Teddy's Vegas Wiseguy Report: NFL Mediocrity
A full quarter of the NFL teams entered Week 5 at .500 and two more reached the .500 mark after notching victories on Sunday. I focused on five of those teams closely during this week’s NFL mayhem. Here are my notes from their respective performances.
How bad is this defense? Well, they set an NFL record for futility – no team in league history had ever allowed 300 rushing yards and 300 passing yards in the same game. And that came just one week after they allowed 45 second half points on seven consecutive scoring drives against New England, making the Bills the first team since 1950 to allow 550+ yards in back-to-back weeks. Now that’s a struggling stop unit!
This pass D has awful fundamentals, giving up yardage in chunks. Every decent QB should have a field day throwing downfield -- there's no pass rush, and these cornerbacks are not shutdown guys. And there’s no question that this defense lacked effort throughout the second half here – they flat out quit.
We got the ‘bad’ Ryan Fitzpatrick today. Fitz continues to struggle with his deep throws, missing Stevie Johnson for a sure touchdown, one of a good handful of poorly thrown balls. To make matters even worse, Buffalo is starting to get cluster injuries on the offensive line. Much like last year, OL depth is not an area of strength. With two starters already out, one of their replacements (Colin Brown) left the game with a hamstring injury and didn’t return.
In-game or halftime bettors should definitely note that when things start to go south for this team, they tend to snowball. We haven't seen a single 'come-from-behind-at-any point-in-the-game' win for the Bills since September 2011.
It's hard to picture a game starting worse than this one for the injury riddled Giants missing six starters from their lineup. An Ahmad Bradshaw fumble set up a short field for Cleveland's first touchdown, and on their next defensive possession, the G-men allowed a 60 yard bomb for another score. RB Andre Brown and TE Martellus Bennett both went back to the locker room following early injuries, although Bennett later returned. Coming off a tough, frustrating loss at Philly, all of a sudden this became a test of the Giants character.
Then Eli started to throw, Bradshaw got rolling, and voila; an easy touchdown march down the field that even a chop-block-induced first and 25 couldn't stop -- they didn't face a single third down on the drive. By halftime, they had taken a double digit lead. New York passed this character test with flying colors!
Even with a banged up receiving corps, guys like Reuben Randle and Domenik Hixon stepped up -- having Eli really helps in that regard. But this defense continued to get gashed; unable to stop the run or the pass. New York allowed a whopping 8.8 yards per play for the first half while only forcing one punt before stiffening over the final 30 minutes.
This defense is not what it was a month ago. Their pass rush is limited without injured sackmeisters Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo and their secondary is shorthanded without Cedric Griffin or Brandon Meriweather in the lineup today. Ryan Kerrigan's interception return touchdown was certainly nothing to sneeze at, and London Fletcher is making another bid to lead the league in tackles, notching 20 today. But this is no elite stop unit by any stretch of the imagination. The Skins allowed more than 50% third down conversions and ran 33 fewer plays than Atlanta – this D simply isn’t getting off the field.
Alfred Morris continues to eat up yardage between the tackles, giving Robert Griffin a nice complement in the running game. The offensive line is run blocking very well, giving Morris room to reach the second level of defenders. When you average 10 yards per carry for a half of football, you're clearly doing something right.
RG3 is running the ball less, without a single rush attempt through the first half of the game after running for 234 yards (5.7 ypc) in his first four games -- this offense was relatively conventional today. Griffin scrambled a couple of times in the third quarter and took a nasty hit, leaving the game concussed. At least offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan trusts his backup QB. The first complete pass from Kirk Cousins after Griffin got hurt was a 77 yard bomb to Santana Moss for a touchdown.
This is a very young defense, loaded with rookies and second year players. And let’s give this organization some credit, because they’ve drafted very well – this defense ranks among the best stop units in the NFL.
Seattle has the tallest cornerbacks in the league – it’s really hard to throw jump balls against this team! Brandon Mebane is a beast at nose tackle -- this defense is simply dominating against the run. Rookie LB Bobby Wagner had the speed and size to chase down a scrambling Cam Newton from behind -- twice! Bruce Irvin sealed the game with a late forced fumble. Seattle didn't give up a third down conversion on anything other than a penalty until the Panthers two minute drive before halftime. And when Newton starts the game 2-14 for 33 yards, you know the defense is doing something very right.
Seattle entered the game as the only team in the NFL with more running yards than passing yards. There's no reason to think that they won't continue to lean heavily on Marshawn Lynch and his backup Robert Turban, for a big portion of their offense. They need the young receivers to step up, most notably Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate, because Sidney Rice cannot be considered a true #1 wideout. Russell Wilson is not seeing the whole field; looking very much like a rookie -- he's settling for checkdowns , throwing interceptions and taking big hits in the pocket Put it all together and this team is an Under machine (5-0 already); one defensive struggle after the next.
Just like they did for the first three games, this team continues to lack in the 'execution' element of their gameplan. Their longest rush of the year -- 22 yards in the first quarter from the just-returned-to-the-lineup Rashard Mendenhall -- was negated by an illegal formation penalty; one of five first quarter offensive penalties (one third down holding call was declined). Then they had another penalty on their subsequent punt.
Troy Polamalu returned to the lineup, but he hopped off to the sideline in second quarter, unable to put any weight on his injured calf. Then Lamar Woodley left the game and didn’t return with a hamstring injury; bad news for a team that plays again on Thursday. This defense was certainly improved, in sharp contrast to their woeful performance at Oakland before the bye -- James Harrison’s return had an impact. But they did allow two long touchdown drives with the game on the line in the second half, including one that could have been the game winner had Big Ben not rallied the troops.
I'm generally not a believer in the importance of any individual running back, but this offense really changes with a healthy Rashard Mendenhall off his torn ACL. They simply can't run the football without him, but with him they're ripping off long gainers. Veteran linemen Willie Colon and Max Starks actually played well up front, opening up holes for a team that hasn't been able to run the football (only 65 yards per game coming into the week).
- Larry Ness
- June 24, 2016 - 7:05 PM
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- betonline @ -126 Baltimore
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