Things I know.
The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to be a top notch organization. Say what you will, and we don’t know how this season will finish, but the Steelers prove once again that they know how to build quality teams and pick quality coaches. Ben Roethlisberger sounded really contrite (we’ll see) in his pre-return interviews. Sounds like he got a Mike-Vick-like shake up in his life. For his own sake, let’s hope that it’s true. While high profile teams like the Cowboys and Redskins can’t seem to learn how to run a quality organization, the Steelers just keep winning.
Martin Mayhew is putting a talented Detroit Lions team together. We’ll see if Jim Schwartz is the coach that can win with these players, but Mayhew has rebuilt the team with talent faster than one could have expected after the destruction that Matt Millen caused. They may not win many games this year, but they are competitive in every game and even with major injuries are making teams sweat. If Schawrtz is the right coach, expect the Lions to put up some wins next year.
The Dallas Cowboys are completely undisciplined. The Cowboys are 2nd in the league in penalties per game and 1st in penalty yards per game and yards nullified by penalties. On top of that they are -5 in turnover differential, only topped by the 49ers. Is there any wonder they are 1-4? Is it any wonder where this is coming from? It has to be bad coaching. The key mistakes on a weekly basis should lead to Wade Phillips being fired. All the teams in the NFC East can only hope that Jerry Jones continues to hire worthless coaches that he can control. With the talent on that team, the Cowboys with a good coach could be a problem.
Things I think I know.
Platoon Running Backs are saving teams high draft picks. What do Peyton Hillis, Michael Turner, Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas, Ahmad Bradshaw, Ryan Torain and Arian Foster all have in common? None of them was picked higher than the 5th round and all of them are averaging 4+ yards a carry this season and for their career averages. That’s just a few backs that stand out. Teams are finding these players because in a platoon, several backs get a chance to shine and more of them stay healthy for longer. No matter how they got to their respective teams, 3 of them were undrafted, 2 were drafted in the 7th round and 2 of them were drafted in the 5th round. That’s quite a bit of talent and there’s more like them, like Ryan Grant, Jerome Harrison, and Fred Jackson for instance. Do we blame Mike Shanahan for ruining our fantasy leagues?
The Giants did more than beat up the Bears two weeks ago. They exposed a major weakness of the Chicago Bears. Either, the O-line is bad, the coached blocking scheme is bad, or Jay Cutler doesn’t know how to throw hot reads… or all three. In any case, the Seahawks had 6 sacks on Cutler and the Bears were unable to punch it in the end zone multiple times. Expect the Redskins to try to exploit the same weakness in next week’s game. At the current rate, the Bears will give up 61 sacks on the season.
The NFL’s crusade to limit “unnecessary roughness” needs to change. It’s a valiant crusade, but needs to be adjusted. Anyone knows that if you want to adjust behavior through discipline, two things are key to success: consistency and reasonable rules. The NFL officiating currently has neither. The more you frustrate players with unreasonable rules, the more a player will just shrug and do what he has always done because it’s too difficult to change. The QB protection rules are an example. Many D-lineman just can’t figure out what will and will not be called roughing the passer. Either they play soft and get in trouble with the coach or play normal, trying not to break the rules, and get flagged every once in a while. Every player will choose the latter option. Another example is the flag on Kevin Kolb for a horse collar tackle when he didn’t pull the player down backwards. The inconsistency and/or unreasonableness of the rules make players less likely to try to follow the rules.
Things I know I don’t know.
How do Frank Gore and Steven Jackson not lose their minds? These two players are professionals and perform week in and week out, yet they are part of consistently losing franchises that have gone nowhere and give them no chance of achieving “greatness” through team success. How do they not lose it? It has to be frustrating. Hopefully Jackson’s team will improve for his sake, but it doesn’t look like SF will improve around Gore for a while.
Are the West teams at a disadvantage? There have been statisticians that have shown that West coast teams consistently have a worse record traveling East than East teams have traveling West. Is that a function of a time change adjustment problem, or just bad teams in the West? The 49ers were good for a long time traveling anywhere they had to. Denver was too. This year both West divisions are especially suspect. Is there a disadvantage? Or are they just bad organizations?
Has the Saints offense finally gotten back on track? The Saints finally looked like the offense from 2006-9. Yes it was against the Tampa Bay Bucs, but the Bucs have been playing better than expected. Maybe it was having a solid running game. Maybe it was just Brees and his WR finally being in sync. Maybe it was just a fluke. The Saints play the lowly Browns this weekend, so if they are finally back on track; they should put up a good game offensively. They better be back to form, the Saints face the Steelers the next week and are in a dogfight with the Falcons for the NFC South.