The Pi-Rate Ratings

September 11, 2013

PiRate Ratings for NFL Week 2: September 15-16, 2013

Filed under: Pro Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 11:38 am

PiRate Ratings—NFL Week 2—September 15-16, 2013


It is always quite whimsical for us old geezers at the PiRate Ratings when the opening week of the season brings a good share of surprises.  It still amazes us how quickly the media and the public change their opinions so quickly.  Let’s look at a few examples:

1. Before: The New York Jets were the worst team in football since the Detroit Lions went 0-16.  They had absolutely no chance this year, and Rex Ryan would be gone before the end of September.

After the Jets beat Tampa Bay: Rex Ryan proved he still knows how to coach defense.  The Jets have their new comeback king in Geno Smith.  This team could challenge the Patriots for the AFC East Crown.

2. Before: The Hurry-up Oregon Duck offense that Chip Kelly used in college could never succeed in the NFL, because the defensive players are too quick and strong for a gimmick like the spread to work.  Michael Vick won’t last a half.

After: What can the rest of the league do to slow down this unstoppable offense?  Teams don’t rush for close to 300 yards in an NFL game unless they have O. J. Simpson slashing through the line, or they have Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris in a split backfield.  Just how long will it be before 10 other teams are running some form of this offense?  It has always been our opinion that the split backfield used for years in the NFL was still an excellent philosophy where a halfback ran mostly off-tackle, sweeps, and traps, and a fullback ran the line plunges.  The Spread is similar to a split backfield in the zone read, where the QB reads the defense like in the veer and either gives on the dive or keeps off-tackle.  It is the best of both worlds, because offenses can still keep three or even four wideouts.

3. Before: The Pittsburgh Steelers were a team to watch out for this year, because they were mad and ready to seek revenge for a so-so season.

After: The Steelers cannot score points, and they are doomed.  They were basically shut out by the lowly Tennessee Titans in week one, getting a gift safety on the opening kickoff and then scoring a mop-up touchdown late when behind 16-2 and with the Titans in a dime package and playing quarters defense allowing 20 yard passes to be completed underneath.  The Dick Lebeau defense had its moments, but it gave up too many first down conversions.

4. Before: The Raiders will definitely have the first pick in the 2014 draft.  They may win less games than the Jaguars and Jets.

After: They may not be ready to return to their glory days, but Indianapolis had to come from behind to beat the visiting silver and black.  Oakland is much better than advertised, and the Raiders could win six or seven games.

5. Before: Norv Turner was the reason San Diego lost so many games where they blew leads.

After: Mike McCoy is no better than Norv Turner, and the Chargers will continue to look great losing late.

6. Before: Dallas is never going to return to their glory days with Jerry Jones micromanaging his team.

After: The Giants have been dismissed, and this is the Cowboys’ division to win.  The two new (old) coordinators still know their stuff, and Dallas will win like it is 1966 through 1995.

7. Chicago’s offense will struggle under Mark Trestman, because Jay Cutler is not his prototypical quarterback.

After: Trestman and Cutler look like a perfect marriage.  The Bears looked fantastic in the winning touchdown drive.

We could go on and on.  The Patriots were supposed to slaughter the Bills.  The Falcons were too good for the Saints.  The 49ers had too much going on to be as good as the last two years.  About the only expected outcomes, if you count the so-called pundits expectations as valid, were:

1. The Kansas City Chiefs looked like the team they are being hyped as, but they played Jacksonville.

2. Denver looks like the strongest team since the 2007 Patriots.

3. Seattle’s defense looks even better this year, and they won on the road on the Atlantic Coast.

4. Green Bay still has the great offense, but once again, their defense is going to cost them some games.

5. The NFC West, once the weak sister of the NFL is now the king.  The Rams could win two or three other divisions, but they will be fortunate to finish third in this one.  They could still sneak into the playoffs.  The Cardinals look like a much improved team, more like the one that started 2012 than the one that ended it.

Week 2 presents some interesting games.  Here is what we have to look forward to this weekend.

1. The Jets and Patriots:  it isn’t the Red Sox and the Yankees, but it is just as intense.  Bill Belichick likes Rex Ryan about as much as Joe Girardi likes Buck Showalter.  Look for this game to be very physical and very testy.  The Patriots have just enough vulnerabilities for a defensive guru like Ryan to exploit.  Don’t think for a minute that the Jets plan to pressure Tom Brady and try to get him out of this game.

2. The Rams and Falcons: St. Louis has the talent to send Atlanta to 0-2, and if this should happen, then the NFC West just went from strong to crazy.  Because both San Francisco and Seattle cannot possibly win this week, the Rams have a chance to go one game up on one of them (remote chance to go one half game up on both).  Atlanta must consider this game a must-win already, because they cannot afford to drop two games behind Drew Brees and company.

3. The Bears and Vikings: This looks like a must-win road game for the purple and white.  A loss sends them two games behind Chicago and possibly two games behind Detroit.  A win would keep them alive in the division and possibly cause a four-way tie at 1-1.  If the Bears win, the mighty momentum could send them on the way to matching our bettering their 10-win season of 2012.

4. The Packers and Redskins:  One of these teams will be 0-2 by Sunday afternoon, and like the other possible 0-2 teams, only around 10% of these teams recover and make the playoffs.  Both teams also have intra-divisional rivals that could be 2-0.

5. The Colts and Dolphins: This game looks like an interestingly close contest.  Should Miami win, the Dolphins will have started 2-0 with both wins on the road.  Teams that begin 2-0 on the road make the playoffs 83.3% of the time in the 21st Century.  Actually in only one season has a team started 2-0 on the road and failed to make the playoffs.  Uh Oh—it was the 2010 Miami Dolphins.  This game is important for Indianapolis as well.  A come-from-behind win over Oakland is not a statement victory.  A loss to the fish might prove as a sign that this team is not going to suffer a sophomore slump.

6. The Cowboys and Chiefs:  This one has become a lot more important than it might have been had the week one outcomes been different.  All of a sudden, this looks like a game between two playoff worthy teams rather than a game between two mediocre teams.  Our three ratings show this contest to be the most competitive of the week.

7. The Eagles and Chargers:  The Chargers get one less day to prepare for this offense, and they have to travel 2,000 miles across three time zones.  NFL offenses usually perform better in the second game than in the first after working out some kinks.  Could we be looking at an Oregon-like score this week?  Is it possible that Philly could top 50?  On the other hand, can David Rivers prove he can be a star for four quarters and not two and a half?  San Diego’s passing attack could keep the hurry-up off the field just long enough for the Chargers not to have to result to developing a lot of cramps.  Isn’t it funny how theses teams’ offensive stars never develop cramps?  You would think the wide receivers and running backs would be the most likely to need help off the field.  What a strange coincidence that it is just the defensive players that can most easily be replaced that develop these cramps.

8. The Giants and Broncos: The renewal of the Manning Bowl finds Peyton as the cherry on top of the hot fudge sundae, and Eli in the bottom of the compost pile.  Peyton had three extra days to study the Giants’ run of the mill defense, and New York had to play the night game on Sunday.

9. The 49ers and Seahawks:  This one is our favorite game of the week and one of our favorites of the season.  We have this little historical vignette to tell you how we compare this game to rivalries of years gone by.

We are of the age where we look back to yesteryear with fond thoughts, where everything was great.  Okay, the second half of the 1960’s were not so great, but on Sunday afternoons in the fall, we had the old American Football League, the renegade league that went head-to-head with the infallible NFL and forced a merger.  The NFL was the league of conservative, brawn over brains football.  The AFL was the gunslinger league.  In those four seasons where the AFL champion met the NFL champion, the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs played against each other like they were fighting their own civil war.  In 1966, Kansas City was king.  Len Dawson and Mike Garrett led an unstoppable offense, and the defense was huge in that timeframe.  Buck Buchanan looked more like a 21st Century defensive lineman.  Oakland was up and coming with talent throughout.  The Raiders lacked a proven QB that could get them over the hump.  Kansas City won the AFL and played in the first Super Bowl.  However, they could not sweep the Raiders.  Oakland won by three touchdowns at KC Municipal Stadium.

In 1967, Oakland owner Al Davis picked up the backup quarterback from Buffalo and made him his starter.  Overnight, Daryle Lamonica became known as “The Mad Bomber.”  The former Notre Dame standout began making the vertical passing game the biggest offensive threat in football.  A punishing defense that pulverized enemy quarterbacks made the Raiders the best team in the history of the AFL.  In the opening week, they beat Denver 51-0, holding the Broncos to negative total yards!

Meanwhile, the rest of the AFL discovered that if they stopped the Chiefs’ running game and threw the ball to the intermediate zones, they could beat Kansas City.  Oakland swept the Chiefs and won the AFL with a 13-1 record and a 40-7 blowout of Eastern Division winner Houston.  Kansas City slumped all the way down to 9-5.

Neither team won the AFL in 1968, although both were probably better than the World Champion New York Jets.  The Chiefs recovered to tie Oakland at 12-2 in the Western Division.  KC coach Hank Stram proved just how much of a coaching genius he was when the Chiefs were forced to host Oakland with zero healthy wide receivers.  Rather than try to pick up some stiffs on the waiver wire, he secretly changed the entire offense overnight.  He installed the old full-house T-formation with three running backs and two tight ends.  Oakland could not stop the incredible ground game with both ultimate power and ultimate deception.  Quarterback Len Dawson attempted just three passes all day, all of them off play-action, and the Chiefs ran the ball as effectively as Philadelphia did on Monday night.  They beat the Raiders that day.  After that week, the Raiders were a mad group of pirates, and they did not lose again in the regular season.  They marauded opponents topping 30 points in seven of the final eight games.  Included in this 8-0 finish was a revenge win over Kansas City and the infamous “Heidi Game” win over the New York Jets.

In those days, there were no tiebreakers to determine which team won the division, so when both The Chiefs and Raiders finished tied at 12-2, they had to meet in a playoff to determine the winner.  The winner of that game would then face the 11-3 Jets, the 11-3 rested Jets, for the AFL title a week later.  The Mad Bomber became nuclear that day, as Lamonica completed three first quarter long passes into Oakland touchdowns and two other bombs for scores to total 5 passing TDs, en route to a 41-6 win over the Chiefs.  The silver and black defense intercepted Dawson four times.  It was no doubt that this Raider team had enough talent to make Super Bowl III competitive against either Baltimore over Cleveland.

Except, the Raiders didn’t get that opportunity.  A week later, Oakland was a little flat against Broadway Joe Namath and the Jets.  The Raiders started slow and spotted the Jets a touchdown and field goal early.  They fought back to tie the score at 13-13 early in the third quarter, and they even took the lead in the fourth quarter.  However, in the final seven minutes of the game, the Raiders’ defense looked spent, and Namath exploited the tired pursuit for the decisive winning touchdown drive.  It was New York and not Oakland that pulled off the great Super Bowl III upset that basically proved to fans all over the country that the two leagues were now on par.

Oakland entered 1969 with a new head coach.  John Rauch, the genius behind the vertical passing game used by Lamonica had finally experienced too much meddling from owner Davis.  He left for lowly Buffalo and never really enjoyed much success with the Bills and their new phenom O. J. Simpson.  Enter one John Madden as Raiders’ coach.  The vertical passing game was still around, but Madden preferred more high percentage passes and a little more emphasis on the power running game.  Still, Oakland looked like the best team in the league.

Kansas City still had the best defense in the league, but their offense was starting to show more holes, similar to the troubles of 1967.  Dawson nursed injuries into early December, and it was debatable if he would play again after midseason.  Numerous second, third, and fourth opinions were sought to find a physician that would state it was okay for him to play.

The Jets were still strong in the East, but they were most certainly the third best team in the league.

Oakland beat Kansas City three times in 1969, but it was not enough, because the Chiefs got a fourth chance and won when it counted.  In the final year of the AFL’s existence, the now 10-team league decided to add the two second-place finishers to the playoff after seeing how much publicity the 1968 playoff game had created for the league.

Oakland finished 12-1-1, making their three year regular season record 37-4-1, the best of all time for a three-year run.  The Chiefs finished second at 11-3.  In the East, the Jets had no real competition and fiddled to a 10-4 record.  Houston had already secured second place in the Eastern Division, but going into the final week, the Oilers were just 5-6-2.  A loss to Boston would put them in the playoffs at 5-7-2, and it almost happened.  Three fourth quarter scores allowed the Oilers to finish the regular season with a .500 record.

In the first round of the AFL Playoffs, Houston had to play at Oakland.  The Raiders were a double-digit favorite, but this game looked more like the NFL All-Stars against a first-year expansion team.  Oakland quickly scored four touchdowns in the first 12 minutes and cruised to the second largest winning playoff margin in pro football history, 56-7.

The Chiefs saw to it that there would be no repeat for the AFL title game.  Their defense completely stopped Namath, while the offense mounted one nice drive for the winning touchdown in a 13-6 victory.

Now it was one final Chiefs-Raiders game to decide the Super Bowl IV participant and close out league play.  Oakland had defeated Kansas City in the preseason and swept them in the regular season, but Kansas City had one final try.  This time, the winner would face the dominant Minnesota Vikings for the World Championship.

Once again, the Chiefs’ defense proved too tough for even the most potent offense.  Lamonica could never penetrate the Kansas City secondary, and the Chief pass rush dumped him multiple times and forced him to throw off target.  Chief defensive back Emmitt Thomas picked up a pair of passes and set up a score with a long return.

Kansas City did nothing on offense either, but their defense gave them much less field to cover to score in a 17-7 lackluster win.

The Chiefs went on to pull off an equally monumental Super Bowl upset than their brethren Jets had pulled off the year before.  They stunned the Vikings, with the defense once again shutting down the opponent.

Back to the present, we see the 49ers and Seahawks as the new 21st Century version of the Chiefs and Raiders.  There is a rivalry here that is similar to that old rivalry.  It began when then Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and then Southern Cal coach Pete Carroll did not particularly like each other.  While at Stanford, Harbaugh took a 41-point underdog Cardinal team to Los Angeles and pulled the greatest pointspread upset in college football history, ending a 35-game home winning streak for the Trojans.  He did it with a backup quarterback starting his first game ever.  Before leaving for the NFL, Harbaugh’s Cardinal ran up the score on Carroll’s Trojans in 2009.

The 49ers now have the 1960’s persona of their cross-bay rival Oakland, while Seattle takes on the persona of the 1960’s Chiefs.  The Seahawks are the challenger, while the 49ers are the champions.  If history is to pan out, then this should be the season where Seattle scrapes by San Francisco by a game or two.  Of course with the expanded playoffs, there is a chance that the two could face off for the NFC Championship, just like 1969.  This game should be one you do not want to miss.

Now, we continue with our weekly ratings and spreads.

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