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…

Gratz’s Grumblings: Week 1

I’ve been waiting for the return of NFL football like a fat kid waiting for a hot pocket to cool off. It’s been excruciating, and at times painful, but when it arrived last Thursday it was all worth it. The annoying part sometimes is reading the tweets or watching the analysis the next day and seeing all the overreactions from one game. “They’re going to the Superbowl!”. “He’s a bust!”. “Fire him!”. That’s why Gratz’s Grumblings exists, to give you some perspective on things that happened around the league, one week at a time. Such as:

The Patriots didn’t appear to skip a beat as Tom Brady was sharp as usual and Gronk was beastly, collectively shredding the Steelers’ secondary to bits. In classic Patriots fashion, they chose their running back seemingly out of a hat, opening the season with Dion Lewis who missed the entire 2014 season with a broken leg. In his return to NFL action he racked up 69 yards on 15 carries and 51 yards receiving on 4 catches. As always, if the Patriots are healthy they figure to be a team playing deep into January and possibly even February.

It’s too early to begin evaluating the Steelers. Yes their defense was inept against Brady and the Pats but their bread and butter is really their offense and they’re without star running back Le’Veon Bell for another week and wide receiver Martavis Bryant for another three weeks. Once they get their full arsenal of weapons back they should start to click and be a tough team to outscore, assuming their defense improves enough at least to slow opponents down.

It’s also way too early to jump to conclusions about the Indianapolis Colts. Their performance against the Bills was ugly but when a team has so many new pieces it takes time to gel and come together. Many of their new players are older too so they didn’t exactly receive the most reps during the preseason. Although I don’t exactly agree with them being the trendy Superbowl pick just yet (mainly because of their defense), they should win their division handily and look like a different team than what was on the field week one.

Adam “Pacman” Jones should face discipline for his actions on Sunday. After a play, he ripped the helmet off rookie receiver Amari Cooper and slammed his head against it. He showed virtually zero remorse and claimed it was a “heat of the moment” incident. When you have as checkered a past as Jones does, I don’t think you get to use that excuse anymore. The officials clearly missed it as he should have been ejected from the game right then and there. He probably will receive a fine but no suspension, however I personally would support a suspension of a substantial length. What if somebody accidentally stumbled onto Coopers face with their cleats while Coopers helmet was off? Then what?

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Speaking of Pacman Jones, I’m also sick of defending Ndamukung Suh. This week after a play he “accidentally” knocked off the helmet of Redskins running back Alfred Morris with his foot while walking back after making the play. He claimed he didn’t see him. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to Suh, so that excuse is starting to wear thin as well. You’re a world class athlete, you can bench a bajillion pounds, yet you can’t lift your leg up or move your body so you avert a human body laying next to you? If that’s the case then you shouldn’t be allowed to play in the league. The NFL has said that he didn’t do anything wrong, but I think they are just toning down the discipline to players after getting embarrassed from the recent Tom Brady sanctions getting reversed. I don’t know if Suh should necessarily be punished for this instance or not, but I will say that he should be on very, very thin ice.

I don’t care who he played, Marcus Mariota’s debut performance was downright impressive. He went 13-16, while tossing 4 tds in the process, all to different players. He also didn’t even play the fourth quarter. It’s just rare for a rookie quarterback to show that kind of comfortability on the road in his first NFL game, Marcus Mariota could be really special.

LeSean McCoy still isn’t over the fact that he was cut from the Eagles. He arranged for a group photo of “Chip Kelly rejects” including himself, Trent Cole and Todd Herremans. Whatever. Get over it dude.

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The Giants/ Cowboys game was ridiculous and frustrating. As an Eagles fan I was “rooting” for the Giants because it would appear early on that we’d be battling more with the Cowboys than the Giants for a divisional title later in the season. I’ve seen better clock management from 8 year olds playing Madden than what Eli and Todd Coughlin displayed Sunday night. Coughlin is the most conservative coach and it just doesn’t make any friggen sense. It’s one thing to continually run the ball and settle for field goals but it doesn’t take Vince Lombardi to realize that if you don’t have a defense that can hold anybody then those field goals won’t do shit for you by the end of the game. That gaffe also led to Jason Witten’s second touchdown catch which was the difference maker in a brutal fantasy loss by yours truly. Fuck you Barkow.

The Eagles gave fans many things to be happy about as well as many things to be enraged about, I’m mostly enraged though. I admit I brushed off Cody Parkey’s preseason struggles and simply thought “hey, it’s only preseason, he’ll be fine”. Yet, the nearly automatic kicker from last year missed a 44 yard field goal in a dome that would have put the Eagles back in front and in good position to close out the game. Also, something that has plagued the Eagles for the past… I don’t even know how long it’s been is the secondary. This offseason we threw a boatload of money at Byron Maxwell to come in and anchor the secondary and be our shut down corner. Well, he looked bad, really bad on Monday night. Not only was he consistently torched by Julio Jones, he was also getting beat by a 33 year old Roddy White who’s best playing days are clearly behind him. Maxwell wasn’t bad in his debut, he was fucking horrendous. Another thing I took issue with was the complete lack of discipline, accumulating 10 penalties for 88 yards, many occurring at key moments. On the bright side Kiko Alonso made what was perhaps the best catch in the NFL this weekend, making a diving end zone interception to prevent a touchdown. While the offense was out of sync the entire first half, it looked razor sharp in the second half. If they’re able to consistently replicate their offense from the second half on Monday night, the birds will be a tough team to outscore.

If you didn’t stay up for the second Monday night game, just know that Carlos Hyde is the real deal. He ran all over the Vikings accumulating 168 yards and 2 touchdowns on 26 carries, a total workhorse. The 9ers actually looked pretty good and while a lot of people completely wrote them off this season, they definitely still have enough talent to overachieve.