Joe-Pinions: Sports

15 Oct 2010 – NFL Pick ’em, Week 5

Posted in Football (NFL) by txtmstrjoe on 15/10/2010

A bit late with last week’s results.  Life’s been busy, and time too much in short supply this week.

Anyway, here’s how I did last week:

Carolina Panthers vs. Chicago Bears:  Da Bears won this game rather easily, so I got this game RIGHT.  This was emphatically not the game to watch if you like seeing stellar play from the quarterback position:  Both teams fielded their second-stringers, though in Chicago’s case Todd Collins got the start due to Jay Cutler’s concussion.  Collins finished the day with a mere 32yds passing, four INTs, and a pathetic 6.2 passer rating.  Jimmy Clausen did not look good for Carolina, either, but at least had the excuse of having a very poor receiving corps to work with.

Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers:  Since the Raiders beat the Chargers, I also got this game RIGHT.  The game started inauspiciously for San Diego, with two blocked punts (resulting in a safety and a touchdown) in their first two possessions and a 12-0 hole early on.  But you simply can’t keep a powerful offense like San Diego’s down, and the Chargers roared back into the game and seized a 17-15 lead by halftime.  No only that, but the Chargers’ pass rush succeeded in knocking Raiders QB Bruce Gradkowski out of the game late in the 1st quarter.  Despite the  Chargers’ obvious advantage in the quality of its roster, the Raiders rallied with Jason Campbell inserted in Gradkowski’s place and fierce, determined effort by the defense, which forced the Chargers into making silly mistakes during the endgame.

New York Jets vs. Minnessota Vikings:  I got this game RIGHT as well.  The Jets won despite Vikings quarterback Brett Favre completing his 500th (and 501st) career touchdown pass and passed the 70000 passing yards mark.  On a night when he was the focus of everyone’s attention for all the wrong reasons (Favre is currently being investigated for allegedly sending some rather distasteful photographs of himself as well as engaging in acts that may be construed as sexual harrassment in the workplace when he was the Jets’ quarterback two years ago), Favre actually had a terrible night despite his record-setting personal accomplishments.  He went 14-34, earning 264yds, but also lost two fumbles (now leading that statistical category) and threw a critical interception that virtually ended the Vikings’ hopes for a comeback against the hometown Jets.  In contrast, Jets QB Mark Sanchez continued his steady play from recent weeks, displaying excellent pocket presence and decision-making ability.  It’s easy to see how the Jets keep on winning, and the Vikings are continuing their slide into mediocrity.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Philadelphia Eagles:  Despite scoring first, the 49ers lost at home to the Eagles, meaning I got this pick WRONG.  The Eagles were without injured quarterback Michael Vick, but Kevin Kolb played an unspectacular but mostly effective game in his place.  Banged-up halfback LeSean McCoy helped the Eagles’ cause by earning 92yds on the ground and a touchdown, while the defense played better than usual, jamming the line of scrimmage and negating Frank Gore.  Alex Smith committed a few errors, including two INTs and a game-turning fumble late in the third quarter just when the 49ers were driving for a score that would close the gap to the Eagles.  Smith endured a very visible tongue-lashing from Coach Singletary and was almost benched, but earned some measure of redemption by leading the 49ers to two very impressive touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, getting within one touchdown of the Eagles.  Unfortunately, the comeback was not completed; a stunt and twist by the LE and the DT confused the blocking on the right side of the 49ers’ O-line, and Smith was forced to throw under severe duress.  He was hit as he was throwing, and the floating pass was intercepted easily by the Eagles’ secondary.

The 49ers found themselves with a frustrating 0-5 record after five games.

49ers

The 49ers’ problems continue to be exposed as the season rolls on.  Head coach Mike Singletary’s huge weaknesses, his apparently complete inability to plot strategy and make sound tactical decisions during game day, seem to have overcome his charismatic aura and ability to lead through sheer force of will.  The team looks to have regressed badly from their form from the last half of last season on both sides of the ball; the offense looks like it lacks poise and variety, which means it’s predictable and therefore easily exploitable by the opposing defense, and the defense looks like it’s largely reactive instead of attacking.

In reading various comments by 49ers fans and the media that follow the team closely, quarterback Alex Smith is the easy scapegoat for the team’s woes on offense.  However, I myself am not so quick to condemn Smith.  While I don’t believe he’ll ever be as good as Joe Montana or Steve Young (never mind John Brodie in the late 1960s-1970s, or Jeff Garcia through the mid-1990s-early 2000s), he’s not a bad quarterback.  He certainly has improved greatly from the time I first saw him play in his first year (2005).  I think he’s actually got plenty of potential left in him.  He has a good live arm, and he has excellent mobility for a man his size.  He’s 6’4″, but when he’s on the move, throwing on the run, he clearly is an athlete, able to throw on bootlegs and waggles with precision, assets that the last three great 49ers quarterbacks (Montana, Young, and Garcia) all had.  He’s an intelligent guy, able to learn complex offensive systems.  The proof of this last point is the fact that he’s been exposed to so many offensive systems run by so many offensive coordinators hired by the 49ers.  No other quarterback in the NFL has had to absorb so much information within the last six years or so.  Sadly, the unfortunate consequence of all this is overload, which we see whenever Alex Smith is in the midst of really intense situations.  He seems to lose his poise and starts to press, and when he does, he makes mistakes.

In my opinion, the biggest issues with the 49ers offense are both its predictability (they have an alarmingly dominant tendency to run on the early downs) and the disappointingly poor play of the offensive line.  I’m not really sure why the 49ers offense is so stagnant, but some say that this is a reflection of Coach Singletary’s philosophy and approach to offense.  If this is indeed the case, then I would say that Coach Singletary’s philosophy and approach are a bad match for the 49ers’ offensive players.  Just look at the Niners’ skill position players:  TE Vernon Davis; WRs Josh Morgan, Michael Crabtree, and now speedy Ted Ginn; super-versatile TE/H-Back Delanie Walker; even RB Frank Gore; all these guys are all accomplished playmakers in the passing game.  Even from the small sample size available of these players from the last couple of years, you can clearly see that the 49ers have impressive depth in options for a multiple-option passing game.  However, even with a wealth of options at the skill positions, the other big weakness in the Niners’ offense makes the desire to have a more wide-open and varied offense a little difficult to realize.  The offensive line’s play has been atrocious, in my opinion.  How else can you describe the Niners’ woes in punching holes in the opposing teams’ defenses for Frank Gore to run through?  How else can you describe the fact that Alex Smith faces so much pressure whenever he drops back to pass?  This is why I’m reluctant to condemn Smith so easily as most other fans and analysts want to.  If Smith had ample time to set up in a pocket and read coverage and find his open receivers, I’m fairly sure that he would be able to do the job and silence all but the most vociferous (yet also least knowledgeable) critics.

NFL

Three correct picks out of four takes my season totals to 11-9.  I’ve been hot the last two weeks, going 7-1 over the last eight picks.

Tomorrow I’ll post my picks for this weekend’s games.  We’ll see if I can continue the hot streak.

If only the 49ers can get as hot…

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