It’s a good thing I don’t rely on my NFL picks as a source of income, because I’ve really stunk it up so far this season. The only thing I have going for me this week, I’m 6-8-1 going into tonight’s Falcons/Broncos matchup, is that my two locks for this week (Ravens +2.5, Chargers -6) came through. It almost makes up for me thinking that the Jaguars would be able to stay within a touchdown of the Texans or the Cowboys could go up to Seattle and get a win. What a fool I am.
The first game I’d like to talk about in detail from yesterday’s games is the Ravens loss to the Eagles. This game was, shall we say, a little chippy. The officiating was less than superb, but if you want to read about poor officiating you can probably get your fill of that on any other football related site on the internet today. What I find confusing with this game was Baltimore’s reluctance to hand it off to Ray Rice on a consistent basis. Rice carried the ball 16 times yesterday for 99 yards, 46 of them coming on a long run in the second quarter that set up a Ravens touchdown. I understand that Baltimore wants to open up their playbook more this year to keep defenses guessing, but when you are facing a defense with Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers Cromartie starting at cornerback, there’s no shame in relying on your run game to get a W.
Philly got great performances out of DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek yesterday. The two combined for 15 catches and 271 yards receiving, and seemed to make a big play for the Eagles every time they needed one. Mike Vick only threw one interception, and maybe more impressively was only sacked twice for for a loss of 14 yards. Andy Reid must have been listening to the shouting throng of angry Eagles fans because LeSean McCoy got 25 carries, and even though he only had a 3.3 yard average, the threat of the run was enough to keep Baltimore’s defense honest. It wasn’t a pretty win for Philadelphia by any means, but they all count the same in the NFL, just ask Arizona and Seattle.
I think now’s as a good a time as any to bring up my utter disgust for Chris Johnson and his 1.1 yard average through two weeks of the season. I made a big deal of trading for CJ2K in my fantasy football keeper league because I was sure that his second half numbers (he was on an 1,800 yard per 16 game pace in the final eight games of last year) would carry over to this year. Boy was I wrong. There’s an argument to be made that the Chargers defense has the potential to be stout against the run this year, they held Darren McFadden to 22 yards on 11 carries last year. It’s also not as if Jake Locker has been inspiring any fear into the hearts of his opponents, bad shoulder and all. Still, there’s no worse feeling than completely whiffing on a player in fantasy sports, especially when you make a trade for that player that helps someone else in your league win a championship. I can just imagine Chad is sitting somewhere laughing his arse off. I think I may be sick.
Back to football that actually matters, the 49ers played their special brand of football to beat the Lions 27-19 last night. I don’t mean to make this a 49ers centric blog, but you’ll have to excuse me these first couple of weeks while San Fran is actually the most relevant team in the league. For the second week in a row Jim Harbaugh designed a game plan tailored specifically to take away the opposing teams best player. The 9ers defense ran man cover 2 the entire game against Detroit, and had one of their two deep safeties shadow Calvin Johnson and every play.
Detroit tried to counter by running the ball 26 times, but San Francisco’s front seven is so dominant that they never had to bring a safety into the box to help with the run. While Megatron did end the game with 8 catches for 96 yards, the only big play he made was late in the game when he was able to get open over the middle for a 26 yard gain. Every other catch Johnson made were on underneath patterns, that led to short gains.
On offense the 9ers relied on a heavy dose of inside trap plays to keep Detroit’s hefty front four on their heels. San Fran ran the ball 27 times for 148 yards and a touchdown, and once again the run set up play-action nicely, with the key score of the game coming on a play-action bootleg pass from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis for a 23 yard touchdown.The 9ers also got a great game out of Michael Crabtree who made big catches on three consecutive third-and-long plays that were intrumental in setting up the above mentioned Davis touchdown.
The 49ers have been executing their offense to a T in the first two weeks, but I have a feeling they are going to hit some speed bumps down the road. The fact that they had to get three third-and-long catches out Crabtree in the first place is less than optimal, and I’m still not sure what their offense will look like when they are down two scores instead of up by two scores.
A few worries aside, it’s tough to find a whole lot to complain about right now in the Bay Area – unless you are a Raiders fan.