Posted tagged ‘Tom Brady’

Mike Blewitt’s NFL Power Rankings – Week 7

October 20, 2009

One would think that you could not ask for a better game than matching up the top two teams in the power rankings only a blowout left us…unfulfilled. Tom Brady had Patriots fans thinking of the glorious days of yesteryear (it was 2007, relax), Favre-mania is running wild in Minny, and the QB passing numbers across the entire league had fantasy geeks awkwardly high-fiving each other on Monday morning at the water cooler.  Here we go from the NEW No. 1 New Orleans Saints all the way to ol’ reliable Rams at No. 32…

Is this the year it all comes together for Brees in New Orleans?

Is this the year it all comes together for Brees in New Orleans?

1. New Orleans Saints (5-0)—The marquee matchup was ALL New Orleans as Drew Brees & Co played nearly flawless offensive football and torched the Giants 48 points. The Saints topped the 40-point mark for the third time this season and this time did it against the league’s previously top-ranked defense. They have officially earned this No. 1 ranking on the field.

2. Indianapolis Colts (5-0)—The Colts bring their well-rested and increasingly healthy team to St. Louis after the bye week which almost seems unfair.

3. Minnesota Vikings (6-0)—Another fantastic finish in Minnesota as the Vikings and Ravens combined for 34 fourth-quarter points. While the Vikes defense does not seem as dominant as they were a year ago, the Adrian Peterson-Brett Favre combo is providing a well-balanced punch that can put away any team in the league. Next up: They go to Pittsburgh for another stern test of their undefeated record.

4. Denver Broncos (6-0)—The Broncos defense came up with five sacks and held San Diego to just 2 of 11 on third downs; they continue to impress the entire NFL-watching nation. Oh, by the way, Eddie Royal returned a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown, only the 11th player to do so in league history.

5. New York Giants (5-1)—When it rains, it pours. The Giants No. 1 pass defense looked anything but that on Sunday against the Saints as they allowed four touchdowns and 369 yards through the air. This is still a team who will be fighting for home-field advantage at season’s end but they lost some leverage after this past week’s performance against New Orleans.

6. New England Patriots (4-2)—A little film study and a 0-5 opponent can go a long way to boosting a team’s confidence. Skewering that team for team records of 59 points, 651 yards, and five passing TDs in one quarter is like a Tony Robbins infomercial boost…in the snow.

7. Atlanta Falcons (4-1)—While Matt Ryan the rest of the offense took advantage of their scoring opportunities, the real story for Atlanta was their defense who created two Chicago turnovers in the red zone. The Falcons travel to Dallas needing every win they can get to keep pace with divisional rival and top-ranked New Orleans.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2)—Their inability to run the ball effectively led to their second loss of the year as Houston also tore their defense apart all day. The loss of DE Antwan Odom is a big one for the Bengals who will need to rally quickly as they take on a desperate Bears team this Sunday.

9. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2)—Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to over 500 yards of offense as they beat the Browns for the 12th consecutive time. Three lost fumbles prevented a blowout and showed signs that Pittsburgh is still having trouble putting teams away but Troy Polamalu’s return from injury will be a big key for their success moving forward in 2009.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)—The Eagles were able to pick up 4.8 yards per carry on the ground yet called only 14 rushing plays on the afternoon in Oakland. The one-dimensional offense provided the Raiders the opportunities for six sacks and led to QB Donovan McNabb having an inaccurate day under center (22 for 46). I would guess the Redskins are in for a heavy dose of Eagles bounce-back win on Monday night.

11. Baltimore Ravens (3-3)—Heartbreak city again for the Ravens as kicker Steven Hauschka missed a 44-yard field goal with no time left. This was their third consecutive last minute loss so they will use this bye week to get past the frustration and figure out how to slow down opposing offenses; they rank 22nd in the league in pass defense.

12. Arizona Cardinals (3-2)—Kurt Warner had a very efficient day as he passed the 30,000-yard mark for his career and put Arizona back on track as they head to New York to take on the Giants. The Cardinals pass defense, which ranked dead last before Sunday, held Seattle to just 112 yards through the air and 128 total—great sign for them moving forward this season.

13. San Francisco 49ers (3-2)—The Niners probably spent most of their bye week erasing the 45-10 shellacking from Atlanta out of their memories. They get RB Frank Gore back and will head to Houston to try to slow down their offensive attack.

14. Green Bay Packers (3-2)—It may be difficult to find negatives in a 26-0 win but I am up for the challenge. The Packers have allowed a league-high 25 sacks and committed 13 penalties for 130 yards against the Lions. They were a favorite amongst many to be the dark horse this season but look every bit the also-ran at this stage of the season.

15. Chicago Bears (3-2)—The Bears may be shaking their heads over this one for a while, losing by seven points after coming up empty in the red zone three times. They will need to regroup quickly as the Bengals are up next.  The 27th-ranked rushing attack needs a boost as well…

16. Dallas Cowboys (3-2)—The Cowboys have managed to make every game seem tough but their opponent coming off the bye week, the Atlanta Falcons, will likely prove to be more than just a worthy adversary this week.

17. New York Jets (3-3)—For all the people who bought tickets to the Mark Sanchez bandwagon, they are non-refundable…five interceptions by the rookie killed a 300-yard rushing performance by Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. This was an inexcusable loss for the Jets who have now dropped three straight and look every bit a .500 team.

18. Houston Texans (3-3)—The Texans are arguably the hardest team in the league to figure out but their offense seems to be very straightforward right now; Matt Schaub threw for nearly 400 yards and four TDs in a key victory over the Bengals. They stuffed the run and dominated the clock with over 36 minutes of possession providing them with great momentum as they take on the Niners this Sunday.

19. San Diego Chargers (2-3)—After this week’s loss to the undefeated Broncos, the division crown already looks lost but there are plenty of games left and an immediate turnaround is necessary. The transformation needs to begin on defense where they are near the bottom of the league in points allowed.

20. Seattle Seahawks (2-3)—Seattle’s offense looked inept just a week after posting 34 points on offense. They held the ball for only 17 minutes and roll into their bye week a very up-and-down team.

21. Miami Dolphins (2-3)—After the way the Saints looked on Sunday, the Dolphins should be happy to have had two weeks to prepare for them, they may need every last minute.

22. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3)—The squeaky wheel got the grease as Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 133 yards and three TDs against the lowly Rams. MJD said last week that he was upset with his “decoy” role yet manned up and helped earn a victory for the Jags despite three crucial turnovers that forced this contest to overtime.

23. Carolina Panthers (2-3)—The Panthers got back to their strong suit by rushing for 267 yards in a victory over Tampa Bay. Despite continually shaky play by QB Jake Delhomme, their ability to pound opponents on the ground will win them some games going forward and this is not a team that should be counted out yet.

24. Washington Redskins (2-4)—The ‘Skins have yet to play a team that has a win entering the game in which they face off. Head Coach Jim Zorn’s days are clearly numbered as he was relieved of his play-calling duties by the team’s management and Q B Jason Campbell was benched. Maybe Sherm Lewis can get things on the right track…I’m not buying that either but I had to try.

25. Buffalo Bills (2-4)—It doesn’t matter how you win, just if you win. Trent Edwards was added to the long list of injured Bills players and K Rian Lindell made up for his miss in regulation by nailing a 47-yarder in OT to win it. The Bills will have a long road to climb in the AFC East but they can get some momentum going by taking out Carolina this Sunday.

26. Oakland Raiders (2-4)—The Raiders played their most complete game of the season and earned a shocking win over the Eagles. Oakland controlled to clock and put Philly in a position to throw the ball downfield, amazing considering they ranked 30th against the run going into the game. They host the Jets this weekend in what should be a very ugly contest.

27. Kansas City Chiefs (1-5)—This one was not pretty but the Chiefs toughed it out by controlling the ball for over 37 minutes. They have been embroiled in close battles all season and will be in for a brawl this Sunday versus the Chargers.

28. Detroit Lions (1-5)—It’s a good thing the Lions grabbed that win when they had the chance a few weeks ago because they have been awful since. They managed only 149 yards of offense total and have run their winless streak in Green Bay to 19 games.

29. Cleveland Browns (1-5)—Less than 200 yards of offense and four turnovers led to a 12th consecutive loss to the Steelers. They rank 31st in the NFL in total offense and will probably not climb much further than that if this QB play continues.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6)—The Bucs are off to their first 0-6 start since 1985 and are in the midst of a 10-game losing streak. Five fumbles, four sacks allowed, and two turnovers really does not point to any signs of improvement on offense. This week they get to take their show on the road to London, where the Pats will likely put on an offensive clinic for our international fans.

31. Tennessee Titans (0-6)—The wheels fell off the wagon a few weeks back but who would have thought it would come to this? The 59-0 shutout at the hands of the Pats was the largest point margin in an NFL contest since 1976 and shockingly has the league’s longest tenured head coach, Jeff Fisher, on the hot seat.

32. St. Louis Rams (0-5)—It will be no consolation to Rams Nation (is there one?) that their 16th straight defeat was a hard-fought one that went into overtime. Yielding 500 yards of offense and scoring only one offensive touchdown is simply nowhere near getting it done on the field. Lastly, playing the Colts coming off a bye week is about as bad a way to try to build momentum as there could be in the NFL…good luck, Rams.

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Depth Perceptions: New England Patriots’ Cornerbacks

July 31, 2009

Depth Perceptions is a weekly look at the depth chart and positional battles all over the NFL.

One common thread that has run through the near decade-long successful run of the New England Patriots has been their ability to adapt to personnel changes. The Pats have shown a remarkable ability to utilize every player on the roster to help improve the team (see Tom Brady, 2001) or fill holes in desperate scenarios (see Troy Brown, 2004). Each offseason they retool and enter the regular season as one of the odds-on favorites to reach the Super Bowl – 2009 should be no different.

Youngsters Wilhite and Wheatley will be bigger contributors in 2009.

Coming off a dominant 2007 campaign that ended in Super Bowl XLII heartbreak, the Patriots had high hopes for the 2008 season. However there were some glaring positional concerns entering last season, particularly at cornerback. First team All-Pro CB Asante Samuel signed a six-year, $57 million with the Philadelphia Eagles and his ability to track down the ball was sorely missed. Samuel was replaced by capable veteran Deltha O’Neal to complement second-year starter Ellis Hobbs at corner but the big play was alive and well against the Pats defense last season, resulting in the following stats:

-New England allowed 27 passing TDs on defense in 2008, the second highest total in the NFL

-New England allowed 12 pass plays of 40 or more yards, the second highest total in the NFL

So, the Patriots shook things up again by dealing Hobbs on draft day to the aforementioned Eagles for draft picks. In addition, they brought in veteran cornerbacks Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden via free agency and took UConn product Darius Butler early in the second round of the draft. Let’s take a look at the state of the cornerbacks in New England for 2009.

Shawn Springs – The 13-year veteran will give this defensive backfield some much needed experience that left with the retirement of former Strong Safety Rodney Harrison. Springs’ best days are certainly behind him producing only one INT in 2008 along with a pedestrian 36 tackles. But, he will likely fill one of the starting corner roles if he is able to stay healthy, something he could not do two of the last three seasons.

Leigh Bodden – Bodden had developed into a solid corner for the Browns, turning in his best season in 2007 (88 TKL, 6 INT) before being shipped off to ‘Football Siberia’ a.k.a Detroit in 2008. The defense in Detroit was historically bad so it is fairly easy to write off Bodden’s drop in numbers. The Pats are hoping he returns to 2007 form and uses his six years in the league to complement Springs for a nicely rebuilt starting duo at CB.

Terrence Wheatley – The second round draft pick in 2008 out of Colorado saw very limited action in six games logging just two tackles. Corner is one of the most difficult positions on the field for rookies to contribute immediately, so his ‘struggles’ should be seen as part of the growing process. New England has high hopes for him to have a much bigger impact this season and you can expect him to see a lot more action in 2009.

Darius Butler – Butler received first-round consideration and was coveted by many teams on draft day. New England snatched him with the 41st pick getting a player with excellent ball skills who can contribute immediately as a returner on special teams, something he did very well at UConn. Again, rookies will struggle at CB but expect Butler to be used often this season especially in nickel and dime packages as the Pats don’t have the luxury of great depth at this position.

Jonathan Wilhite – A fourth round pick in the 2008 draft, the Auburn rookie played in every game in 2008 chipping in with 28 tackles and an interception. The Patriots were pleased with his progress as he got up to speed quickly even starting the last four games at corner opposite Ellis Hobbs. By exceeding expectations in his rookie season, Wilhite will likely start the season on the 2-deep at corner but will battle Wheatley and Butler consistently for playing time in all defensive packages.

Mike Richardson – In his first year on the Pats’ roster, Richardson contributed 17 tackles during 10 games of limited action. He will provide depth in specialty packages and may have to fight to keep himself on the roster as opposed to being placed on the practice squad once again. His special teams contributions could save him a spot on the roster in 2009.

SUMMARY

While everyone connected to the Patriots was dejected after the loss of Asante Samuel before the 2008 season, it was justified by knowing it would be too difficult to pay top dollar to keep him. You won’t see too many people in the same mood over Hobbs’ departure. He played tough through injuries over the last two seasons, but was regularly picked on by bigger wideouts (see Plaxico Burress’ SB XLII-winning catch) and his ceiling had been determined to be limited by the Pats.

By bringing in two veterans with a combined 19 years of experience and drafting three corners in the last two years, New England acknowledged the need for an overhaul at the position. With all-everything QB Tom Brady back from injury, head coach Bill Belichick is aware than the margin for error in winning the Super Bowl is razor-thin and they cannot afford a weakness at any position.

Bodden will pleasantly surprise Pats’ fans and Butler will open eyes at least in the return game. If Springs stays healthy, a sizable ‘if’, the Pats have upgraded at both corner spots with three talented youngsters backing them up and supporting in special packages. That is as good an overhaul as can be done in just over a year’s time and the position now has a very good makeup for a team trying to return to the Super Bowl after a one-year hiatus.