Saturday, September 21, 2013

Thoughs From the NFL: Week 2

Third Time Isn't the Charm -- The most hyped game of Week 2 was the third match-up between Peyton Manning and his little bro, Eli turned out to be the most disappointing game I'll probably see all season. We've heard the chatter: in the two games both siblings have played, the elder Manning has prevailed, and in convincing fashion. Maybe this would be the year Eli can forge his own path and come on out from under the shadow of the great Peyton (the same Peyton that's won one Super Bowl title and has a magnificent postseason record of 9-11). Unfortunately, he's still the red-headed step-child, wanting to be taken seriously. Guess he'll have to take his argument that he's won two Super Bowl titles, won the game's MVP title twice, both times against Tom Brady and the Patriots, elsewhere. It's hard for me to cheer on the younger Manning brother and his New York Giants when Eli throws one interception after another (four in total), when there's no running game to keep drives going and a surprisingly absent pass rush to put the pressure on Peyton. Much like the lopsided score of 41-23, Denver's 2-0 and rolling, while New York is 0-2, and in trouble, fast. Actually, maybe not, because this brings up the next point......

The NFC (L)east -- This division quickly has all the makings of which team will be the most mediocre to win it. Will it be the Dallas Cowboys, who were leading at halftime, but coughed up the lead with two costly turnovers to lose to Kansas City? Can rookie head coach Chip Kelly and his dynamic, video game offense be enough to come out on top, despite a poor defense? Could New York go on another late-season run to save Tom Coughlin's job for a third time? Or is this division still Robert Griffin III's to lose? You could make a logical argument for each team, and have said argument challenged for the other team. I know it's only Week 2, but the NFC East, much like the AFC West, has a history of being a weak division over the last few years, and given the start the four teams have had, that doesn't look to change anytime soon. Speaking of starts...

Is Phllip Rivers Back? -- If you haven't followed the saga of Chargers football over the last few years, here's a brief synopsis: since their last playoff appearance in 2010, San Diego's gone 24-24, missed three straight appearances in the postseason, lost key pieces in the high powered Chargers arsenal (WR Vincent Jackson, OT's Marcus McNeill, Kris Dielman and Louis Vasquez, RB's LaDanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles) drafted a near bust in Ryan Matthews in the 11th round of the 2010 NFL Draft, and Rivers himself has seen his style of play drop almost dramatically; he's thrown as many picks as he has TD's, taken more sacks, coughed up more fumbles (17 fumbles combined in the last three years) and had the lowest yards per game last year with 225.4 (in 2007, he had 197.0). This all resulted in last year the Bolts going 7-9, their first losing season since going 4-12 in the first year of the Marty Schottenheimer era in 2003, and Dean Spanos (finally) firing both Norv Turner and A.J. Smith. Since then, Tom Telesco replaced A.J as the General Manager, and rookie head coach Mike McCoy (formerly the offensive coordinator for Denver) taking Norv's place. In the early weeks of the 2013 campaign , Rivers looks to have turned a corner and returned back to the Philip Rivers of old: he's more comfortable in the pocket, he's got time to find his receivers and get the matchups he likes, and most importantly, he's trusting himself again. He's thrown 7 TD's to 1 INT (the one on Monday Night vs. Texas) and he's done something that I, as a fan, haven't seen him do in years: lead his team back to win the game. Sure, Nick Novak technically won the game last week vs the Eagles with his 41-yard field goal, but Rivers led the final drive to get the kicker into position.Drives are being sustained and Rivers is keeping the ball moving again (and Matthews is finally becoming dependable on carries -- 16 carries for 76 yards), and giving a really poor passing defense a break on the sidelines. Maybe it's early to say that Rivers has his groove back, but under McCoy and new offensive coordinator Ken Wizenhunt (yes, the same Wiz from his head coaching days at Arizona), but it's a great sign to see Rivers being the cocky hot shot that most of the league hates him for.

Steel Curtain Falling -- Let's not beat around the bush with this one: the Pittsburgh Steelers are in serious trouble, and don't expect it to get better anytime soon. Two loses, one vs. Tennessee at home, and a disastrous showing on Monday Night vs the Bengals, have the team and fans in panic mode. A breakdown of their stats can be found here, but here's the brief rundown: 30th in points scored (9.5), second to last in yards per game (236.0), and a run game, the team's bread and butter, is essentially non-existent. To put this into perspective, here's a screen shot of the Steelers when they run the ball.

I din't make that up. That's their line as it stands now.

Add to it, in-fighting between player personnel and offensive coordinator Todd Haley and the team banning younger player from playing ping pong and other recreational activities, and we have a team that's headed towards a nose dive, if they're not there already.

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