Draft King Analysis|
September 24, 2013
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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First off, I was thrilled this past weekend with the move by players for Northwestern, Georgia and Georgia Tech to sport the three letter acronym APU, short for All Players United, in visible spots in their games. The people behind it were able to keep the plan mostly under wraps until it happened, which is remarkable in the Twitter era. It also stopped pre-emptive moves by highly paid head coaches and athletic directors to put the kibosh on it.
There is strength in numbers, and if the rank-and-file manpower of major college football can unite despite the ban on any organized group-level or even individual proper professional representation for players, there is hope for the future. And even if the #APU effort is quieted for players on the field, the impact has been made. For more on this, read The Shame of College Sports, which I've had linked on the left banner on here for a long time now.
With all the money on the line, eventually things will change. The arbitrary joke of an organization that is the NCAA will eventually crumble. The crooks earning six figures to propogate a bowl system that is bad for fans, players and the business itself are losing their grip, and when the Mini-Playoffs start next year, hopefully that will be the beginning of the end of the nonsensical system in place now.
We're three weeks into the NFL season, and while it's way too early to make any definitive judgments, there are plenty of observations that can be made. Remember though that Arizona started 4-0 last year, including a win at New England, before the wheels fell off.
AFC East: Miami starting 3-0 is the early surprise in the win-or-out season for GM Jeff Ireland. Interesting, news was leaked over the weekend that the Dolphins has extended Ireland's contract, which if so makes his desperation spending in the past off-season curious, to put it mildly. This is still the Patriots' division to lose, and both teams are 3-0 at this point, but so far Miami is looking better than many expected. The 2-1 Jets are doing better out of the gate than expected but must overcome the challenge of winning with rookie QB Geno Smith, which is the same difficulty that 1-2 Buffalo faces with their own rookie QB, E.J. Manuel.
AFC North: Is this a "win the division or bust" scenario? Cincinnati's win over Green Bay at home on Sunday was strong and showed good fortitude. Baltimore roughed up a Texans team that many expected to remain unbeaten when they faced off this past weekend. It seems that Cleveland is building for 2014 and beyond despite its win over Minnesota this past Sunday, while the Steelers have been hit with a one-two whammy of the injury bug and old age. Pittsburgh takes on Minnesota this Sunday in a "home game" for the Vikings in London. The Steelers are one of the best draws in the NFL, so naturally Vikings season ticket holders got screwed out of their once-in-eight-years visit from Pittsburgh. That sort of thing isn't going to stop, by the way.
AFC South: Three teams in this division are 2-1, with only moribund Jacksonville at 0-3 not a viable contender to do anything but tank for Bridgewater or Clowney while the NFL plots for a way to relocate them to London. Houston seems the brightest of the bunch from this division, though interestingly the Texans have scored fewer points (70) than they have allowed (82) through three games. Tennessee came alive with Jake Locker leading them on a game-winning drive to finally slay the San Diego dragon, a team that hadn't lost to the Titans since they were the Oilers playing in Houston. I still believe that history will prove me right about Locker being a bad choice for the Titans, and he's throwing for a sub 59% average so far this season (which is actually a career high for him), but this past Sunday he did what Steve McNair and Vince Young and the rest couldn't do against the Chargers. And of course Indy is going to be fascinating to watch after giving up their 2014 first-rounder for RB Trent Richardson, if for storyline reasons if nothing else.
AFC West: The other big surprise in the AFC through three games behind Miami is Andy Reid leading the Chiefs to a 3-0 start. I've taken Kansas City in my knockout pool this week against the 0-3 Giants, and normally you might feel confident backing a 3-0 home team against an 0-3 opponent, but I'm actually rather terrified by the notion of what might happen. It's not quite the swagger I had for Seattle at home against Jacksonville this past Sunday, to be sure. Denver at 3-0 is going to be very tough to beat with Peyton Manning playing as well as ever: 73% completion accuracy with 12 TDs against zero interceptions through three games. Oakland and San Diego have a daunting road in front of them.
NFC East: The TV networks' favorite division in football could easily be the worst in football this year, which won't stop its teams from being spotlighted inordinately by the powers that be. That first half against the Redskins by Philadelphia in week one looked so great, but since then Chip Kelly has had a rude welcome to the NFL. It should be remembered that the Eagles are in the midst of shifting to a 3-4 defense, which is a change that takes time. RG3 is trying to play through pain, but he's running into Vince Young: season two syndrome where teams know he's hobbled and thus don't have to spy on him at all times with at least one linebacker. Meanwhile, this is year four of head coach Mike Shanahan's five-year, $35 million contract signed in January 2010. The team mortgaged its future for RG3, and the clock is ticking on Shanahan and company, with a giant 2011 Oakland-sized mess for the next administration to clean up. The 0-3 Giants have given up more than twice as many points (115) than they have scored (54) this season, and at 2-1 the Cowboys might be able to go 9-7 and still end up with the #4 seed by winning the division.
NFC North: This looked like the swan song for Bears QB Jay Cutler, but Chicago is 3-0 and one of the mild surprises of the season. What would it take for Chicago to keep Cutler after the season? A conference title game appearance? These are more than rhetorical questions. Detroit at 2-1 remains enigmatic but entertaining, while Green Bay is slow out of the gates at 1-2 thanks to Cincinnati's crazy rally against them on Sunday -- along with Brandon Meriweather's super-dirty helmet-to-helmet that concussed Packers RB Eddie Lacy in week 2. It's still a dirty game, if you haven't noticed. Minnesota at 0-3 is off to a terrible start, including this past Sunday's embarrassingly loss to the Browns, and Christian Ponder's 2 TD passes against 5 interceptions is earning him the deserved angst of the Vikings fan base.
NFC South: Is any other coach in this conference more valuable to his team than Sean Payton is to New Orleans? Remember when he suffered a broken leg in 2011 and the team immediately struggled until he was able to return to the sidelines? His 2012 league-mandated exile is over, and now he's back with a Saints team that is looking very strong at 3-0. Atlanta is surprisingly 1-2, though I expect them to be competitive this season, while the Panthers at 1-2 are coming off a much-needed thrashing of the Giants. As for Tampa Bay, the NFL's most awkward coach/QB dynamic with Greg Schiano and Josh Freeman grinds on for a team that could have easily been 2-0 going into this past Sunday's trip to New England. The Bucs aren't Jacksonville bad, but the past track record of bully-type college coaches struggling in the NFL speaks for itself.
NFC West: It was funny at the 2012 NFL Draft when everyone at Radio City Music Hall laughed at the Jaguars for taking a punter with the #70 overall pick. Five picks later the Seahawks landed Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson, and the fates of both teams were set. But as much fun as it is to see Wilson and Marshawn Lynch and company play on offense, it's Seattle's defense that should scare everyone in the NFL. Through three games they have allowed only 27 points, and while playing Jacksonville might seem to have skewed that number a bit, the junk time points posted by the Jaguars actually saw them score more than Carolina (7) and San Francisco (3) combined in the first two weeks. The 49ers are in a tricky spot at 1-2, and they will have to hold serve with the Seahawks when they rematch at Candlestick Park on December 8 and have some help just to be in position to win the division -- and that's if they can finally start putting some points on the board. St. Louis is a better team than many realize but are saddled with the $50 million man (Sam Bradford) and a brutal schedule, while Arizona is better with Carson Palmer at QB than they were last year but are nonetheless facing an uphill climb.