Obviously, this introduction is going to be about Tim Tebow.
When he came out of Florida, I thought that he would be an average NFL starting quarterback, which is better than many people thought he would do. I bet my roommate 5 or 10 bucks that he would be a first round draft pick and happily collected. I thought, though, that he would become a better passer than he has demonstrated and that his running game would be less effective than it has been.
I know that there are many correlative factors that have gone into the Broncos’ 4-1 record with Tebow as starter this season. Weak schedule, stronger defense, etc. Von Miller in particular has been beastly and perhaps a greater reason for the Broncos’ success than Tebow. We can say that eventually opposing defenses are going to figure out how to stop the gimmicky option–and this is probably the case–but thus far they have not. We’ve never seen this type of offense work in the contemporary NFL but we’ve also never seen a quarterback with the size, strength, and speed of Tebow to go along with a system tailored to his strengths.
The closest comparison to Tebow I can think of is Vince Young, whose achievements and physical prowess as a running quarterback have been underrated due to his mental issues. Many people don’t realize that Young had a 30-17 career record as a starter, largely as a quarterback who wouldn’t completely ruin the fact that his team had a great defense. Tebow rushes for more yards (36.2 ypg in his career thus far) than Young did (24.7 ypg) but more runs are called for him. Tebow clearly has a better attitude than Young but if NFL coaches thought he had the talent to win games at the same rate he has throughout the career, Young would likely be a starter somewhere.
As annoying as the deification of Tebow is, his teammates are responding to him. We live in a world where everything has to be quantified and we get derided as unsophisticated when we invoke intangibles but they have to matter, at least a little bit, in team games like football. Tebow’s success probably isn’t sustainable on a basis where he will win 80% of his starts but there is no doubt in my mind that he is a valuable asset at the quarterback position, especially if the Broncos are creative enough to utilize him in a platoon role where they have a conventional quarterback on some series and Tebow’s option offense on the others.
I like that Tebow is succeeding right now, in the face of so many who said he would and could not, in an outside the box manner that challenges what we think and know about the right way to win football games. I feel that he is sincere, if misguided, in his religious beliefs. And, as I said a few weeks ago, at least he’s interesting. Above all, I am in favor of anyone who makes my (sort of) job easier and I really hope that this run can somehow result in a Broncos playoff berth.
On to the picks, which as always are done with my buddy Asif who writes Uninformed Commentary.
Week 10: 8-8
Week 11 (so far): 1-0
Week 10: 7-9
Week 11 (so far): 0-1
Tennessee @ Atlanta (-6)
Ryan: This line is a little bit too high. I think I’ve undervalued Tennessee a little bit even as four of their five wins have come against teams (Broncos, Browns, Colts, and Panthers) with a combined record of 9-28.
In doing research for my Matt Leinart column yesterday, I was shocked to see that Matt Hasselbeck was #5 in ESPN’s Total QBR. His presence in the top 10 reads suspiciously like a “which one doesn’t belong?” riddle but he is actually having a pretty solid year; he is completing 61.9% of his passes with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. This is more impressive considering how little help he has gotten from Chris Johnson.
I agreed with Mike Smith’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-inches in overtime last week but not getting it is the kind of demoralizing event that could have a lingering effect this week. Titans cover.
Asif: I was initially a bit flabbergasted by Smith’s decisions to go for it on fourth and inches from his own 30 in overtime last week, but upon review it was definitely the right call. I haven’t looked at the numbers (what do I look like, an actual journalist who does research?), but from what I’ve seen during Smith’s tenure with the Falcons, he’s been more willing to go for it on fourth down than the average NFL coach, and that’s to his credit.
With Matt Schaub out for the season, Tennnesee has a legitimate shot at catching Houston for the AFC South crown, especially if Chris Johnson continues to play like he did last week. Unfortunately for all three fans in Nashville, I think the Falcons are the better team here and they should be hungry after a tough loss. Atlanta covers.
Buffalo @ Miami (-2)
Ryan: The wheels sure fell off the Bills (band)wagon fast, huh? After starting 5-2, Buffalo has been outgained 781-558 and outscored 71-18 the last two weeks.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, have been surging. Well, at least to the extent that a team that is now 2-7 can surge. Miami outscored the Chiefs and Redskins 51-12 the past two weeks and are a couple of bounces, blown leads, and supernatural interventions of the Tebow variety away from having won four in a row. They’ve been extra feisty. Dolphins cover.
Asif: Look, I know that Buffalo looked awful against Dallas last week and Miami has won two in a row, but I’m just not willing to take the Dolphins as favorites against a decent team, okay? Bills cover.
Cincinnati @ Baltimore (-7)
Ryan: Considering that this is a big game, the Ravens will actually be up for it. This is going to be a game where Andy Dalton, who at this point has a higher completion percentage, more touchdowns, and less interceptions than Cam Newton, is humbled a little bit against an angry Ravens defense.
I think that we see a heavy dose of Ray Rice, who for some reason only got five carries last week while Joe Flacco threw 52 times in a game where the Ravens were behind but never by more than two scores. The enigmatic Ravens are embodied by the enigmatic Joe Flacco, who at times can make WOW throws deep with strength and accuracy while at other times misses wide open receivers by comical margins on throws that should be easy. The Ravens should be sufficiently motivated for this game, though. Baltimore covers.
Asif: If only the Ravens tried as hard every week as they do against the Steelers. AJ Green’s status is really what’s going to swing this pick either way in mind and he’s a game time call. Personally, I think he plays and the Bengals cover.
Jacksonville (PK) @ Cleveland
Ryan: The Jaguars should be favored in this game by at least a field goal. Along with the Titans, I would qualify them as a “good bad team.” The Browns, meanwhile, are a bad bad team. Like, they lost to the Rams last week. I don’t imagine that I will see too much of this game. Jaguars cover.
Asif: This week’s Derp Bowl is a close call between this game and the Seahawks @ Rams (more on that abortion later). I’m going to go ahead and call this game the Derp Bowl because I can’t think of one good thing about either team. Coincidentally neither can Browns fans:
I’m going to go ahead and say the Jaguars shut down the factory of sadness this week, in the derpiest possible way.
Oakland (-1) @ Minnesota
Ryan: Vikings on a short week. Game means much more for the Raiders who absolutely need to win this one to hold on to their one-game lead in the AFC West. Somehow, some way, Carson Palmer demonstrated arm strength last week. Have we checked his passport for stamps from Germany or mailbox for shipments from Dr. Anthony Galea? Raiders cover.
Asif: Oakland has the best running back tandem in the league after Houston’s Arian Foster – Ben Tate monster. Michael Bush absolutely beasted the Chargers last week and there’s no reason to think he won’t be able to do the same against the Vikings. So long as Carson Palmer doesn’t muck everything up, I don’t see the Raiders having much trouble here. Oakland covers.
Carolina @ Detroit (-7)
Ryan: The Lions are coming off a pretty embarrassing 37-13 #beatemdown last week at the hands of the Bears and have now lost three out of four.
The Panthers are coming off a pretty embarrassing loss themselves, getting dropped 30-3 last week by the Titans. Cam Newton has not progressed intra-season in the way that Panthers fans would have hoped. He is still a pretty safe bet to be the franchise’s long-term answer, though, and it may be good that he is suffering lumps now. Each one will drive him this offseason.
My gut feeling is that the Lions cover but the only true safe bet in this game is that the Lions manage to get in a fight with the other team for the infinitieth straight week.
Asif: Early on this season it seemed as if Carolina would be able to give good teams trouble and beat bad teams, but right now they’re sitting at 2-7. They should have won last week, instead Chris Johnson ran all over them and this was the first time he’s run all over anyone this season.
Detroit’s problems all started when Jahvid Best got hurt. They’re a much weaker team when they don’t have even the slightest threat of a running game. Still, the Lions play really well at home so I’ll take Detroit to cover.
Tampa Bay @ Green Bay (-14)
Ryan: In 2009, the Packers were 4-3 and coming off their second loss to the Brett Favre-led Vikings in less than a month. To regain momentum and confidence, they needed to beat the 0-7 Buccaneers in the worst way and didn’t. Aaron Rodgers didn’t need to be reminded of these circumstances this week. Even after a Super Bowl title and nine games this season of if-I-don’t-get-hurt-I-will-win-NFL-MVP-in-a-landslide play, Rodgers is the best in the world at synthesizing motivation. His and the Packers’ lights out play continue this week. Packers cover.
Asif: Battle of the bays! And other annoying tag lines that Chris Berman will use to characterize this game! Speaking of Berman, the one thing that I am most thankful for when it comes to football is that Mike Alstott is retired so I never have to hear Berman do his truck impression ever again.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Bucs regression. My take on all of it is that they’re playing to their actual talent level and Raheem Morris isn’t a good coach after all. Packers cover.
Dallas (-7.5) @ Washington
Ryan: In ranking the NFL head coaches in my NFL season preview, here is what I wrote about Mike Shanahan when I ranked him #23:
I might have him ranked too high on account of his two Super Bowl rings in the 90s. Shanahan is a complete megalomaniac with no sense of self-awareness or ability to relate to this generation of players. Prior to last season, Shanahan had the Redskins trade a 2nd round pick for Donovan McNabb. McNabb played a lot like anybody would have expected him to, which is to say as a decent leader but generally inaccurate, completing 58.3% of his passes (his career average is 58.9%). Shanahan benched McNabb for Rex Grossman and now plans to install John Beck or Matt Leinart (he may be available) as the starter.
Instead of figuring out a way to use Albert Haynesworth as a wrecking ball, Shanahan isolated and benched him. With Haynesworth and McNabb, Shanahan has shown a unique willingness to lose battles amidst losing the war. I would not be surprised if the Redskins quit on Shanahan sometime around Week 4.
I have no idea where I got that Leinart thing from (was it a rumor at the time? The Lockout seems so long ago) and Haynesworth proved himself to be unreachable on a third team but the general tenor of my preview–that Shanahan is a megalomaniac and the ‘Skins would quit around sometime around Week 4–rings true. Since Week 4, the Redskins have lost five in a row and been outscored 115-53. I am picking against them blindly every game for the rest of the year. Cowboys cover.
Asif: The Redskins are soooooo bad that it hurts to think about them playing football. I can’t believe they beat my Giants in Week 1. Cowboys hype will reach critical mass after this game. I’m picking December 4th @ Arizona as the date of the (next) Romo-pocalypse. Dallas covers.
Arizona @ San Francisco (-9.5)
Ryan: John Skelton wins football games! Maybe not this week, though. Gotta keep picking the 49ers to cover until they don’t. They still seem to be a little bit under the radar. 49ers cover.
Asif: San Francisco is really good. John Skelton on the road, not so much. 49ers cover.
Seattle @ St. Louis (-2)
Ryan: In terms of degrees of badness, I feel like the Rams are much, much worse. In a weird way, Tarvaris Jackson has looked semi-maybe-just-a-little-bit-OK at throwing the football the last few games. Who knew? Seahawks cover.
Asif: Derp Bowl runner up. I give this game two farts and a dismissive wank on the watchability scale. Seattle covers, or whatever, I don’t really care.
San Diego @ Chicago (-3.5)
Ryan: The Bears have won four in a row while the Chargers have lost four in a row. These two teams are headed in completely opposite directions right now and it is astonishing that this line is this low. The Chargers have been getting absolutely DOMINATED on the line on offense and defense. It seems like this is going to be a year of reckoning for Norv Turner and AJ Smith and it might be for the best. Bears cover.
Asif: It sure seems like Philip Rivers and Jay Cutler have switched bodies, what with Cutler cussing at his coaches and Rivers trying to set a new record for boneheaded interceptions. I think it’s all because Norv Turner’s surprisingly hot daughter has been tempting him with the secular flesh. I base this on absolutely nothing. Also, if the Chargers miss the playoffs and Norv isn’t fired we can just go ahead and assume that he has incriminating pictures of AJ Smith. Oh, and the Bears cover.
Philadelphia @ NY Giants (-4.5)
Ryan: Seems like this just isn’t the year for the Eagles. Don’t know what to say about it other than that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to give Vick a contract extension before the season. They obviously could have gotten better value by waiting. Can’t see Eli and the Giants losing this one. Giants cover.
Asif: If I were setting the lines this one would be at a touchdown especially with Michael Vick nursing broken ribs while going up against an excellent Giants pass rush. Andy Reid seems to have completely lost the Eagles locker room, which makes me immensely happy. Giants cover.
Kansas City @ New England (-15)
Ryan: If I lose picking against Tyler Palko, making his first start of his career, on the road, on Monday night, against a resurgent Patriots team, so be it. Patriots cover.
Asif: I realize this isn’t exactly a revelation, but I’m going to go ahead and say that the Patriots will coast their way into the top seed in the AFC. Of course it will all be moot when they lose their first playoff game yet again. Pats cover.