Weekend Update: Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

It was a glorious weekend outside the DirtCanon Bunker – the College Football was fresh, the NFL was tasty.  Even my attorney showed up for the festivities of our Launch Party Sunday – he even paid!  But let’s get down to what we saw this weekend and Arkansas you are on the clock:

How does that taste Bert…dont care if its Bret, you’re now Bert…you mouthed off about Ohio State’s schedule and you get blown up at home, by Toledo?! That’s a MAC school, they are maybe the 4th best team in Ohio – you s’posed to be SEC.  In fact you were s’posed to be a team that road-grades its way to victory. That Oline, that running game – you have no business throwing the ball 53 times on Toledo – Bert you lost your balls, you get paid too much money to act like a Nutt

Auburn still needs help from the Refs, and this time it is to defeat Jacksonville St in OT.  Not a misprint, Auburn is terrible and with Tennessee’s choke-job to Oklahoma in double OT – the SEC is in danger ofsingle logo_small becoming ACC bad.  Sure, there were some bright spots, Kentucky snapped their 22-game loser-streak on the road beating South Carolina and LSU escaped Starkville.  But SEC-fan, you might want to start getting used to chants of “OVER-RATED”  – clap, clap, clap-clap-clap…

Notre Dame is cursed.  Last year, defensive injuries derailed a promising start to the season. This year it is the offense. Starting quarterback Malik Zaire fractured his ankle in Notre Dame’s 34–27 victory over Virginia, joining running back Tarean Folston, (who was lost last week) on the won’t-play-again-this-season list.

On a brighter side, the week 2 odds that were posted on Friday did fairly well.  On the highlighted picks – we were perfect SU and 68% ATS – overall, we were 89% SU and 63% ATS – just good enough to not be addicted and still better than anywhere else.

Here are some other Saturday thoughts I cannot put anywhere else:

  • Two wins to start the 2015 season has pushed Ohio State’s nation’s best winning streak to 15 straight.  Up next are TCU (10), Memphis (nine), Western Kentucky (seven), Michigan State (six) and Navy (five).
  • The “honor” of the longest losing streak had belonged to Georgia State, which had lost 12 in a row until Saturday night’s 34-32 win over New Mexico State.  The win also marked GSU’s first-ever win over an FBS-level team as an FBS team themselves.
  • Additionally, Colorado ended its 10-game losing streak, the longest amongst Power Five teams, with a 48-14 win over UMass.  With those outcomes, UNLV now owns the nation’s longest losing streak at eight straight.
  • Notre Dame, UCLA and USC are the only teams that have never played a non-FBS/Div. 1-A school since the current setup was established in 1978.  Following the 2016 season, and because of a conference mandate, Big Ten teams will no longer be permitted to schedule games against FCS programs.
  • V’Angelo Bentley is the only player in Illinois history to record a kickoff return, punt return, interception return and fumble return for touchdown in his career. Harold “Red” Grange is the only other Illini player with kickoff, punt and interception returns for TDs, but he never returned a fumble for a score.
  • Dalvin Cook‘s 266 yards rushing were the second-most in Florida State history?  Cook’s performance is topped only by Greg Allen‘s 322 yards in 1981

 

Manning vs. Flacco

Remember this post from March?  When we told you that “It’s hard to watch your heroes fall and attempt to hang on to long.  Age always wins“.  Well it seems wearing a swim-shirt was the fore-shadowing we needed on the final season of the Great Peyton Manning.  No touchdowns during the pre-season and none yesterday against Baltimore.   It was the 20th NFL season opener in which both starting QBs were coming off a season of at least 25 touchdown passes. It was the first of those games in which neither threw a TD pass. (Note: Tony Romo vs. Eli Manning on Sunday night was the 21st such meeting.)  For Baltimore, the rest of the season seems to be a more difficult one as they lose Suggs with a torn achilles.  But the issue is still Denver winning with a punchless offense – maybe someone should set Peyton up with DirecTV, because this cable-version of Peyton is hard to watch.

A first-of-its-kind matchup produces a historic performance

The last time Marcus and Jameis met on the field was in January, at the Rose Bowl – and the results were the same then as they were yesterday.  It was the first-ever opening-day matchup of rookie quarterbacks chosen first and second in the NFL Draft. But by halftime, it was all about Marcus Mariota, with number-one pick Jameis Winston earning only an interesting footnote, albeit an unwanted one.  Marcus was 13-16 with 4 touchdown passes – the only other player to do that in their first game was Fran Tarkenton – except Marcus threw 4 in the first half!  The Titans scored 35 points by halftime of their 42-14 win. Last year they NEVER scored more than 28 points in a game while going 2-14.  As for Jameis, he is has played 28 games in college and the pro’s, going 26-2 – his two losses are both to Mariota.

Sure, it’s only one game but seeing Mariota finish his first professional game with a perfect passer-rating that puts him ahead of Tom Brady (2nd) and Aaron Rodgers (3rd) gives the Titans hope that they chose correctly.  As for Winston’s role in this historic matchup, his first pass was intercepted by Coty Sensabaugh, who returned it 26 yards for a touchdown. Over the last 30 years, only two other players threw a pick-6 on the first pass of their NFL career: Jay Schroeder in 1985 and, believe it or not, Brett Favre in 1991.  It was not all bad for Jameis, he did finish ahead of Luck, Manning and Flacco in passer-rating Sunday.

Rodgers owns Cutler & the Bears

James Jones (two TD grabs Sunday) being back in Green Bay might be a lot more important to the Packers’ Super Bowl chances than we all thought.  The Packers defeated the Bears, 31-23, at Soldier Field in the 11th regular-season meeting of Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler as starting quarterbacks. With that victory, Rodgers improved his record against Cutler to 10-1, with his only loss coming five seasons ago at Chicago – Cutler has now thrown at least 1 INT in every game against the Packers. The last QB to win at least 10 of his first 11 starts against another quarterback was Terry Bradshaw against Brian Sipe (1976-81).

In Rodgers’ last three games against the Bears he has completed 74 percent of his passes for 806 yards with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. He is the first player to throw 13 TDs over three games against one opponent since Dan Marino did it against the Jets (1985-86). No other player has ever thrown 13 TDs and fewer than three INTs over three games against one team.

Note that Rodgers also led the Packers to a win over Cutler and the Bears in the NFC Championship Game after the 2010 season.

Rams win

Irony is after an offseason of debate about throwing at the goal line in their Super Bowl XLIX loss, the first play of the Seattle Seahawks’ season fittingly was a handoff to Marshawn Lynch. So was the last play … which got blown up on fourth-and-1 as the nullRams defeated the Seahawks, 34-31 in overtime, on a 37-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein. But it was Nick Foles, in his Rams debut, who completed a pass unlike any other in the team’s long NFL history. Foles found Lance Kendricks for a 37-yard touchdown with 53 seconds to play and Zuerlein’s extra point evened the score at 31-31. It was the first game-tying or go-ahead TD pass of 20 yards or longer in the final 60 seconds of the fourth quarter in Rams history.  In other news – what were you thinking Pete Carroll with an onside kick in OT?

nullLockett ends longest return drought

Tyler Lockett opened the scoring in the Seahawks’ loss at St. Louis with a 57-yard punt return. Only three other rookies in NFL history scored on a first-quarter punt return in their team’s opening game of a season: George Atkinson of the Raiders (1968), Deion Sanders of the Falcons (1989), and Dale Carter of the Chiefs (1992).

Allen huge in San Diego’s comeback victory

Philip Rivers completed 35 passes for 404 yards, including 15 to Keenan Allen, in the Chargers’ 33-28 come-from-behind victory over the Lions. Allen set a record for pass nullreceptions in a season-opening game. The previous mark was 14, set by Andre Rison in 1994 and matched by Marshall Faulk in 2002.

San Diego trailed Detroit, 21-3, in the second quarter. Only one other team in this century overcame a deficit that large to win its season-opening game, and Chargers fans should remember the other well. Two years ago, San Diego squandered a 28-7 lead in losing its opener to Houston, 31-28, on Monday Night Football.

New York Blows it – Romo saves Cowboys

The optimists in Big D said the O-line was good enough to offset the loss of DeMarco Murray. But the Cowboys managed just 80 yards on the ground Sunday against a Giants defense that rarely stopped the run in 2014. Dallas only had less than 90 rushing yards nullonce last year, when the Giants only held two opponents below 80.  New York should’ve left Dallas with a W. But poor clock management — namely failing to milk it while opting to throw near the goal line on their final drive — provided Tony Romo with the opportunity to craft a successful comeback.  Tony Romo threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten with 7 seconds to play and Dan Bailey added the extra point to give the Cowboys an unlikely 27-26 victory over the Giants. That was the latest game-winning fourth-quarter TD pass in Cowboys history. The previous mark was set in a 17-14 win over the Redskins in 1967 when Don Meredith connected with Dan Reeves for a 36-yard TD with 10 seconds to play.

Dallas’ victory was unlikely in this sense: The Cowboys committed three turnovers and the Giants none. Over the past three seasons (2012-14), there were 100 regular-season games in which a team turned the ball over at least three times and had no takeaways; only three of those teams won.

nullBrees ties dubious NFL record in loss

Drew Brees passed for 355 yards in the Saints’ 31-19 loss at Arizona, his fifth straight season reaching the 300-yard mark in New Orleans’ first game. That tied the NFL record for consecutive season openers with at least 300 passing yards. Kurt Warner set that mark from 1999 through 2003.  Carson Palmer threw three touchdown passes in his first game since last season’s ACL injury. Palmer has a 14-2 record in his last 16 starts

Marshall and the Jets

The Browns have now lost an NFL-record 11 straight openers, and Brandon Marshall might be the safety net the Jets need to stabilize their uneven passing game. He excelled in the red zone and bailed out Ryan Fitzpatrick by ripping the ball away from Browns safety Tashaun Gipson after an interception.  With that, the Todd Bowles era started with a strong defensive performance as the Jets forced the Browns into five turnovers and posted a 31-10 victory. During six seasons under Rex Ryan, the Jets ranked 19th among the 32 NFL teams with an average of 1.5 takeaways per game. They had only one game with as many as five takeaways under Ryan, forcing six turnovers in a 38-7 win over Buffalo in 2011.

Bills knock the Colts down a peg

The Colts were chic Super Bowl picks in many quarters, but didn’t look ready for the Bills, who shut Indianapolis out in the first half before winning 27-14.  The Bills were sending seven defenders at Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck on seemingly every passing down, especially early in the game. The all-out blitzes worked in Buffalo’s decisive upset.null

Making his first NFL start, the new Bills quarterback justified Rex Ryan’s faith in him by playing efficient, virtually mistake-free football. Taylor passed for 195 yards and a TD while adding 41 yards with his legs. Ground and pound, baby.  The Colts’ struggles to stop the run have carried over to this season. The Bills ran 36 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns – leading a terrific start to Karlos Williams’ NFL career, as he gave the Bills a 16-0 lead on a 26-yard touchdown run on his first carry. It had been 20 years since any NFL player scored an opening-game TD of 20 yards or longer on the first carry of his career. The last player to do so was Michael Westbrook of the Redskins, with a 58-yard TD run in a 27-7 opening-day victory over the Cardinals.

But guess what? A few hours later, Ameer Abdullah of the Lions did it as well, capping Detroit’s opening drive with a 24-yard TD run on his first carry.

nullIt’s getting absurd in KC

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith threw three touchdowns but none to a wide receiver – again. Smith’s last TD to a receiver was Dec. 8, 2013.  On the other hand, Travis Kelce became the first Chiefs tight end to catch two touchdown passes in a game since Tony Gonzalez left Kansas City following the 2008 season. Gonzalez caught two or more TDs in a game 14 times for the Chiefs.

What about Bob?null

Another strong performance by a tight end was turned in by Tyler Eifert, who caught nine
passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns in the Bengals’ 33-13 win at Oakland. Eifert was the first Cincinnati TE with two TD receptions in a 100-yard game since Bob Trumpy scored three times in a 5-for-159 performance against the Houston Oilers in 1969.

Same Ol’Philbin, Same Ol’Washington

The Miami Dolphins are continuing a disturbing trend during coach Joe Philbin’s tenure with the team: They play down to lesser opponents. The offense came out flat in the first half at Washington, rushing for only 2 yards. But the most concerning questions from Miami’s victory were mental lapses on defense.

For Washington, things were looking good for the home team early on Sunday. But then Ryan Tannehill found Rishard Matthews for a 3-yard TD late in the first half to narrow the Redskins’ lead to 10-7, and the Dolphins scored 10 points in the fourth quarter for a 17-10 victory. Washington was the first home team to lose its season opener after scoring the game’s first 10 points since 2002, when the Jets rallied from a 10-0 deficit for a 37-31 win at Buffalo.  From the media-generated-controversy department – Why was CBS giving viewers constant reaction shots from RGIII — following many of Kirk Cousins’ throws?

Somethings never change

The Kelvin Benjamin-less offense produced just 263 yards and one touchdown – ouch. The supporting cast around Newton will likely add pressure on Carolina’s defense, nullespecially if MLB Luke Kuechly’s concussion proves severe.  In other news, Josh Norman intercepted Blake Bortles and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown in the Panthers’ 20-9 win over the Jaguars. That was a problem for Bortles as a rookie last season, when he tied for the NFL lead by throwing four pick-6’s, which was also a single-season team record.

Coached Up

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Trying to figure out or rank the NFL’s coaches is a difficult task because so many X-factors exist in the determination of success and failure. Sometimes an average coach is in the right environment and he thrives and sometimes a good coach is in a toxic environment that even the best couldn’t dig their way out of. One thing is for sure, though, the better your head coach the higher the chance you’ll have at winning. Below is a smattering in no particular order:

Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

Belichick is on a legen…(wait for it)…dary path and while discussing 32 coaches is difficult, agreeing on who is #1 is not. Belichick has been AP Coach of the Year three times, won four Super Bowls, and been to the playoffs 12 out of 15 seasons.

Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

Reid’s run in Philadelphia was a very good one but more impressive perhaps is how quickly he turned the Chiefs into a playoff team. Anytime you can do that in multiple environments, you’ve shown your abilities. Injuries bit the Chiefs last year, as well as the allergic reaction his WR’s had to the endzone, lead an expectation that Reid will lead his team to a rebound year.

Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

Last year’s meltdown was hard and it would be quick to condemn both Payton and the Saints based on one bad season. The Saints rebounded from their post Bountygate season to make the playoffs and in 2009 they rebounded from 7-9 to win a Super Bowl. Payton is likely the best offensive mind in the game. His offense has been in the top five every year except for one since he coached the Saints and they were #1 in the NFL last season. He’s been AP coach of the year and led his team to the playoffs five times in eight seasons.

John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens

Any coach that survives the retirement of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to maintains this level of success, deserves credit. He’s been to the playoffs 6 times since 2008 and he has won a Super Bowl.

Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers looked like they might be falling apart, before we saw a big resurgence from Ben Roethlisberger last year in part thanks to the explosion of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Make no mistake, Tomlin plays a huge part in keeping this team competitive despite the big drop off defensive talent and the hole now left by Lebeau . He’s been to the playoffs 5 times with a Super Bowl title since 2007.

Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

His player friendly style has worked wonders both at USC and in Seattle. While anyone could win with the talent he’s assembled he deserves a lot of credit for cultivating and maximizing those players. His run the last two years with two Super Bowl trips and one title has been dominant.  Maybe next time he’ll run the ball.

Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts

He brings a certain level of toughness, and the Colts seem to be on the verge of really big things.  But it seems we have seen this movie before with the previous QB era.  Jury is still out until we see more besides just Andrew Luck.

Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams

Fisher is a fantastic coach that knows how to assemble a roster and get the most out of his players. His Achilles heel in St. Louis remains his inability to get consistent healthy quarterback play. Maybe Nick Foles can bring consistency and change that; and if he can the Rams are a team to take very seriously.

John Fox, Chicago Bears

Fox has had successful stops in Carolina and Denver. The Bears are elated to have someone of his quality and he should be able to turn things around quickly, but the ceiling is always low.

Tom Coughlin, New York Giants

His improbable two Super Bowl title runs have kept him in New York much longer than anyone expected. He knows how to get his squad up for the most important games, that’s for sure.  Remember, his Jaguars still have more playoff victories than the Cowboys in the last 20yrs.

Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals were a Super Bowl contender before the injury of Carson Palmer. Arians has done a fantastic job there after being a very successful assistant coach for a long time. He deserves that job based on how he filled in for Pagano in Indianapolis.

Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers

One could argue McCarthy has underachieved a little bit considering his quarterback is Aaron Rodgers. He’s still an excellent offensive mind, though, and there’s no question his 94-49-1 record speaks for itself.

Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions

He’s a disciplinarian that runs a tight ship and has Super Bowl experience with the Colts. His first season in Detroit was promising.

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals

He catches some heat and he’s been fortunate to hang on to his job as long as he has but he is a premiere defensive coach. Unfortunately he’s never had enough talent, under center, to really take this team to the next level, but he’s still an above average coach.

Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

The Panthers defense has been dominant the last couple of years and Rivera has greatly benefited from a weak division. He’s been a gutsy coach that seems to have a great feel for the game.

Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans

His turnarounds of both the Texans and Penn State are nothing short of remarkable. But can he compete at the top?

Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers

The Charges have been ok under McCoy, but he’s been a bit of a disappointment and hasn’t really shown that he’s an upgrade over Norv Turner.

Rex Ryan, Buffalo Bills

Ryan is a good coach who had success in New York for a while despite poor quaterback play, but can he turn around a team in Buffalo with the same exact problems?

Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders

Will he be able to succeed where it seems like everyone else fails? He’s got a good history as a defensive guy, but for this team to win Derek Carr will need to develop and Del Rio will need to stay out of the way.

Gary Kubiak, Denver Broncos

This is a good fit for a prolific offense. His stint in Houston was mediocre at best but he’ll be working with more talent.  It is now or never to show what he is capable of.

Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles

The jury is still out on Kelly but he certainly seems to have blown up his roster. And as explosive and exciting as his style has been at times, the team still hasn’t won a playoff game in two seasons with him. A lot of talk without results. It’s hard to see the Eagles being better this year unless Sam Bradford can stay healthy and productive.

Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons

Quinn seems as solid as it comes in terms of coaching defense. The Falcons will need it as they were 32nd overall last season. We’ll see how he does as a head coach, though, there are a lot of unknowns.  Lucky for him he has Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to help him figure it out.

Mike Pettine, Cleveland Browns

A solid effort to get the Browns to 7-9 last year but with Hoyer gone it could be worse this year.

Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

Garrett has underachieved and like Romo he cannot get it done in the postseason.

Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings

He did an admirable job last season considering the Adrian Peterson situation. It remains to be seen if he’s the right man for that job, though.  Having Norv Turner is going to help.

Todd Bowles, New York Jets

He’s had a couple good years with elite talent as a defensive coordinator in Arizona. A lot of unknowns exist on how he’ll do as a head coach in a new environment.  Alot hinges on the growth of Geno Smith.

Lovie Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

His credibility took a big shot as the Bucs regressed last year. The future of his head coaching career now rests on the arm and head of Jameis Winston. I’d be nervous.

Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins

He’s 23-25 since 2012 with no trips to the playoffs. He’s a mediocre coach for an average football team.

Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee Titans

Last season was a disaster in Tennessee. He’ll be looking for a new job soon if results don’t improve.

Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins

Not only was Gruden’s team a disaster on the field last season, there were issues off the field surrounding the management of RGIII. I’m not sure any coach could succeed in this environment, many have tried.

Jim Tomsula, San Francisco 49ers

Really have to question his qualifications here and based on the offseason he’s really set up to fail.

Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars

7-25 since 2013 speaks for itself, unfortunately, but there is talent and they play harder than most teams.