By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts H-A-C-K (@colonelcomey)
1. Yes, the Jets have a pulse – and a future.
At 4-3 thanks to their OT win over the Patriots Sunday, the New York Jets have exceeded expectations maybe more than any other team thus far. They lost their two faces of the franchise in Mark Sanchez and Darrelle Revis, and Rex Ryan was viewed as a lame-duck coach with a lame-ass approach.
However, while Rex Ryan is sometimes what his critics say he is, he’s also a pretty spectacular football coach. Against New England Sunday, knowing his defensive line was winning the battles up front, Ryan dropped eight into coverage and kept Tom Brady looking confused (a recurring theme for No. 12 this year). The offensive game plan was sharp, the execution was sharper, and the Jets are alive.
The addition of flat-line GM John Idzik is looking like the perfect move for a franchise that needed more cold, rational thought to go with Ryan’s fire. The product on the field is no flash, all flesh, and the diva-free atmosphere is something to build on.
Is Geno Smith a great quarterback? Not yet. But he’s having the kind of rookie season that -- before rookies like Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, etc. started setting the bar high – got a fan base excited about the future. With a young base around a young QB, and a Moneyball GM, this is a team to watch for 2014 and beyond.
2. The Jaguars are the rarest of creatures – they are bad at everything.
Everybody’s got something in their favor, right? Wrong, at least in Jacksonville.
- They can’t run the ball (no 100-yard games thus far this season).
- They can’t pass accurately (12 interceptions in seven games, three TDs).
- They can’t stop the run (100 yards allowed in all seven games).
- They are awful against the pass (Opposing Passer Rating over 100, Philip Rivers lit them up Sunday).
- They don’t have a kick or punt return over 40 yards.
- New head coach Gus Bradley has attempted five short field goals in a season where they always need seven points; he’s obviously not doing a bang-up job of motivating, either.
- They haven’t knocked a first-round pick out of the park in over a decade.
- They are now 0-7, with the scores of their games as follows: 28-2, 19-9, 45-17, 37-3, 34-20, 35-19, 24-6.
Other than that, everything’s cool.
3. The NFC East isn’t good, but it sure is interesting.
There was just no reason to believe that the Dallas-Philadelphia game would be anything short of a points party. Both teams were in the top 10 in yards gained, both were in the bottom 12 in yards allowed. Last year’s games were 38-33 and 38-23, with fantasy glory on this team.
So, of course, this week it was 17-3 Cowboys. Dallas deserves all the credit, with a defensive effort that seasons are made of – they held the Eagles to 3.7 yards a play, and when No. 3 QB Matt Barkley came in they turned him over three times in less than a half.
Anyone who praised the Chip Kelly Show last week is clearly an idiot.
Meanwhile, the Redskins got a huge win at home vs. Chicago, for more than one reason – they go to 2-4, and keep pace behind the “leaders” in the East, and Robert Griffin III looked like his old self with 84 yards rushing.
There's still nothing close to a complete team in the East, but at least Dallas has shown most of the skills over the first seven weeks. Putting it together, as Tony Romo and Jason Garrett have found throughout their partnership, is a different story.
But it’s still anyone’s race – the schedule for Dallas and Washington is tough over the next month, while the Eagles have must-win type of games against the Giants and Raiders the next two weeks.
4. Cincinnati. Detroit. Relevance. Congrats.
Lions vs. Bengals. Doesn’t exactly prod a lot of memories, does it? And for good reason. These two franchises, with their zero combined Super Bowl wins and shared decades of institutional ineptitude, renew “rivalry” every three or four years to zero fanfare.
They’d played 10 times in their history, and in none of those games did both teams have something to play for.
But this week was different. This week, it was young teams on the rise, looking for signature wins to elevate them into a new NFL tier.
And the teams lived up to it, trading leads, combining for 700+ passing yards, even ending it on a 54-yard field goal by Cincy’s Mike Nugent to win it.
For Cincy, it means a big road win and an increasingly strong hold on a playoff position in the AFC. For Detroit, it means a dispiriting home loss and a missed opportunity in the bunched-up NFC North.
But that it meant anything at all was pretty remarkable. You go, lovable losers with upside.
5. News and notes …
I’ve been tooting Philip Rivers’ horn for years, but he’s really playing as well as he ever has. In his last five games, he’s 134 of 173 (76.2 percent). …
The Bears lost, but they finally came up with someone competitive to back up Jay Cutler. After watching guys like Caleb Hanie, Jason Campbell and Todd Collins embarrass themselves in reserve, Josh McCown was downright stellar (204 yards passing, 33 rushing, no turnovers in relief). He did his job, the Bears’ defense couldn’t. …
What a setback for the Dolphins. Ryan Tannehill’s three turnovers were absolute killers – you can’t lose a home game against a so-so team with a practice squad QB. At 3-3, with their points and yardage stats almost identical to their opponents, they are the definition of mediocre. ...
It should have been a great trip home from New Jersey for New England – the defense played well enough to win without their injured stars (4.3 yards per play allowed), and Rob Gronkowski (8-114) was a big factor on offense. But Tom Brady played poorly again (22-of-46, 228 yards, a pick-six), and all of a sudden he’s the biggest question mark for the Patriots going forward.