't a stupid man, despite abandoning the run against the Raiders last weekend. McNabb will start as long as he's healthy, until he retires basically.
Live with it, Philly fans. And be happy. It could be worse. You could've drafted Tim Couch or Akili Smith. In fact, if you look at the top 10 of the 1999 draft, who has had a better career thus far than McNabb? Champ Bailey is comparable. Edge, maybe. Anyone else? Yeah, that's what I thought.
Appreciate what you have and show the man some respect.
- Though I hate them with the intensity of the heat of seven suns, the Denver Broncos are a top-5 team right now, and possibly the best team in the AFC. It is not only due to great defense, and Kyle Orton doing exactly what he's supposed to, but due to Josh McDaniels being a brilliant coach who prepares so meticulously that his team is never rattled. For a 33-year old, that's extremely impressive no matter his previous experience. As a Raider fan who still misses Chucky I can tell you this: don't let this guy go anytime soo.
- Matt Cassell is playing quietly well for the Chiefs right now, despite not having much help around him. I don't think Cassell is the star of 2008 that we saw, but I don't think he's a bad QB either.
- The most disappointing thing to see last weekend was the Patriots clicking on all cylinders on offense. Granted, it was the Titans, but what a masterful performance. That doesn't bode well for the rest of the league, but the good thing is due to last season and the beginning of this, their aura of invincibility is all but gone.
- Ray Rice is really, really fast for his size.
- One of the most fun things I've seen in a long time was the Eddie Royal-Darren Sproles return extravaganza in the Monday night game. Fantasy owners everywhere have been cursing their decision to draft Royal high this season; now, those same owners are cursing themselves for dropping him two weeks before Monday's game.
- I'll get into this more in my Raider-specific article, but Tom Cable has been cleared of assault charges by the Napa DA. Good for him. The story told sounds plausible, and Randy Hanson seems to be somewhat insane. Glad this distraction is over
- Speaking of which, it may not be. Roger the Terrible still needs to assess the situation, and he has just enough arrogance to ignore a DA's decision and rule on his own. Of course, I don't know the personal conduct policy offhand, and going after a coach is probably not in the "What to do" section. So Cable may still receive league discipline.
The Mighty Giants Will Stifle the Saints Offense
The Saints can run it up on anyone. These Saints, forgive the sacrilege, may have been able to hang 40 on the '86 Bears. You never know who Drew Brees is going to throw it to, and it doesn't matter.
The Saints receivers are all fast, have great hands, run great routes, detail your car, buy you a beer, and do anything else asked of them. They are the best unit in the league with the best quarterback in the league throwing it to them.
I'm talking production, not talent. That's why the Saints wideout corps trumps that of the Cardinals, Giants, Broncos, etc.
Brees, if he had a Super Bowl or two, would be in the Manning-Brady discussion. Frankly, I'm not sure either of those guys are better than Brees. They've just always had better teams. Until now.
The Giants had the No. 1 defense in the NFL entering the game, had just played a "scrimmage" against the Oakland Raiders (thanks, Antonio), and had the utmost confidence coming into this game that they were going to walk away victorious.
Instead, they slunk away humiliated, a result that Oakland DE Richard Seymour said "they deserved" after Antonio Pierce's comments regarding his team earlier that week.
Many experts felt this was to be the Saints first loss of the season, and that they were in danger of falling into a funk afterward like we've seen before from this squad.
Instead, they came out and put their foot on the Giants' jugular, and slowly pressed down for 3 1/2 hours.
They did whatever they wanted to whenever they wanted to on offense. Brees threw four TDs to four different receivers and the Saints hung a whopping 7 total TDs on a Giants team that had been smothering opponents.
As the Giants are starting two carpet cleaners and a dude they found drunk on the mound at Shea mourning yet another Met season, they need a pass rush to help out their sometimes overmatched secondary.
Credit to the Saints O-Line for stifling the pass rush and giving Dr. Drew Brees a chance to assess and then dissect the defense with his typical surgical precision.
The San Diego Chargers are a LOCK to Win the AFC West
Do I even need to point out that in NFL history a team with a 3.5 game division lead has never missed the playoffs?
The Chargers are frauds. Complete and utter frauds. Think on this: If Louis Murphy's touchdown doesn't get incorrectly overturned (jobbed, and you know it) the Chargers very realistically could be 1-4 and looking UP at the Raiders in the standings.
People will say they have Super Bowl calibre talent, but where is it? Behind center, and that's about it.
Philip Rivers, despite my hatred for him and his arrogance, is an elite QB with Super Bowl potential. Antonio Gates is still a great weapon at TE, and LT even looked a little better last weekend.
But their offensive line is porous, their defense is uninspired and manhandled weekly, they have no real leaders on defense, and they have a coach in Norv Turner who never should've given up coordinator duties.
The injury to Nick Hardwick against the Raiders set in motion a series of events that has caused the Chargers to look pedestrian and ordinary. Hardwick is a stout run and pass blocker who calls the blocking assignments and leads the O-Line. With him out, we've seen nothing but confusion on their O-Line, which has led to myriad problems.
Suddenly, they can't run the ball. Philp Rivers has such a hard time holding onto the ball when he's sacked, and is getting sacked so very often due to poor line play, that the offense can't get anything going.
Shawne Merriman is a shell of his former self. I don't know if it's not being on PEDs anymore, being injured as well, and away from the game for so long, or picking up any number of STDs from Tila Tequila, but the dude doesn't have it right now.
The only member of that defense playing halfway decent is Stephen Cooper. Larry English is as well, I suppose, but he doesn't get as many snaps as he should.
Even Mike Sciferes isn't punting as well as he usually does. Maybe that's because he's punting alot more often. I don't know. Something has happened to this franchise, and I can't say I don't love it.
Before the season started, I would've bet my life savings the Chargers would beat the Chiefs this weekend. Now? I'm tempted to take the Chiefs, and I realistically think it could go either way.
Sorry, San Diego fans, but much like the fanbase itself this is a team that doesn't seem to care as much about football as they should, and they are a very beatable, very overrated team right now.
They certainly aren't running away with the AFC West, that's for sure. That would be the Denver Broncos.
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