Thursday, October 18, 2012

Making Sense of the Madness

So we're six weeks into the NFL season and only one thing is clear; nothing is clear. Whether it's parody, officiating, or just sloppy play week in and week out the we see results of games that just shock us. The only team that has managed to come out of this the first six weeks unscathed, the Falcons, has almost lost in back to back TO BACK weeks to teams like the Raiders, Redskins, and Panthers. (Not exactly murderers row.) We've got the all mighty Patriots having suffered losses to teams like the Seahawks and Cardinals, the Giants fall asleep in a game vs the Browns but come back the next week to dominate the 49ers, and the Packers start the season 2-3 but then absolutely slaughter the 5-0 Texans! What the heck is going on here?!?!

It almost seems like records mean nothing at this point in the season. You have to accept that your team is probably going to come in and take a dump against some team that on paper they seem like they should handle. The key is not to over react to after each game. But if we can't look at records to figure out what teams we should take seriously, that what should we look at? Well, I think it's actually pretty simple. Based on my football watching experience, which is quite plentiful, in this modern NFL there are 4 things you need to have in order to be a legitimate title contender, a reliable QB, a good coach, an offensive line, and an effective defensive scheme. Now when I say "reliable QB" I don't mean elite, I mean reliable. You can pretty much put your team's QB through the Alex Smith, "will he lose the game for me?", test. If the answer is no, than you have one part of the puzzle. The next one is obvious. You need a head coach who can handle pregame preparation, in-game adjustments, and clock management (LOOKING AT YOU JASON GARRET!) if you're confident with your HC's ability to manage those things than that's your next piece! It's impossible to understate the importance of an offensive line in modern football, especially with the complimentary importance of pass rush. The funny thing is that this season I have seen some of the WORST offensive line play in years! It's be so bad it's almost offensive! (ZING!) So if your offensive line can protect your QB than you pass that test. And finally an effective defensive scheme. Originally I was going to say pass rush but I like defensive scheme better because it covers a broader scope. So essentially if you trust your defense can make an important stop and make the opposing QBs life tough than there you go, you have an effective defensive scheme.

So based on those four traits what team are contenders and which are pretenders? And which are somewhere in the middle.. Let me try and break it down for you in no particular order.

Contenders (Teams I could see standing when it's all said and done)
Atlanta Falcons  - Are the lucky or are they good in close games? Regardless, they're undefeated.
Houston Texans.
New York Giants - Finally the pass rush has arrived! That coupled with possibly the best QB in the league and you have to like the Giants. (homer-ism)
San Francisco 49ers.
Baltimore Ravens - Flacco is going to have to compensate for what is becoming an absolutely ordinary defense, Suggs being back should help but how much? For now they pass the test..
Green Bay Packers - They are who we thought they were! Just maybe not as great..
New England Patriots - Belichick-Brady-Young pass rushers. They'll figure it out. In the meantime, I'll save your seat on the bandwagon, dad.
Chicago Bears.

On the Verge (Close to passing the test, just missing something)
Seattle Seahawks - Just don't trust Russel Wilson yet but everything else is there. (KICKING MYSELF THAT RUSSEL WILSON IS MY STARTING FANTASY QB)
Dallas Cowboys - Jason Garret needs to learn how to tell time.
Pittsburgh Steelers - Close to being contenders but the o-line is too bad to ignore.
Minnesota Vikings.
Miami Dolphins - Very under rated defense, Tannehill has been impressive but not sure he's ready to pass the Alex Smith test.
Denver Broncos - I just don't buy this defense.

Limbo (Teams that pass the "blah" test. They're not very good but not terrible and don't necessarily pass the 4 tests but due to schedule or other reasons may over-achieve)
New York Jets - Click here for my thoughts on the Jets.
Cincinnati Bengals.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Buffalo Bills - Where in the world is Mario Williams?

Pretenders (Teams I think will fall off if they already haven't)
Arizona Cardinals - One of the worst offensive lines I've ever seen. Not to mention the lacking of a real QB.
Philadelphia Eagles - Selling all of my shares on Michael Vick. Plus, I think Andy Reid is going to lose his job eventually.
Washington Redskins.
San Diego Chargers - See Norv Turner.
Detroit Lions.
Indianapolis Colts - Probably not fair that they're on this list. Give them a year or two to move up.
St. Louis Rams.
New Orleans Saints - Vomiting, impotence, and anal leaking: All side effects of the Saints defense.

The Worst of the Rest (This is where teams go to die.)
Cleveland Browns - Have shown promise in a few games but overall not much too look forward to this year for Browns fans. God hates Cleveland.
Tennessee Titans - Has anyone taken a dump on an entire organization than Chris Johnson in recent history? Still, probably the best team on this list.
Kansas City Chiefs.
Oakland Raiders.
Carolina Panthers.
Jacksonville Jaguars - ZZZzzzzzzzzzz

Well excuuuuuuuse me! Here come my picks for this weekends action.

Seattle (+7.5)  at San Francisco
Arizona (+5.5) at Minnesota
Baltimore (+6.5) at Houston

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tebowing All Over the Sanchize

So any of you who follow my twitter handle (@StudentofSports) know that this season I have been plagued with the unfortunate pleasure of having to watch the the Jets suffer through the ugliest 2-3 start I have ever seen. As a New York area Giants fan, with an unhealthy obsession for football, I devote my Sundays to football and nothing else. And while the Giants aren't playing I'm compelled to watch what other game is on TV and that game usually includes that circus of a football team known as the Jets. Through 5 weeks of the season I have had to use every fiber of my being to NOT get physically sick and ruin my various football jerseys while watching these games. Well, although the Jets performed admirably and better than most expected this past Monday night against the Texans (Having said that, I did pick the Jets with the spread -7.5, so I had  some idea they'd perform better than expected.)  I couldn't help but walk away feeling that same sickening feeling in my stomach verging on the regurgitation of that night's dinner. You see, it's not WHAT the Jets are doing that repulses me as a football fan, it's HOW they're going about doing it. So as somebody who has watches plenty of football I'm going to try and explain the almost "Divine" comedy that is the 2012-13 New York Jets season.

So any logical thinking Jets fan must have been pretty annoyed this past offseason when the Jets shipped a 4th and 6th round pick to the Denver Broncos in exchange for the chosen one himself, Tim Tebow. Now, I'm actually a great fan of Tebow's! I believe he has great leadership abilities and a Russel-like desire to win, I also respect his faith and the fact that he's not afraid to be proud in what he believes in in what is largely a secular country. But the Jets didn't need Tebow! At least not as long as they had Mark Sanchez! Sure, Mark Sanchez has struggled and a lot of fans were concerned with his lack of progression last season but he is a QB who led the Jets to BACK TO BACK AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES! Not only that, but he was surrounded with headaches pleasantly disguising themselves as wide receivers in the shape of Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress! So safe to say he wasn't in the greatest situation to succeed. I remember an interview on The Fan where Jets' GM Mike Tannenbaum said that in the offseason one of his goals would be to improve the depth at the QB postition, I thought that was a good idea! Not because you wanted to bring in somebody to replace Sanchez but because you'd prefer your backup QB not to be the rotting corpse of a bankrupt Mark Brunell and somebody who might be able to give Sanchez a little push. The only problem with that was there wasn't much of a selection. Unless your still on the Vince Young bandwagon, a bandwagon more bankrupt than Mark Brunell, the only real quality backup was Kyle Orton, who went to Dallas. So the Jets did the logical thing and brought in a career 2nd or 3rd stinger in Drew Stanton who would at least by an improvement over Great Granddaddy Brunell. Oh, but you KNEW the Jets weren't done. Then out of nowhere they ink a deal with the Broncos to get Tebow and all Hell broke loose! (Ironic that Tebow's arrival signaled Hell breaking loose.) Next thing you know Stanton is a Colt and poor Mark Sanchez is in a media driven QB battle with the most popular and divisive player in the league. So what did I, along with most logical people forecast would happen? Sanchez would start the season but as he struggled the "TEEE-BOW" chants would start getting louder. Then after about a quarter of the season and a few disappointing losses pure mayhem would ensue and the fans and a rabid Skip Bayless would be crying for Tebowmania to finally take over and Sanchez be benched. Well, 5 weeks into the season what do you think happened? Yup, exactly that.

After watching the best and worst of Sanchez for the past 4 seasons I've come to the conclusion that his performance ways greatly on confidence. In his rookie season he was a high draft pick who was the starting QB in the Big Apple with a defense and running game that would be able to mask any of his probable weaknesses. He didn't have much to lose! And in turn I'm sure his confidence was at an all time high, which echoed in his performance, which although it wasn't always pretty, he was able to guide his team to back to back AFC title games in his first two years. In year 3 it wasn't as pretty. His running game had disappeared, the defense no longer elite, and the offense was more tailored for a passing game. So more pressure was on the Sanchize to succeed and when he inevitably came up short, he was still only 24 you know, the boo birds came out in flocks. This undoubtedly hurt his confidence and subsequently his performance. This season, the one he was hoping to turn over a new leaf and regain said confidence, they bring Tebow in! Of course Sanchez says all the right things, plays nice, but there is NOWAY that didn't screw with his delicate psyche. So as I watch the Jets offense this season, coordinated by the totally inept Tony Sparano, I notice something funny; It's almost as if the Jets go completely out of there way to disallow Sanchez from cultivating any real confidence. They haven't used Tebow too much, but just enough to screw with Marky-Mark. Just while Sanchez is finally orchestrating a drive that appears to be gaining momentum, they spell in Tebow for a play and completely throw off the mojo. And you can't just throw off the mojo! So then Sanchez is back in, having lost all that momentum and inevitably the drive fails. I watch this week in and week out and have come to the conclusion that Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano could not be the masterminds behind this low-flow offense, no the only logical explanation is that there is a crate full of squirrels somewhere assigned with the task of randomly selecting the Jets playbook. MAKES TOTAL SENSE.

And then we have the mad science experiment they seem to be having with Tebow. If the key to Sanchez is confidence than the key to Tebow is rhythm and momentum. Have you ever watched the man? With any sort of momentum he turns into a freaking freight train. So, how do the Jets get Tebow in rhythm? They bring him in for one play on a random series and have him run right into the line, only to then take him out on the subsequent play. Folks, you can't make this stuff up. Why not give him an entire possession? I'm not saying start him, but since you obviously don't care about Sanchez' confidence then would it kill you to give Tebow an entire series and see if he can cultivate the rhythm and momentum necessary to give the entire team a boost? AND DON'T GET ME STARTED ON HOW IMPRACTICAL AND DUMB IT IS TO BE PLAYING TEBOW AT WIDE RECEIVER. (Once again, I'm assuming this is the work of the squirrels.)  It's like they care too much about Sanchez to give Tebow any real opportunity but like Tebow too much to put Sanchez in a position to thrive. I'm dumb-founded and my intelligence as a football fan is insulted.

Let's face the facts, Tebow is here. And since Tebow is here and it's tough to imagine a situation where Sanchez is allowed to regain his confidence I don't see why it would hurt to at least give Tebow a real shot. If you want to use him USE HIM and stop yankin us all around. In reality the Jets are at a fork in the road, Sanchez Street and Tebow Avenue. Rather then chose any of the two paths Rex Ryan, Tony Sparano, and the rest of the organization are taking a dump right in the middle.