I’m really sorry that I didn’t write for Week 10, but this is starting to be hard to write. Not because I don’t enjoy writing about the National Football League, I do. I love the NFL more than any other hobby I have. The reason is that, when you are a sports fan, caring about teams can change your mood. I think a great example of this is in The Silver Linings Playbook where the father, who is a Philadelphia Eagles fan, will not talk to his mentally ill son and be mean to his wife the entire week if the Eagles lose (I have to imagine if this book were true, this wouldn’t be a good season to be married to this guy). Obviously, I am not this extreme, but football turns into a painful thing when your team is not good.
But what’s really bad is when, like in gambling, you hedge and still lose. Hedging means that you protect your bet by betting money on various other things, increasing your chances of not losing but decreasing your winnings if/when you win. In the football sense, this means supporting more than one team in the hopes that at least one of them will be watchable. I hedged this season, I fell in love with a girl who loves the Carolina Panthers and I hedged my football enthusiasm, I am genuinely a dual citizen in my support of the Carolina Panthers and New York Jets. This hedge, at least for this season, has blown up in my face, because both of these teams are terrible. This week, there will be no game reviews, I’ll talk preview in a little bit, but I’m going to use this week’s blog as a catharsis for my two favorite teams.
Going into this week, I was starting to feel really good about the Panthers. After all, they lost close games (very close, they should have beaten the Falcons and the Bears, two clear playoff teams) and had shown flashes of brilliance. Sure, Ron Rivera is a terrible coach (he’s done by the way) and the front office has made some notoriously terrible decisions, but ultimately the talent on the field is quality. I had the great fortune (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it) of being in the stadium on Sunday as the Panthers welcomed Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (which, a quick digression: the noodle arm is gone. He’s Peyton, he’s awesome, and this Broncos team is really good. Like, watch out Houston, Peyton will see you in the AFC title game good).
Let’s start with what is good about the Panthers. Jonathan Stewart is a good runner and Cam Newton, given time, is a solid QB. Luke Kuechly is the best rookie linebacker I’ve ever seen, the defense is different with him on the field and he’s so much better in the middle linebacker than the outside linebacker position–
A quick lesson on defense: In a typical defensive package, there are 2 linebackers, a middle linebacker that will either play pass coverage on a slot receiver in the middle, defend a tight end, defend the run up the middle, or rush the QB from the middle. The outside linebacker is more often rushing the QB, but is also in some pass protection packages. On most teams, the middle linebacker serves as the “QB of the Defense”. The Middle linebacker calls the plays and is the one who reads the offense to audible. Starting the season, Kuechly was the outside linebacker and Jon Beason was the middle. Beason was hurt and Kuechly was moved to the middle.
Now that you are caught up, if anyone in the Panthers organization suggests bringing Beason back and moving Kuechly to the outside, they should be fired and strung up outside Bank of America stadium to be made an example of. If I were the GM of this team, I’d listen to trade offers for EVERY player on the roster except Kuechly and Newton, they are the only pieces that are “must keep”.
The bad of this team is pretty encompassing, but let me start from the most obvious (to me). They are horrendously coached. Really really terrible. The fact that Ron Rivera can’t decide on his game plan (he’s aggressive on plays when he should be conservative and vice versa) is incredibly baffling. Here’s an example: late in the second quarter on sunday, the Panthers had 4th and 2 and were down 14-7, there was less than 2 minutes left and Rivera chose to have Medlock attempt a 47 yard field goal. On the surface, this seems a logical decision, an NFL coach will always take the points (statistically, this strategy is horrendous, but that’s another rant for another day). However, a coach is expected to evaluate their team, the defense was tired and unable to stop the Broncos and your QB is Cam Newton. You run a QB draw up the middle, 98 percent of the time it’ll be a first down. But, he’s Ron Rivera. Medlock misses wide right, Peyton leads the Broncos down for a late FG and they never recover. Additionally, Chudzinski, for being the “best offensive coordinator” in the league, really doesn’t seem to know his offense. Cam Newton is not going to throw deep passes to Steve Smith every game, its just not going to happen. What he is going to do is throw 10 or 15 yard strikes to Smith in the middle or Greg Olson. On the first drive, Olson scores an TD and doesn’t get another target until late in the third quarter. Are you kidding me? Who’s drawing up this gameplan? A drunk seven year old? Playing to your strengths is something this coaching staff can’t comprehend.
The two big problem positions on this team are cornerback and offensive line. The O-Line is horrible. Jordan Gross is paid a lot of money and I counted him getting beat 8 times, that’s not counting the plays i refused to watch because i was facebooking on my phone or not paying attention to the horrendous action on the field. New GM Scott Pion would cut him so fast his head would spin. O-lineman are at a premium in this league and I think this is where the team needs to allocate it’s resources, especially to protect the investment in Cam Newton.
Wow that was actually really cathartic, hopefully the next one will be too.
I’m not going to spend that much time with this because i’ve ranted about it enough before. Here’s the point: there’s not a player on this roster that is playing up to their potential. Shonn Greene tricked me for two weeks, but has since gone back to being Shonn Greene. Mark Sanchez can’t get protection or a receiver, but he’s still not looking like a competent QB. The receivers are horrendous (and that’s kind). Chaz Schillens and Clyde Gates? are you serious? this is our receiving core? christ. The defense looks old and tired. Bart Scott is done, Kyle wilson is outmatched, the D-line is small. It’s just not a fun time to be a Jets fan. What do I do as GM? Thanks for asking:
1) Invest in the receiving core
2) draft the best player on the board. This seems logical but the Jets have drafted by position and sometimes that’s worked but often it hasn’t . For the record, I like the athletic d-line if they add one more piece and recover from injury.
3) look for a quality outside linebacker and move david harris to the middle. He’s now the defensive captain and he should be treated as such. Cut Bart Scott (CAN’T WAIT)
4) sign a running back. Any running back will do, i hear Steve Slaton is available. I’ll take Steve Slaton over Shonn Greene any day. Again, for the record, if Joe McKnight is healthy, I’ll take Joe McKnight. He reminds me of Reggie Bush without Kim Kardashian herpes.
Anyway, the Jets are in the conversation for bottom 3, so lets look to the college ranks Jets fans, we’ll be drafting high!
Lets talk some game previews before we get to top/bottom and the coaches
Green Bay (-3.5) at Detroit
Plain and simple, I think this is the last chance the Lions get to be relevant this season. While they are 4-5, they’ve lost all three division games so far and they are clearly the bottom of that division. If they win this game versus GB, they stay somewhat interesting. The truth is, they just aren’t all that good. The running game is improved but not good and Stafford can’t seem to connect with Calvin Johnson (making America’s fantasy football teams very unhappy). GB, on the other hand, seems to be hitting their stride and, with the potential Jay Cutler injury for Chicago, trying to take the division back.
GB 35, Det 10
Miami at Buffalo (-1.5)
Who would have thought this was the most interesting AFC East matchup in a while? So, the Bills looked competent versus the Patriots and would have won had Fred Jackson not fumbled in the endzone. Miami, on the other hand, looked like everyone expected they would look in the preseason which was clueless and lost with a rookie QB who wasn’t all that good in college. But, previously to last week, Miami looked pretty good and like a potential playoff team. In fact, a quality blog I know mighta said this in the preview of Week 9:
“The AFC wildcard, I think, is the most interesting thing about this conference. A case could be made for Indy, Baltimore (assuming they don’t win the North) , and the Dolphins. I am rooting for Miami and Indy, but I think it’ll probably go down to Week 17 and Baltimore and Miami will end up with it (the only thing that would stop the dolphins is that they still have to play the Pats twice, but one of those is week 17 and Bellichick could be resting starters).”
So, this mysterious and awesome blogger was right, but the Dolphins are showing signs of cracking. This should be an interesting game but my money is on the return of order to the universe and the Dolphins looking good and the Bills looking horrendous.
Pick: Dolphins 28, Bills 9
I think there’s been a big shakeup at the top of the NFL. the Giants no longer look that great, they are doing the typical mid season swoon before they come back to dominate into the playoffs. So—
What happened to the NFC? I think the Cutler injury hurts the Bears and I think that the Falcons might still be overrated. I don’t know what to make of the 49ers and Rams, I thought the Rams were only ok and they went to a tie in a pretty terrible game. Basically, my whole clean view of the NFL is now cloudy. I know that Houston has delivered when they have had to and been dominant, I know that the Falcons are still 7-1 and that is worth something, and I know what I saw in Carolina on Sunday. The Broncos are legit, not just at QB, but defensively as well.
3) Tie: Jets, Eagles, Bills
There are some bad teams in football. I think KC is on a different level (although looked frighteningly competent against the Steelers). I think that KC has a big problem with coaching, cause clearly Charles is a good RB and the offense can run around him. Jacksonville is scary bad, but I don’t think they are quite as bad as the chiefs. I almost wish that they had Tebow, at least people would care to watch. Finally, I think the third slot should probably be the Jets, but they can duke it out in the coming weeks. The Panthers and Browns are on the next level of bad but I don’t think they warrant this list unless some teams pull off some miracles.
So remember, we’re looking at coaches “in the hot seat”. The ones I identified last week:
Norv Turner- Chargers
Jason Garrett- Cowboys
Romeo Crennel- Chiefs
Pat Shurmur- Browns
Ron Rivera- Panthers
I’d like to add Andy Reid of the Eagles. The only one on this list that may have saved his job is Jason Garrett. The cowboys looked pretty good and, quietly, have the schedule and makeup to potentially make a playoff run. But, beware, Sean Payton is lurking. I think if Payton wants the job, the only thing Garrett could do is make a significant playoff run to hold that off. But, who knows if he wants it. The more I watch, the more i’m convinced the other coaches will be fired. In fact, I think Rex is the only one who could potentially save himself with some quality play in the rest of the season, I kind of feel like the book has been written on the others. Norv should have been out seasons ago, Shurmur is terrible and is what is keeping the browns from being a fringe contender, Rivera is not good (see above), and Romeo is holding back a team that actually has some talent and making them the worst team in football.
It’s been a cathartic, fun blog to write and I hope you stayed with me through it.