Goodbye September, I hardly knew you. Somehow the ninth month of 2012 has passed by and NFL teams find themselves rounding the 1/4th pole of the season. As expected the new national pastime has provided surprises, disappointments, a full box of WTF?! moments (many of which came from the replacement officials) and a brief stint of the NFL crossing over into the realm of pop culture.
Alright I promise that I’ll only mention the replacement officials one more time in this column, but first let me say this. Didn’t the fourth Sunday of September have the feel of week one?
Flash back to week 3, there was actually a chance that the Redzone channel was going to have to cut away from live action because the Pittsburgh-Oakland game was coming up on 8 o’clock and the NFL has a contractual obligation to shut the best channel on cable off at that time. Somehow the game finished before that dreaded time limit and gave Raiders fans around the country a chance to see the team’s lone bright spot of the season. In week four the 1 o’clock and 4 o’clock games finally moved at a pace that we’re all accustomed to.
In honor of the Arizona Cardinals starting off this season 4-0, I’m going to break the surprises and disappointments up into two sections that will make former head coach Denny Green smile while.
Note the surprises and disappointments are going to be players, teams, coaches, anyone involved in the NFL. Both surprises and disappointments will be spread out through both sections.
They are who we thought they were:
The San Francisco 49ers – Last year Jim Harbaugh brought the Niners up from the ashes of Candlestick Park (even though it’s still a functioning football stadium… barely). Coming into this season the Niners had become a trendy Super Bowl pick for a few reasons:
- All eleven starters on the league’s best defense returned. Those eleven defenders officially started the countdown to Tebowmania in New York after shutting out the Jets 34-0 this past Sunday.
- Alex Smith doesn’t turn the ball over (well maybe one time this season) and picks you apart. Smith’s INT streak ended against the Vikings in week three, after 249 straight attempts. His 67.4 completion percentage ranks eighth in the league.
- Frank Gore. He suddenly looks four years younger… from last season. His rushing totals have decreased in every game this season (112,89,63,62), but he represents the correct identity for success in the grand scheme of San Fran’s plan.
- Jim Harbaugh.
Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco – Both quarterbacks were entering what’s often referred to as the turning point year otherwise known as the fifth year. Both quarterbacks were rumored to run an (in Ryan’s case an even more so) up tempo offense. Both quarterbacks had done everything that needs to be done in the regular season. Yet year after year both quarterbacks have suffered devastating losses in the postseason.
This year both quarterbacks have excelled, so much so that come February there’s a good chance we’ll be talking about how one of them has ascended to the top tier of quarterbacks.
Houston Texans – If you take the bullet points that I listed for the Niners and apply them to the Texans, you’ll notice a lot of similarities, but you’ll also notice that Houston is much better in most positions:
- Matt Schuab>;Alex Smith
- Arian Foster>;Frank Gore
- Ben Tate>;Frank Gore
- Andre Johnson>;any vertical weapon on the Niners roster
- J.J Watt is the best 3-4 defensive end in football.
For years I’ve considered Demarcus Ware the best 3-4 defensive end in football. His blend of size, speed, and football IQ was and is off of the charts, but Watt might be a totally different animal. After a quarter of the season I have the Texans as the best team in football, with Baltimore a close second.
Everything on the Detroit Lions besides the passing attack. The only real shocking “disappointment” when you look at the Lions this year, is their defensive line. The heart and soul of Detroit’s defense isn’t putting enough pressure on the opposing quarterback throughout the game, which means that the secondary has to make up the difference. Chris Houston can’t do it all.
So what did the Lions improve in the offseason? Nothing really. They can’t run the football, even though Mikel Leshoure could stiff arm me in the face by the end of this season on that one. The secondary isn’t built to shut an air attack down. Calvin Johnson is on the cover of Madden (couldn’t let that one sneak away). Fundamentals haven’t been a focus of the Lions organization, but worst of all Stafford looks like his decision making has actually regressed from last season. He didn’t get much help from his receivers this past Sunday, Brandon Pettigrew dropped an easy touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The bromance of Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. At some point this season will Jets fans’ get to experience what the Monday after week one felt like? For those who don’t remember Mark Sanchez lit up Buffalo’s secondary for three touchdowns. Rex Ryan looked like a genius! Now he looks like a (fill in the blank with a four letter word)!
This past Sunday the Niners single handily pressed the button to start the countdown for this:
Voice of Jets PA announcer: AND NOW YOUR STARTING QUARTERBACK, FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, NUMBER FIFTEEN, TIM TEBOWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!
It’s a damn shame that Dan Carpenter missed that 43 yard field goal in overtime of week 3, otherwise Mike Francesca could be talking about how the Jets are doomed with Tebow starting, now I’ll have to listen to if Tebow should start.
Isn’t this exactly what the Jets wanted?
The Replacements. They came like a group of people who had no idea what they were doing and left like a group of people who had no idea what they were doing. We as fans witnessed the integrity of the NFL burn like an apocalyptic city in only three weeks. Think about this, what happens if The Incompetence play doesn’t end the Packers-Seahawks Monday night game? Are the replacements back for another week? Do the regular officials ever come back this season? Do we as fans change the channel and watch Seth McFarlane Sunday nights on FOX?
Thank God we don’t have to worry about watching back to back American Dads and then a new episode of Family Guy on Sunday nights. The number of talking animals/aliens I can handle in a night is usually around one.
Reggie Wayne – In the week leading up to my fantasy football draft I kept talking up Wayne. I really felt that he was going to be drafted as a WR3 but wind up being a high WR2 this season for a couple reasons: he’s the best skill position player on the team. Andrew Luck hasn’t had a talent like Wayne in his entire life, so you know he’s going to take full advantage of having him. The Colts were/are going to be down quite a bit so Wayne had/has the makings of the garbage time MVP of this season.
He was drafted in the fifth round of my league and hasn’t disappointed: 23/294/1. And I wonder why I’m in last place for the second straight year.
Eli Manning – Best fourth quarter QB in the league.
Football Night In America’s starting time – I think FNIA is the best football show on Sundays, but it comes on at the worst time. When the show starts at 7pm the late games are just reaching their climax, so why the hell am I going to change the channel to watch highlights of the day as I’m potentially watching the most important moments of the day unfold? Dan Patrick should welcome everyone to the broadcast at 7:30.
Jamaal Charles YPC – 5.8
Raiders – How hot is Hue Jackson’s seat? Hotter than Chipolte’s hottest seasoning? Does he need Chipoltaway?
They aren’t who we thought they were:
Cardinals – Come on they had to start the section off; after all I named most of the column after them. I’m rooting for Kevin Kolb to do the impossible and lead Arizona to the playoffs because I always thought Kolb deserved better than what life in the NFL dealt to him. Maybe he’s going to turn all of those negative experiences into one big positive this year. He’s got the right weapon (Fitzgerald) alongside of him to get the job done.
Obvious statement alert! Arizona’s defense is legit as they’ve allowed the second fewest points (40) in the league. They’re tied for third in sacks (12). Who is the catalyst for this?
Patrick Peterson is the correct answer. Outside of the quarterback position there isn’t player in the entire league that has taken a bigger step in their sophomore season than Peterson has. He’s vaulted into shutdown cornerback territory, he’s a threat in the return game and can run the wildcat. Peterson is the Percy Harvin of defense.
Chris Johnson: Your impressive 148 yard day against the Texans won’t fool me. That is unless my CJ2K hates Jake Locker theory is correct.
Let me explain, as of three years ago Chris Johnson was viewed as the future of the Titans franchise. Matt Hasselbeck was doing a great job of playing the role of the old veteran quarterback who had just enough left in the tank to make the correct throws when he had to. The offense revolved around CJ.
Enter Jake Locker aka the future franchise quarterback. Suddenly the Titans amassed a group of legitimate receiving threats for their young quarterback, which meant that Johnson wasn’t the focus of attention anymore; even though in his mind he thinks he should be. So he worked his ass off in the offseason, impresseed everyone at camp, got every fantasy football enthusiast to buy into this positive spin. Everything looks good right? Then he pulls it all away with three of the worst games in his career.
Locker goes down with a shoulder injury against the Texans and then all of a sudden here comes Chris Johnson! I’m betting that week four was just an anomaly and come next week against the Vikings you’ll be back to your 12 carry, 21 yard self.
The Minnesota Vikings! – Let me just start by saying I think the Vikings 3-1 record is more impressive than the Cards 4-0 start. Minnesota was the first team to force the Jim Harbaugh Niners to do something they haven’t been accustomed to doing and aren’t built for, playing from behind.
Christian Ponder is the most improved player in the league by far. He’s making good quick decisions with the football, he’s not afraid to take off and use his legs to get a first down, and most importantly he doesn’t turn the ball over. Right now there is only one starting quarterback who hasn’t thrown an interception this season. Would you like to guess who it is?
Now Ponder does have much more help than Kolb as he has the most versatile skill player in the league (Harvin) and a part human, part cyborg in the backfield. Seriously how amazing is it that Adrian Peterson rushed for 102 yards in the fourth game since his horrific ACL/MCL tear in week 16 of last season? Super amazing? Super-duper amazing? A word before amazing that hasn’t been invented? I loved his quote after the game against the Lions (no not the 200 yard game quote), when asked about facing Chris Johnson, Peterson said, “I know who the best back in this league is.”
I think Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles might have something to say about that.
The Bears – I put the death wish on Chicago when I picked them to go to the Super Bowl… Moving on.
Robert Griffin the 3rd – Is it safe to say that RG3 has best rookie ever award in his sights? In a month Washington’s wunderkind has turned the ‘Skins into a legitimate threat to make the playoffs (even though their defensive injuries might hinder that), but perhaps more importantly for Dan Snyder Griffin has made the Redskins the new must watch team. Every week I find myself tuning into Redskins games wondering what kind of numbers he’s going to put up and what kind of numbers he’s going to have to put up in order to win.
His rookie season is going to be compared what Super Cam did last season and that’s fine because fantasy football has become a dominating force in our sports society. We’re now wired to compare seasons of similar skilled players and debate on who is better (who’s side is Skip going to take, do we care? I don’t) and if I find myself in that position I know who I’m going to argue for. Hell there really shouldn’t be an argument.
Robert Griffin the 3rd has recorded one game winning drive already and he should have had two, but Josh Morgan’s dumbass had to ruin it by committing one of, if not, the dumbest penalty in NFL history. Cam put up historic numbers last season, but at the end of the year those stats look hollow, especially as your eyes move over to the Panthers’ win total in 2011 (6).
I still think that Andrew Luck will end up as a more successful quarterback in the long run, but right now it’s hard to argue with these stats for Bob Griffin:
Passing – 69.4 completion percentage, 1,070 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 103.2 QB rating.
Rushing – 252 yards, 6.5 YPC, 4 TDs (tied for a franchise record).
His only glaring stat? Five fumbles, he’s only lost one however.
The year of the rookie kickers?! – This is remarkable:
Greg “young jeezy” Zuerlein (Rams): 12-12 including a Rams’ record 60 yard FG against the Lions.
Blair Walsh (Vikings): 9-10 including a game winner against the Jaguars in week two.
The Eagles’ offensive playcalling: Just when it looked like Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinwig had learned their lesson about not running the football and getting Michael Vick eaten alive, they hit rewind and brought Birds fans right back to 2011. Through three games McCoy had carried the ball just 58 times (58!?(thankfully against the Giants last Sunday he carried the rock 23 times)). He’s a top three back in the NFL, he reminds every analyst of arguably the best running back ever (Barry Sanders), so the fuck did he only carry the ball four times in the first half against the Cardinals? Do they realize that the run sets up the….
I have to stop before I let fandom take over this column. It’s just insane to think that we’re witnessing the deleted scenes from the 2011 Eagles DVD and yet the team is 3-1. When will anything in the NFL actually make sense?
Saints – 0-4, think the record pretty much writes this paragraph.
The Patriots running game – Bellichek knows that he doesn’t have a good offensive line, so what does he do? Put an added emphasis on running the football so defenses aren’t able to blitz and annihilate the leading UGG spokesman.
Here’s a fun stat for you, in week four Steven Ridley (106 yards) and Brandon Bolden (137 yards) both ran for 100+ yards, the last time the Patriots did that? November 23, 1980.
Mario Williams – Seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, $50 million guaranteed. The 2012 Bills defense everybody!
Packers offensive line – Here’s another one stat paragraph that speaks for itself: Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 16 times in four games this season, at this pace he’ll get sacked 64 times in 16 games. He was sacked 36 times last season. Yet the Packers should be 3-1, weird, weird league.
Chiefs – Oh Romeo, where art thou 2011 miracle Romeo? I’m not sure who is more of a lock to get the first overall pick, the Chiefs or AmericanhorrorTorrey, my fantasy football team.
Peyton Manning’s arm strength – I wasn’t sure where to put this one because Manning has vastly improved the Broncos offense (getting rid of Tebow will do that), but it’s not the same Peyton that we’re used to. As I’ve said before, I’m really beginning to wonder if he picked Denver because of the eight games he gets to play in thin air. Let’s see what he can do when he’s not in a dome and not in an area that I could throw the ball 40+ yards in. For the time being we’ll stash him away as a surprise.
1/4 of the 2012 season MVP:
Matt Ryan – The Falcons are the undisputed best team of the NFC after one month of the season thanks to the league MVP of that time span. Matty Ice currently leads the league in passing, here are his stats from the best month of his career:
Who I like on Monday Nite:
Dallas 21 – Chicago 13
Quote of the week:
“In practice every week, we always practice me calling the plays in two-minute, acting as if the headset goes out. The funny thing was the headset did go out on that drive. That’s why I was having to run back and forth to the sideline. I had to call a couple of my own plays, and we moved the chains and got in field-goal range.
-Robert Griffin on his first career game winning drive. (From the AP)
As always it’s time to go no huddle:
- Does Jackie Battle now have more fantasy value than Ryan Matthews?
- Are the Mayans going to be right?
- Why did Jags fans wait until a torrential downpour in the fourth quarter to leave the stadium on Sunday?
- Seriously how nice was that pass from Mohammad Sanu last week?
- Remember when the Bills came back from a double digit deficit in the second half to beat the Patriots last season?
- Remember when the Bills were up 21-7 in the first half against the Patriots on Sunday?
- Remember that 31 points the Patriots put up in the fourth quarter.
- Scam 3 Cam 1
- Roddy White had the fantasy receiving line of the day until…
- Brian Hartline put up a ridonkulous 12/253/1.
- I don’t care if Sam Bradford didn’t throw a touchdown against the Seahawks, I think Jeff Fisher will turn his career back in the right direction starting this season.
- Your rushing leader (in yards) at the quarter of the season pole: Marshawn Lynch (423)
- Your receiving leader (in yards): Brian Hartline (455)
- Your sack leader: J.J Watt (7.5)
- Your interception leader: Tim Jennings (4, should be 5).
- Your passing leader (in yards): Drew Brees (1,350)
- When will we get a pregame show on Sunday that’s as good as Inside the NBA?
- Will it ever happen?
- How many people will put in a waiver request for Brian Hartline on Monday?
- Brandon Pettigrew catch that damn ball.
- What a trip by Karl Malone Jr.!
- He saved Michael Vick from getting demolished.
- Where was Schiano’s defense when he needed it the most?
- I love the Freeman to Jackson tandem.
- BRIAN HARTLINE HAD 12 CATCHES FOR 253 YARDS AND ONE TOUCHDOWN!
- AGAINST THE CARDINALS!
- AND KEVIN KOLB IS STILL UNDEFEATED THIS SEASON!
- What the hell is happening on Sundays?
- Remember when the league was the going to be taken over by an aerial attack?
- The best teams in the league run the football and play good hard defense.
- Minnesota will win a wild card spot if Ponder, Peterson, and Harvin stay healthy.
I want to start a weekly mailbag column if you have any questions, comments, or hilarious stories that involve sports, or fantasy sports, email me: email@example.com or tweet me @scottdargis.
I THOUGHT TYNES HAD ENOUGH LEG!!!