Ladies and Gentlemen!
Once again, I am proud to present to you today - your weekly How'd They Do post! For the second week in a row, I have the honor of bringing it to you right here, on the front page. And I'm still excited about that!
But this post isn't about me. Instead, it is about the last three teams we have faced and the next three teams we will face, evaluating their performance from this past Sunday. Supported by some stats (courtesy mainly of NFL.com) and a lot of opinion, let's see how the teams that matter to us did against the rest of the league. So How'd They Do? Jump in and find out!
Pittsburgh's Next Three Opponents
When will we play them? Next Week (Week 7)
The Game: 23-20 away against the Green Bay Packers
The Standout: Cameron Wake - 3 tackles (all solo), 3.0 sacks
Promising: The Run Game - 39 attempts, 150 yards, 3.8 y/c, only 2 tackles for loss (8 yards lost)
Look the other way: Defense to end the 4th quarter - caught with their pants down as Aaron Rodgers tied the game with 16 seconds left.
What happened: This Dolphins team continues to baffle me. They played on the road for the third time this season, and no home team has been able to figure them out - Miami is 3-0 away from home right now. For this game, they relied on a strong running game as well as excellent balance on offense: QB Chad Henne threw the ball exactly as many times (39) as the Dolphins had rushing attempts. Further, Brandon Marshall looks like a great offseason pickup right now, going for 10 catches and 127 yards. For the season, that puts him at 11th in yards and tied for 4th in catches, impressive considering that he has had one less game than most of his competition at WR. But back to the game. Henne did what was asked of him, and turning the ball over only once while doing damage in the pass rush (Cameron Wake is here to stay) ended up winning the game for the Dolphins. One last thing to keep in mind though: They played an injury-depleted Packers team, who just announced that their up-and-coming TE Jermichael Finley will be out for the season. It remains difficult to judge these Dolphins, but kudos for a hard-fought overtime win against what many considered a pre-season favorite in the NFC.
Team Temperature: Warm, Florida weather - but too humid to really be comfortable
Highlight Reel: Dolphins vs. Packers
What to look for: The Dolphins are 3-2, despite being undefeated on the road. What does this mean? It's simple, Miami has yet to win a game at home. And the Steelers coming to town are not exactly the easiest predicament to change that. The Phins will remember the licking a frustrated Steelers team put on them at the end of last year, in their own aquarium nonetheless. I will specifically look for how the intimidating Dolphins pass rush led by former CFLer Cameron Wake will do against the new and improved Steelers line, especially newcomers Flozell and Pouncey. This should be interesting!
The Name: New Orleans Saints
When will we play them? In two weeks (Week 8)
The Game: 31-6 away against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Standout: Chris Ivory (rookie RB): 15 rushes, 158 yards, 10.5 y/c; also 1 reception, 17 yards. Highlight Reel
Promising: Drew Brees - 21/32, 65.6% completions, 3 TDs, 1 INT. Also 3rd down rate: 9/12, 75%
Look the other way: Penalties - 9 for 80 yards
What happened: Watching this game, you could just feel how pissed Brees and his N'orleans Saints really were. So what happened? They turned the temperature up. Led by the offensive line, which did not allow a sack and blocked for 212 yards on the ground, this team for the first time this season looked like the defending super bowl champions. There is hard to find fault - the defense, while forcing only one turnover, allowed just 6 points, the offense moved the ball at will, and Tampa Bay was left licking their chops and wondering what train they just got rolled over. Until the fourth quarter, they hadn't even scored! It was a blood bath. The only negatives were penalties, as well as kicker Garrett Hartley. Hailed as a hero just months ago, he has started just 5/9 on field goals this season and once again missed an easy one, a 33 yarder that sailed wide left. Aside from that though, what's to say? Let's hope that this Saints team cools down before we have to play them in a couple of weeks.
Team Temperature: It got hot fast, didn't it? Somebody turned on the microwave
Highlight Reel: Saints vs. Buccaneers
What to look for: We've already heard it a few times this year - the Browns are better than they look. Well, next week's game against another elite opponent provides yet another opportunity for the puppydogs to spoil the party. Coming off a loss we should all know well about, here's to hoping, for his sake, that McCoy gets another chance to prove himself in this league. Because against a defense that has snatched away only 4 interceptions this season, recorded only 11 sacks and allowed an average QB rating of 82.1 (all near the middle to bottom of the league), he might stand more of a chance. Of course, if the same NO offense shows up that did against the Buccaneers, McCoy will turn out to be a moot point.
When will we play them? In three weeks (Week 9)
Next Week's opponent: Away at the Atlanta Falcons
What to look for: Atlanta has been one of the surprises so far this season. Sitting at 4-2, they are currently tied for the top of the NFC. Cincinnati has surprised as well. Picked to repeat last year's success, they are under .500 and only have the Browns below them in the AFC North. So all of a sudden, this game gets close to a must win for the kitties. If they expect to win, Carson Palmer needs to reduce his interceptions. 6 already in just 5 games will not do it, especially not when facing a secondary that leads the league in that category with 11. The WR duo I will not name needs to have a big game against this secondary for the Bengals to come away with the win.
Pittsburgh's Last Three Opponents
When did we play them and how did we do? Two weeks ago (Week 4); lost 17-14
The Game: 20-23 away against the New England Patriots
The Standout: Joe Flacco - 27/35, 77.1% completions, 119.3 QB rating, 2 TD, 0 INT. Honorable Mention: Haloti Ngata - 7 tackles (5 solo), 2 sacks
Promising: Derrick Mason - 8 receptions, 100 yards, 12.5 avg.
Look the other way: Late Game Coaching - leading 20-10 with less than 7 minutes to go, conservative play calling on offense and prevent defense gave the game away
What happened: I hate the Patriots. But the games against the Ravens are the only games that I ever cheer for, and it seemed to be working this time. But despite facing an elite quarterback, the Ravens have no one to blame for this loss but themselves. Everything seemed to be going well, with Flacco having a superb night, spreading the ball around and seemingly hitting every pass. But following a late 4th quarter field goal by Ravens Kicker Billy Cundiff, the coaches made one bad decision after the other. All of a sudden, the handcuffs were put on Flacco, and returning Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch was allowed to roam free. As a result, the game went into overtime and it was at this point that I knew the Ravens were not going to win it - their spirit seemed broken. Sure enough, New England etched them out on a late field goal, leaving our hated rivals to wonder what had happened. Admittedly, a loss against the Patriots is nothing to be ashamed of. But take it from 2009 experience, Ravens coaches: A game isn't over until the final whistle blows. Let's hope they don't learn anything from it.
Team Temperature: Not a big drop off from last week - still very warm to the touch
Highlight Reel: Ravens vs. Patriots
What to look for: Can you say blow out? This team is going to be pissed by the way it lost its last game, and I fully expect the Ravens to take that anger out on the worst team in the NFL. The Bills are at or near the bottom of almost every important category in the league so far, with the sole exception being the rushing game - in which they rank in the middle of the pack, at 16th. Not enough against a defense that prides itself against the run. Quite frankly, if you dislike the Ravens as much as I do, I advise you to watch another game. This one won't be fun.
When did we play them and how did we do? Three weeks ago (Week 3); won 38-13
The Game: 6-31 at home against the New Orleans Saints
The Standout: Josh Freeman - 25/43, 58.1% completions, 219 Yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 79.5 QB rating
Promising: Cody Grimm (rookie FS) - 4 tackles (3 solo), 1 INT, 1 Forced Fumble
Look the other way: Ground Game - 42 yards on 18 attempts (2.3 y/c), 11 of that on one QB rush by J. Johnson
What happened: See above. Utter domination by the Saints is what happened. This was one of the few games so far this season that turned out exactly like we all thought last season, with toothless pirates being run (and passed) over by sword-rattling Saints. Still, a few positives included young QB Josh Freeman, who continues to improve, as well as Cody Grimm. Known by Steelers fans as the guy who couldn't contain Wallace, Grimm looked lost in some coverages but came up with a nice, leaping interception on a tipped pass. On the return, he made a heads-up play with a lateral to his teammate to gain an extra 15 yards. Grimm also had a forced fumble to round up his performance. A day to forget for Tampa Bay, but also some aspects to build on.
Team Temperature: Getting run over by the Super Bowl Champs is no shame. Hoodies, but no coats.
Highlight Reel: Saints vs. Buccaneers
Next Week's opponent: At home against the St. Louis Rams
What to look for: Two young quarterbacks, two young head coaches, two young receivers, two surprising teams. I want to know what my return would be had I bet before the season that both of these teams would be at or above .500 after six weeks. Count me as impressed. But both of these young teams will be challenged: While the Bucs have to regather after getting blown out, the Rams are coming off a huge win against the Chargers and are expected to build on that success. With both young QBs liable to be somewhat flustered, look for Rams RB Steven Jackson to get the ball a lot against the 31st ranked Rush Defense in this league.
When did we play them and how did we do? Four weeks ago (Week 2); won 19-11
The Game: 30-3 away at the Jacksonville Jaguars
Promising: Third Down Efficiency - 8/14, 57%
Look the other way: Red Zone TD efficiency - 1/4, 25%
What happened: Holy Crap, this was a beat down. And a pretty strange game, as both starting quarterbacks were knocked out in the first half and their backups had to win the game instead. But unlike Trent Edwards, whom the Jags recently acquired from Buffalo and who looked less than good, Kerry Collins was cool as ice. Or perhaps he is just too old to realize the pressure put on him. Either way, he was a game manager in the truest form, and in my opinion together with the Tennessee defense was the main reason these Titans came away with such an impressive win. And don't think I forgot Chris Johnson. I simply was not impressed by the way he was running all game, until ripping a few big ones (including a 35 yard TD) in garbage time when he should have sat out already to preserve him for later in the season. Sure, his box score looks great now, but I'll be damned if the strategy of giving him 10 extra carries a game when it's already out of reach won't come back to haunt him in December and January. Anyways, there's not much to say. Even before David Garrard went out with what appears to be a concussion, Tennessee never intended to make this one close. An easy win.
Team Temperature: Tied with the Colts for first place, in one of the best divisions? That's pretty warm to me
Highlight Reel: Titans vs. Jaguars
Next Week's opponent: At home against the Philadelphia Eagles
What to look for: One of the games worth watching this Sunday. Two 4-2 teams, both atop their division and coming off big wins against , looking to continue bolstering their playoff hopes. The Eagles, with Kevin Kolb all but ensured that he will start this week, will miss their biggest playmaker, WR DeSean Jackson. Nevertheless, 2nd year WR Jeremy Maclin has been nothing short of spectacular this season, already grabbing 6 TDs and 416 yards. With Jackson out, it will be interesting to see how Maclin can respond to increased focus on him by the Titans' secondary, lead by hard-hitting Cornerback Cortland Finnegan.
Upset of the Week
The Game: 23-20 away against the Chicago Bears
The Standout: Jordan Babineaux (FS) - 4 tackles (3 solo), 1.5 sacks, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Safety
Promising: Defensive Third Down Efficiency - 0/12, 0%
Look the other way: allowed 89 yard punt return for TD to Devin Hester
What happened: Alright, that's it. I am not including San Diego losses to allegedly inferior teams from here on out. Seriously, what's happened to them? Anyways, let's talk about this game. The New-look Seahawks led by rookie head coach Pete Carroll and 12th year veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck are getting it done. A pretty impressive defense combined with an effective running game and a revamped passing game seems to be working well. But most impressive to me is that the team is working well together, despite an astonishing number of over 200 roster moves being made since Carroll took over this off season. Hasselback played mistake-free, but the main ingredient to this win was the defense: Chicago could not convert a single third down against Seattle, and also conceded a safety off a strip sack that put the Seahawks away for good. Jay Cutler was largely ineffective despite his 290 yards passing and held under 50% completions, while at the same time the Bears' running game had only 14 attempts all game. That's not how you win the game. Congratulations to the Seahawks, who suddenly sit at 3-2 at this early part of the season.
Team Temperature: Pete Carroll must feel like he is back at USC - nice, warm T-Shirt weather
Highlight Reel:Seahawks vs. Bears
What to look for: Experienced all-pro Larry Fitzgerald against strong rookie Earl Thomas? Give me that match up to watch! Unfortunately, despite his strong performance last week against New Orleans, I don't think Rookie QB Max Hall has it in him to give Fitz the ball consistently enough for it to be too intriguing. Arizona might be the worst 3-2 team right now, being ranked 26th or lower in all major offensive and defensive categories. The Seahawks, having new addition Marshawn Lynch rush for his first TD as a bird last week, hope to be able to test the Cardinals' 29th ranked running defense. I think they can.
Not to be forgotten, your German word of the day: ausgezeichnet (say: ous-ghe-tsi-shnet) - excellent, kick-ass