Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Andrew Luck Sweepstakes -- Week 1 Update

Alright Chad, now I'm just confused...

Week 1 provided little clarity about…well, about anything. At this point, hordes of columnists and talking heads have taken to their medium to make all sorts of concrete, definitive statements about certain teams and players. Rex Grossman has suddenly turned the corner and the Redskins are in prime position to make the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Steelers have fallen off into mediocrity. Yes, it’s that time of year again when 99% of the sports world becomes “prisoners of the moment,” drawing conclusions from the smallest of sample sizes.

One of the main goals of this site is to take a rational look at the sports we love. At this point, I feel it necessary to stress this yet again. Being a “prisoner of the moment” is just about the dumbest thing you can do. The Redskins are NOT winning the NFC East. The Buffalo Bills are NOT contenders in the AFC. We are NOT going to see a Lions-Texans Super Bowl. Unless your team is the New England Patriots or the Green Bay Packers, there’s absolutely no reason to feel significantly better or worse about your teams’ fortunes after Week 1…

…unless you’re playing for the ultimate Andrew Luck prize! Much like college football, one loss (or in this case, win) will dramatically alter the landscape of this battle. You must consider that the top contenders should win somewhere from 2-4 games. Given this, an early win represents a significant setback on the path to Luck-dom. Despite this, I’ve held back from massively shaking up “The Contenders.” For the most part, my top tier remained static. After Week 2, however, all bets are off. A second win for the ‘Skins, and their situation will look far too bleak to consider them a top contender…no matter how much I still hate their team.

As expected, there were some new entrants to the list. While a Week 1 loss did not guarantee an appearance, certain teams looked bad enough to worm their way in. At this point, I did not remove anyone from the list, but there is one team that is definitely on the cusp. Here’s the rundown:

Dropped Out:  None

Check Please! We’re leaving soon…

Detroit Lions

Current Record:  1-0
Last Game:  Won 27-20 at Tampa Bay
Current Starter:  Matthew Stafford
Last Game:  24-33, 305YDS, 3TD, 1 INT, 118.9 QB Rating

Summary:  Probably against my better judgment, I resisted removing the Lions from this list. After all, they are the Lions! Even still, the Lions clearly don’t belong in this race after an impressive road victory over Tampa Bay. Matt Stafford remained healthy throughout the game (which is a minor surprise!) and looked every bit worth the #1 overall pick the Lions took a couple years back. They’re home this week against the expansion Chiefs (Wait, they’re not an expansion team? I just assumed…), so a 2-0 start seems like a pretty good bet. If that happens, then the Sweepstakes has likely seen the last of these Lions.

Late Arriving X-Factors

New York Giants

Current Record:  0-1
Last Game:  Lost 14-28 at Washington
Current Starter:  Eli Manning
Last Game:  18-32, 268YDS, 0TD, 1INT, 70.8 QB Rating

Summary:  It feels weird to have the Giants on this type of list, but my initial pessimism about this team was only heightened by a disastrous Week 1 effort against a top Andrew Luck contender, the Washington Redskins. Perhaps this is nothing more than a Week 1 slow start, but I think this goes far deeper than just one rough outing. Honestly, I think the Giants need to be concerned about Eli Manning’s future. Keep in mind that I’ve always been an Eli-hater and that I think he’s perpetually overrated. Those things aside, the youngest Manning has had a major issue with turnovers throughout his career. After finally “figuring things out” in his breakout 2008 season (24 INT’s in 2008-2009), Eli badly regressed last season, throwing a career high 25 INT’s. I’m no expert, but it seems like 25 INT’s is a bad thing. A really, really bad thing. Now 30 years old, there’s actually a slight chance that his best days are behind him. He certainly looked like crap in Week 1! Definitely something to watch as the season progresses.

Kansas City Chiefs

Current Record:  0-1
Last Game:  Lost 7-41 vs. Buffalo
Current Starter:  Matt Cassel
Last Game:  22-36, 119YDS, 1TD, 1INT, 64.5 QB Rating

Summary:  Wow! I predicted a slight downturn from Kansas City this year, but I didn’t think they’d morph into the Washington Generals of the NFL! Obviously, the Chiefs have to be concerned after the beating administered by a bad Buffalo Bills team. Still, despite their epic dumpster fire of an opener, it’s way too early to call the season. They still get 4 games against the Broncos and Raiders, and still have plenty of talent on hand to at least end up with a respectable 6 wins.

Just fine with mediocrity, thank you very much

Arizona Cardinals

Current Record:  1-0
Last Game:  Won 28-21 vs. Carolina
Current Starter:  Kevin Kolb
Last Game:  18-27, 309YDS, 2TD, 0INT, 130.0 QB Rating (1 Fumble Lost)

Summary:  The Good: Kevin Kolb looked pretty good in his debut. After a year of Derek Anderson, Max Hall, and John Skelton; Kolb’s performance had to be very encouraging for Larry Fitzgerald and everyone in the organization who was forced to witness the horror that was the 2010 season. The Bad: They allowed Cam Newton to throw for 400+ yards! They nearly lost to Cam Newton! What more can I say about that? Who knows, maybe Newton is actually good (that hurt…)? I won’t believe it till I see it though, and that leads me to think the Arizona defense is really, really bad. Also, Kolb’s stats were artificially inflated by a big run after the catch TD from Early Doucet. Don’t make playoff plans yet, Arizona. A rude awakening is probably coming.

Minnesota Vikings

Current Record:  0-1
Last Game:  Lost 17-24 at San Diego
Current Starter:  Donovan McNabb
Last Game:  7-15, 39YDS, 1TD, 1 INT, 47.9 QB Rating (32YDS Rushing)
QB of the Future:  Christian Ponder
Last Game:  DNP

Summary:  39 yards passing. 39 yards. That’s it. While a 7 point loss to San Diego on the road might seem like a positive sign for Minnesota, the actual stats from the game tell a different story. Minnesota was totally dominated in total yards and time of possession, and further compounded their problems by committing 9 penalties for 78 yards. Turnovers and special teams were the only reason they stayed in the game, and those are totally unsustainable means of remaining competitive from week to week. After saying all that, I can’t imagine McNabb playing as poorly as he did in this game. However, if he continues to struggle, Minnesota could turn into serious contenders in the Sweepstakes. There are already rumblings for Christian Ponder to be inserted, which would effectively torpedo the entire 2011 season. Upcoming games against Tampa Bay, Detroit, Kansas City, and Arizona will make or break the Vikings season. All four games are very winnable…also, all four games are very losable.

Wrong Division, Wrong Year

San Francisco 49ers

Current Record:  1-0
Last Game:  Won 33-17 vs. Seattle
Current Starter:  Alex Smith
Last Game:  15-20, 124YDS, 90.4 QB Rating (22yds Rushing, 1TD)
QB of the Future:  Colin Kaepernick
Last Game:  DNP

Summary:  After an “impressive” win against Seattle, the 49ers are once again being talked about as the favorites in the NFC West. I put quotations around impressive because nobody seems to remember that it was a tight game in the 4th quarter until Ted Ginn randomly returned a kick and a punt for TD’s. For those of you scoring at home, that means San Francisco wasn’t able to decisively defeat Tarvaris Jackson at home. That’s not a good thing. Still, depending on St. Louis’ health going forward, San Fran and Arizona might actually be locked in a mortal battle for the Sun Belt champi…err, I mean the NFC West championship. On a positive note, Alex Smith looked perfectly average on Sunday. Really, isn’t that all you can ever ask?

Tennessee Titans

Current Record:  0-1
Last Game:  Lost 14-16 at Jacksonville
Current Starter:  Matt Hasselbeck
Last Game:  21-34, 263YDS, 2TD, 1INT, 93.1 QB Rating
QB of the Future:  Jake Locker
Last Game:  DNP

Summary:  You might think I’m crazy for not ranking them lower, but there are several things to consider. First of all, a bad team losing a game on the road, even if to another bad team, is not surprising. I’ve consistently said Tennessee is not good and they played up to that lofty expectation. Second of all, Chris Johnson will get better as the season progresses. After missing the entirety of training camp and preseason, it wasn’t shocking to see him struggle. I’m sure he’s taken excellent care of his body and kept himself in great shape, but there’s a big difference between being in shape and being in football shape. It takes time to get your legs back and to get used to being hit. Johnson is most definitely NOT in football shape. As he gets closer to 100%, the Tennessee offense will ignite to their typical “barely above Jacksonville Jaguars” level.

Probably not as bad as you think, but still…

Cleveland Browns

Current Record:  0-1
Last Game:  Lost 17-27 vs. Cincinnati
Current Starter:  Colt McCoy
Last Game:  19-40, 213YDS, 2TD, 1INT, 70.1 QB Rating

Summary:  Remember when I said there was no reason to feel significantly better or worse about your team after only one game? Well, Browns fans, you should probably get re-acquainted with “The Panic Button” again, because Cleveland’s performance in Week 1 looked eerily familiar too…well, every other season of Cleveland Browns football. My man-crush, Colt McCoy – he of the pinpoint accuracy – managed to complete only 19 of 40 passes. Granted, he might as well be throwing to the one armed drummer from Guns N’ Roses, but still. Look, the fact of the matter is that the Bengals are really, really bad. Cleveland had the gift of getting Andy Dalton in his first career start…ON THE ROAD! And they blew it. They committed an astounding 11 penalties, had the right side of their line hand out tickets to the defense for free QB pressures and TFL, committed a game ending blunder that I’ve never before witnessed, and generally looked like they hadn’t played a down of football in their lives. Despite this, it’s too early to give up on them yet. They still have plenty of “easy” games left (starting with Indy this week), and I think McCoy will bounce back big time.

Probably not as good as you think, but still…

Buffalo Bills

Current Record:  1-0
Last Game:  Won 41-7 at Kansas City
Current Starter:  Ryan Fitzpatrick
Last Game:  17-25, 208YDS, 4TD, 0INT, 133.0 QB Rating

Summary:  The anti-Cleveland Browns of Week 1! Buffalo entered Arrowhead, regarded as one of the most hostile road environments in the league, and drilled Kansas City in the back of the head with one of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Harvard text books (because he takes them with him wherever he goes). I’m officially declaring the Bills as my co-underdog darlings of the year, along with the Cleveland Browns. That doesn’t mean I have expectations for them, it just means I really, really hope they do well. Buffalo has been through enough with this franchise, and I sincerely hope this team shocks everyone and makes some noise this season. That having been said, let’s not get carried away here. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t going to play like Tom Brady every week, and the Bills aren’t going to replicate “The Greatest Show on Turf.” Still, they made themselves interesting…if for only one week.

Miami Dolphins

Current Record:  1-0
Last Game:  Lost 24-38 vs. New England
Current Starter:  Chad Henne
Last Game:  30-49, 416YDS, 2TD1 1INT, 93.6 QB Rating (59YDS Rushing, 1TD)

Summary:  Easy, Chad Henne! You were supposed to suck! Miami didn’t end up beating New England, but that’s not surprising in the least. What is surprising is that they were able to keep it competitive for a while and that Henne looked like he actually might be improving. If that truly is the case (and I remain dubious) then Miami is most definitely NOT winning the Luck Sweepstakes.

The Wild Cards

Carolina Panthers

Current Record:  0-1
Last Game:  Lost 21-28 at Arizona
Current Starter:  Cam Newton
Last Game:  24-37, 422YDS, 2TD, 1INT, 110.4 QB Rating (18YDS Rushing, 1TD)

Summary:  I don’t even know where to begin. I just…I just…I don’t understand. Maybe Arizona is just that bad, or maybe I was totally wrong about Newton. This upcoming game against Green Bay will be a much truer test of where Newton is at right now. Obviously, I expect a loss for Carolina, so they’ll be off to a good start in the Sweepstakes. Of course, if Newton is actually good…

Seattle Seahawks

Current Record:  0-1
Last Game:  Lost 17-33 at San Francisco
Current Starter:  Tarvaris Jackson
Last Game:  21-37, 197YDS, 2TD, 1INT, 78.3 QB Rating (2 Fumbles Lost)
Starter by Week 4:  Charlie Whitehurst
Last Game:  DNP

Summary:  Tarvaris once again proves that he’s a turnover machine, handing the ball the 49ers on 3 separate occasions. Given Seattle’s overall talent level (bad), this will effectively keep them out of nearly every game. Unfortunately, the looming specter of Charlie Whitehurst prevents me from declaring Seattle a true contender. After all, he can’t be worse than T-Jax, right?

Indianapolis Colts

Current Record:  0-1
Last Game:  Lost 7-34 at Houston
Current Starter:  Kerry Collins
Last Game:  16-31, 197YDS, 1TD, 0INT, 82.3 QB Rating (2 Fumbles Lost)

Summary:  For the record, I recognize that Indianapolis very well might be the worst team in the league right now. That pretty much goes without saying. However, I’m giving them a 2 week reprieve from being put in “The Contenders” because it’s impossible to accurately judge the true ability of this team until Collins has had some time to acclimate himself to the team and system. Also, we still don’t have full clarity on Manning’s timetable, meaning he theoretically could come back late in the year. I say “theoretically” because a late season return would be completely asinine and there’s no way the Colts would be dumb enough to allow that. Unless of course you think it’s a good idea to rush back a 35 year old from multiple, serious neck surgeries so he can get jarred around thanks to a horrific offensive line…

Cincinnati Bengals

Current Record:  1-0
Last Game:  Won 27-17 at Cleveland
Current Starter:  Andy Dalton
Last Game:  10-15, 81YDS, 1TD, 0INT, 102.4 QB Rating
In the Mix:  Bruce Gradkowski
Last Game:  5-12, 92YDS, 1TD, 0INT, 96.5 QB Rating

Summary:  This is a serious question…why do I still have them listed as a “Wild Card?” I can’t figure it out for the life of me! Yeah, they got a victory on Sunday, but it was a wholly unimpressive victory over a team that appeared to have been hung-over from a wild bender. Color me unimpressed. They still have crap at QB, they still have gaping holes on their offensive and defensive lines, and they still have a much higher chance of being sentenced, as a team, to 3 years in jail than they do of making the playoffs.

The Contenders

Oakland Raiders

Current Record:  1-0
Last Game:  Won 23-20 at Denver
Current Starter:  Jason Campbell
Last Game:  13-22, 105YDS, 1TD, 0INT, 86.4 QB Rating (1TD Rushing)

Summary:  Oakland may have won Monday night’s game, but they most certainly did not win my heart. That game was just pure garbage from start to finish, and both teams should be embarrassed. The lone bright spot for Oakland was, obviously, Darren McFadden. McFadden ran for 150YDS, accounting for more than half of Oakland’s 289 total yards. Now, as long as Oakland is allowed to play the porous run defense of the Denver Broncos, the Raiders will be fine. Unfortunately for them, they have to play 14 games against non-Broncos teams. That means losing…

Denver Broncos

Current Record:  0-1
Last Game:  Lost 20-23 vs. Oakland
Current Starter:  Kyle Orton
Last Game:  24-46, 304YDS, 1TD, 1INT, 71.3 QB Rating (1Fumble Lost)

Summary:  Just read the Raiders summary again and you’ll get a pretty good idea of why Denver dropped to “Contender” status. The upside for Denver (as it relates to Luck) is that this has a chance to turn VERY toxic, VERY quickly. In their first game of the season, Denver fans were already chanting for Tebow! Now, several Broncos players have expressed their frustration with the ongoing QB controversy. The situation is totally unfair to both Orton and Tebow, but it’s absolute gold for the Broncos! Essentially, fate is giving them a free pass for making the wrong choice on Tebow! Maybe they’ll be forced to play Tebow or maybe the team will be so distracted that they go on a massive losing binge. Either way, it looks like Denver is quickly moving to the front of the line in this contest.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Current Record:  1-0
Last Game:  Won 16-14 vs. Tennessee
Current Starter:  Luke McCown
Last Game:  17-24, 175YDS, 0TD, 0INT, 91.5 QB Rating
QB of the Future:  Blaine Gabbart (Still spelled wrong)
Last Game:  DNP

Summary:  Like I said in the Tennessee summary, there’s no reason to be shocked about a bad team beating another bad team at home. Jacksonville still has plenty of losses in them, and Luke McCown still has plenty of bad in him. The Jags have a few road blocks in their path (@Carolina, vs. Cincinnati, 2 games against Indianapolis, @Tennessee, @ Cleveland) so they’ll need to step up the bad in order to secure Luck. Even 4 wins is likely too many, so the early hole definitely doesn’t help. Depending on how McCown does in the coming games, a mid-season switch to Gabbart could give Jacksonville a huge advantage going forward. They’re still a heavy favorite in my mind.

Washington Redskins

Current Record:  1-0
Last Game:  Won 28-14 vs. New York Giants
Current Starter:  Rex Grossman
Last Game:  21-34, 305YDS, 2TD, 0INT, 110.5 QB Rating (1 Fumble Lost)

Summary:  I am far too stubborn to move Washington out of my #1 spot after Week 1. Really, how am I supposed to put any faith in Rex Grossman? He’s so bad! He can’t possibly play like this again! With a schedule that includes the NFC West, Miami, Buffalo, Carolina, and Minnesota; it might be too tall an order for them to overcome an unexpected victory over the Giants. I’m not calling it yet, but they’re definitely on life support.


  1. Sorry Miami, I was really hoping we could help you out. Stupid Henne forgot what his role on your team was. On a side note, what is the point of bringing in Reggie Bush if Henne almost never throws the check down!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Fantasy football curses I hurl upon him!!!

  2. Dude, Bush had over 20 points for me! He caught a bunch of passes! Take your eyes off your lover Tom Brady for a second and you'd see this too!

  3. I watched the game and I had his in my other league, He got me like 16, however it is my feeling that he should be the recipient of every catch. If he is open he deserves the ball, Brandon Marshall is too busy cramping and getting stabbed!!!!!! I expect 30 a game from Reggie!!!!!!!!!

    P.S. I don't want to take my eyes of Tom or his Ugg boots!!!!!!

  4. I know its a tough thing to do in football (unlike basketball)and too early to throw in the towel, but KC needs to trash the rest of the year. Matt Cassel is an ok QB, but they will never win anything with him. Plus, with the new cap, signing Luck would be cheaper than keeping Cassel. They can spend the extra money signing their young defense and would easily make a playoff run next year.

  5. Believe me Jeremy, I'm totally on board with this. I can't speak for the legions of irrational fans out there, but I'd much rather have my team bottom out and address root problems than endure a lengthy stretch of 6-8 win seasons. As we continually learn each and every year, you simply can't win in the NFL unless you have a top level QB. This Kansas City team would be a great mid 90's squad, but it's not going to work in this decade. Cassel, as you said, is completely and totally average. He's good enough to keep you out of the cellar, but not good enough to contend. That's not a good place to be.

  6. Furthermore, I think Andrew Luck is going to be the biggest "get" in the NFL since Peyton Manning in 1998. I know it seems like the hype is out of control, but I honestly think he's as sure a thing as Manning was coming out of Tennessee. Given the new rules, and given my opinion that he will be a stud from day 1, it's nearly impossible to calculate the value of having him at the relatively dirt cheap price that rookies come at in the new CBA. Imagine having Aaron Rodgers for 4 years at Jason Campbell price!

  7. Solid year for QB's next year. Landry Jones & his trash stache not going to be a bad 1B.

  8. Totally with you on Landry Jones. You gotta be impressed by his poise and confidence (not to mention ridiculous production) after being forced into action following Bradford's injury.

  9. I think the hype is bigger for Luck than Manning because when Manning came out there was serious consideration that Ryan Leaf was a better prospect. There is no such rival for Luck. I mean, Ryan Leaf!!!

  10. But...but...Ryan Leaf had such a big arm!

  11. Also, I got really happy when you pointed out that there is no Ryan Leaf in this draft. That's a very good thing.