Week 5 Observations

Again, I had to watch the games from a bar this week (same bar, Freddy Smalls, same corned beef hash with bacon and eggs (I mistakenly characterized it as brisket last week)). I won't go into the food and drinks in detail this time, but they were good.

I know it was a home game against the Bills, but Alex Smith is a good quarterback. Good decisions, accurate throws and an underrated scrambler. His fantasy upside is probably limited by his defense, but he's more than a caretaker at this point.

Michael Crabtree is a top-25 WR, while Frank Gore is as washed up as Michael Turner which is not washed up at all.

The Giants got down 14-0, but this offense is almost never out of it. It's strange saying that about what's traditionally a defensive-oriented franchise, but if and when they get Hakeem Nicks back and David Wilson more involved, it'll be one of the top two or three units in the NFL. It's probably top-five right now.

The Falcons won yet another close game against a mediocre opponent, thanks in large part to RGIII missing nearly half the game. Matty Ice gets his 350 and 2, but with 6.6. YPA, a pick six and life or death against another mediocre team in the fourth quarter, albeit on the road this time. Even though they're 5-0, I still wouldn't have them in my top-7 teams to win the SB.

Incidentally, how many teams would you need to give someone the field in picking the SB winner? I think I'd take five (49ers, Texans, Patriots, Giants and Ravens). But if you want to take four, I'd take the field.

The Jaguars and Titans have distinguished themselves as league doormats of late. Not merely losing, but losing huge, with no hope whatsoever. Maurice Jones-Drew had a bad game, but can be counted on to produce even in the ugliest of offenses. Chris Johnson, despite the anomaly against the Texans, is on the ropes. I suppose one should trade for him, but what could you offer? Antonio Gates? As terrible as Johnson's been, that probably doesn't get it done.

The Packers offense just isn't the same, and it's hard to pinpoint what's missing. James Starks wasn't important last year, and while Greg Jennings is a good player, he never seemed like a unique game breaker. The Giants have been fine without Hakeem Nicks, for example, so it's hard to believe a QB of Rodgers' caliber is missing Jennings that much. Is it the offensive line play? The line wasn't great last year, either. Someone who knows the Packers better than I do should weigh in. It's odd watching them unable to pull away against the Colts.

I was watching that game at the bar, so correct me if I'm missing something, but why didn't Mike McCarthy uses his timeouts on defense when it became clear that the clock wasn't a factor for the Colts? The idea being in case the Colts scored, which they did, you preserve time for Aaron Rodgers to try an easier FG or even get the game-winning TD. I foolishly laid the points with the Pack, so I really didn't care, but it was surprising.

Andrew Luck has got to be a top-10 fantasy quarterback, right? What are the odds Luck outproduces Aaron Rodgers the rest of the way? 40-45 percent? How about Tom Brady? At this point, is Luck ahead of Matt Stafford and Cam Newton? At least Reggie Wayne has a decent quarterback getting him the ball for once.

I had PIT -3 in the Eagles-Steelers, and once the Steelers, down one, got the ball inside the 20 with a minute and change left, why didn't the Eagles let them score? It would have given Philly a minute to get a TD rather than hoping Shaun Suisham missed a chip shot. It also would have given me an excellent chance to cover.

Of course Shane Vereen got the Pats' first rushing touchdown, even though Stevan Ridley had another great game. I actually sat Chris Johnson (my first round pick) in a league where I had Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw and Ridley. I had a moment of panic at the bar when I couldn't remember whether I had started Johnson or Bradshaw, and that I am writing this blog and not defenestrated in a heap of broken glass is proof of it.

I backed the Chiefs plus five, and while they came through, I have to say Matt Cassel is truly an abominable player for whom to root. Of course he fumbled at the goal line. Thankfully, the Chiefs know how to play for the cover, and the Ravens know how to kill the clock. Incidentally, Jamaal Charles is getting a massive workload this year, despite coming back from ACL surgery. If you take out the game he left hurt, he's at 24 per game. That's a pace for 384.

You know you've hit rock bottom when you're 3-9 ATS heading into Sunday night and rooting for the Chargers to bail you out on the road in a two-minute drill. I realize the refs made some questionable calls on that drive, but either way, the chances of San Diego showing heart after surrendering that lead were between zero and infinitesimal. And in the event they did score, they surely would have blown the cover in overtime.


By: Mark Stopa
On: 10/8/2012 5:20:00 AM
I've watched every GB game, and while I'll gladly defer to Herb if he disagrees, my take there is that Rodgers isn't completing anything downfield. As a result, Nelson is just a guy, and there's nobody reliable to force defenses to come out of Cover 2, so everything is underneath. I've seen Rodgers set up for downfield throws many times, but either the blocking doesn't hold up, he doesn't pull the trigger, or, as we saw once on Sunday, he misses the throw.

Herb, what say you?
By: Mark Stopa
On: 10/8/2012 5:23:00 AM
If one were a conspiracy theorist, you'd say the NFL treated Sunday night as a make-up game for the Saints (make up for the suspensions, let Brees have a win on the record-setting night). The roughing the passer call nullified the Brees pick-six that would have iced the game, and I didn't think it was helmet to helmet. The non-call on a PI was huge, and then the flags on the final drive were just a comedy of errors. I took SD, too, so maybe I was biased, but it felt like the refs were just not going to allow SD to win that game.
By: Scott Pianowski
On: 10/8/2012 8:39:00 AM
Rodgers looks uncomfortable to me - probably because of the line, mostly. The heavy-contact early games didn't help, along with Jennings missing time. Those YAC-driven offenses rely on precise and specific ball location for the long gains to happen. On a number of passes, the ball has been thrown in the area, but not to the exact spot. It's a credit to Rodgers that he still has decent stats given the line really has problems, there's no game changer in the backfield, Jennings has been out so much, and Finley is the worst return on a dollar in football.

I go back and forth on Alex Smith. I'm starting to wonder if he's one of those "hitter's count" quarterbacks who looks great when the support is around him, but can't be counted on when you trail 17-3 and you need to turn the offense completely over to him.
By: jnowak2799
On: 10/8/2012 9:25:00 AM
Stopa, you are spot on, Aaron Rodgers will not throw the ball downfield, he has had numerous opportunities to launch the ball but always seems to hesitate then run or dump it off, its almost as if he is resisting the long ball, I guess defenses have found A-Rods Kryptonite, the Cover 2? A good coach or any moron who has ever watched football would just tell Aaron Rodgers YOU HAVE TO THROW THE BALL DEEP, YES EVEN IF IT GETS INTERCEPTED. I don't get why Randall Cobb isn't utilized more, every time he touches the ball magic happens, if Rodgers hits this guy in stride which he is very capable of and has done, it is lights out for the defender trying to catch him, the Packers completely stopped going to Cobb after halftime.

I have also noticed sometimes Rodgers appears to act like the game is too easy or that his opponent is weak and he starts playing lax, The Packers and especially Rodgers never, ever seem to go for the kill or annihilate their opponent. The Packers were up big on the Colts and acted like a 21-3 lead at halftime was insurmountable, it was not.

The fact that Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense was stifled by that ever so daunting Colts defense is baffling to me, they had nothing in the second half, no clue how to solve that ever so stingy Colts defense.
By: jnowak2799
On: 10/8/2012 9:46:00 AM
With about 2:25 left in the 4th Quarter and the Chargers trailing 31-24, Ronnie Brown was in the Chargers backfield, not Ryan Mathews who was having a great game.......The Chargers final faltering drive had eleven straight offensive plays with Ronnie Brown in the backfield, why wasn't Ryan Mathews in there? It's not as if the Chargers were in the no-huddle and didn't have an opportunity to get Mathews in the game, THEY REFUSED to put Mathews in the game until there was 23 seconds left, why? Norv Turner or whoever the offensive co-ordinator is should be fired for being stupid, Joe Nowak sitting on his recliner in Buffalo noticed this huge error, how nobody on the entire San Diego Chargers team did not realize their most dangerous and talented player was basically not on the field for the most important drive of the game is an unacceptable ignorance.
By: matthewthill7
On: 10/8/2012 9:58:00 AM
Agree that it's the downfield game that is eluding Rodgers, just look at the YPA. After getting 8.2, 8.26 and 9.25 (ridiculous) in 2009-2011, he's at just 6.92 YPA through five games in 2012. Some of that might be the defenses he's faced, but the offense doesn't look as crisp as it did a year ago, either. Waiting patiently for the team to figure out what's wrong, as I used the #2 overall pick on him in a league where we get 6pts/per.

Stevan Ridley looks like a revelation. So fun to watch. Bolden might be slightly faster in a straight line but he can't touch Ridley in terms of lateral agility and quicks.

Agree that Pianow that it's the system and the score that prop up Alex Smith. Much easier to QB when your team is always up and your offensive line is amazing. You put Smith in, say, Jacksonville and the Jags are still the Jags.

Richardson is a hell of a player already. While watching him I'm always surprised because I don't expect a player of that size to be so quick. And I don't expect a player with that quickness to be so powerful. If anybody in your league is less than sold on him as a top-5 or top-6 RB going forward, either due to the anemic Browns' offense or his rookie status, pay whatever you have to in order to get him.
By: jnowak2799
On: 10/8/2012 10:25:00 AM
Even more unacceptable than Aaron Rodgers unwillingness to throw the ball deep and Norv Turner refusing to put Ryan Mathews in the game for the teams final drive and instead riding Ronnie Brown on eleven straight plays to definite defeat is the fact that two Sundays have passed and Liss doesn't have his Directv installed yet, cough up the extra bucks and get someone out there and hook that dish up, its week 6, c'mon man, And stop going to sports bars that only have 2 tv's, that's not a sports bar. I hope you finally get your Directv installed this week, love the work you do on Sirius Channel 210, always enjoy the insight you give on fantasy and survivor, huge fan.
By: herbilk
On: 10/8/2012 12:06:00 PM
You don't have to go back too far to find a mediocre stretch like this from Rodgers. Look at the first six games of 2010: 10 TD, 7 INT, 14 sacks, 89.7 rating, 23 ppg from the offense. "Rodgers holds the ball too long" and "the offensive line stinks" were the same issues then.

As has been mentioned, downfield passing has been the biggest difference. The Packers have completed just one pass of 40+ yards all season. They had 14 of those last season and 10 in 2010. They have only nine passes of 20+ yards after having 62 in 2011. Rodgers has the highest completion percentage of his career, but everything is on short passes. Now, he did miss Jordy Nelson twice in Sunday's game, one of which may have gone for a TD. I don't think he's been as accurate on long passes this season.

The whole thing that the opposing defenses have figured it out by playing cover 2 with man underneath is garbage as well. This is taken from an early 2010 chat transcript with a Green Bay beat writer:
"..what McCarthy eluded to in his post-game press conference: that teams have decided the best way to defense the Packers is to play Cover-2 with man coverage underneath. And to beat man coverage, you need a little time to let plays develop. I was surprised that we didn't see more quick stuff...and on more than a few occasions, Rodgers was running into pressure, not away from it. The whole offense is out of sorts right now..."

Opposing teams have known that this is the best way to defense the Packers for years. If it's working now then it has more to do with execution, both by the opponents and the Packers, than by some scheme that Green Bay suddenly can't figure out.

The offensive line hasn't been great and I think Jeff Saturday has been the worst by far. He is just plain terrible. I don't know what they can do about it, but I don't know how he'll get any better as the season goes on. The step down from Scott Wells has been big.

Finally, the turnovers that they were getting for so long have disappeared. They are the only team in the NFL yet to recover an opponents fumble. Outside of the Bears game and the awesome Jay Cutler, they have one interception. That's four games where they have a total of one takeaway. It shouldn't be surprising that they are 1-3 in those games.
By: Chris Liss
On: 10/8/2012 1:33:00 PM
Thanks, Herb - good stuff.
By: Scott Pianowski
On: 10/8/2012 3:04:00 PM
Herb's 1000 percent right on the Cover 2 stuff (and Herb obviously is the best Packers source any of us know). At the end of the day, here's biggest problem, simplified: teams are getting to the pocket regularly, and easily, without having to devote a lot of men to the task. If a defense can do that, almost nothing else matters. Rush a few, drop everyone else in coverage. That will make *any* offense look out of sync.

If the Packers couldn't solve the Cover 2, Rodgers would have terrible stats against the Bears. That's obviously not the case.
By: Scott Pianowski
On: 10/8/2012 3:11:00 PM
There were a lot of interesting sliding doors with Pittsburgh-Philly. Vick fumbled at the goal, of course. The Eagles went for a 4th-and-1 in their own territory during their final scoring drive in the fourth period; miss on that and Pittsburgh's win expectancy shoots through the roof.

I lost on Pittsburgh ATS, but I'd pick them again. I can't say the same for several of my other lousy Week 5 picks. Back to the lab.
By: Kevin Payne
On: 10/8/2012 4:45:00 PM
Liss - love that you glorify the offense but gloss over the fact that the Giants defense is terrible, *right now*. As in bottom-third in most categories, second only to Tampa in YPA against.

As a Ridley owner, I'm worried about the fumble. Who knows how Bill reacts.

665 carries since the end of 2009-2010 and one 40-plus carry for Cedric Benson. 14 NFl carries and Alex Green has him equaled. How does a lack of recognizing talent continue to happen in the NFL?

Willis' drop on 4th and 1 was just as much terrible as his fumble, yet the latter is getting much more play.

Shurmur going for it on 4th and 1 from the 36 in the third quarter was the right call. But when he punts on 4th and 5 from the Giants 45 on the same drive was terrible. And weird play where Weeden thought it was ok to throw twice and it ended up as a TD (penalty).

I tweeted this yesterday (@KCPayne26, shameful plug) before the game-winning drive. "Peyton Manning has clearly been holding Reggie Wayne back all of these years." I totally had Wayne ranked wrong this season, he's not dead at 33. And he's not the biggest receiver on the field but his route running, hands, plus-speed has been the key to his success all of these years.
By: Chris Liss
On: 10/8/2012 6:37:00 PM
The Giants defense held the Eagles down pretty well and the Browns got 14 but didn't score again until it was garbage time. They also annihilated the Panthers. Basically the bad D was the first two games when Amukamara was out, and some of their depth guys like Michael Coe were also hurt. The issue is the non-existent pass rush, but I expect that to come around.
By: Erickson
On: 10/8/2012 11:20:00 PM
I just want to give kudos to Nowak for bringing the recliner back into parlance. Carry on.
By: Erickson
On: 10/8/2012 11:33:00 PM
But really good analysis from Herb. All along I thought the Packers' deep passing woes stemmed from me breaking down and taking Rodgers at #6 overall in my home league - first time in 12+ years that I've taken a QB in the first round in that league. Still think there's some causality.
By: Kevin Payne
On: 10/9/2012 4:08:00 AM
Which defense hasn't held down the Eagles? Anyone? Carolina as a team is a joke, especially on D. JPP=overrated.
By: jnowak2799
On: 10/9/2012 9:53:00 AM
How can the huge Packers fan not point out the bad roughing penalty called by the refs in the Colts/Packers game. Packers sack Luck, I mean crush luck, textbook demolishing of a QB, Luck fumbles the ball, Green Bay recovers at around the Colts 10 yard line, all nullified because of a very weak roughing penalty if you ask me. The score was 14-0 at the time and probably would of been 17-0 or 21-0 Packers, instead I believe the Colts drove down the field and got their first points of the day. Don't get me wrong the Packers have no excuse for losing this game, they were up 21-3 at halftime, but I felt this was another weekly installment bad call against the Packers. Please note I am a sad Bills fan, but just basically an NFL fan, I call it like I see it, or at least I try to.
By: matthewthill7
On: 10/9/2012 10:26:00 AM
Roughing the QB is an infuriating call when it's questionable, as was the case w/ Luck's obliteration in the GB game. Similar situation in the SD/NO game where a late SD Pick-Six was nullified by a highly questionable call where the SD defender squared up Brees and the crown of the defender's helmet just scraped Brees' chinstrap. As long as human beings are all (relatively) the same height - i.e. there are no 4' DEs and 8' QBs - helmets are simply going to touch. The play completely turned the game around, as the odds of SD winning likely jump to 90% if that Pick-Six stands. I get the desire to protect QBs but it's for this reason that the "big reward" flags like Roughing and Defensive PI should be challengeable.
By: Chris Liss
On: 10/9/2012 7:13:00 PM
JPP is no Mario Williams. That's for sure.
By: Kevin Payne
On: 10/10/2012 4:33:00 PM
Right. Both have the same sack totals. At least Williams isn't Joe Thomas' bitch, like JPP.
By: jnowak2799
On: 10/10/2012 10:02:00 PM
Does anyone think that Matthew Stafford for Kendall Wright is a trade that should have no problem being passed? or if you saw this trade in a league you were in would you have a problem with it? Thanks, I would appeciate you telling me your first initial reaction.

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