Support my attention-whoring ways by following us on twitter!

Get the SKOdcast imported directly into your brain!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Week 6 NFL Picks

After last week the picks race on the NFL side stands on the exact opposite side of the spectrum, with me being up 30-12, and Red coming in with a 25-17 record. This puts us at a tie overall, which is unac-fucking-ceptable.

(2-3) Houston @ (4-1) Cincinnati

Iggins!: Clearly the Bengals are for real, and the Texans are more inconsistent than that case of herpes you got 2 years ago, and much like the Texans, they always show up at the wrong times. Cincinnati wins.

Code Red: The Bengals are certainly for real, but at some point they have to come down off this high they’re on, at least briefly. The Texans are dangerous enough to do it. Texans win.

(1-4) Detroit @ (2-2) Green Bay

Code Red: Green Bay is teetering on the brink. If this game were in Detroit I’d be tempted to go for the upset, but alas, Rodgers will be too much for the Lions in Lambeau. Packers win.

Iggins!: I totally agree with those sentiments. Packers win.

(3-2) Baltimore @ (5-0) Minnesota

Iggins!: DIE VIKINGS DIE. Ravens win.

Code Red: No seriously, fucking die. Ravens win.

(5-0) New York Giants @ (4-0) New Orleans

Code Red: This game should kick total ass. That is all. Breesus shall be the hand of victory, however. Saints Win.

Iggins!: Though shall not pick against Breesus. Saints win.

(1-4) Cleveland @ (3-2) Pittsburgh

Iggins!: Cleveland managed to participate in the worst game… ever, last week. The Steelers almost lost to Detroit, but that says more about the Lions than the Steelers. Steelers win.

Code Red: God damnit, Cleveland. You have fucked up my bet that you’d win the #1 overall pick by winning a game so ugly that it disgraced the very name of football. Pittsburgh shall make you pay. Steelers win.

(1-3) Carolina @ (0-5) Tampa Bay

Code Red: Carolina. And please, sweet jesus, get DeAngelo Williams some mother f*&king carries!

Iggins!: Tampa will win their first of the year. Tampa Bay wins.

(0-5) Kansas City @ (2-3) Washington

Iggins!: Wow, the ‘skins schedule is really easy early on. I keep picking the Chiefs and they refuse to get their first win. DO IT THIS WEEK DAMN YOU. Kansas City wins.

Code Red: Holy shit, I could not care less about the result of this football game. I’ll pick the Chiefs, just so this game is a wash.

(0-5) St. Louis @ (2-3) Jacksonville

Code Red: Jacksonville. They still blow, but the Rams are epically bad.

Iggins!: Hooray for shitty games? Jaguars win.

(2-2) Arizona @ (2-3) Seattle

Iggins!: Wow I really have no opinion as to who wins this game. Home team? Seattle wins.

Code Red: Nay. Cardinals win.

(3-1) Philadelphia @ (1-4) Oakland

Code Red: Oakland against a finally healthy Eagles team? Dear god. Eagles win.

Iggins!: The Raiders… jesus they’re terrible. Eagles win.

(0-5) Tennessee @ (3-2) New England

Iggins!: Well at least Vince Young will get to play again. New England wins.

Code Red: Oh yeah, that’ll be great. Maybe he’ll refuse to go in again after the fans are mean to him. New England wins.

(1-4) Buffalo @ (3-2) New York Jets

Code Red: The Jets have now dropped two straight, the Bills three. Only one of these teams is actually talented and well coached, and that’s the one that’ll break the skid. Jets win.

Iggins!: The Bills are just about as terrible as the Raiders. Jets win.

(3-1) Chicago @ (3-1) Atlanta

Iggins!: The Bears defense, special teams, and Cutler will be able to keep this one close and win it at the end. DA BEARS.

Code Red: The Bears should be out for blood after the debacle that was last year’s Falcons game. They’ve had their entire bye week to game plan for the Falcons and get everybody healthy. The Falcon’s defense is only allowing 15.8 ppg, but their low rankings in total yards (21st in the league at 355.8 ypg), run defense (24th in the league, 127.0 ypg), and pass defense (23rd in the league, 228.8 ypg) suggest to me that luck has been on their side. They rank behind the Bears defense in every category other than PPG (Bears 19.5, Atlanta 15.8), interceptions (tied at 3 a piece), and forced fumbles (Bears 4, Falcons 5). The Bears have far more sacks (14 to 8), and the Bears offense is just as dangerous as Matt Ryan and company. Those defensive stats tell me the Falcons have some serious weaknesses that can be exploited. Cutler and Forte will do just that. BEARS, 27-23.

(5-0) Denver @ (2-2) San Diego

Code Red: It’s unthinkable that Denver could win this game to go to 6-0. It was also unthinkable that they make it to 4-0 and 5-0, but they did. The Chargers look completely inept against the run without Jamal Williams, as they’re allowing 151.0 ypg on the ground, good for 27th in the league. The Broncos are averaging 139.0 yards rushing on offense, good for 5th in the league. You tell me how this ends. Broncos win.

Iggins!: I acknowledge, begrudgingly, that the Broncos are a very good team. But methinks they’ll still lose to these guys and the Steelers. Chargers win.

Kyle Orton and Cedric Benson- Lovie and Ron's Fault?

My God, that's Hideous.

I've been hearing a lot the last few weeks how Lovie Smith and Ron Turner should be under scrutiny since they seem to be the most likely candidates as to why Cedric Benson and Kyle Orton didn't perform as well in Chicago as they have in their new towns. This is Grade A bullshit, and I'll tell you why. Let's start with the Patron Saint.

I've said all along that Josh McDaniels' offense is the perfect scheme for Kyle's strength. It makes use of multiple wide receiver sets, it features a lot of underneath throws and crossing routes, it makes the most of his two good runningbacks (Buckhalter and Moreno, who've combined to give Denver the league's 4th ranked rushing attack), and his four quality wide receivers (Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokely, and Jabar Gaffney), and his two quality tight ends (Daniel Graham, Tony Sheffler). The Broncos offense is basically the closest you'll find to a true spread offense anywhere in the NFL, and that naturally favors our friend Kyle, who ran the "basketball on grass" spread offense of Joe Tiller at Purdue.

A lot of people act like McDaniels' version of the spread, which has worked so well in New England, is the first version of it to hit the NFL. It's not. The Run and Shoot was pretty much the same attack back in the '80s and '90s. A closer version to a pure spread like the ones seen in the NCAA came to our very own Bears in 1999 under Gary Crowton. Remember 1999? The Bears actually had the 3rd ranked passing offense (yardage wise) in the NFL, which was the team's highest finish in that category in the modern era, and that was with the pathetically weak arms of Shane Matthews and Cade F%&king McNown at the helm for 13 games. That team scored just 17 ppg and went 6-10, however. The reason for this was the criticism common to all spread offenses- that they struggle in the red zone.

The problem is that when teams move from the "bend but don't break" philosophy that most defenses are forced to employ to their red zone defenses, the underneath stuff is taken away and teams have to revert to conventional out routes agains tighter coverage, the kinds of throws that NFL quarterbacks are made of. Orton, as we know, struggles with these, and the Broncos offense is a perfect example of the tendency of spread offenses to rack up yards and not points. The Broncos, despite Orton's 1,236 passing yards and the great run game leading to a 6th place ranking in total yards, are just 22nd in the league in scoring at 19.8 ppg.

This offensive scheme worked in New England two years ago and many people took it as proof that the spread could consistently succeed in the NFL. This isn't quite true. The Patriots attack of 2007 worked because it had in Tom Brady and Randy Moss a quarterback who can make all of the throws and a holy terror of a wide receiver. This opened up countless opportunities for Wes Welker underneath and made the whole spread work. Orton, no matter his great stats, isn't Tom Brady. Teams still don't have to cover every inch of the field, and the threat of the deep ball isn't a factor on every single play. Right now the Broncos are getting by on defense, and this offense is controlling the clock and scoring just enough points to win. At some point that probably won't be enough. The Broncos defense isn't the 2000 Ravens or the 2002 Bucs. They'll need an offense that can challenge downfield to win a big game, either to get into the playoffs or to win in the playoffs. We'll see if that works out.

This still doesn't address the original point, I suppose. Why wasn't Kyle Orton as successful in Chicago as he has been in Denver? My answer: He was. Throw out Kyle's rookie season, where he played the most conservative offense I've ever seen, and for good reason, and let's just focus on 2008. As I've mentioned, the 2009 Broncos are averaging 19.8 ppg, good for 22nd in the league. The 2008 Bears averaged 23.4 ppg, good for 14th in the NFL. Also interesting to note, here are Orton's current stats:

5 games, 5 games started, 104 of 165 (63.0%), 1236 yards, 7.5 ypa, 247.2 ypg, 7 tds, 1 int, 97.4 rating.

Now compare that to Orton's stats last year before his ankle injury:

7 games, 7 games started, 143 of 230 (62.2%), 1669 yards, 7.3 ypa, 238.4 ypg, 10 tds, 4 ints, 91.4 rating.

Now, his numbers in Denver are slightly better, but there's no doubt that Ron Turner's offense wasn't the complete misuse of Orton's skills we've been led to believe. Orton's ankle injury changed his entire throwing motion and the team's fortunes. He was hesitant to step into throws, he was less mobile, the offensive line wore down as the season went on (they gave up 19 sacks in the second half of the season, as opposed to 10 in the first half), and Kyle's stats went into decline. It's true that Orton isn't the perfect fit for the vertical based Coryell offense that Turner would prefer to run, and that the Bears scheme has worked best under strong armed passers like Erik Kramer, Rex Grossman (at least Good Rex), and now Jay Cutler. But Turner isn't a moron completely incapable of handling a quarterback like Kyle. Hell, he was able to adjust his scheme enough to allow the weak armed Steve Walsh to guide the Bears to the playoffs in 1994. It's just a system that traditionally works best when it has a downfield element, as exemplified by the original Coryell quarterback, Dan Fouts.

It's true that Orton is playing great in Denver, and I for one am happy for him. The problem is in ignoring the complexities of NFL offensive systems and also in paying too much attention to yardage and quarterback rating and not to scoring. The Bears under Cutler, for example, are scoring 26.2 ppg, good for 7th in the NFL, despite their 22nd overall ranking in yardage (which should improve anyways as the year goes on and one strong or weak performance won't represent a drastic rise and fall in the rankings, as the Bears' yardage numbers were hurt by consistently playing on a short field against Detroit...which is a good thing, but I digress). I'm not denying that Orton fits better in McDaniels' system, but Turner used him just fine, and has also been quite successful with his new quarterback as well. So once more, no, the Bears would Not be better with Orton, and no, it's not Ron Turner's fault.

As for Benson, well, his problems were less to do with schemes than with attitude, and I'm saving That article for next week's buildup to the Bengals.