Oakland Raiders: Post-Free Agency, Pre-Draft Team Assessment

Roster

Offense:

Offensive Line: Donald Penn(LT) – Gabe Jackson(LG) – Rodney Hudson(C) – Kevin Boothe(RG) – Austin Howard(RT), Khalif Barnes(Depth), Menelik Watson(Depth), Matt McCants(Depth)

Quarterback: Derek Carr, Matt McGloin(Depth), Christian Ponder(Depth)

Runningback: Latavius Murray, Roy Helu Jr, Trent Richardson, Marcel Reece

Wide Receiver: James Jones, Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, Kenbrell Thompkins, Vincent Brown, Brice Butler

Tight-End: Mychal Rivera, Lee Smith, Scott Simonson(Depth)

Defense:

Defensive Line: Benson Mayowa(RDE), Justin Ellis(DT), Dan Williams(DT), Justin Tuck(LDE), Antonio Smith (3rd down DT), Stacy McGee(Depth), Shelby Harris(Depth), Ricky Lumpkin(Depth)

Linebackers: Khalil Mack(S), Curtis Lofton(M), Sio Moore(W), Malcom Smith(Anywhere), Miles Burris(Depth), Ray Ray Armstrong(Depth)

Cornerbacks: DJ Hayden, TJ Carrie, Keith McGill(Depth), James Dockery(Depth), Neiko Thorpe(Depth)

Safety: Charles Woodson(FS), Nate Allen(SS), Brandian Ross(Depth), Johnathan Dowling(Depth)

Assessment

Running Game: On offense, its pretty clear that we will be running the ball alot, knowing Del Rio and Musgrave. At RB we have high risk high reward. Murray is moderately injury prone and we don’t know how he can handle the full load. If anything happens to Murray, we don’t know how Helu will perform either with a full load. And literally no one knows how Richardson will do. So we can potentially have a great backfield or we could have a poor one. At the end of the day we still have Reece as the ultimate backup plan which is a pretty decent option. At this point its a waste of resources to go for any more RBs however I would be okay with a Peterson trade. If we have an oppertunity to grab an elite talent…like the greatest RB of our generation who will be playing like he’s got something to prove, I’m all for it. But realistically we need to upgrade our RG spot. Personally I think RG is as important as pass-rusher and WR1 in terms of needs. I would be all for trading down and grabbing Scherff or getting Cann in round 2. But RG MUST be addressed in the draft. I’d be more comfortable heading into the season without a WR1 as opposed to without a quality RG.

Passing Game: Our passing offense will involve alot more no huddle and be more tailored to fit Carr’s strengths. Thats the theme of the offense as of now. I’m sure Musgrave learned alot of things about offensive creativity being with Chip Kelly last year. Musgrave has been able to get QBs to play to their potential, with almost every QB he’s worked with. One thing we forget about assistant coaches is that they learn things as well under every new coach they play for. Musgrave has been around the block. Same reason I’m confident that Del Rio will be a better coach now than he was with Jacksonville. Our pass protection will definitely be improved with Howard playing his more natural position, Gabe having a year under his belt, and of course Hudson in the middle. I like our current WR corps even though its a bunch of WR2s and 3s. Thats what NE and Seattle had this year. So I’m okay with heading into the season with this current corp and maybe a 2nd or late round WR. But I’m also not opposed to taking a 1st round receiver. I think if anything it’ll help take pressure off the other receivers and the running game. Bottom line is we have to be balanced so that the defense can’t cheat by loading the box or not having to blitz because the 4 man rush is effective.

Rush defense: I think our rush defense is the strength of our D. Mack is one of the premier run stoppers in the league, as is Dan Williams. Williams and Ellis will make it impossible to run in the middle, Mack will make it impossible to run to his side and Lofton obviously has a nose for the ball. Mayowa and Tuck are also both decent against the run. This is the one aspect of our team where we can say with the most confidence that we’ll be good at. We’re going to see alot of rotation on our front-7. I think we only have 2 guys who are truly 3-down players, Mack and Moore. I think everyone else will be in and out. As far as the draft goes: Its imperative that IF we draft a D-lineman, he has to be able to set the edge and stop the run.

Pass-Rush: This was our single biggest need to address this off-season and we haven’t addressed it. I think theres alot of room for discussion here in terms of which players fit best where and in what situations. I think alot of us are penciling in Antonio Smith to play 5-technique but we don’t even know what our defense will look like. We don’t know how much JDR influence there will be and how much Seattle influence there will be. I think our 3rd down, nickle-formation, defensive line will be: Mack, Smith, Williams/Ellis, Tuck/Mayowa. Thats as much as I can predict. I would love to hear your guys’ ideas of how this will shape up. But I would give our defensive end grade a C in terms of talent. One question I’ve had on the back of my mind is are we going to blitz more? Neither Seattle nor Denver particularly blitz much. And are we going to use Sio moore in pass-rush situations. Is he going to have his hand in the dirt? blitz? Will he be in coverage more?

Pass-Coverage: We definitely need to bring in more cornerback depth. Cornerbacks go down left and right. I think alot is riding on how Hayden and Carrie improve their games. I don’t think they’ll suddenly ascend to being lockdown corners and I can see some ups and downs. But we’ll see, I don’t want to underestimate their work ethics. I’m confident in Woodsons ability but Nate Allen will be interesting to me. If we can play well, I think our pass coverage gets significantly better. They can both make up for alot of mistakes by our young corners. Just don’t let em get beat deep and we’ll be okay. SS seems to be a position we’ve talked minimally about. We’ve been stretched thin in past years. If we can have a playmaker here, it’ll make a big difference.

Draft Focus:

Needs in descending order:

  1. 3-down DE (Passrusher/Run stopper)
  2. Multi-dimensional Right-Guard(Pass Protector and Run Blocker)
  3. Cornerback (We need 3 solid corners for nickle and even more for depth, we are thin here. If either of our guys go down, which is likely, we are going to be very desperate, more desperate than our WR situation)
  4. WR (I’m okay with either a WR1 or a quick speedy slot)
  5. Pure 3-technique DT who can rush (I think this is a position where you can find hidden gems in late rounds. We have too many run stoppers, we need a passrusher in the middle)

Future Outlook:

We have to be mindful that we have alot of young guys who have probably gotten shit training up to now with Dennis Allen. Theres a big difference when you have Jason Tarver coaching your defense, no offense to him but a guy who has never really played at a high level, versus two former first-team all-pro NFL linebackers who have both coached first-team all-pro linebackers. I feel like every position got upgraded coaches. Our strength and conditioning should be alot better. Our training facility should be better. Everything from the very foundation upwards.

The key is draft well and develop. You need both and both take time. There is ALOT of uncertainty. We don’t know how Carry, Hayden and Allen will perform. We don’t know how Lofton will perform or how Sio will come back from injury. We don’t know how much wear Tuck, Woodson, and Smith will have going into next season. We have no idea where Carr will be at. We don’t know how much better Gabe will be or how Howard will fare at RT. We don’t know how Murray will handle the load or how T-Rich will play to his potential. I guess thats what makes this so exciting. Finally with quality coaching and some stability, I think we can assess our own players more critically this season. I wanted to keep this to myself because it opens me up to alot of critique but I almost see this year as Year 1 in rebuilding. I feel like our best coaches last year were the veteran players…and thats a problem. The veterans can focus on their own play now.

My Off-Season Checklist and Areas of Improvement for the Oakland Raiders

[X] Hire a good coach with leadership, discipline, and teaching

[X] Hire a good offensive coordinator who can maximize our offenses potential

[  ] Hire a good defensive coordinator who can maximize the defenses potential

[  ] Sign an elite caliber defensive lineman – DT or DE, preferably DT

[  ] Sign another good tier defensive player – either at CB or MLB

[  ] Sign a good tier offensive player – at any position, preferably RB or OL

[  ] Draft a first round DE

Theses are the specific things I want this off-season without being too picky or too vague. I would be disappointed if less than half of this list gets done. I would be very excited if all of these things happen.

I think our clear weaknesses last year and from previous years are:

-Lack of fundmantals – poor tackling, poor angles, poor block shedding, poor routes, etc; These are things you absolutely need, this is something you consistently see that separates the good teams from the bad. JDR addressed this in his presser that this is where things start.

-Lack of talent at the defensive line. I don’t remember our last good RDE. Its always a liability and we suffer with a poor pass rush and poor run stopping. Not only for this reason but to free up Khalil Mack more so he can make big time plays. I think thats part of the reason he didn’t have too many flashy plays. The best linebackers in the league are guys who play behind some of the best defensive lines in the league. Keuchly won DPOY behind a complete beast of a D-line last year. Bowman, Willis, and Aldon are always making huge plays behind Justin Smith who is the real MVP of that defense. We all saw Dallas vs the Lions, the best O-line in the league got absolutely trashed by the best Dline in the league. If the Lions didn’t completely fuck it up they probably would’ve won the game, mostly on the shoulders of the D-line.

-Poor offensive playcalling. It really doesn’t take an expert to know that the best playcalling is the most balanced playcalling. The best way to help Carr is not with receivers but with a good running game. The common theme in the games we won was that our running game was working. We went .500 in games where Murray was our feature back….THAT was our expectation at the beginning of the season. I know JDR knows so I know he’ll work with the new OC to make this happen. Not just in terms of run/pass ratio but the actual play selection was poor. I understand keeping the playbook small for a new set of players and rookie QB but we were so goddamn predictable. The games in which we looked good as an offense were games where Murray or Carr made big plays happen on their own.

-Poor defensive adjustments as well as playcalling. If you want some statistics. We gave up the most 1st quarter points of any team this year and the 2nd most 1st half points of any team, then the 3rd most 3rd quarter points of any team this year, and the most points per game. Then teams would turn it down a notch in the last quarter while we score garbage time points. It was an ugly season, guys. We were the worst defense in the NFL. The finals scores are a bit deceiving in terms of how competitive we actually were. We got a long way to go and it starts at the top with the HC. Thats in place, next step is coordinators and teachers. We had a poor gameplan going into games and we made even worse adjustments in games. It was pathetic. We cannot cover a screen to save our life.

-Lack of championship attitude. I think this is the number 1 thing that needs to be fixed and fixing this can have the biggest impact on our results. I’ve said this alot before too. The championship attitude is not, “We’re gonna give it our best for the fans these are the best fans in the world, we’re gonna keep working hard.” That is so weak and lacking passion. We need to be fucking pissed every time we give up an inch, let alone lose a game. We gotta approach game, practice, training camp, film room session, off-season work out like its the superbowl like its an obsession. I keep thinking about this interview, this is what our attitude has to be like. I dunno about you guys but I feel like our guys are too comfortable all the time. You gotta be uncomfortable and on the edge to achieve big things and break out to the next level. You have to push your mind and body beyond its limits and thats how it gets stronger. These are fundamental things that work for anything in life. Have you guys seen highlights of the seahawks’ mini camps, they look more intense than some of our games. We need more aggression. Guys like Sherman who get in fights at training camp or guys like Steve Smith who will literally kick your ass if you’re not playing your absolute hardest. We were hoping Tuck, Woodley, and Smith were like that. Woodley was a joke. Smith is a comedian, Tuck is mature and I felt like for a while in the beginning he felt like an outsider. But I think he fit this role nicely towards the end. Like when he was fucking pissed about Mack and Moore celebrating the 3rd down play. We need that. Or later on when he was pissed about a bad call, made a scene and drew a flag. I like that at this point in time because we need that passion. I mean later on if we’re actually competing for a playoff spot, then we need better discipline.

-In terms of specific positions we need improved: We need a MLB desperately. I think Roach is average and I want better than average. I like Antonio Smith but I don’t think we should bring him back, I just didn’t think he fit our system. He is truly a 3-4 DE. I think we should’ve had Sims/Ellis starting at DT and Smith starting at DE in our base formation, instead of Mayowa. Mayowa is not a great pass rusher anyways. We would’ve had a solid run stopping and decent pass rushing D-line. Again this goes back to lack of adjustments. I think we need a CB….I like Carrie and Hayden but I don’t think either is ready to really take on the duties of a true #1 CB. I also didn’t like Brown at ALL. We need a fix here, even if its temporary. But both are really hard workers so who knows maybe they’ll get there next season. Also I didn’t think Ellis and Sims were terrible, but I think an upgrade at the RDT spot would help tremendously. I don’t know what to say about our O-line. I’ll call a lifeline, if someone wants to give an assessment of Barnes/Watson/Howard. I hear mixed views from different people. Personally I think its hard to judge because our running game was so ineffective and Carr was so effective at getting rid of the ball. In terms of our RBs, I love Murray but he is injury prone. I’m completely down with paying a big name RB like Murray, Lynch, or my preferred option, Peterson. I mean not big time dollars but enough to bring em in. In terms of receivers, I’ve been saying this for years, I think WR help is icing on the cake but not part of the basic ingredients. I don’t want to pay big money for an elite WR and I also don’t want to spend a 1st rounder on WR. A DE will impact half the plays in every game, a WR will impact a fourth of the plays, MAX. And again this comes back to fundamentals, if our guys simply ran good routes with steady hands, we wouldn’t be talking so much about needing a WR. I think Jones and Streater both have the ability to be good receivers, but coaching will make that happen.

My Superbowl Prediction Streak

So I’m on a pretty nice superbowl prediction streak.  Its been 2 years in a row I predicted the Superbowl matchup and winner, before the season began.  Here is my evidence, I created each of those topics. For fun I threw in the 05 and 06 Superbowls as well, that I predicted only days before the SB, not before the season, but both were accurate.

Past:

2005 Superbowl: Date posted – 1/30/2006
http://maddendude.blogspot.com/2006/01/superbowl-xl.html

2006 Superbowl: Date posted – 2/6/2007

http://maddendude.blogspot.com/2007/02/superbowl-prediction.html

2012 Superbowl: Date posted – 9/10/2012 

http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/2000205-sports-and-racing-general/64008473

2013 Superbowl: Date Posted – 2/4/2013 

http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/2000211-sports-and-racing-nfl/65364616

Anyways, its time to pick my 2014 season Superbowl winner. I predict it will be San Francisco beating New England.


Patriots —  Most complete team in the AFC when healthy, have a reliable defense when healthy. Belichick will out scheme Manning given servicable talent on defense..which he should have next year. Von Miller isn’t going to turn a complete ass of a defense into a decent one. KC doesn’t have the testicular fortitude to win the AFC. Indy is too inconsistent although Luck will have a good regular season. Bengals have such a talented team, its a shame they are wasting it with their terrible playcalling. Regardless they’ll get beat by KC, Den, or NE. The X-factor teams are Houston, Pitt, and Balt. If Balt can establish their running game better (near last in the league this year), they’ll have a winning season. They have talent on defense still. Dunno whats the deal with Ray Rice, I know he was injured. If Rice can get 1700+ overall yards, they’ll be a decent offense, Flacco is not bad. Pitt still has too many holes and isn’t solid enough to make a legitimate run. Theres ZERO chance the Chargers make the playoffs. If Houston gets Manziel, and Manziel live up to expectations, which I think he can, they’ll be a good team, with a similar record to Balt.


Niners — Its pretty obvious its going to be either the Niners or Seahawks. Cam sucks. he’s only good against crappy teams. Kaepernick will make the biggest improvement next year, more than Wilson and Cam. He’ll be on par with Wilson, maybe slightly beneath. Both will be better QBs than Cam. They might not put up as many yards and TDs but they’ll make more big plays in big games than Cam. No other team is balanced enough to compete. Saints D is overrated, Rob Ryan sucks ass. An improved Kaepernick will be enough for the Niners to beat the Seahawks. They might just lose both regular season games, but they’ll win in the playoffs when it matters, doesn’t matter where they play. This is the 2nd best defense in the league, in a close 2nd to Seattle. The SF offense has so much potential, it was being held back by an aging Gore and a struggling Kaepernick. I expect them to get fresh legs at RB, perhaps Lattimore can be the next guy, and I expect Kaepernick makes enough progress. Their defense is still severely underrated in the general publics eyes. Top 3 doesn’t do them justice. They are clear #2 and carolina is #3. Niners will have the extra hunger and Seattle will have slightly less hunger.


And Niners should beat the Patriots just like 2012 regular season.   Here is my 2014 prediction of what will happen to Kaepernick.

Super Bowl XLVIII Prediction: Seattle Seahawks vs Denver Broncos

One of the biggest things regarding a topic that makes me talk about it is my perception of a team compared to the general publics perception.  Its part of the reason I talk about the Niners, Seahawks, and Broncos so much.  They’re the leagues top teams and as such, everyone seems to have an opinion about em.  Since the beginning of the season, I’ve held on to the belief that the Seahawks fit the superbowl blueprint better than any other team.  Infact, I think I believe they fit the superbowl blue-print better than any team I’ve seen in recent years.  The Broncos on the other hand are probably the best passing offense we’ve ever seen.  But best passing offense does not equate to best team, and its going to take a complete team effort to win the superbowl.   Here are the most important things I’m considering for this game:

Seahawks Defense vs Broncos Offense

Pressure on Manning is the key – I think this applies to most teams, but against Manning it will provide the greatest return.  The common theme every time the Broncos have lost or been close to losing is pressure on the QB.  The Broncos O-line did a great job of recognizing the Patriots’ blitzes, but at the same time, if you need to send extra guys just to be able to get pressure, Manning will tear it apart.  But the talent of Seattle’s defense is on a different planet compared to New England. They have the skills, talent, and speed to beat even the best offensive lines with a 4-man rush. You might not think much of it after the SF game, but a mobile QB changes the pass-rush game. Against a mobile QB, not only is the D-line’s job doubled by having to spy the QB, but an extra linebacker needs to be used as a spy.  Against a statue like Manning, the 4-man rush can be much more effective at getting to the QB, and the linebackers’ jobs become much simpler.  Combine that with the best defensive backfield in the NFL and its almost certain they will force mistakes.   This is the reason they lead the league in interceptions.   Players like Manning, Brees, Brady, Rodgers can always pick up the blitz and torch you for it. When you have an effective 4-man rush, you essentially leave no glaring holes for these great QBs to exploit.

Broncos Defense vs Seahawks Offense
Shut down the running game and don’t give them any big plays over the time.  Those are the 2 keys to beating Seattle.   The engine of the team is Lynch.  As long as Lynch was getting shut down in the Niners game, Seattle struggled to move the ball.  Lynch’s TD run was their first touchdown for the seahawks and that really established the run game.  When they pound the running game and the safties start to creep, thats when Seattle hits you with the long-ball.  If the front 7 of Denver can hold strong, and the back 4 and keep everything underneath, Seattle will have to change its gameplan, and thats when they will be backed up on their heels.   Denver had a great pass-rush against NE, but getting to Wilson alone will not win the game.  Wilson can make plays outside the pocket, so when Denver does bring the extra guy, Wilson can buy enough time to burn you.

I think ultimately, while Denver has one of the best passing offenses of all time, they aren’t as complete of a team as Seattle.  I think this game will resemble the Colts-Broncos game, where Manning was pressured and made uncomfortable. On the other side I think Wilson’s creativity will be enough to put up consistent points on Denver.    This defense is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.     I’m picking the Seahawks by 4.

I would also like to note that I’m actually very confident about my pick, and even as a broke-ass student, I’m think I’m going to put down $100 on the Seahawks, which is alot for me.

What to Do with Andy Dalton

While I’m not a huge fan of Andy Dalton, I think the bigger problem with the Bengals offense against the Chargers was their play-calling.  Dalton had 51 attempts, 57% completion, 1 TD, and 2 picks.  There is no reason whatsoever Dalton should be getting 50+ attempts.  If you break it down, the Bengals had their 2 best drives of the game in the 2nd quarter. The first was a run-heavy drive of 8 rushing attempts or dumps to the RB, 2 were passes. That was their lone TD of the game.  This set up the next drive, allowing them to drive another 60 yards, which looked like it would’ve ended in a TD had Bernard not fumbled.  Once the Bengals lost the lead, with 6:46 left to go in the 3rd quarter, they completely abandoned the run.  They ran 42 plays after that point, 5 rushing attempts, 36 drop-backs in shotgun formation.  At one point they ran 24 pass plays in a row in shotgun formation.  Even the best, most pass happy offenses like Denver or New Orleans, don’t have that kind of play-calling.  It was abysmal and it will get overlooked because Dalton is the easiest target to blame.

Andy Dalton in loss to the Chargers – Taken from ESPN

What the Bengals need to do next season is commit to the running game.  Not only will this open up opportunities for Dalton, so he doesn’t have to force it, but it will allow them to control the clock, tempo, and rest the defense.  After all, they are a defensive team.  With Atkins, Hall, Newman, and Gaethers all healthy, this will again be a top 5 defense in the league.  If Bernard and BJGE can be established as a legit dual-threat, this team can go deep into the playoffs.  If they going to continue to do their best 07-Patriots impression, they won’t make it out of the 1st round.   Eli and Flacco have 3 superbowls among them.  They won those superbowls by having great defenses and run-games, and being the type of guys who aren’t afraid to make the high-risk high-reward passes.  When their running games were going, the return tended to be more reward.  Now that they both have bottom of the league running-games, they are #1 and #2 in the NFL in interceptions.

I saw a few ESPN analysts criticize the Cincinatti defense, I think that’s totally unfair to the Bengals defense.  If you take away the Ronnie Brown 58-yard TD run with 2 minutes left in the hopeless game (right after a turnover on downs which pretty much sealed it), the Bengals gave up 138 yards on 39 attempts, thats 3.5 YPC.  Yet these ESPN analysts are taking about how the Bengals D-line got manhandled up front? Get outta town.  At one point Cincinatti turned it over 3 times in a row, all 3 times in their own territory. The subsequent result was 2 FGs and a Punt.  To say it was a team loss is totally incorrect.  This was a loss on the Bengals offense – the play-calling, Bernard’s fumble, and Dalton’s mistakes. It was an offensive collapse that can’t merely be labelled “fluke” plays.

2013 NFL Playoffs – Round 2 Predictions

New Orleans at Seattle Seahawks
I’ve been saying all year long that the Seahawks are the best team in the league.  I predicted a Denver-Seattle superbowl since last years playoffs, and I still stand by my statements. It will be vitally important for New Orleans to put up touchdowns early in the game to not only quiet the crowd but build their own confidence, and take away Seattle’s confidence.  If they get behind early and have to play catchup, they play right into Seattles hands.   Meanwhile its important for Seattle to have a balanced offensive attack.  Once they get the running game going, the passing game opens up, then read option, play action, trick plays, etc. all open up.  Like I said before the first meeting, I like the Seattle offense against the Saints defense over the Saints offense against the Seattle defense.  I think the Saints defense will step up and make it a close one, but Seattle has so few weaknesses and so many strengths, I’m taking Seattle by 6.

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
Andrew Luck is such a unique QB, he reminds me more of Aaron Rodgers than Manning.  While belichick is the ultimate mastermind, I think the Colts pass-rush will step up and slow down Brady just enough for Luck to win the game.  I think the Patriots and Colts have been the two toughest teams to predict the score.  The Patriots D has been banged up all season.  They’ve been involved in almost every flukey game this season.  They beat the Saints on a horrible non-holding call.  They lost to the Jets on a penalty.  They lost to the Panthers on a horrible non-PI call.  They beat the Browns on a horrible call. They beat the Broncos on a fumbled punt.   But they have had a very average to below-average defense all year long.  I just see the Colts as a more balanced team.  I dont trust this heavily 1-sided teams in the playoffs. I’m taking the Colts by 2.

San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers
The Niner defense has clear weak points that teams have been exploiting week after week, but all these teams seem to have had major flaws.  They’ve been scraping by alot of these teams, but one team they could not get lucky against is Carolina.  Kaepernick will struggle against the better defenses in the league.  Carolina might just have a better front 7 than San Francisco.  As much as I don’t like Cam, I have to take him over Kaepernick.  He has proven multiple times this season he has the ability to lead a game winning drive.   Carolina has the speed at linebacker to keep up with Kaepernick.  It will be a heavily defensive game, just like the first game, but I think both offenses will look deep in their playbooks to score points.  Carolina by 2.

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
This is one of the easier predictions of the post-season. Denver should have absolutely no problem taking care of business.  Had the Bengals not had 2 stupid interceptions and 2 fumbles in their own territory, they would have taken the game.  Playing a slow conservative game against the Broncos is simple not going to work unless they have a tough defense to compliment it.   The Broncos are hungry and you have to be a Superbowl calibre team to stop them.  Broncos by 10.

First Round Recap:
-I was 3/4 in the first round.  I was off by 1 in the Niners and Colts games, and off by 5 in the Saints game.  I really thought the Bengal defense would’ve been able to carry them, as long as Dalton didn’t blow it.  I severely underestimated how inept he actually is.

-Andy Dalton is terrible, I’m officially off the Dalton bandwagon.  Last season what I saw in him was a good arm, ability to make all the passes, decent accuracy, good chemistry with many weapons, and average vision which I thought would improve.   Now what I see out of him is, a good arm, average accuracy, poor decision making, average vision that hasn’t improved in 3 years, and decent chemistry with weapons. It sounds harsh but the Bengals lost solely because of Andy Dalton.  I hear Dilfer on ESPN saying it was a team loss, that the defensive line got owned all game long? If you take away Brown’s 58 yard carry, which came after the Bengals just had a turnover on downs and it was pretty much a guaranteed loss, the Chargers had 138 yards rushing on 39 attempts, that’s 3.5 ypc.  Compare that to the Bengals’ 113 yards on 25 attempts for 4.5 ypc.  The Bengal defense came up with 2 critical stops in the 3rd and 4th quarter, holding SD to field goals, keeping the game close.  It really all came down to Dalton.

-The Saints didn’t put up as many points as I thought they would against the Eagles, but when they needed to score points, they did, including a 5-minute time-killing drive at the end to set up the game winning field goal. A good point about Foles, one of the reasons he doesn’t throw alot of interceptions is because he takes many sacks.  He took a few critical drive-killing sacks that really hurt them.

-Andrew Luck, wow.  Some people knock him for digging the hole in which they had to climb out.  Yes he made some dumb passes that were picked, but the 3rd one should’ve been caught, instead bounced out of the defenders hands.   His adjustments during the game are what separate him from other QBs, he can correct his own mistakes and make all the adjustments needed during the game.  A QB that can consistently perform in the clutch is a Superbowl winning QB.  I have no doubt he will win multiple Superbowls by the time his career is over.

-Niners barely sneak by Green Bay, the dropped pick on the flat or the FG that went through the defenders arms, both could’ve saved the game for the Packers.    I have great respect for the Niners defense, but I honestly feel like this is the luckiest team as of late.  The big frank gore run against Seattle, the Matt Ryan bobbled catch picked for a TD, the cardinals defensive collapse at the end, despite playing tough all game long, and now this.    I don’t think the Niners can get lucky against the Panthers.  If they can get through the Panthers and Seahawks, then I will be proved wrong.  I wish the Packer D was healthy, it feels like Matthews is the only player on the Packer D that has the speed to keep up with Kaepernick.  If they want to get passed the Niners they need to draft another speedy outside linebacker or defensive end.  That’s how Seattle and Carolina built their team and thats why Kaepernick struggles against them.