Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wednesday Morning Thoughts: NFL Week 3

Is Big Ben loss a Big Blow for Steelers?
On Sunday, the sight of Ben Roethlisberger clutching his left knee while down on the field was a reminder that Roethlisberger is indeed human, while his play suggested otherwise. Not missing a game for the past two years, Ben finally looked to be a sure-fire starter in Todd Haley's "dink-and-dunk" offense, allowing Roethlisberger to get the ball out quickly in order to keep him upright and healthy. With key players like Maurkice Pouncey, Ryan Shazier and Martavis Bryant still out due to injury/suspension, the Roethlisberger injury is another blow to what was/could still be a promising team.

With Roethlisberger out 4-6 weeks (Pittsburgh wants to keep him leaning towards 6) Michael Vick will be the head man for that duration of time. Vick, the former number one overall draft pick, was brought into Pittsburgh as an insurance policy in case an injury were to ever occur to "Big Ben" (Sorry Landry Jones, I can't trust you to even pass the potatoes at the dinner table).

So how exactly will the Steelers fare with Michael Vick? Although his New York days weren't the brightest of his career, Pittsburgh contains a better, more stable team, thus giving him somewhat of a "pass" for lack of performance. Should Ben be out all six weeks, Vick would have to face the likes of the Ravens, Chargers, Cardinals, Chiefs, Bengals and Raiders. The good news for Vick is that as of now, 3 weeks into the NFL season, only the Cardinals and Chiefs boast truly stout defenses, and these next four out of six games will be at home. The arrivals of Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant should ease the process as well.

Michael Vick's job will be simple: Hold down the ship until Roethlisberger is healthy. Vick won't be asked to go out and replicate what Roethlisberger does, simply because it's hard to replace his leadership, poise and play-making ability with the ball. As long as Michael Vick can move the offense down the field and keep turnovers/mistakes to a minimum, the Steelers should be just fine upon the resurrection of Big Ben.

Have The Chicago Bears Already Given Up? 
0-3, Jay Cutler hurt, a dismal defense and a downright mess of a team. 2015 already isn't looking up for Chicago, who haven't seen their Bears in the postseason since 2010, and reading into the future offers little hope that the four year drought will end soon.

Throughout the first three games, the Bears have given up an average of 35 points per game (worst in the league), are scoring an average of 15.3 points per game (second worst in the league), are gaining an average of 294.3 yards per game (28th in the league), and have the 2nd-highest penalty yards (274). Nicely put: Chicago doesn't field a good ball club, and playing Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson twice a year doesn't help their cause either.

Switching to a 3-4 defense for the first time in team history wasn't what the doctor ordered either. After an 0-3 start, now you realize dropping Jared Allen into coverage isn't ideal? It took Chicago three weeks to understand that their personnel didn't match their base defense, and now they decide to clean house (traded Jared Allen to Carolina, Jon Bostic to New England) and have released a handful of players that didn't bode well with their 3-4 style.

On top of the defensive dysfunction, the offense has yet to outshine it's counterpart. Giving Jay Cutler a 7 year, $126 million contract will prove to be perhaps one of the worst mistakes in recent Bears history. Cutler has proven to be the exact opposite of a leader, forces too much on the field and creates drama in the locker room. (If you're ever in the mood, I encourage you to enjoy a video compilation of Jay Cutler throwing interceptions against the Green Bay Packers throughout his career, a video lasting 5:34 long. The video can be found here on Facebook.)

With Brandon Marshall gone, Kevin White out for a long duration of time, and Alshon Jeffery struggling to stay healthy, one of the few bright spots is the play of Matt Forte. Forte, one of the most versatile backs in the NFL, can do damage from the ground or air, and can also block for his quarterback as well. Yet there's even rumors of Forte being shopped around, and as puzzling as this is, what else is to expect from a team like Chicago.

If things keep up, 2015 will be a very long year for the Bears and their supporters, to say the least.

It's Not All Luck
 Transitioning from one poor quarterback play to another, the quality of football we've seen from Andrew Luck has been disappointing in a 1-2 (one Titans collapse away from being 0-3) start for the 4th year quarterback. With weapons such as Andre Johnson, TY Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Frank Gore, not one person would suspect Luck to have a mere 56% completion rate, a league high 7 interceptions in 3 weeks and a lowly 65.1 passer rating.

So what's going on?

Is Luck primed to have a down year? Does he just need some time to gel with his new teammates? Is his offensive line to blame? Could it perhaps be all three?

Seemingly all of the blame has been placed on Luck, and coach Chuck Pagano took to the media to share his thoughts. "That's been the case for three years now, has it not? He should be more than comfortable dealing with what he's dealing with." Pagano said to the media, when asked about his poor offensive line play. The comment appeared to be directed more towards GM Ryan Grigson than anyone else, who clearly has never seen eye-to-eye with Pagano. Grigson has received much criticism over the building of this team, and his lack to protect his number one overall pick.

In addition to a poor line, new growing pains with teammates and upper management conflicts, the Colts defense hasn't exactly shined either. In playing the Bills, Jets and Titans (all who are not known to be offensive juggernauts) the defense has given up 27,20, and 33, respectively. While things could clearly be worse (See: 49ers, Bears, Jaguars defense) giving up nearly 27 points per game won't win you football games.

Andrew Luck, since the 2014 season, leads all quarterbacks in turnovers. Yes, more than Geno Smith, Colin Kaepernick and Eli Manning. However, Luck has proven that he can be one of the NFL's best quarterbacks, and has more upside than most to break into the "Elite" level of play. Nobody truly knows how the Colts will fare this season, but if they make noise, it's Andrew Luck with the megaphone.

Deflategate Just Can't Seem to Disappear
How silly to think that four weeks after the Brady suspension was vacated, and seemingly over with, that the NFL would still be beating a dead horse. On Tuesday, it was granted that the NFL would be granted expedited rights in the hearing of the Tom Brady/NFL case. The case, arguing whether or not Tom Brady is due a suspension for his role in the deflation of footballs, won't be heard until February, according to reports.

This virtually guarantees Tom Brady will be a full-season participant, and hopefully, just hopefully the phrase "deflategate" will not be uttered until due time. Forecasting into the distant future, the 2016 season will also, unfortunately, be dragged into this mess as well.

I'm sure we can all agree that one off-season of deflated footballs was bad enough.

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