The Patriots could fall into the same trap as the Colts. Over the past decade, the AFC rivals have been remarkably similar. Great QB, veteran possesion receiver, running backs that are mediocre and take a back role. The Colts are so horrible this year because, with all those late first round picks thanks to winning seasons by Manning, they could never stockpile more star talent. I see the Patriots falling in the same trap. They lost Brady two seasons ago, but Matt Cassel was still a very good quarterback who earned himself a starting job in Kansas City with that performance. They also had Randy Moss, the best wide receiver in football, and a decent defense. I believe Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallet are far superior to Curtis Painter and Dan Orlosvky. No personal knock on either of them, as the both had the talent to make it to the NFL, but it wouldn’t take much to be better than those two. But still, Deion Branch is old, Wes Welker would fall into the same trap as Reggie Wayne, a great receiver with a horrid quarterback dragging him down. Shane Vereen has great potential, but Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (despite his awesome name) are worse or equal to Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, and Delone Carter. In baseball, the superpowers fall and rise, but mostly wax and wane slowly, so you don’t notice it at first. Look at the Astros. They went to the World Series in ’05, but 6 years later they have the worst record in the league. But in Football, seemingly indestructable monoliths have their legs cut out from underneath them and perpetual cellar-dwellars can be transformed with 1 great Quarterback coming in on a 1st round pick or a great coach inspiring the players and righting the ship. I mean, how could the Colts stink? They have the best Quarterback in the game, a certain Hall of Famer who is one of the greatest of all time and has the record for most MVP awards! Oh, wait. He’s hurt. The Colts just fell off a cliff, and the 49ers have risen to the second best record in the league. people said, How are they going to win with Alex Smith? He’s a bust! Frank Gore’s injury prone, and their only decent player is Patrick Willis! But now? With Jim Harbaugh? Smith’s efficient, he’s one of the TOP 10 passers in the NFC, Frank Gore is great, and Navorro Bowman (who no one had heard about before this season) is almost as good as Willis. The Pats are 8-3, maybe the best team in the AFC, and all because of one man: Tom Brady. The Colts may have saved their hide by expsoing them to what happens when you lose your Hall of Fame QB. It’s not pretty.
The way teams like the Raiders and Niners dug themselves into holes, 4 and 6 years ago, was a common mistake. They stunk, to begin. So, they went with the obvious solution: Draft a franchise QB. But I don’t think that’s the way to do it. There will be more franchise QBs down the road, so just wait. Build a good team first. With a good, or even decent team, the fans are okay with the future superstar sitting on the bench as he learns the playbook at his own pace. Draft some good wide receivers, so that when your quarterback is ready, he has some dependable, experienced wideouts to throw to. Also, build a good defense so that he doesn’t have pressure to put up monster numbers. The titans are executing this perfectly. They have Jake Locker, the 8th overall pick this year, playing behind a solid veteran, Matt Hasselback. Aaron Rodgers is now the best QB in the nation after learning behind Brett Favre. I already mentioned this in the blog post about Ponder, but Chris Johnson can also help out Locker. When he is ready to take the reins, two or three years down the road, he’ll already have the ingredients for a great team, and that is a recipe for sucess. Already, this year, yesterday, when Hasselback sprained his elbow, Locker came in and was sucessful. Even with Vince Young, the 3rd overall pick in 2006, a rookie Pro Bowler, is now a backup in Philedalphia. He got pushed into a starting role (Because Billy Volek was definatley not the answer), and was reasonably sucessful, but down the road, with the Titans lack of star power, they flopped. Now, they’re getting it right on the second try.
Here you go, Matt.
Quarterback: Mark Sanchez is a good young QB, inconsistent but still learning. This season and last he’s made huge strides from his rookie year. I wouldn’t trust Sanchez completely but he has led them to 2 NFC Championship Games, so he can get the job done. Mark Brunell is a experienced backup who Jets fans can rest assured will not make any rookie mistakes.
Running Back: LaDanian Tomlinson had a sort of revival year last year, but he has been hurt and ineffective for most of this season. Shonn Greene is a solid young tailback, and good insurance for the aging Tomlinson.
Receiving Corps: I haven’t seen Plaxico Burress do anything extraordinary, but he did have that nice 3-TD game. Santonio Holmes is another good option, and Dustin Keller has been great, though I believe he recently suffered a concussion. They are all good options for Sanchez to throw to, but no one has really stepped up as a true No. 1 receiver.
D-line/ Linebackers: It’s a solid, if not spectacular, group that does an alright job but lacks an identity. They get the job done though, and that’s what it’s all about.
Secondary: It’s all about DARELLE REVIS. Hands down best corner in the league. Teams with just one dominant receiver in trouble because they’re about to get shut down by Revis Island. There are not many teams in the NFL with 2 consistent Pro-Bowl receivers. Thanks to one man, the secondary is one of the best in the league.
Broncos on Thursday Night football. Sorry Matt, but I like the Broncos in this one. Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins will shut down the passing game, and LT is injured so they will have to rely on Shonn Greene. I think the way to stop the Tebow Option is to plant a QB spy. That’s how the Titans contained Cam Newton. However, Revis’s impact will be lessened by the fact that the Brincos only throw the ball about 3 times a half. That combined with a Peyton one week Painter the next Sanchez and as unorthodox as it might be, Tebow’s 3-1 record including a win against a tough Raiders pass rush. Good luck Jets, but I like Broncos
Never has there been so many good college quarterbacks in the NCAA just waiting to go to the NFL next year. Obviously there’s Andrew Luck, the projected #1 overall pick, but you also have Michigans’s Denard Robinson, USC’s Matt Barkley, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, who throws for monster yardage, the mobile Darron Thomas, Boise State’s experienced Kellen Moore, and Brandon Weeden, the 27 year old seinor. And the NFL is hurting for quarterbacks.Seattle, Miami, Washington, Arizona, and potentially the Cowboys if Tony Romo leaves all hunting for quarterbacks. The 2012 draft class will have a strange mix of classic gunslingers like Luck and Jones, and speedy hybrids like Darron Thomas. I am not usually a huge college football fan, but these exciting young QBs have my attention. Which will be more successful in the pros? Luck is a given, but what about Thomas versus Jones? Power, deep bombs and risky shots downfield, or Speed, escaping and manuvering to move the chains? I’m not saying there won’t be other young, explosive players in the first round. Trent Richardson will most likely go early, and LaMicheal James will almost certainly be a big star. But the 2011 season will be a spotlight for these quarterbacks, their audition for NFL teams and fans, as we watch to see who we want for our team next June.
Well, that’s stupid, many of you are saying. Isn’t it obvious? Without Peyton Manning, they stink. That is obviously true, but with the complete dissary of the Colts, that just can’t be the only factor.
1. Peyton Manning: No duh. But besides his incredible passing skills, the Colts miss his presence to strike fear in opponents, make plays, and his veteran leadership that makes the Colts believe he’s going to make the play.
2. Curtis Painter: As we all know, Painter is no Peyton. But his inexperience and less than stellar performance so far, combined with -their 0-8 start leads the players to believe they cannot win without Peyton.
3. A Weak Running Game: Delone Carter is decent, but he’s only a rookie and their other two running backs are Donald Brown and Joseph Addai. Brown will never be an NFL star, and Addai is washed up and injury prone. The lack of a solid run game has also put the pressure on Curtis Painter to make plays, and he hasn’t responded well. To be fair, Painter must feel like he has to fill the enourmous shoes of Manning, and he doesn’t feel like he can just hand it off to the running back.
4. The Defense: Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are actually pretty good, but any NFL O-line can contain two players if the rest are ineffective. Also, the secondary hasn’t been really any good since Bob Sanders had his last good season.
5. Special Teams: C’mon, is the Colts Special Teams really the reason of their horrid performance this year? Well, it certainly doesn’t help them much. The lack of explosive playmakers on Kick and Punt returns puts them in not great field position, and the Offense doesn’t drive themselves into Field Goal Range very often.
The last of Week 8 was played yesterday, a dramatic game between the Chiefs and the Chargers. That brings us to the midpoint of the season, with some big suprises and dissapointments in the first half. Here are some things to watch for in the second half.
1. How far will young, upstart teams like the Niners and Lions go?
The 49ers and the Lions are in two completely different situations. Let’s start with the Niners. They are the second best team in the NFC, only behind Green Bay and just an overtime loss from being undefeated. Their division is horrible, and they have a very comfortable 4-game lead. However, their main weapon on offense is the run game with Frank Gore and rookie Kendall Hunter. Alex Smith has done an alright job this year, putting up numbers far from eye-popping but he’s been effective none the less. however, when push comes to shove, I doubt he can lead the Niners on game winning drives in the playoffs with his arm, and that’s the fastest way to move the ball. Realistacally, they go 12-4 but get eliminated in the 2nd round. The Liones have many explosive and dynamic playmakers on both sides of the ball, such as Javid Best, Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Ndamukong Suh. They play in the best division though, with teams like Green Bay and the Atlanta Falcons. The team is young and not playoff tested, but their playmaking ability will serve them well in January. Realistically:11-5.
2. Rookie QBs: Many teams have benched fading veterans to get their exciting young rookies a chance to play. The Bengals, Vikings, and Panthers are just 3 teams who have done this. How will Dalton, Ponder, and Newton fare down the stretch? The Bengals sit at 5-2, and with a talented squad, they have a shot at the playoffs. How far will Dalton lead them? will he falter in the clutch or will he step up and make a play, showing that he belongs in this league? The Vikings are 2-6. Will Ponder lead them to mediocry? (I know, less dramatic but it could provide a glimpse of the Vikings future). Newton has been a sensation, but his ablity to run with the football hides a huge weakness in the Panthers: Their running backs stink. I mean DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart? Come on. Plus , their defense doesn’t have anybody to strike fear in opponents. What about Blaine Gabbert? He was selected 10th overall in April, but he has been outshined by fellow rookie Dalton, selected 25 picks later. Gabbert hasn’t played horribly (Well at least not in every game…) but he hasn’t done anything special, either.
3. Phillip Rivers’ Struggles: Phillip Rivers just can’t seem to have a good game. Yesterday he threw for 369 yards, but for no touchdowns and he commited 3 turnovers. (2 picks and a fumble.) This year, Rivers is just not feeling it. His passer rating is far below recent years, and with his inability to turn it around in 8 games, I forsee a lost season for Rivers. However, he is an excellent QB and I think he’s just having an off year and he’s young enough to come back better than ever in 2012.
So there you have it. 3 things may not sound like much, but they are complex issues with lots of conflicting evidence on what the future may bring. Who knows?