B/R's NFL FC Showdown for Week 4: Progress Reports

Lou DiPietroAnalyst IOctober 4, 2010

B/R's NFL FC Showdown For Week 4: Progress Reports

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    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Among other things, NFL Week 4 saw the Michael Vick vs. Kevin Kolb circus come full circle, the Indianapolis Colts equal their 2009 loss total, the ghost of Jimmy Raye doom the San Francisco 49ers, and a sextet of 2-2 teams claim divisional supremacy.

    And, of course, it’ll see one B/R NFL FC battle me in the Showdown.

    Welcome to this week’s FC Showdown. I’m your party host, NFL & Philadelphia Eagles FC Lou DiPietro, and this week, I have some competition from the other conference—New England Patriots FC Erik Frenz!

    While the Niners’ and Eagles’ foibles may not be a direct effect to the team Erik covers, I’m sure he’ll have a field day on the Colts. Here’s a spoiler, though: I will too!

    With that, let’s get started!

Topic No. 1: Look Who's Quarterbacking

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Three weeks ago, Michael Vick entered the Eagles game in place of concussed Kevin Kolb and nearly led the team to an impressive comeback win over Green Bay. His performance was so impressive that Andy Reid named Vick the starter going forward.

    Flash forward to Sunday, when Kolb entered the Eagles game in place of an injured Vick and came within a dropped pass of leading the team to a comeback win over the Redskins.

    As of Monday, the extent of Vick’s injury is “soreness,” and as of now, Kolb is the starter next Sunday night in San Francisco.

    So…who should be the starter in Philly now?

Erik Frenz Says...

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    To say that the injury to Michael Vick took the wind out from under the Eagles' wings might be the understatement of the season.

    An offense that was flying high with Vick was grounded by Kevin Kolb; in fact, the once-dynamic Eagles offense was downright anemic with Kolb under center. He checked down time and time again, all but refusing to take a shot downfield.

    Not counting the two plays after he came in for Vick, here's a summary of the drives led by Kevin Kolb: stopped at the one-yard line and kicked a field goal; three-and-out; fumble; three-and-out; punt near midfield; touchdown with a missed two-point conversion; interception in the end zone to end the game.

    Points on two out of seven drives? That's not the type of performance that you want to have when you're trying to earn your starting job back, especially against a division opponent at home. This is the guy that got votes of confidence from Andy Reid time and time again?

    Granted, Vick's performances came against the 27th-ranked Lions defense and the 30th-ranked Jaguars defense, but the Eagles offense seemed to have more bravado as a whole with Vick on the field—and let’s not forget that his Week 1 heroics came against a good Green Bay defense.

    Unless some dramatic change has befallen Kolb, I expect Vick to immediately get his job back once he’s healthy…and I don't think the fans in Philly will have it any other way.

Lou's View

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    I maintain what I’ve said every week in this space: Vick is the guy.

    If you look at Kolb’s performance on Sunday, it’s obvious.

    Sure, Kolb’s numbers were “good” (22-for-35, 201 yards, one TD, one INT), but the proof isn’t in that pudding. 90 percent of his passes were short checkdowns, to the point where running back LeSean McCoy had 12 catches for 110 yards, and he was unable to get DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, or Brent Celek involved in the offense until it was too late.

    Would Vick have made a difference? I think so; his running ability opens up a whole new avenue for the team, as they have to respect his potential to take flight. That opens up coverages, and you know the rest.

    The name of the game in the NFL is to put the best 11 men on the field at any given time, the group that gives you the best chance to win. The way this team is built, a healthy Michael Vick is part of that group.

Topic No. 2: San Fran Scapegoat, Take 2

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    NFL Photos/Getty Images

    Last week, former 49ers Offensive Coordinator Jimmy Raye became the fall guy for the team’s offensive swoon. After an 0-3 start and a serious offensive swoon, Raye was fired and the team hoped that new OC Mike Johnson could help the team find an offensive identity.

    So how did the “new” Niners offense do on Sunday?

    Not so well, as they netted exactly one touchdown in San Fran’s 16-14 loss to Atlanta on Sunday.  

    The defense played well, holding Falcons offense that scored 68 points in the previous two weeks to just one touchdown and picked off Matt Ryan twice in key situations.

    Special teams also played well, as Taylor Mays’ recovery of a blocked punt yielded the team’s other touchdown.

    But alas, the team is 0-4 after the Falcons won on a last second field goal.

    So now that Raye is gone, who’s going to be the next fall guy: Dismal QB Alex Smith or “untouchable” Head Coach Mike Singletary?

Erik Frenz Says...

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    There's more than enough blame to go around for the San Francisco 0-4-9ers.

    As is to be expected when disaster strikes a failing organization early in the season, heads started to roll quickly, and Jimmy Raye was the first fall guy.

    It's feasible to say that it's not Raye's fault that Alex Smith threw three interceptions in the first three games (and definitely not his fault that Smith threw two very costly ones on Sunday), despite the fact that he called the plays.

    But after firing Raye, the 49ers still only put up seven points on offense against the Falcons.

    So yes, all that has to be on the former No. 1 pick.

    However, there’s just as much heat on Singletary.

    Look at the defense. While they played well yesterday, they've been one of the worst overall units in the league so far. I know fantasy doesn't mean much, but they were the preseason No. 1 fantasy defense.

    They were expected to have better overall output than every defense in the league, yet they sit in or near the bottom half of the league in nearly every defensive category that matters.

    Isn’t Singletary a defensive wizard? Or is that Greg Manusky’s fault?

    Both Smith and Singletary need to shoulder some of the blame, but Singletary gets a bit more than Smith in my mind.

    His lack of coaching experience is really starting to come through, and his decision to fire Raye was hasty, to put it very nicely.

    He may be a great inspirational leader, but he's starting to prove that all the inspiration in the world won't draw up effective plays on Sundays.

Lou's View

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Absolutely agreed, and I think both should go sooner than later.

    On the Smith note, it’s not going to matter who calls the plays (or what those plays are) if the QB is simply incapable. Unfortunately, I think it’s now time to declare Smith a bust.

    After the opening drive, the Niners ran exactly one play inside the Falcons’ 35—and that play, late in the fourth quarter, saw Smith get called for intentional grounding, knocking the Niners out of even the thought of field goal range and setting up the Falcons’ winning drive.

    In addition, Smith himself blew the only two drives where San Fran even looked remotely coherent by throwing picks, and I won’t even mention how Frank Gore led the team in receiving again or had 21 of the team’s 23 rushes. Oops, guess I did.

    Flat out, Smith can’t run this offense. Whether or not David Carr, Troy Smith, or anyone else actually can remains to be seen, but at 0-4, the unknown can’t be any worse than what they put out there now.

    Now, as for Singletary…I’m sorry, he’s not cutting it.

    It’s bad enough that a defensive guru can’t get his defense to show up more than every other week, and now Michael Lewis wants out.

    Add in the fact that this week’s stat sheet proves that the game plan of Gore, Gore, and more Gore couldn’t have been all Raye, and it’s clear that Singletary is failing on all fronts.

    The truth hurts, and the sad truth is that I’d be surprised to see Singletary make it past their Week 9 bye.

    The Niners play the Eagles, Raiders, Panthers, and Broncos between now and then, with three of those four games at home.  If they’re 2-6 or worse after that, it’ll be hard to ignore that changes are needed.

Topic No. 3: Peyton's Place For Sale?

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Last season, the Indianapolis Colts started 14-0, lost their last two games because they cared more about health than history, and ended up winning the AFC Championship.

    Four weeks into 2010, they’ve already matched that loss total—and to make matters worse, both came on the road to divisional opponents.

    An opening day loss to 3-1 Houston isn’t terrible, but losing 31-28 to a bad Jacksonville team is almost inexcusable.

    Peyton Manning has always been the one to make this team run, and he’s having another solid season (1365 yards and 11 TD against just one interception). But have we come to the point where Eight(een) Isn’t Enough anymore?

Erik Frenz Says...

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Super Bowl hangover strikes again! And everyone thought that Peyton Manning and the Colts were invulnerable to such hexes and plagues.

    We were having this same conversation no more than two years ago when the Colts started 3-4, but they still won nine straight to close out the regular season with a Wild Card berth.

    At the end of the day, I still think the Colts are one of the most talented rosters in terms of their personnel; they're just not performing like the near-perfect Colts we've gotten used to seeing over the past decade.

    They still have two of the best pass rushers and one of the best aerial offenses in the league, but their problem is in run defense.

    This may be a pass-happy league, but the fact remains that if you can't stop the run, you severely hurt your chances of winning a game. The Colts defense ranks 29th against the run and has given up over 80 percent of their total yards on the ground.

    The road ahead doesn't look kind to the Colts, either. Their next eight games run as follows: vs. Kansas City, at Washington, bye week, vs. Houston, at Philadelphia, vs. Cincinnati, at New England, vs. San Diego, vs. Dallas. The way the Colts are playing, you can't safely call any of those games a sure-fire victory.

    It's only Week 4, so the Colts obviously aren't out of it yet, especially considering Peyton Manning's track record. However, he may as well wear a red cape to work every day for the rest of the season, because if they can turn it around, it will be on his shoulders.

Lou's View

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    More than anything, I think this year is showing that Peyton hasn’t been doing it all on his own, because I agree that it’s the defense that’s letting Indy down.

    They can’t even blame the lack of Bob Sanders, as it’s now become news when he actually does play.

    The problem isn’t limited to one facet, either, although their run defense is horrid.

    Arian Foster ran for 233 by himself in Week 1, the Jags put up 175 total on Sunday, and even in a dismal loss, Ahmad Bradshaw had 89 yards in Week 2.

    Denver has no run game, so you can scratch that, but Kyle Orton had 476 yards passing in that game so the defense isn’t totally off the hook.

    The best defense for the Colts has always been to keep their offense off the field, but now that their own defense is falling apart, it’s becoming shootout or bust. I mean, 31 points to Jacksonville, a team that had 33 total in Weeks 1-3? Awful.

    Tennessee and Houston aren’t going away anytime soon, and with the way the top three East teams, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh are playing, the Colts may be in a dogfight just for a playoff spot.

Bonus Topic: Worst To First?

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    To start, a quick story:

    The current 32-team, eight-division format went into place in 2002. That year, the 7-9 Carolina Panthers finished last in the NFC South.

    The next year they won the division, and that “worst to first” phenomenon has happened five times in seven years total since realignment.

    Apparently, the rest of the league is catching up.

    Through Week 4, four of the teams that selected in the Top 6 of the 2010 NFL Draft—St. Louis, Washington, Kansas City, and Seattle—are either in or tied for first place in their division, with last year’s NFC South doormats, the Buccaneers just a half-game out of first.

    Detroit is the exception that proves the rule right now, but they’re easily a better team than their 0-4 record suggests.

    It’s a long season, but which of the five surprises has the best chance of completing a worst-to-first campaign?

Erik Frenz Says...

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    That's a tough question, because none of those teams have really played anyone yet. I would have said the Seahawks if you'd asked me last week, but getting beat up by the Rams isn't exactly the best resume-builder in the league.

    Looking ahead, the Redskins' schedule is treacherous, the Rams also face some stiff competition and haven't beat anybody of note, the Bucs still have to contend with the defending Super Bowl champions for the division crown, and the Seahawks were two Leon Washington touchdown returns away from being 1-3 instead of 2-2.

    With that all said, I'll go with the Chiefs.

    The Kansas City Patrio...erm, Chiefs, have been coached well by two Super Bowl-winning coordinators. They’ve noticeably instilled that winning mentality in their team, and guys like They have guys like Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers, and Tamba Hali are all playing above and beyond their expected levels.

    The AFC West has classically been dominated by the Chargers, but it looks like the division is up for grabs this year. The Chargers’ next two are on the road, where they've struggled horrendously; those games are against the Raiders and the Rams, though, so who knows what’ll happen.

    The Chiefs will be tested with a couple of tough road games as well in the next two weeks, traveling to Indy and Houston back-to-back.  After that, though, it's smooth sailing with games against the Jaguars, Bills, Raiders, Broncos, and Cardinals, so they can get it done.

Lou's View

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    I’m going to surprise you a bit, and say the Rams.

    Yes, the Chiefs have a relatively easy schedule, but the Chargers and Broncos play pretty much that same schedule, and will be tough outs for KC in the remaining three games they have against them.

    Washington could win a down NFC East, but if they continue to play offense the way they have the last two weeks, that’s not saying much. Ditto for Tampa, who played two winnable games and now get a gauntlet that could leave them 4-12.

    Seattle and St. Louis, meanwhile, play in a division that Alabama or Ohio State might actually be able to win…but the Rams are more likely to actually do it.

    San Francisco stinks, and both Seattle and Arizona would be 1-3 if the AFC West could play special teams.

    St. Louis, meanwhile, dominated two of the aforementioned teams and had chances to beat both Oakland and Arizona.

    Sam Bradford has developed a very quick rapport with Mark Clayton, and if they can continue to bring Bradford along (and keep Steven Jackson healthy), the Rams could legitimately go 5-1 in this division.

    Add in games with Detroit, Carolina and Tampa, and if they can steal a win against another AFC West or NFC South team, that’s 10 wins in a division where 9-7 or 10-6 usually gets the job done.

    From No. 1 pick to NFC West Champion? Stranger things have happened.