September 13, 2010
Every Monday morning, the Jump to Conclusions Mat looks back at Sunday's action, then lists several conclusions to which one might be tempted to jump. Then we decide whether or not it's worth the leap.
Conclusion: This year, the Houston Texans are for real.
Are we jumping? No. In fact, hell no.
I'm sorry to be such a Negative Nancy, but I've been burned by the Texans before. Prior to the 2009 season, I predicted they'd be in the playoffs. The season before that, I did the same thing. I've whorishly thrown myself at them too many times. This year, I'm making them put a ring on my finger before I give it up. I'm sorry, but this is just too precious.
Don't get me wrong, the beating they put on the Colts is as impressive as Week One wins get. Matt Schaub(notes) threw just 17 times and Andre Johnson(notes) caught just three balls, and they put 34 on the board? That's un-Texan-like. Raise your hand if you saw that coming.
I guess it depends on how much you believe in Arian Foster(notes). I don't think he's going to run for 235 yards every week, but if he provides a legit complement to the aerial attack, and he can milk the clock when the Texans have a lead, then we'll be looking at one of the league's best offenses. Colts-like, one might even say.
I can't force myself to take the leap, though. A good preseason and one good game against the Colts is insufficient to sell me on Arian Foster. And the Texan defense did still give up 463 total yards, and on their last three drives, the Colts had two touchdowns, and one drive that didn't die until Pierre Garcon(notes) fumbled inside the Texans' 10.
I'll need to see more, Texans. In my mind, the Colts remain the gold standard in the AFC South, and if anyone's taking that title from them, the Texans aren't even next in line.
Conclusion: 38-13? Yeah, the Oakland Raiders are still the sad bags of sorrow to which we've grown accustomed.
Are we jumping? No, sir, I am not.
Yeah, they took a pounding from the Tennessee Titans, and they made their customary heap of Raider penalties and mistakes. But I do still feel like this Raiders team can aspire to decency and shed themselves of laughingstock status.
Now, Raiders fans, with their pretty little costumes and plastic toys, will still be the same sad bags of sorrow to which we've grown accustomed. But the team might be all right.
I believe this for two reasons. First, yes, Chris Johnson mauled them, but guess what? Chris Johnson's going to do that to a lot of teams. That's what makes him Chris Johnson. That, and the bad-ass offensive line in front of him. Vince Young(notes) feeds off all of that
And second, it seemed like a lot of the Raiders' problems Sunday were of the "out-of-sync" variety, not the "we're just outclassed here" variety. I think most of their problems are correctable (the pass protection may remain a problem area, though), and they'll get better with time. Darren McFadden(notes) finally made himself useful with 150 all-purpose yards, and Jason Campbell(notes), while he wasn't great, did perform like a man whose pregame meal did not consist of Twizzlers and Purple Drank. That alone makes a huge difference.
If we're choosing between "the Titans are that good" or "the Raiders are that bad," then I'm leaning towards the former.
Are we jumping? Yeah, probably. Sorry, Alex Barron.
I know it's harsh, but my goodness, man. You just can't do that. Your blocking somehow seemed to personally offend Cris Collinsworth. He talked about you as if he found out that you locked his mother in the trunk of a car. He may never forgive you for how you block.
That last hold wasn't an isolated incident, either. The Redskins had turnstiled Barron all night long, and he piled up three holding penalties. It's not the penalties themselves that are the problem, it's the fact that holding a man is the only way Barron can slow that man's progress en route to impaling Tony Romo(notes).
Unfortunately, that's the kind of play that stays with a guy for his entire career. You'll never hear Alex Barron's name again without at least thinking of that play.
Are we jumping? Nope.
It's a fantastic win against a good team, and I'm sure that confidence is high in the D.C. area at the moment. And it should be. You hate the Cowboys, and you beat them. It's a big divisional win, so treat yourselves to a lollipop, Redskins fans.
There are some unpleasant realities, though. The Cowboys did outgain you by 130 yards, they had seven more first downs, and your new quarterback only completed 15 of his 32 passes. A win is a win is a win, but let's not kid ourselves. This one's not going down in the books as a game the Redskins won through unwavering toughness and unmatched skill. This one's going in the books as, "Hey, I wonder why the Cowboys decided to start huffing paint thinner about a minute before the end of each half."
There's reason for optimism, sure. But "let's just play mediocre football and hope the other team has a couple of inexplicable mental lapses" is not a reliable long-term strategy.
Conclusion: The Philadelphia Eagles belong in kelly green.
Are we jumping? Like Bob Beamon.
Maybe you prefer a more modern look, and want the Eagles to stick with their more modern-looking, week-in, week-out uniforms. But can we agree, at the very least, that Sunday's kelly-green throwbacks should ensure that we never see these things again?
I don't know why I like the kelly green so much. It might be because I think it's a cleaner, more classic look, or it might be because it reminds me of watching football as a younger lad. Maybe I just prefer that a team wears a color I can find in a Crayola box of 64.
All I can say for sure is that the Eagles were the league's sharpest-looking team Sunday. They'd be doing themselves a favor to go in that direction more often.
Are we jumping? No.
Cutler finished with 372 yards and two touchdowns through the air, and obviously, those are splendid numbers. But if Week One is any indication, Cutler's going to spend a lot of time this season running for his life. It looked like the Chicago offensive line was comprised of five Alex Barrons, minus the motivation to even hold someone.
Four different Lions sacked Cutler, and it seemed like he was scurrying away from a giant man in Honolulu blue every time he dropped back. This often happened when the Lions were only sending four guys at the quarterback, too. Even when the Bears kept eight guys in to block and the Lions sent three at Cutler, they were still getting to him.
Also, 151 of Cutler's 372 passing yards went to running back Matt Forte(notes). Those count, of course, but they're not necessarily indicative of an offense that's lighting up the sky. Twenty-eight of those yards came on a beautiful downfield strike for the game-winning TD, but for the most part, that's not Cutler shredding a defense. It's him dumping the ball off and then Forte doing the legwork. Most weeks, the Bears will play better secondaries than Detroit's, and Forte's not likely to give you 151 "receiving" yards again.
Are we jumping? Yes, but I'd like to qualify that.
The Steelers will be fine, but it's got more to do with Troy Polamalu(notes) being back on the field than Dennis Dixon being an adequate Roethlisberger replacement. Polamalu is one of the league's true difference-makers; a guy who changes games just by being on the field. For example, watch him work Matt Ryan like a speedbag on this play.
Dixon was fine, of course. It didn't feel like he posed a huge offensive threat at any point, but he didn't hurt the Steelers, either.
We've seen before, though, that the Steelers are a different team when Polamalu's healthy and in uniform. The difference between Roethlisberger and his back-up is not as big as the difference between Polamalu and his back-up.
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