September 20, 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: The Cowboys are a giant mess, and in very serious trouble.
Are we jumping? It's tempting, but no, I'm still not jumping.
The Cowboys are 0-2, having gagged themselves against the Redskins and Bears, which probably does not represent the toughest part of their schedule.
The Cowboys were a popular preseason Super Bowl pick, but what about now? Can they still play Super Bowl XLV as a home game? Or, if they want to be there, will they have to apply for jobs as hot dog vendors?
I'm urging patience here. For the second straight week, they outgained an opponent, moved the ball up and down the field gracefully, but then unloaded a full clip of hollow points into their own feet. Last week, they did it with penalties and goofball mental lapses. This week, they did it with turnovers and red-zone inefficiency.
There are two ways to look at it. The Cowboys are either an undisciplined team that lacks mental toughness and focus, or they're a good team that's had some bad luck and a couple of mental lapses.
I still lean towards the latter. They've struggled to run the ball, but they just welcomed back two offensive-line starters to the lineup this week. With some time, the blocking is likely to come around. When they can run the ball more effectively, everything else gets easier, and Tony Romo(notes) doesn't have to assume as much of the burden.
Conclusion: OK, now the Texans are for real.
Are we jumping? Well, I'm closer to jumping now than I was last week.
Week 1 did not sell me on the notion that the Texans are better than the Colts. I still don't believe that. This week's comeback against the Redskins has me at least considering their legitimacy, though.
I like the intestinal fortitude (©Gorilla Monsoon) displayed with forcing that game into overtime. I feel like that hasn't been a trademark of the Texans over the past couple of years. They believed in themselves and they fought. They won in Week 1 on the shoulders of Arian Foster, and now they won in Week 2 when Foster was pretty well bottled up. I like that versatility.
I'm still concerned about the secondary -- Donovan McNabb throwing for 426 yards against you is not a good sign -- and I'm afraid that it will haunt them in big games down the stretch.
But if I'm going to let the Texans suck me back into their bandwagon, it'll be because they can gut out close wins like this on the road, not because they happened to get an all-world performance from Arian Foster in Week 1.
Conclusion: The "call a timeout right before the guy kicks it" trick needs to be banned.
Are we jumping? Emphatically.
It's such a cheap thing to do. It happened to work against Graham Gano and the Redskins, and it saved the game for the Texans, but for the casual observer, it feels almost sleazy. It feels like the kind of thing some 13-year-old wiseass would do in an online game of Madden, just to be obnoxious. It adds nothing to the game but annoyance.
Conclusion: At 2-0, Kansas City's going to be this year's surprise team.
Are we jumping? Still no. Sorry.
This isn't to say that I don't like what the Chiefs are doing -- I do. They're clearly in a better place than they were a year ago. There are bright spots, and at least on defense, a foundation that suggests a promising future.
I don't see this lasting, though. Matt Cassel just isn't good. If Sunday's game -- 16 of 28, 176 yards, zero touchdowns, two interceptions, 46.1 passer rating -- is the best he can do against the Browns, then the Chiefs are only going to be able to beat teams like ... well, like the Browns.
And that's fine, because last year, they couldn't beat the Browns. Again, I like the direction the Chiefs are heading, but I believe a winning record this year is probably still a little bit out of their grasp.
Conclusion: Brett Favre's magic is gone.
Are we jumping? Nah.
It was certainly missing in action Sunday, but it'll be back. There are way too many analysts out there who are dying to say, "Look, the old guy still has it!" for the Favre magic not to make at least a brief appearance at some point this season.
Chris Mortensen of ESPN says the Vikings are considering putting together a serious offer to acquire Vincent Jackson from the Chargers, and I think they need to. From what I can tell, Favre isn't getting enough time in the pocket, and he doesn't have receivers making plays for him (other than Visanthe Shiancoe in the middle of the field). Sidney Rice isn't around for a while, and Percy Harvin hasn't been a big play threat at all. If opposing defenses have more to worry about down the field, it'll free Favre up in a lot of ways.
If the Vikings want to make the most out of Favre's (presumably) last year, I think they've got to go get Vincent Jackson.
Conclusion: The Steelers defense is a dominant unit.
Are we jumping? I don't see how we couldn't.
The Steelers just won a game against a good team on the road (at Tennessee) in which their leading passer went 5 of 11 for 25 yards. They forced seven turnovers against an offense designed for ball control.
And neither of those things were even their most impressive feat of the day. They held the great Chris Johnson to 34 yards on 16 carries. It's quite likely that that will be Johnson's worst day of the 2010 season.
If you're an AFC North team, you've got to be frightened by the Steelers. They're as vulnerable now as they'll be all season -- they currently rank 31st in the league in total offense and passing offense (ahead of only Buffalo in each category) -- and they're still winning. They're winning games by sheer defensive force.
Ben Roethlisberger will be back for Week 6, and if the offensive line can muster any improvement at all, this team gets scary.
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