Monthly Archives: September 2011

How to Ruin a Rookie

I didn’t especially like him coming out of college, but I had no problem with the Jags trading into the top-10 to draft him. But the entire way Jacksonville has handled the development of Blaine Gabbert is a mess.

Like I said last April, “it’s not that I don’t like Blaine Gabbert. I just don’t see him as a big difference maker. I’ll give him this: there’s nothing to hate about his game… But at the same time, no one aspect of his game shines.” I believe he can be a starting quarterback eventually in the NFL, but not right now.

Jacksonville had the perfect scenario for an up-and-coming quarterback. A solid, productive quarterback under contract for a few more years at a decent salary (just around $8 million), a defensive minded coach, and a stud running back. If the team bottomed out, they could insert Gabbert to see if he could spark a comeback. Maybe they could even ship off Garrard to a team in desperate straits in terms of their quarterback (Seattle, Washington, Miami) for a draft pick or two. But no, they just cut Garrard loose in training camp.

If their plan was to get rid of Garrard before the season started to throw Gabbert into the deep end, I wouldn’t like the call, but I could see where the might be coming from. Gabbert has the potential to have a Bradford-like impact to lead us near the playoffs, especially with Indianapolis in a mess and Tennessee not looking especially dapper. However, they decided to go with Luke McCown. 30-year-old journeyman Luke McCown.

These are the kinds of moves in the NFL that make no sense to me. Luke McCown is so far below replacement level, he hardly merits a roster spot. What could possibly be the best-case scenario playing him for two weeks? He looks near competent and holds down the starting job until mid-season, when you realize, “Hey, that’s Luke McCown starting for us!” and yank him for Gabbert.

So finally, Blaine Gabbert is going to get his first NFL start. The Jags look destined for a 3-13 season, and Gabbert may be lucky to survive then entire season because of a weak offensive line and little help from wideouts. Some day, Blaine Gabbert can be good. But this is not his time to take on his starting role.

Here are my Week 3 picks; home teams in CAPS.

Patriots (-8.5) over BILLS
New England has beaten Buffalo 15 straight times dating back to 2003. By and average of 19 points per game. You’d think when they travel to Buffalo, the margin of victory would decrease, but it doesn’t. They win in Buffalo by an average of 23.4 points per game.

BENGALS (-2.5) over Niners
So many conflicts going on in this game. Never take an NFC West team on the road, but never give points with the Bengals. Then again, the Niners are playing at 10 AM body time, so I’ll begrudgingly take the Bengals.

BROWNS (-2.5) over Dolphins
Is it possible that I could give points on the Bengals and Brown in the same week? If their opposing quarterbacks are Alex Smith and Chad Henne on the road, yes.

Broncos (+6.5) over TITANS
I don’t really think the Titans are all that, to be honest. They’ve got 2 great offensive weapons, and that’s about it. At least the Broncos can air it out with Kyle Orton and keep it within a touchdown.

Lions (-3.5) over VIKINGS
In a couple of weeks, people will start to realize that Donovan McNabb is d-o-n-e done. He’ll get a big wake-up call this week week after about the third of fourth time he tries to dislodge himself out from under Ndamukong Suh.

It sounds like a cool idea at first to make him a 3-4 OLB, but do you really want 6'6" 283 Mario Williams in pass coverage?

It sounds like a cool idea at first to make him a 3-4 OLB, but do you really want 6'6" 283 Mario Williams in pass coverage?

SAINTS (-3.5) over Texans
Not to knock the Texans, but it’s easy to look good when you play the Kerry Collins-led Colts and Dolphins. The Saints’ offense is clicking on all cylinders, and you should expect Brees to exploit Mario Williams in coverage play after play.

Giants (+7.5) over EAGLES
I hate the Giants and love the Eagles this year, so this pick makes sense, right? Well the best way to beat the Eagles is to pound the ball, which is what the Giants do best. Mike Vick is already banged up, and the Giants have a big chip on their shoulder from the DeSean Jackson game last year.

PANTHERS (-3.5) over Jaguars
If the Panthers can’t beat the Gabbert-led Jags, what can they win? Oh, yeah, the Quinton Coples sweepstakes.

CHARGERS (-14.5) over Chiefs
Is it unreasonable to think that this line should start with a 2?

Jets (-3.5) over RAIDERS
This is the exact type of game the Raiders would win to ruin somebody’s Suicide pool. But they don’t have Nnamdi anymore. And they still have Jason Campbell. This is my third ever Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week.

Ravens (-3.5) over RAMS
The Ravens clearly aren’t as good as they looked when they trampled the Steelers in Week 1 by 28. And they clearly aren’t as bad as they looked in Week 2 when they lost to the Titans by 13. But they are clearly good enough to take down the Rams. That much we know.

Falcons (+1.5) over BUCCANEERS
Two near elite quarterbacks, two division rivals. Great game, but I trust Matt Ryan’s supporting cast much more than I do LeGarrette Blount, Mike Williams, and Kellen Winslow.

Packers (-3.5) over BEARS
Either people think the Packers’ defense is bad since they ran into two buzzsaws in Cam Newton and Drew Brees, or they forget the Bears’ number one receiver is Roy Williams.

SEAHAWKS (+3.5) over Cardinals
You can’t underestimate how much Seattle’s home field advantage helps them. Yet I still can’t believe in EA’s Madden cover tournament this year, Seattle’s representative was their 12th man. Except, would anyone buy a Madden cover with Aaron Curry on it?

Steelers (-10.5) over COLTS
This game is so sad. Just think about how good of a game this would be if Peyton Manning was healthy…

COWBOYS (-6.5) over Redskins
Tony Romo is, in my opinion is a top-10 quarterback. People really don’t like him because A) he plays for the Cowboys and B) he is prone to dumb mistakes. But Rex Grossman is just no good. And two weeks of solid play can’t fool me, oh no no no.

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 18-14

Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week: 2-0

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The Debut of Debuts

As a fan of football, there’s something innately exciting about Cam Newton. He’s got something that Jake Delhomme could never dream of. Nor could Chris Weinke, Matt Moore, nor Jimmy Clausen. Cam has a confidence–a swagger–about him. And justifiably so.

Anyone who watched last Sunday’s game against Arizona could tell you that Cam Newton looked like the real deal. He revived an offense that sputtered to score 12.2 points per game last year–more than four and a half less that 31st placed Cleveland. The offense reached heights not seen since, ironically enough, just before the Arizona playoff game more often remembered as the game Jake really crapped the bed.

Why can't I see Jimmy Clausen making this move to get a TD?

Why can't I see Jimmy Clausen making this move to get a TD?

What made his outing even more impressive was how well he handled pressure. Cards’ coach Ken Whisenhunt threw blitz after blitz trying to confuse Newton, but he felt the heat, stayed cool, and picked apart their secondary. He didn’t depend on his legs. He didn’t force throws. Cam Newton just made the right throw–24 times for 422 yards.

Now no one expects Cam to keep this up. Tom Brady never even through for 400 yards until Monday Night and Michael Vick’s never done it. But even playing competently is a massive upgrade for the Panthers, and it shows that their bright future could be coming sooner rather that later.

So maybe when all’s said and done, the teams that are tanking this year for Andrew Luck really should have tanked last year for Cam Newton.

Week 2 picks; home teams in CAPS.

BILLS (-3.5) over Raiders
Who knew the Bills could play so competently? Better get your Harvard QB jokes in quickly before they take over third place in the AFC East for good.

SAINTS (-7.5) over Bears
Beating the tough Bears D by more than a touchdown is a tall order, but the Saints are tough. They were 12 inches and some good luck away from beating the Packers on the road to start the season after falling behind 0-14. Drew Brees won’t let this team fall to 0-2, not at home.

COLTS (+2.5) over Browns
Imagine telling someone exactly 1 year ago today that the Browns would be favored on the road by 2. They’d probably ask if they were playing the Raiders, Bills, or Bengals, but that would still be somewhat hard to believe. But the Colts? No way. Funny how things change. But in the end, if the Colts want any shot at treading water before Peyton comes back to save my fantasy team Indy’s season, they’ve got to beat Cleveland at home.

LIONS (-8.5) over Chiefs
I’m trying not to fall into this trap. What’s not to like about the Lions? They spent #1 picks on a QB, wideout, running back, and tight end who have all more or less panned out plus the most dominate defensive lineman for the next decade. They have cool new uniforms, a young defensive-minded coach, and a chip on their shoulder. So Vegas pushes their line. But the Chiefs gave up 41 points last year. That’s bad if you’re playing the Patriots. But they were playing the Bills.
One more weird stat: Matt Cassel completed 22 passes against Buffalo–two less than Cam did. But instead of airing it out for 422 yards, he compiled a measly 119 yards. That’s not even 6 yards per completion. Every time he took a snap, the offense averaged 3.3 yards.

Packers (+10.5) over PANTHERS
Watching Cam last week made me consider taking Carolina for a moment. Then I remembered that the Panthers can’t tackle, and they lost their best tackler for the season last week. Joy.

Ravens (-5.5) over TITANS
The Titans couldn’t beat the Luke McCown-led Jags last week.

Buccaneers (+3.5) over VIKINGS
Did you know that Donovan McNabb threw for 39 yards against San Diego. No, not 39 yards on the first drive. Just 39 yards. Even Ethan Albright with his 17 throwing power and 16 throwing accuracy could do better. I’d take the Bucs -3.5.

JETS (-10.5) over Jaguars
How many straight weeks can Luke McCown get a shoutout here? I’m sure that’s his biggest lifetime achievement. Either that or succeeding Tim Rattay at Louisiana Tech.

Cardinals (+4.5) over REDSKINS
I still think the Redskins are going to be really, really bad. And, no, you can’t fool me, Rex Grossman. I still know you are a T-R-B-L turrrrrrrible player.

STEELERS (-14.5) over Seahawks
I thought about taking Seattle. Because winning by more than 2 touch downs is tough no matter who’s playing. But they I pictured a terrified Tarvaris Jackson seeing thousands upon thousands of terrible towels being waved as James Harrison stares intensely at him just feet away. And now I’m more than willing to give the Sidney Rice-less Seahawks 14.5 points.

Cowboys (+2.5) over NINERS
Just like Sexy Rexy, Alex Smith can’t fool me. Unlike the Redskins, the Niners have some serious talent on both sides of the ball, especially on offnse. However, I really like the ‘Boys this year, and believe it or not, Tony Romo is a really good QB. Just get that image of him fumbling the field goal snap out of your head, that was like totally four years ago.

Bengals (+5.5) over BRONCOS
These teams are so bad, I figure I might as well take the points and a potentially sneaky good offense (AJ Green, Jermaine Gresham, and Cedric Benson) over Kyle Orton and an pretty bad run game. I actually wonder if FOX and CBS punishes their worst announcers with games like these.

Texans (-2.5) over DOLPHINS
Did anyone watch last week? That game where the Texans put up 34 on the Colts? Because the Dolphins are no good home or away, and the Texans may just have turned the corner. And you can add Chad Henne to the you-can’t-fool-me group of QBs already mentioned. Am I going to pick against the Dolphins twice in a row at home to open the season as myLance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week? Cracker, please. Wait, that’s racist.

PATRIOTS (-6.5) over Chargers
Is this line really that big? The Chargers have to fly cross country, and they already are historically slow-starting. Between Brady’s surgeon-like precision and a running game averaging 4.8 yards per carry, New England is just tough to stop. And just wait until Ochocinco and Stevan Ridley get worked into the offense.

FALCONS (+2.5) over Eagles
Just like the Lions game, I’m falling into the trap. I’m giving up too many points because a feel good team with a possibly-over-hyped young quarterback and cool unis has stolen my heart. Roddy White. Michael Turner. Julio Jones. What not to like? Yes, they lost to Chicago last week and play a tougher Eagles team, but they are too good to just roll over the first two weeks.

Rams (+6.5) over GIANTS
I’m breaking my Don’t-Take-NFC-West-Teams-On-The-Road-Out-Of-The-Division rule way too early in the year. But I have a great feeling about Sam Bradford against a beaten-up Giants D, plus Eli Manning isn’t exactly Peyton in the clutch. Wait, that doesn’t make sense, Peyton sucks in the clutch. Either way, Eli definitely isn’t that top-5 QB he said he was. He’s far from even top-15.

Last Week: 7-9

Season: 7-9

Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week: 1-0

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Stability is Key

I’ll just get this out of the way from the start: this will be the easiest year to predict games this decade. Sound prisoner-of-the-moment? Say what you want, but it’s true.

Instead of having all summer to run OTAs, integrate rookies into practice with ease, and build rapport naturally, teams only had 7 weeks to prepare for Week 1. That means free agents had just a few weeks to learn their new system, rookies were force-fed playbooks, and the Redskins didn’t have time to realize that both John Beck and Rex Grossman suck.

What this all means is that teams who made slight tweaks to their team will gain a steep advantage to those who had a total overhaul. Teams like the Saints, who ran dozens of team practices, will hardly feel a Lockout Hangover and will be ready to roll from Week 1. On the other hand, teams like the Bengals will be stuck in neutral while rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green try to get on the same page.

For this season, my advice would to be to lean towards teams with stability at quarterback and head coach. So, in other words, not the Jags.

In all, I’m pretty excited for this season of football. And as an offering of good will, I promise not to use the word “lockout” in any future football columns more than once. But for now, it’s time to look ahead. I guarantee I’ll trump last season’s not-too-impressive record by one–if not two–wins. I know it’s a tall order, but I plan on following through.

In other news, Bojangles and I could not come to terms on a one-year extension for rights to my Lock o’ the Week, but I am happy to announce that Lance Crackers has stepped up and struck a deal with me as my unofficial official sponsor. Watch out every week for the Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week, and without further ado, my Week 1 picks. Home teams in CAPS.

Saints (+4.5) over PACKERS
New Orleans is the one team who–more than any other team–ran practices all through summer. The core of the team is the same with tan upgrade of Reggie Bush to Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles. They are the ultimate stability team, and there really aren’t any gaping holes to the team. I’m going to go out on a limb and say they steal this one from the defending Super Bowl champs straight up, but of course I’ll take the points, too.

Falcons (-2.5) over BEARS
I just keep looking at this Bears team, and I don’t see a lot to love. About the time you identify Roy Williams and Marion Barber as players who can turn around your offense, I’m selling your stock (which I incidentally already have done on SportsGunner).

CHIEFS (-6.5) over Bills
I don’t especially love the Chiefs this year because they are average at QB and well below average at head coach, regardless of how talented they are at the skill positions. But I really don’t like the Fitzpatrick-Gailey combination. I’m going to need a bit more than 6.5 to take the Bills going into Arrowhead Stadium.

In case you didn't know, only Tom Brady and Big Ben had less interceptions last year than Freeman, at 6.

In case you didn't know, only Tom Brady and Big Ben had less interceptions last year than Freeman, at 6.

BROWNS (-4.5) over Bengals
Do people realize that Andy Dalton is not good? He put up average numbers at TCU. That’s against Wyoming, Colorado State, and UNLV. Just like the previous game, I really don’t like the Browns this year, but the Bengals might not even win 3 games.

BUCCANEERS (-2.5) over Lions
Everyone likes the Lions. Literally. And all this love for a team with a quarterback who can’t stay healthy, a banged-up running back who’s been concussed many times over, and an injured Nick Fairly. I think this is a situation where so many people love this team they’ve flip flopped from very underrated to very overrated. Or the opposite of Josh Freeman. Where did the love for this guy go? He’s really good. Like really, really good.

Titans (+3.5) over JAGUARS
Matt Hasselbeck learning an entirely good system in a handful of weeks scares me, but nothing Luke McCown could ever scare me.

TEXANS (-2.5) over Colts
This is an absolute must-win for the Texans. If they can’t beat Indy with Kerry Collins at the helm, they might as well pack their bags and head to the UFL because they’re never going to win here.

Eagles (-5.5) over RAMS
Even though Eagles are a un-stability team, it’s hard not to like them. It’s also hard not to like the Rams between an emerging star (Bradford) and a horrid division (NFC West), there’s a lot to like. Except that their schedule starts out Philly, at the Giants, Baltimore, Washington, Bye, at Green Bay, at Dallas, and New Orleans. They could conceivably start 1-6. Ouch.

Steelers (+2.5) over RAVENS
What’s a good rule of thumb for these games? Take the points. But if you need a stronger reason, the Steelers are a tight-nit organization. Not much has changed, they’ve got the better quarterback, and the better coach. Furthermore, James Harrison is ready to rip some throats, to the chagrin of Commissioner Goodell.

Vikings (+8.5) over CHARGERS
We’ve learned two things over Norv Turner’s reign in San Diego: he’s an awful planner, and the Chargers always start out slow. And while I don’t love the Vikings, anyone would be better than Chilly. I’ll take the points and Adrian Peterson.

Giants (-3.5) over REDSKINS
This line really should be closer to 13.5 than 3.5.

CARDINALS (-5.5) over Panthers
I really want to take the Panthers. I really do. Admittedly, I do have a rooted interest in Carolina. And I do love me some Cam Newton. But the Panthers just can’t tackle. And Jon Beason might not be playing.

Seahawks (+5.5) over NINERS
These are two teams you should never give up points for. Also, this is the only team the Seahawks will play this year that they will hold an advantage in regards to quarterbacks.

Cowboys (+4.5) over JETS
This game is tough. Really just tough. But in the end, I trust Tony Romo much more than I trust Mark Sanchez, and Jason Garrett has really toughened up this Cowboys team. I have a knack that the ‘Boys will pull this one out, or at least keep it close. Or maybe its just that I secretly hate the Jets deep down.

Patriots (-5.5) over DOLPHINS
I’m confused as to who wrote this line. Everyone knows TFB and The Hoodie never let up during prime time. You can come to my house and take down my TV with a baseball bat if the Pats blow this one. Yeah, this is the first-ever Lance in my Pants Lock o’ the Week.

BRONCOS (-0.5) over Raiders
Couldn’t we get a better matchup for the first slate of MNF games? Oh, I’ve got it! First half is Orton vs. Campbell, but the second half is Tebow vs. Pryor. What? Pryor’s suspended? Well how else could we make this game interesting, No Fun League?

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