With six games remaining on the slate for every NFL team, there’s still plenty of time to make money fading the teams that have quit on their coach and their season.
There’s most definitely an opportunity to make money with last place teams if they play with passion and precision down the stretch. Here’s my take on four that entered Sunday’s games in last place in their respective divisions.
Kansas City Chiefs
We’re 11 weeks into the season, and this sorry Chiefs offense hasn’t improved one iota. There’s talent to work with – Jamal Charles and Peyton Hillis make a decent “thunder and lightning” duo running the football. Dwayne Bowe, Tony Moeaki, Dexter McCluster and Steve Breaston have all enjoyed past success as playmaking pass catchers, although Bowe got hurt early and wasn’t a factor against Cincinnati.
The same two issues that have plagued KC all year haven’t gone away – turnovers and red zone offense. Hillis’ first half fumble negated a scoring opportunity. And KC was settling for field goals – just like they have all year - instead of finding a way to punch the football into the end zone.
The defense is really wearing down. When plodding Cincy RB Ben Jarvis Green Ellis rips off big gainers, it’s a statement of effort and horrible tackling. Flat, lifeless and lethargic – KC isn’t likely to give good effort two weeks in a row. They did play hard last week, but Arrowhead Stadium is bringing out the worst in the Chiefs!
Only one of their five opening day OL starters was in the same spot. And the one – left tackle Brandon Albert – left the game with a bad back. His status is uncertain moving forward. The Chiefs have had three different starting centers. Rookie Donald Stephenson got his first start at guard. Both Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn struggled once again, but weak offensive line play was certainly a contributing factor.
The offensive line is a bottom tier unit right now; unable to both protect their rookie QB and blow open holes for LeSean McCoy to run through. OL depth was a problem coming into the season, and the steady stream of injuries has left this unit substantially depleted. Rookie Dennis Kelly (Purdue) started at tackle against Washington and was flagged for a key holding penalty approaching the red zone. On the very next play, just signed Jake Scott (off the waiver wire) had a false start. Instead of scoring, Nick Foles threw a desperation INT on third and 21.
While the game was still competitive, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg made a concerted effort to protect his QB with a steady diet of running plays. It didn’t help very much – Foles was pretty green in his starting debut. He had problems with tipped balls at the line of scrimmage, including a deflected pass that resulted in an INT, leading to a Redskins score. And Foles struggled to get his playmaking wide receivers involved – DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were complete non-factors.
Bobby April is a two time Special Teams Coach of the Year and he coached up one of the best groups in the NFL during his tenure at Buffalo. So why do the Eagles ST return units and coverage stink? The players aren’t buying in!
The secondary continues to get confused repeatedly in their coverage schemes.This time allowing a 49 yard bomb to a receiver who was open by about 20 yards – another Nnamdi Asomugha blown coverage. So much for thinking former coordinator Juan Castillo caused the problem. It might be a very long final six weeks.
Blaine Gabbert took a whole bunch of big hits (no wonder he’s banged up), giving way to Chad Henne before the first quarter was through. It reminded me of the first meeting with Houston when the Jaguars gained only 117 total yards and held the ball for less than 17 minutes. Complete annihilation.
Henne was an instant spark, leading the Jags down the field into the end zone. Then Henne did it again on the next drive; a simple catch and run quick strike TD. There’s absolutely no comparison between how this passing game worked with Henne and doesn’t work with Gabbert, who has one 300+ yard passing day in his two year career – and he needed 49 attempts to get there.
Henne threw for 350 at Houston while averaging more than 10 yards per throw. It wasn’t all big shots fired downfield –there’s lots of catch and run in those yardage totals. The fact remains this was the first time in the last two seasons that the Jags legitimately looked explosive on offense. In large part, thanks go to rookie WR Justin Blackmon’s first breakout game. Of course it helped that the Texans’ defense was flat as a pancake.
Typical Jags though. They scored a season high, but their defense also gave up a season high – unable to protect a two TD lead with less than six minutes remaining. When you don’t force a single punt after the first quarter or allow a whopping 39 first downs and 640 total yards of offense, you’re not going to win many NFL games. Can the Jags show similar effort moving forward, even after their crushing third OT loss on the road this year?
New York Jets
The Jets enjoyed a mid-game morph at St. Louis, their first positive performance in weeks and an indicator that if New York can play up to potential, it can still be a factor in the AFC playoff race. That being said, this offense is still broken, with only two plays longer than 20 yards for the entire game.
Joe McKnight is healthy again (sat last week) and remains a dangerous kick returner – some of the best offense the Jets have right now. He made a great over the shoulder catch out of the backfield to set up the Jets first scoring chance. But this passing game still has major issues. Mark Sanchez is not at his best under pressure and he’s facing a steady stream of blitzes as a result. This WR corps remains extremely limited. When CB Antonio Cromartie is lined up as a wide receiver, it speaks about the Jets lack of receiving playmakers.
Sanchez had a great touch on his longer throws against the Rams, far better with his downfield passes for big gainers than he was with his dink and dunks. When he finds a rhythm, he’s a decent QB. The problem is that there seem to be periods on a weekly basis where he looks ugly. The Jets pass rush was there all afternoon with the defensive line their best unit.
After their special teams debacle against Miami a few weeks back, I’d expect the kick blocking schemes to have been fixed, but clearly they weren’t.