Gratz’s Grumblings: Week 4

Predicting what’s going to happen in the NFL is a lot like eating a crave case by yourself, you think you know what you’re doing but the end result is always a disappointing mess that makes you question what the fuck you were even thinking. The first couple of weeks are interesting because there are always surprises. Each team’s offseason creates their own questions to be answered heading into the season and the results are always mixed. Some things go according to plan (the Patriots are still the fucking Patriots and the Packers are still the fucking Packers) and some things completely catch you off guard (Ndamukong Suh is a non factor on the D-line? The Ravens starting 0-3? Week 4 is an interesting time though because it’s right where you can start to gather enough evidence to make worthwhile observations and predictions for how things are going to pan out for the rest of the season. Of course there’s some shit you can never plan for but I think a teams performance after week 4 is a much stronger indicator for how their season is going to be than say after week 2. With that said, lets take a look around the league and try to make sense of just what the fuck is going on in the NFL.

Nobody expected the Dolphins to be this bad. In fact, it was almost universally agreed on that they were going to build off their 8-8 campaign from the year before and compete for a playoff spot which has eluded them since 2008. They spent a boatload of money on Ndamukong Suh and it’s already looking to be a complete disaster. He seems to be frustrated at times and indifferent at others. Reports from earlier in the year said that he was ignoring defensive calls and going rogue and doing his own thing. Not only is that not the type of play the dolphins payed for, it’s also not the leadership they expected from a veteran who has proven he can be one of the leagues most dominant forces. We’ve seen free agent fiascos before, on the defensive line too *cough Albert Haynesworth cough* but this one went downhill fast. The Dolphins have to find someone to get through to him and figure out a way to get him on the same page as the team or else this can cost this team a severe amount of not only money, but further headache and complications going forward. The big question is if head coach Joe Philbin will be losing his job soon. It’s a shame too, Philbin has been a solid coach the past few years but if he has lost the locker room it may be best for him to go so the Dolphins can scrap this year and start to plan for next season. Week 4 is still early, but once a locker room is lost it’s very, very hard to recover. Plus they play in the same division as the Patriots and while they’re only 2.5 games back, it doesn’t take an expert to realize they aren’t going to catch up to them and claim the division title and as always, grabbing a wildcard spot in the AFC is like grabbing a doorbuster from Walmart on Black Friday, a fucking dogfight.

Update: While in the process of writing this, Joe Philbin has been fired. He will be replaced by Dan Campbell, the Dolphins tight end coach of the past 5 years. Campbell will be the youngest head coach in the league at 39.

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Moving right along, the Jets rebounded nicely from their loss to the Eagles. However, it’s fair to wonder just how far they can go with Ryan Fitzpatrick (or Geno Smith, whatever) as their quarterback.

Kicking (or lack of) was a major theme in week 4. It cost the Steelers a chance to put the Ravens in a daunting 0-4 spot while gaining ground on the Bengals for the AFC North. Josh Scobee lost his job because of his performance in this game. It was still encouraging for the Steelers, Mike Vick showed that he is a capable backup for Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell is still an absolute beast and being paired with Antonio Brown on the offensive side should be enough to keep the Steelers afloat until Big Ben returns.

Caleb Sturgis had big time kicking problems as well this week. The Eagles replacement to Cody Parkey missed a 33 yard field goal as well as an extra point while the Eagles lost by 3 points to the Redskins. As frustrating as this is for Eagles fans the team has bigger problems than an inept kicker. They again showed their inability to produce substantial offense in the first half. The defense was on the field for 42 minutes and allowed a game winning touchdown drive to Kirk Cousins. Kirk fucking Cousins. While people will argue the defense was gassed, they still need to improve (they gave up a first down on 3rd and 19 off a draw play on the first drive of the game). It was nice to see them taking more shots downfield but they can’t just seem to piece everything together. DeMarco Murray has spoke out against his lack of touches in the offense. Luckily, the NFC East is one of, if not the weakest divisions in the NFL so the Eagles can still make a push for a playoff appearance, but with the way they’re playing the words eagles and playoffs shouldn’t even be in the same sentence.

Todd Gurley was finally ready for a full time workload and the rookie took advantage, accumulating 146 yards on 19 carries as the Rams pulled the upset and delivered the Arizona Cardinals their 1st loss of the season. The Cardinals, despite losing are still a good football team. However at 2-2 the Rams are a classic example of the “pretender or contender” debate. They are a pesky team and time will tell but I would expect them to be around .500 at the end of the season, maybe 9-7. Definitely an encouraging sign for a team who is way past due for success.

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One of the most impressive teams this year so far has been the Atlanta Falcons. Insiders have applauded their offseason strategy of getting hard working, mid level free agents who bought into the culture instead of throwing money at high profile names with big price tags and even bigger egos. Stellar rushing performances and a smart, efficient Matt Ryan carried the team to a 48-21 rout over the Texans. You never want to jump the gun, but the Falcons look like the real deal this year.

The Bears beat the Raiders. Whatever.

Colin Kaepernick has been disastrous since week 1 and there is starting to be some chatter about benching him. Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday he was playing in the Superbowl with Jim Harbaugh on the sideline? I’m always amazed by how fast things change in this league. Kaepernick, to me, is hard to evaluate. Is he a quality starter just on a disorganized team with a weak supporting cast or is he really just not good enough of a passer to relive his past success? I think in the right system Kaepernick can shine. You can’t expect him to run an offense like Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning but with an offense tailored to him and the right people around him Kaepernick would be a hell of an addition for another team at some point. Perhaps a split from the 49ers would be in both parties best interest in the near future.

The Giants walloped the Bills 24-10 for their second consecutive double digit win. Still have no idea what either of these two teams are about just yet. The Bills are really banged up and were without both LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins this past week and with Tyrod Taylor at the helm its not a surprise that they only scored 10 points. I still think the Bills are trending upward going forward but they simply have to get healthy and establish some consistency.

I heard an interesting point by Mark Schlereth this past week on ESPN, the NFL is having an offensive line crisis. He mentioned that offensive lineman simply aren’t learning the technical skills they were once taught in the past and that is a big reason why O-line play this season has been dismal. This can be directly accountable for the overwhelming amount of injured quarterbacks so far this season. It will be interesting to see if this is addressed in the future as teams need to protect the most coveted position in sports. We mentioned that the Steelers lost without Big Ben, the Colts survived a big time scare from the Jags with Matt Hasselbeck running the offense and Brandon Weeden and the Cowboys lost a wild overtime thriller to the Saints. It’s probably not too smart to evaluate these teams until we have a better idea when their true signal callers are ready to return to action.

Speaking of signal callers, Peyton Manning has been the subject of a lot of gloomy talk this year. He’s too old. He doesn’t fit Gary Kubiak’s system. Yet, the Broncos are 4-0 and two games ahead of everyone in the AFC West. This is in large part to their defense which has looked downright scary. They can really get to the quarterback and create turnovers. If the offense can get clicking to a vintage Peyton Manning level then this team will be a force to be reckoned with as the season progresses.

Finally, as a depressed Eagles fan I like to keep tabs on good ol’ Andy Reid to see how he’s doing in Kansas City. The Chiefs are 1-3 however they have had a brutal schedule so far with their past three games against Denver, Green Bay and Cincinnati. Still the Chiefs were supposed to compete for the AFC West so perhaps this really isn’t a valid excuse. Remember Eagles fans, the grass aint always greener on the other side…

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