Thursday, October 6, 2011

2011-12 NFL Season 1st Quarter Review

So far this year, the NFL has been a pass-happy league, very poor defense is being played, and run games are hard to come by. Some of the best teams are topsy-turvy and some of the worst teams are front-runners.

Here, I’ll look through what I’ve observed so far this year for each team individually. Whether you agree with me or not (please use comments or hit me up on Twitter @Sean_Bishop if you’ve got something to say about my thoughts), I’m merely just speaking on behalf of what I see.


AFC East:

Buffalo Bills (3-1) – The Buffalo Bills are a surprising team, to say the least. They seem to be taking a more serious approach to the game and running the football a little more, and Ryan Fitzpatrick shows up. They’re not official yet, but they’re pretty good. They’ve got firepower on offense, and they make some plays on defense.

New England Patriots (3-1) – Tom Brady is on fire this year, and is on pace to demolish the single-season passing yards record held by Dan Marino. Wes Welker is being utilized in an amazingly brilliant fashion. But with the 32nd ranked defense, they’re susceptible to lose more games like the one they dropped to the Bills.

New York Jets (2-2) – The Jets are a far worse 2-2 team than the 2-2 suggests. The offense isn’t clicking, their run game isn’t dominant, and they’re underutilizing their receivers. Santonio Holmes should be used more like the Pats are using Welker, and the film for how to properly use Burress (on routes to the sideline) is available.

Miami Dolphins (0-4) – They’re bad… and by bad, I mean atrocious. I think Dolphins fans would consider atrocious an upgrade. They’re extremely terrible. And it’s not hard to find Brandon Marshall 20 times a game to make the passing game look decent. There’s just absolutely nothing outside of Marshall on offense, and that’s the problem.


AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens (3-1) – The lone loss to the Titans is worrying, because I’m not a believer in Tennessee at all. But their three wins have all looked as good as they should look, so maybe the Titans game was really an off day (which is something you can’t really have anyways as a TEAM).

Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) – The Bengals have the league’s top-ranked run defense, and they’re playing better on offense than anyone expected (so much for your ideas Carson). They play disciplined, and they play with talent.

Cleveland Browns (2-2) – Cleveland’s 2 wins are a bit shocking to me, tbh. They’re not a horrid team, but they’re not a good team either. They found ways to win their 2 games though, but they found ways to lose the other 2.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) – They may be the absolute worst team in football, and they should be 1-3 right now. They escaped Indianapolis by miracle, and should have lost that game to be completely honest. When Warren Sapp called the defense old and slow, people called for Sapp’s head. Turns out, he wasn’t lying.


AFC South:

Houston Texans (3-1) – The lone loss came at the hands of the New Orleans Saints, who we’ll get to later. Schaub has looked anything but brilliant following week 1, he seems out of character, but a returning Foster sparking the run game and a defense playing aggressive but disciplined leaves them a favorite in the division.

Tennessee Titans (3-1) – This is one of my biggest surprises. Chris Johnson looks like he’s given up on football so far this year, but Matt Hasselbeck looks like he’s taken the game back into his own hands. They’re finding ways to outscore people through the air.

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) – I’m still baffled by releasing Garrard and not naming Gabbert the starter from day 1. I don’t like the defense at all, and I’m skeptical of the run game because the offensive line isn’t any good.

Indianapolis Colts (0-4) – When Reggie Wayne went to bat for Curtis Painter and not Kerry Collins, I thought that said a lot about what this team should have done. Instead, they went with Collins and got their worst performances on offense since the day Peyton Manning took over. Curtis Painter has improved every time he has touched the field and knows the offense well enough that he can check out of plays at the line a-la Peyton Manning. They should improve, and Peyton is hands-down the league MVP this year.


AFC West:

San Diego Chargers (3-1) – This is the worst 3-1 team in football. They’ve escaped with the purest of luck so far, and absolutely should not be in the hunt. Rivers has looked horrible this year, and has been bailed out by some amazing catches by his receivers. If this is really supposed to be one of the most explosive offenses in football, they need to start proving it.

Oakland Raiders (2-2) – This is a team that should really be 4-0 right now. The loss to the Bills came on a very shocking final 5 minutes which saw some amazing plays by the Bills. They could have beaten the Patriots had the Pats not made some incredible and out of character plays on defense. Darren McFadden is a monster and they’ve got a potentially great chance to prove themselves for the duration of the season.

Denver Broncos (1-3) – The Broncos are pretty damn horrible. They don’t do much of anything right. Moreno isn’t being used properly, there’s a huge QB controversy, and the defense back in a 4-3 isn’t built to succeed. John Fox has major problems.

Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) – The Chiefs are nothing of the sort that they were last year. It doesn’t help that they lost Jamaal Charles for the year, but Cassel isn’t playing like a starting QB, and the defense looks completely out of place. Back to the cellar, they go.


NFC East:

Washington Redskins (3-1) – The Redskins haven’t played a difficult schedule, but the defense looks solid. Offensively, the run game (minus the debacle in Dallas) has been solid, but offensive playcalling late in games has been very poor. Kyle has to abandon the pass in the 4-minute drill, especially when you’re up 14 in St. Louis playing the Rams. The run game was tremendous that game and putting Rex Grossman into situations where his receivers’ routes are all deep is a bad choice no matter what the situation.

New York Giants (3-1) – The Giants got lucky against Arizona, feigned injury to beat the Rams, and lost a divisional game against the Redskins. Eli isn’t playing horribly, but nothing about this team suggests to me that they’re ready to go all the way again.

Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – A lot of people make a big deal out of Romo choking, plain and simple, he can’t make those mistakes when the coach dials up the plays. But I suggested last year that Garrett was the problem in Dallas when they placed all the blame on Wade Phillips. Well, the same problems are repeating themselves this year. Up 24 points vs. the Lions in the 4th, and Garrett continues to try and force passes instead of run. Seems like a funny trend around the league… it’s not working for a single team trying it.

Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) – I said at the beginning of the year that Andy Reid is on the hot seat. My source? The Eagles aren’t doing anything in Reid’s character. Castillo is a failure at Defensive Coordinator, and the O-Line is in shambles without him. Receivers are dropping passes, and the strengths of the secondary magnify their weaknesses. The corners aren’t tackling and force receivers inside vs. terrible linebackers and safeties. This is a Dream team that won’t win anything but a high draft pick.


NFC North:

Green Bay Packers (4-0) – The Packers are primed to head into the Thanksgiving game against Detroit sitting at 10-0. Offensively, they’ve got no weaknesses and more strengths than their SB team. Defensively, they’re struggling a little bit but they’re making plays, especially Charles Woodson. Don’t be surprised to see them representing the NFC again this year.

Detroit Lions (4-0) – Like the Packers, they can head into the Thanksgiving game at 10-0, setting up for one of the more memorable games in this rivalry that we’ve ever seen. This team plays defense very well, especially up front. They’ve had to come back a lot, but they’ve gotten it done. Stafford is playing pretty well, and Megatron is as good a receiver as you’ll find in this league.

Chicago Bears (2-2) – The Bears probably could have defeated the Packers had the refs not botched a pass interference on Woodson in the 4th, or the most amazing trick play on a punt return we’ve ever never seen. The defense is solid, but offensively, it’s amazing they’ve been in games. Jay Cutler is getting slaughtered behind that line and the playcalling is horrible. The Bears should be running a lot more than they do, and they’re not trying to help Jay Cutler at all.

Minnesota Vikings (0-4) – The Vikings are appalling and there’s not much more that needs to be said. McNabb is washed up, and Peterson isn’t being used, which I can’t even begin to fathom. Defensively, they play strong in the first half, but come quarters 3 and 4, and they’re giving up leads EVERY game and losing. Something has to give in Minnesota.


NFC South:

New Orleans Saints (3-1) – The Saints’ only loss came against the Packers on opening night, but probably could have been a win if Colston doesn’t fumble the opening pass. Brees played every bit as well as Rodgers that night, and had it not been for going down early because of the fumble, the Saints could have run away with it. Sproles is the steal of free agency, and Drew Brees is in great form this season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) – The Bucs are the comeback kids in the NFL… but a close win over the Colts makes me skeptical they’re forreal. One of these days, they’ll face a defense who won’t relinquish a lead against them, and that will be what sinks their ship. Freeman is a tremendous athlete though, and Blount is a monster. Defensively, they’re nothing special, but they limit mistakes.

Atlanta Falcons (2-2) – The Falcons have no business not being in the 0-4 club right now. They mismatched the Eagles, who are terrible, and they got extremely lucky to survive the Seahawks in week 4. Defensively, they’re not as strong as they’d like to claim they are, and offensively, when the run game gets shut down, Matt Ryan falls apart. Matty Ice? Yeah, because he freezes in the moment when Michael Turner can’t get going.

Carolina Panthers (1-3) – If anyone would have told you on draft day that the Panthers would have the most exciting player in the NFL in Cam Newton, you’d have probably laughed. After his first two weeks, he’s come back to Earth a little bit, but he’s still making plays. There are plenty of rookie mistakes, but he’s a rookie, so it is expected. Even Peyton Manning struggled his rookie season. The run game isn’t as dominant as you’d expect it to be, and defensively, they are hurt without Beason (who was lost for the season). Tremendous upside though.


NFC West:

San Francisco 49ers (3-1) – The 49ers are really confusing. Alex Smith has flashes where he looks like a 1 overall pick, and then he’s got flashes where he looks like he shouldn’t even wear a football jersey in the stands. Frank Gore’s not been amazing, but he’s been reliable. Defensively, they come up with stops when they need them. They lost in overtime to Dallas after a huge collapse in the 4th, and looked ugly against the Bengals, but they pulled out a huge come-from-behind victory over the Eagles in week 4.

Seattle Seahawks (1-3) – The Seahawks stink. They should have kept Hasselbeck, because Jackson isn’t the guy, despite a good showing against Atlanta. Defense isn’t strong, offense isn’t strong… they’ve got a lot to correct, and only the owners know how long they’ve got to correct it all.

Arizona Cardinals (1-3) – The Cardinals need better results out of Kolb, who isn’t living up to the hype so far. The run game isn’t being used, but it has been okay when they’ve stuck with it. Defensively, they make a lot of mental mistakes, but they do make some plays. They’ve been in every game so far, but losing to the lowly Seahawks is inexcusable, division rival or not.

St. Louis Rams (0-4) – They’re dreadful. Sam Bradford has been destroyed week after week, and Steven Jackson’s absence in weeks 2-3 (and basically the entire Eagles game week 1) really hurt the offense. He line doesn’t protect at all though. Doesn’t help that this system doesn’t suit Bradford, who is good for most systems… this one requires more talent around him, and not a lot of pass-droppers. Defensively, they’ve got a good front-7, but the back end of the defense isn’t good at all.


So there you have it, my thoughts on all 32 teams through the first quarter of the season. Outside of them, I think that referees have been rotten and highly inconsistent… and we’ve seen some majorly horrible calls left and right. Pass defenses have been bad, and if that’s a result of the lockout, I stick to what I said about us being robbed. Few teams run well, and very few teams stop the run well. Conventional wisdom would suggest we’d get it all balanced out soon enough, but, well… conventional wisdom hasn’t been too wise this season.

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