Last week, I turned my focus towards the bottom feeders – teams that some folks have been calling dead of late. There were more struggling squads than I could cover in a single column; hence Part 2 of my bottom feeder report this week.
With five games remaining on the slate for every NFL team, there’s still time to make money fading the teams that have quit on their coach and season. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s an opportunity to make money with teams that are out of playoff contention if they play with passion and precision down the stretch.
Here’s my take on this five-pack of sub .500 clubs.
Rookie QB Brandon Weeden continues to struggle, throwing an early pick-6 putting the Browns in a hole. QB woes have plagued this franchise since their inception/return to Cleveland more than a decade ago. I’ve seen nothing out of Weeden as a rookie to make me think that he’s a franchise QB capable of leading this team back to respectability.
Weeden is not testing defenses deep, constantly settling for check downs – a dink and dunk passer. On a weekly basis, he’s throwing multiple poor passes that lead to interceptions. And he’s not making the big throws with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. The Browns punted on each of their last five drives against Pittsburgh and, incredibly, were in position to lose where the defense forced eight turnovers.
The Browns are in every game and continue to play hard, particularly on defense. Trent Richardson is an absolute beast of a back. Underdogs who can control clock with their running game and play tough defense can cover spreads. Hence the consistent wiseguy support for the Browns this year.
I’m not a fan of head coach Pat Shurmur though. Bottom feeder teams should be taking some chances on fourth downs, not settling for field goals. Shurmur’s lack of aggressiveness and willingness to settle for three has cost his team multiple games this year.
QB Ryan Lindley was no better than Kevin Kolb or John Skelton before him. If fact, he was worse in many regards, not surprisingly – sixth round draft choices are not supposed to start NFL games as rookies! Even the best sixth rounder ever, Tom Brady, didn’t get his chance until his second season in the league.
I’ll give Lindley credit for having a decent arm and taking downfield shots not settling for high percentage, low reward check downs. But both of his pick-6’s were very ugly and those two passes were the difference in the game.
I was not impressed with the offensive play calling. The run defense hasn’t been good all year and got annihilated by Rams RB Stephen Jackson. When you couple a mistake prone offense with a lousy O-line and a defense that can’t stop the run, the result is a 7-game losing streak that doesn’t look to end anytime soon.
San Diego Chargers
Penalties, blown coverages, missed tackles and blocking assignments from the O-line, plus poor special teams coverage. Yes, the Chargers deserve to be included in an article focusing on bottom feeders. They’re not 1-6 SU, 2-5 ATS in their last 7 by accident. The lone victory since their 3-1 September came against the hapless Chiefs.
How many times did announcer Ian Eagle say “Rivers throws one into coverage, almost picked off.?” Many, many times, even though Rivers had a rare turnover free performance. The Chargers couldn’t convert running the football on third and short – this offensive line isn’t getting the job done.
San Diego hasn’t had a single rushing TD since Week 5, another indictment of this O-line. Rookie OT Mike Harris got eaten up; a big part of their consistent third down struggles. Rivers had seven throwaways to go along with the six sacks that he took. This O-line is a banged up, bottom tier unit right now. When the Chargers kept seven men in to block, nobody seemed to get open downfield.
The Raiders continue to get beaten badly in the trenches on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Carson Palmer got sacked twice on the opening drive, under constant pressure without the threat of a strong running game. The end result was constantly being in third and long situations and near the bottom of the NFL in third down conversion percentage.
Defensively, the line continues to get blown off the ball on nearly every play. They allowed the two longest runs of plodding Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ five year career. That’s what happens when a recently deceased owner acted as his own GM for decades, concentrating on drafting skill position speed instead of interior maulers who can control the line of scrimmage.
Oakland’s pass defense is just awful, giving up big gainers on third and long repeatedly thus unable to get off the field. When Cincy’s best weapon, WR AJ Green, doesn’t have a defender within 15 yards of him on a third and long it speaks volumes about a defense that isn’t functioning at all. The missed tackles against the Cincy running game were just atrocious bad form. The Raiders have no confidence and are pretty beaten down at this stage of the season.
St. Louis Rams
Sam Bradford is regressing. A QB who was drafted No. 1 overall because of his accuracy is misfiring repeatedly – overthrows, under throws, you name it. Bradford’s footwork was awful, and he’s getting happy feet, anticipating hits before they happen in playing behind this miserable offensive line.
His red zone INT before halftime was just brutal – bad reads, bad throws, bad everything on first down! Bradford’s one bright spot was that he attacked Arizona vertically all afternoon. Three different Rams receivers caught a pass of 37 yards or longer. Chris Givens has emerged as a legitimate deep threat.
Jeff Fisher’s team had so many mental failures. A personal foul extended the Cardinals first TD drive. Missed blitz pickups led to big drive-killing sacks. You shouldn’t punt to Patrick Paterson, but the Rams let him get the ball in space more than once and extremely lucky to avoid a punt return touchdown.