Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Week One Recap

First, the bad news. I went 6-9 against the spread this week, with one tie. If I had picked the games straight up, I'd have been 11-5. Those freaking point spreads killed me. I was particularly hurt by some special teams insanity - notably Ted Ginn and Percy Harvin, and some untimely injuries - Sam Bradford and Andy Dalton. If Bruce Gradkowski didn't come in and save the day for the Bengals, I'm sure the Browns would have triumphed.

Now, the good news.

The Lions won, by almost the exact score I predicted. The Steelers lost, by 28 points to their biggest rival while losing their starting RT for the season. And my 13 fantasy teams went 10-3, with all three teams that I care about getting off to 1-0 starts.

Overall, it was a pretty awesome weekend.

To make things even better, Kansas City (Detroit's week 2 opponent) got shellacked in their opener, and also lost one of their best players, Eric Berry, who would have been covering Calvin Johnson. I'm sad for Berry, a budding star from the 2010 draft, but I'm happy in regards to the week 2 matchup.

Let's quickly dissect each game, and how I managed to go 6-9 against the spread.

Packers 42, Saints 34
The opener went almost exactly as I predicted, but with a few unexpected special teams touchdowns. These are two of the best teams in the NFL, period. It's a shame somebody had to lose. The key story is Colston's broken shoulder; time to pick up Meachem and Henderson off waivers.

Lions 27, Bucs 20
I called Lions 27-13, so if the Bucs didn't get that TD with 1:30 left I would have nailed it exactly. This game was played out almost exactly how I described it.

The key was Matthew Stafford, who is making it difficult for me to continue criticizing him. He made some errant throws, particularly the pick-six, but his overall play was at least a B+. He basically played up to his level of hype for the first time in his entire career. Consider this:

-This game was only the third time that Stafford has started a game and won that game without getting injured. The other two times were home games against the terrible Redskins. This was Stafford's first road victory, and first victory against a good team. That's a double awesome bonus if you ask me.

-This was Stafford's best statistical game with a 118 QB rating. He completed 72% of his passes for a 9.2 YPA. He had never reached either of those figures before in any game. Only one other time in his short career has Stafford eclipsed a 95 QB rating, and that was the famously stupid Cleveland game in which he threw two ugly picks.

-Tampa's defense actually played pretty well.

-I think this was the first Lions game in two full seasons where I did not see Matt Stafford wearing a backwards hat on the sideline. We are making huge strides of progress guys.

There was a lot to like about this game besides the play of the quarterback. Suh and Calvin looked like their typical sensational selves. Stephen Tulloch looked absolutely phenomenal, holding LeGarrate Blount to 15 rushing yards on 5 carries. Burleson and Pettigrew played well, the O-line did good enough, and the cornerbacks held their own. Second-year safety Amari Spievey had a great game with 7 tackles, and Chris Houston made a real nice interception.

But of course there were some areas for improvement. Let's start with the rushing game, which accrued 126 yards on 35 carries for a dismal 3.6 YPC. Take out Burleson's 20 yard end-around and it's a 3.1 YPC for Best and Harrison. That's atrocious. Granted, Tampa is pretty stout against the run, but when you run the ball 35 times you ought to gain a lot more than 126 yards. I liked Detroit's commitment to the run; we kept Freeman off the field and dominated time of possession by 13 minutes. I just wished Best were a little more elusive and made at least one big play. On 21 carries, his longest rush was 9 yards.

The other eyesore was the kickoff coverage team, which gave up a 78 yard runback to Sammie Stroughter. All preseason long Detroit was stuffing returners inside their own 15. Then Tampa takes the first kickoff all the way to the 21. Fortunately, Detroit's defense responded and held them to 3.

There's not much else to complain about. The Lions won a road game against a playoff-caliber team and we didn't lose any players to injury. This Sunday against KC is shaping up to be another nice matchup. I am growing a beard and not shaving until the Lions lose.

Bears 30, Falcons 12
Chalk this one up to Julius Peppers. He won this game for Chicago, with two sacks, a forced fumble that led to a TD, and constant pressure on Matt Ryan. Chicago continues to relish the "Nobody Believes in Us" role. And I will continue to not believe in them.

Bengals 27, Browns 17
Lot of surprises here. Cleveland was much worse than anticipated, especially Colt McCoy. Dalton was okay, but maybe the Browns defense was terrible. All that being said, the Browns were up by 4 when Dalton got hurt, and it was probably Bruce Gradkowski who ruining this game for me.

Bills 41, Chiefs 7
My Upset of the Week was brilliant; the Bills offense was a machine, the Chiefs were horrendous in every way, and Eric Berry was lost for the season. Buffalo's defense is to be reckoned with.

Eagles 31, Rams 13
This game was closer than the score looks, and Bradford's injury sparked the blowout. Steven Jackson is gone for at least a week; Cadillac is a no-brainer off waivers. Vick ran for 97 yards but didn't pass the ball very well.

Jaguars 16, Titans 14
You give Chris Johnson 9 carries, you're asking for a loss. If I had Kenny Britt (5 catches, 136 yards, 2 TDs), I'd trade him while his stock is high. No way he'll have another 80 yard TD anytime soon. The Jags stink, but won because Tennessee has no identity or gameplan.

Ravens 35, Steelers 7
Seven Pittsburgh turnovers, two INTs for Reed, near-perfect game for Flacco ... this could have been any more beautiful.

Texans 34, Colts 7
I called Texans 41-7. If Schaub doesn't throw a pick 10 yards from the endzone I nail this pick exactly. Kerry Collins couldn't have been much worse. All this talk about the Colts getting Andrew Luck next year is absurd; there are at least 5 other teams who will be picking ahead of them. And even if the Colts were #1, they'd take someone else. Texans look sick.

Cardinals 28, Panthers 21
I'm speechless. Did Cam Newton really throw for 422 yards? On the road? Granted, the Cardinals defense is AWFUL, but I'm still amazed. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they lost the game, and more importantly lost their best defensive player (MLB Jon Beason) for the rest of the year with an Achilles injury. Their defense is dead meat. This game hit the spread exactly, ARZ by 7.

Chargers 24, Vikings 17
My Survivor pick was in jeopardy, as the Chargers were slow out of the gate, unable to tackle Peterson, and trailing by 10 at halftime. McNabb only had 7 completions for a hilarious 39 yards, so it was easy for San Diego to mount the comeback. Vincent Jackson (2 catches, 31 yards) had what will be his worst game of the season.

49ers 33, Seahawks 17
Both teams are horrendous, but Seattle is worse. I called this game dead-on but lost the ATS pick because of two special teams scores in the last quarter.

Redskins 28, Giants 14
Is it time for me to start eating my words about Rex Grossman? Or do the Giants just have a GVSU secondary? I don't know, but Eli was TERRIBLE once again, and the Redskins D is much better than I expected. Looks like they won't be getting Andrew Luck after all.

Jets 27, Cowboys 24
If you listen to sports radio, you've heard all about Tony Romo. Somehow he was the dominant story of week one, even though he did nothing special. He played pretty good (B+) in the first three quarters, and made two dumb mistakes to lose the game in the 4th. Big deal. Jets are well-balanced and smart. Cowboys are flash but no substance. They suck in the secondary and the O-line, and we'll see lots of games like this from Romo.

Patriots 38, Dolphins 24
Good news: New England's offense is unstoppable. Bad news: their defense looked lousy against Chad Henne. This game was totally predictable but still awesomely fun to watch.

Raiders 23, Broncos 20
Oops. Guess I whiffed on the Lock of the Week. Poor Kyle Orton's home game turned into a road game, with all the fans rooting against him. Denver is a freaking mess. Tebow will be starting by week 4.

Overall, week one was a learning experience in a lot of ways. A few teams proved to be better than expected (Jacksonville, Washington) while others were worse (Chiefs, Colts). I'm not worried about the Steelers or Falcons yet, and not buying any of the hype about Chicago, Oakland or Cam Newton. At least not yet.

Overall I'd say my preseason assessments were dead-on accurate for about 22 teams, and that's a pretty decent start.

Tigers have won 12 in a row. Week two picks up soon.

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