2012 NFL Season: Week Two Observations

Replacement Refs: The replacement officials had a really rough go of it in week two. While I didn’t see any game changing calls, the officials dramatically slowed the game down and ruined the flow of the action. In the Baltimore at Philadelphia game, the officials constantly were spotting the ball incorrectly or having trouble determining where it should be spotted. They also did not get control of the game when players got a bit chippy. The Denver at Atlanta game was even more mismanaged. It was very painful to watch.

Jay Cutler Continues to Prove he is a Jerk: I have never been a fan of Jay Cutler, especially after the petulant, childish way he left Denver. I do feel sorry for Cutler because he really doesn’t have a good offensive line and he often gets pounded on during games, but bumping your left tackle and getting in his face in public probably isn’t the best way to handle it. And his postgame press conference was also childish and petulant. Despite what Brian Urlacher says, I find it hard to believe Cutler has much respect in the Bears locker room.

Tight Ends Rule the Day: While there were some amazing offensive performances from Reggie Bush (RB, Miami), Danny Amendola (WR, St. Louis), and Victor Cruz (WR, New York Giants), it was the tight ends that made pivotal or had big days that helped get their teams over the top in Sunday. Brent Celek of the Eagles was the clearly the MVP of that game and was frequent target and security blanket for Michael Vick. Vernon Davis (San Francisco), Heath Miller (Pittsburgh), Todd Heap (Cardinals), Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta), and Anthony McCoy of Seattle all had pivotal roles in their team’s wins.

My Top Five Teams: San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Green Bay, Denver

GAMES I WATCHED

Arizona Cardinals over New England Patriots, 20-18 (on NFL.com Game Rewind)

I really, really did not want to watch this game on NFL.com Game Rewind and I wish I hadn’t. The Patriots played about as badly on offense as I have ever seen them play. They weren’t playing well when Aaron Hernandez went out with an ankle injury, but after that they seemed totally unprepared and muddled on offense. It was just awful to watch. The Cardinals do have a solid defense, but New England didn’t seem to even show up for the game. On the bright side, the defense played rather well considering the turnover and blocked punt and that offense did nothing to help them out.

About all I can say about this game is that I hope it’s an aberration and not a trend. The loss of Aaron Hernandez for a month or more is going to hurt.

MVP: Patrick Peterson, CB

Green Bay Packers over Chicago Bears, 23-10

The Chicago Bears were just awful in this game. The offense line was atrocious. Jay Cutler was awful even when he had time in the pocket. And Clay Matthews not only had 3.5 sacks, but was a menace to Chicago’s offense all night long.

Green Bay’s offense looked much better in this game than they did last week against the 49’ers and they even got a little running game going with Cedric Benson at times. It wasn’t a spectacular offensive performance but it was certainly and efficient one.

MVP: Clay Matthews, LB

Philadelphia Eagles over Baltimore Ravens, 24-23

Not only for was this game a turnover fest for both teams, but the replacement officials were pretty lousy in keeping up with the flow of the game. The Eagles tried to hand the game to the Ravens early with a flurry of turnovers, but Baltimore gave the ball right back often enough to almost even out the points off turnovers by the end of the game. It was a close game throughout but the ragged play of Flacco in the second half and a few lucky breaks for the Eagles turned it into a close win for the home team.

While the officiating was poor, they didn’t decide the game. I am sick of Baltimore constantly blaming bad calls every time they lose a game. It was offensive pass interference on Jacoby Ford in a second half apparent touchdown pass. He had is hand on the defenders facemask. And it was clearly a forward pass by Michael Vick in the fourth quarter when the ref overturned his original call of a fumble. At most one might argue it was intentional grounding. These two calls did seal the deal for the Eagles, but both were appropriate and correct calls.

Tight end Brent Celek had a fantastic game for the Eagles.

MVP: Brent Celek, TE

Pittsburgh Steelers over New York Jets, 27-10

The Steelers had a nice, steady offensive performance in this game. While the offense was still generated primarily in the passing game there was just enough running to keep the Jet’s defense off balance. And Big Ben had a one of his better games, spreading the ball around to numerous receivers. We even saw the reemergence of Heath Miller in the passing game who had three catches and a touchdown.

And the defense played liked we are accustomed to seeing the Steelers defense play. They seemed rather vulnerable last week against Denver but this week they held the Jets in check for most of the game.

MVP: Ben Roethlisberger, QB

San Francisco 49’ers over Detroit Lions, 27-19

I think the 49’ers are clearly the best team in the NFL right now. They have a fabulous defense and the offense is now clicking on all cylinders. Quarterback Alex Smith is playing at a very high level, and has good rapport with tight end Vernon Davis. He is making good decisions and getting the ball to his receivers with velocity and accuracy. And I keep waiting to see Frank Gore slow down and look his age. But so far he looks fantastic and rejuvenated. With the depth on the offensive line and the stout defense, the 49’ers are going to be hard to beat.

Detroit, on the other hand, doesn’t come out looking so good. Granted they were playing a tough defense but Matthew Stafford was not that accurate with his passes. Stafford seems a bit lost at times. He might have a big arm, but in this game I wasn’t too impressed with him. And they really need to get a running game going but I’m not so sure Kevin Smith is the answer there. I think Detroit might regress a bit this year.

MVP: Vernon Davis, TE

Atlanta Falcons over Denver Broncos, 27-21

Wow, what a difference a week makes. Last week Payton Manning looked like the old Payton Manning, and this week the throws three first half interceptions spotting Atlanta at 20-0 lead. That was pretty much, almost the game.

Manning the Broncos did come back and make a game of it in the second half but Atlanta’s offense and defense did just enough hold off a comeback.

On the theme of what a difference a week makes, Julio Jones had an embarrassing week, dropping a sure touchdown pass and having fumble fingers throughout the game. Lucky for Atlanta the same was not the case for Roddy White who had a superb outing.

MVP: Roddy White, WR

St. Louis Rams over Washington Redskins, 31-28

Danny Amendola. Enough said. What a wicked good performance by this WR. He had 15 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown and tied an NFL record for most catches a first half with 12. He was almost unstoppable except for a fumble. The Rams fell behind early because of turnovers and sloppy play but I thought mostly outplayed the Redskins. A blocked punt by St. Louis in the second half essentially cleared the way for the win.

MVP: Danny Amendola, WR

 

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

I know Reggie Bush had a phenomenal 172 yards rushing, but I am still going with Amendola.

Offensive Player: Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Marshal Yanda, RG, Baltimore Ravens
Special Teams: Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore Ravens
Rookie of the Week: Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore Ravens.

Doug Baker’s 2010 All Pro Team: Defense

Clay Matthews, Jr.

Here are my picks for the 2010 All Pro Team Defensive Team.

The top players on the list are the starters and the second players are backups.


2010 ALL PRO TEAM DEFENSE

DE: John Abraham, Atlanta Falcons

DE: Jason Babin, Tennessee Titans

DE: Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears

DE: Justin Tuck, New York Giants

Dwight Freeney gets the snub here because of the group he is the worst run defender, even if he may be the best sack specialist.


DT: Haloti Ngata, Baltimore Ravens

DT: Richard Seymour, Oakland Raiders

DT: Vince Wilfork New England Patriots

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions (Rookie)

 

LB: Clay Matthews, Jr., Green Bay Packers

LB: James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers

LB: Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens

LB: Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins

LB: Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears

LB: DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys

LB: Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49’ers

LB: Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots

 

SS: Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers
SS: Adrian Wilson, Arizona Cardinals

LaRon Landry of the Washington Redskins would have been in Adrian Wilson’s spot had he not been injured. He was having a Defensive Player of the Year type season before getting hurt.


FS: Nick Collins, Green Bay Packers

FS: Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens

Oshiomogho Atogwe of the St. Louis Rams should have made the team but the other two players finished the season strong on playoffs teams.


CB: Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland Raiders

CB: Antonio Cromartie, New York Jets

CB: Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers

CB: Champ Bailey, Denver Broncos

Brandon Flowers of the Kansas City Chiefs get an honorable mention.


P: Shane Lechler, Oakland Raiders


Special Teamer: Lorenzo Alexander, Washington Redskins


DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions

Doug Baker’s 2010 Midseason NFL All Pro Team: Defense

We are halfway through the 2010 NFL football season so it’s time to make my midseason NFL All pro selection. In this edition we have the defense. This year I found it particularly difficult to choose a team because there are so many deserving players. There is bound to a great deal of arguments over my selections, but look no further for the definitive team.

As always some players on this list might not make it on the team at the end of the season due to injury or backsliding performance.

One other thing to note is while statistics are important the number of sacks and tackles isn’t the only thing to consider with a defensive player. A great defensive player disrupts the offense and might have few statistics to show for it, kind of like offensive linemen.

The top players on the list are the starters and the second players are backups.

And by the way, what is up with all the bizarre names in the NFL? Can’t people just have regular names?

2010 ALL PRO TEAM DEFENSE

DE: John Abraham, Atlanta Falcons

DE: Trent Cole, Philadelphia Eagles

DE: Jason Babin, Tennessee Titans

DE: Justin Tuck, New York Giants

The Atlanta Falcons have a very stout defense and mainstay defensive end John Abraham is a key component of that defense. He is good both rushing the passer and playing the run, which is not always the case with defensive ends who consider themselves “sack specialists” like Dwight Freeney of the Indianapolis Colts. Abraham is third in the league with 8 sacks this season.

While the Philadelphia Eagles defense has been rather inconsistent this year, defensive end Trent Cole has not been. He has been performing at a very high level both rushing the passer and stopping the run. He currently has seven sacks, not far of the pace of league leaders.

Every time I have seen the Tennessee Titans play this year, Jason Babin has been wreaking havoc on the opposing offense and seems to always be around the ball. He also has seven sacks on the season.

While Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora may have all the sacks with 8, it is Justin Tuck that is difficult to block, often drawing double teams so his compatriot can get the spotlight. That is no knock at all on Osi, but Tuck is the man on that line of scrimmage.

Osi Umenyiora of the New York Giants, Glenn Dorsey of the Kansas City Chiefs (who is finally living up to his high draft status as a defensive end), and Dwight Freeney were also considered.


DT: Haloti Ngata, Baltimore Ravens

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions (Rookie)

DT: Richard Seymour, Oakland Raiders

DT: Casey Hampton, Pittsburgh Steelers

While frankly I think Haloti Ngata is a little overrated, he is the best defensive tackle in the league today. He excels in space where he can grab the runner and slam him unceremoniously to the turf and usually has a good push up the middle for quarterback pressures. I have seen him pushed off the ball in head to head blocking schemes before, which is partially why the Ravens have given up more yardage on the ground this year. But he often draws double teams and moves extremely well for his size.

N. Suh was worth the high draft choice the Lions spent on him. He is just as big and good, and probably even be a little better, than Haloti Ngata. This guy is just a beast in the interior of the line and was made to be a defensive tackle in 4-3 defense. I am not too keen on some of his borderline hits on quarterbacks, but beware, this guy might turn out the a real superstar.

I miss Richard Seymour. When healthy Seymour is simply one of the best defensive tackles in the league and has really made a difference on the Raiders defense both in terms of his play on the field and from what I’ve read, his leadership.

Pittsburgh not only has one of he top defensive teams in the league but it has a rock at nose tackle. Hampton doesn’t have a lot of statistics to show for his play, but that’s not his job. He takes on blockers in the middle of the line of scrimmage and allows the beasts at linebacker to wreak havoc at will on opposing offenses.

LB: Clay Matthews, Jr., Green Bay Packers

LB: James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers

LB: Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens

LB: Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh Steelers

LB: Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins

LB: James Laurinaitis, St. Louis Rams

LB: Chad Greenway, Minnesota Vikings

LB: Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots

For linebackers I pick a starting unit of four and a back up unit of four, regardless of whether they play inside or outside.

It was extremely difficult to pick linebackers this year but it was not difficult at all to choose the top dog, and that is Clay Matthews, Jr. of the Green Bay Packers. He has been a one man wrecking crew for offenses the entire season. He currently leads the league with 10.5 sacks.

Let me say this right off the bat. I think James Harrison is a dirty player and a headhunter. I watch of lot of Steelers games and he simply is a headhunter. I don’t like him. But he is one of the best in the league at getting to the ball and smashing the runner to smithereens. He is one scary, nasty dude.

Ray Lewis simply defies father time and continues to be one of the very best linebackers in the league. He might have lost a step but he still brings a load and has a nose for the ball and keen sense of the game.

There is a reason the Steelers have one of the best defensive teams in football, they have the best defensive players. Yes, their Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau puts them in the right scheme, but they are just super talented. Lawrence Timmons has really come into his own in his fourth year and makes the Steelers defense that much scarier with Harrison on the outside, and Timmons on the inside in the 3-4 scheme.

Cameron Wake, a second year player for the Miami Dolphins could have easily cracked the starting lineup and maybe should have. I am sure he will fill slighted that he didn’t make the first team, but when he sees the players there he will surely understand. I love the motor on this kid. He rushes the passer as hard on the last play of the game as he did on the first. He is extremely difficult to block one-on-one and has been giving left tackles fits all year long. The only thing he needs to improve on a little is run support. He currently has 8.5 sacks behind only Clay Matthews, Jr. in that department.

James Laurinaitis is the classic middle linebacker I the 4-3 alignment. He has a great nose for the ball and seems to be around it all the time. This second year player from Ohio State has the potential to be a great one.

Chad Greenway is second in the league in tackles but I frankly found it really hard to put him on my all pro team because I think E.J. Henderson probably is having a better year and is making a bigger difference for the Vikings defense. When E.J. Henderson broke his femur in a gruesome injury last year I never thought I’d see him play football again. Not only is he back but is playing the best football of his career for the Minnesota Vikings. While Jared Allen seems to have fallen on hard times, being easily blocked one-on-one by lousy tackles like Jermond Bushrod of the New Orleans Saints, and the Vikings secondary is in shambles, Henderson (and Greenway) has been the bright spot for the Vikings defense. Now I knew there would be a hue and cry if I didn’t choose his Viking teammate Chad Greenway for this spot, especially since he is second in the league in tackles. But frankly, every time I have seen the Vikings play E.J. Henderson is the one disrupting the offense.

Jerod Mayo of the New England Patriots is not the one getting pushed around and being soft on defense. He really stopped the hardest runner in the league, Adrian Peterson, twice on goal line stands in the Patriots’ victory over the Vikings – the refs just happened to blow a call on one of them and award the Vikings a touchdown.

There are tons of great linebackers in the league. Brian Orakpo of the Redskins was considered but I really question his run support, as was his always solid teammate in the middle, London Fletcher. Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears, DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys, Stephen Tulloch of the Tennessee Titans, and Curtis Lofton of the Atlanta Falcons are all worthy of consideration. And of course my sentimental favorite, E.J. Henderson of the Vikings.


SS: LaRon Landry, Washington Redskins

SS: Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers

With all due respect to Troy Polamalu, who is one of my favorite non-New England Patriot players in the league, LaRon Landry is having an unbelievable year. Landry is all over the field, always around the ball, and from his strong safety position is sixth in the league in tackles. He, along with Clay Matthews, Jr. of the Green Bay Packers, are the best defensive players in the league this year, hands down.

Troy Polamalu is the also a great, great strong safety. He is just phenomenal in both his intelligence, nose of for the ball, ability to create turnovers, and tackling.


FS: Nick Collins, Green Bay Packers

FS: Oshiomogho Atogwe, St. Louis Rams

Nick Collins of the Packers has had a superb year at free safety for the Green Bay Packers, and is one of the hardest hitting ones in the league.

Oshiomogho Atogwe may not be the turnover machine he was last year but he has been rather overlooked as one of the best defensive players in the league because he is on a losing team. While a little nicked up this year, Atogwe, like last year, ranks right up there with the best of the league’s free safeties.


CB: Nnamdi Asomugha, Oakland Raiders

CB: Brandon Flowers, Kansas City Chiefs

CB: Antonio Cromartie, New York Jets

CB: DeAngelo Hall, Washington Redskins

You know why you don’t hear that much about Nnamdi Asomugha? Because he is so hard to throw the ball against.

Brandon Flowers is the type of cornerback I love. He is an excellent cover corner, but is physical enough in the hand fighting and tight coverage to make plays. He also isn’t afraid to tackle, like weak willed “cover corners” such as Asante Samuel of the Philadelphia Eagles.

No Darrelle Revis, no problem. We’ve got Antonio Cromarite. Cromartie is having just a fabulous year at the cornerback position taking on other teams’ best receivers. The Jets have one of the best defensive backfields in the league.

DeAngelo Hall is a mouthy, disrespectful, and often a malcontent. I can’t stand him myself, but he gets the last spot if for nothing else his four interception game with one returned 90 plus yards for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears. He single handedly, almost, won that game for the Redskins since their offense couldn’t do anything. He is having an excellent season overall.


P: Shane Lechler, Oakland Raiders

This is an easy one. Lechler has been the best all around punter in the league for distance and dropping balls inside the 20 for a few years.

Special Teamer: Lorenzo Alexander, Washington Redskins

Lorenzo Alexander of the Washington Redskins is the most consistent special teams performer I have seen this year.


DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers

Clay Matthews, Jr. is simply wreaking havoc on opposing offenses game after game after game. He is a great pass rusher, tackler, and has a real nose for the ball.

LaRon Landry, SS, Washington Redskins was the only other serious contender for this honor.

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions

There was no other serious contender for this high honor. I cannot recall a rookie defensive interior lineman that has had this much impact on their team. Suh is the real deal.