5 Things We Learned: The Coach Is Here (In The Building) Edition

Judging from the title of this week’s blog post, you know exactly which coach and team I am referring to. So without further ado, I present 5 things we were able to take away from Week 5 in the NFL.

1) Drew Brees is capable of winning a game…as long as he knows Sean Payton is present. Raise your hand if you were shocked that the New Orleans Saints won this game? In the infamous words of Katt Williams, I say no more.

Truthfully, I am inclined to believe that most football fans knew two things were going to happen on this night: 1) Brees was going to break Unitas’ record for consecutive games with at least one touchdown thrown and 2) Brees and Co. would finally figure out how to win a game with head coach Sean Payton present. Is this a coincidence? No.

Call it a conspiracy, or call me crazy (and it wouldn’t be the first time today either), but there is something to be said about the Saints finally coming together and rallying behind their captain to win their first game of the season. Where has this fire been the previous four weeks? If the Saints can manage to put together a petition to have Sean Payton in the parking lot tailgating before and during games, they may be able to salvage the rest of this season and finish just outside of a NFC playoff spot.

2) You’re still having trouble justifying your first or second pick in your fantasy football league, on Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham.

Through five weeks, Gronk and Graham have looked very average. In fact, neither one of them is on pace to replicate last year’s numbers. I believe the old fantasy adage goes, “Never pay for last year’s stats.” Fantasy owners are learning this the hard way with these tight ends. Gronk, so far, is ranked 4th in ESPN standard leagues points wise, while Jimmy Graham is closely behind at 6th. That is unacceptable at any point for someone whom you wasted a first or second pick on.

Meanwhile, the ageless wonder that is Tony Gonzalez is enjoying being matched up against single coverage due to his teammates being Roddy White and Julio Jones. Also, Vernon Davis and Owen Daniels are also having great starts to their season, while not being the focal point of neither of their offenses.

With respect to both Gronkowski and Graham, they appear to be suffering from what I like to call “Drew Brees Syndrome.” What is Drew Brees Syndrome you ask? It’s when the quarterback has so many different weapons that he never goes to a single guy too many times, and finds himself spreading the wealth a lot.

Last season’s MVP Aaron Rodgers also contracted this ‘virus’ if you will. It’s the type of illness that plagues you as an owner of a specific guy in a high-powered offense, unless you have that quarterback. Also, Gronkowski may have it worst than Graham going forward due to the emergence of Stevan Ridley (more on that later).

3) The Buffalo Bills defense is garbage. It’s getting to the point where you could round up 10 of your least athletic and nerdy friends, who spend countless hours in a basement playing mystical card games every day, and step onto the field vs. that horrendous defense, and score at least three touchdowns, while amassing somewhere in the ballpark of 400 yards in the process.

Over each of the past two games, the Bills defense has surrendered over 550 yards of offense to the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. Now, the Patriots are understandable, but giving up that many yards to an Alex Smith offense is utterly disgusting.

4) You are just as surprised as anyone to see the Minnesota Vikings leading the NFC North Division. If you were asked six weeks ago who was the favorite to be atop the NFC North division at any given point in the season, conventional wisdom would’ve told you to pick the Green Bay Packers.

If you were under the influence of alcohol, you would’ve been feeling a bit risky and selected the Detroit Lions (because no one picks the Lions soberly). You weren’t picking the Chicago Bears unless you stumbled into a Delorian and gunned it back to 2006, where a superb defense could carry the most average quarterback far into a season. All of this concludes that you were never going to pick the Minnesota Vikings no matter what!

Nevertheless, the Vikings find themselves sitting atop the NFC North a quarter of the way through the season. Along the way, the Vikings were able to pick up a tremendous win against the NFC contending San Francisco 49ers.

The Vikings have been able to win games despite not having Adrian Peterson play at the high level we have come to expect from him. Instead, it has been their defense and quarterback who have led the team to three straight victories. Christian Ponder has looked great in the pocket, while connecting many times with his veteran wide receiver Percy Harvin, and emerging tight end Kevin Rudolph. Also, he has shown that he can move the chains with his nifty scrambling.

This team is already turning heads, and as the season goes on, Ponder will only continue to get better. If Peterson can get back to 100 percent, the Vikings may turn themselves into a NFC contender.

5) Patriots have a legit running game? Pinch yourself. Click your heels together three times. Heck, try to emulate Peter Pan off the side of your bed. No matter what you do, the fact will remain the same: The Patriots are developing a balanced offense.

Not that they ever appeared to need one in the Brady era, it sure doesn’t hurt to keep the defense honest. The emergence of Stevan Ridley is a problem for the rest of the AFC. Teams already have a hard enough time stopping throw-happy Patriots week to week, with Ridley, teams are going to be forced to scheme differently going forward.

This past Sunday, Ridley rushing for 151 yards and a score on 28 carries. This was the third time he has gone over 100 yards in a game. If he can minimize his fumbling woes, the already number 1 total offense in football will only get better, and that’s a nightmare that even Freddy Krueger himself wouldn’t want to face.

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-Darryl Richardson will see pay dirt before Steven Jackson.

-Both the aforementioned running backs will see their first rushing touchdown’s before Titans’ back Chris Johnson does.

-2011 Cam Newton is to Steve Smith as 2012 Andrew Luck is to Reggie Wayne.

-The Bills will not give up more than 400 yards of offense this Sunday vs. the Cardinals.

-If the season ended today, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan would be your league MVP.

The recipient of Week 5’s McKayla is Not Impressed Award goes to Jets head coach Rex Ryan. There are times when a player takes sole responsibility for a loss, and then there are times like this past Monday night where the blame should be on Rex Ryan.

Prepare your team better! He promised the defense would be better, and it was, but where was the attention to the inexperienced wide receivers dropping passes all night?! You have got to get them more snaps during the week, so that sort of performance does not happen on game day. Also, you have Mark Sanchez under throwing Antonio Cromartie, who made a great double move on the play, on a deep route. How is that possible?

At what point does Rex say to himself, “Maybe I should give Tebow a drive or two to shake things up and fire up the team.” What he accomplished in Denver was not a fluke, but proof that when players believe in their quarterback, they go out and play at an even higher level on the field. If Rex doesn’t get it together, he will find himself as the former coach of a team that won’t be accumulating more than 6 wins this season.

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5 Things We Learned: The Refs are Back, Jack Edition!

Let’s get right into another wild week of lessons we learned in Week 4 of the NFL.

1) Your ‘favorite’ zebra-striped officials are back and better than the same as ever. One week removed from being screwed over by a blatantly obvious bad call by the refs on Monday Night Football, the Green Bay Packers found themselves benefitting from blatant bad calls in their games vs. New Orleans. A key fumble by Darren Sproles went the way of the Packers, despite replay showing otherwise. If refs aren’t getting calls right with replay, we’re in trouble going forward.

If you watched any games this weekend, compare the reactions the fans gave the refs at the beginning with the jeers they received towards the end. The officiating wasn’t top-notch, but I am willing to cut them slack…they were rusty.

2) Tony Romo is never going to turn the corner. Every season, all the experts tell us that this is Romo’s year to breakout and show the world that he is one of the elite quarterback’s in the NFL…and then he steps on the field and has a game like he did Monday night vs. Chicago. It’s the type of game that makes you scratch your head and wonder why Jerry Jones and Co. are actually considering giving an extension to this guy.

I’m sure Tony is a stand-up guy off the field, but on the field he’s a sit down guy, as in all he usually does is throw picks in crunch time and goes back to sitting down on the bench. Romo played in his Super Bowl opening night when Dallas took on the Giants. The Cowboys actually haven’t looked that good since Week 1 too.

3) If the New Orleans Saints keep this up, Sean Payton should be a unanimous choice for Coach of the Year. This is coming from the same school of thought that Peyton should’ve won MVP last season because of his team’s abysmal performance all season long. The Saints should be able to go out and win games in spite of the absence of their head coach. This should be firing them up if anything.

The complete opposite is occurring though. They are playing well enough to keep their fans hopes alive until the waning moments of the fourth quarter. The play-calling doesn’t appear to be different from the naked eye. Drew Brees is doing the same thing he did last season: Brees drops back, checks his reads, throws a strike to (insert Saints wide receiver here), and then repeat; it’s like the cycles on a washing machine. For a man that is making 40 million dollars this season, Brees should have his team in a complete “us against the world” mentality, thus using Bountygate as bulletin-board material. Instead, they look more “woe is me.”

4) A quarter of the way through this NFL season, the Arizona Cardinals look better than people expected. Regardless of whether or not the Cardinals beat the Rams this evening, they have looked solid throughout the first four weeks of the season.

No one can use the excuse that they haven’t played anybody good because it would be dishonest to say so. The Cardinals handed the New England Patriots a loss at Gillette, a feat not many teams have accomplished during the Brady/Belichick era. On top of that, they convincingly beat down the Philadelphia Eagles at home. Their other two wins have come against the Seattle Seahawks and the Miami Dolphins, the latter of which has one of the stingiest run defenses in this early season.

I’m not saying they are Super Bowl contenders just yet. Looking ahead, the Cardinals could very well be undefeated going into their match-up vs. San Francisco in three weeks. Not that NFL teams will admit to looking that far ahead, but I am sure the Cardinals understand that game will be their measuring stick for how where they rank amongst the class of the NFC.

5) The beef between Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora is over…and by over I mean it was never really much of a ‘beef’ to begin with. Leave it to major sports outlets (mainly ESPN), to overhype something that never had much air under it.

Tupac and Biggie had a beef. Magic and Bird had a beef. Jay-Z and Nas had a beef. I could go on, but you get the point: those were actual feuds between two individuals who just did not get along. Osi and LeSean exchanged comments about each other through Twitter of all places. That alone is by no means an outlet that people will take you mildly serious on.

Kudos to them both though for providing the media, and both Giants and Eagles fans, entertainment to get us through the week leading up to the rivalry games these past two seasons.

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-Brian Hartline is gone in every fantasy league you are in.

-Mr. Hartline is going to disappoint you big time this weekend coming off that monster game vs. a relatively sound Cardinals secondary. Cincy will be ready!

-Tebow will be starting for the Jets by/if not before Thanksgiving

-CJ2K is NOT back, and Sunday vs. Minnesota will show that his overdue 100-yard rushing performance was a fluke.

-RG3 WILL run away with the Rookie of the Year award, literally.

Week 4’s recipient of the McKayla is Not Impressed award goes to the New England Patriots. Let’s not run amuck declaring the Patriots offense is back and here to stay after they hung 52 points on the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday. The Jets hung 48 on them for crying out loud! If you didn’t expect the Patriots to go out and do the same thing, then I would question your football knowledge big time. The Bills are about as good on defense as the Phoenix Suns, and what is that saying? Absolutely nothing!

I reiterate, on behalf of NFL fans around the world: No one is impressed that the New England Patriots did something that was on par with an accomplishment that the New York Jets achieved in their season-opener vs. the Buffalo Bills.

With that said, if the Patriots come out and put on an offensive clinic against the Denver Broncos, then we can start saying the Patriots have found their offensive mojo once again.

Editor’s Update: The Cardinals may still have their San Francisco game circled, but they will not be undefeated going into it.