Week 11 Observations
It's easy to see why the flag was thrown - Rob Gronkowski was clearly being held by Luke Kuechly, but the ball was five yards short and a couple seconds late, and in any event, Robert Lester was comfortably between Gronk and the ball. Had Gronk not been held, would he have had a chance to catch the ball? Almost certainly not. He'd have had to stop his momentum, cut back in a few yards and go through Lester on a ball thrown into Lester's body. Had Lester caught the ball high over his head, maybe the 6-7 Gronk could have gone up and grabbed it out of his hands. But in this case, he would have had to double back, make it to the spot, play defense on the ball and hope it hit off Lester's knee (or some other body part) and pop into the air. There was no chance he was getting between Lester and the ball, and that's assuming he could get there in the first place. I suppose it could be argued that any infinitesimal chance meant the flag should stand, but when it's so remote, I'd rather not have it turn the outcome of the game.
Some suggested holding should have been called, but that's only before the ball's in the air, and the receiver is prevented from getting open. Once the ball's in the air, it's a judgment call - if there's illegal contact, it's either PI or uncatchable.
Cam Newton engineered a masterful final drive under pressure, and whether one puts him in the Russell Wilson/Andrew Luck future-superstar category, he's seems good enough to win playoff games with the current team around him.
As Mark Stopa suggested on Twitter, the teams should have scheduled an MMA contest between Steve Smith and Aqib Talib at halftime. We installed Smith as the favorite not only against Talib, but also any NFL lineman, MMA professional or person in human history. The only player I'd consider taking over Smith is Sebastian Janikowski, presuming sufficient quantities of GHB in his system.
Tom Brady got 7.4 YPA and 296 yards in Carolina against arguably the league's best defense. His one pick was on the last play of the game. After that and the Pittsburgh game, it's safe to say he's back.
Shane Vereen had only one carry, but saw a whopping 11 targets and eight catches. There didn't seem to be any "working his way up to speed" given he had a wrist rather than a leg injury.
The Bengals-Browns game was total junk, but even so, it's amazing A.J. Green had only two catches on five targets for seven yards. (Joe Haden is good, but still). In fact, Mohamed Sanu led all Bengals wideouts with 11 yards on five targets. Andy Dalton's three-game/11-TD stretch seems like a lifetime ago. As does Jordan Cameron's fast start.
Josh Gordon saw 15 targets, and though he caught only five of them, he had 125 yards and a score. He's a top-10 wideout and would be one of the big five or six if he had a slightly better quarterback.
Doug Martin did nothing all year, but after he got hurt Mike James came in and lit up the Seahawks in Seattle. When James went down, Bobby Rainey had 167 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. At this rate, the Bucs fifth string back will suit up in Week 17 and look like Jim Brown in his prime.
Seriously, though, why have Martin, Trent Richardson and Darren McFadden been so vastly outperformed by their backups? Martin and Richardson were star second-year players with good pedigrees, and McFadden was considered a risk only due to health. But James, Rainey, Donald Brown and Rashad Jennings have been so much more effective.
Matt Ryan was never a good fantasy quarterback until Julio Jones arrived in 2011. Prior to that, his career-high in yards was 3,705, and he had averaged 22 TDs over his first three seasons. That said, his defense is so poor, he might throw the ball 650 times this year.
Matt McGloin played a strong game in Houston and could have had better numbers but for some drops by his receivers. Still he got three TDs and no picks on the road against a decent defense. He's probably an upgrade over Terrelle Pryor.
You have to feel bad for Matt Schaub setting the pick-six record, having people harass him at his house, getting hurt, losing his job and now taking crap in front of everyone on the sideline from his Hall of Fame receiver. People forget from 2007-2011 (half a decade) Schaub averaged more than 8.0 YPA, but the Texans struggled largely due to a terrible defense.
Robert Griffin brought the Redskins back from a 24-0 deficit, but his interception on the final drive was one of the worst I've ever seen. It was 2nd-and-10 from the Eagles 27, and Griffin was trying to throw the ball away, but for God knows what reason threw it short of the end line, and it was picked in the end zone. Game over, any long shot playoff hopes dashed. It's shocking to see a quarterback make such a careless play with the game (and the cover) on the line.
Speaking of great moments in gambling, there was a near-safety at the end of the Niners-Saints game with the score tied at 20-20. The question was whether a penalty occurred in the end zone, and if it had, it was game over (22-20) with the Saints getting the ball back. New Orleans was favored by three, and since I had them, I was very relieved to see the Niners have to punt and wind up losing by a FG (a push).
Why are the Ravens always involved in delayed games? The question of the movable object (the Bears defense) vs. a stoppable force (Ray Rice) was answered at least. Rice went 25 for 131 (5.2 YPC) and a score. Remember, Brandon Jacobs went for 100 and two TDs against the Bears defense too.
Despite his team being totally shut down by the Bills, Chris Ivory managed another long run and salvaged his day with 98 yards and a score. I have no idea why the Jets bailed on Bilal Powell so abruptly, but Ivory is a viable starter now.
The Bills have a top-10 real life and fantasy defense now.
I'm not sure what all the Percy Havin hype is about. Sure, he'll make some highlight-reel plays each game, but even if he were 100 percent healthy and up to speed, he'd be a top 15-20 WR at best on that team. Not knowing his snap count or familiarity with his quarterback and offense, I don't see much reason to get excited. He's basically Tavon Austin until further notice.
Cordarrelle Patterson had only three catches for 28 yards, but saw nine targets. With Greg Jennings (Achilles') and Jerome Simpson (partying) possibly on the way out, Patterson - a huge talent - is worth a look down the stretch.
The Giants game was such a dud, there's not much to say about it. Eli Manning's pick was supposedly Louis Murphy's fault - apparently receivers are supposed to signal route adjustments to Manning with "body language," something that's failed many times this season. Maybe it's a bad idea for Manning to have to guess what the receiver (who's simultaneously trying to deceive the DB) is going to do based on his movements and just throw it away if the guy is covered.
Jason Pierre-Paul had a smooth pick-six which he caught cleanly and easily jogged into the end zone. His shoulder was bothering him last week, but if he gets completely healthy, that's a game changer for an already decent defense. Barring an Eagles collapse, it's probably too little too late for the Giants, though. They still have to play at Detroit and host Seattle. Even if they were to split those games, they'd likely have to go 4-0 in their others (two against Washington, one against Dallas and one at San Diego).
As much as NBC tried to hype the Broncos-Chiefs game, it was pretty boring. Knowshon Moreno saw a lot of work, but Montee Ball got the goal-line carries twice - and this despite fumbling early in the game. That doesn't bode well for Moreno owners.
Alex Smith targeted Dwayne Bowe 14 times, but connected on only four (for 57 yards and a score). While it's hard to fault the Chiefs for neglecting Bowe all year given they were 9-0 before Sunday night, maybe had they had worked him into games and not played it so safe, Smith and Bowe would have had a better rapport. There's no way they'll beat teams like Denver, New England and Indy in the playoffs without getting some downfield plays.