Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Andrew Luck Sweepstakes -- Week 6 Update

This is actually the best possible result for Miami considering what happens when Matt Moore throws.
It must have been a quiet week at Andrew Luck’s dorm room, or whatever luxury apartment a booster is renting for him. With so many prime contenders on byes (Kansas City, Seattle, Arizona, Denver), there wasn’t much to be learned from Sunday’s action. As expected, all of our “contenders” dropped games against far superior opposition. This week, however, provides us with several prime matchups that could potentially shake this race to its very core. Not only that, it provides us with the most interesting subplot of the entire season.

I am, of course, referring to the ascendance of Tim Tebow. The circumstances surrounding this situation have certainly been a huge lightning rod for controversy. Several ESPN “experts” killing him here, a few zealous bloggers cheering him there, and an entire fan base begging for an opportunity to see what he can do has turned this completely irrelevant and non-impactful QB controversy into a huge national story. In terms of the playoff races, this switch has absolutely no bearing. In terms of the Andrew Luck race, however, this could be the most significant development to date. Let’s take a look at where things stand after Week 6:

Dropped Out:

Chicago Bears

Current Record:  3-3
Last Game:  Won 39-10 vs. Minnesota
Current Starter:  Jay Cutler
Last Game:  21-31, 267YDS, 2TD, 0INT, 115.9 QB Rating (1 Fumble Lost)

Summary:  With their thorough drubbing of the woeful Vikings, the Bears have effectively crowned themselves as ‘King of the Crap.’ Along with that glorious title, however, comes the realization that Andrew Luck is no longer in play. It’s not all bad though. Quietly, the much maligned Jay Cutler has gotten back on track and has posted an impressive 2 to 1 TD to INT ratio. That’s right, that Jay Cutler has only 4 INT’s through 6 games…despite being hit over 400 times! I’m still not buying them as anything more than a 7 or 8 win team, but considering that’s approximately 7 or 8 wins too much to get Luck, it’s only fair to drop them from the race.

Can’t decide if we’re in or out!

Philadelphia Eagles

Current Record:  2-4
Last Game:  Won 20-13 at Washington
Current Starter:  Michael Vick
Last Game:  18-31, 237YDS, 1TD, 1INT, 79.6 QB Rating (54 Yards Rushing)

Summary:  I probably should drop them based on the fact that there’s almost no chance of them losing the next 10 games, but did they really do enough against Washington to make anybody think they’ve “turned the corner?” The 20-3 halftime lead certainly looks great, but failing to put away a Bad Rex/John Beck led team in the second half is not encouraging. They continue to have baffling issues on short yardage situations and in the red zone. Until they solve some of those problems, they’ll likely continue to disappoint. If that weren’t enough, the fact that Michael Vick continues to get knocked out of games has to be absolutely terrifying to Eagles fans. At some point, he’s going to suffer more than a minor injury. What happens then? Vince Young? Mike Kafka? Broken back David Garrard? As tough as it is to envision Philly missing the playoffs, there are an awful lot of things that can go terribly wrong and their margin for error is paper thin.

We’re going the wrong way!!!

Kansas City Chiefs

Current Record:  2-3
Last Game:  Bye
Current Starter:  Matt Cassel
Last Game:  Bye

Summary:  Perhaps no team in this epic race needed a bye more than Kansas City. After an unfortunate string of devastating victories, the Chiefs need to get back on the losing track because they have a lot of ground to make up. Unless, of course, they expect to make the playoffs…HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

The Charlie Whitehurst Division

Seattle Seahawks

Current Record:  2-3
Last Game:  Bye
Injured Starter:  Tarvaris Jackson
Last Game:  Bye
“Should Be” Starter:  Charlie Whitehurst
Last Game:  Bye

Summary:  This is certainly a shock to see them all the way up here, but they have far too many handicaps to overcome in this race. For starters, the injury to Tarvaris Jackson is an absolute killer. His ineptitude was a huge reason they were considered serious contenders. If the 4th quarter of the Giants game is any indicator, Charlie Whitehurst will be far too productive to keep them in the race. Couple that with four remaining cupcake games (Browns, Rams, Rams, Cardinals) and their incredible home field advantage and you have a surefire recipe for 6 or even 7 wins. Then again, maybe they’ll put Tarvaris back in the lineup…

Quietly shopping for Andrew Luck game film

Cleveland Browns

Current Record:  2-3
Last Game:  Lost 17-24 at Oakland
Current Starter:  Colt McCoy
Last Game:  21-45, 215YDS, 2TD, 0INT, 75.7 QB Rating (1 Fumble Lost)

Summary:  Browns fans are quickly losing faith in Colt McCoy and I have to admit, I might be as well. The TD-INT ratio is great and all, but you kinda have to complete a few passes here and there in order to win games. 21-45 for an “accurate, game-manager” type QB is not even close to adequate. We can talk about his lack of offensive weapons all day long, but 55.8% completions and 5.53 Y/A are unacceptable no matter who you’re throwing the ball to. It’s not as if other guys haven’t succeeded with a less than average supporting cast. Tom Brady was outstanding early in his career while throwing to David Patten, David Givens, and an aged Troy Brown. Donovan McNabb was excellent early in his career despite having Freddie freaking Mitchell as one of his primary targets! Nobody’s expecting McCoy to set the world on fire right now, but his current performance just isn’t going to cut it. Still, a victory over Seattle on Sunday would get them to 3-3, and would probably push them out of the Luck Sweepstakes for good. If McCoy figures it out and takes a step forward, that’s not a big deal. If he doesn’t, then Browns fans have to suffer yet another period of rebuilding.

So, maybe we’re not as good as we thought?

Carolina Panthers

Current Record:  1-5
Last Game:  Lost 17-31 at Atlanta
Current Starter:  Cam Newton
Last Game:  21-35, 237YDS, 0TD, 3INT, 44.6 QB Rating (50 Rushing Yards, 1TD)

Summary:   Whew! Man am I glad I stuck to my “wait till after Week 6” guns on making a Cam Newton judgment. Remember, one bad game doesn’t mean I get to wring my hands and declare victory over Newton. It just means that the questions, concerns, and criticisms levied on him are still on the table. He’s certainly outperformed my expectations…and it’s not even close. Considering where the Panthers were last year, he’s done a marvelous job of making them competitive. Still, along with the praise comes the reality that Newton is completing fewer than 60% of his passes, has a QB Rating under 80, and leads the NFL in INT’s with 9. Those are exactly the problem areas that everyone was so concerned about heading into this year. He obviously has talent and ability, but accuracy is not easily gained. Many talented QB’s throughout history never overcome that problem. Time will tell if he’s more than a less suicidal version of Vince Young or not. As for the Panthers, losing these games is NOT a terrible thing. Sure, you’d like your young team to gain some confidence from positive late game experiences, but there biggest problem is lack of personnel. Honestly, getting another top five pick would be the best thing for them.

The Contenders

Arizona Cardinals

Current Record:  1-4
Last Game:  Bye
Current Starter:  Kevin Kolb
Last Game:  Bye

Summary:  It feels wrong to put Arizona ahead of Minnesota after what the Vikings did to them two weeks ago, but the QB change and Arizona’s two remaining games against the Rams have forced my hand. Don’t get me wrong, I still hate them. I hate the team, I hate the QB, I hate the whole situation. They’re going to lose anywhere from 11-13 games this year and I wouldn’t be surprised if they look to add a QB in the offseason. In looking through this list however, I can’t justify putting them below any of the other teams. They have upcoming games against the Steelers and Ravens, so we’ll see how I feel about them after those blowouts.

Minnesota Vikings

Current Record:  1-5
Last Game:  Lost 10-39 at Chicago
Current Starter:  Christian Ponder
Last Game:  9-17, 99YDS, 0TD, 0INT, 70.5 QB Rating

Summary:  The Vikings have finally seen enough of Donovan McNabb and have officially pulled the plug on the season. To be quite honest, I’m absolutely shocked they’re 1-5. I don’t understand how a team can look so good at times (building huge leads against good teams) and end up where they are now. It’s absolutely unfathomable. At this juncture, Minnesota is smart to see what they have in Ponder, but throwing him to the wolves against Green Bay might not be the wisest idea. Several analysts have commented on how “overmatched” and “unprepared” Ponder looked in the preseason, when the Vikings severely dumbed down the offense to help him out. So basically, this has disaster written all over it. The risk here is that you kill Ponder’s confidence and don’t get a good enough read on what you have going forward. If it were me, I’d have done this two weeks ago against Arizona, but it’s obviously too late now. Since that’s not an option, it makes a lot of sense to wait one more week and start him off with Carolina, followed by the bye week. Either way, a midseason panic switch to a woefully unprepared rookie QB is an excellent way to lose a lot of games, and Minnesota is sure to do that. Unfortunately, none of the zero win teams is on the schedule, so they’ll need some help.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Current Record:  1-5
Last Game:  Lost 13-17 at Pittsburgh
Current Starter:  Blaine Gabbart (Still spelled wrong)
Last Game:  12-26, 109YDS, 1TD, 0INT, 70.8 QB Rating

Summary:  I’m still trying to figure out how they avoided losing by 30 points, but they somehow did. Not that I’m giving them a ton of credit for it, but they’ve found ways to keep games competitive despite watching their “QB of the Future” complete a laughable 48.8% of his passes. Even Mark Sanchez thinks that’s bad! For the most part, they have a brutal schedule the rest of the way that ensures a horrific record, but their two showdowns with Indianapolis will be the true determinant of where they end up in this race.

Denver Broncos

Current Record:  1-4
Last Game:  Bye
Savior:  Tim Tebow
Last Game:  Bye

Summary:  It is officially Tim Tebow Time! The idiotic trade of Brandon Lloyd certainly puts a damper on things, but I honestly and truly believe Tebow is going to drive this team to respectability. Obviously they’ll lose their fair share of games, but there’s a lot to be said for how the team responded to him at the end of the San Diego game. The return of Demaryius Thomas could be a much bigger deal than people realize as he gives Tebow the type of big, dynamic threat he will need to succeed. It doesn’t matter whether you’re pro-Tebow or anti-Tebow. It’ll be interesting, and you’ll be watching.

St. Louis Rams

Current Record:  0-5
Last Game:  Lost 3-24 at Green Bay
Current Starter:  Sam Bradford
Last Game:  28-44, 321YDS, 0TD, 1INT, 76.0 QB Rating

Summary:  There’s not much left to say about this Rams team. The addition of Brandon Lloyd should definitely help, considering the state of their WR corpse (and yes, I did that on purpose), but it won’t fundamentally change anything unless they figure out a way to protect Bradford. To date, poor Bradford has taken an astounding 46 hits (double digits in 3 games!) and been sacked a league leading 22 times. Can you really blame him for being so skittish in the pocket? The guy is gonna die before the year is over! While it still seems likely they’ll grab a few wins against Arizona and Seattle, the dream of a division title is long dead, replaced by the dream of drafting an offensive lineman with a pulse.

Indianapolis Colts

Current Record:  0-6
Last Game:  Lost 17-27 at Cincinnati
Current Starter:  Curtis Painter
Last Game:  23-34, 188YDS, 1TD, 1INT, 79.0 QB Rating

Summary:  Good to have you back, Curtis Painter! The Colts rode 3 horrible turnovers to yet another disappointing loss. The worst part is that Indianapolis just went 0-6 in the easy part of their schedule. If you can’t get a single victory against Cleveland, Kansas City, or Cincinnati; how do you think they’ll perform against New Orleans, New England, and Baltimore? There have been some mixed signals on Curtis Painter (mediocre/lucky game, good game, then bad game) but I’d be willing to bet that Sunday’s Curtis Painter is much more realistic than the Painter of two weeks ago. With him “performing” at this level, the Colts will be lucky to grab more than 1 or 2 wins this year.

Miami Dolphins

Current Record:  0-5
Last Game:  Lost 6-24 at New York Jets
Starter:  Matt Moore
Last Game:  16-34, 204YDS, 0TD, 2INT, 41.8 QB Rating

Summary:  Wow this team is ungodly bad! The Dolphins were 2-13 on 3rd down, fumbled the ball 5 times (losing just), committed 3 turnovers, and scored just 6 points despite 308 total yards and only 10 penalty yards. That’s hard to do! I’m being totally honest when I say that I don’t see how they get ANY wins this year with Matt Moore playing QB. It takes a special kind of awful for anybody to consider Sage Rosenfels a huge upgrade. I do wonder if Miami is doing this on purpose now. I mean, when you start Matt Moore and refuse to address a toxic coaching situation, what else am I supposed to think? They have Denver this week and Kansas City in Week 9…other than that there are no winnable games on the schedule. 0-16 is not just in play, it’s likely.

Games Andrew Luck might want to watch this week:

Washington at Carolina – It took a few more weeks than I thought, but Rex Grossman finally turned into a pumpkin on Sunday. Even though Washington is not currently in the race, it doesn’t mean they can’t get back in. The real reason we’re watching this one, though, is for Cam Newton. He had his first truly horrible game last week and it will be interesting to see how he responds. If it’s bad, then Carolina could really be a prime contender.

Seattle at Cleveland – Hard to believe, but the winner of this game gets to 3-3. So basically, this is an elimination game. Keep your eye on this one, Andrew!

Denver at Miami – Not only should Andrew Luck watch this one, he should DVR it and break it down like he was preparing for Oregon. As I’ve already detailed, Miami is the absolute favorite in this race. This represents one of their last true opportunities to get a win. Oh yeah, and there’s also the Tebow thing. One game won’t tell the whole story, but we’ll at least get an idea of where this team is headed. Don’t miss this one!

St. Louis at Dallas – I can’t believe it’s come to this, but a Dallas loss forces me to put them on the list. The worst part is that I can absolutely envision them handing the Rams their first win. Why in the world do I keep watching???

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