Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Week 3 postmortem

This is a little better. I went 9-5 for the week with my picks. A pretty good step up from last week, especially considering that I was on the wrong end of only one blowout. By the end of Sunday, my four losses had come by a combined 20 points. Then Denver-Kansas City came along and doubled that. The Chiefs could have at least tried to look alive out there.

What I got right, what I got wrong:

Philadelphia over Oakland: If you've ever doubted that the kicker is one of the most critical positions, you know better now. Thanks to David Akers' sore stick, the Eagles missed one extra point, which meant the game would be tied at the end, and their strategy at times was predicated on going for TDs because field goals weren't an option. Speaking of kicks: I've never seen it take three tries to get the game-opening kickoff away. The TV shot of the day came when Akers kicked off the first time, then fell to the ground. Behind him, you could see two grounds crew guys watching. One taps the other on the shoulder and points to the crumpled Akers. Next play, when Akers goes down again, you can see the same guys react again.

Cincinnati over Chicago: Last week I wrote of the Bengals and Carson Palmer's disturbing end-zone interceptions: "One of these days (next Sunday), they'll be playing a team (Bears) much closer, and some DB (Mike Brown) will take one of those back 100 yards." Sunday, up just 7-0 on the Bears, Palmer hit Brown square in the numbers at the goal line. Brown, shocked at having seen his future laid out for him so crisply in Down and Distance, was so rattled that he dropped the ball. Bengals defensive backs weren't as accommodating for Kyle Orton. With 6 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, Orton's line was 5 of 16 for 42 yards, 0 TD, 5 INT. His passer rating was 1.0. Lovie Smith should've pulled him right then. That's the stuff of legend.

Tampa Bay over Green Bay: The Bucs hadn't won at Lambeau since the Lindy Infante era. The Packers haven't been this bad since the Lindy Infante era. What did you think was going to happen? We can keep coming up with these Lambeau-mystique stats, but they don't matter anymore.

Indianapolis over Cleveland: Lot of angles in this game. 1) How do the Browns receivers -- Browns receivers! -- draw two taunting penalties? Who on Earth can they taunt convincingly? 2) How much longer will we focus on the improved Indy defense before we notice that defenses appear to have figured out the Indy offense?

Minnesota over New Orleans: Either Daunte Culpepper got a lot better or Minnesota finally started game-planning for a universe in which Randy Moss isn't in purple. Or maybe it was just the effect of playing the Saints. When fatigue starts to set in, the mind slips before the body. And the Saints made a lot of mental mistakes.

St. Louis over Tennessee: Torry Holt took a certain rookie corner to school: 9 catches for 163 yards, 1 TD. It's like Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Sue were running the routes.

Seattle over Arizona: Season stats: Neil Rackers, 32 points. The other 52 Cardinals, 12 points. And another Kurt Warner experiment closes down for the year.

Dallas over San Francisco: Julian Peterson, stand over there next to Derek Smith. I see neither of you guys is available at FatHead.com. Oughta be.

San Diego over N.Y. Giants: This was a matter of deciding whether the Chargers were really an 0-2 team or the Giants were really a 2-0 team. Losses to Dallas and Denver were just more convincing than victories over New Orleans and Arizona. Sorry. On another matter, I don't easily declare certain penalties ticky-tack. If the rule's in the book, you've got to enforce it. But the roughing-the-passer call on Chargers D-lineman Luis Castillo that cost Drayton Florence a INT-return touchdown was about as close as you can get to letter-of-the-law-but-not-the-spirit. Castillo's hand brushed Eli Manning's facemask while he was being rassled by his blocker. Castillo didn't grab the mask, and he certainly didn't strike Manning in the head. Though God knows he should have.

N.Y. Jets over Jacksonville: The theory goes like this: When in doubt, pick the home dog. Bad dog. The only thing that kept this one close was that the Jaguars' offense doesn't play very good defense. As for the Jets, we could spend a long time making a list of what they need. But it's obvious what they don't need: a weak-armed quarterback underthrowing interceptions in his own territory in OT. At least they don't have one of those anymore. A lot of people in the stands are going to have to get new jerseys.

Buffalo over Atlanta: I see now it's foolish to read anything into a victory over the Texans. J.P. Losman's line: 10 of 23 for 75 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT. Dink, dunk, punt. If Drew Drew Bledsoe had still been the Bills' quarterback, he'd have gone 23 of 42 for 256 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT. And yet Buffalo still would have lost by eight. That'll learn me.

Carolina over Miami: I can understand getting caught off guard in Week 1. I can understand then coming back fired up for Week 2 and catching the defending champions off guard. But by Week 3, you're supposed to beat "weaker" teams -- if you're a legitimate Super Bowl threat. On the Miami side of the ball, Ronnie Brown's 58-yard run was great, but I couldn't help noticing how it ended. Brown got through the entire Panther defense and had a 5-yard lead on his closest pursuers. Two caught up with him within 20 yards, including linebacker Dan Morgan. When a linebacker, even a first-rounder, can outrun the running back who went No. 2 in the draft, that's not a good thing. Tell me again why Brown was a better pick than Cadillac Williams?

Pittsburgh over New England: The Colts can't beat the Patriots in New England? The Steelers can't beat the Patriots in Pittsburgh. Notes: 1) The hook-and-ladder is more effective when the guy who gets the lateral knows there's a lateral coming. 2) A fourth-quarter comeback is more inspiring when it isn't followed by a complete defensive collapse. 3) A cut block is more useful when the person who throws it (Dan Koppen, NE) takes out the intended opponent (Larry Foote, PIT) rather than injuring his own teammate (Matt Light, NE).

Kansas City over Denver: Going into this one, I would have thought the Chiefs would be fine even if they fell behind by 10. When they actually did fall behind by 10, it was over, and everyone knew it.

SEASON: 27-19

Down and Distance's exclusive POW-R-'ANKINGS are the most accurate assessment of team strength available on the Internet. The formula behind them predicted 10 of the last 15 Super Bowl winners -- and 14 of the last 15 Super Bowl winners finished the regular season No. 1 or No. 2 in the POW-R-'ANKINGS system. Unlike with other, lesser ranking systems, no opinion is involved. None. It's hard-core science. Teams are ranked on a centigrade scale, with 100 representing the NFL's strongest team and 0 its weakest. (Key: WK3 = This week's ranking. WK2 = Last week's ranking. PWR = POW-R centigrade score)

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