Was James Harrison Right?
There was an interesting editorial in the NY Times this week by former wideout Nate Jackson explaining why players have to lead with their helmets and how difficult it would be to change that. The league is doing its best, however, to cut back on the most violent hits, and in large part it seemed to work this weekend. Of course, the average game had more than 52 total points, making Week 7 the highest scoring one on record since 1983. And the Colts, Jets, Texans and Lions, the No. 3, 4, 6 and 11 teams, respectively, in points per game were off. Maybe it is hard to do your job as a defender while making sure not to hurt anyone.
Wide Receiver Volatility
If you had Lee Evans, Kenny Britt or Dez Bryant on your bench this week, you weren't alone, and in fact, watching a ton of production go to waste at the wide receiver position is commonplace given it's wide week-to-week variance and unpredictability.
The most extreme example of this is Chad Ochocinco - then Chad Johnson - in 2006 who had no 100-yard games and only two TDs over the season's first eight weeks.. This after a 1432-yard, nine-TD season in 2005. In fact, Johnson had 1274 or more yards and nine or more TDs in each of the three previous years, so he was almost universally considered a top-five wideout. But after eight bad weeks, a lot of people were sitting him for more consistent producers. So in Week 9, he went 11-260-2. In Week 10, he went 6-190-3, and in Week 11 he went 7-123-0. By season's end he had 1369 yards and seven TDs.
A more recent example is Miles Austin who had 81 yards and one TD over the season's first four games last year. That's a pace for 324 yards and four TDs. But at least in his case, his role changed significantly. In Johnson's, he was the No. 1 receiver the entire time.
This year, Dwayne Bowe was waiver-wire fodder two weeks ago, but has since gone 9-189-4, Terrell Owens had failed to crack 57 yards or score a TD through Week 3 (he's had 412 yards and three TDs over three games since) and Greg Jennings has 207 yards and two TDs over his last two games, despite not cracking 25 yards in any of his previous three. So I haven't given up on Robert Meachem, Michael Crabtree or Steve Smith (CAR). And I certainly wouldn't think of giving up on Randy Moss or Larry Fitzgerald, no matter how bad the current situation looks.
I'm also scooping up the next receiver that gets in trouble for partying too hard. First it was Braylon Edwards who's been a reliable big play threat for the Jets ever since he got a DUI, and now Britt goes off after being part of a bar brawl.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is a Nobody
He was a 7th round pick out of Harvard in 2005. But Tom Brady, Tony Romo and Kurt Warner were nobodies once, too. I don't know whether Fitzpartick will keep it up, but I don't dismiss the possibility, either. Fitzpatrick had 23 starts coming into this year, which is about when quarterbacks typically start to "get it," he leads the NFL in TD percentage (TD's per pass attempt) at 8.6 (hat tip: Mike Salfino) and is second in QB rating only to Peyton Manning at 102. And this is despite playing against the Jets and at Baltimore in two of his four games.
Masters of Underachievement
How is it possible for a team to be No. 1 in the NFL in total offense and total defense, play the Jaguars, Cardinals, Raiders, Seahawks and Rams in five of its first seven games and have a 2-5 record? Even Wade Phillips would marvel at Norv Turner's astounding level of underachievement.
Kickers are hitting a lot of long-range field-goals this year. There were 11 FGs from 53-plus in all of 2009, while there are already 13 through just seven weeks. I had thought the overall conversion percentage would be much better in 2010, too, with all the disasters that happened in 2009 (Shaun Suisham, Nick Folk, Kris Brown), but it's only 81.7% to 81.3%. In 2008, it was 84.5%, incidentally.
So Overrated He's Underrated
Apparently Terrell Owens was voted the league's most overrated player by his peers according to an SI poll. It's therefore impossible that he's actually overrated since everyone seems to agree that he's not really that good.
Things to Take Away from Week 7
Things to Watch for in Week 8
Beating the Book
Titans +3.5 at Chargers
As mentioned above, the Chargers are leading the league in offense and defense, and they're playing at home. The Titans are on a roll, and they don't make stupid mistakes like San Diego, but when you simply look at production, the Chargers should be favored by a lot more than three and a half. Back the Chargers who finally play somewhere close to their capacity.
Chargers 27 - 20
We lost with the Bucs last week to go 4-3 in this forum and 49-51-4 on the season. We were 10-7 in this forum last season, 131-122 overall. We were 12-5 in this forum in 2008. From 1999-2009 we've gone 1439-1262 (53.3%, not including ties).
The full article comes out on Thursday morning.
Surviving Week 8
Last week the Ravens made it through, thanks to a bad fumble call in overtime, but I'll take it. Actually, I had already used the Ravens in my pool, so I was kind of hoping they'd lose, but then I'd have gotten my pick wrong here, so it was really a no-win situation.
For this week, no team is favored by more than 7.5, so there's likely to be some bloodshed. Let's take a look at the numbers:
Team Opponent Percent Taken
Chiefs Bills 50.5%
Cowboys Jaguars 12.0%
Jets Packers 9.7%
Patriots Vikings 8.8%
Rams Panthers 5.5%
Colts Texans 5.5%
Other N/A 8.0%
With the Chiefs at more than 50 percent, I'm going with Dallas for now. The Cowboys are without Tony Romo, and their season is essentially done, but this will be a pressure-free game for them at home against a Jaguars team that's played poorly even with David Garrard back at the helm. The Cowboys defense is still good, and Jon Kitna is experienced enough to steer the ship without courting disaster. I like the Chiefs a little better at home against the Bills, but Buffalo has opened up its passing game, and the payout for the Cowboys is far better. The Jets and Pats are options, but playing far more dangerous opponents. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind when the full article comes out Thursday night.