Welcome to Teddy’s unique look at the NFL. Teddy watches games all day on Sunday, typing furiously on his laptop while giving you the key info that the box scores and game recaps don’t necessarily have. This week: AFC Tidbits from Week 2.
Cleveland Browns: This defense looks really good. Top pick Barkevious Mingo didn’t play last week, but had an immediate impact with an early sack on Joe Flacco. Last week, the Browns stuffed the run better than any team in the league and had similar success against Baltimore. This secondary is loaded and won’t give up points in bunches this year.
QB Brandon Weeden’s first five drives were 2 INTs and 3 three-and-outs. His six second half drives – 4 punts, twice stopped-on-downs. He looked oblivious to the pass rush, taking five sacks. And with a very limited downfield passing game, Trent Richardson has been bottled up. Richardson had only two carries of 20+ yards last year, and he’s been held to less than 10 yards on all 18 carries this season.
It may get better when deep threat WR Josh Gordon returns from his suspension, but right now good D, weak offense. I’ll be looking to play the Browns UNDER the total at every reasonable opportunity.
Indianapolis Colts: The defense is getting torched. On their first two drives last week, the Colts only forced one third down while allowing TD’s both times. Miami ran only two plays in the red zone, scoring TD’s on first down both times. For the entire afternoon, this D forced only a single three-and-out.
Andrew Luck is great! He’s making plays with his feet, his arm, and his brain – smart decisions. Luck threw a perfect end zone strike to Coby Fleener for his first TD of the day. TY Hilton and Reggie Wayne are WR weapons who seem to make game changing plays on a weekly basis.
But the offense slowed after halftime following the potential season ending injury to left guard Donald Thomas. And, after engineering a whopping 8 fourth quarter comebacks in his first 17 games as an NFL starting QB, Luck’s comeback attempt came up short deep in Miami territory.
Miami Dolphins: If the Dolphins play like this every week, they’ll be competing with New England to win the AFC East. Mike Sherman’s offense was really clicking. After getting stuffed on the ground by the Browns stout defense last week, it was a very different story at Indy.
Both Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas found room to run. Big free agent acquisition Mike Wallace got involved, not just a decoy like he was last week. Ryan Tannehill was accurate and effective, despite the mediocre (at best) pass protection from his offensive line.
It’s clear that the O-Line is the weak link – never a good thing. Under relentless pressure, Tannehill was forced into several key mistakes. Miami’s secondary struggled at times, but with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter was able to get the key stop against an opponent that has made a living winning games like this the last two years. Rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis drilled a 54 yarder, a positive sign.
Jacksonville Jaguars: No team in the NFL has less skill position talent and with Chad Henne struggling with his accuracy it makes that lack of top notch talent even more apparent. The WR’s can’t make plays on poorly thrown balls. Nothing but dinks and dunks, which can work if you’ve got an offense avoiding mistakes. The Jags don’t.
The offensive line is getting beat on every play; Henne only has a second or two to throw before facing pressure. Maurice Jones-Drew was a complete non-factor before he got hurt. After his injury, the Jags running backs combined for seven yards on six carries.
One would think a Gus Bradley coached defense (he was the defensive coordinator in Seattle last year) would know how to defend a read-option QB. But Jacksonville had no idea what to do defensively against Terrelle Pryor. This is still very much an UNDER. The 0-16 Lions of 2008 compare favorably to the Jags.
Baltimore Ravens: Without Jacoby Jones and Dennis Pitta, this offense legitimately lacks playmakers. TE Dallas Clark really doesn’t have much left in the tank. WR Brandon Stokely isn’t a downfield playmaker either. Marlon Brown, the rookie out of Georgia, isn’t catching passes downfield either.
Flacco had his coming out party in last year’s playoffs, but the weapons around him don’t match his talent level. Lots of missed connections. Torrey Smith is much better suited as a complementary WR as opposed to a primary one. The Ravens pass protection wasn’t particularly good. And PK Justin Tucker is missing field goals. He was 30 of 33 last year, but had two key misses in the first half.
The Super Bowl experience has matured this squad. They played an awful first half, but didn’t get overly frustrated; taking control of the game in the final 30 minutes. There were 10 Ravens games last year (including postseason) decided by a FG or less. This team doesn’t panic in tight spots.
Houston Texans: Everyone prepares for JJ Watt, but nobody seems to be able to design a game plan to stop him from disrupting the passing game. His tipped pass early was a thing of beauty. So were both of his sacks. This D-Line is a unit of strength, giving a much better showing than in the opener at San Diego. And we haven’t even seen Ed Reed have any sort of an impact yet! It certainly didn’t hurt that ageless punter Shane Lechler downed five punts inside the 20, helping Houston win the field position battle.
If they can get even more production out of top DeAndre Hopkins, this offense could be really explosive. Hopkins was the most dynamic weapon on the field last week, overshadowing Andre Johnson. Houston is a great running team (6.1 yards per carry here); a factor that only make Hopkins’ deep speed even more dangerous for opposing stop units.
Tennessee Titans: The 240 pound running back Jackie Battle is a nice complement to Chris Johnson. And offseason acquisition Delanie Walker is a tough run blocker at tight end. This running game could only be described as soft last year, but those two guys are as physical as it gets. Behind their revamped offensive line, they should be a strong running team in 2013.
Jake Locker threw a beautiful strike to Kendall Wright for the first TD against Houston. If that duo becomes a potent combo, the Titans will overachieve because Nate Washington is already a very dangerous deep threat. Kenny Britt hasn’t shown that same level of playmaking ability since his return from injury.
Coach Mike Munchak trusted his rebuilt OL to get a yard on fourth and 1 and couldn’t do it. Locker threw only 20 passes in the opener and a modest 30 in the overtime affair with the Texans. Locker is an underrated scrambler, but makes several those I cringe at.
Ted Sevransky is one of the nation’s premier sports handicappers and analysts. Follow Teddy on Twitter @teddy_covers or visit his page at experts.covers.com. Contact Ted Sevransky at [email protected]