Gratz’s Grumblings: Week 10

We’re getting to that sweet spot in the NFL season, Thanksgiving day football, coaches and coordinators dropping like flies, teams solidifying their playoff stature while others crumble. Whether your team falls in the former or latter category, it’s an interesting time of the season. Let’s take a look around the league, shall we?

Peyton Manning broke the record for most passing yards of all time, breaking Bret Favre’s previous record of 71,838. All smiles then right? Not hardly, Peyton struggled mightily thereafter, throwing four interceptions and getting benched for Brock Osweiler. What’s worse is that after the game it was revealed that Manning has a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot. Oh, and the Broncos were annihilated, losing 29-13 to the Kansas City Chiefs (it was worse than the score indicates too). Peyton is definitely out this week against Chicago and will be re-evaluated after that. Despite having no allegiance to Denver, I’ve defended the Broncos all year and will continue to do so. Their defense is stacked but was without DeMarcus Ware and Aquib Talib, two of their best players. Assuming these guys get back on the field this will be a very tough defense to face as the year goes on, as defense becomes ever so important. Plus, Andy Reid after the bye is like Chick Fil A on Sundays, lights out. Concern for the Broncos is definitely legitimate however, their health is key and they have to get in an offensive rhythm when Peyton returns. In reality, this will probably come down to Peyton’s health and his effectiveness when he gets back on the field, whenever that may be. Brock Osweiler was a second round pick and only 24, who knows, maybe he can play?

Somehow, some way the Lions beat the Packers. This is less about the Lions winning and more about the Packers losing. The Packers have a laundry list of offensive woes: lack of a running game, poor line play, and Randall Cobb’s inability to step up the way he was expected to. It’s just uncharacteristic of them to go three and out the way they are doing so often. With the Vikings playing so well, the Packers may be fighting for a wild card spot this year instead of enjoying their typical first round bye.

Rex Ryan returned to New York to face his old team in an emotional Thursday night game. Ryan prevailed as the Bills beat the Jets 22-17. The Bills and Jets have very similar styles but the Bills were the more physical team and were able to force turnovers, giving them the advantage in a hard fought game.

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Rob Ryan, on the other hand lost his defensive coordinator job as the hapless Saints defense allowed 47 points to Kirk Cousins and company. Yeah, that will do it. The Redskins are now 4-5 and right in the thick of the  pathetic, and I mean pathetic, NFC East race.

The Eagles are also 4-5 except they seem to be trending down instead of up as they endured a sickening loss to the Miami Dolphins who were just asking to lose the game. The Eagles are a mess, Sam Bradford wasn’t well protected at all and it cost them. Slammed to the ground in the third quarter he suffered a sprained shoulder on his non throwing arm while also coming away with concussion from the thud. Jason Kelce looks lost. Miles Austin and Riley Cooper combined for over 90 snaps while each failed to receive a single catch. Mark Sanchez threw an excruciating fourth quarter interception. Chip Kelly seems to be overmatched and this team is just simply not that good. They aren’t even fun to watch and Philadelphians are truly over this team, despite being alive in the division race. Can you blame them? It’s one of those “even if they win the division how far can they really go?” type of deals. I still want the Eagles to finish strong and make a playoff push because you never know what could happen, but for now one would be naive to have any real expectations for this middling, injured, uninspired group.

Bill Belichick is one of the best, (if not the best, coaches of this generation, but he always struggles with Tom Coughlin and the Giants and this Sunday was no exception. However, while trailing, Tom Brady in classic Tom Brady fashion drove the team down the field and set up Stephen Gostkowski for a cold blooded 54 yard game winner that took the life right out of Metlife Stadium. Unfortunately for the Pats, Julian Edelman suffered a leg injury and his return this season is in question which comes right after losing Dion Lewis for the year. The Patriots are known for overcoming these kinds of losses so while it is indeed a loss, history suggests they’ll be just find going forward. On the other hand, despite losing the game the Giants probably aren’t too disappointed. They almost knocked off the best team in the world and are still in first place in their division while getting a bye week to fix things up. Not saying they’re going to or should win the division but until another team consistently gets going, they should be relatively confident about their playoff chances.

The undefeated Bengals are now defeated, losing to the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football. Not necessarily a reason to abandon ship for the Bengals, every team has a hiccup at one point in the season or another. The Texans are now tied for first with the Indianapolis Colts who were on bye in the AFC South. The Colts have been disappointing all season so it’s actually pretty reasonable to expect this to be a real competition for the rest of the season, with the Texans having a legitimate shot to win the division.

Everyone knew the Arizona Cardinals were a good football team, but a lot of people were unsure if they were that good. The answer to that question is yes, yes they are as they secured a clutch win in one of the hardest places to play on earth, Seattle. The Cardinals look like they are the real deal and a real contender that’s built for the long haul, watch out.

Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown are the leagues best QB-WR combo and it’s scary. The Steelers beat the Browns and are 6-4 and currently stand in good position to compete for a playoff spot. In reality, with the ever unstable condition of their quarterback, it’s really week to week with this team.

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Gratz’s Grumblings: Week 2, Breaking Down The Debacle In Philadelphia

For this week of Gratz’s Grumblings I will be focusing solely on the Philadelphia Eagles game against the Dallas Cowboys because well, that was the only game I watched this Sunday as I was unfortunate enough to have been there. The abysmal performance from the Eagles cannot be understated. Simply put, that was one of the worst displays of the sport I had ever seen. It’s early in the season, and there’s a lot to break down, definitely not too late to tweak things around and salvage the season, so let’s take a closer look at what the fuck is actually going on with this team after two games.

It’s no secret that the offense was atrocious. I think inept would be the correct word. Demarco Murray was held to 2 yards on 13 carries. Let me repeat that, Demarco Murray was held to 2 yards on 13 carries. However, if you talk to anyone who watched the game they would probably tell you this really didn’t fall on Murray or indicate what kind of runner he is at all. Murray had nowhere to run all game as the line played poorly. Also there was an even bigger problem than the offensive lines woes and Murray’s lack of running space…

Chip Kelly was out coached by Dallas this week and Atlanta last week. It was almost as if Dallas had the Eagles play call on each and every snap. Yes the offensive line played bad but there’s a deeper rooted problem and that is schematically the Eagles are off. This is a huge concern considering so much of Chip Kelly’s success relies on his schemes working each week. Chip Kelly has proven through two seasons that his offense isn’t a gimmick and I believe he is a smart enough coach to figure this thing out.  Whether there is enough talent to really take the offense to next level still remains to be seen. I’m really not too worried about this offense. The biggest concern for me is the line, which don’t get me wrong is a huge question mark going forward but as far as the scheme not working and getting out coached, I think Chip will figure it out.

Sam Bradford didn’t play all that bad. A lot of people are criticizing his play from yesterday but I really don’t think it’s founded. Listen, it’s hard to throw no matter who is under center when the defense knows exactly what you’re doing. The Eagles knew they couldn’t run against Dallas so were forced to pass and play catch up in the second half, what do you expect from Bradford? A Mike Vick type run of 30 yards to put them in scoring position? The red zone interception was a killer and a bad, bad play but I don’t think it’s fair to judge his performance off one mistake. With how the offense as a whole played yesterday that one interception should be at the very bottom on the list of concerns. I don’t think Bradford played particularly well but I don’t think he played poorly either. Again, it’s only his second game since 2013 so it’s going to take some time to get into a groove and get comfortable. He might not turn out to have the pro bowl season some of us thought he would under Chip Kelly but that’s not to say he won’t be effective going forward, and he’s still a whole lot better than Mark Sanchez. Also, he doesn’t exactly have the best receivers with the Eagles…

The receiving core’s ability might be limited this season. I’m sick and tired of defending Jordan Matthews. When they drafted him all I heard about was his tremendous work ethic and thirst for improvement. It was well documented that Matthews didn’t exactly have the most sound hands coming into the NFL but everybody was assured they would improve. Well guess what? He’s still dropping passes, important passes too. On one of his drops he leaped in the air for a pass he really didn’t need to jump at all for. He could have calmly put out his hands and secure the ball but he acted like a kid playing pick up football who was just trying to do too much. Don’t get me wrong I like Jordan Matthews and think he will have a fruitful career with the Eagles but his hands have to get better. It’s only his second year so it’s not really fair to hold him up to an elite standard. That’s really the problem with the receiving group as a whole, they are just young and inexperienced. As I just mentioned Matthews is in his second year and Nelson Agholar is only a rookie. You have to temper your expectations at least for this season. Josh Huff is only in his second year too but the former third rounder really isn’t showing much promise at all. Riley Cooper and Miles Austin are both on the downward sides of their careers which is OK considering they aren’t really supposed to be the focal point anyways. If the wide receivers underperform that falls mostly on Chip Kelly. These are his guys. He made the decision to let Jeremy Maclin walk. That is starting to show its ill effects as the Eagles really don’t have a respectable deep threat at the moment and its hindering them. I don’t remember Sam Bradford taking any big shots down the field because quite frankly we don’t have that type of receiver on the roster yet to throw it to, or we do and he’s not ready for that role at the moment. This hurts too, the five and six yard completions are great and all but when a defense doesn’t respect your ability to go deep it makes it much easier for them, plus it allows them to focus more on run stopping. Like the running game I think the passing game will see a lot of improvement too. If not, it’s another group of decisions you have to question about Chip Kelly. However…

It’s way, waaaay too early to start calling for Kelly’s job. Hey, even if this thing turns out to be a huge bust firing him now would only set us back another half a decade. Then, the next guy would have to bring his people in and the a new process would start and we would have an abundance of new players and recent draft picks who might be the total opposite of what they want. The bottom line is if the Eagles were unsure of Chip Kelly they should cut ties before this season. We’re pot committed at this point. Plus, at the end of the day it’s only two games, Andy Reid once took an 0-2 team to the NFC Championship so step back from the ledge. If the Eagles have a losing record this season then maybe in January we’re having a different conversation.

The defense is probably my greatest concern. I feel like a lot of people are excusing the poor defensive play due to the offense’s inability to stay on the field. That is a valid argument but I trust Chip Kelly’s ability to fix the offense more than I trust Billy Davis’ ability to fix the defense. His play calling seems off, his coverage personnel seems off and even their formations seem off.  Last week when asked why Julio Jones was able to run wild across the defense their response was because it’s hard to play him and double him because he gets lined up all over the field. So? Isn’t that the defensive coordinators job? To account for this and try to find a way to counteract it? There was a play this week where Maxwell was all alone on an island with no receiver on his side and two receivers lined up on the opposite side. It was evident that Maxwell would have no impact on that play, unless they gave it to the running back who was on Maxwells side, but still far from him and unlikely to cross paths with Maxwell. Yes the defense was on the field for a lot of the game but this wasn’t that hard of a game to plan for. Dez Bryant was out leaving the Cowboys with a weak group of playmakers. Their leading rusher from last year is now on the Eagles. Brandon Weeden is…Brandon Weeden. There is no excuse for letting Brandon Weeden go 7 for 7, none. Even when the Eagles knew the Cowboys were going to run the ball at the end of the game they still struggled to stop them. Like the offense, the scheme is off and unfortunately I’m not confident in Billy Davis’ ability to fix it. Speaking of Byron Maxwell though…

Byron Maxwell looked horrendous, again. Like really, really bad. They paid him a boatload of money not because he’s an elite cornerback, but because he was the best at his position in a weak free agency class and the Eagles needed to upgrade that position badly. If he’s unable to cover elite corners (or any corners at all) then the Eagles need to devise a plan that will put him in situations similar to where he found success in the past. That is, unless they can’t because they don’t have the Legion of Boom surrounding him. Maxwell plays better as a zone corner, not as a guy you throw on an island like Darrelle Revis. Whatever his deal is it needs to be figured out immediately.

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Yes, Sundays performance from the birds was dismal. Yes, there are huge question marks on both sides of the ball. Yes, it is early and the Eagles can still turn this thing around and salvage the season. You gotta remember our competition going forward, the Giants and Redskins don’t appear to be playoff teams and the Cowboys are going to be without both Dez Bryant and Tony Romo for an extended amount of time. Somebody has to win this division. Even the mighty Seahawks are 0-2. There’s plenty of reason to be scared silly right now but there is still a lot of football left to be played. Chip Kelly is now going to face the toughest challenge he’s ever faced in Philadelphia and the answer to whether he can handle it or not begins now.