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, Teddy took a long, hard look at five NFC teams that have been major disappointments to start the year.
Tampa Bay: Doug Martin had 144 yards on the ground in Week 2 and the Bucs still only scored a single offensive touchdown in a loss. In Week 3, with Martin largely contained (longest carry 11 yards), the offense only managed a single field goal and lost again. After leading the league in penalties through the first two games, the Bucs were only flagged four times – the only bright spot.
Injuries are becoming a huge story. They came into this game missing three starters in their secondary and the lone playmaker, WR Vincent Jackson, left with bruised ribs. Tampa’s offensive line looked solid with a healthy Carl Nicks, but went 0-for-4 on fourth down plays. Rian Lindell is missing field goals and there’s lots of miscommunication between QB Josh Freeman and his WR’s
Atlanta: At one point they owned a 127-3 total yards edge on Miami. The pass rush, problematic in the first two games, was there. Osi Umenyiora was in the backfield repeatedly, notching two of the Falcons’ five sacks. The inability to run the football was also solved with Jason Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers combining for 139 yards at just shy of five yards per carry; filling in capably for the injured Stephen Jackson. So how did they lose? The Falcons dominated time of possession, won the yardage battle, ran the ball and got pressure on the opposing QB. But they had to settle for field goals.
The Falcons have now outscored their opponents 51-0 in the first quarter of their last five games (including playoffs); but they’ve been outscored 52-17 in the fourth in those same five games. This defense simply hasn’t been able to get the key stop during crunch time when it matters most. Put those factors together and you’ll get losses like this one.
NY Giants: This Carolina game turned on two plays – a Giants TD following a Cam Newton interception that was wiped out on a holding penalty, turning a 10-7 game back to a 10-0 game, and then the subsequent missed 38 yard field goal at the close of that drive. To say they quit is something of an understatement. They clearly lack leadership. The Giants have an NFL worst, 13 giveaways through three weeks.
The running game is non-existent. Lots of Manning throws under pressure because he’s not getting enough time to throw. When 15 of your 24 first half plays finish with either zero or negative yardage and you’ve got a two time Super Bowl winner at QB, the OL is the clear culprit. For the second straight week, the defense allowed TDs on four consecutive drives. Major fundamental flaws.
St. Louis: The Rams went 11-3 ATS as an underdog under Steve Fisher last year, pulling seven outright upsets in that role. But in 2013, this team has looked completely outclassed on both sides of the football in every game they’ve played. QB Sam Bradford was under constant pressure against Dallas and the rebuilt offensive line was woeful.
There was no running game for the third straight week, which explains the 55-12 pass-to-run ratio. The Rams had the most penalties in the NFL last year and Tavon Austin’s 84-yard punt return TD got wiped out on a penalty.
San Francisco: They are developing a reputation as a “dirty” team and the refs are noticing. Five of their six penalties here resulted in first downs for the Colts. This was not an elite defense down the stretch last year, even though their full season numbers were excellent. And they haven’t been an elite defense at any point this season. Indy had 100 rushing yards by their first drive of the third quarter.
The pass rush got to Andrew Luck only once, and Luck had open receivers downfield to throw to all afternoon long. Alden Smith was clearly distracted following his Friday morning DUI. Patrick Willis limped off the field and did not return, a potential impact injury. Colin Kaepernick is clearly going through a sophomore slump, but it’s not all his fault. Without a healthy Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin was the only receiver getting open downfield.
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]