10 cents after NFL Week 2

10 cents after NFL Week 2

© Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports All Dallas head coach Jason Garrett and the Cowboys could do against the Denver Broncos was cover their faces.

$.01—In a game delayed by lightning, the Denver Broncos provided a thunderous statement by lighting up the Dallas Cowboys, 42-17. The home team dominated all three phases of the game, leaving millions of Cowboys fans wondering what just happened to their beloved team.

In short, Jason Garrett had a bad day as the Cowboys head coach. Dak Prescott had a worse day as the Dallas QB. Ezekiel Elliott made both look like world-beaters by comparison. Garrett didn’t appear to have a game plan tailored to attacking the Broncos, especially on defense. There were mismatched personnel groupings that enabled Denver to easily exploit the matchup advantages. Dallas never figured out how to defend the in-breaking routes or really the entire middle of the field. Other than a strip sack there wasn’t much of a pass rush. Missed tackles and poor communication between layers of the defense didn’t help either. Garrett didn’t help with ponderous play calls at several junctures, including their last gasp.

It would have helped the coach if Prescott played better, but the Denver defense got to him. The Broncos will do that to a lot of teams. Prescott seemed surprised at how often the Denver D pressured him and how handily Von Miler dominated the otherwise fantastic offensive line. Throwing 50 times didn’t help, though some of that reflects on both Garrett’s bad day and Elliott’s worse day.

This was one to forget for Zeke. The reigning rushing champs managed eight yards on nine carries. That is not a misprint. He had little room to run but didn’t seem to try very hard to find it, either. In fact, his effort was questionable in several facets. He never even tried to block on a Prescott sack where he had help responsibility. Denver’s defense is a very good one, but the Cowboys are built to handle it. On this day, a game where Jason Witten had the drops and Tyron Smith looked human at left tackle, they could not.

It’s important to not overreact. Good teams do lay the occasional eggs. See the Patriots in Week 1. The key for Dallas and Garrett is to quickly put this embarrassment behind them and regroup to look like the defending NFC East champs. Losing by 25 to Trevor Siemian is a humbling they probably needed in Dallas. That doesn’t make it any less painful.

$.02—Sunday Night Football brought out the presumptive top two teams in the NFC, Atlanta and Green Bay. In the inaugural game at Atlanta’s fancy new stadium, the Falcons soared over the injury-depleted Packers, 34-23.

Green Bay began the game missing both starting offensive tackles. Top wideout Jordy Nelson didn’t survive the first quarter. Top defensive lineman Mike Daniels also left in the first half. Aaron Rodgers has been a deity in similar situations in the past but not on this night against this very good, balanced Falcons team.

It's perfectly acceptable for Falcons fans to admit they were nervous when the Packers closed the gap to 34-16 early in the fourth quarter. When Rodgers flipped the ball to Ty Montgomery for another TD, antacid consumption in the greater Atlanta area probably spiked. That Super Bowl collapse still lingers in the air like a dead raccoon in the attic. Fortunately the Mercedes-Benz Stadium roof was open to free Atlanta from the scent of past failures. Fortunate also that the Falcons have a composed Matt Ryan to mollify the jittery fans.

The Atlanta offense once again showed balance and diversity of weaponry. Ryan deserves credit for managing to spread the ball around and keep everyone happy. The Falcons avoided the negative plays and the turnovers. When they needed a drive to quell the Packer uprising, they delivered. Even though it didn’t produce points, Atlanta successfully drained the clock enough to extinguish any real hope.

Catharsis complete… mostly. Atlanta has had Green Bay’s number lately, now beating the Packers three times in 11 months including the playoffs and scoring at least 33 points in each game. If nothing else, this win firmly establishes the Falcons as the NFC’s team to beat. Holding on to win must be a confidence boost for Dan Quinn and his Falcons. They are clearly the NFC’s best team and wear the front-runner label well. 

$.03—The Cincinnati Bengals are 0-2 and on the brink of complete implosion. Cincinnati has yet to score a touchdown in its two losses, both at home. After Baltimore blanked them in the opener, the Bengals bungled their way to losing 13-9 to a Texans team that had both starting corners leave the game with injuries.

Even in that dilapidated state, the Texans were able to keep Andy Dalton and the Cincy offense out of the end zone. The Bengals' plan of attack left much to be desired. With all those injured Texans, there were precious few downfield shots. Instead of using A.J. Green, one of the best receiving weapons in the game, or excellent receiving tight end Tyler Eifert, the Bengals kept going to Alex Erickson down the stretch.

After the game, several Bengals players sounded off on the offense, including Green. The wideout is one of the quiet superstars, a guy who rarely speaks. So when Green trashes the coaching staff and strategy, you know it’s bad. Even worse for Marvin Lewis and the Bengals, everything negative Green said about the state of the team was correct.

The wildly imprudent game plan cost offensive coordinator Ken Zampese his job. With more disappointing goose eggs and the increasing strife in Cincinnati, Zampese won’t be the last coach leaving town earlier than expected. Lewis has had a great and lengthy run in Cincinnati, but his teams appear to have peaked already and are heading down the other side of the mountain like a runaway train.

$.04—Entering the season most everyone assumed the New York Jets were going to run away and hide with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. In a league rife with some truly bad teams, the Jets stood out. But they appear to have a viable challenger for the mantle of being the worst: the Luck-less Indianapolis Colts.

Indianapolis fell to 0-2 with an overtime loss to an almost equally dreadful Arizona team, 16-13. The quarterback change from Scott Tolzein to Jacoby Brissett helped a little, but there is still no real flow or threat of any explosive plays from the Indy offense. The Colts' best player remains ancient RB Frank Gore, with apologies to an underutilized T.Y. Hilton. Tight end Jack Doyle played a great game beyond his eight catches, too. With Andrew Luck at the controls, that’s a cast that can maybe eke out six or seven wins. Without the injured QB, who remains out of practice as he rehabs his surgically repaired throwing shoulder and could miss several more weeks, there just isn’t enough there.

Arizona will take the road win, but make no mistake: The Cardinals are not a good team. Carson Palmer looked well over the hill for the second week in a row. Larry Fitzgerald is trailing closely behind him. They miss Tony Jefferson and Calais Campbell off the defense, and they’re not coming back. They miss RB David Johnson, arguably the best dual-threat weapon in the league, too. Wideout John Brown missed this one as well. Kicker Phil Dawson yakked on a potential game-winner at the end of regulation. All of that poor play and they still beat the Colts. That tells you all you need to know about the state of the team that calls Lucas Oil Stadium home. Even if Luck returns, it’s an impossible task to expect a guy who hasn’t thrown a ball in 10 months to rally this collection to more than one win every four games he plays. 

$.05—There were not one but two NFL home games in Los Angeles on Sunday. The Rams hosted Washington at the L.A. Coliseum while the newly relocated Chargers debuted in their temporary home at the StubHub Center, a soccer arena being purposed to host them until the two Los Angeles teams complete their dual stadium. Apparently somebody forgot to tell Los Angelenos there is football in the city once again.

The Rams announced paid attendance of just over 56,000 in the cavernous stadium, which can hold 97,000. Based on crowd shots during what was one of the day’s more entertaining games, a fair percentage of the 56,000 who paid decided they had better things to do. The famous end zone was completely empty. So was the vast majority of seats in the adjacent sections. The top 10 or so rows appeared completely unoccupied around the entire ring. They missed a fun game, albeit one that did not end well for the home team, who lost 27-20.

The Chargers opened their stay of residence in the soccer stadium in a most ironic way. Rookie kicker Younghoe Koo missed a game-winner on the last play as the team fell to the Dolphins. Koo had a potential game-winner blocked at the end of last week’s game too. I’d say it’s tragic for Chargers fans, but judging by the crowd at the new home, there apparently aren’t that many. Maybe they’re afraid of embracing the snakebitten team, which lost a one-possession game for the 11th time in the last 18 games. No other team has lost more than eight. The Chargers are 2-9 in games decided by three or fewer points.

Those are not the type of things that will encourage fans to buy tickets, or jerseys or paraphernalia. That new stadium had better be amazing to help attract the notoriously fickle L.A. football market. It’s still amazing the NFL insists on two teams in a market from which two teams fled with good reason.

$.06—Saturday night’s dismal game against Oregon is hopefully the death of the ridiculous draft hype surrounding Wyoming QB Josh Allen. Relentlessly promoted by several prominent draftniks as a potential No. 1 overall pick, Allen once again proved utterly undeserving of even being considered a viable, draft-worthy prospect.

Allen completed nine of his 24 passes, netting 64 yards and throwing an interception against the Ducks. Oregon’s pass defense is one of the nation’s better ones, and Allen did not get much help from his supporting cast, but someone worthy of a top-10 draft pick doesn’t need excuses made for him. They ring hollow anyways after he stunk up the joint at Iowa two weeks earlier (23-of-40, 4.4 YPA, 0 TD, 2 INT). His last two games of 2016—I watched both intently—were more of the same: 31-of-64, 5 TD, 4 INTs against San Diego State and BYU.

He’s got a fantastic arm on his tailor-made 6’5”, 240-poind frame. Allen is humble and a great story, a farm boy who blossomed. He can run, and he’s got a fearless mentality. It’s easy to see why folks are intrigued. The list of problems with Allen as a prospect is even more lengthy:

  • His ball placement is substandard
  • Slow to process the play as it unfolds
  • Pre-snap reads are often either rushed or just flat-out missed
  • Forces too many throws into coverage
  • Reckless ball security with an almost flippant disregard for the defensive talent

Unless I see dramatic improvement in his completion percentage and TD/INT ratio, I see zero need to continue scouting him. The NFL will not have interest in a 54 percent passer from a Group of 5 school who has wet the bed against every good team he’s ever faced. Just because famous draft analysts tell you he’s awesome and pass along info that the NFL does too doesn’t mean you must believe they’re correct. Many of those folks also heavily trumpeted the likes of Christian Hackenberg, Zach Mettenberger, Logan Thomas, Ryan Mallett and Jake Locker. Don’t buy it just because of who is selling it.

$.07— NFL Quickes 

--Tom Brady set the NFL record for most passing yards in a game by a quarterback aged 40 or older. Brady blistered the Saints for 449 yards, completing 30 of his 39 passes in New England’s comfortable 36-20 win in New Orleans. Three of those passes went for touchdowns, including a Gronk smash. That’s the way to rebound from a rough opener by the future Hall of Famer.

--On the flip side, the Saints' defense is proof the preseason means little. I watched every snap of New Orleans’ exhibition contests with the Brown and Texans, and in both games the Saints' defensive front seven absolutely dominated the action. The defense controlled the line of scrimmage and showed cohesion and creativity in getting to the quarterback. The Saints even showed improvement at cornerback too. Yet in their two regular-season games they’ve been destroyed both weeks, giving up 777 passing yards as New Orleans opens 0-2 for the fourth year in a row. Beware the August false positives…

--Baltimore took advantage of rookie mistakes from the precocious Cleveland Browns and rolled to 2-0 with a 24-10 home win. Joe Flacco looked great early, and the Ravens proved the smarter, more experienced team. They could not escape without yet another major injury, however. Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda broke his ankle and is out for the year.

--That game was a rough one for the Browns rookies. Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick, remains out with a high ankle sprain. Next up was Jabrill Peppers, who had an absolute nightmare of a game. Second-round pick DeShone Kizer struggled badly at quarterback, once again too slow on the trigger and careless with the ball. He also missed a few drives with a migraine. Only first-round TE David Njoku had much of a day to remember, catching his first career TD.

--Seattle barely beat San Francisco as once again the Seahawks' embarrassment of an offensive line squelches what is an otherwise Super Bowl contender. The Niners' D deserves some credit, but the Seahawks should be rampaging through the incredibly weak NFC West. Instead they’ve produced 537 yards and 21 points in two games.  

--Nice win by the Chiefs over the Eagles as Kareem Hunt continues his outstanding rookie debut, scoring two TDs while rushing for 81 yards. Philadelphia controlled the clock and the box score, but the Chiefs made the big plays, something Carson Wentz and the Eagles could not match against the swift Chiefs defense

$.08—Favorite Tweets of the week

Tony Romo has quickly become the best color man in the business. It’s his second week on the job. It’s not just that he’s replacing the horrid Phil Simms, either. Romo’s uncanny ability to know the offensive play before it happens is amazing, and he presents it in an affable manner.

Hard to not like Marshawn Lynch coming out of retirement to genuinely enjoy playing for his hometown Oakland Raiders, who impressively improved to 2-0.

This is technically an officiating mistake, but it’s also technically awesome.

I’m one of those who advocated for more NFL games on more days. I was wrong. Sorry.

Not a great tweet but a heck of an accomplishment for Gates, a college basketball player who morphed into arguably the best receiving tight end of all time.

$.09—College/Draft quickies

--I watched UCLA vs. Memphis, a fantastic shootout which Memphis ultimately won 48-45. The scouting eyes were trained upon Bruins QB Josh Rosen, a draft-eligible junior who gets a great deal of hype as a potential No. 1 overall pick.

There were times in this game where it was readily evident why so many love Rosen. He has a very strong arm, good touch on his short and intermediate throws, some ability to manipulate and move in the pocket, and the requisite confidence you want to see in an alpha QB. He made a handful of throws that call to mind vintage Dan Marino (h/t to Kyle Crabbs for the suggestion) or Jim Kelly. He also made some decisions that Jay Cutler wouldn’t consider. I counted seven interceptable passes, two of which Memphis caught. He was a mess under pressure. His otherwise pretty mechanics broke down and so did his vision. When Rosen had to throw late in the game to try and rally his team, he couldn’t do anything. The good and the bad are both filed away to build upon as he progresses towards the draft.

--Memphis WR Anthony Miller put on a show for the Tigers against the Bruins. The 5-11, 208-pound senior caught nine passes for 185 yards and two TDs, and his did so with translatable NFL skills. Miller reminds me some of former New Orleans Saints standout Eric Martin, a smooth operator with great hands and smarts as well as surprising physicality. I don’t have a feel for how the NFL views him yet, but Miller sure looks like he could walk right into Cleveland or Washington and start right away.

---I spent Saturday night in Kalamazoo watching Western Michigan host Idaho in a fun, back-and-forth game with some legit NFL prospects. The standout was Broncos CB/RS Darius Phillips, who once again impressed at both of his roles. Phillips didn’t see much action in coverage, but his tackling was outstanding. He has great strength in his shoulders and extended arms, able to jolt ball carriers. Phillips leverages blocks well and uses the same instant burst he uses to get interceptions to close on the ball. He’s an ideal Cover/Tampa 2 cornerback. Phillips also didn’t get many shots as a return man but maximized the ones he got. The first tackler has yet to get him to the ground on a return this season, and Western Michigan opened at USC and Michigan State, not exactly creampuffs.

--Matt Linehan is Idaho’s quarterback, and he’s a viable NFL prospect for more than just his name. The son of Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, the Vandals gunslinger has a live arm, exceptional mechanics, great feet and enough athleticism to make things happen when a play breaks down. It’s easy to see his football IQ, too. He audibled out of a spread formation quick screen into an old-school, under-center run play when he saw the linebackers and safeties not aligned properly. The ensuing run gained over 70 yards. That was all Linehan. He made some mistakes too, but watching him live and then going home and watching the Josh Allen abomination, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind Linehan is the better NFL prospect.

--Congrats to alma mater Ohio! My Bobcats defeated Kansas for the second year in a row, once again in fairly convincing fashion. It was a great day for #MACtion as Northern Illinois shocked Nebraska and Toledo won a shootout with a game Tulsa team.

--File this under the “I should have stayed up” department. I watched the 2.5 quarters of San Diego State vs. Stanford and it was a competitive and entertaining affair, but halftime came well after midnight ET and I’m someone who is in bed by 10:30 most nights. San Diego State wound up pulling off the upset (though I predicted it!) thanks in part to another strong game from RB Rashaad Penny. He got overlooked playing behind amazingly prolific Donnel Pumphrey, but Penny is a better NFL prospect because of his size and style. He can hit holes between tackles and bounce off contact. The senior is also a fantastic receiver and major threat as a return man. Penny ran for 175 yards. Stanford RB Bryce Love also emphatically impressed the scouting eye, with much of his 182 yards coming after first contact. You’d better believe I’ll catch up on that one on the DVR early this week.

$.10—I really don’t like it when the media makes the fellow media a story, but I’m going to do it here because it involves an issue important to my livelihood. The NFL and its restrictive, short-sighted social media policy struck again this week.

The NFL takes an odd view in how it treats fans. Folks thirsty for highlights or in-depth breakdowns of plays in all sports turn to social media to find what they’re looking for. That’s just the way Americans operate these days. The NHL, MLB and especially the NBA have either looked the other way or encouraged this sort of content on Twitter, Instagram and even message boards. Not the NFL.

The league petitioned Twitter to suspend the account of Aaron Nagler, a respected longtime Packers writer and analyst. Nagler’s crime was tweeting out highlights of the Packers' Week 1 game. He frequently uses video snippets from the NFL Game Pass to illustrate his points in breakdowns as well as to point out good things about the players. Nagler is not the first to get this treatment, not by a long shot. My friend Trevor Sikkema, who covers the Buccaneers for Pewter Report, lost his original Twitter account for tweeting out clips with analysis overlaid.

I don’t blame Twitter, nor do those impacted negatively. The social media network needs whatever corporate ties it can get, and the NFL has been very good to the platform. The blame here is on the myopic NFL, which is denying fans increased access to its content by prohibiting even credentialed members of the media from using any footage of the games themselves. Heck, the league doesn’t even allow its own teams to tweet actual highlights of great plays during the games. Everything must go through the official NFL outlets like NFL.com. Almost invariably those come with video ads before the highlight, many of which wind up being longer and louder than the highlights themselves.

The higher-ups' stance is based on a woefully outdated view of how Americans consume content these days. They’re trying to get butts in stands or eyes on their lucrative Sunday Ticket packages (I’m in my eighth year with that product). That’s understandable but also foolish. It alienated young fans who are trying to follow a game the way they follow their life: online and socially connected. What good is seeing something awesome if you can’t share it with friends and followers?

It reminds me of how the music industry fought against online streaming services. That was rooted in bootlegged torrent and shareware sites which were indeed criminal. But the legitimate streaming services quickly became a ubiquitous game-changer. Now most bands put up their music for free on YouTube channels and create their own playlists on Spotify to build audience. Exposure is key. It draws folks into things like special packages of new albums, premium exclusives such as a live acoustic recording not available on any service, but especially live attendance at concerts. And for a lot of acts, the new model works pretty well. Concerts which used to cost $25 now go for $60, but many pay more for meet and greets or live recordings of the show available for download. It’s rough for smaller acts but has proven fantastic for established bands and brands.

The NFL already has that going for it, but it has no idea what to do with it. Instead of welcoming increased exposure to open the league to new potential customers or extracting more money from the fervent ones, the NFL denies the chance to get more consumers to buy what it's selling.

Nagler doesn’t make a dime off using GIFs he creates from NFL games using a GamePass product he purchased, one which only works sporadically and is buggier than a stagnant bayou in the July heat of Louisiana. It helps him augment his product of NFL analysis, which indeed helps him make money. But he’s using it in a manner which only creates more interest in the NFL. He’s not pirating or nefariously distributing content. There is a difference, but the clueless NFL doesn’t grasp that. And the league wonders why it's losing young fans in droves while stadiums around the league try to hide more open seats every Sunday.

Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/other/10-cents-after-nfl-week-2/ar-AAs8ohy

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