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The FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, Dirty Dirty Edition

Last week we went out West. This week, we’re going way down South for the Dirty Dirty Edition of the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST.  FootballSickness.com’s Ryan Burns and Sen Sogah get in depth on the AFC and NFC South divisions, hitting all the big stories.  From the quarterback battle in Tennessee, to the commencement of the Andrew Luck era in Indy; from the Saints circus and potential Atlanta offense explosion to the re-build in Tampa…it’s all in there, plus much, much more.  We’ll pick the division winners and oh, and there’s a chance we mention a certain former Miami Dolphins wideout.  So GET YOUR HELMET ON and have a listen.

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Click HERE for the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, Dirty Dirty Edition.

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Let’s get down (South).

 

The FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST: Back To Camp Edition

At last, our long national winter is over. FOOTBALL IS BACK!  NFL training camps opened up in 32 American cities this week, and provided story after story worth batting around on the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST.  FootballSickness.com’s Ryan Burns and Sen Sogah know you’re depending on them to break it all down for you, and they won’t let you down. They talk about big stories around the NFL, introduce new nominees for the HALL of SICKNESS, drop some fantasy tidbits, and even cover some quality college football items.  The SICKNESS PODCAST reverts to its natural weekly state from here on out, and the camp-opening edition has a little extra goodness for you.  The only thing left to do is to GET YOUR HELMET ON!!!

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Click HERE for the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, Back To Camp Edition

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Click HERE to SUBSCRIBE to the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST via iTunes.

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2012 FOOTBALL SICKNESS MOCK DRAFT

Few utterly meaningless exercises engender more amusement, hysteria and rage than the mock NFL draft. Everyone has their concrete ideas of what will happen, they study their brains out, deciphering proper slotting according to how they view a particular prospect, team need and/or evaluation method, and finding just the right fit at each spot…and then it all goes completely to hell at pick 3. Seriously, nobody knows anything beyond the first couple of picks. In part, this is because at this time of year in the NFL, misinformation is king, and we’re all having ungodly amounts of smoke blown up our collective wazoo. Even those guys with the flawless hair on TV don’t have great success picking who will go where.  And don’t even get me started on trying to predict trades. Remember how Shanahan and the Redskins were going to move up for or select one of the many first-round-ready quarterbacks in last year’s draft?  Yeah. They took Ryan Kerrigan at 16.  Meanwhile, my mock at the top is way too similar to many others, meaning there’s no chance it happens this way because we all fell for the smoke. Got it? Good.

For this Sickness 2012 Mock, there will be a couple of simple ground rules. First: no trades. I’ll mention where appropriate when I think trades are likely or at least more plausible, but that’s it. I’m not trying to go insane attempting to predict the whims of NFL executives.  I’m guessing strictly based on my wholly amateur opinion of (1) prospect value and (2) team need and/or history.  Second, I try and take into account what a team’s schemes are, and not just throw guys to a team because they need someone at a given position. There’s no point mocking a 3-4 OLB to the Eagles, for example. Different teams are looking for different things, and while I don’t pretend to understand every minute detail of most teams’ philosophies, just know that some marginal thought has gone into the thing. Third, I’m making the traditional guesswork prediction, and then telling you what I would do were I in charge of each team. Full disclosure: I’m not even pretending I have any idea what most of them actually will do.  Lastly: we’re here to have fun. I know some of these make no sense. Have you tried this nonsense?!?  Mock me all you wish. My skin is thick and my helmet is on!

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1.  INDIANAPOLIS COLTS:  Guesswork Prediction- Andrew Luck, QB (Stanford). Throw me in with the lot who consider him the most complete, non-speculative, outstanding prospect since John Elway. Luck provides a decision-maker with the comfort of knowing his pre-snap read, adjustment and anticipatory skills have already been tested at an NFL level. A superior athlete in his own right, Luck has the stature to hang in the pocket and shed sacks and the ability to make huge plays outside the pocket and running with the football. The Colts go from one once-in-a-generation QB to the next. They’ve already told us so.

If I Were GM: Luck.

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2.  WASHINGTON REDSKINS:  Robert Griffin III, QB (Baylor).  Another foregone QB conclusion, and easily the story to watch going forward in the NFL for 2012. If he becomes what the Redskins obviously expect him to given the haul they gave up to get him, he will be a transformative figure in NFL history. Kick your feet up. Watch. Enjoy.  Unless you’re a defensive coordinator. In which case, ready thyself.  Watch that zone boot.  Watch the play-action off the stretch look.  Good luck.

If I Were GM: RGIII.  (Technically, since I’m a Browns fan, maybe I’d take Matt Kalil here and let Grif fall to 4. Heh. (Damn it.))

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3.  MINNESOTA VIKINGS:  Matt Kalil, OT (USC).  Rumors of trade possibilities are heating up in all corners as of this writing, and nothing would surprise me.  The Rams originally held the keys to the draft, but have long since removed that suspense by making the Griffin trade weeks before the draft. As a result, the Vikes have their choice of a franchise left tackle or an elite corner. As it so happens, they are in desperate need of both in this new passing NFL, and either would be a perfectly reasonable choice. But Kalil not only carries additional premium because he protects the QB’s blind side and has NFL bloodlines, he’s generally considered the superior prospect.  This shouldn’t be a tough card for the purple to turn in, but if they don’t take Kalil, heads’ up…because the draft is about to get really interesting.

 If I Were GM:  Kalil. (Sickness First Commandment: Protect Thy Quarterback.)

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4.  CLEVELAND BROWNS: Trent Richardson, RB (Alabama).  I go back and forth daily between Richardson, Justin Blackmon and Morris Claiborne, each of whom I think would be an excellent fit. But ultimately, the Browns need to do two things if they are to live with Colt McCoy for even one more season (as it appears that they might).  First, they must shorten the game. Second, they must score more touchdowns. Richardson will help with both. And while I’m not arguing about the general devaluation of the RB position (See the fine piece here by Shawn Siegele), I think exceptions to most rules exist, and Richardson is one to that “rule.” (Many call this stupid. I call it betting against the house. Again, if I can get LeSean McCoy or Ray Rice production at #4…am I bumming that hard?) If Richardson isn’t there, I would guess a trade down or Blackmon.

If I Were GM: Richardson.

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5.  TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Morris Claiborne, CB (LSU). In this scenario the Bucs end up with the draft’s top corner and a potential top-flight starter at a key position (especially in a division inhabited by Drew Brees, Matthew Ryan, Cam Newton and friends). They might be interested in Justin Blackmon, but in my view Claiborne is the better prospect. He plays one of the premium positions, and he’s ready to step in and do the job for which he’ll be drafted on day 1. There’s one other reason: the Bucs have gotten far too old and too non-law-abiding in recent years. This will help re-set the course of the Bucs’ ship.

If I Were GM:  Claiborne.

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6.   ST. LOUIS RAMS: Fletcher Cox, DT (Miss. St.).   A lot of noise about this one, which makes me wonder. But Cox is a heck of a talent. And I do seem to recall Fisher having outstanding defensive lines in Tennessee.

If I Were GM: Justin Blackmon. I’d be thinking about trading up to 3 for Kalil, because Sam Bradford ain’t making that new-CBA, slotted rookie money. No, sir. I’ve got big cash in Sammy B, I’m committed to him, and I need to make damn sure I keep division foes like the San Francisco Smiths, the New Orleans…well…y’know…and the sometimes dominant Seahawk front four off his ass.  If Kalil is here (and there is a chance), I’d pull that trigger. Otherwise, I’m equipping him with my favorite of the top receivers.

7.  JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS:  Stephon Gilmore, CB (South Carolina). The Jags seem like as good a bet for a trade as any team in the top 10, so let’s get that out there. Maybe the Jets come up for a Melvin Ingram, or someone else antsy for a corner or offensive tackle. But here, they’re stuck.  Wideout is certainly a major need, so Blackmon and Floyd would have to be on the radar.  But I still think those corners and pass rushers get pushed up the board, and the Jags could use one of each. Alfie Crow and Peter King beat me to the Stephon Gilmore call (and undoubtedly with infinitely more actual information at hand), but I feel no need to be original here.

If I Were GM: Melvin Ingram. I’m just a believer and think he fits anywhere. I’m probably crazy.

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Much of the draft fun will turn on where this dude lands.

8.  MIAMI DOLPHINS: Ryan Tannehill, QB (Texas A & M). I honestly have no idea here. Just riding the wave. (Tannehill & Grudes.)

If I Were GM: Probably Tannehill. But I’d be nervous as hell. Blackmon and Floyd would be my other options.

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9.  CAROLINA PANTHERS:  Quentin Coples, DE/DT (North Carolina).  Like I said, these guys get pushed up the board. Butch Davis may be known for a lot of things, but let’s not forget that one of them is coaching up quality D-Linemen, and knowing talent at these positions. Coples has plenty. Questions about his motor and tendency to play too upright are totally valid, but so are observations of his considerable ability.  Freakishly athletic and versatile enough to play inside or out, someone is going to find Coples well worth the gamble sooner rather than later.

If I Were GM: Michael Floyd. Cam is a special passer, and I like Brandon LaFell a lot. But I also know that Steve Smith can’t play forever and Floyd has dominant potential.  I’d take him…then I’d go defense the rest of the draft.

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10. BUFFALO BILLS: Justin Blackmon, WR (Oklahoma St.) First, a note: I could see the Bills trading up for someone like Kalil or taking Tannehill if he fell this far. But since I’m not predicting trades…Blackmon would be fantastic opposite Stevie Johnson.  Ryan Fitzpatrick would know exactly how to work the ball to Blackmon and to utilize the Oklahoma State star’s Dr. Octopus-like catch radius and aggression for the football.  He’s also a nightmare in the open field and often takes more than one small man to bring down.  Most mocks have him going higher, and with good reason. But I think there’s a chance he falls with a perception that he is not quite the elite athlete that, say, AJ Green and Julio Jones were a year ago (they went 4 and 6, respectively).

If I Were GM: Again. Melvin Ingram. He’d look nice behind that devastating D-line they’re building. Or book-ending it on certain downs.

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11. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: David DeCastro, G (Stanford). I had Dontari Poe in here, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. He doesn’t dominate on tape despite his fantastic measurables and combine workout.  Plus, DeCastro is a surefire decade-long starter on the interior line and will help grind out yards with Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis pounding through the holes.

If I Were GM: DeCastro.

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12. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB (South Carolina).  Finally.  Coach Pete gets a new toy.

If I Were GM:  Ingram. Was that not clear?

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13. ARIZONA CARDINALS: Reily Reiff, OT (Iowa).  The Cardinals have to protect whomever their quarterback will be, this year and in the future.

IF I Were GM: Floyd.  I’m in the minority, but I don’t see Reiff as a surefire left tackle, and would have a tough time taking him here as a result. And Fitz desperately wants Floyd. This would fit.

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14. DALLAS COWBOYS: Mark Barron, S (Alabama).  All the consensus picks, like the Cowboys taking a defensive back here, make me uncomfortable. It’s just too easy. But they do need ‘em. Badly. Of course, Adam Schefter guaranteed on Wednesday that Barron won’t make it to this slot, so…

If I Were GM:  Dre Kirkpatrick. It’s simple. He’s Sabanized and corners are more important to me.

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15. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Michael Brockers, DT (LSU):  Sen Dog assures me the Eagles’ biggest issue is up front on defense and that he’d be enthralled with the addition of the big DL from LSU.  Good enough for me.

If I Were GM: Luke Keuchly.  They desperately need the upgrade. Of course, it’s at least 50/50 he’s gone before this pick.

Will these guys go nuts?

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16. NEW YORK JETS:  Courtney Upshaw, LB (Alabama): Smoke, noise, rumors, innuendo…and none of it about Tebow or feet in general. One well-placed rumor had the Jets interested in trading way up for Trent Richardson. I have a real hard time seeing that, but I don’t have a hard time seeing the Jets moving around. GM Mike Tannenbaum has made that a regular practice, and I half expect him to be selecting 8 or 10 spots earlier here. But Upshaw would fit beautifully into Rex’s 3-4 and is a quality thumper.

If I Were GM: Upshaw or Dontari Poe.  Poe’s got questions, but Rex has a way with those guys and there aren’t many of “those guys” on the planet.

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17. CINCINNATI BENGALS (FROM OAK): Luke Keuchly, LB (Boston College). As I mentioned above, I think in real life he’s gone by here. I just don’t know to whom, and in this particular scenario, he’s still sitting here for the Bengals to pluck up. Marvin Lewis was quoted just this week as saying they’ve “neglected the defense.” Let’s go ahead and assume that gets rectified in the first round.

If I Were GM: I’d go with Kirkpatrick first, but they get him anyway here and I can’t in good conscience just keep letting Keuchly fall. This is madness.

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18. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: Cordy Glenn, OL (Georgia).  The Bolts have been devastated up front with injuries and surprise retirements. Glenn is a big, athletic, versatile plug-and-play guy.

If I Were GM: Glenn. I loved Rumford Johnny’s pick of McClellin here, but I think the OL is a huge need.

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19. CHICAGO BEARS: Michael Floyd, WR (Notre Dame). They’d be beyond lucky to get him here and to pair him with Brandon Marshall. Jay Cutler is an immensely talented quarterback who, in my view, started to make the leap into the upper echelon with outstanding play throughout 2011. Add another monster weapon and start doing some real damage to the rest of the NFC North.

If I Were GM: Floyd or Reiff.

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20. TENNESSEE TITANS: Nick Perry, DE (USC). Still raw, but a rare athlete at a premium position with a nose for the QB and the power to bring him down when he gets there.

If I Were GM:  In all honesty? Janoris Jenkins. Huge risk. But it’s #20, not #2.

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21. CINCINNATI BENGALS: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB (Alabama).  I’ll be stunned if the Bengals don’t come out of the first round with a new corner one way or another.

If I Were GM: Kendall Wright.  Put him opposite AJ Green and watch the points roll in.

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22. CLEVELAND BROWNS (FROM ATL): Reuben Randle, WR (LSU).  It’ll be interesting to see whether they like Brandon Weeden enough to take him this early despite his advanced age (and if they take Blackmon at No. 4, they might just do that), or whether they look to a less obvious position like rush end. But I think it’s probably a wide receiver or a new right tackle.  Several popular choices exist for the wideout spot.  I think Reuben Randle makes a ton of sense here, and I hear they’ve got this batch of WR’s all pretty closely ranked.

If I Were GM: Randle. I’d be highly tempted to take Janoris Jenkins, but my team is still too young and developing. I’m a big believer in Reuben Randle.

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23. DETROIT LIONS:  Whitney Mercilus, DE (Illinois).  Lead the nation in sacks, and would have a good chance at early production with guys like Suh, Fairley and Avril eating up blocks. Can learn on the job with the depth currently in place.  And the Schwartz wants to destroy QB’s. All makes good sense to me.

If I Were GM:  Tough call for me. Since I don’t trust their RB’s to stay healthy? I might look at a quality all-around back like Doug Martin of Boise St. here.

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24. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Kevin Zeitler, OG (Wisconsin).  I have to think Ben is tired of getting demolished back there, and you know with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley in town they’re going to show a renewed commitment to Steeler football and the effective running of the football.  Zeitler is a quality player that addresses both of these issues, shoring up the interior of that offensive line.

If I Were GM: Dont’a Hightower. Just seems like a Steeler to me.

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25. DENVER BRONCOS: Devon Still, DT (Penn St.)  Or maybe Dontari Poe. Or even a running back.  But the Broncos must help the middle of that defensive line. I tore them up for not taking Dareus last year (though Von Miller was clearly an outstanding choice), and would do so again if they fail to address what I think is their biggest need.

If I Were GM: Still.

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26. HOUSTON TEXANS: Kendall Wright, WR (Baylor).  There seems to be a decent amount of disagreement as to what echelon of player Wright is, but he’s a first-rounder in my book. Couldn’t care less about his timed speed, as the tape shows me he knows how to use whatever he’s got to manipulate and destroy db’s. Tough to square up after the catch, a fine route-runner, and sure-handed. Would fit nicely opposite Andre Johnson and give the Texans that #2 that they’ve been looking for for so long.

If I Were GM: Wright or Poe.

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McClellin keeps rising.

27. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (FROM N.O.): Chandler Jones, DE (Syracuse).  Leaning on my man Rummy, here, and I like Jones a good bit. The Patriots are impossible to predict. I certainly didn’t have them targeting those two rookie RB’s last year. And I fully expect them to trade at least one of these late first rounders.

If I Were Gm: I’d just defer to Belichick. Heh.

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28. GREEN BAY PACKERS: Shea McClellin, DE/OLB (Boise St.)  Long before he became fashionable with well-known and outstanding draftniks like Greg Cosell, my man Brendan Leister was going crazy telling me how good this guy was.  The more Boise video I watched, the more I could see why. Explosive, fantastic get-off, and one of those tough, fundamentally sound Broncos studs. Someone will be exceptionally pleased to get him, and he’d be an insanely good fit opposite Clay Matthews III.

If I Were GM: McClellin.

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29. BALTIMORE RAVENS: Dont’a Hightower, LB (Alabama). “Oh, hey. Looky what we found here. A perfect fit for our aging defense.” – Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome.

If I Were GM: I’m a Browns fan. I’d let the Ravens’ pick expire. (Nope.  Still not over it.)

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30. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Coby Fleener, TE (Stanford).  Yes, they have Vernon Davis, and he’s a monster. But perhaps youv’e noticed a team or two looking to run multiple TE threats out there? Plus we’ve got the Harbaugh connection. If Kendall Wright were still available, I’d have done that.

If I Were GM: I might gamble on Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech here. Crazy fast and appears to have every tool in the box. Just didn’t get enough run in that triple option at GT to know for sure.

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31. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS:  Janoris Jenkins (CB) Northern Alabama.  If anybody can afford to gamble, it’s the Hoodie.  Jenkins dominated while in the SEC. Bill likes Florida guys. That’s all I’ve got.

If I Were GM: Jenkins. You bet’cha.

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32. NEW YORK GIANTS: Bobbie Massie, OT (Mississippi State). I think the Giants are going to be pleased with just about anything that falls into their lap at 32, and Massie is a big stud OL with major upside. They can take their time and develop him, possibly into the LT of their future.

If I Were GM: Lamar Miller. A fun, luxurious replacement for the Tiptoe Bandit and a fine complement to/insurance for Ahmad Bradshaw. I doubt they’d do it, though.

Post Script: Thank the Gridiron Gods this is over for another year. The Mock Draft is exhausting and infuriating. Enjoy your draft weekend, everyone!

The FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, 2012 NFL Draft Sickness Sidecar Special #2

The NFL Draft Sickness season continues with another special episode featuring one of the top draft writers around, Mr. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report.  Matt joins us to talk in depth about the draft, who should and shouldn’t go where, who should stay home (looking at you, Kellen Moore), and gives us a taste of what real scouting life is like.  We’re hitting the draft and hitting it hard, so…GET YOUR HELMET ON!!

Click HERE for the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, 2012 NFL Draft Sickness Sidecar Special #2 (Matt Miller)

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Click HERE to subscribe to the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST via iTUNES.

The FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, 2012 Post-Combine Edition

So. How many of you spent last weekend watching college-aged men doing speed, agility and explosiveness drills for hours on end? Yeah, us too. Let’s discuss.  FootballSickness.com’s Ryan Burns and Sen Sogah review all the highs and lows of the NFL’s official offseason meat market, bat around the likely RGIII scenarios, look at the end of an era in Pittsburgh, and do a little free agency overview.  It is the offseason but we’re between the lines, so GET YOUR HELMET ON!

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Click HERE for the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, 2012 Post-Combine Edition

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Click HERE to SUBSCRIBE to the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST via iTUNES.

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Big Fella Movin'.

JUST WIN, BABY: NFL Week 5 In Review

Is a new Bay Area reign setting in?  The Raiders and Niners both had impressive victories against playoff contenders, serving notice to the rest of the league that they intend to be dealt with.  Some preseason favorites are in danger of folding early, and as usual a number of surprise teams sit near the top of the standings.  It’s why we keep on watching so feverishly.  That’s the Sickness.  And this week’s review is titled for a man who had the Sickness something fierce.  As a native southern Californian who grew up in the 80′s, I’ll remember Mr. Davis (as even some Oakland fans who never met him refer to him) for a lot of things, but the biggest one is this: the man loved football.  He loved business and competition (litigation?) too, but he was always a football guy first. That’s what I liked about him. Rest in peace, Al.

Mr. Davis was no doubt smiling on Sunday.

OAKLAND RAIDERS 25, HOUSTON TEXANS 20:  Three simple words: Just Win, Baby! Al Davis would no doubt be proud of his boys for finding a way to do just that on an emotional Sunday that found even me donning silver and black for the day. The Raiders forced Matt Schaub to drop back 51 times, as the Texans missed the game-plan advantage that is Andre Johnson.  This Oakland team is for real, make no mistake about it.  They didn’t unleash Darren McFadden with any devastation. They won with good tough defense, a balanced attack, and the leg of Sebastian Janikowski. Mr. Davis’ first round kicker made three field goals of 50 yards or better on the afternoon as the Raiders picked off a big AFC road win.  Another Al headscratcher, Darius Heyward-Bey, hit for 99 yards on the day.  Meanwhile, the hits just keep on coming for Houston, who may have lost Super Mario Williams for a significant period to a torn pec.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 48, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 3:  Let’s all welcome the Niners back to official relevance, shall we?  To say I’m impressed would massively understate the matter.  They threw and landed early haymakers and then just pummeled the Bucs into submission.  San Francisco dominated from start to finish, out-rushing a normally physical and run-heavy Tampa squad 213 yards to 86 (125 by Frank Gore) and winning the turnover battle 3-1.  That’s how each of these teams are built to win, but only Coach Harbaugh’s Niners put it on display this week.  At 4-1, the Niners are in the driver’s seat in the NFC west and has in-conference wins over both Philly and Tampa, who now have to chase them for any wild card contention.

BUFFALO BILLS 31, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 24:  Michael Vick played a dominant game, but could buy neither a break nor decent protection as the Eagles fell into “let’s not turn this into the 2010 Cowboys, please” territory.  Eagle fans like our man Sen Dog were no doubt employing numerous household items as projectiles early and often, as Vick passes found new and creative ways to locate Buffalo defenders. The Philly QB threw for 315 yards and rushed for another 90, but it wasn’t good enough as the suddenly game-for-anyone Bills rebounded from last week’s tough loss in Cincinnati.  And Sen’s criticism of his Iggles as the least physical team in the NFL isn’t exactly ringing hollow. Fred Jackson put up almost 200 combined rushing and receiving yards.  It’s about time we stop calling Jackson things like “underrated” and “under the radar” and instead refer to his as awesome.  Consider that standard operating procedure around here from now on.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 30, NEW YORK JETS 21:  Tom Brady keeps doing his thing, and the Patriots join the Bills at 4-1. But the most impressive part of the Patriots’ win was the final drive, as they took Rex’s ground-n-pound style to him with a heavy dose of BenJarvus Green-Ellis (136 yards and 2 TD), chewing up clock and leaving the Jets no chance to tap that miracle bottle they seem to keep on hand for just such occasions.  The Jets are 2-3, but we’ve seen this before. I’ll wait and see. And I should mention: Shonn Greene really stood out in this one.  He seemed to be running with greater comfort and decisiveness, translating into a number of explosive bursts up the middle.  If this team is to turn it around, Greene needs to be a big part of it.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 29, DENVER BRONCOS 24:  John Fox ceded to the laws of nature and pulled Kyle Orton in favor of Tim Tebow.  I’m tired of defending my rather unscientific conclusion that Tebow gives them the better chance to win. I don’t care that Kyle Orton is a more polished NFL QB.  From the minute they put him in last year, the offense had more energy.  It just looked different, and though that may make Johns Elway and Fox uncomfortable, I credit Fox for making the switch and taking a chance.  What did/does he have to lose at this point?  Not much.  Worst case scenario, they draft some quarterback from Stanford #1 overall.  As their GM could tell you, things could be worse.  Meanwhile, nice of the bolts to make it interesting.  That 4-1 is not the prettiest of things, and they’d better play better if they want to hold off Oakland in the AFC West.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 28, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 24:  The Colts almost got that first one as the Curtis Painter Experience took a more positive turn for once.  Painter threw two more touchdowns to Pierre Garcon. The Colts had it for a minute, there. Alas, it was not to be.  Matt Cassel played his best game of the season, throwing for four touchdowns (2 to Dwayne Bowe), and Jackie Battle stepped up with 119 yards rushing.  The key takeaway here, though, is to remember that these two teams were playing each other, and that neither offers particularly stiff competition for most other NFL squads on a weekly basis.  Too many huge injuries for both.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS 34, ARIZONA CARDINALS 10:  Alright, Leslie Frazier.  I see you!  You are hereby re-hired on a one-week trial basis after Adrian Peterson gets 29 carries, rushing for 122 yards and three first-quarter touchdowns to lead the Vikings in an early knockout of the apparently punchless Cardinals.  You know, it’s amazing: you give All Day the ball all day, and good things just happen.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS 38, TENNESSEE TITANS 17:  You didn’t really think the Steelers were going to let a one-dimensional, under-talented Titans squad come in and set fire to their whole season, did you?  The Pittsburgh Steelers just know how to win, and don’t you forget it.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 36, NEW YORK GIANTS 25:  Just before he was lost to a shoulder injury in the third quarter and replaced by Charlie Whitehurst, I was all set to write a “shame on all of you Tavaris-bashers” post. Then Whitehurst went out and things pretty much continued. Marshawn Lynch remains an uncomfortable proposition for any would-be tackler, and Sidney Rice is makes a big difference. Someone named Doug Baldwin went off.  And the Seahawks won.  This was typical of those games that make it difficult to take the G-Men too seriously.  You know what I mean.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 30, CAROLINA PANTHERS 27:  Cam Newton remains entirely impressive, from the strong arm to the pocket poise to the threat he poses in the run game.  He seems totally non-plussed, almost as though he was born to do this.  Newton and the Panthers presented yet another tough afternoon, this time for the division-foe Saints.  It wasn’t enough to beat Drew Brees (359 yards, 2 TDs), Jimmy Graham (8 rec/129 yards) and the Saints, who are built to last every week and all season long.  Brees led an 80-yard drive, going 8/9 and hitting Pierre Thomas in the flat for the winner, answering Newton’s touchdown to Greg Olsen with a little over 12 minutes to play.  The Saints should be happy with a tough road win within their own division.  Nobody is walking out of Charlotte with an easy W in 2011.

CINCINNATI BENGALS 30, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 20:  You know how I know Andrew Dalton is going to make it in the NFL?  He throws it to AJ Green a lot.  Sometimes, the test is just that simple.  Great quarterbacks know that even when a play isn’t there, playmakers need to be given an opportunity to make them. It’s the beauty of the position- in a position of complete control, the optimization of your game demands- at the moments of highest pressure- that you relinquish it and trust your teammates.  There is no way to control it all, because the best laid plans of offensive coordinators and quarterbacks will at times become the signing bonuses of defensive coordinators and pass rushers. Green caught 5 balls for 90 yards and a touchdown, and so far is doing nothing to dispel the “next Megatron” noise people were putting on him during the draft silly season. Green is super smooth. In retrospect, I think Denver should have taken him number 2. (That one’s for my brother, the Broncos fan.)  As for the Jags, I think they could learn a lot by looking up the coast to Carolina. Let your rookie big man get out there and sling it.  He’s got great safety valves in dual Bruins Marcedes Lewis and MJD, both of whom are very good in pass protection and the receiving game. Mike Thomas can stretch the field.  You still need that impact guy, but imagine how nice it would be for Blaine Gabbert to understand how he fits in when you get him in April. What’s the worst that can happen?

Enjoy the Monday Night Fun, everybody.  Lions in a tight one.

 

The FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, NFL Sickness Episode 3

Burns and Sen Dog are back to talk NFL, and you can imagine how salty the Dog is this week after yet another Iggles debacle.  Burns is excited about his 2-1 Browns, but more for the future.  Not yet delusional on the Cleveland front.  Everything from week 3 is covered, the games from week 4 are broken down and picked, and you get the usual Sickness Style. You know you want some. Right about…now-ish.  What say you go GET YOUR HELMET ON!!!

Click HERE for the NFL SICKNESS PODCAST, Episode 3

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Click HERE to subscribe to the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST via iTUNES. 

AHEM.

 

 

 

 

THREE AND OH!!! NFL Week 3 In Review

BUFFALO BILLS 34, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 31:  Like I was saying: don’t sleep on the Bills. Pretty please.  Any further questions?  Yes, you in the back?  (Exasperated sigh.)  Alright. One more time.  No, this isn’t a fluke.  Yes, the Bills are good now.  Yes, we’re all somewhat surprised it’s happening like this.  No, it’s not totally out of the blue.  Chan Gailey has always been around prolific offenses, and it’s no accident.  Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson and Stevie Johnson all showed us signs of this last year.  Add a couple of strong draft picks, luck into some free agent production and get a fortuitous bounce or two?  Voila!  You’re 3-0 and the darlings of the AFC.  Now is when it gets interesting.  As for the Patriots?  They’ll be back.  My question on them, though: are they giving up so much yardage as acceptable collateral damage from the decision that Tom Brady and the offense are their best chance to win most weeks?  Because if it’s the other thing, I have a few more questions.

The Bills celebrate the big win over the Pats.

GREEN BAY PACKERS 27, CHICAGO BEARS 17:  This game showed me a couple of things.  One, I take it all back. The Bears are exactly who I thought they were.  I can’t believe I let myself be fooled by the season-opening win against the Falcons (who evidently have problems of their own).  Two, Jermichael Finley is a huge distinction between the Packers and everyone else.  Still, Chicago: Feel free to at least try to cover him.  The Packers are 3-0 and on their way once again.  The Bears are reeling, and if they’re not, they absolutely should be.  I’ll just keep beating the drum here: you must protect your quarterback much better than that to have any hope of winning what matters.  I’ll wait.

CLEVELAND BROWNS 17, MIAMI DOLPHINS 16:  The Dolphins dominated time of possession 37:51 to 22:09, but it was the last 3:23 that proved the difference.  Colt McCoy led an exciting 80-yard drive that erased his own rough performance and any hopes the Dolphins had of kidding themselves into believing they were a playoff contender.  McCoy missed some big throws and made some ill-advised ones, but appeared calm and collected down the stretch, dropping an absolute dime to Mohammed Massaquoi to win it.  The Browns’ D kicked in with another five sacks (they’re now 2nd in the NFL. I know!)  I don’t know whether Chad Henne is that bad, but I do think he and Brandon Marshall don’t see the field the same way.  It’s interfering with the offense because you absolutely have to try to get the ball to Marshall, and Henne seems unable to do so with any consistency.  Either that, or there is a pattern building with former Browns and new Dolphins offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.  Not sure yet.  All in good time.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 13, CINCINNATI BENGALS 8: Evidently it was not Jim Harbaugh’s plan to Suck for Luck.  Let’s not forget the Niners play in the division that just saw Sickness division favorite Arizona lose at Seattle 13-10, so a 2-1 start is equal parts good fortune and fool’s gold.  I don’t think the Bengals are this bad, but they’re doing a lousy job proving it.  Aside: I kind of hope Mike Brown doesn’t get a chance to ruin Andrew Luck.

TENNESSEE TITANS 17, DENVER BRONCOS 14:  Tennessee is showing a stronger defense than I anticipated, and Matt Hasselbeck (300 yards for the second straight game) is showing that he can still play and has the fire to do so.  Unfortunately for the Titans, they were gut-punched by the injury gnome, who took the hatchet to budding superstar wide receiver Kenny Britt’s ACL.  Expect more of Jared Cook, but that’s a not an easily-absorbed loss.  Still, they can be buoyed by the fact that they have not yet unleashed Chris Johnson.  Let’s hope he regains his freakiness, because he looks hesitant to me so far this season.  Meanwhile, the issue in Denver remains what it is.  We’re sure Tebow can’t go 24/39 for 173 and 2 TD’s, right?  (I’m kidding. I think.)

SAINTS 40, TEXANS 33:  Yep, that sounds about right.  I think it’s safe to say that the Houston Texans can put that coffee down now (coffee is for closers, after all).  Big win for the Saints at home in a barnburner that played out pretty much like we called it last week.

DETROIT LIONS 26, MINNESOTA VIKINGS 23:  Those following along know I fired Leslie Frazier via Twitter before the game was over.  And I’m serious.  Some things are just as obvious as this to me: You do not give the ball to Toby Gerhart on a critical, game-clinching 4th and 1.  You give it to Adrian Peterson.  Furthermore, Adrian Peterson does not carry the ball a mere 17 times in any game you lead, at any time, by a score of 20-0.  He carries it 27, at the absolute least.  Were I Zygi Wilf  (alas, Vikings fans, I am not), I would have proceeded to the field of play immediately, demanded Mr. Frazier’s headset and keys, and had the Viking ride him out of that dome on his Harley.  That simply cannot happen at the NFL level, and the Minnesota media was rightly all over it.  Frazier was appropriately contrite, but come on, man.  That’s three games in a row you’ve lost a double-digit lead.  You have the most devastating runner in the game. Make them beat him.  Detroit? Still ballin’.  All systems go.  Plenty of room for growth, but 3-0 has to feel awfully good in the Motor City.

CAROLINA PANTHERS 16, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 10:  Parts of this game were played in monsoon-like conditions, the Jags’ lone touchdown came on a clever but desperate heave from midfield, and Cam Newton gets his first win as a starter.  That’s all I have to say about that.

NEW YORK GIANTS 29, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 16:  …And so the hype train found itself derailed.  Questions and criticisms abound this week in Philly, starting with: “What will be done to protect the quarterback?”  Michael Vick took shot after shot again, and though his post-game criticisms sounded like they were about the officiating, I think our man Sen Sogah is right when he says they might just as well have been directed at the Eagles’ coaches.  It wasn’t working on the other side of the ball either, as new toy Nnamdi Asomugha was beaten by Victor Cruz for a score.  And this just in: if they’re isolating Brandon Jacobs on a sideline route against you, you’re the problem, Casey Matthews.  Kudos to the Giants for identifying and exploiting the issues.  Also, I’m again impressed with how Perry Fewell manages to create chaos and havoc for the opposing offense no matter what personnel he’s got.  That dude can coach.

Darren McFadden and the Raiders disregarded the Jets in Oakland.

OAKLAND RAIDERS 34, NEW YORK JETS 24:  Darren F. McFadden!  19 carries for 171 yards and 2 touchdowns reeks of explosiveness, in a good way.  McFadden made short work of the noisily talented Jets defense, which couldn’t keep up with the Silver and Black all day.  This version of the Raiders is talented all over the field, going six deep at receiver with young, speedy talent and mixing in just enough Michael Bush and Taiwan Jones to keep you honest.  Don’t look now, but Jason Campbell is not embarrassing himself. They also have one of the nastier defensive fronts in football, with Richard Seymour still leading the way.  Meanwhile, the Jets look nothing like what Rex professes to want his team to look.  They can’t ground and pound it with Shonn Greene, and they’re throwing it far more than running it as a result.  Mark Sanchez isn’t quite ready for that role, yet, but he’s being forced into it, and behind a patchwork offensive line that is now missing Nick Mangold.  And on defense, they’re not as nasty.  They’ve got some issues, but let’s also remember that the Jets finish strong.  I suspect they’ll be fine.

BALTIMORE RAVENS 37, ST. LOUIS RAMS 7:  We’ll be breaking out the DONE stamp for the Rams this week.  The secondary is a disaster, and they clearly aren’t all on the same page in Josh McDaniels’ offense yet.  What’s worse, there’s rumor-mongering afoot, with tales of dissent between GM Billy Devaney and Coach Spags.  Bad things, man.  The Ravens looked like the team that pasted the Steelers opening week.  Torrey Smith showed off the crazy speed and caught three touchdowns for a big breakout performance.  Pretty sure they didn’t need to make that Lee Evans trade.  But why in the world were all the starters still in and why were the Ravens throwing deep up 30?  Whatever the point was, I’m not sure it was worth it.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 20, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 17:  Say whatever you want about the Chargers, but remember: this is the kind of game they usually lose at this time of year, so perhaps this constitutes progress.  Those in San Diego questioning Philip Rivers should have their heads examined.  No, he hasn’t played lights out ball, but he’ll be fine.  Rough patches happen, and they’re 2-1.  Relax.  And hey, since the Chiefs decided to break their perfect non-attendance streak for 2011 by actually showing up for this division matchup, a trouncing wasn’t in the cards.  That’s the best I got, Chiefs fans.  It’s going to be a long year.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 13, ARIZONA CARDINALS 10:  Such is the quality of football in the NFC West that the entire division scored only nine points more than the Buffalo Bills this weekend.  And only three more than the New Orleans Saints.  And it was not a bye week for any of them.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 16, ATLANTA FALCONS 13:  Of all the teams that have surprised me thus far, none has done so in a more disappointing fashion that the Atlanta Falcons.  I was so excited to watch what should be a highly explosive offense compete with the likes of New Orleans and Philadelphia for the title of “scariest NFC offensive unit,” but right now the Falcons are scary for all the wrong reasons.  Granted, they’ve had a tough opening schedule travelling to the Bears and Bucs and hosting the Eagles.  But it looks like the expectations or the new plan have caused them to somewhat forget who they are at heart.  A team must always reflect it’s coach’s personality.  The yin and yang must be in sync.  Under Mike Smith, the Falcons have been a physical, pound-it-right-at-you offense led by Michael Turner’s dominant rushing and Roddy White’s unstoppable possession receiving.  But the run game hasn’t been quite what we’re used to, and the pass game looks discombobulated.  I wonder if they’ve hit a bit of an identity crisis as they try to absorb all the new talent and get it running together.  I still think they’ll be just fine, but they’d better get their quickly because it’s a tough division they’re playing in.  A point that was no doubt hammered home by a loss to the Bucs, who despite showcasing a number of flaws are now 2-1 and doing it again.  Raheem Morris knows how to get the most out of his guys, and Josh Freeman is cool in the big moments.  You can’t go in there lightly or you’ll learn what the Falcons just did: the Bucs will find a way.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS 23, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 20:  The Steelers definitely have issues up front on offense, as Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney harassed Big Ben all night.  Even scarier for Pittsburgh, they were unable to line up and play old school Steelers football against a Colts defense that is well known for being unable to stop the run.  If you can’t run the ball, and you can’t protect your quarterback, well…you’re in Barney.  But, of course, they’re the Steelers, and the Pittsburgh Steelers just know how to win.  And so they did.  Winning, meanwhile, is something the Colts may struggle to do even once this season.  Evidently, without Peyton Manning the whole thing just goes completely to crap.  They’re built to build leads on his brain and arm and protect it with the pass defense.  They won’t build any leads with Kerry Collisn or Curtis Painter, or Brody Croyle or anyone else they bring in to work out.  This is going to get ugly.  Frankly, I’m just excited to see whether they’re willing to pass on Andrew Luck.  (Hint: They shouldn’t be.)

NFL Week 2 In Review

THE SICKNESS SPECIAL DOUBLEHEADER

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES AT ATLANTA FALCONS 35, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 21:  Even a Dream Team gets to have nightmares every once in awhile, and this was it for the Eagles. This one had everything you hope to avoid: big turnovers, huge injuries, a total failure to close out a game you should have won against a quality opponent.  Yep, hate it when that happens. As I see it, the difficult task that is protecting Michael Vick remains the central question of the Philly campaign.  It necessitates walking a very fine line no matter what, but so far in his career Andy Reid has proven surprisingly adept at such high-wire feats (especially for a man of such- ahem- stature).  Here’s hoping Vick gets back quickly, but I think we saw even in that brief appearance that Mike Kafka is unlikely to embarrass himself should they need him.  And we also saw that Trent Cole rather enjoys the wide 9 technique. You thought he was an animal before?  Watch this.  Meanwhile, that’s a huge win for the Falcons at home, and they get bonus points because they did it with a monster performance from old man Tony Gonzalez, a fellow Huntington Beach’er and surefire first ballot Hall of Famer.  They showed balance and room to grown on offense.  Say what you will about it being “early” but the Falcons wanted no part of going down 0-2 in games to tough conference foes while playing in the nasty NFC South. This was big.

The Eagles need to protect their investment a little better.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 35, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 21:  I don’t want to belabor the point. The Patriots are a machine. The machine loses a fairly significant cog in Aaron Hernandez, who is down for a matter of weeks (how many appears up for debate), but count me among those who think all it means is that the next man is up and Tom Brady will just throw it to someone else.  The defense is more than sufficient, and has moments where I think maybe they could be excellent by the end of the season.  They went 14-2 last year, by the way.  As for the Chargers, just a tough early season measuring stick that taught you what you already knew: You need to get better.  The biggest takeaway for me is: keep an eye on Antonio Gates.  You know the Hoodie is a savant at taking away what you do best, but it looked to me like Gates was nowhere near right, physically speaking. I assume it’s the foot again.  He’s a huge part of that offense running smoothly, and if he’s not himself it changes things.  All you Vincent Jackson fantasy owners can exhale.

The Best Of The Rest

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 30, CHICAGO BEARS 13:  There’s a chance I was a bit hasty on the Bears. They might be what I thought they were. They certainly are along the offensive line, and what I thought they were there (as anyone who has followed for more than a day or two can tell you) is woefully inadequate.  Again, next time don’t risk it. Go ahead and add a serviceable pass blocker every draft or three. And the only one they chose to add just dislocated his kneecap.  As a result, Jay Cutler damn near got eaten like a safari kill by the New Orleans defense, which came to hunt and left well sated.  Until they get a grip on this fundamental area, I can’t take them that seriously.  Oh, speaking of which? Matt Forte got only 10 carries, as the esteemed Sen Dog pointed out on this week’s podcast.  That’s preposterous. On the other hand,  I can definitely take the Saints seriously. The aggressiveness with which they attacked the NFL in that Super Bowl season is back, and so is a renewed physicality. I like what I’m seeing, New Orleans.

BUFFALO BILLS 38, OAKLAND RAIDERS 35: Like I said: DO. NOT. SLEEP. ON THE BUFFALO BILLS. The Raiders took a 21-3 lead into the locker room at the half, and got absolutely slaughtered in the second half.  In short, Buffalo made adjustments and quit making mistakes, and the Raiders failed to do either.  Let it be said: this was one of those games that has to be going on Al Davis’ personal NFL Vendetta Highlight Reel.  Let me get this straight: it’s a coincidence that the Oakland Raiders have to travel east to play an early game in Buffalo after playing the late Monday Night Football opener in Denver?  Uh-huh.  Anyway, conspiracy theories notwithstanding, it’s clear the old crazy man’s “throw it deep to fast guys” plan, however simple and outdated it may seem to some, can still be successful at the NFL level. The holy-crap-that-preseason-hype-was-warranted performance turned in by Denarius Moore

ARIZONA CARDINALS AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS:  Well, well, well. Look who will be visiting Dallas O-2.  The Redskins aren’t bad, people.  Rex Grossman is limited, no question. But this team can run it like the Shanny Squads of old (Roy Helu looked fantastic this weekend), and that allows Rex to hold the defense for an extra split second, which in turn allows crafty vets like Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney to get what passes for wide open in the NFL.  Rex can play that game.  Add in suddenly unstoppable tight end Fred Davis, and the ‘Skins can put up a few.  Their defense is fast, aggressive, physical, and stout.  They’re going to be a problem for just about everybody they play. I’m not sure the Cardinals will, but I still think they’re good enough to win their own division.  They still look to me like they’re trying to find the right guys to replace all the talent they’ve lost from the Super Bowl squad.

The Rest Of The Rest

CLEVELAND BROWNS 27, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS COLTS 19:  You have to hand it to Mike Holmgren: he hired Tom Heckert, and if the 2010 and 2011 drafts are any indication, the Browns are now drafting as well as anyone.  Among the contributors to this victory were 2010 draftees Joe Haden, TJ Ward, and Shawn Luavao and rookie draft picks Phil Taylor, Jabaal Sheard, Greg Little, Todd Pinkston and Owen Marecic.  All made key plays.  All but Little started, and even he led all Browns wideouts for the second consecutive week in snaps played, so that tells you what they really think of him.  That’s before we even mention 2010 3rd-roudner Colt McCoy, by the way, who still has plenty to learn but is capable of making big-time plays like the escape-and-roll-to-his-left strike to Evan Moore for six.  Particularly noticeable this week were Taylor and Sheard, part of a big, strong Cleveland D-Line that dominated the Colts’ undersized offensive front.  The Colts were really overmatched in the trenches on both sides of the ball, though we know how much better that Colts line would look if #18 were playing behind it.  Still, it’s not like Peyton could have fixed every problem on Sunday.  One wonders whether, regardless of Peyton’s injury, the Colts might not be in line for some spring cleaning.  If Peyton’s injury allows him to return for several more productive years, as Jim Irsay tweeted, then what should we assume about the “shocking,dramatic,inspiring,unimaginable things happening n Coltsland the next 18 months….”  Buckle up, indeed.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT NEW YORK JETS:  It’s like I said. I just really don’t see how Luke McCown is the answer to anything.  And so the Blaine Gabbert era begins, as it probably should have several months ago.  The Jets made this one look like a tune-up game, and that’s the mark of a damn fine team.

DETROIT LIONS 48, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 3:  Well, Chiefs fans…it’s been fun. See you in 2012, because we’re breaking out the FootballSickness.com DONE stamp for you this week.  Back-to-back listless shellackings at the hands of the Bills and Lions are shameful, but the deciding factor is the horribly unlucky break that is Jamaal Charles’ season-ending ACL injury.  Remember this: 2010 was not a mirage, but it was a year ahead of schedule.  They got a lot of breaks and hit teams at right times, and played pretty well along the way.  But they’ve now lost maybe their best player on each side of the ball for the year, and have looked utterly horrible from start to finish in the only two games that count so far. Normally, we wouldn’t be so hasty to declare a season lost, but in this case, recovery seems an unrealistic result. I call ‘em how I see ‘em.  And the way I now see it, the Lions are no longer on the come.  Like the Poltergeist, they’rrrree heeeeeeerrrrrrre.  Also like the Poltergeist, they’re going to torment you. Your quarterback will not sleep the night before facing the Silver Crush.  Your defensive coordinator will need two bottles of Mylanta on game day to prepare for the special skills of Matthew Stafford and the Megatron-led Autobots: Jahvid Best, Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew, Titus Young and others.  And you can gameplan all you want. If they’re on their game, you’re in for a hell of a day.  And I don’t care who you are.

BALTIMORE RAVENS AT TENNESSEE TITANS:  First, an excerpt from last week’s preview: “I’ll be watching closely to see if they can follow up on the big win against the Steelers by taking care of business against the vastly inferior Titans.  That’s what championship teams do.”  Very well, then, Ravens. I’ll put you back over here in the “still have serious questions” pile.  What a let-down after the week 1 dismantling of the Steelers. Way to waste it.  No disrespect intended to the titans, who certainly won this game.  Matt Hasselbeck played extremely well, giving his athletes chances to make plays, which they repeatedly did, from Kenny Britt to Nate Washington to Jared Cook to Javon Ringer. That they won this game without a huge contribution from Chris Johnson is a good sign.  But to me, the Ravens are the big story here. You can’t act like this and expect me to keep you around. I like stability. It’s why I’m not real heavy in the markets these days. A smooth ride is preferable. And I’ll jsut go ahead and say it: yes, Joe Flacco is really good. But there are holes in his game. Get that pocket moving around him, to where he has to go mobile, and his accuracy suffers. I say this with no idea of the numbers, this is just what I’m seeing.  What’s more, they can’t assert the run quite the way we came to know them as the Ravens.  Still one of the best teams in the AFC, but they’re at the bottom of that group, to me.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS:  A little better for the Vikings.  Adrian Peterson looked like himself and Donovan McNabb managed an actual NFL-level performance.  Of course, they lost again.  And I’m not sure those folks who suggested it might be a little rougher going this year for the Bucs don’t look 100% wrong at the moment, do they?  I’m not sure what it is.  Still young, I guess.  But I love that they are nevertheless able to grind out these kinds of victories, and one Buc about whom I have no questions is Josh Freeman, especially when it matters.  Also nice to see 2011 All-Sickness Draft Team’er Mason Foster absolutely blowing up as a three-down ‘backer on an exciting defense.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS 24, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 0:  Unlucky break for the Seahawks that they catch Pittsburgh coming off the embarrassing week 1 loss, but I’m not sure it would’ve mattered much.  They were bound to get pasted. They should just move on.  That’s more like it for the Steelers, who will probably win several in a row if history is any indication.  They’re fine.

GREEN BAY PACKERS AT CAROLINA PANTHERS:  OK, this Cam Newton thing is getting mildly alarming, isn’t it?  400 yards in each of his first two games is more than even his most ardent supporters could have reasonably expected.  Of course now, it’ll no doubt be the baseline expectation for the less football savvy among us (we can laugh at them. They don’t come here. See? It’s a safe environment we provide. As the man said, “Free to all.”).  Another ACL for Thomas Davis just seems unfair, doesn’t it? Another tough blow to a defense that couldn’t afford it the first time, when it was John Beason.  But still and all, the Panthers have be pretty happy with what they’re seeing for the future. They’ll just have to draft linebackers sooner than they hoped.  The Packers lost one as well, with Nick Collins gone for the year.  But we saw last year that the Packers are in a position to absorb such things, and as long as Aaron Rodgers are in place and making plays as they did Sunday, the Pack remain the team to beat.

DALLAS COWBOYS AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS:  A really exciting end to this one that displayed Tony Romo’s cardiopulmonary fortitude, but here’s my main question: Why was this game close, again?  You can get back to me.

HOUSTON TEXANS AT MIAMI DOLPHINS:  While it is undeniable that the AFC South has been delivered to the Texans on a silver platter this year, you have to hand it to them for starting strong despite the injury to Arian Foster and the adoption of a totally new defense under Wade Phillips.  That speaks to quality management and coaching, in my view.  Gary Kubiak needs to get at least a modicum of credit for having this team operating at a high level with such significant changes and so little time in which to implement them.  Houston has the #1 pass defense in the NFL so far, and while we can question the opposition, from what I’m watching it’s not a fluke.  They’re playing very good defense and have the playmakers to sustain it.  Mario Williams already has it mostly down.  Brian Cushing is back.  Jonathan Joseph was a great signing.  In short, I’m impressed.  And the emergence of Ben Tate on offense is a scary proposition if Arian Foster gets back to normal.  The Dolphins keep running into the same old problems, with the exception that Chad Henne hasn’t played poorly.  And Daniel Thomas was fantastic in his debut.  They’re a pretty good team, but you just get the feeling watching them that Miami is top-end-talent-deficient.

NEW YORK GIANTS 28, ST. LOUIS 16:  Well, so much for that, eh Rams fans?  Sam Bradford is still the man but it’s pretty clear someone started the hype train just a little bit prematurely.  0-2 is not a fun place from which to attempt a comeback in today’s NFL.  Especially as rumors emerge about your owner’s dislike for your coach.  I can see it already.  Another owner falls prey to the charms of Coach McD. Don’t let it happen.  A good win, meanwhile, for the Giants.  I still think they’re in trouble.  I want to see them beat one of their division foes before I get too excited about anything.

CINCINNATI BENGALS AT DENVER BRONCOS:  Both teams have tons of holes but things to be excited about.  AJ Green and Eric Decker are both very much for real. Andy Dalton looks just fine to me.  I’m not sure what all the critics were so worried about.  This happens every year.  Way too much group think.  And just because Grudes professes to love a quarterback doesn’t mean he’s wrong, by the way.  Orton silenced (relatively) the Tebow-lievers for at least this week.  Think it’ll last?  Yeah.  Me neither.

 

GOING HOME AGAIN: NFL Week 2 Preview & Picks

With the first week in the books, it’s time to leave the novelty and excitement of opening day and the first game of the year behind.  This is where we start to really learn who just came out of the gate well, and who’s built to last.  Some teams we expect to be in the conversation stumbled in their opener (that would be you, Atlanta).  It’s important to get on track because 0-2 is a much bigger hole than it sounds.  16 games ain’t that much.  Margin for error is limited.  It’s part of what makes the NFL the greatest show on earth.  With a handful of exceptions, it looks like the schedule makers decided to get some ugly matchups out of the way.  But that Sunday night special is going to be…well…special.

We expect lots of excitement from these dudes this weekend. Couch plant, affirmative!

THE SICKNESS SPECIAL DOUBLEHEADER

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES AT ATLANTA FALCONS:  Mike Vick returns to the house that Deion built to take on the Falcons.  Mind you, it was Deion’s house, but Vick was responsible for filling it for several years, and fill it he did with electricity and athleticism.  But don’t think those Atlanta fans haven’t considered once or twice over the last year as they’ve watched Vick emerge into a truly special quarterback that they could’ve had that and not had to go through those awful lean years that led to Matt Ryan.  Sure, they’re back among the best, but the sting of promise unfulfilled no doubt remains.  As for Vick, there’s no reason for bitterness, but you know he’s excited to show off not only the player he has become but all the weapons with whom the Eagles have surrounded him.  Tough scheduling break for the Falcons, but that’s how that goes.  They have been dominant at home under Matt Ryan, but I think we get the rare exception this week in a close one.  EAGLES 31, FALCONS 27.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS:  My Sickness partner-in-crime and I both see this as an AFC title game preview.  The Chargers took it to the Vikings in San Diego last week, and everyone saw Tom Brady’s monster 500 yard performance in Miami against a supposedly superior defense.  This week’s test, I suspect, will be much stiffer for both.  I was extremely impressed with the Chargers’ speed on defense, and am curious to see how they match up against the explosive New England offense, which now features a whole lot of the two-tight end sets we were talking about all offseason with the Gronk and Hernandez leading the way.  Same in the other direction, I want to see how New England deals with a multi-pronged Chargers attack.  Let’s not pretend the New England defense was of shut-down caliber last week.  Chad Henne lit them up.  Chad Henne! This is Phillip Rivers, who brings Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates, Mike Tolbert and others with him, and has done the Patriots in their own building before.  This one has all the makings of an instant classic.  Get your clam chowder and fish tacos ready.  PATRIOTS 31, CHARGERS 30.

The Best Of The Rest

Brian Urlacher will play at New Orleans with a heavy heart.

CHICAGO BEARS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS:  Alright, I’ll make it official: The Bears are damn good.  Granted, I like their defense a lot more than their offense, but Martz’s boys are coming around as well.  Jay Cutler appeared to have taken another step in his development even if the performance wasn’t flawless.  Martz found creative and useful ways to get Matt Forte and Devin Hester the ball in space.  And the Monsters of the Midway went hunting.  Now, they’ll be riding an emotional wave after heart-and-soul Brian Urlacher lost his mother unexpectedly this week.  That can go two ways, but are you betting against Urlacher?  Actually, you might be this week, because going into the Superdome and beating the Saints after they just got outscored by the Packers is not going to be a matter of merely showing up.  This will be a fantastically physical game, and the team that gives up the least shots on the quarterback and turns the ball over fewer times will be the winner.  You know, like most NFL games.  Should be a great game, but I like the Who Dat’s at home.  SAINTS 27, BEARS 24.

OAKLAND RAIDERS AT BUFFALO BILLS:  First things first: that was not a fluke when the Bills went into Arrowhead and smashed the Chiefs.  I’m not saying they’re going to dominate 16 opponents and win a Super Bowl in 2011, but if you treat them like a circle win on the calendar, you are in serious peril of marking your own with a big, red L.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is the real deal.  Dareus and Williams is a defensive line 1-2 punch to rival almost any.  Chan Gailey understands how to creatively gameplan to use his dynamic playmakers.  So I’ll say it again: do not sleep on the Buffalo Bills.  I’d say the same about the Raiders, but perhaps an occasional nap is in order, like the kind the Raiders offense still seems to want to take every other quarter or so.  Still, they can get you on any given Sunday.  Nobody can just stop Darren McFadden, and don’t look now but Darius Heyward-Bey looked- dare I say- semi-polished?  And their D-Line is downright impressive, deep with big, physical monsters.  This should be a solid NFL matchups, and like many close ones, I’ll say the home field advantage will be the decider.  BILLS 24, RAIDERS 23.

ARIZONA CARDINALS AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS:  All of a sudden this one looks pretty fun, doesn’t it?  Say what you will about the competition each of these teams faced last week, but the fact of the matter is that most of you (us) were saying those same things about the Cardinals and Redskins a week ago.  Now?  We’ve seen that Kevin Kolb is obviously a big upgrade.  We’ve seen that Rex Grossman might be capable of leading a team with a strong running game and a nasty defense to some wins.  Frankly, I’m pumped to watch this one.  Ultimately, I still believe in defense, and the ‘Skins are the superior team on that side of the ball.  REDSKINS 27, CARDINALS 20.

The Rest Of The Rest

CLEVELAND BROWNS AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS:  Well, here’s a real barn-burner, eh?  Intellectually, I knew going into last week the following two facts.  First, the Colts without Peyton Manning aren’t a very good team.  Second, my Cleveland Browns aren’t a very good team.  No qualifier for them.  The first I only partially believed until Nate Dunlevy of 18to88.com told me on the Football Sickness Podcast that they were an absolutely hideous team if #18 wasn’t able to go.  Four Kerry Collins-ridden quarters later, and Mr. Dunlevy seems rather prophetic, no?  That was not pleasant, and I don’t expect it to get much better against the Browns, who have a solid power running game and a couple of absolute monster DT’s who should prove a tough matchup for the Indy O-Line.  Of course, that might not matter if the Colts were to take a lead. Because then, and this much is certain: it will be Colt-hunting season, and Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will be escorted to the passer like a bull through a matador’s red cape- only that cape will have Colt McCoy behind it.  Both teams looked uneven in week 1, but the Colts looked just awful. I’ll take the Browns in another in a long line of low-scoring stinkers between these two clubs.  BROWNS 17, COLTS 13.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS AT DETROIT LIONS:  It does not get any easier for the Chiefs, as everyone’s 2011 darling welcomes- and I use that term loosely- Kansas City to Ford Field for the Lions’ home opener.  If Ryan Fitzpatrick carved up your defense, imagine what Matthew Stafford could do to it with all the ridiculous weapons he has…Steve Johnson is no Calvin Johnson. Scott Chandler is not Brandon Pettigrew.  I’m seriously concerned that the Chiefs could be that team that disappoints this season.  It sure won’t be the Lions.  Stafford displayed the characteristics that made him the number one overall pick in the 2009 draft and led the Lions to victory on the road against a tough, physical Bucs squad that won ten games in 2010.  The defense has become fast and aggressive under the watchful eye of The Schwartz and Gunther Cunningham.  In short, I like this squad just as much as everyone else seems to.  I expect them to put the Chiefs down with authority.  LIONS 28, CHIEFS 17.

BALTIMORE RAVENS AT TENNESSEE TITANS:  Keep your helmet nearby, Jake.  If week one is any indication, the Ravens mean business.  And Matt Hasselbeck is no Big Ben.  Baltimore got my full attention last week, and I’ll be watching closely to see if they can follow up on the big win against the Steelers by taking care of business against the vastly inferior Titans.  That’s what championship teams do.  The Titans, for the most part, know very little about that right now.  Chris Johnson is going to have to get a hell of a lot more work than 9 carries for 24 yards if this one is to stay close.  He will, but it won’t.  RAVENS 27, TITANS 13.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS:  My gut reaction is to take the Vikings at home, but I just can’t do it.  Not after a pathetic 39-yard performance by Donovan McNabb in San Diego, in a game that would have been immediately out of hand if not for the wondrous stylings of Percy Harvin and his kick return to the house to open the game. It could be Christian Ponder or Joe Webb time much sooner than even I expected if it keeps looking like that.  The Vikes just didn’t look ready.  Neither line played well, they looked old and slow…all the things you were worried about before the season started.  Tampa was a little uneven against an up-and-coming Lions squad, but I suspect they ride LeGarrette Blount and take a workmanlike victory home from the Twin Cities.  BUCCANEERS 23, VIKINGS 20.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT NEW YORK JETS:  In some ways, these two teams have a lot in common.  They’re both built on a premise of physicality and toughness.  Both have a quarterback I love and numerous weapons on offense.  Wait.  Strike that.  Only the Jets have those last two things.  Look, I can appreciate where Del Rio and company were convinced that David Garrard was not the answer, but don’t you make that decision, say, four weeks ago or more?  And for Luke McCown?  OK.  It worked against Tennesee.  It won’t against Rex’s Jets.  And you Sanchez non-believers keep at it.  The kid has a knack for making big throws.  I’m not saying he’s there yet.  That should-have-been-pick 6 that he threw off Alan Ball’s facemask was evidence.  But he will be there eventually, and you’re going to look silly.  JETS 23, JAGUARS 17.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS:  The Steelers are at home and lost to their most hated rival by four (!) touchdowns last week.  In related news, Tavaris Jackson should be shopping for life insurance this week.  STEELERS 34, SEAHAWKS 16.

The future may be bright, but Cam won't light up the Pack the way he did Arizona.

GREEN BAY PACKERS AT CAROLINA PANTHERS:  I’ll defer to Lee Corso on this one…Not so fast, Cam.  This is a different kind of test.  And will bring about a very different result. The Super Bowl Champions roll.  PACKERS 37, PANTHERS 17.

DALLAS COWBOYS AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS:  Ah, how I long for the days of my youth, when this was the finest game in all the land.  While visions of Joe and Prime and Troy and Emmitt and Flash 80 and Rathman and Young and Car-Pisser Haley and so-many others may dance in the heads of Cowboys and Niners faithful everywhere, the unfortunate fact is that these two teams can’t stack up with any of those.  Sure, the Cowboys are talented, but I’ve grown weary of the Tony Romo post-game press conference apologies for stupid, team-crushing plays.  I like Romo, but there is no denying that a pattern has emerged here.  And the Niners, despite the attitude shift that a guy like Coach Harbaugh can bring, strike me as still lacking sufficient talent to be taken too seriously.   I mean, sure, they scored 33 last week, but how many times is Ted Ginn going to bring two kicks back for TD’s?  Either team could win here and it wouldn’t surprise me, but I think the Cowboys are better.  I don’t know it.  I think it.  COWBOYS 27, 49ERS 20.

HOUSTON TEXANS AT MIAMI DOLPHINS:  That Dolphins D did not look the least bit elite.  Granted, the Patriots are a special animal, but this Houston team can flat out score, too.  Still, you had to like the aggressiveness of the Miami playcalling, even if the idea of Reggie Bush as feature back still sounds preposterous.  Houston beat the brakes off of the 18-less Colts, and come in with good momentum.  Another team about whom we have to ask: can they do it again?  I say yes, but it’ll be a good one.  TEXANS 27, DOLPHINS 23.

ST. LOUIS RAMS AT NEW YORK GIANTS:  Welcome to the Spags Bowl!  Equally disappointing starts for each of these squads last week, and one of them will have to leave the new stadium in New Jersey an 0-2 loser.  Never ideal.  The Rams bandwagon got a little crowded for me this offseason and preseason, and unlike so many who picked an upset special, I wasn’t surprised to see them looking overmatched by a very strong Eagles squad.  I was surprised, however, to see the Giants get handled by the Redskins.  I just don’t see how they can absorb all those injuries, and the Rams strike me as hungrier.  This is a good test to see where they are.  RAMS 23, GIANTS 20. 

CINCINNATI BENGALS AT DENVER BRONCOS:  Gross.  Do I have to?  The Bengals had a few moments against the Browns, and the Broncos looked like a team in the middle of a rebuilding effort and a quarterback controversy.  This one could get sloppy.  The Cincinnati defense could give Orton fits, and if the youngster Andy Dalton is ready for Cincy, he could learn real fast that the speed of defenders is very different in most NFL towns than it was in Cleveland last week.  It’s a toss-up to me, but I’ll take the Broncos at home.  I know.  I’m just as stunned as you are.  BRONCOS 20, BENGALS 17.