I, again, have the time to post some thoughts this week. I will be covering some concerns I noticed from the Monday Night Football game last week in San Diego, while also looking ahead to this weeks' contest in Baltimore. I will also touch on some other things that perked my interest this week, including Da Cutlers...err, I mean Da Bears and also Brett Kern. Enough of the intro, let's get on with it!
Concerns from the San Diego game
After watching the game again, I noticed something I hadn't seen much of all year. That would be opposing offensive plays of 10 yards or more. Against San Diego, much of those were nearly 20 yard chunks at a time. I decided to look back at the entire season to find out how many big plays our defense was giving up compared to the San Diego game and this is what I came up with:
|Big Play Index|
|San Diego Chargers||12||4||0|
|New England Patriots||8||2||0|
Now, there a couple of things we can do with this information and the first of which is to ignore Weeks 1 through 3. The first week, most of those big plays took place on the final drive that should have won the game if it weren't for one huge play by Stokely and the Broncos to win the game with ten seconds left. Weeks 2 and 3 were against worthless teams whose "big plays" results in a grand total of nine points combined. Most of those "big plays" were of the dink and dunk 10-12 yarders. I'm not too concerned with those numbers.
Really, the only trends I am looking at are from Weeks 4-6. In the Dallas game, most of the big plays came in the first quarter before their offensive line became a mass of out of shape blubber. The only really big play of the game came at the end with that 53 yard catch and run by Sam Hurd. We lucked out again with a huge goal line stand to end the game. A game that shouldn't have even been as close as it was, but our offense was still struggling back then.
The defense again started slow against New England, but dominated the second half - allowing the offense to rally to tie the score. The defense gave up more big plays in this game, but played better overall in my opinion. The trend still shows a marked increase from week 4 to week 5 though, but there was little reason to be concerned.
Then came the Monday Night Football game and yes I know the San Diego Chargers were desperate and needed this win more than we did, but this game was the first time I had seen any opponent rip off 17+ yard gains at the drop of a hat. Nearly half of the Chargers 10-19 yard plays were over 16 yards, plus they ripped off four 20+ gains during the game. That's some big chunks of yardage and many of them came during the same drives, which allowed points to be scored. I know many will say that this defense bends, but doesn't break... I absolutely hate that type of defensive philosophy. Why? Because eventually a "bend but dont break" defense breaks. And they break hard. Think back to the 2005 AFC Championship game. I don't want another "bend but dont break" defense. I want a stout, physical and in your face defense. I know that type of defense gives up the occasional big play, but they rarely give up tons of yardage.
One other thing of minor concern, here are the points we've given up from weeks 1 to 6 - 7, 6, 3, 10, 17, 23. That is another trend that concerns me a bit. A championship caliber defense gives up less than two touchdowns per game. I'd love to see that happen through the entire season, but I'd settle for less than 15. If our defense gives up more, then our offense is going to need to step up their game significantly heading down the stretch.
I'll concede that it's a bit early to be worried about any of these things, which is why I choose to call this section "Concerns..". I am not ready to panic or even be worried. Last week could have been an anomoly, but if the Ravens rip off big chunks against us this week and we give up more than two touchdowns...even if we win, I will start to worry. If it happens again against Pittsburgh, then I'll start to panic. For now, let's just say I am somewhat concerned about it.
Denver Broncos @ Baltimore Ravens - Underdogs Again?!
You would think Vegas would learn their lesson by now. I've never seen such overt disrespect by a group that is supposed to be more worried about making money than losing it. Vegas has made the Broncos underdogs in five of their six games. And the Broncos are -4.5 dogs this week against a team with HALF as many victories as the Broncos. I love it, the Broncos are 5-0 as dogs...bring it.
The Ravens are going to be desperate for a win, but I just don't think their defense is all that good. They were ranked in the lower half of the league prior to the Bye and have given up 100 yard rushers in all of their last three games, not to mention their subpar passing defense. While their offense has not been able to run the ball with much effectiveness in the last three games and are going to face one of the leagues top defensive units in the Broncos.
If this game was in Denver, it wouldn't be all that close...but I'll give the Ravens an edge with their backs up against the wall, but I still give the Broncos the win, 20-13. It just seems to me that the Broncos will never be favorites over any of last years playoff teams. I'll bet that the only time the Broncos will be favored for the next five games will be against the Washington Redskins. Go figure. Hopefully, we'll head into Indianapolis undefeated and dogged.
Da Cutlers...err, I mean Da Bears!
I can't help but laugh at Jay Cutler's misfortunes. I know this will upset many who have a soft spot for the guy, but he is getting what he deserves. A team can only win through talent and quality of leadership. It has become apparent to me that the Denver Broncos made a horrible mistake in drafting Jay Cutler. The reason for that is simple, he is not a leader of men. Jake Plummer was a leader of men. He was 7-4 when he was benched and also the winningest quarterback in franchise history. Jay Cutler took that 7-4 team to a 9-7 record and missed the playoffs. People blame it on losing Al Wilson, well yeah, that did play a part in it, but I also think the players were less than happy about Plummer's dismissal.
Cutler went on to lead the Bronco's to a 17-20 record over the course of 2 and a half years. Blame was always shifted elsewhere by the media and by most of us here at MHR. Cutler leaves, we bring in a guy who is a leader of men and we are 6-0. Go figure. Talent is overrated in the NFL, since the difference in talent isn't really all that large. I have found Kyle Orton to be incredibly accurate in the long pass, so does a noodle arm equate to a 65 yard pass instead of a 70 yard pass? Who would you rather have, JaMarcus Russell or Kyle Orton? Get real!
Jay Cutler has all the tools, but he is not a team player. I don't think he will ever win consistently in the NFL unless he learns that important trait. A trait that he almost certainly would have learned had he stayed in Denver. I will laugh at his misfortunes because he wounded me as a fan. At the same time, I count my lucky stars that our team got so much in return for such a selfish player.
I must also say that it is okay to bash Cutler within the confines of MHR, because he did this fanbase wrong in the way he forced a trade, BUT it is not okay to go over to Windy City Gridiron and gloat or cause trouble. Remember, everything they say and believe in Jay Cutler is what we here did for two plus years while he was our quarterback. We are no longer blinded by out belief that Cutler was great and there is no way any of us will ever help a Bears fan see the light while Cutler is a Bear. It's just not going to happen and it does no one any good by rubbing salt on their wounds. Let it be and look forward to a nice draft pick in 2010.
The last thing I need to talk about is our former punter, Brett Kern. I support McD's decision to improve the football team and this isn't about that. I just want to wish Brett Kern the best and I hope he finds a place to kick the ball. It is hard raising a young family and even more difficult when the family includes an infant. He strikes me as a good person with a solid character. Perhaps another team will be able to use him. Best of luck to you Brett!