September 2007

Quarterbacks on the Rise

Vince Young has made believers out of everybody. The final nail in the coffin came last Monday against the New Orleans Saints, when he piloted the Titans to a 31-14 victory. He’s a leader, and he can throw the ball some, too. No Michael Vick clone he.

Having said that, Young’s advanced metrics aren’t too hot – not even on the ground. Tony Romo of the Cowboys, on the other hand, is ranked third among all QBs in passing efficiency, and second in running. His performance thus far is leaps and bounds better than his first full year in 2006 – which was already a Pro Bowl season.

We’re still waiting for similar breakthroughs from Matt Leinart, Jay Cutler and especially Alex Smith. But you don’t have to be a youngster to show some upside. Check out how Jeff Garcia has resurrected his career in Tampa Bay: two wins in three games and a 105.6 QB rating.

NFL Football: Early Surprise Teams

Some people are more easily surprised than others. If you studied the Green Bay Packers during the offseason, and their first three opponents (the Eagles, Giants and Chargers), you might not be surprised that they’re 3-0 SU and ATS. OK, beating the Giants couldn’t have been a surprise. But both the Eagles and Chargers? As they say, hindsight is 20/20.

How about the New Orleans Saints at 0-3 SU and ATS? Again, perfectly logical in retrospect with that lousy defense and shaky offensive line. Plus, having to play the Colts and Bucs on the road before hosting the Titans is no simple task. The big surprise is how poorly they’ve performed: three straight blowouts of at least 17 points.

Here’s the biggest shocker of them all: the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, they’re 2-1 SU, but at 1-2 ATS they’re not playing nearly as well as last year. Whatever happened to running and defense?

NFL Coach of the Year: Early Predictions

Football is very much a coach’s game. Arizona fans can attest to that; Ken Whisenhunt has come in from Pittsburgh and led the Cardinals to three straight paydays. But at 1-2 straight up, it’s doubtful Whisenhunt will get the credit he deserves when it comes time for voters to pick their Coach of the Year.

That honor usually goes to teams with very good win-loss records, often in turnaround years. Based on those criteria, the leading candidates thus far would be Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin and Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy, each sitting at 3-0 after their respective clubs went 8-8 last season.

McCarthy is doing more with less, and the Packers are a feel-good story in the press (which votes for the award, mind you), so he probably has the advantage at this point. But in reality, 2003 winner Bill Belichick should take the award just about every year. His colleagues would begrudgingly agree.

NFL Week 4 Matchups

Check out the tiny road favorites on the Week 4 slate. Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers are 3-0. But they’re only laying 2.5 points on the road against the Minnesota Vikings. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles are also expected at press time to be 2.5-point faves at the New York Giants.

The Vikings are not a very good football team: They just lost to the Chiefs, of all teams. But the Giants might be even worse. It took a botched drive from Washington at the goal line to hand New York its first win of the season, while the Eagles simply crushed Detroit.

Much tougher to call at –2.5 on the road are the Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco. Seattle barely survived a back-and-forth affair last week against the Bengals, and still failed to cover. The Niners are already suffering injuries, but they’ve still got a pretty good defense, unlike Cincinnati.