Teddy's Vegas Wiseguy Report: Bottom Feeders
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been watching the contenders from both conferences closely. This week, I turned my focus towards the bottom feeders; teams that some folks have been calling ‘dead’ in recent weeks.
With six games remaining on the slate for every NFL team, there’s still plenty of time to make money fading the teams that have quit on their coach and their season. And there’s most definitely an opportunity to make money with last place teams IF they play with passion and precision down the stretch.
Here’s my take on four teams that entered Sunday’s games in last place in their respective divisions.
We're eleven weeks into the season, and this sorry Chiefs offense hasn't improved one iota. There's talent to work with -- Jamal Charles and Peyton Hillis make a decent 'thunder and lightning' duo running the football. Dwayne Bowe, Tony Moeaki, Dexter McCluster and Steve Breaston have all enjoyed past success as playmaking pass catchers, although Bowe got hurt early and wasn’t a factor here.
But the same two issues that have plagued KC all year haven't gone away -- turnovers and red zone offense. Hillis’ first half fumble here negated a scoring opportunity. And KC was settling for field goals -- just like they have all year - instead of finding a way to punch the football into the end zone.
This defense is really wearing down. When plodding RB Ben Jarvis Green Ellis is ripping off big gainers all afternoon, it's a statement of effort and one of horrible tackling. Flat, lifeless and lethargic -- this team isn't likely to give good effort two weeks in a row, and they gave good effort last week. Arrowhead Stadium is bringing out the worst in the Chiefs!
Only one of their five opening day OL starters started in the same spot today. And that one, left tackle Brandon Albert, left the game with a bad back. His status is uncertain moving forward. The Chiefs have had three different starting centers, while rookie Donald Stephenson got his first start at guard here. Both Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn struggled once again, but weak offensive line play was certainly a contributing factor.
This offensive line is a bottom tier unit right now; unable to protect their rookie QB and unable to blow open holes for LeSean McCoy to run through. OL depth was a problem coming into the season, and the steady stream of injuries has left this unit substantially depleted. Rookie Dennis Kelly (Purdue) started at tackle here, flagged for a key holding penalty as the Eagles were approaching the red zone. On the very next play, just signed Jake Scott (this week, off the waiver wire) had a false start. Instead of scoring, Nick Foles threw a desperation INT on third and 21.
While the game was still competitive, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg made a concerted effort to protect his quarterback with a steady diet of running plays. It didn’t help very much – Foles was pretty green in his starting debut. He had problems with tipped balls at the line of scrimmage, including a tipped pass that resulted in an INT, leading to a Redskins score. And Foles struggled to get his playmaking wide receivers involved – DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were complete non-factors in this offense today.
Bobby April is a two time ‘Special Teams Coach of the Year’, and he coached up one of the best special teams groups in the NFL during his tenure at Buffalo. So why do the Eagles special teams return units and coverage units stink? The players aren't buying in!
This secondary continues to get confused repeatedly in their coverage schemes, this time allowing a 49 yard bomb to a receiver who was open by about 20 yards; another Nnamdi Asomugha blown coverage. So much for the thought process that it was former coordinator Juan Castillo causing the problem. It might be a very long final six weeks of the season for Philly….
Blaine Gabbert took a whole bunch of big hits -- no wonder he's banged up, giving way to Chad Henne before the first quarter was through here. It reminded me of the first meeting between these two teams, when the Jaguars gained only 117 total yards and held the ball for less than 17 minutes; a complete annihilation. But Henne was an instant spark, leading the team down the field into the end zone. Then Henne did it again on the next drive; a simple catch and run quick strike TD.
There’s absolutely no comparison between how this passing game worked with Henne and didn't work (hasn't worked) with Gabbert. Gabbert has one 300+ yard passing day in his two year career, and he needed 49 attempts to get there. Henne threw for 350+ here while averaging more than ten yards per throw. It wasn’t all big shots fired downfield –there’s lots of ‘catch and run’ in those yardage totals. But the fact remains – this was the first time in the last two seasons that the Jags legitimately looked explosive on offense, in large part, thanks to rookie WR Justin Blackmun’s first breakout game. Of course it helped that the Texans’ defense was as flat as a pancake here.
Typical Jags though – they scored a season high, but their defense also gave up a season high, unable to protect a two TD lead with less than six minutes remaining. When you don’t force a single punt after the first quarter, and/or you allow a whopping 39 first downs and 640 total yards of offense, you’re not going to win many NFL games. Can the Jags show similar effort moving forward, even after their crushing third OT loss on the road this year?
The Jets enjoyed a mid-game morph here, their first positive performance in weeks and an indicator that IF New York can play up to their potential, they can still be a factor in the AFC Playoff race. That being said, this offense is still broken, with only two plays longer than 20 yards for the entire game.
Joe McKnight is healthy again (sat last week) and remains a dangerous kick returner – some of the best offense the Jets have right now. He made a great over the shoulder catch out of the backfield to set up the Jets first scoring chance. But this passing game still has major issues. Mark Sanchez is not at his best under pressure and he’s facing a steady stream of blitzes as a result. And this WR corps remains extremely limited – when CB Antonio Cromartie is lined up as a wide receiver, it speaks about the Jets lack of receiving playmakers.
But Sanchez had a great touch on his longer throws today, far better with his downfield throws for big gainers than he was with his dink and dunks. When he finds a rhythm, he's a decent QB - the problem is that there seem to be periods on a weekly basis where he's not in rhythm and looking ugly. And the Jets pass rush was there all afternoon - the defensive line was their best unit today, repeatedly blowing up the line of scrimmage.
The Jets had a failed fake punt, and a blocked field goal too -- lots of miscues, and a lack of attention to detail. After their special teams debacle against Miami a few weeks back, I'd expect the kick blocking schemes to have been fixed, but clearly they weren’t.
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