Welcome back to another edition of Alphabet NFL Preview, where all thoughts and opinions are subject to appeal.
A is for AVENGERS
The biggest game of the week takes place in San Francisco, where the 49ers host the Giants in a rematch of last years NFC Championship. And to no ones surprise, the spotlight is shining on Niners return man Kyle Williams, who famously muffed two punts in the title game, effectively costing San Francisco its first Super Bowl appearance since 1994.
Of course after what happened last year I definitely want to get back at these guys," Williams said this week. "We look at it as if they have something that we should have had. We're going to make sure we don't leave anything on the field again.
Yes, especially the ball.
B is for BELICHICKS BOY
When Greg Schiano was hired by the Buccaneers last winter, it was in large part thanks to a glowing recommendation from Bill Belichick. You see, Belichick and Schiano are boys; a mentor and protg, to use the parlance of our times. So how fitting is it that within his first month as a head coach, Schianos a) been accused of breaking an unwritten rule by Tom Coughlin and b) accused of messing with the Redskins headsets on Washingtons game-winning drive in Week 4?
Ahh, Bill must be gushing. But hed certainly be a little more proud if Schiano can find a way to pick up a few wins.
After defeating the Panthers in Week 1, Tampa has now lost three straight. But if there was ever a time to start a winning streak, it would be this week at home against the lowly Chiefs and a quarterback starting his first game since December of 2009.
C is for CONFIDENCE
When it comes to game day, most quarterbacks want the ball in their hands. Many of them DEMAND the ball. Carson Palmer says: . . . eh?
Despite the fact his Raiders rushing attack ranks dead last in the NFL, Palmer doesnt see any reason to modify the offense.
"Running the ball is what we want to do," he said. "Obviously we want to do it better than we have and that's why we continue to work at it.
The good news for Oakland is that they play the Falcons this week. Atlanta ranks 27th in the league in rushing yards allowed and 31st in yards per carry.
The bad news? Theyre still the Raiders.
D is for DELHOMME UNDERSTANDS
Times are tough for Cam Newton. His Panthers are 1-4 heading into the bye week; he just lost his Pro Bowl center (Ryan Kalil) for the season; hes thrown more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (4); hes already fumbled as many times (5) as he did all of last season; his PETS' HEADS ARE FALLING OFF.
The guys gone from superhero to psychosomatic.
But worry not Panthers fans, because things are finally looking up for Newton. Thats because . . . Jake Delhomme understands what hes going through.
Theyve sort of hung the moon on Cam in Charlotte, Delhomme told the Associated Press. The expectations on him to lead this franchise are incredible. We have to remember hes 23 years old. Hes still a kid.
You have to admire the genuine concern Jake has for Newton, but its hard to imagine a less inspirational shoulder to cry on. Its a little like pulling aside a struggling young reliever and saying: Listen, I think you should talk to Daniel Bard. Hell make you feel better . . . he understands what youre going through.
E is for EGO
Brandon Weeden has thrown nine interceptions in Clevelands first five games. In related news, the Browns are 0-5. But Weedens not too concerned, saying this week that finding a rhythm is just a matter of getting over his ego.
"It's an ego thing," he said. "I just need to get rid of the ego and take what they give me and move on and not be as stubborn. Just throw the football away and move on."
Listen, I know where Weedens coming from. I cant imagine how hard it must be to stay grounded when you can wake up every morning, look in the mirror and say: "I am the NFLs only winless quarterback. I have a league-high nine interceptions and a league-low 55.4 completion percentage. I am Weeden, hear me roar! But he needs to come back to Earth.
And Sunday provides a great opportunity. Not only will Weeden be at home, but hes also up against a Cincinnati defense that he played last month. For the first time his NFL career, hell have first-hand familiarity with an opponent and that can only help.
As will feeding the ball to Trent Richardson until his arms and legs fall off.
F is for FLASHBACKS
Its been an unbelievable comeback season for Adrian Peterson, who's still only eight months removed from tearing his ACL but has maintained his standing among the NFLs running back elite.
However, this week in Washington, Petersons mind will be put to the test as much as his body. Hell channel Mike McD walking back into KGBs apartment, channeling Buckner walking back into Shea. This week, Peterson plays on the same FedEx field where he destroyed his knee last winter, and thats bound to conjure up some uneasy feelings.
Probably the same way he feels when looking at pictures Brad Childress.
G is for GO TIME
As has been the case for the better part of the last decade, the Dallas Cowboys are a mystery; a team capable of beating the leagues best and being embarrassed by the absolute worst on any given Sunday. And sure, you can probably say that about every team in this parity-heavy era of NFL football, but the 'Boys have perfected the art of mind-numbing inconsistency.
With that being said, by this time next month, well have a better idea of what this current collection of Cowboys are all about. This Sunday, they play in Baltimore. Next Sunday, theyre at Carolina. Then they host the Giants, visit the Falcons and play in Philadelphia.
At that point, well have a much firmer grasp on where Dallas fits within the NFC playoff picture, and in turn, which round in which we can expect them to choke.
H is for HESITATION
As I wrote last week, now is the time for the Rex Ryan to make the switch to Tim Tebow. I mean, its only a matter of time before he starts anyway, right? Right. So why not give him the start at home against the beatable Colts and try to build on that momentum heading into next week in New England?
It makes sense, but Ryans long lost his sense on this season. That might also explain why he continues to ride Shonn Greene, the leagues most ineffective runner (which is saying something in a league that also employs Chris Johnson). This week, Rotoworld reported that Greene whos averaging only 2.9 yards a carry has forced exactly one missed tackle on his 79 rushing attempts this season. ONE MISSED TACKLE.
That ties him for last in the NFL with the replacement ref who was attacked by Belichick.
I is for ISLAND
Browns cornerback Joe Haden returns to the field this week after missing four weeks for testing positive for Adderall, but there wont be time for him ease back into things. Thats because on Sunday, Haden will be on an island with one of the best receivers in the game A.J. Green. Through five games, Green is tied for fifth in the NFL in receptions. He's fifth by himself in receiving yards, fourth in targets and tied for second in touchdown catches. Its no easy task. But if Hadens successful in shutting down Green, the Bengals offense may very well fall apart.
J is for JINXED
It's a tough go for the Packers this season. What with the Fail Mary that screwed them in Seattle, the non-fumble that almost burned them against the Saints and Greg Jennings' nagging groin. And now just as Cedric Benson was getting into the flow as Green Bay's reliable feature back, he's been placed on the IR.
But good news, Packers fans! It gets worse from here.
Packers at Texans, Sunday Night Football.
K is for KG
Ive thought this for a while, and will write about more extensively at some point, but as time goes on, the parallels between Kevin Garnett and Ray Lewis are pretty unavoidable.
"Keep watching," Lewis said this week, when asked about his increasing age. "I've heard that my whole career. I've never picked up a phone, I've never texted a person that writes about me. I've never had a conversation before. I don't even pay it no attention, I just keep rolling.
Thats pure KG. (In this analogy Paul Pierce is Ed Reed and Rajon Rondo is Ray Rice.)
By the way, this weeks game against the Cowboys is the first leg of a huge two-week stretch for Baltimore. They travel to Houston next Sunday.
L is for LET DOWN
I used this last week for the PackersColts game, and it turned out to be the game of the week. This week, Ill use it again for the Colts, and ask the question: Is there any way they can avoid a letdown after that ridiculous win over Green Bay? I know, questions like that are rhetorical BS of course theres a way. But it wont be easy going from a home game against the Packers (a game that youre playing to honor your recently ill coach) to a road game against the Jets, where the atmosphere will be more disgruntled and downtrodden than anywhere else in the league.
Either way, while RG3 continues to garner most of the attention within this QB-heavy rookie class, Andrew Luck continues to prove that hes the real deal. A guy that will take the Colts to great heights and leave all the fans who led that Twitter riot after Week 1 scrambling for the delete button.
M is for MUTINY
There was a time when players were scared of Roger Goodell. When he ruled this league with an iron fist and everyone just tip-toed around trying not to upset their heavy-handed leader. And make no mistake, Goodell loved it.
But while he stills unafraid to flex his muscles when it comes to punishment, the inmates are done backing down to the warden.
For me, the issue of player health and safety is personal. For the league and the Commissioner, it's about perception and liability," Browns linebacker and BountyGate suspendee Scott Fujita said this week. The Commissioner says he is disappointed in me. The truth is, I'm disappointed in him. His positions on player health and safety since a 2009 congressional hearing on concussions have been inconsistent at best.
Drew Brees publicly took the side of his former teammate: "It seems like so much of his suspensions have been based upon speculation and rhetoric, and maybe the testimony of some pretty unreliable sources. That's the unfortunate thing. It seems like his decision changes quite a bit, at least the reasoning behind what his decision is. That's the disappointing part of it for all of us.
Take this, combined with all the public players outcry about the replacement refs, and the Commish is losing his grip.
N is for NUGATORY
I found this one in the Thesaurus. It means futilehelpless and just might be my new favorite word in the English language.
Anyway, you ever wonder what it would be like to watch a boxing match between two guys with no arms? Of course you have. And I imagine it will be something like the experience of watching the Cardinals rushing attack take on the Bills defensive line.
First of all, the Cardinals backfield has been decimated by injuries, with Beanie Wells out until at least Week 12 and his backup Ryan Williams down for the season. Meanwhile, the Bills have the third-worst defense against the run in the league thanks to struggles from Super Mario Williams and Marcel Dareus plus they just lost former Patriot Mark Anderson (whos more of a pass rusher, but still) for the foreseeable future. Bottom line: Its going to be a mess in the trenches over in Glendale. Things are going to be downright nugatory!
Although something tells me that the Cardinals points off Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions will more than even out any struggles in the ground game.
O is for OVERESTIMATION
The Chargers host the Broncos on Monday night, and Norv Turner says he expects the San Diego crowd to play an huge role in disrupting the flow and communication of Peyton Manningss no-huddle offense.
"Monday night I expect our fans to have a big part in it. It's part of the reason that we've had a lot of success against Manning," Turner said. "They're an off-the-line or a no-huddle team and the crowd can affect that greatly."
Only one problem with that: Chargers fans.
Not there arent large chunks of prideful diehards who will try to make life hell for Manning on Monday night, but on the whole . . . theyre still checked out. In fact, theres still a question of whether the game a Monday night showdown against Peyton Manning! will be sold out. Theres even a chance that it gets blacked out.
Might want to make other plans, Norv.
P is for PETSMART
Did you hear that Mike Vick owns a dog? Yes, Michael Vick owns a dog. As a father, it is important to make sure my children develop a healthy relationship with animals, Vick said this week. I want to ensure that my children establish a loving bond and treat all of Gods creatures with kindness and respect. Our pet is well cared for and loved as a member of our family.
First of all, I get what hes saying, but if the point is just for his kids to have a healthy relationship with animals, did he have to get a dog? Why not a cat? A hamster? Hell, an eagle.
Second of all, we can only hope he takes care of that pup better than hes taking care of the ball.
When the season started, Tom Brady led all active NFL players with 80 career fumbles. Thanks to Vicks eight on the young season, hes now vaulted into the lead with 84 two ahead of Brady.
This week, Vick and the Eagles host the Lions, who lucky for Philly ranked 30th in the NFL in takeaways.
Q is for QUESTION
Is this the new Randy Moss?
He's been almost entirely phased out of the 49ers offense, and hasn't caught a touchdown since Week 1, yet Jim Harbaugh couldn't be more pleased with what he's getting from Randy Gene. But come on, we really think this can keep going without a serious issue?
I hope so, but if I know Randy, I know that a big-time, highly publicized game like Sunday's against the Giants might be the perfect time for him to explode.
R is for REPORT CARD
I make a ton of predictions within this column every week, so I figure its time to start holding myself accountable. So, heres what I got right AND wrong in last weeks Alphabet Preview.
Right: Brady Quinn replaces Matt Cassel; Billy Cundiff loses his job; the Ravens D will own the Chiefs O; Lions give up fewer than 35 against the Vikings.
Wrong: Tebow replaces Sanchez; the Ravens' O will own the Chiefs' D; the Browns will win; the Bengals will dominate Tannehill.
Thats 4-4. Not bad. Especially if youre in the NFC West.
S is for STEREOTYPE
This week in Miami, a few of Brian Hartlines Dolphins teammates suggested that Hartlines ability as a receiver is often underestimated because hes white. And of course, theyre right. Its the same way people underestimate Patrick Chung because hes Asian, and underestimated Shaquille ONeal because he was Irish. It just come with territory in todays United States.
No, but seriously, of course Hartline gets a bad rap for being a white receiver. The same thing happens to white cornerbacks. But after his 12-catch, 235-yard performance a few weeks back, I dont think anyone selling him short or white anymore.
This week, Hartline draws a tough match-up against Cortland Finnegan, Jannoris Jenkins and the upstart Rams secondary.
Now everybody sing:
T is for THREE MUSKETEERS
Only one team in the NFL can boast three players who have been targeted 40 times or more this year. Any guesses?
Wait, whats that? Did I hear someone say the Vikings?
Well, youre wrong. Its the Falcons.
Tony Gonzalez (47), Julio Jones (46) and Roddy White (45) rank 13th, 14th and 15th, respectively, in targets this season and help make up an offensive attack thats vaulted Matt Ryan who ranks second in touchdown passes, second in QB rating and third in passing yards into the forefront of the MVP race.
This week, the Falcons have a favorable matchup against a Raiders defense that ranks 30th overall and 27th against the pass.
U is for UPSET SPECIAL
Last weeks upset special Cleveland over the Giants looked great for about a quarter, as the Browns jumped out to a 17-7 lead. But then Brandon Weedens ego got in the way and the wheels came flying off.
For this weeks U.S., Im going with another road team: The Lions, at the Eagles. Last week in Pittsburgh, the Eagles continued to prove that theyre unable to stay out of their own way and that as the season moves along, theyre going to eventually pay for it. Meanwhile, the Lions are coming off a bye week at 1-3, with any chance to make something of this season riding on a solid performance. Matthew Staffords well-rested, Megatrons ready to go they might even get Jahvid Best back. Add it all up, and take it to the bank.
Final Score: Lions 31, Eagles 27.
V is for VINDICATED
When Maurice Jones-Drew was in the midst of his holdout this summer, and constantly arguing how integral he was to the teams success, my reaction was simple: How integral can you be to the teams success when your team never has any success? I mean, come on. The Jags have missed the playoffs for four straight years. How much worse could they be for not forking over the big bucks to Mojo?
Maybe vindicated is too strong of a word, but integral definitely is. With Jones-Drew back in the mix, the Jaguars (1-4) are off to their worst start since 1995 a.k.a. their first season in existence.
But lucky for Jacksonville, theres no way theyre going to lose this week. Yeah, thats right. Theyre on a bye.
W is for WARNING SIGN
No matter how dominant the Texans are early this season, well all be waiting on disaster. For injuries to slowly but surely the same way they do every year chip away at the Texans attack until they eventually back into the playoffs with T.J. Yates as their starting QB.
Last week against the Jets, the championship mummy started to unravel, as Houston lost star linebacker Brian Cushing for the season with a torn ACL. They can probably overcome that one, but a few more big hits and were looking at another lost season for the Texans.
X is for XEROX
Robert Griffin III took a monster hit last week, one that left him with a concussion and a questionable status heading into Sundays game with the Vikings. But hes since been cleared to play.
With the sensitivity that surrounds concussions these days, and the fact the Redskins cant really afford to lose RG3 for any substantial period of time, you might think that the Redskins would take it easy on the rookie this week. Maybe call some plays that keep him better protected and less likely to be beheaded in action.
Youd be wrong. The 'Skins arent changing a thing this week. Their going to battle with a carbon copy of their pre-concussion game plan.
"If I went into a game thinking I had to call a different game because if he got hit he's going to be hurt, then he shouldnt be playing," Kyle Shanahan said this week. "If hes cleared, hes cleared hes OK. Thats my assumption.
Y is for Yes, Please
More Mike Mayock. It's shame that he's relegated to Thursday Night Football every week, when there's so much awful commentary eating up the airwaves on Sundays. Yeah, I know it's not that easy. There are contracts and all sorts of awful politics involved. But football is better when Mike Mayock is describing it and I'll even take Brad Nessler, too.
Z is for Zzzzzz
That's you, after somehow making it through this whole preview.
Enjoy the games.