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Thursday, 8 October 2015

NFL Week 4 Recap 2015 (October 7th)

The first International Series game in London was played in Week 4, although it is not the first time that those unfortunate souls have had to witness a blow out.

There were also a fair few gaps in the Stadium and I still wonder if a franchise in London is really a viable option for the League, even if the NFL has made it clear they are going to go ahead and do that with 2022 the expected time scale for it to happen. Fans of the opposing teams will always attend as they get a chance to watch their favourite team, but changing team allegiances will be difficult as it will be committing people to go to eight regular season games at home.

Maybe I am wrong, but I don't know if there will be sell outs for that while the other logistics in terms of travel, kick off time, the ability to host a Thursday/Sunday/Monday Night Football game, and simply having players willing to move to London to play American Football have yet to be truly broken down and considered.

Those issues have been there for a number of years but the NFL has seemingly put the blinkers on and are full steam ahead for a franchise in London. I expect them to make an announcement that they are perhaps increasing the number of games in London next season and I wouldn't be surprised if that number is four games in two blocks of consecutive games. It is the best way to test whether fans are willing to put their hands in their pockets for consecutive games and one I am looking forward to see how it will work.

Two Years, Two Coaches Fired After First London Game
The Miami Dolphins truly came into the 2015 season with the belief that they can challenge the New England Patriots for the AFC East crown.

So being 1-3 after four games and playing limply in all four games wasn't going to cut it and unsurprisingly Joe Philbin was relieved from his role as Head Coach.

Philbin's 'sad sack' attitude on the sidelines produced some 'sad sack' performances from the team in big moments over the last couple of seasons and this start was never going to be tolerated. Too much money was spent in the off-season to push Miami back into Play Off contention, but the Defense has been appalling even with Ndamukong Suh in the middle of the Defensive Line and Ryan Tannehill has certainly regressed as a Quarter Back.

The bigger surprise is that Kevin Coyle has not been fired as Defensive Co-Ordinator at the time of writing and it looks like he might have escaped any cull with Dan Campbell taking over as Interim Head Coach and being given full power to make any moves he thinks is necessary.

Miami are on a bye week this week and there are plenty of things for them to work on before their next game. The season isn't quite lost yet, but the firing of Joe Philbin might just reinvigorate them and it certainly looks the right decision.

Some fans might already be thinking about who is going to be the next Head Coach, but Dan Campbell is just going to knuckle down and make the Dolphins far more competitive than they have been to open the season.

I wrote last week that Philbin should be gone if Miami were blown out in London so that was pretty much the only positive from the 1-3 start that I can take away.

Are the Cincinnati Bengals For Real?
The AFC North looks to be in the palm of the hand for the Cincinnati Bengals as injuries have hurt their rivals, but their 4-0 start to the season has some perhaps tipping the Bengals to go all the way to the Super Bowl.

Are the Cincinnati Bengals for real?

That can be a difficult question to answer in October when Andy Dalton seems to produce his best football, but I don't think anyone will truly believe in this team until they win a Play Off game. Playing at 1pm on the Eastern Time Zone has proven very effective for Dalton and there are plenty of weapons here to think they can win a Play Off game and perhaps go deep in the post-season.

Cincinnati can run the ball with both Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill offering them pace and power in the backfield, while AJ Green and Tyler Eifert give Dalton serious Receiving weapons.

The Defense is most definitely a tough unit as they get a tonne of pressure up front which is protecting the Secondary and I think Cincinnati would have a lot more backers if not for past failures.

This weekend the Bengals host the Seattle Seahawks and a win in that game might get this bandwagon rolling.

The Philadelphia Eagles Need to Get Going
The fans in Philadelphia are never shy about showing their feelings for the Eagles and/or the opponents visiting Lincoln Financial Field and the home town Eagles are the source of their frustration right now.

Chip Kelly made the kind of moves in the last couple of years that will only be tolerated if the Philadelphia Eagles win games, but opening 2015 1-3 has put them under immense pressure.

The much vaunted Offense has struggled to get out of neutral, while the Defense hasn't been able to stop anyone, although Kelly has been fighting his corner by suggesting Philadelphia are two kicks away from being 3-1.

It won't cut it here though, not after moving on the likes of Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson and hitching the wagon to Sam Bradford. The Quarter Back has looked nervous for much of the four games they have played, while DeMarco Murray was the big off-season signing who has barely got positive yardage on the ground.

Kelly's only bonus is his team are in the NFC East which has seen Dallas battered by injuries and the leaders in the Division at 2-2, just a game ahead of Philadelphia. That gives the Head Coach time to turn things around, but he doesn't want to be losing the home game with the 1-3 New Orleans Saints this week else this crowd isn't going to be shy about telling Kelly exactly what they think about him and his new-look team.

Can the Denver Broncos Defense Take Them to the Super Bowl?
Ever since Peyton Manning chose the Denver Broncos as his next stop after the Indianapolis Colts, this team has been built to be a high-scoring team and that was almost enough to win the Super Bowl.

Last season there had been moves made to improve the Defensive side of the ball and Denver looked very good until the final six games of the regular season. That is when Peyton Manning was carrying an injury and the Broncos couldn't do enough Offensively to see off the Colts in the Play Off and they were 'one and done'.

Manning came back this season with the suggestion that the last few games were an aberration in 2014 as he was carrying an injury. However, the first four games haven't inspired too much confidence in Manning who has just one 300 yard passing game and 6 Touchdowns to go with 5 Interceptions.

Instead it has been the Denver Defense that has dominated opponents and helped the Broncos move to a 4-0 record and the question is whether that unit can take the team to the Super Bowl.

I am not sure- they are very good, but they have taken advantage of mistakes made against them and I am not sure the likes of Green Bay or New England will keep them in games as much as Kansas City and Minnesota did in the first four weeks. Both the Patriots and Packers play Denver in the regular season so maybe we will get an idea of how good this Defensive unit can be for the Broncos, but I am beginning to lose faith in Manning at Quarter Back and that to me means losing faith in Denver being able to win it all this season.

Defenses can win Championships, I am just not fully sold on this Defensive unit as being as good as the likes of Seattle and Baltimore in the last few years to be able to do that just yet. Beat Green Bay and New England behind the Defense and I am willing to change that opinion drastically.

Will Colin Kaepernick Become an Effective Quarter Back in the NFL?
That image above was basically Colin Kaepernick enjoying his finest moment as he helped dismantle the Green Bay Packers in a Play Off game, but his read-option Offense has been found out and the Quarter Back has taken a nasty step back.

Questions abound as to whether he is going to be able to hold on as a starter for the San Francisco 49ers who have been killed by the turnovers committed by Kaepernick.

He seems unsure in the pocket which has led to many more sacks and just doesn't seem to read the game at all, but I don't want to draw a line through Kaepernick just yet. He is young and can still improve, but I am not sure you want to do that in front of thousands of fans which is the position he seems to be in at San Francisco.

Teams are almost daring San Francisco to throw the ball knowing they can force mistakes from Kaepernick and his team-mates have looked frustrated during a three game skid when they have been blown away for the most part.

Sitting Kaepernick might ruin his confidence, but it might be the best long-term solution for him as he looks to get comfortable throwing from the pocket. He doesn't have the same scrambling feel of Russell Wilson, as Clay Matthews pointed out succinctly during the Packers win this Sunday, and that means more sacks or more throws from pressurised positions which have led to mistakes.

Kaepernick has always come off a little arrogant and I think that is why some fans are enjoying his struggles so much and maybe being taken out of the limelight helps him. He won't want to sit, but how long can San Francisco allow him to learn on the job when it is hurting the 49ers so badly?

He is already half way to the same number of Interceptions Kaepernick threw all of last season and his Touchdown-Interception ratio is looking terrible at the moment. It does look like San Francisco will go through more pain before this turns around and they might have a big question in the Draft if having a top-five pick with Jim Harbaugh gone and perhaps Kaepernick will need to start to worry.

What is Going On with the Kickers in the NFL?
I couldn't, errr, kick, the Kickers in the NFL when they are down so the image used is of Justin Tucker securing a big win for the Baltimore Ravens over the Pittsburgh Steelers last Thursday.

However, Tucker only had that chance after Josh Scobee missed two very makeable Field Goals which would have given the Steelers a huge win without Ben Roethlisberger.

It was catching through the NFL this week as Kyle Brindza missed some big Field Goals for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while Randy Bullock had been cut by the Houston Texans last week.

Both Scobee and Brindza joined Bullock this week, but Jason Myers missed two shots to win the game for the Jacksonville Jaguars this week in Indianapolis, while Josh Lambo was saved by an offside in a winning kick for San Diego.

Cody Parkey and Caleb Sturgis have missed big kicks for Philadelphia this season which have effectively cost them a couple of wins too.

So what is happening this season when more kicks seem to be missed than usual? Is it the pressure of the extra point being moved back which is leading to nerves in usual Field Goals? Are Kickers worse than normal?

It's hard to figure out and I am of the belief that it might just be a coincidence that so many kicks are being missed at the moment. I expect that to settle down as the weeks progress, but if I am a Kicker out of a job at the moment, I might be getting my legs warmed up for the try outs that are likely to be going on through the nation.

Top Ten
1) Green Bay Packers (4-0): It was a tough game for the Green Bay Packers at the San Francisco 49ers with some concerns about the Offensive Line, but they remain the favourites to win it all at the end of the season.

2) New England Patriots (3-0): They were on a bye last week, but New England move up thanks to Arizona's defeat at home to the St Louis Rams.

3) Denver Broncos (4-0): As long as the Defense continues to play at the level they are at, Denver are a real threat to win it all as long as Peyton Manning avoids some of the bad throws he has been making. Let's see how they get on when they play the top two teams in my Rankings.

4) Cincinnati Bengals (4-0): I am beginning to think the Bengals might be for real even if it is only October, but a big test for them this week against the Seattle Seahawks.

5) Arizona Cardinals (3-1): I don't want to knock down Arizona too much off one loss when two key turnovers cost them fourteen points in a two point loss.

6) Atlanta Falcons (4-0): Can they complete the NFC East sweep this week? Atlanta have looked strong the last couple of weeks.

7) Seattle Seahawks (2-2): The Seattle Seahawks forced a fumble on the one yard line and then the officials missed a blatant bat out of the back of the End Zone which might have led to a loss to the Detroit Lions. Offensive Line has to improve if they are going to win the Super Bowl.

8) Carolina Panthers (3-0): I wasn't sure about Carolina with their Offensive injuries, but they have looked good and deserve their place in the top ten for the first time.

9) New York Giants (2-2): Could easily be 4-0 if they didn't mess up the clock management at the end of the games with Dallas and Atlanta and have a chance to pull away in the NFC East.

10) Dallas Cowboys (2-2): It might be time to make a Quarter Back change, but the Dallas Cowboys might also say they could easily be 2-0 even with Brandon Weeden at Quarter Back. Defensive reinforcements are back this week but a huge game with the New England Patriots is next on deck.

Bottom Five
32) Miami Dolphins (1-3): It can only get better from here with Dan Campbell in as Interim Head Coach in the wake of the Joe Philbin firing. The Dolphins should have show more than they have all season.

31) San Francisco 49ers (1-3): Colin Kaepernick doesn't look comfortable at Quarter Back and three heavy losses in a row are hard to ignore.

30) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3): Jameis Winston is going to have to go through the rookie teething problems he is currently enjoying.

29) Detroit Lions (0-4): They are one play away from beating the Seattle Seahawks on the road, but it is hard to ignore the only team yet to win a game this season.

28) Chicago Bears (1-3): Showed something with Jay Cutler back as Quarter Back, but they will likely be around the bottom five for much of the season.

Week 4 Picks Recap
It is hard to find too much to complain about when you have produced a third winning week in four and continue to send the season totals in a positive direction.

It would have been even better if Josh Scobee knew how to kick a Field Goal as his two misses made the Pittsburgh Steelers pick a push rather than a winner, but I won't complain too much.

The New York Giants, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers all covered easily enough, but the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals never looked like getting near to the cover in their games after poor starts.

All in all it is another positive as I look to avoid the big negative weeks which have hit me at times in the past few seasons.

I am seriously considering whether the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts game on Thursday Night Football is going to be a part of the staking plan for Week 5, but remember to check out those picks which should be up from Thursday through Saturday.

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