Archive for November, 2009

NFL Late Hits

I think I may go a little ‘meta’ today and comment on the commentators at least for the start of this weeks’ Late Hits column.

It all starts with Peter King’s usual Monday Morning QB article at si.com. Generally speaking, I like King and I like the MMQB. It’s long, incredibly verbose and my interest waivers from page to page and paragraph to paragraph but by and large I enjoy reading it.

Part if the reason I enjoy it is because I disagree with King pretty much every week on something. So it makes me think and that’s good.

Today, I thought I found my bone to pick with King within the following statement about Minnesota:

Unless you’re partial to Michael Oher, Percy Harvin’s just about locked up the Offensive Rookie of the Year. He had eight touches for 146 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the Bears.
RT @franco3x: @SI_PeterKing If there were no Percy Harvin, would Austin Collie be OROY? … No. It’d be MIchael Oher.
Now, I like Oher. I think he does an outstanding job and have been impressed watching him work this year.the_blind_side[1]
 
I have to wonder, though, if Peter King would be beating the weeds for him as a potential Offensive Rookie of the Year if he didn’t have a movie and book based on his life out there.
 
Before you fire off a nasty email proclaiming me a hater, let’s look at this a minute.
 
 
Mull that one over a second. The voters for the AP award have NEVER voted an Offensive Lineman that award. Ever.
 
Fine you say. First time for everything, right?
 
Sure, until you consider that Ryan Clady had aryan_clady_feature[1] better season in 2008 than Oher is having now (Clady did not let up a sack at all until this year).
 
What? How could we not have heard about this? Well, for the simple fact that for an Olineman to be good at his job, you need to never hear his name.
 
Were there folks who knew about Clady? Sure, even outside of Denver (he plays for the Broncos – you knew that right?).
However, people – fans – are drawn to flash. Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Quarterbacks – these are the things that get the headlines.
 
It’s a lot harder to get noticed when your whole job is to not be noticed. So Clady, by virtue of doing his job well, didn’t get much pub.
 
Sure, I talked about him last year. More importantly (and louder and with a wider audience) guys like Jamie Dukes brought him up frequently on NFL Total Access.
 
The simple fact is that the majority of folks didn’t even know who he was – and even those who did in the press weren’t paying close attention.
 
The award went to Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. Not to take anything away from a fine season by Ryan – or Baltimore’s Joe Flacco or Tennessee’s Chris Johnson.
 
But that’s how it always goes. Clady had an outstanding rookie year and almost nobody noticed.
 
Back to Oher: he’s is clearly an exceptional athlete and a very good tackle. ravens05[1]Should he be in the discussion? I don’t see why not. Of the rookies on offense, aside from the aforementioned Percy Harvin, who really has excelled?
 
Let’s be honest here for a minute – if the man didn’t have a movie out right now based on a book about his life how many of you would know who he was? Including some Ravens fans?
 
Does that automatically invalidate a bid for OROY? Of course not, in fact it’s good he has the press if just to continue making people aware of the guys in the trenches.
 
The onlinemen should get more credit and when deserving, should get more recognition when it comes to things like thes awards.
 
I’m just a bit incredulous that King would be talking about Oher if his story wasn’t making $100 million at the box office.
 
Again, doesn’t mean he isn’t deserving of the press or the talk. More power to him.
 
But as Frank Schwab of the Colorado Springs Gazette said when I was talking to him about Clady, you’d need to have an exceptionally sub-par year across the board for a lineman to win that award no matter how good the guy was.
 
Having a book about you wouldn’t hurt getting you noticed either.
 
Can’t wait for next week – maybe I’ll get another column out of it.
 
A few more quick hits:
 
Chris Johnson, Vince Young and now Kenny Britt? Is there finally a worthy offensive nucleus in Tennessee? Not quite ready to say ‘yes’ but suddenly the Titans look very dangerous.
 
I was at the Jets/Panthers game this weekend with my son. Man, what a grumpy bunch of fans around us. Play calling, defense, quarterback play – everything was wrong for these guys. On a day the Jets won no less.
 
More from Jets/Panthers: Darelle Revis is just incredible to watch. Forget the picks – though they were great – but he is just incredible to watch in coverage. Steve Smith didn’t have a chance. Delhomme or not, that battle was lopsided all day.
 
I know Adrian Peterson has a fumbling problem. He’s coughed it up what, five times this season? I still don’t know I take him out on the one yard line. And then throw the ball.
 
I said it on Twitter last night, but I don’t get the Dennis Dixon hate. I don’t know if people just write him off because he came out of Oregon or haven’t seen him play but the kid has talent. Glad he got to show some of it last night.
 
Shawn Zobel of Draftheadquarters.com said it last night and reiterated it this morning in his Monday Morning Roundup but don’t be surprised if someone (Shawn suggests Carolina) takes a shot with Dixon and trades for him.
 
Which locker room probably looks more like the set of M*A*S*H, Atlanta or Philadelphia? Ryan and Turner down vs Jackson, Westbrook and Celek.  Where’s Alan Alda when you need him?
 
Philly has a better chance of surviving than Atlanta if Ryan is down for long. Chris Redman looked fine but I’m not sure I trust him for a length of time.
 
That’s it for today. Enjoy more leftovers and the Superman vs Batman-like struggle between New Orleans and New England.
 
Two teams enter, one team leaves

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Quick Pre-Turkey Day notes

wild_turkey[1]Hey folks – just wanted to wish you all a pre-emptive happy Thanksgiving.

It’s been a fun year on the Blurb, Year the Second. It’s had it’s ups (great interviews, great chats, NY style Pizza)  and downs (implosions personal and athlete centered, BTR issues, WTF Battlestar Galactica Endings) but overall it’s been a big bag of WIN and I have you all to thank for it.

Lord knows I  do this because I love it and I think ya’ll get something out of it. It seems you do and your attention and feedback just makes it all the better.

I will (in all likelyhood) not be doing a Q&A show Friday due to work and other scheduling issues.

However, you can always catch live shows – including all day tomorrow – on fsc.fm. Also, as always we will be live on SmashMouth Wednesdays tonight at 10pm EST/7pm PST.

Not enough of me? (I can’t blame you – my wife will thinks you’re all insane for feeding my ego as it is) You can also hear me yap on Wednesday’s On The DL Podcast’s Thanksgiving in Sports show.

I may also do this weekend’s Twitter Roundtable on Saturday and will keep you posted on that.

Will try to post start and sit notes for tomorrow’s games later today and of course we’ll go over all that tonight on the show.

But in case I pass out early, wanted to shoot out this Thank You to all of you for letting me yap at you for hours each week.

NFL Late Hits

I found myself, due to some sickness, listening to more games than I watched this weekend.

Do you ever do that anymore? In this day and age, I wonder how many of us do, whether because you have to or because you want to.

I listen to a few every weekend, in part because I miss my Direct TV Sunday Ticket and in part because sometimes the announcing is much better. Or at least more entertaining – radio seems to make it ok to be a homer doing play-by-play and that always makes for hysterical radio.

For the Jets game, I split it 50/50. It was tough either way, although it provided my favorite line of the weekend, spoken by my eight year old son.

He walked in, looked at the score and asked where the grave was. I asked him what he was talking about and he told me there should be a grave, since the Pats were killing the Jets.

What happened to the Jets? Was it hubris, a little too much buying into their own hype? Has it been bad luck? Were they always an 8-8 team with airs?

Well, as a matter of fact, yes. I’ll admit I got sucked into the hype after a ridiculous 3-0 start, but looking back on that you have to wonder if the shine on the team was merely a reflection of lowered expectations.

The simple truth is, the Jets suffer both from bad current play and the remaining ills from last season.

For today’s Late Hits, let’s look a little more closely at both.

First, it’s really early to call Mark Sanchez a bust. Almost like it was too early to call him Rookie of the Year after three games. At times, he looks very sharp. More often than not, he just looks like every other rookie quarterback – lost.

A perfect example of Sanchez’s problems are evident in the interception by Brandon Merriweather.

Sanchez, on his own seven yard line, takes the snap and does a five step drop. He scans the field.

So far so good, but there’s nothing out there for Sanchez.  As was the case much of the day, great coverage by New England.

After about three of four seconds, the offensive line gives and the Pats flood towards Sanchez. The rookie breaks to his left, outside the hash marks where he is met by linebackers Banta-Cain and Guyton (with Leigh Bodden closing in as well).

Sanchez does what any quarterback does in that situation – he gets rid of the ball.

Here’s where Sanchez struggles though. Instead of throwing it out of bounds, as a veteran might do, Sanchez forces the ball towards a receiver – and right into Meriweather’s hands.

He’s off balance, panicked and desperate to make something happen – that’s an awful combination for any quarterback, much less a rookie who as we all know had limited game experiance in college.

Looking at various replay angles, it’s hard to say exactly what he saw that said ‘Yes Mark, this is a great idea’. Meriweather has a very good angle on wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. Maybe at field level, Sanchez couldn’t see Meriweather. Maybe any quarterback might have made that mistake.

The fact is though, that it was only second down – as much as yo hate to have a 3-10, you would prefer that over throwing a pick.

Sanchez just flat out does not make smart plays. He needs someone – anyone – to sit him down and explain how in situations like that you toss the ball out of bounds. 

You’d think the way Sanchez throws picks that perhaps the Jets need to run the ball more. Maybe they do, but statwise, they already run a bunch.

Out of 634 plays, the Jets have run the ball 350 times and thrown just 267.  So more than half the time, they dial up the run.

Maybe it’s the play-calling. There have been times I – and many Jet fans – has looked at some of the play calling in the last month and wondered if some of the pass selections were a little too much to ask of a rookie.

Still, at the end of the day, it’s Sanchez’s job to throw or not depending upon what he sees and he’s not seeing what he needs to or at least seems unable to process what he sees.

Again, too early to say bust and it will take time. I wonder if this staff (OC Brian Schottenheimer in particular) is the right group to shepherd him.

The other major issue is the defense. You can’t lose guys like Kris Jenkins for the season and not get hurt.

However another glaring weakness was highlighted yesterday in the loss to the Patriots and that is the strength of the secondary – or lack thereof.

Darelle Revis is a shutdown, top shelf, high end cornerback. One of the best in the league. Sure, Moss scored yesterday but aside from that he had an incredibly quiet afternoon. That was because of Revis who was on him like a comfy blanket all day.

The other side of the field – in fact any other portion of the field – not so much.

Dwight Lowery has been ok when not hurt but nothing exciting. Lito Sheppard is servicable and no more. Jim Leonhard is pretty solid, but makes some large mistakes. Kerry Rhodes talks a much better game than he is playing right now.

The simple fact is, Revis is just one man. He cannot stop everyone – and with a team like the Patriots you can’t just shut one man down.

In other words,  great you shut down Randy Moss. But Wes Welker lit you up for 15 catches for 192 yards (and 11 rushing just because he can).

It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Go ahead and double up on Welker – someone else usually steps up.

Put aside the Patriots (and after that beating, who wouldn’t) though and look at some of the issues the Jets have had in the secondary this year. Revis is having a phenomenal year. The rest?

Well….uh… they sure do… look good in green!

You can still argue the merits of drafting  just three players in April’s draft. Especially given concerns about the depth of both lines and the secondary. I said then and I still say it was ballsy and I like it – despite guys like Christopher Owens and Jarron Gilbert who the Jets and Rex Ryan spent a lot of time looking at in the spring.

It’ll be years before most of the second or third rounders pan out or don’t.

But you have to wonder how hard it will continue to be for the Jets to hang in games when so much of the field is underperforming.

At some point the team needs to address the secondary further.

There are other issues. Schottenheimer makes some odd play calls going back to last year. We were told it was Mangini holding Schotty back but it seems like more of the same in some respects this year. The running backs are good enough but one more injury to Jones or Greene and the Jets are in soem real trouble. Losing Leon Washington was bad enough.

That’s not even get into the lack of depth of at least two positions, the bust that appears to be Vernon Gholston or the critical drops players like Dustin Keller and Braylon Edwards have had. The trash talking without end.

All have had an impact this season, all have contributed to a pretty egregious drop in play. The two items detailed above are just the biggest and most obvious (although not loudest if you include the chest beating early on).

The wreck that was the loss to the Patriots was bad, no doubt about it. The reasons for it was nothing new though, and will be at the root of more losses of the Jets don’t do something to account for them – and soon.

Some other NFL thoughts -

What’s more outstanding – Stafford’s five TDs (albeit against a cruddy Browns team) or the fact that he apparently pushed past team medical officials to go back out on the field with a bad wing?

I can’t think of a team or city that NEEDED a guy to do something like that, the way Detroit does. It’s a great story, a great moment and even if the season is another filled with struggles and losses this is a moment to build off of.

What’s black and gold and undefeated, but nobody gives a damn about it?

Apparently the New Orleans Saints.

I know I’m not the only one, but for the LOVE OF GOD CAN NEW ORLEANS GET SOME LOVE? Maybe I’m wrong but it seems like for every one article on a National level which talks about how good the Saints are playing, there are 45 others about how awesome the Colts are.

What’s up with Jay Cutler you ask? Well, nothing. This is the same Cutler who played in Denver – the exact same one. He’s not doing anything new.

He’s just doing it with a bad oline, mediocre wide receivers and a stuttering, stammering rushing attack.

I guess that’s up with Cutler then.

I’d have to look – and I’ve talked to multiple people on multiple shows including with Dan Levy of onthedlpodcast  last Wednesday – but Steven Jackson has really impressed me this year. If only he played on a good team.

Nice job AFC North – not only did you all lose, but a pair of you lost to two of the worst teams in the league. Oakland? OAKLAND? Come on Bengals. YOu want us to take you seriously, don’t cough ten points up in the fourth quarter.

Not to take anything away from a win by a shattered Oakland team, but come on.

Don’t you laugh, Steelers. The Chiefs? For real? 17 points in the second half? At least you can give the excuse that Polamalu is out (NFL.com says they are 2-3 without him).

Still, weren’t you guys the top defense in the NFL? Weren’t they the 30th ranked offense?

It’s not the apocalpse but damn.

Plenty of great stuff on Sunday as always. Hope you got to see a bunch of it. If I missed something you really think should be talked about, email me at thunderingblurb@gmail.com – maybe we’ll do a Thanksgiving weekend column with the best of your best.

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Thursday Night Football: Dolphins vs Panthers

This column may also be called Just Start The Running Backs.

It would be far easier more interesting to write a general game break-down, but that’s not what the column is about, right?

What it comes down to is the simple fact that Ricky Williams, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are the best starts in this game.

Not the only starts. There is every chance that Steve Smith will have an ok day – likely somewhere in the realm of 60-80 yards. Possibly a touchdown. I wouldn’t want to depend on it too greatly – if he doesn’t get a TD, you’re looking at maybe 7 points in a non-ppr. So, sure start him – but make sure you do a good job with the rest of your lineup just in case.

Jakes Delhomme has been playing better of late but let’s be honest – better equals ok but not great.

He’s good for somewhere in the 200 yards range most of the time and as far as I care most of the time isn’t worth it.

So again, you go back to the running backs being the best values in the game.

Ronnie Brown is gone so Ricky Williams will get a ton of carries and based on his 20 carries for 102 yards leads me to believe he will be able to make something of his opportunity. I expect him to – at minimum – be a solid RB2 with some upside for much, much more.

DeAngelo Williams was a little banged up last week and yet still put together a good day by breaking 100 yards even if he missed out on a touchdown.

Over the last two weeks, Miami has allowed 231 yards and a pair of touchdowns  to the Patriots and Tamp Bay. Look further back and it’s 496 yards over four games.

It’s a good matchup for Williams and he should rack up some yards and probably a touchdown.

Stewart to me is still a tad boom or bust. He’ll probably get less carries but could do a lot with them.

You either get a huge game (like at Arizona and against Atlanta) or you get a quiet game (like against New Orleans).

But he’s hot coming off that Atlanta game and frankly, Miami is going to have a tough time containing him. I start him as a flex RB2 and start my weekend off well.

Aside from those guys – are you really starting Muhsin Muhammad, Ted Ginn, Greg Camirillo or Dwayne Jarrett unless you are really in a bind?

I wouldn’t. I don’t expect much from them, save Ginn in a league which give you points for return yards.

I’d avoid them. Could  they go off? Sure, anything can happen. Do I want to risk it?

Nope, not a chance.

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NFL Late Hits

I’ve been throwing out my thoughts on Monday mornings on Twitter and will probably continue to do so, but felt like a proper article makes a ton of sense.

With that in mind, welcome to NFL Late Hits, my new Monday article here at The Thundering Blurb. It won’t cover everything that happens in the NFL on a Sunday, just the stuff that for whatever reason sticks in my brain by day’s end.

Two huge plays yesterday have caused some chaos in the NFL media and Fantasy Football community – one was the 4-2 call to go for it by Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, the other, Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew taking a knee at the one to milk the clock in the Jets game.

Let’s start with the call by Belichick. I’ll admit, I didn’t see it when it happened.

I did discover a new food allergy so, you know, win!

Instead, I went over the hightlites and looked over the game info at NFL.com. I can’t say I thought it was the best call, but I’m not sure it’s the worst ever.

Say what you will, but Belichick goes on fourth pretty often and it works out for him more than most coaches. I may be remembering wrong, but on NFLN last night, I believe Mariucci said it worked somewhere in the neighborhood of 78% of the time for him.

It’s not a bad percentage – on the other end of the field.

Look, Belichick has forgotten more about football in the time it took me to type this sentence out than I know now. So I’m sure he had all the facts, figures and percentages in his head when he made the call.

I just don’t know why you risk giving Peyton Manning the ball on your side of the field.

A great coach rolls the dice. Sometimes you hit the point, sometimes you crap out. Like The Hoodie said in his press conference, people will question you anyway.

I think it was a bad call. I also think the media shouldn’t be pulling their hair out over it.

Especially since, had the Pats made it, we would have had another round of ‘This is the kind of GENIUS which has made him so successful’.

A little perspective please.

Speaking of perspective – ok, so if you lost your Fantasy Matchup because Maurice Jones-Drew took a knee on the one yard line, you might want to skip a few paragraphs to where I chat about Brian Westbrook.

This was the right call. Could Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee have biffed the extra point kick? Sure. It happens less than 2% of the time, but like the man said ’so you’re saying there’s a chance?’.

Listen, when people say Fantasy Football is ruining enjoyment of the game, it’s because of reactions like this.

Scobee – shaky though he has been – wasn’t missing that kick. A short, high, kick is very hard to block. I know it cheeses you off not to get the 6 points but the Jags needed to milk the clock.

Whether reports are true that Head Coach Jack Del Rio called for a knee prior to the play or not, it was the right decision.

Seemingly overlooked in the ‘DAMMIT MJD YOU COST ME MY GAME’ shouting was the fact that Jones-Drew picked up the first down. That game was done. They could burn the clock all the way to the wire (which they did) and kick a ‘gimme’ field goal (which they also did).

It’s a no brainer. Sure, like Belichick’s call above if something bizarre had happened and the Jets had gotten the ball back and won, it would look foolish.

But the best way to finish a game and win is to keep the ball out of the hands of the opposing offense’s hands. They did that. As much as I don’t love the thought of Mark Sanchez having to lead his team 80 yards to a win, all it would have taken was a missed tackle and the Jets could have walked away with a win.

Why take that chance? Keep the ball in your hands as long as you can. Milk the clock. Kick the field goal.

It’s maddeningly simple to me, as it was when Brian Westbrook did it previously.

Hell, MJD even apologized to you which he really didn’t need to. Of course he admitted he had himself and screwed himself too, but also pointed out that hey ‘you play to win the game’.

Side note: With players owning themselves and other players in leagues that often deal with pots of prize money, is the league going to come down on this as gambling?  I know the arguement has been Fantasy isn’t gambling, but you have to wonder if the NFL worries.

Things didn’t go all that well for the guy who last took a knee at the line either. Brian Wesbtrook suffered his second concussion in less than a month yesterday and you have to start thinking we’re seeing the end of him in the NFL.

Listen, I’m no doctor – in fact I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night – but twice in a month is bad. In fact, as far as I can tell, it’s awful.

The more often you get them, the more easy it is to get them. More than one player can testify to that and with the recent discussion in the media and NFL circles about head injuries and their long term effects I cannot imagine the Eagles rushing him back out there.

Especially not with LeSean McCoy there. I mean, isn’t this what you picked him for?

Maybe not, if you run a grand total of 13 times.  The Eagles only threw to the backs a total of five times as well.

Sure, they were down and yes they moved the ball through the air effectively in the fourth quarter. Still, there was never a threat that they were running the ball – I wonder if the success moving the chains via air freight than on the ground says more about deficiencies in the Chargers secondary than the Eagles pass attack

Either way, one hopes the Eagles – and Westbrook himself – are very cautious this time out.

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49ers – Bears Friday Recap

Due to some wild work crap, this is up a ton later than expected but despite that, here are my thoughts on the Chicago/San Fran stumble from Thursday night.

It was indeed a stumble – it was too lackluster to be called a ‘tumble’, ‘matchup’ or ‘brouhaha’.

I could have almost called it a yawn.

Jay Cutler must miss Denver. Not so much the city, coaching staff or even the AFC West – although that last one would be a lot more fun to play in.

No, Cutler is probably missing a good offensive line and competent wide receivers.

Most likely the offensive line. If you don’t believe me, take a peek at Matt Forte’s statline. His yards per carry is pretty abyssmal, although his overall stas are good thanks to the Bears finally using him in the pass game.

I suck at math but if I used the calculatron correctly, 20 carries for41 yards is a horrific 2.1 yards per carry average. 

I made a joke on twitter last night wondering if Forte was finally back from vacation and was gently reminded that it isn’t really him so much as his offensive line.

However, the counter point to that which – of course – I only just thought of is that guys like Steven Jackson and LaDainian Tomlinson have at one time or another (or in Jackson’s case continue) to produce with shoddy offensive lines.

I guess all that means is, if you were ready to crown Forte as the next great running back after a fantastic year one, slow your roll. Doesn’t mean he’s not very good – it might indicate he isn’t great. Either way, it’s too early to call it, so let’s not.

Back to Cutler – apparently he cursed out a journalist in the hallways near the 49er lockerroom last night when said media dude said that forget fove interceptions, Cutler could have easily had seven.

I’m sure it’s not what you want to hear but honestly, was the guy wrong? Cutler made some poor decisions (for example interception number one) and floated some awful passes that could have been picked off, but weren’t.

No run game and poor blocking by the offensive line have put Cutler in a position where he feels the need to press and that’s not a good thing.

Especially when Devin Hester would make a nice number two wide receiver but isn’t quite in Brandon Marshall’s league. Or Brandon Stokley’s. Or Eddie Royal’s.

I see a trend.

Cutler needs to stop pushing so hard. He also needs more help.

Speaking of offensive lines, a better effort on the part of the San Francisco line than in recent games. I’ll point to the running back position again as partial support of my point.

Frank Gore’s 104 yards and touchdown on the ground added up to a very solid 4.2 yards per carry. 

Despite that, there is still work to do. Quarterback Alex Smith was sacked twice and did throw a pick, but more telling was the fact that he looked like a skittish deer in the pocket.

He doesn’t seem to have much confidence in that offensive line right now. Not good.

The 49ers didn’t repeat last week’s mistake of putting Smith in the position of having to throw 45 times and that’s a good thing given his propensity for interceptions.

Still, 118 yards and no touchdowns is too few for both stats and the 49ers need to do something about it. Getting him back to the confidence level he seemed to have his first game or two is a must.

Despite the better play on the defensive side of the ball and the good ground game, the Niners didn’t take this game over or impose their will on the Bears.

At some point they may fall behind an opponent and at that point they need to find a way to move the ball through the air.

We can argue Smith’s long term viability as the starting QB for this franchise (I don’t think he has one, unfortunately) but he has had a turnover in every start and the more he throws, the scarier it seems to get.

Where did Vernon Davis go? If the Bears did one thing well, it was shut the up-until-last-night red hot tight end down. Meanwhile Greg Olsen has found his stride and his seven catches for 75 yards was a real bright spot.

Back to Forte for a second – 120 yards on eight catches is pretty sick. In reality, throwing to Forte would be the other thing the Bears did well.

Johnny Knox is pretty fast. I mean, there is speed and then there is NFL speed. Sigmund Bloom of Footballguys.com mentioned how impressed he was to see the speed he and the guys at Draftguys.com saw at Texas vs. the Nation still effective against NFL level players.

There’s a huge difference between College and NFL play – Knox seems to have shifted pretty well from one to the other.

So has Michael Crabtree for the most part. He stumbled on the smith interception and perhaps a more veteran wideout and a more confident quarterback might have adjusted on the fly to the huge cushion Crabtree had but neither did.

Crabtree still looks much better than expected though and I think he’ll succeed in the league, a relief to Niner fans I am sure.

Overall, this game was hard to watch. Neither team really seemed to want to win it, and there was a lack of intensity that marred what I expected to be a hard fought game.

Both teams needed this win badly. The 49ers stay in contention for both the Wild Card and the NFC West title with the win while the Bears are heading the wrong way and will have a fight on their hands for a slot in the playoffs if they don’t figure out how to fix what’s wrong and soon.

It sure wasn’t a case of ‘who wanted it more’ though – more like a case of ’who played slightly more competently’.

Not exactly what I was looking for during the first week of Thursday Night Football.

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Thursday Night Football: San Francisco 49ers

Here is the first half where we broke down the Chicago Bears. Again you can find the audio of this at Blogtalkradio.com if you’d like or over at ITunes.
 
As I have mentioned before, I feel this is a critical game for both teams. The 49ers have to keep pace with the Bears and Green bay Packers for a Wild Card spot and the Cardinals for a potential Division Title. The Bears are also vying for a Wild Card spot, as it is unlikely they will overtake the 7-1 Vikings.
The loser makes life MUCH harder for themselves.
And so without further ado – the San Francisco 49ers. 
 
Alex Smith
I don’t think Alex Smith is as bad as last weekend – I mean, if you throw 45 times against a Tennessee secondary that is finally healthy, you will turn the ball over. He made some bad decisions, yes, but the reason they plugged him in is that he can stretch the field which is something Shaun Hill couldn’t do.
 
All that being said, he should make you nervous. If you’re in a bind, he faces a defense with a myriad of linebacker and secondary issues coming off a game in which they got roughed up. He’s got a solid wide receiver in Crabtree, a great back in Gore and a red hot tight end in Vernon Davis. He’s risky as hell but if you have injury/bye week issues, he’s start-able and has some upside.
 
I’d avoid him if I could though.
 
Frank Gore
Gore didn’t let a sharp poke to the eye slow him down against Tennessee, compiling 158 total yards and a touchdown. At the beginning of the season, I was thinking they needed to work in Glenn Coffee more to preserve Gore for later in the season. Amazingly, they’ve gone too far the other way, with Gore only rushing the ball 41 times in three games. That’s not enough, especially when your overall offense has struggled a bit.
 
The Bears have allowed over yards per game in the last month including a 117 effort by Cleveland.
 
Folks THIS is a good match-up. I expect Gore to top 100 total yards and a touchdown tonight against a struggling rush defense while the 49ers try to control the clock and limit the overall passes Alex Smith has to make. 45 throws is too much when you have Gore on your roster.  
 
Michael Crabtree
Sure, Crabtree had a poor game last week, blanketed by a pretty effective Titans defense. As he has played more, teams have more tape of him and will adjust to account for his strengths and take advantage of his weaknesses.
 
All that said, he has still looked very good for a rookie who not only missed camp but a chunk of the season. Is he safe each week? Debatable. But he’s playing well and in a PPR alone has been pretty consistent. If you are looking for 5-10 points, I think he will get you that. As a WR3 or 4, he is pretty safe and should put up some yard points with the possibility of a touchdown as well.
It’s a little risky but I think it is well worth the roll of the dice.
Josh Morgan
Morgan has continued to be very much up and down. Now that Isaac Bruce is essentially out of a job, Morgan might be a tempting play. But unless you are very thin at wide receiver right now, I would avoid him. He could have a game like he did week seven against Houston but he is just as likely to repeat the last two weeks of frustration.
Vernon Davis
I said it in my article at Bleacher Report, but if someone told you in 2008 (or even early 2009) that Davis would have a career year and be one of the top producing tight ends in the game you might have checked them into rehab.
 
And yet, he’s tied for second overall in receiving touchdowns (with Miles Austin, Vincent Jackson and Larry Fitzgerald), second in targets amongst tight ends and 14th in targets overall. While other owners were falling all over themselves trying to reach for Witten, Gates and Gonzalez if you got Davis late, you got a huge value.
 
Smith looks for him early and often, frequently in the red zone. With this match-up, there are very few tight ends I would put in ahead of Davis and I expect him to continue to be an outstanding option from here on out. 

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Thursday Night Football: Chicago Bears

In what is a pretty important matchup for both teams, the San Francisco 49ers welcome the Chicago Bears to Candlestick Park for the kickoff of NFLN’s Thursday Night Football Series.
 
As always for a Fantasy Football Owner it’s a blessing AND a curse. On the one hand, early football = YAY! On the other, make a mistake by starting a player you shouldn’t and you put yourself in an early hole.
 
Every Thursday we’ll break down both teams to make sure your Thursday night is more ‘Yay’ then ‘Crap’. If you prefer audio, check out the podcast from Wednesday night and we have you covered as well (or go ahead and download via ITUNES and carry it wherever you go).
Let’s start with the visiting Bears.
 
 Jay Cutler
Cutler faces a 49ers team which has allowed over 250 yards and a TD over their last four match-ups while only generating an average of .5 INTs a game. Cutler has been over 200 yards in every game but one (ironically against Detroit) and has scored multiple touchdowns in five out of eight games. Against this defense, I expect to see another 200+ game (I’m guessing 250 plus) and a pair of touchdowns this week.  
 
Matt Forte
Forte definitely heads the list of ‘guys who have busted hard’ this season. He has struggled behind a shaky offensive line and been ignored quite often in the passing game. Also he has flat out just not looked great this season. All that said, I think he’s an ok start this week as a RB2 or flex, moreso in a PPR league. Last week against the Cardinals, the team finally got him consistently involved in the pass game and I think that continues this week against a weak pass defense.
 
Is he a great start? No, he’s nowhere near consistent or safe enough. Is he an OK RB2 or flex? Yes, I expect good, though not great, production tonight.
 
Devin Hester
I was thinking on my comments from last night’s show and I think I underrated Hester a bit. Sure, he’s not hitting the end zone nearly enough.
Since week 6, Hester has had more than 80 yards and between six and eight catches each week.
 

That’s not perfect but it has become pretty consistent. He has been playing well and seems to be flirting with WR2 status. I’d rather assume WR3 numbers but against this defense – which has been struggling – he could be a nice start in a PPR. Less so if you just get yards.

 
Johnny Knox
Knox has cooled considerably although he is consistent in that he has caught about 4 passes a game for around 40 yards the last few games. I don’t expect big things from him this week, though the match-up is nice. As a flex or WR4 with upside Knox has potential but look your roster over and if you have more reliable, more productive or higher upside guys, go with them.
 
Greg Olsen
Olsen is not having the season people envisioned in back in August and there are a bunch of reasons for that. Bottom line though is he has been a disappointment. He FINALLY performed well last week with five catches for 71 yards and a trio of touchdowns. Mind you, the last pair was in a desperate fourth quarter when Arizona had eased back the throttle a bit.
 
Still, I think Chicago remembered they had a great receiving tight end to play with and he should see a slight uptick in production. Still, I don’t expect him to have another huge game so I would start him only if I am struggling at the position and don’t have a ton of options. I’d like to see some more from him consistently before I automatically plug him in.
 

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