Week 11 winners and Thanksgiving preview
On a short turnaround and with Thanksgiving match-ups right around the corner there’s no time for dilly-dallying, so without further interruption, the big winners from week 11.
49ers and Broncos Scouting Staff
Do you remember what you were doing 18 months ago? Odds are that I was listening to various draft insiders wax lyrical about draft projections.
Proclamations that Blaine Gabbert was the most pro-ready quarterback coming out, Cam Newton being compared to Jamarcus Russell, Gabe Carimi touted as the saviour of the Bears O-Line and how Nick Fairey was going to be the perfect complement to Ndamukong Suh in Detroit.
There were also questions regarding second and seventh overall picks.
Denver were in the midst of a coaching change as John Fox replaced the recently fired Josh McDaniels and with him came the change from a 3-4 to 4-3 defence.
In scouting reports, Von Miller at 230lbs was projected as an undersized 3-4 linebacker. Questions arose when Denver took him, considering they would be playing him as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, which would essentially place him around 40 to 50lbs lighter than the norm.
The first action of the Harbaugh regime in San Francisco came under much scrutiny as they came under fire not only for their inability to trade away their seventh overall pick, but to also reach on a raw athlete who didn’t have the resume of a top ten pick in Missouri product Aldon Smith.
The two questionable picks have quite the resume already.
Miller has a defensive rookie of the year, they both have pro bowls under their belt, both are one and two respectively in the current sack count and Aldon Smith recently put up a performance for the ages with 5.5 sacks against Chicago.
Chad Henne and Colin Kaepernick
I make it a personal rule not to get too excited with backup quarterback play, after all, everyone’s favourite quarterback is always the one holding the clipboard.
These two however made me take notice, but for different reasons.
Chad Henne’s performance against the Houston Texans was surprising to say the least, throwing for 300 plus yards and four touchdowns off the bench against one of the best defences in the league. Can’t say I saw it coming.
I don’t see this situation as ‘okay now we have the guy’ on the part of the Jags, but Chad Henne with this performance has secured the right in future seasons to compete for starting jobs and, at the very least, has given himself another 10 years in the league – as Pittsburgh’s problems have shown us, a serviceable backup is a great thing to have.
In regards to Colin Kaepernick, feel free to browse my back catalogue to week four, in which I stated that he could very well be the 49ers starting quarterback in the very near future.
I don’t mean to call myself a prophet but the future seems upon us.
John Harbaugh was never completely sold on Alex Smith and this came to light during their pursuit of Peyton Manning, despite an NFC Championship berth.
All Harbaugh needed was a fortuitous circumstance (Smith’s concussion) and a solid (or outstanding, either way) performance by Kaepernick to make the change.
Falcons and Texans
I know what you are thinking, “hey Ned ya yutz, what gives? The Jags put a 37 burger on the Texans and Atlanta nearly lost to Ryan Lindley, who I think plays for Arizona? What’s going on in your head?”
In my head, I am living by a mantra that I have always thought explains what a great team is.
A great team is one that finds a way to win when playing poorly.
The 2007 Patriots were a great team, and then the one game they played very poorly, they couldn’t find a way to win… so I guess that just makes them a good team.
The Falcons played subpar against a resurgent New Orleans and nearly beat them, and then eeked out a win when they played beyond awfully on all accounts against the Cardinals.
The Texans faced a trap game against the Jags on a short week after a physical Monday Night match-up against the Bears and, despite getting down early, were able to win in a way they aren’t accustomed to, that being a shootout.
The truth is on most occasions these games do not dispel the myth of such teams or provide the blueprint on beating them, they are merely down games that other teams would fall victim to.
Falcons and Texans fans should be very happy with their team’s performance, as not only did they notch a W, but they did it in a fashion that both franchises aren’t overly used to – with grit, determination and a different playbook.
Thanksgiving match-up previews
In America it is said that the true start to the holidays comes at Thanksgiving.
Perennially slouched shoulders stand that little bit more upright, people are that little bit more approachable, and words such as ‘please’ and ‘thankyou’ become frequent members of the public’s vernacular.
I can only assume this is due to the fact that the entire nation is overjoyed by the prospect of an NFL week starting on a Thursday with three games. I know I am.
What the day lacks in overall win-loss record, it makes up in intrigue and interdivision disdain, as the Houston Texans travel to Detroit, The Cowboys host ‘RG3′s’ Redskins and the next chapter of Rex Ryan versus the Patriots unfolds.
If you had to watch one game?
Dallas versus Washington
Dallas are attempting to make a late season surge on the NFC East crown and the Redskins aren’t mathematically eliminated either.
The Cowboys have been lambasted this year for their less than inspiring home field advantage (or lack thereof) and so whether they will be able to rattle rookie quarterback RG3 on the first truly big time game of his career will be intriguing to watch.
This game will also have far reaching implications as if Dallas fall to the ‘Skins, the hot seat currently situated under coach Jason Garrett will become positively burning as yet another ‘Boys season, riddled with preseason confidence, spirals into the realm of underachievement.
The Redskins, with a win will be at equal record with the Cowboys and potentially only one game back from the NFC East lead if the Giants lose to Green Bay on Sunday.
Match-ups to Watch
Patriots versus Jets- Josh McDaniels versus Rex Ryan
This game will come down to offensive scheming on the part of Josh McDaniels as the Patriots attempt to make up for the loss of All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Expect many short to intermediate passes to Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, with an occasional long ball to Brandon Lloyd to keep Rex honest.
If Ryan can’t take away the under routes from the Patriots short receiving corps then the Pats will simply run up and down the field and look very much at home without Gronk.
Redskins versus Cowboys – RG3 versus Linebacker Bruce Carter
Let me preface this by saying I highly doubt the Redskins receiving corps will get open against Dallas’ press-coverage cornerback duo of Carr and Claiborne.
As a result, I imagine RG3 feeling the need to make plays with his freakish athleticism.
The only issue with that is that Dallas have a criminally under-recognised athlete playing middle linebacker in Bruce Carter.
Carter has replaced the injured Sean Lee as middle linebacker and possesses possibly the fastest open field speed of any linebacker in the league.
Expect to see Carter play a ‘spy’ role on RG3 and force Griffin to beat the Cowboys through the air as opposed to with his feet.
Texans versus Detroit- Texans Secondary versus Calvin Johnson
Even with a legitimate number two receiver in Titus Young Sr, the Lions only go to Calvin Johnson.
Now imagine the increased trend, say if Titus Young Sr were to be suspended for disciplinary reasons? Wait, he was? News to me.
Anyway, with the news that Titus Young is out of this game, expect plenty of double and possible triple coverage on ‘Megatron’.
Also expect the Texans’ secondary be hell-bent on making up for their dismal performance against the Jaguars last week and this should be quite easy to achieve when you are only covering one player (and JJ Watt is right up in the quarterback’s face).
Cowboys – A loss will firmly entrench coach Garrett in the hot seat and rumours of Andy Reid, Mike Holmgrem, Jon Gruden etc to Dallas will fly. A win will most likely net them the equal lead in the division with the Giants.
Redskins – Winning will keep playoff ambitions alive for Washington and, given the NFC East’s erratic performance this year, provides a good chance at a late season run. A loss will further place the Skins in the kind of win-loss ratio that was predicted at the start of the season.
Texans – A loss to the Lions will undoubtedly bring up questions as to whether they are for real, and more than likely will bring much scrutiny towards their secondary. A win will be expected, yet not really improve expectations or reputation that emphatically.
Detroit – Defeating the Texans will provide Lions fans with hope for a Giants-like late season surge (which will be crushed the week after against the Colts). A loss will further cement the Lions position as, well… just not very good and last year’s overachievers.
New England – Succumbing to the Jets will bring questions as to whether the Pats are only for real if they have Gronkowski, especially considering they lost the Superbowl when Gronk was injured. A win will provide nothing more but a smug feeling for all Pats fans given their disdain for the Jets.
Jets – A win will more than likely secure Rex Ryan’s job for another year at least, Sanchez will stay the starting quarterback, and many of this year’s problems will be (foolishly) chalked up to injury woes. A loss will be a bitter pill to swallow for Rex Ryan, yet with the Patriots being an AFC favourite, not too much to look into given that this is a lost season anyway.
Houston 30 – Detroit 14
Washington 23 – Dallas 26
New England 36 – New York 10
Happy thanksgiving everyone!
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