Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Andrew Luck Sweepstakes -- Week 4 Update

Wait...what are you doing here, Michael Vick?
It seems like it’s becoming increasingly difficult to predict the NFL, and the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes is no different. Several top contenders have surprised us all spurning the riches that come from landing a QB like Andrew Luck. Still, some of our preseason favorites have chosen to remain in contention, and a clear hierarchy has established itself in this ongoing battle. Let’s see where things stand after 4 weeks of play.
As usual, there are some comings and goings to deal with. Two teams left us last week, one of which was a strong preseason contender. This week, three more head out the door, including the odds on favorite to start the season. Believe me; I’m just as surprised as you are.  However, even as we wave goodbye to old friend, we welcome in a new one…one that is as surprisingly bad as the Redskins are surprisingly good. How long this team will stay is yet to be determined, but I would suggest they enjoy their time while they have it. Let’s get to the rankings.

Dropped Out:

San Francisco 49ers

Current Record:  3-1
Last Game:  Won 24-23 at Philadelphia
Current Starter:  Alex Smith
Last Game:  21-33, 291YDS, 2TD, 0INT, 112.1 QB Rating (1 Fumble Lost)
QB of the Future:  Colin Kaepernick
Last Game:  DNP

Summary:  While I can’t say I’m shocked to see them fall out of the race, I’m certainly a bit stunned to see it happen after Week 4. After all, any team with Alex Smith at the helm should theoretically be in prime position to stay in contention. Alas Jim Harbaugh, you were too good a coach to land your protégé. In all seriousness, people have been hyping up the 49ers for years, and for years they’ve been falling well short of expectations. Given their untenable coaching situations in the past, it makes sense that they would finally make that leap when headed by a competent football man. What doesn’t make sense is Alex Smith performing well on the road against a tough Eagles defense. Just a caution for 49ers fans…all three of your wins are suspect. Punt returns in Week 1, close (and very ugly) win over Cincy in Week 3, and a massive comeback in Week 4. Of course, with 5 more against NFC West opponents, I’m not sure any of that matters. Farewell 49ers! Enjoy a future of Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick (and 1st round playoff losses).

Tennessee Titans

Current Record:  3-1
Last Game:  Won 31-13 at Cleveland
Current Starter:  Matt Hasselbeck
Last Game:  10-20, 220YDS, 3TD, 1INT, 108.3 QB Rating
QB of the Future:  Jake Locker
Last Game:  0-1, 0YDS, 39.6 QB Rating

Summary:  Not that I’m terribly impressed with a win over Cleveland, but a convincing victory such as this one gives me the idea that Tennessee is capable of taking care of business in games they should win. That, my friends, is certainly not a recipe for Luck-cess. Despite the absence of Kenny Britt, Matt Hasselbeck threw the ball fairly well. Perhaps more importantly for the Titans, Chris Johnson awoke from his month long slumber to post 101 yards. Given their remaining schedule (2 against the Colts, 1 more against Jacksonville), it’s much more likely that Tennessee will win the division rather than the Sweepstakes.

Washington Redskins

Current Record:  3-1
Last Game:  Won 17-10 at St. Louis
Current Starter:  Rex Grossman
Last Game:  15-29, 143YDS, 1TD, 2INT, 48.5 QB Rating

Summary:  Through no fault of Rex Grossman, who looked very much like Rex Grossman, the preseason favorite for Andrew Luck is out of the race after only 4 weeks. You might think I would be devastated at these developments given my confidence in the Redskins ineptitude. Well, you’d be wrong. I would much rather botch this pick than see the hated Redskins land a real QB. Having said that, I still won’t be surprised if the ‘Skins climb back into the back end of these rankings. Seriously, just look at Grossman’s numbers! How can they win?!?!? Hey Washington, good luck with Rex Grossman and John Beck for the next few years. Hope you enjoy your 7 win season.

Special note to Chris Cooley: Please go jump off the Capitol building. Thank you.

Late Arriving X-Factor’s

Philadelphia Eagles

Current Record:  1-3
Last Game:  Lost 23-24 vs. San Francisco
Current Starter:  Michael Vick
Last Game:  30-46, 416YDS, 2TD, 1INT, 99.5 QB Rating (75YDS Rushing)

Summary:  Umm…what is going on here? I kinda figured Philly would be slightly disappointing, but certainly not to this level. At 1-3, the Eagles are already looking at some must win games coming up, starting with a tough one at Buffalo. With games against Washington, Dallas, Chicago, the Giants, and New England coming up in the 6 weeks after that, the Eagles could be in some serious trouble.  Considering all the “Dream Team” talk heading into the season, you have to wonder whether the pressure to live up to the hype is affecting them. Either way, last week’s loss against San Francisco has to be particularly disturbing. Michael Vick played extremely well, the Eagles built up a sizable early lead, and then the wheels came off. For one, how do you only give the ball to LeSean McCoy 9 times? The guy is a yardage machine! For another, how does a secondary consisting of Asomugha, Samuel, and Rodgers-Cromartie allow Alex Smith to torch them through the air? I would still be surprised if they don’t reach 9 or 10 wins, but the seeds of doubt are firmly planted.

Can’t decide if we’re in or out!

Chicago Bears

Current Record:  2-2
Last Game:  Won 34-29 vs. Carolina
Current Starter:  Jay Cutler
Last Game:  9-17, 102YDS, 0TD, 1INT, 46.7 QB Rating

Summary:  Yeah, they got the win against Carolina, but the results were as misleading and fluky as possible. In true Chicago Bear fashion, the team was thoroughly outplayed by Carolina for the majority of the game, winning only because of defensive touchdown and a special teams touchdown. I really don’t know how they continue to pull off these miracles, but they have to stop eventually. When it does, there’s no doubt that Chicago will pile up the losses quick. For whatever reason (offensive line, lack of receivers, alcohol), Jay Cutler has continued to regress. At this point, he’s on a Rex Grossman level, which has to be scarring for all Bears fans. Unless something clicks with him, I think it’s likely the Bears lose 10 or more games.

Oakland Raiders

Current Record:  2-2
Last Game:  Lost 19-31 vs. New England
Current Starter:  Jason Campbell
Last Game:  25-39, 344YDS, 1TD, 2INT, 79.4 QB Rating

Summary:  There’s no shame in losing to New England, especially when you’re able to hang in the game through the first half. Once again, the Raiders running game was extremely strong, and that allowed them to win the Time of Possession, something the Patriots are notorious for dominating. Unfortunately, the Raiders got a firsthand glimpse at why this team will never go anywhere with Jason Campbell at QB. After falling behind, the Raiders were forced to rely heavily on Campbell’s arm to get them back in the game. Look, Campbell certainly isn’t the worst QB in the league, but he’s nothing more than a game manager. Asking Campbell to put the team on his shoulders and expecting success is akin to replacing Leonardo DiCaprio with Ben Stiller and expecting Stiller to carry the movie. It’s just not going to work…and we saw that when Campbell unleashed one of the most inexplicable interceptions I’ve ever seen in my life. As long as they don’t fall behind, Oakland is alright. That’s a fine recipe for 7 wins.

The Young Guns

Cincinnati Bengals

Current Record:  2-2
Last Game:  Won 23-20 vs. Buffalo
Current Starter:  Andy Dalton
Last Game:  18-36, 298YDS, 1TD, 2INT, 64.4 QB Rating (1 Rushing TD)

Summary:  So, is Andy Dalton good or not? He looked completely horrible in the first half, spotting the Bills a 17-3 half time lead. Then, inexplicably, he exploded in the 2nd half and led the Bengals to a surprising come-from-behind victory. That’s pretty much been an amalgam of his season though. One minute he looks like he might be a quality NFL QB, the next he looks like the designated QB in a local flag football game. Regardless, the Bengals have a surprising amount of talent for a Mike Brown owned team. Rookie WR A.J. Green has more than lived up to the hype, guaranteeing the Bengals at least one big play per game. Even more surprising, the defense has been incredible. Through four games, the Bengals rank 1st in total defense. I doubt that holds up over the remaining 12 games, but it’s pretty clear that this team is far better than everyone originally thought. With their next three against Jacksonville, Indianapolis, and Seattle; the Bengals have a huge opportunity to get something going. Of course, that probably means a horrific 3 game collapse that sees Cedric Benson break A.J. Green’s knee cap over a “friendly” game of Madden.

Carolina Panthers

Current Record:  1-3
Last Game:  Lost 29-34
Current Starter:  Cam Newton
Last Game:  27-46, 374YDS, 1TD, 1INT, 83.1 QB Rating (2 Rushing TD’s)

Summary:   Four games into the season and Cam Newton has been pretty darn good. Considering that Newton had almost no practice time before the season to learn the offense and get comfortable with the NFL game, you have to be extremely impressed by his play so far. I’m gonna withhold final judgment until after 6 games, but I’m thinking I was waaaaaay off on Newton. He faced a solid Chicago defense, there’s plenty of tape on him at this point, and he still went out and carried his team. Of course, the problem is that Carolina is still losing. Close or not, a loss is a loss. Their remaining schedule doesn’t hold much promise, with 10 of their final 12 opponents having a record of .500 or better. By the end of this season, we might be talking about Carolina as the best 4 or 5 win team of all time!

Andrew Luck’s Secret Admirers

Cleveland Browns

Current Record:  2-2
Last Game:  Lost 13-31 vs. Tennessee
Current Starter:  Colt McCoy
Last Game:  40-61, 350YDS, 1TD, 1INT, 79.3 QB Rating

Summary:  We’ve been wondering what the deal is with Cleveland all year, and I think we might have gotten our answer on Sunday. They’re bad. Still. Despite a brutal Week 1 loss to Cincinnati, the Browns had a golden opportunity to get to 3-1 and set the stage for a pretty decent season. Had they beaten Tennessee, we would all be singing Colt McCoy’s praises and talking about the up-and-coming Browns as a possible sleeper in the AFC North. Instead, we’re left to question the “Browns made progress in 2010” line of thinking. Receivers or no receivers, Colt McCoy’s inability to get the ball downfield is difficult to comprehend, and it has to make you question whether he’s truly “The Answer.” While I still hold out faith for his future, it’s pretty clear that this team is in no position to win right now. Throw in Peyton Hillis’ current illness/contract issues and you have a situation that is downright toxic. The remaining schedule is a piece of cake, but I have no confidence in Cleveland to take advantage of it. Back to the drawing board.

Arizona Cardinals

Current Record:  1-3
Last Game:  Lost 27-31 vs. New York Giants
Current Starter:  Kevin Kolb
Last Game:  20-34, 237YDS, 0TD, 1INT, 67.9 QB Rating

Summary:  Whaddya know, Kevin Kolb sucks again! Shocking. Arizona can make all the excuses they want about the controversial Victor Cruz play, but they just aren’t a very good football team. The defense has proven to be completely inept, and Kevin Kolb is apparently not that huge of an improvement over Derohn Skelterson. Good thing you didn’t give him all that money to be your long term solution! Wait…(by the way, Arizona, it’s not too late to tank the season!)

The “I Hate Tarvaris Jackson” Division

Seattle Seahawks

Current Record:  1-3
Last Game:  Lost 28-30 vs. Atlanta
Current Starter:  Tarvaris Jackson
Last Game:  25-38, 319YDS, 3TD, 2INT, 96.3 QB Rating

Summary:  OK, so it’s time to pull the Charlie Whitehurst thing off here. Please note, however, that I still think Whitehurst will be the starter at some point during the season. Also note that I think Seattle is bad enough to win the Sweepstakes. So why aren’t they in The Contenders category? Well, they simply have too many handicaps to overcome. For one, the Whitehurst thing still plays into my decision. Considering T-Jax is still starting though, it’s factoring in less and less as the weeks roll by. Another thing is the division…obviously. Finally, their home field advantage is actually a huge DIS-advantage. As is usually the case, Seattle will probably pull out 2 or 3 random, unexpected victories at home due to a fan initiated earthquake causing the ground to open up and swallow the other teams starting QB.

The Contenders

St. Louis Rams

Current Record:  0-4
Last Game:  Lost 10-17 vs. Washington
Current Starter:  Sam Bradford
Last Game:  20-43, 164YDS, 1TD, 0INT, 64.5 QB Rating (1 Fumble Lost)

Summary:  Normally I’d hold my ground on something like and avoid being a prisoner of the moment. Seriously though, St. Louis looks awful. Just plain awful. Poor Sam Bradford is getting killed each and every week, and they’re just not going to win until they can figure out a way to get him some time…ANY time. Most people would probably have them as one of the top 3 favorites, but it’s important to remember that their four losses have come to three 3-1 teams and a healthy Eagles team in Week 1. That’s a gauntlet, so the bad start isn’t shocking. The next three are against Green Bay, Dallas, and New Orleans so an 0-7 start seems somewhat likely. After that, however, they only play one team that had a winning record in 2010. Somewhere along the way, they’ll start eking out wins against the likes of Seattle or Arizona, and they’ll end up with 4 or 5 wins. That’s pretty bad for a team that was predicted to win their division, but it’s not bad enough to land the #1 pick. (Which they would obviously trade anyways)

Kansas City Chiefs

Current Record:  1-3
Last Game:  Won 22-17 vs. Minnesota
Current Starter:  Matt Cassel
Last Game:  18-29, 260YDS, 1TD, 0INT, 102.7 QB Rating

Summary:  What a tough blow for Kansas City’s chances. After being outscored 549-10 in their first 2 games, it appeared as if Kansas City was the clear favorite for Andrew Luck. Now, they’re coming off two straight solid performances, including a win in Minnesota. With so many other winless teams remaining, this gives them a significant disadvantage going forward. Matt Cassel has come out of nowhere to be mediocre once again, and that won’t bode well in upcoming games against Indianapolis, Oakland, and Denver. The Denver games, in particular, should be fascinating as both teams should be vying for the services of Andrew Luck.

Minnesota Vikings

Current Record:  0-4
Last Game:  Lost 17-22 vs. Kansas City
Current Starter:  Donovan McNabb
Last Game:  18-30, 202YDS, 2TD, 1INT, 88.5 QB Rating
QB of the Future:  Christian Ponder
Last Game:  DNP

Summary:  Like last week, I planned on ranking them higher, but I can’t justify putting them ahead of either Denver or Jacksonville. I still think back to those big first half leads against Tampa Bay, San Diego, and Detroit and wonder how the Vikings could possibly lose enough games to get Luck. No, McNabb isn’t what he used to be, but he’s nowhere near as bad as Gabbert, Painter, or anybody Miami has. Still, if Minnesota somehow loses to Arizona this week, true hope will abound in Minnesota. At 0-5, the Vikings will almost assuredly turn to Christian Ponder. Somehow, I doubt he’ll respond well to a brutal late season schedule that has them on the road against Green Bay, Chicago, Carolina, Atlanta, Detroit, and Washington. The home games against Green Bay and New Orleans won’t be much easier.

Denver Broncos

Current Record:  1-3
Last Game:  Lost 23-49 at Green Bay
Current Starter:  Kyle Orton
Last Game:  22-32, 273YDS, 3TD, 3INT, 87.1 QB Rating

Summary:  The fact that Denver ranks no better than 4th on this list is a true testament to how awful the next 3 teams are. Of course, Denver staying out of the basement is definitely an iffy proposition at best. Denver has yet to look good through 4 weeks of foot ball, and Kyle Orton’s latest suck-fest throws even more gasoline on a raging Tim Tebow forest fire. The Broncos return home this week to face San Diego, and all signs point to another blow out. If that does indeed occur, it would not be at all surprising to see Denver make a switch heading into their Week 6 bye. That’s when things get REALLY interesting. A switch to Brady Quinn would only serve to further infuriate their fan base, and could lead to an all out riot in Denver. A long overdue switch to Tebow could give them their QB of the future…or it could deliver Andrew Luck. Either way, Tebow is guaranteed to be the savior that Josh McDaniels promised.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Current Record:  1-3
Last Game:  Lost 10-23 vs. New Orleans
Current Starter:  Blaine Gabbart (Still spelled wrong)
Last Game:  16-42, 196YDS, 1TD, 1INT, 51.3 QB Rating

Summary:  Jacksonville drops a spot in the rankings thanks to Miami’s QB situation and their 1 win blemish. As predicted, Blaine Gabbart was so bad in his first “real” career start (not counting Monsoon Game) that I will continue to spell his name wrong. In fact, 16-42 passing is so mind-blowingly (not a real word) bad that I’m going to spell his name even more wrong than I already was. May I introduce, Blane Gabart. Keep up the good work Blane and you’ll eventually devolve into a serial number.

Indianapolis Colts

Current Record:  0-4
Last Game:  Lost 17-24 vs. Tampa Bay
Current Starter:  Kerry Collins
Last Game:  DNP (Injury…old)
Also in the Mix:  Curtis Painter
Last Game:  13-30, 281YDS, 2TD, 0INT, 99.4 QB Rating (1 Fumble Lost)

Summary:  Please, don’t assume that I’m elevating the Colts because I was impressed with Curtis Painter. I didn’t watch the game, but I heard enough respected opinions that I feel confident in thinking Painter’s “performance” was nothing more than luck. The fact that he was only 13-30 passing says a lot about his ability. Still, the Colts have put up strong fights in their last three games, and they’re bound to break through at some point. They face Kansas City this week and they have two against Jacksonville. One of those has to be a win, right? At this point, one whole win might be enough to lose the Luck race to the…

Miami Dolphins

Current Record:  0-4
Last Game:  16-26 vs. San Diego
Current Starter:  Chad Henne
Last Game:  3-4, 27YDS, 0TD, 1INT, 53.1 QB Rating (Injured)
New Starter:  Matt Moore
Last Game:  17-26, 167YDS, 0TD, 1INT, 67.3 QB Rating

Summary:  Does everybody remember Matt Moore? You know, the guy who replaced Jake Delhomme in Carolina last year and somehow managed to be even worse? Yeah, that Matt Moore. He’s Miami’s new starter after a potential season ending shoulder injury to Chad Henne. Look, it’s not like Henne was that good to begin with, but when you’re talking about a guy who was significantly worse than Jake Delhomme…well, I don’t see how this ends in any wins. Shy of Miami trading for Kyle Orton or signing David Garrard, they’re easily the favorite for Andrew Luck.  Congratulations on winning something, Miami.

Games Andrew Luck might want to watch this week:

Cincinnati at Jacksonville – Hard to believe, but Cincinnati has a chance to all but eliminate themselves from the race. On the flip side, a slip up from Jacksonville would be catastrophic considering they’ll be dooming themselves to a future of Blane Gabart.

Philadelphia at Buffalo – Not really a game of contenders, but interesting nonetheless. A 1-4 start by the Eagles would be an interesting development in this race, while another Buffalo loss could help fuel a return to the rankings.

Kansas City at Indianapolis – Here’s the gem of the week! A Colts victory really throws a wrench in this thing and gives Miami a huge upper hand. I wouldn’t be surprised if Luck is getting constant scoring (or turnover) updates on this one.

Arizona at Minnesota – Even at 0-4, I’m having problems taking the Vikings seriously as contenders. A loss here though, and they could vault to the Miami portion of the rankings.

San Diego at Denver – Another blowout here and things turn upside down in Denver. Both Andrew Luck and I will be watching this game closely to see if/when a QB change is made and if/when Tebow gets his opportunity. If things go as planned, Denver could definitely cement themselves as long term candidates in this chase.


  1. Hey! I finally solved the issue that was disabling me from commenting on your blog for the last week+ (Blogger randonly changed their 3rd party cookies policy)... so, you can expect an overflow of comments inspired by a week's worth of brewing anger!!! Ok, so maybe not... let's just say I would have commented a lot more over the last week, but I'm too lazy to go back and remember all the insults I planned on slinging your way! Go 9ers!!

  2. Are you talking about the insults you would sling at me for praising your team?

  3. Tennessee might not be in as much trouble in this race as it seems...if you looks at Chris Johnson's stats, a large amount of his rushing yards came on 2 big plays or in garbage time when they were just running out the clock...and my browns were sucking.

  4. Yeah but 3 wins...that honestly might be too much to overcome with the Colts and Dolphins leading the way.

  5. valid, I's hard to believe it's possible to outSUCK Chad Henne...and yes, I know how awkwardly I phrased that-I feel like the fighting J-Lo's deserve it.

  6. I'm not sure how to respond to your Chad Henne comment...