It's Tuesday, and time to talk NFL. We made it through another week of watching every preseason game and I have to admit...it was about 4,000 times harder this week than it was last week. First of all, last week seems like 20 years ago. And last week football was new again. I feel like I have been watching nothing but football and the season is only two weeks old...the preseason is only two weeks old. It was also a lot easier last week because I had all Saturday night to watch games, whereas this past Saturday from about 3:30 PM to midnight, I was in the parking lot at FedEx field. I pushed my DVR to the max and muscled through the second slate of games.
One thing I discovered: a few of the dudes who I play fantasy football with decided they could uncover my draft day strategy by reading this column. So I have to be a little more careful. I have hidden two FAKE fantasy observations in today's column. I need one more week to protect my draft. You understand, right?
Two Free Toppings For Redskins Fans So Far
We got into the end zone twice. The fact that Chase Daniel threw both touchdowns is not really that big of a deal to me. What matters the most to me is that Marko Mitchell and Fred Davis were the ones who caught those passes. If you ask me, Mitchell made the team on Saturday night. He made his presence known when he was on the field and that touchdown catch was the kind of red zone play we have been lacking for quite some time. I realize it was not against the first team defense, but that grab made me wonder if he could be a guy that you could call plays for in the red zone. Just because it took Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas two years to figure out how to make themselves useful doesn't mean it will take that long for Marko.
The same kind of warm and fuzzy feeling washed over me when Fred Davis caught his touchdown. He needed that. We all needed that. Talk about the difference a week makes. Not only no fumbles, but Fred Davis made a big play on special teams as well. Nobody doubts Sleepy's abilities. But until last night, we had yet to see him string together a number of smart plays that impacted the game. Games like that build not only his confidence, but the confidence in the coaches to call his number, and the confidence in his teammates to rely on him. I am already in the tank for Fred this season, having predicted he will be a huge factor in our red zone, so his performance made me a lot more comfortable.
Jason Campbell audibled at least two times, but probably more on Saturday night! This has been a huge bone of contention between Campbell supporters and Campbell bashers, and between Jim Zorn supporters and Jim Zorn bashers. The results of these audibles did not seem to show themselves in the stats, but nevertheless, he did change the play prior to the snap. This was confirmed in post-game interviews, most notably by Jim Zorn when he praised Campbell for getting them out of a play or two that had no chance of working.
Finally, Brian Orakpo seemed to me to be everywhere. Based on what we have seen so far, he does not appear to have bust potential does he? Sure he is still raw out there in the some of the things they are asking him to do but damn he looked good rushing the passer. Hogs Haven has a word to explain false starts and holding calls on offensive linemen lined up across from Brian Orakpo: Orakpophobia. (nicely done Kevin) The Redskins defense looks poised to carry this team.
Please...No More Penalties...
Week Two of the penalty-fest rages on. I spend a considerable amount of time on fast forward for some of these games, and rightfully so. The little yellow "FLAG" box on the ticker was working overtime. I thought it was going to burn into my TV screen. Both my TV and I waded through the sloppy play and here is our deep thought of the week:
The two worst jobs in the world: Rosie O'Donnell's urologist and the first tackler on the scene when Brandon Jacobs is the runner. Now on to the games.
Indianapolis Colts 23, Philadelphia Eagles 15 - DeSean Jackson is not going anywhere is he? Damn. The good news is that no matter how great the Eagles look right now or even during the season, they will find a way to come up short. That said, the truth is they look strong. Speaking of strong, Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne are not missing a beat. And Donald Brown continues to look every bit as good as Joseph Addai in that offense. He is going to steal carries from Addai right away. If/when Addai gets banged up, Brown might take the starter's job and never give it back.
Cincinnati Bengals 7, New England Patriots 6 - I simply don't know how you can sustain true hatred for Chad Ochocinco. The dude is fun to watch. He is an amazing athlete and has the ability to make amazing plays, and he is a true entertainer. If you can think of no other reason to watch this season's Hard Knocks on HBO, Chad is worth putting it on your schedule. In this game he kicked an extra point and he opened the second half with a kickoff. Both were pretty decent.
Minnesota Vikings 17, Kansas City Chiefs 13 - Brett Favre looked okay--the Chiefs seemed to be blitzing on every play that he dropped back. What stood out to me was the play of the Vikings starting linebackers. Henderson, Greenway and Leber looked great. If the Williams brothers can stay on the field, this defense is going to be sick. Larry Johnson couldn't seem to get anything going, as it always looked like he was getting met at the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately for Larry, in the same game, there was a guy named Adrian who seemed able to get yards in tight space at will. Two other players I found myself paying attention to: Dwayne Bowe and Ryan Succop. Bowe is listed at 6'2" but he looks gigantic on the field. If he and Matt Cassel get comfy, watch out. Ryan Succop, this year's Mr. Irrelevant, has been kicking the ball very well. In a 12-team league, I would not be shocked to see this guy on someone's roster, given the fact that KC may be settling for a lot of field goals this season.
Dallas Cowgirls 30, Tennessee Titans 10 - Watching the punters take aim at the largest HD screen in the world before and during this game was amazing. How do you spend that much money to build a place like that and not know that your screen is totally in play? Wait...they DID know. Apparently the Cowgirls' punter was tested at 100 feet and they still left the screen at about 90 feet off the ground. I guess the only thing bigger than Jerry Jones' wallet is his sense of denial. You think every punter who comes through there isn't going to try and hit the screen? It's going to be a rite of passage for punters, replacing the old rite of passage for punters, which was of course trying to get laid. I can already see Chris Cooley taking his backup punting job a LOT more seriously in pre-game warmups on the road in Dallas. I hope that Jerry Jones and the NFL are able to figure this one out, because "World's Biggest Video Screen" could turn into "World's Biggest Video Screen Disaster" on the front pages quickly.
Cleveland Browns 27, Detroit Lions 10 - Come on Matthew Stafford...you're killing me. Calvin Johnson is all-world, but even he would have had trouble bringing down some of the balls Stafford was putting up. It could have been worse, but not much. The Browns got on the scoreboard this preseason with Derek Anderson leading the way. I know Braylon Edwards is a stud, but I think Josh Cribbs and Mike Furrey are the two best receivers on that team right now. A quarterback could get real comfortable and real confident in a hurry throwing to those two.
Miami Dolphins 27, Carolina Panthers 17 - Carolina's uninspired play has made me forget quickly how dominant they were last season. Jake Delhomme does not look like he is at the top of his game--if he is then they are in real trouble. I worry that DeAngelo Williams may be asked to do too much, and the Panther defense continues to be riddled by injuries this preseason. Miami would not be the sexiest team on the field even if they lined up against the "Before" cast of the "The Biggest Loser". But they get it done, don't they? If you had to choose between Davone Bess and Ted Ginn Jr. in a fantasy draft, who would you take? I go back and forth, and Ted Ginn Jr. has really impressed me a lot this preseason. Bess is going to have a few insane fantasy days this season.
Atlanta Falcons 20, St. Louis Rams 13 - If it wasn't against St. Louis, I would be tempted to say this Falcons' team is in playoff form. Michael Turner and Matt Ryan got their reps in and they looked smooth. The Rams did next to nothing against the Falcons first string defense. The leading passer for the Rams? Kyle Boller. I could not get to the final whistle of this game fast enough.
San Diego Chargers 17, Arizona Cardinals 6 - Something about a game that involves Norv Turner causes my finger to LAY on the fast-forward button. Philip Rivers looked good...maybe he knew he was about to sign a 6 yr/$92 million contract extension. That's right, he is no longer in the sights of teams looking to change quarterbacks next season...ahem...Daniel Snyder, please put that phone down. Kurt Warner did not look sharp. Watching him made me wonder if losing Todd Haley is going to be the difference between this being a "special" offense or this being a good offense that doesn't do enough to make the playoffs.
Seattle Seahawks 27, Denver Broncos 13 - Here's why Matt Hasselbeck will be up for the fantasy comeback player of the year award: Both he and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are smart, exceptional football players. They are clearly getting comfortable together and if you give a guy like Hasselbeck a player like Houshmandzadeh to rely on, he is going to milk it for all it's worth. Throw in this year's rookie Deon Butler and last year's rookie John Carlson (led the team last season in catches and receiving yards) and the Seahawks should be able to do some damage in the NFC West. As for the Broncos, am I the only one who is watching this team and wondering how they are going to get it done on defense every week? There has been no team in more disarray than the Broncos this offseason. Front offices in Washington, D.C., Oakland, Dallas, and Detroit are all extremely grateful.
San Francisco 49ers 21, Oakland Raiders 20 - Mike Singletary strikes me as the kind of coach who is just a hair away from putting on pads and getting out there. And he needs to just so he can let off some steam. You know he has to be just pissed about the lack of a bona fide quarterback out there. Shaun Hill was just named the starter, but I am not sure if you would say he "won" the job. All that said, I think the defense and running game out there will carry the 49ers to respectability this season. Glen Coffee continues to shine. In Oakland, you know they have to be fighting the urge to start Jeff Garcia--the guy who gives them the best chance to win by the way. The best quarterback on the field all day was Nate Davis, the youngster for the 49ers.
New Orleans Saints 38, Houston Texans 14 - The first quarter was a 7-7 tie with the Texans getting help on their opening drive from the Saints defensive penalties. The play that got them their touchdown though on that opening drive looked pretty awesome. Gary Kubiak drew up a bootleg that gave Matt Schaub a wide open receiver on the line of scrimmage at the 5-yard line. It was beautiful. Drew Brees got his touchdown of course and the Saints offense rolled all night long.
Green Bay Packers 31, Buffalo Bills 21 - Most improved team from last year to this year? Green Bay Packers. Dom Capers has that defense ready to go right now. And while Aaron Rodgers still creeps me out a little, it is hard to argue with his abilities. The player that stands out to me for Green Bay right now is their young tight end Jermichael Finley. He looks very, very nasty. Him and Donald Lee are battling it out for the lead pass-catching tight end spot, and Lee is no slouch. If Finley becomes a regular on the field, he will post Witten-like tight end fantasy numbers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24, Jacksonville Jaguars 23 - I kept waiting for the Jags to get their rushing yards at least. But they only got 61 all night. That is a stat that will haunt a team like theirs. They are built to control the clock and play solid defense. David Garrard looked decent going over 200 yards passing, but when the season starts, is that going to be their bread and butter? Last week I said Jacksonville would be battling for the title of Most Boring Team. The Buccaneers are going to give them a real run for their money.
Chicago Bears 17, New York Giants 3 - All the Redskins fans that wanted Jay Cutler to come to D.C. would be kicking themselves if they watched this game. Cutler had his way against the Giants...like Bob Saget with the Olsen twins. Matt Forte ran well and the Bears starting defense looked pretty strong. EXCEPT for when Brandon Jacobs blew up Urlacher on one particular run. He made Brian Urlacher look like LaRon Landry last season. That is one violent dude. I am still in awe of Landry for even attempting to take Jacobs on straight-up like that.
Baltimore Ravens 24, New York Jets 23 - Let the Mark Sanchez era begin. There is no way Kellen Clemens wins that job. Nor should he. It is close enough that after trading up to get him, he is going to get the nod. I love Rex Ryan in New York. He brings a lot more personality to a team that needed it. Troy Smith looked pretty bad all night, but when they put in an option play late in the game, he all of a sudden looked very comfy. Ordinarily you might think he would be a slam dunk as a red zone quarterback but Joe Flacco is pretty close to being a guy you don't take off the field. Not yet, but pretty close.
Give Me the Numbers, STAT!
Last week the Redskins were outgained 500-196 and got shut out by the Ravens. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Redskins outgained the Steelers 304-238. They had a 20-13 advantage in total first downs and they had a better 3rd down conversion percentage than the Steelers. They added a two-for-two performance on 4th down. The Redskins held the Steelers to less than 100 yards rushing and had fewer penalties. A lot of this was accomplished with second- and third-stringers on the field but it is still meaningful. When you hold these kinds of advantages over your opponent, you tend to come out the winner. That is an important thing to learn and remember as we get closer to the games counting.