A rough week in the NFL for injuries and some stats talk

It was a really bad week for injuries in the NFL this weekend.  Not only were there several season ending injuries, but they were to big time players and key starters.  I’ll start the post by running down the list as well as their likely replacements.

  • Arian Foster is banged up again, seems like a recurring theme lately.  Ben Tate is a capable backup.
  • Brian Cushing, Foster’s teammate had a much worse injury, tearing the LCL and breaking the same leg he just tore an ACL in last year.  His road to rehab could be very long and difficult.  A few guys like Darryl Sharpton and Tim Dobbins could fill in.
  • Nick Foles suffered a concussion last in the loss to the Cowboys and looks like he is out this week.  Michael Vick will probably start but it is possible Matt Barkley starts if Vick’s hamstring isn’t 100%.
  • Jermichael Finley suffered a very scary and serious concussion/head injury that left him in the hospital overnight.  I wouldn’t expect or condone his presence on the field anytime soon.  The Packers are running low on receiving options with Randall Cobb already out and James Jones banged up so Jarrett Boykin is still in line for an increased load.  Andrew Quarless is the best receiving tight end on the roster but Ryan Taylor make take away snaps as he is the better run blocker.
  • Sam Bradford, who was in the mist of his best NFL season and who had earned the Rams trust as their long term QB tore his ACL, leaving the Rams without any real options at the position.  For now Kellen Clemens is the starter so expect the Rams season to be over.
  • Jay Cutler seems to get banged up each season, missing 7 games over the last 3 years.  He generally can play through some minor injuries but a groin tear is expected to keep him out 4-6 weeks.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he is a bit off even when he does come back as groin injuries can really effect the way a quarterback steps into their throw.  Josh McCown, who I recently commented that I couldn’t believe was still in the league, will start in Cutler’s absence and Jordan Palmer was brought up off of the practice squad.
  • Cutler’s Bears teammate Lance Briggs injured his shoulder and could be out the same amount of time, leaving the team very young at the position with DJ Williams already on IR.  Rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene figure to start alongside veteran James Anderson.
  • Doug Martin also suffered a shoulder injury, reportedly tearing his labrum.  Initially it was believe he would be done for the season but now it sounds like the Bucs aren’t willing to say that and will try to get him back on the field this season.  Either way it is a big blow to the already shaky offense.  6th round rookie Mike James figures to start with veteran Brian Leonard and track star Jeff Demps in the mix for touches.  The team also added Bobby Rainey who couldn’t even stay on the roster in Cleveland after Trent Richardson was traded.
  • Bengals cornerback Leon Hall suffered a torn Achilles tendon, a big blow to the team’s secondary.  Ideally ‘Dre Kirkpatrick will be ready to start so that Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones can remain the nickelback.
  • Probably the most upsetting injury, not that any injury is good to see, was to Reggie Wayne.  Late in the Colts win over the Broncos Wayne came back for a pass and twisted and came down on his knee awkwardly, tearing his ACL.  The 34 year old Wayne hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season in 2001 and the injury will end his streak of 189 consecutive games, the 3rd longest ever by a wide receiver.  Wayne is 8th all time in receptions and 11th in receiving yards and the NFL is better with him in it.  Hopefully he can get back to full strength and continue to play for a few more seasons.  In the meantime, Darrius Heyward-Bey and T.Y. Hilton are the starters and LaVon Brazill and David Reed will gain playing time.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Colts are in the mix for another receiver as they look to make a deep playoff run.

 

 

Outside of all of this, the playoff contenders are beginning to separate from the pack and some teams are starting surge after slow starts (49ers 4 straight wins, Panthers 2 straight impressive wins, Packers and Bengals each 3 straight) while other teams are falling apart (The Dolphins have lost 3 in a row, the Titans dropped 3 with Jake Locker out and the Texans have lost their last 5).  The Steelers picked up their second win, being the first of the bottom dealers to turn some things around.  The Giants finally got their first win over the 1 win Vikings in quite possibly the worst Monday Night Football game ever.  Both teams could be in the running with the winless Jags and Bucs for the first overall pick.  The Chiefs, meanwhile, are the last remaining unbeaten team at 7-0.  Their situation looks good moving ahead as well as they play the Browns at home and then head to Buffalo before getting a bye week to prepare for their game at Denver.  Andy Reid has done an outstanding job in turning this team around and in using the talent on the roster in the right ways and looks like he is having a ton of fun coaching again.  If you haven’t seen it yet, this might be the funniest GIF of Andy Reid ever.  I saw this tweet the other day that puts the Chiefs start in context:

Jeff Darlington     ‏@JeffDarlington 21 Oct

Here’s your odds, Chiefs fans: In Super Bowl era, 31 teams started season 7-0. All 31 made playoffs. 15 went to Super Bowl. Nine won it all.

 

 

Some quick hits on statistical leaders:

  • Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense are on an insane pace.

Manning:  5863 yards, 57 touchdowns, 7 interceptions

Welker:  100 catches for 1083 yards and 18 scores

Decker:  96 for 1433 and 7

D Thomas:  94 for 1394 and 11

J Thomas:  82 for 965 and 18

Moreno:  973 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns

 

  • Torrey Smith leads the league in receiving so far with 629 yards (on pace for 1437 yards) and has an insane 20.3 yards per catch.  For comparison, the second best number (for someone with 20 or more catches) is 17.9 yards per catch by Vernon Davis.

 

  • Vontaze Burfict, the controversial linebacker who managed to go from sure-fire 1st round pick and the next Ray Lewis to undrafted rookie in the NFL thanks to his disappointing college finish followed by a poor combine and poor interview and apparent lack of accountability and work ethic, currently leads the NFL in tackles with 74 after finishing with 127 last year, good for 15th in the league as a rookie (per NFL.com).

 

  • Meanwhile rookie 2nd round pick Kiko Alonso, who apparently doesn’t speak or show emotion, is taking the league by storm.  Alonso is currently 3rd in tackles, only 4 behind Burfict, and is also tied for the league lead in interceptions with 4 to go with a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

 

  • Veterans are still producing defensively though.  Look no further than the league leader in sacks, Robert Mathis, who already has 11.5 to go with 3 forced fumbles.

 

  • The turnover machines at cornerback for the Bears, Charles ‘Peanut’ Tillman and Tim Jennings continue to do their thing as well with 3 interceptions and 2 fumbles forced each.  NFL.com now credits Tillman for career numbers of 36 interceptions and 41 forced fumbles.  To put that in perspective, strip sack king Mathis, also an 11 year veteran, is credited with 43 forced fumbles and he plays defensive end.
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Former teammates predictions game – Review

Last summer I put together a list of former teammates (give or take a few stretches) and some predictions regarding their stats for the season but never took the time to go back and review my results so here they are:

 

First off I pitted former Crimson Tide running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson against each other, predicting Richardson would total more rushing yards and I was correct.

 

My second prediction was way off as I said former Arizona Wildcat Brooks Reed would register more sacks and college teammate Rob Gronkowski would tally touchdown receptions.  I thought there was no way Gronk could catch another 17 and I felt Reed was on the rise after 6 sacks as a rookie.  Gronk won this one 11 to 2.5 though.

 

Third I took the old Arkansas backfield of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis and predicted that of all these injury prone running backs, Hillis would be the one to stay healthiest.  I was wrong again as Hillis only played 13 games and only rushed for 309 yards.  McFadden managed 707 in only 12 games but somehow Felix Jones made it through all 16 games last year!

 

My 4th prediction was really just a shot at Tony Romo and the Cowboys as I said fellow Eastern Illinois quarterback Sean Payton, despite being suspended for the season, would coach more games than Romo would win playoff games.  The Cowboys went 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs while Payton reportedly coached games for his sons 6th grade team.  I say win, or at least a push.

 

Next up was the trio of freak athlete wide outs to come from Georgia Tech.  I picked Calvin Johnson to have more receiving yards than both Demaryius Thomas and Stephen Hill combined.  Specifically I predicted 150 more yards for Calvin.  The final tally was an incredible 1964 for Megatron, 1434 for Thomas and only 252 for Hill.  That is a 278 yard advantage for Calvin and a win for me, although I’d be lying if I claimed I thought he would have that many yards.

 

Another prediction I was way off on, former LSU cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne’s total interceptions.  I really undervalued Peterson’s ball-hawking abilities and thought too highly of Claiborne, who is continuing to struggle this year.  Peterson grabbed 7 interceptions and Claiborne only 1, making me wrong.

 

My next prediction was based on a former Michigan Wolverines hookup, Chad Henne to Mario Manningham.  I predicted that, while Manningham got a big contract in San Fran and Henne was signed to be a backup quarterback, Henne would actually start more games and Manningham would catch touchdowns.  I was right as Mario only caught 43 balls for 449 yards and 1 score while Henne ended up starting 6 games.

 

The next group was Penn State/Linebacker U based.  I said that the group of Tamba Hali, Cameron Wake, Navarro Bowman and Sean Lee would make an outstanding set of starters in a 3-4 defense, and then predicted Bowman to lead in tackles by a decent amount, and for Hali to lead in sacks by at least 2.  Going off of ProFootballReference.com, Bowman lead in tackles by a lot, finishing 10th in the league in solo tackles (just a note, another former Penn State-er Paul Posluszny was 5th in solo tackles).  Wake, meanwhile, went off finished 4th in the league with 15 sacks while Hali only tallied 9.  1/2 credit?

 

I took former USC and starting Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez versus current USC quarterback Matt Barkley in total wins and picked Barkley by 3, despite the fact that the college season is shorter.  Both players had bad years and Barkley did get more wins, just not 3 more (7 to 6 by my count).

 

Next was another outstanding hookup in college.  Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn to Jeff Samardzija.  Quinn had been a failure as an NFL quarterback to date and Samardzija chose to go to baseball instead, so I gambled saying that Quinn, with 10 career passing touchdowns, would throw at least a couple more that season and finished with more career passing touchdowns than Samardzija would tally wins that season in baseball.  Quinn threw 2 more scores, bringing him to 12 total, while Jeff only went 9-13 over 28 starts.  I also predicted that Matt Cassel, the quarterback starting over Quinn, would not last the season and, like fellow USC alum Mark Sanchez, would win less games than Matt Barkley.  Cassel and Quinn ended up splitting the season, each going 1-7.

 

I then looked at a group of under-achieving former defensive players from UNC.  I said out of Robert Quinn, Marvin Austin, Quinton Couples, Bruce Carter and Zach Brown, Quinn would be the only true ‘starter’ for their NFL team and added that Quinn would register 10 sacks that season.  Marvin Austin was terrible, only playing in 7 games with 0 starts.  Couples looked like a future starter, playing in all 16 games, but only got credit for 2 starts despite having 5.5 sacks.  Bruce Carter was solid for the Cowboys, playing in and starting 11 games, thanks in part to an injury to Sean Lee.  Zach Brown was a pleasant surprise for the Titans, starting 12 games and piling up 5.5 sacks and 3 interceptions.  Quinn ended up leading in starts with 14 and met my prediction with 10.5 sacks.  While I got the sack number right for Quinn and while he did start the most games, I would argue that Brown was also a true ‘starter’ and that both Carter and Couples look to be soon.  1/2 credit again.

 

My last prediction was around former Bengals Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco, but Chad never made it back into the NFL so while I technically was right, it was a moot point.  In this prediction I added that Palmer and Matt Leinart were yet two more USC quarterbacks who would win less games than Matt Barkley.  Palmer went 4-11 as a starter and Leinart only played in 2 game, both losses.  Running tally that puts Barkley with more wins in one college season than Palmer, Leinart and Cassel combined, as well as more than Mark Sanchez heads-up.

 

 

Overall I didn’t do that well, I would call it even when it was all said and done.  With that said though, it was really fun for me to look back at players who went to the same colleges or played together at some point.

NFL Trades – Its like Christmas!

Let me start by saying that, while I love NFL trades during the season, I really hope it does not become the NBA or MLB in terms of trades, with teams looking to acquire expiring contracts or dump salary once they are no longer contenders.  In-season NFL trades rarely involve starters and typically don’t have a long-term impact on rosters outside of providing depth or a change of scenery for under-performing players.  This season that has certainly changed, however, and we have gotten to see several big names on the move already.  Last year the only ‘big’ trade happened when Tampa Bay got rid of troubled cornerback Aqib Talib, who was in his final year with the team and serving a suspension.   New England took a chance and was able to grab Talib for only a 4th round pick, something they have been known to do with troubled veteran players.  Talib had several legal issues and the Patriots gambled on him, but that has really paid off this year as they re-signed him in the offseason and he has stayed out of trouble and played at an elite level.

Jumping back to this season, there have been 4 trades that occurred in the last 3 weeks, and each of them included a former 1st round pick, with 3 of these players being top-10 overall picks in recent drafts.  I want to take a quick look at each of these deals, then highlight a few other deals that may yet happen, or would make sense over the coming weeks.

 

 

The Indianapolis Colts get last year’s 3rd overall pick, Trent Richardson.  The Cleveland Browns get the Colts 1st round pick in the coming 2014 draft.

–  This trade blew up the football world.  Teams don’t trade the 3rd overall pick after only one season.  It became clear that the Browns are in rebuilding mode though, and with a very strong draft projected for 2014, it will help the current front office and coaching staff to start over with their players.  There were rumors around Cleveland that some people no longer viewed Richardson as a special talent, and therefore he was expendable.  While it is incredibly bad if admit you messed up the 3rd overall pick only one year later, it takes a lot of courage to move on that quickly.  For the Colts, they hope these reports were overstated and that Richardson can, at the very least, force opponents to focus more on the run game and free up Andrew Luck in the passing game.  This deal was absolutely a win-win for both of the teams involved.

The Baltimore Ravens get Eugene Monroe, the 8th overall pick of the 2009 draft.  The Jacksonville Jaguars get a 4th and a 5th round pick in 2014.

–  Monroe is a talented offensive linemen and has been the Jags starting left tackle for all four years that he has been there.  The Jags took Luke Joeckel 1st overall this past offseason, after finishing with only 2 wins, and it appears as though they hoped he will eventually become the left tackle.  Apparently the team decided there was not enough room for both players, or felt they would not be able to resign Monroe, and so they gave him away for two mid-round picks.  Ironically,  Joeckel was lost for the season with an injury the very next game, so now they don’t have either player.  The Ravens, meanwhile, desperately needed help on the offensive line, and acquiring an above average starter for only a 4th and 5th round pick was a no brainer.  The Ravens win this trade in theory, but if the Jags truly weren’t going to be able to re-sign Monroe, at least they got something for him and with that considered, it is a win-win.

The Pittsburgh Steelers get Levi Brown, the 5th overall pick of the 2007 draft.  The Arizona Cardinals get, umm, get rid of Levi Brown?

–  Ok so there are no particulars for this trade outside of conditional considerations being exchanged.  This sounds like a NBA/MLB deal where there are future considerations/players or salary exemptions involved.  In essence, the Cardinals re-worked Brown’s contract into a signing bonus, so that the Steelers could afford him, then gave him away.  Brown was most likely going to be cut by the Cards in the coming offseason anyway, and the Steelers offensive line, despite featuring a 1st rounder and 2 2nd rounders, was a mess.  While Brown is no star player, he at least brings 79 career starts with him.  The Cards might get a draft pick back later, or they might even get Brown back at a discount rate next offseason, who knows.  I don’t come away impressed with the Cards offensive line without Brown, but its not much better with him so I guess this is a win-win as well.

The New York Giants get Jon Beason, the 25th overall pick in the 2007 draft.  The Carolina Panthers get a conditional late round draft pick.

–  The Giants desperately needed help on defense and, for the first 4 years of his career, Beason was considered one of the best.  Sadly, he only managed 1 game in 2011 and 4 games in 2012 due to injuries.  The Panthers were ready to move on with Luke Kuechly in the middle and replaced Beason on the outside with former Giant Chase Blackburn.  If Beason can stay healthy and display even some of his former athleticism, this trade could work out for the Giants, as Beason is considered a vocal leader as well.  For the Panthers, they might get something in return for a player that was no longer in their plans.  Win-Win.

 

Now on to some trades that could still happen:

  • Everyone thinks the Browns should trade Josh Gordon, but I just don’t see it happening.  He is worth at least a 2nd round pick to the Browns, but the risk of a suspension will prevent another team from offering that much compensation.  I just don’t see it happening.
  • Another rumored trade is Kenny Britt, and I’m sure the Titans would love to get something in return for a player they are done with, but again I just don’t see it happening.  Britt just hasn’t been good outside of some occasional flashes, and can’t be expected to be an upgrade for any contending teams.  Unless more injuries occur and he can be had for a 7th rounder, I just don’t see this one either.
  • The big name on the trade market for a while now has been Maurice Jones-Drew, and I really thought he was the one headed to Indy last month.  I question if MJD has anything left after a few injuries last year, but its impossible to tell while he is on the worst team in the league.  There aren’t many contending teams that would be willing to deal for him though, but I could see him as a fit in Miami as I am not a Lamar Miller fan.  Another Blount or Ridley fumble could have New England picking up the phone too.  I guess the same could be said for New England receivers and drops and the Kenny Britt call though, you just never know with Bill Belichick.
  • I read earlier that Chiefs fans are speculating a trade to bring Tony Gonzalez back to Kansas City.  Mike Smith is already on record saying that the idea is ‘preposterous’ but in reality it makes all the sense in the world.  Thomas Dimitroff is a very smart GM.  The Falcons have little incentive to resign Gonzalez to a contract extension, 37 year old NFL players just don’t get them, even if they are 1st ballot Hall-Of-Famers having outstanding seasons.  On top of that, Julio Jones is done for the season, Roddy White is banged up and the team is already in a 1-4 hole, 4 games behind the Saints for the division lead.  4th round pick Levine Toilolo is 6’8″ and already has 2 touchdown grabs this season.  The team also has former 3rd rounder Chase Coffman on the roster and needs to see if either can replace Gonzalez long term anyway, why not find out now?  The Chiefs, meanwhile, are 5-0 and look like real contenders for the postseason, but are using an assortment of sub-par tight ends.  Gonzalez spent the first 12 years of his career in Kansas City, and seemingly never gets to experience post-season victory, so a reunion tour complete with a playoff appearance (and hopefully a win or two) would be great to see.  I don’t see it happening but Chiefs fans can hope.  Maybe next year.
  • I also expect some Giants players to be on the market soon.  Specifically, Hakeem Nicks and Justin Tuck, who are each in the final years of their contracts.  Unless the Giants can right the ship soon, which is entirely possible, they will need to shift to re-build mode and will start cleaning house.  I expect this to be Tom Coughlin’s last season (again, barring an insane comeback and playoff run).  Coughlin should have enough respect built up to be allowed to retire at the end of the year and not to be fired even if the team drops to 0-7 or 1-6.  There is a core of talent in place to re-build on, but the Giants do need a lot of pieces moving forward, so trading some veterans for draft picks makes sense.  I’m not sure what kind of value Tuck may draw after a few down seasons, but he is an experienced, respected player, so I’m sure someone would listen if he was on the table.  Trading Tuck would also open up playing time for rookie Damontre Moore.  Nicks on the other hand, could absolutely draw a mid-round pick to a team desperate for receiver help such as San Francisco, Baltimore or even the New York Jets if they continue to play well.  Nicks always seems hurt, but had back to back 1000 yard seasons in 2010 and 2011, and is on pace for almost 1200 yards this year.  The Giants would still have Victor Cruz and Rueben Randal in place moving forward, so if they lose a couple more games, this trade would make a ton of sense.

 

A few other players in the last year of their contracts who potentially could be had for the right offer:

Darren McFadden (doubtful though with his injury history)

Emmanuel Sanders (reportedly working on a contract extension but if the Steelers fear they can’t get it done, teams would absolutely make an offer)