Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: NFL Primer Week 11

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is a weekly NFL primer. Nothing is sacred, not the players, not the coaches, and certainly not the betting lines.

Lookey here, new layout with pictures for every discussion. I'm en fuego.

The Good: Pittsburgh Steelers
As a Browns fan, and a fan raised on Cleveland sports, it pains me greatly to acknowledge the bitter rival Steelers as the good. But, it's really something I should get used to, right? I mean since the defeat last Sunday, it's been roughly 10 straight meetings that the Steelers have won. Some may even start the whole chant of this even not being a rivalry when it's been so completely one sided. Yes, right on all points, but that's not what I want to talk about, because my Zoloft is too far away.

The Steelers didn't play well this past weekend and still came back to beat the Browns, it really shows how good they are when they can win a game that they aren't playing their best in. Also, don't forget they can really turn it on both defensively and offensively, seeing as they gave up nary a first down in the second half; the only 7 points were scored on some mind bogglingly ridiculous special teams play by Joshua Cribbs. Their defense made plays, their offense made plays, and all their young seemingly inexperienced coaches and players did what they needed to win. Conventional wisdom suggests that with a first year coach, a team will struggle, but this team has shown nothing of the sort with Omar Epps Mike Tomlin at the helm.

They've got the players and the coaches and all that jazz, and have had only one losing season in God knows how long. But that's not even what makes them good: it's the solidarity and cohesiveness in the front office. There's no firings there, no quick turnover, and certainly no turmoil; they provide a steady hand for a franchise that has been exactly that. The Rooneys create an environment where success is bred, one where every player and coach knows what is expected, but they willingly work for that, not forcefully.

It's this kind of dedication and foundation that has only three head coaches in nearly the last 40 years. Stability. It's this kind of front office and scouting that brings in players that fit the system and love the family. Resourcefulness. And it's this kind of forward thinking that leads for one down year to pave the way for years of prosperity. Championships. Say what you will about the crisp and lethal nature of the Patriots organization, but they haven't enjoyed the sustained success that the Steelers have. And its these Steelers that stand as the last line between the Patriots and an undefeated season.

The Bad: Indianapolis Colts injuries
Just a mere week ago, the Indianapolis Colts were on the fringe of being one of the best teams in the league. They had lost a heart breaker to the Patriots, but really, no one else has beaten them, and certainly the Colts had come the closest. They were good enough to lead by 10 points in the fourth quarter, but not good enough to lead by the end of it. Fear not, they were playing with their best players injured! Surely that would quell the local disappointment, if only for a week.

Ah, but there's the rub. A week later, this team is not the same team that won its first seven games. It's not the same team that had brought the Patriots to the brink of defeat. It's not even the same team that could make the playoffs without breaking a sweat.

The Colts are in the midst of starting to worry about their season. With everything cruising along, injuries have completely decimated this team, with the biggest loss being the season ending foot surgery to Dwight Freeney. They picked up Simeon Rice, but let's be honest here, he's merely half the one dimensional player he once was, and certainly doesn't command the physical attributes, nor the fear to necessitate double teams. The offense was great, but it was really the defense, now a shell of its former self, that was going to guide this team to a repeat. They're injured, crippled, and no longer instill the fear they did merely a game into this season.

This team has been brought to its knees, and the football opponent had nothing to do with it.

The Ugly: Quarterback carousel
In a year where we have some of the best and most outstanding quarterback play in the national football league is also the year we have the worst. Over the last couple of years we've seen the trend of winners shy away from building around a caretaker quarterback and more of a play maker, because let's be honest - the man handles the ball on nearly every offensive play. So, is it any coincidence that inconsistent quarterback play and carousels are on teams with less than sparkling records?

Out of the 32 teams playing this weekend, 13 (give or take 3) teams have questions about their quarterback for this game and going forward. In fact, some don't even know if they're going to use their second string for the rest of the year, next year, or go into the draft to find a player to lead their team. Three teams are possibly the worst poised to solve this quandary by this season or next.

The Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens, and Minnesota Vikings all have quarterbacks on their roster that have played significant snaps and yet shown that they are not NFL starting material. They've switched back and forth, in hopes of finding the right combination of plays and talent that will eventually translate into wins.

Chicago Bears benched Rex Grossman because of his poor play, only to pin their hopes to Brian Griese, a man that was kicked out of three different systems for having neither the tools to make the play nor the brains to analyze what play needs to be made. Sans a couple of good throws the both have largely been an embarrassment at the position.

Baltimore Ravens thought that a veteran quarterback was the piece they needed, combined with their defense to lead them back to the Superbowl. But all they've gotten out of McNair was what we all believed: an old broken player. Kyle Boller has been worse than an injured old man, continually holding on to the ball and refusing to make plays, even after being the Robo QB coming out of college.

The Minnesota Vikings called Tarvaris Jackson a more mature Donovan McNabb at the same age, and from this we learned: Brad Childress should not be an NFL coach. From Tarvaris, the Vikings this year have gotten less combined touchdowns (2 passing, 1 rushing) than either interceptions or sacks (5 each), and a below 50% completion percentage. Adrian Peterson has rushed for more yards than Jackson has thrown for. And let me be the first to break the news to you Brad, being from Cleveland originally, Kelly Holcomb is not the answer.

Same league, same year, three quarterbacks are playing the position nearly better than anyone has ever, and three teams can't seem to find even a caretaker. That is sad on so many levels.

Dwight Freeny's season over [Indianapolis Star]
Colts injuries mount [USA Today]
Photo: NFL Guru, Indy Star, JS Online

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