September 27, 2010
Every Monday, 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.
Are we jumping? Cautiously, yes.
The anti-Vick, pro-Kolb crowd is quick to point out that Michael Vick's two victories as a starter have come against the Jags and Lions -- two of the league's worst pass defenses. And that's perfectly valid. It's worth asking if Vick is so far just the beneficiary of lame opposing defenses.
But don't forget that Vick's best half to date, his 175 yards passing and 103 yards rushing in two quarters in Week 1, came against Green Bay, currently ranked as the league's best pass defense. The Packers finished last year with the fifth-best pass defense in the league, and not much has changed there since last year. That game counts, too.
There's nothing Vick is doing that isn't sustainable. He's playing with the best receivers he's ever had, and he's playing with a maturity and confidence he's never had before. He's making good decisions, both in picking out the right receiver, and knowing when to tuck the ball away and run. He's taken the long, circuitous route there, but this is the Vick we all imagined back when he was drafted first overall in 2001.
Like any other quarterback, he'll have a bad game here or there. But his ceiling -- and he's been playing pretty close to it for 10 quarters now -- remains higher than most others in the league.
Conclusion: The Texans were exposed against the Cowboys.
Are we jumping? I'm afraid we are, yes.
The 2-0 start and the win over the Colts was very exciting, but here's what the Texans are: The Texans are a good team with a good quarterback leading a dynamic, balanced, explosive offense. And when opposing offensive coordinators watch film of their defense, they smile with delightful anticipation.
Through three games, opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 116.8 against the Texans; 116.8! That rating could only improve by 41.5 points if a quarterback and his receivers were playing on an empty field.
The Texans are pretty good against the run statistically, but how much could that possibly matter? They're facing a league-lowest 18 rushing attempts per game, because it would be foolish not to throw against them. The Texans bragging that they can stop the run is kind of like Shane Mosley bragging that Floyd Mayweather was never able to punch him in the back of the knee.
As for the Cowboys, we finally got to see what would happen if they played a game without making several crippling mental errors. The result is that they handled a pretty good team -- a team that can't stop anyone, but still, a good team.
Conclusion: The Buccaneers were exposed against the Steelers.
Are we jumping? Not this time.
I never felt like the Bucs were going to go 12-4 or anything, but again -- and yes, I know I'm giving the Steelers a sensual foot massage here every week -- I feel like they played a damn fine team this week.
It wasn't just defense for the Steelers this time, either. The Bucs just held DeAngelo Williams(notes) to 54 yards (3.2 a carry) and then Rashard Mendenhall(notes) came to town and lit them up for 143, pounding out 7.5 yards a carry. And this was against a Bucs defense that knew the run was coming, given that Charlie Batch(notes) was the opposing quarterback.
They lost by 25 at home, but I'm still regarding the Bucs as a pleasant surprise. They'll rebound from this. They're not heading to the playoffs or anything, but if you were having "Man, the Bucs are better than I thought" feelings, this loss doesn't mean you have to abandon them.
Are we jumping? Yes.
And I'm not just saying that because the Bills, after one game with Fitzpatrick at the helm, have decided to outright release Edwards.
That was a quick journey. Three weeks, and Edwards went from opening-day starter to the waiver wire. It's gotta be tough for him, but it's not like it's unjustified. Fitzpatrick stepped in and led a 30-point effort against New England, where Edwards could only manage 17 points in two weeks. Sure, Fitzpatrick played a softer defense, but in two weeks, Edwards had a grand total of two completions that went for 20 yards or more.
Conclusion: San Francisco's noble effort against New Orleans was an aberration. The 49ers are not good.
Are we jumping? I think we have to.
After the Monday night effort against the Saints, I wanted to believe in the 49ers. They made it easy to believe. The defense brought the wood all night long, Alex Smith looked like a respectable quarterback, and Frank Gore(notes) was at his beastly best. And I don't know how anyone can't love Mike Singletary.
But good teams just don't get blown out regularly. Maybe it happens once in some kind of odd little fluke, but twice in three weeks? If you're a quality squad, that doesn't happen.
Now, if the Niners were 0-3 and all their losses were narrow, I could maybe contort myself into believing that the Chiefs and Seahawks are both decent teams, and that the 49ers had just run into some bad luck and decent teams playing above their heads.
But that's not the case, because this is not a good team. This entire year will pass without the 49ers ever reaching the levels they were expected to reach during the preseason.
Conclusion: The Chargers, with losses to the Chiefs and Seahawks, are in trouble.
Are we jumping? Not entirely, no.
What I will buy, though, is that the special teams units are in trouble, and poor special teams can absolutely sabotage an entire season.
Offensively, they do miss Vincent Jackson(notes), but Philip Rivers(notes) is good enough to compensate for that. The offensive line, even without Marcus McNeil, is playing better than it has in a couple of years. And defensively, the Chargers have been stronger than anyone expected them to be.
But in losses to the Chiefs and Seahawks, the Chargers have given up a total of 48 points, with just 27 of those being the responsibility of the defense. And that's being generous -- a lot of those 27 were set up by big kickoff returns. The remaining 21 are the direct result of poor kick/punt coverage.
Something like that should be correctable.
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