NFL Pre-Season Review: Last Of The Week 2 Memories

It is becoming a blur after watching week 2 of preseason football. One half of good football, strange final scores that have little to no relation to how the game went. How is one to judge a preseason football game? Do we just make the most of the first half and try and hash together some sort of highlight reel for rookies? I have found myself up at 6am watching Reggie Bush look like he did in fact deserve that Heisman trophy. I watch Cam Newton grin and smile after almost having his head torn off. I watch the Redskins look…good? No sleep can do strange things to the human mind. People can start to believe things like the Redskins winning the NFC East. Shanahan got a haircut. Anything is possible in Washington.

Game 1: Jaguars vs. Falcons

The Falcons have a serious receiving core. Matt Ryan will probably go over 4,000 yards this year. Julio Jones will run block, catch deep balls, and go over the middle without issue. The Falcons are going to need to outscore teams if they want to win in that division. They score fast. The issue with fast scoring is that if the opposing team has a good run game and can eat up clock, then that Falcons offense is going to be stuck on the sideline.

Defense is not the focal point of the Falcons, which is why they used their 1st,5th and 7th round pick on offense. The biggest star on the Falcons defense is John Abraham. Abraham is 33 years old and may not have enough left in the tank to be the dominant pass rusher of years past. Sean Weatherspoon is a solid linebacker but might not have enough of an impact to pick up the rest of the defense.

For the Jaguars, things looked better in week 2 for Blaine Gabbert, who has a serious gun and seems to look more comfortable in the pocket with every snap. This preseason will be good for Gabbert, who is going to need to feel out the offense against defenses that are trying to make him uncomfortable and rush his throws. He will learn to find his tight end, namely Mercedes Lewis when the play breaks down. 6’6 275. Just throw it to him.

Game 2:  Colts vs. Redskins

Are the Colts on the edge of missing the playoffs? Yes. Peyton Manning might miss the season opener. He did not have his usual receiver camp or practice in full pads yet, not a good thing when it is already week 2 of preseason. There will be interceptions and missed throws, possibly more than last year. It will not be pretty until week 6. That said, the Colts have enough defensive lineman to stop the run, though that linebacking core leaves much to be desired. Drake Nevis will fit right in with guys like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis showing him the ropes.

The Colts knew last year that they needed some help at offensive line, because if Peyton goes down, the season goes down. They grabbed Anthony Castonzo in the 1st round and Ben Ijana in the 2nd round. Manning sleeps well.

The Redskins. Let me tell you a little about my relationship with the Redskins. I’m 23, so the Redskins have never been good in my lifetime. My dad is a Redskins fan. A sad, bitter, almost guilty Redskins fan. I like to occasionally call him and let him know the latest Redskins news, like when they signed Haynesworth last year and gave him a $20,000,000 check.

For some reason, he did not think this was going to end well. It did not end well, and he could only watch as his team was manhandled by Michael Vick. He actually told me that after the first touchdown, he had to turn on The Biggest Loser to stop the vein in his neck from throbbing. So recently I gave him a call, notifying him that Donovan Mcnabb had been traded to the Vikings, and that John Beck was the new starting quarterback. Not former 1st round pick Rex Grossman, but John Beck. The John Beck 99% of NFL fans have never heard of.

I thought it would be a beating. A sad event much like watching Holyfield still boxing, Jorge Posada swinging for the fences, or AJ Burnett trying not to have a nervous breakdown with bases loaded in the first inning. And then the game started.
The Redskins had holes to run through. If the Redskins get production out of Maurice Hurt, they will be able to use Roy Helu like they did at Nebraska. They have enough of a mix of veteran (Stallworth, Moss) and rookie (Paul, Robinson, Hankerson) wide receiver talent to spread the field. And the defense…a Redskins defense?

Mike Shanahan may actually crack a smile watching his defense play. They’ve got a serious linebacking core. London Fletcher is on his last legs, but Brian Orakpo is like having a corner and a D lineman on the field, while Ryan Kerrigan will get moved between defensive end and outside linebacker. If a team decides to throw the ball, they get to sort between Laron Landry, Philip Buchanon and Deangelo Hall. Big hits will be made.

As per the yearly lack of trying, the Colts scored 3 points. Curtis Painter grew his hair to surfer bro lengths, and the Colts look like they will ned another QB to replace Painter if Manning’s neck surgery takes longer than expected to heal.

Game 3: Dolphins vs. Panthers

This was the game I turned on after a night of good old fashioned debauchery, so it was more to see Sporano scream and Reggie Bush run. I wanted to see Cam sling it a bit and see how he handles blitzes, but conclusions are not always what you expect them to be. The Dolphins will rely on four players on offense. Chad Henne. Davone Bess. Reggie Bush. Brandon Marshall. That will be the magic formula. Run with Bush, pass it over the middle to Marshall, and catch Devon Bess on the sidelines.

Cam Newton will run. He will have to if he wants to demoralize safeties and cornerbacks that attempt to tackle him. He is a new breed of quarterback, whose physical attributes would put him as anything between linebacker, defensive end, and the world’s largest safety. Yet he is a quarterback, and that should make anyone under 6 feet tall nervous when he takes off to run. People will look weak and small.

Towards week 3, where the strange will get stranger, and upsets will be glorious.

Jets vs. Patriots Round III – 12 Pack of Predictions

Photobucket

Another week of Jets football means another 12 pack of predictions. TOJ actually fared well with his wild-card picks, going 3-1 on the games against the spread. In terms of my specific picks for Jets/Colts…eh, it was very hit or miss. Let’s see how we fare this week –

1. Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson will combine for 40 carries as the Jets attempt to control the clock and shorten the game. They will the run ball with some success but neither will crack the 100 yard mark individually.

2. Mark Sanchez will manage the game effectively. The Jets will be conservative with their playcalling, especially in the passing game. Sanchez will have at least one turnover but will also hit one big play down the field off play action when given the chance to go deep.

3. Tom Brady isn’t going to turn the football over.

4. The Jets will get one big play from their special teams, whether it is a return from Antonio Cromartie (who will be deep on kicks), a fake punt, or a surprise onsides kick. This play will help keep the game close into the fourth quarter.

5. The Jets defense will dare New England to run the ball to beat them and won’t stack the box. You will see plenty of Marquice Cole, Kyle Wilson, James Ihedigbo, and Dwight Lowery on the field and less of Bart Scott and Bryan Thomas. BenJarvus Green-Ellis will run for at least 65 yards and Danny Woodhead will add 65 total yards of offense.

6. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will both have big games working against the Jets safeties. One of them will score a touchdown and they will combine for at least 90 yards receiving.

7. Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards are going to beat Kyle Arrington for a touchdown on a long pass off play action.

8. Dustin Keller is going to have at least 6 receptions and be Mark Sanchez’s favorite target on third downs.

9. The Jets won’t attempt a field goal over 45 yards with Nick Folk, instead opting to go for it or punt on fourth down. Shayne Graham is going to miss at least one field goal attempt.

10. Brad Smith or LaDainian Tomlinson is going to throw a pass for the Jets.

11. There is going to be at least 3 or 4 scrums after the whistle and a personal foul or two in the first half alone.

12. My heart wants to pick the Jets, but in a lame attempt to be somewhat objective I have to admit the logical pick is New England. I do think the Jets will play them tight into the fourth quarter and ultimately lose something like 27-20. However, if the Jets can get the big special teams play I mentioned, and a signature performance from Mark Sanchez, and catch a break on defense with a tipped pass turned into an interception or a timely forced fumble, I wouldn’t be stunned if they stole the game late…I know those are a ton of ifs but this is the NFL and on any given Sunday…anything can happen.

Divisional Round Picks

Jets (+8.5) at New England

Baltimore (+3) at Pittsburgh – Wow, am I excited for this game. You know you could almost take a low-scoring game decided by 3 points or less to the bank. Baltimore is due to knock Pittsburgh out and I think this is the year for them to do it. The Steelers have problems on the offensive line and will miss Aaron Smith on defense. I expect the Ravens to steal a close one in the final seconds of what should be a great game.

Green Bay (+2.5) at Atlanta – I know everybody is on the Green Bay bandwagon, but guess what? So am I. Aaron Rodgers is going to be the best player on the field Saturday night and now that it looks like Green Bay found a running game, they will be balanced enough on offense to steal a tight, high-scoring game.

Seattle (+10) at Chicago – This line just feels too high after watching Seattle last week and knowing Jay Cutler is under center. This is going to be a close one and I wouldn’t be shocked if Seattle won the game, however in the end I do think Chicago will do enough to escape with a victory.

TOJ Power Rankings – Divisional Weekend

Photobucket

Some final thoughts on Wild-Card Weekend, a ranking of the remaining teams, and initial thoughts on the divisional round match-ups —

  • If you would have told me I would pick 3 of the 4 games right for the past weekend and the one I got wrong would be Seattle/New Orleans, I would have never believed you. Who could have seen that coming? Seattle grabbed the momentum and took advantage of a terrific game by Matt Hassleback. The funny thing now is that Seattle has already won in Chicago this year and has a decent shot at doing it again this weekend. Could you imagine the Seahawks actually hosting the NFC Championship Game as a 9-9 team?
  • It was a great weekend of games, outside of the complete dud laid by the Cheifs at home. Baltimore was the superior team but Kansas City could have put up more of a fight. How do you not target Dwayne Bowe once? It isn’t like the Ravens have Darrelle Revis out there.
  • The Packers are peeking at the right time, which is incredibly impressive considering all the injuries they sustained. It felt like Mike Vick was taking Philly in for a touchdown on that final drive but a few inches underthrown and a great play by Tramon Williams ended it.

Divisional Weekend Power Rankings

1. New England Patriots – They are the unquestioned favorite. Let’s see if the Jets can make Belichick and Brady look human again, like they did way way back in week 2.

2. Atlanta Falcons – Would anybody be surprised if Green Bay went into Atlanta and won this weekend? The Falcons don’t have the same clout as most number one seeds normally do.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers – Let’s see how their offensive line holds up in round III vs. the Ravens.

4. Baltimore Ravens – You can’t love football and not be beyond excited for Ravens/Steelers this weekend.

5. Green Bay Packers – The Packers have the feel of a team who is hot at the right time and with enough talent to win it all.

6. Chicago Bears – If Jay Cutler has his head on straight, the Bears should roll to the NFC Championship Game. However, I have a feeling Seahawks/Bears is going to be a tight one.

7. New York Jets – Nobody will give them a chance this weekend. Let’s see if they can shock the world.

8. Seattle Seahawks – Well they shut us up last weekend.

Initial Thoughts on Divisional Weekend

Ravens at Steelers – Tape the knuckles up and get ready for old-school, smashmouth, defensive football between a couple of teams who couldn’t know each other any better and couldn’t hate each other more. Take the under and look forward to one hell of a football game.

Packers at Falcons – Their regular season game a few weeks back was terrific and this one should be even better. A couple of great young quarterbacks and high powered offenses at work in the prime-time game.

Seahawks at Bears – I can’t help but have an early feeling Seattle is going to build off last week and take this game. This is coming from somebody who spent the entire year bashing the Seahawks as one of the five worst teams in the league. However, they did beat Chicago earlier in the year and I am not fully sold on the Bears yet. Remember the playoffs are about who is hot at the right time.

Jets at Patriots – Do I expect the Jets to win? No. Will I spend the whole week coming up with every possible way for them to win and talking myself into it happening? Yes.

Wild-Card Weekend Highlights