Archive for September 24, 2012

Replacement referees. Concussions and medical trauma. Blockbuster trades. Rookie expectations. These are only a few of the headlines that have represented the start of the 2012 season. There are a lot of things to get people excited, but this has been a turbulent start (even without a lockout).

Brusin’ USA

While the issue was not a new one, medical concerns have plagued many sports worldwide, but none more than the football. The game includes significant injury risks and long-term effects that it brought together a number of current and past players to petition the NFL for better medical coverage during last year’s lockout. The conversation did not stop and will probably continue to expand with the most recent rash of monster hits and injuries. The head shots are the most deadly of the collisions, and yesterday was a good example of why current and former players care so much. Attempting to catch a TD pass, Darrius Heyward-Bey was demolished by two Steelers defenders and was knocked unconscious before he hit the ground. Though he eventually raised a thumbs up while getting taken out on the stretcher, this epitomized the need to balance out the need for safety with the desire to maintain the legitimacy of the game.

The Zebras Changed Their Stripes

With compensation issues plaguing the NFL referees, the league locked them out and replaced them with representatives from the college game. This included referees at multiple levels of the college game. After only watching some of the preseason games, it was clear that these referees were qualified to fill in temporarily but not long term. Calls have been missed. Explanations have been lacking. Everyone is getting frustrated. There have been illegal hits that have gone uncalled. Pass interference calls have been thrown for actions that look nothing like interference. The big concerns have been that bad calls, particularly at the end of games, could be costing teams wins. In week 3, the Redskins found themselves in a similar situation to the previous week. They had gotten themselves in a position to tie or win the game but penalties shattered those chances. In week 2, an offsetting personal foul situation was only assessed to the Skins and took them out of range for the game-tying field goal. Yesterday, they collapsed when a false start caused Bengals coach Marvin Lewis to assume the game was over and walk out on the field. Kyle Shanahan yelled for the referee’s attention and got flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty, pushing RGIII out of range of a hail mary pass. Goodell has no real incentive to end the lockout anytime soon because people will still watch the games, but they will just complain about it. The players would need to speak up about the danger factor of the replacement referees’ and make concessions to support the real refs’ demands.

Manning Moves and Tebow Sits

The Denver Broncos made history when they landed the biggest prospect of the summer…Peyton Manning. Though he was coming off a set of surgeries and had not played for a year, he was Peyton and the Broncos were looking for a more stable style of play at quarterback. The conversations then became whether Peyton could take a hit or even win a game. While there have been moments where he has fallen apart in games, he has actually looked mostly okay. He is getting back the awareness and starting to create some consistency with his offense.

Then there was Tebow…With no room left for two big name QBs, Tebow got shipped off to the Jets. This marked the first time that a rookie quarterback who won a playoff game was traded the following year. The move meant two big things: controversy for the quarterback race and how would the Jets want to use him. With the exception of a couple of plays, Tebow has been riding the bench. There are calls to bring him in for the under-productive Sanchez, but it will at least be a couple more weeks.

Shining Young Stars

RGIII versus Andrew Luck…While there was a preseason matchup, their performance in the regular season has started to get them recognition. Both QBs have been producing with limited offensive weapons and against some strong teams. Though the two quarterbacks have only won 1 game apiece, they have brought back the excitement to both cities. RGIII has been particularly incredible to watch. He is the leading rusher on the team, which is now the team with the 2nd highest rushing yards in the league. He has also shown that he has great field vision and accuracy. There is a fear that the Redskins have failed to put the talent around him and he could be easily broken before the end of the season.

The other three rookies that also started in week 1 have been a mix of talent. Russell Wilson was not predicted to start the season but won the starting job with his play in the preseason. Last week, he defeated a talented Dallas team that has a good shot at the NFC East. The NFC West is now a battle with the Seahawks able to go up against the assumed strength of the 49ers. Ryan Tannehill was a guy that the Dolphins were almost forced to take after failing multiple times during the offseason to snag a talented veteran. He has struggled significantly but did pick up a win in week 2. The odd QB out so far has been Brandon Weeden. The Browns are one of the abysmal teams in the league for several years, but there was hope with a new QB and Trent Richardson. He is getting a little production, but there is just a lack of wide receiver talent and blocking at this point.

Cyclone of Standings

When finishing week 3, it is probably surprising to hear that the Saints are winless. After allowing RGIII to have his great debut and dropping the first division game to the Panthers, it was believed that the ailing Chiefs were their ticket to their first win of the season. They instead blew a 24-6 lead and were stunned as Succop kicked the winning field goal.

So who are the 3-0 teams? Atlanta is not a surprise in this position, as they have Matt Ryan and his wide receivers running on all cylinders. Arizona was a surprise winner in week 2 over the Patriots, but their defense has been a big reason for their success. It was believed that their struggles between Kolb and Skelton would be too much to overcome, but the team has rallied to completely decimate Vick and the Eagles. Houston is the only AFC team in this conversation, but they look like the real deal too. They were a contender last year, even when Schaub went down. This year, they return with the run game of Foster and the arm of Schaub.

On the other side, only Cleveland joins the Saints at the bottom of the barrel. No one is predicting the Browns to make the playoffs, but the Saints were still a potential contender. The NFC South is not a strong overall division outside of the Falcons. Similarly, the Patriots, Steelers and Lions are all sitting at 1-2. This is quite surprising unless you look a little closer. The Patriots losses are to a strong defensive Arizona team and a juggernaut in Baltimore. The Steelers dropped one to a resurgent Manning but did struggle against a bottom feeder Oakland. The Lions’s struggle against the 49ers is no surprise, but their loss to the Titans was a mystery. They gave up significant yards and points when they are supposed to be a team set on defensive strength (and this year without significant defensive injuries coming into the season).

The rookie-led teams are currently only a combined record of 4-10.


I will come back in another couple of weeks with another look at the progression of the season.