Tag Archive: Arizona Cardinals


NFL Weekly Picks: Week 3

Hey guys, sorry I didn’t have time to get my weekly picks post up last week. I just moved back to Minnesota so now that I am settling in hopefully I will be able to get into a groove with all of these weekly posts that I want to do. So, without further ado, here are my NFL Weekly Picks!

Eagles over Chiefs- I think the Eagles’ offense will be too much for the Chiefs to slow down, but it may come down to whether or not the Eagles defense can stop anyone. Thus far the answer to that question is no. Still, I’m going with Chip Kelly and the home team Eagles in this match-up, especially since the Chiefs have Dunta Robinson on their roster.

Packers over Bengals- The Bengals got a solid win against the Steelers last week but the Packers offense looked borderline unstoppable last week against the Redskins. The Bengals defense is a significantly better unit, but I think the Packers will be able to put up enough points to win this one. If Andy Dalton plays well he could make things interesting though, and I’m not sold on the Packers defense yet. Still, it’s tough to bet against Aaron Rodgers in this match-up even on the road.

Rams over Cowboys- This might surprise some people, but the Rams are a good football team and they gave my Falcons a run for their money last week. The Cowboys couldn’t quite figure out the Kansas City Chiefs, and while the ‘Boys have a lot of talent on offense the Rams are a talented defensive football team that I think has a chance to match-up with the Cowboys on offense. Of course, if Dez Bryant goes off for 180 yards and a touchdown like Julio Jones did last week then I would be completely wrong on that. Still, I have a feeling the Rams will play well in this game and I think they can beat Tony Romo and the Cowboys on the road.

Chargers over Titans- I’m realizing I’m picking a lot of road teams here so far, but I think the Chargers are the better football team in this match-up and it’s tough not to go with Philip Rivers over Jake Locker here. If Locker can pass accurately and use his legs effectively they could give the Chargers defense some problems, but most of us know the likelihood of both of those things happening consistently for four quarters is not likely.

Vikings over Browns- This would have been a more interesting game prior to the Trent Richardson trade, and there is something funny about the Browns making this trade with the Colts just days before they travel up to Minnesota to play the Vikings given that the Vikings are the team that traded down with Cleveland to allow them to move up to number three overall and select Richardson in the first place. The Browns offense has been struggling even with Richardson in the lineup, and it’s hard to imagine them being better without him even with Josh Gordon returning from suspension. The Browns do have a good defense though, so I expect both teams to score less than 20 points. The Vikings have the offensive advantage in this match-up though thanks to Adrian Peterson and a solid game from Christian Ponder, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and Jerome Simpson should be enough to win this one for the purple. However, it is worth mentioning that this is the kind of game the Vikings traditionally find a way to inexplicably lose.

Patriots over Buccaneers- The Buccaneers aren’t in great shape right now and while the Patriots have barely managed to defeat two rookie quarterbacks in consecutive weeks I don’t think Tom Brady and that offense are going to stay out of synch for more than a couple weeks. That should play to the Bucs advantage this week, but I don’t think it will be enough to get them a victory.

Saints over Cardinals- Originally I had the Cardinals winning this game, but it’s tough to travel into the Superdome and get a victory, particularly since the Saints defense looks significantly better through two weeks than it ever did last season. Carson Palmer has reinvigorated the Cardinals offense, and their defense is still respectable despite the loss of defensive coordinator Ray Horton, but I don’t think it will be enough to go into the Saints’ house and beat Drew Brees on his home turf.

Redskins over Lions- The Lions have shown plenty of flashes through the first two weeks, but I think they are going to come up short against a Redskins team that will likely be very motivated and focused after starting 0-2. It remains to be seen if the ‘Skins defense can get on track, but going up against the Eagles and the Packers in the first two weeks isn’t exactly a fair barometer for a defense, especially since they were essentially the NFL’s guinea pigs against Chip Kelly and his up-tempo offensive scheme. I think the Redskins will be motivated and hungry this week, so I’m giving them the edge over the Lions.

Giants over Panthers- I definitely didn’t expect the Giants to start the season out 0-2, but if Eli Manning can’t stop throwing interceptions they may be in for a long year. However, I am well aware that not all of those turnovers are his fault and I expect he and the Giants to get back on track against the Panthers. It would be really nice if David Wilson would get his act together and stop fumbling the ball, but the addition of Brandon Jacobs back into the fold should help provide at least a little stability in the running game. Maybe Cam Newton and the Panthers will surprise me, but I think the Giants are going to be motivated after starting 0-2 just like the Redskins are. I’m not sure if I can say the same thing about the Panthers yet or not.

Texans over Ravens- The Ravens offense has been ineffective thus far this season and I don’t anticipate them getting back on track against the talented Texans defense. If Andre Johnson can play the Ravens will get to see the Texans explosive combination of Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Andre Johnson AND DeAndre Hopkins who was one of my favorite wide receivers in last year’s loaded draft class. He caught the game-winning touchdown last week against the Titans, so I think the Texans are ready to beat the Ravens on the road this week.

Dolphins over Falcons- It pains me to do this, but the Falcons got way too banged up last week to go on the road and beat the Dolphins in my opinion. I think Ryan Tannehill is about to go off, and Lamar Miller may have a big day as well. Not only that, but Brent Grimes is a sure bet to pick off Matt Ryan in this game and I just don’t think the Falcons will be able to overcome Roddy White not being at 100%, Steven Jackson being out (though Jason Snelling will hopefully get a lot of touches), Kroy Biermann being out for the year, Bradie Ewing being out for the year, AND Sean Weatherspoon being out until Week 11. That’s a lot to replace and account for in one week, and while I think they will be able to survive those set-backs long term I’m not sure they can get away with it this week, so I give the advantage to the Dolphins at home.

Bills over Jets- In the battle of rookie quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Geno Smith I’ve got to give Manuel and the Bills the edge in this one. The Jets defense is still a quality unit despite the departure of Darrelle Revis, but Geno Smith made some questionable decisions and poorly executed throws in the elements against New England last week, and I have been shocked by how well EJ Manuel has been playing thus far. The Bills coaching staff has done a great job managing him thus far, and I trust Nathaniel Hackett to gameplan well more than I trust Marty Mornhinweg to do the same, so I am going with the Bills in this one. May the best rookie QB win. I must say, I was shocked and critical of the Manuel pick at 16 overall, but defeating Geno Smith (who I expected to come off the board first of all the quarterbacks) would be a pretty big vindication for EJ Manuel and the entire Bills organization. It would also make me look stupid, so that’s probably why it will happen.

49ers over Colts- This is an interesting one and it will be worth monitoring just how involved Trent Richardson will be in this game given that he is unfamiliar with the system and has no chemistry with the team at all, but the 49ers are the better squad and are likely very pissed off after the way they lost that game to division rival and offseason Cold War opponent Seattle on Sunday Night. The 49ers should come out firing and it will take a terrific performance from Andrew Luck to leave Candlestick with a victory.

Seahawks over Jaguars- #BecauseJaguars and #AllRussellWilsonEverything

Bears over Steelers- I thought Marc Trestman might give the Bears offense a tune-up and he appears to have done just that, and it makes me happy to see Jay Cutler playing well. The Steelers offense is completely devoid of playmaking at this point and I don’t anticipate they will be able to take advantage of the Bears defense enough to come away with a victory even at home.

Broncos over Raiders- The Broncos are playing some terrific football right now and they are looking especially sharp on the offensive side of the ball so far. They simply have more talent than the Raiders do at this point, though I think Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden may give the Broncos defense a few headaches. It would be a truly fantastic upset if the Raiders were able to come away with a victory against the Broncos on the road, I just don’t see it happening.

Thanks for reading, hopefully I do better this week than I did during the openers. Enjoy the games this weekend!

–Tom

Current 2013 Pick Record: 9-6

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Overall Team Grades:

Carolina:

1st– Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: 7.0

3rd– Terrell McClain, DT, South Florida 7.0

3rd– Sione Fua, DT, Stanford 7.5

4th– Brandon Hogan, CB, West Virginia 7.0

5th– Kealoha Pilares, WR, Hawaii 7.0

6th– Lawrence Wilson, OLB, Connecticut 8.0

6th– Zachary Williams, C, Washington State 7.0

7th– Lee Ziemba, OT, Panthers 7.5

Overall Grade: C

Analysis: This is probably going to be the lowest grade that I give anyone in the top ten, and potentially in the entire draft, and a lot of that has to do with Cam Newton going #1 overall. Obviously I don’t agree with the pick, and I didn’t even have a first round grade on him. Obviously he has a ton of upside, but upside is worthless unless you have a realistic chance of living up to that upside, and I don’t think Newton will do that in the NFL. The Panthers did a solid job addressing their glaring need at defensive tackle, but I am not that high on McClain or Fua even though they got solid value with the pick. My favorite pick of theirs was actually Lawrence Wilson in round 6. I was very surprised he fell that far. Overall the Panthers had an ok draft, but it wasn’t anything special. They could have improved their team much more significantly if they picked Marcell Dareus #1 overall.

Denver:

1st– Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M 8.0

2nd– Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA 9.0

2nd– Orlando Franklin, OG, Miami 8.0

3rd– Nate Irving, ILB, NC State 8.0

4th– Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma 8.0

4th– Julius Thomas, TE, Portland State 8.0

6th– Mike Mohamed, ILB, California 7.5

7th– Virgil Green, TE, Nevada 8.0

7th– Jeremy Beal, OLB, Oklahoma 6.0

Overall Grade: B+

Analysis: I really liked the Broncos draft. I don’t think Von Miller is the best fit in a 4-3 scheme, but as Brian Orakpo and the Redskins showed you can make it work. I think he will be an effective player in a 4-3, but I think his ideal fit is in a 3-4, hence my lower grade for him. I am very high on Rahim Moore and this was a great pick because they really needed safety help and he is far and away the best safety in this draft in my opinion and they got good value for him. Franklin will give them depth at either OG or RT, and Irving and Carter added more talent to need positions as well. I thought Carter might be a 2nd or 3rd rounder, so getting him in round 4 was a nice pick-up. Julius Thomas also has a ton of potential as another former basketball player turned tight end, and they picked up another versatile guy in Virgil Green in the 7th round. I don’t think Mike Mohamed has a lot of upside but he is a nice depth/special teams addition. Jeremy Beal will be out of the NFL in a couple years in my opinion, but until then I imagine he could provide value on special teams.

Buffalo:

1st– Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama 9.5

2nd– Aaron Williams, CB/FS, Texas 8.0

3rd– Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, LSU 8.5

4th– Da’Norris Searcy, S, North Carolina 7.5

4th– Chris Hairston, OT, Clemson 8.0

5th– Johnny White, RB, North Carolina 8.5

6th– Chris White, ILB, Mississippi State 7.0

7th– Justin Rogers, CB, Richmond 7.0

7th– Michael Jasper, DT, Bethel 6.5

Overall Grade: B

Analysis: The Dareus pick was one of the best in the draft because they so badly needed defensive help, especially up front, and they were able to address it with a great player at #3 overall. I’m not a huge Aaron Williams fan but he has the versatility to play corner and safety which gives him value and the Bills could use help at both CB and FS, so that helps. I like Kelvin Sheppard a lot and while he may not be an ideal ILB I think he will be alright in a 3-4 ILB alignment provided he has a couple defensive linemen who can eat up blocks at the point of attack. I’m not very high on Searcy and I don’t know how much upside he has, but Hairston has the potential to be a solid RT in the NFL. I love the Johnny White pick and I think he has the potential to be a quality RB in the NFL. I’m glad he didn’t go undrafted because of his injury. Justin Rogers showed me ability at the East-West Shrine Game so I think he might be able to stick on the Bills roster after camp.

Cincinnati:

1st– A.J. Green, WR, Georgia 9.5

2nd– Andy Dalton, QB, TCU 7.5

3rd– Dontay Moch, OLB, Nevada 7.5

4th– Clint Boling, OG, Georgia 8.0

5th– Robert Sands, S, West Virginia 6.0

6th– Ryan Whalen, WR, Stanford 8.0

7th– Korey Lindsey, CB, Southern Illinois 7.0

7th– Jay Finley, RB, Baylor 7.0

Overall Grade: B-

Analysis: This was a surprisingly solid draft for the Bengals. You obviously can’t go wrong with A.J. Green at #4 overall, and while I thought the 2nd round was too high for Andy Dalton the Bengals stayed patient and got a guy they liked without moving up for him like a lot of people thought they might. Dontay Moch has a ton of potential but at this point he is a great athlete, not a great football player. It will be interesting to see how he pans out in Cincy in their 3-4 alignment, because he could be a fierce 3-4 OLB if he gets coached up well. Boling in round 4 is a pretty good value and he should help add some depth to the OL and can eventually be a solid starter at guard. I’m not high on Robert Sands and I don’t think he will ever be a NFL starter, but I love the Ryan Whalen pick. This kid doesn’t drop anything, so while the Bengals have some talent at WR already Whalen could end up being a go-to guy on 3rd down because while he isn’t the biggest or the fastest he has some of the most reliable hands in this entire draft.

Arizona:

1st– Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU 9.5

2nd– Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech 9.0

3rd– Robert Housler, TE, Florida Atlantic 8.0

4th– Sam Acho, DE, Texas 8.0

5th– Anthony Sherman, FB, Connecticut 8.0

6th– Quan Sturdivant, ILB, North Carolina 7.5

6th– David Carter, DT, UCLA 7.5

7th– Demarco Sampson, WR, San Diego State 7.0

Overall Grade: B+

Analysis: Again, tough to go wrong with Patrick Peterson at #5, and following that up with Ryan Williams, a guy who has top 20 ability, is a great start to your draft. Especially when Beanie Wells has done almost nothing in the NFL and Hightower is more of a rotational power back than an every down starter. Housler has a lot of potential so getting him to potentially open up your offense with an athletic tight end is a nice pick, and Acho in round 4 is a good value. I also like the Anthony Sherman pick, he impressed me in Orlando and he is a good pass catcher out of the backfield for a fullback. I also like both Quan Sturdivant and David Carter, and I think they will provide solid depth with some upside for the Cardinals in the future.

Cleveland:

1st– Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor 8.0

2nd– Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh 7.5

2nd– Greg Little, WR, North Carolina 8.5

4th– Jordan Cameron, TE, Southern Cal 8.5

4th– Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford 9.0

5th– Buster Skrine, CB, Chattanooga 7.0

5th– Jason Pinkston, OT, Pittsburgh 8.0

7th– Eric Hagg, S, Nebraska 7.5

Overall Grade: B+

Analysis: Phil Taylor was a pretty good pick at 21, but I thought he was an ideal 3-4 NT. I don’t think he will live up to the hype at a 4-3 DT because he just won’t provide enough of a pass rush to be considered a good/great all around player in that scheme. I was not a big Jabaal Sheard fan as a 3-4 OLB but he could be a pretty effective 4-3 LE, especially if they can get a talented RE across from him. I am a big Greg Little fan and I think the Browns got a very nice value for him. He has first round ability and while he is raw I think he could absolutely burst onto the scene in a couple of years once he has some time to develop. His combination of size, leaping ability and his time spent running hard after getting the ball as a running back makes him a very intriguing player. Jordan Cameron has a ton of potential as a former basketball player and he could end up being an intriguing option at TE because of his ability to threaten defenses down the seam. Marecic is one of everyone’s favorite players in the draft because of his ability to play fullback but also be a special teams ace because of his experience at linebacker. I thought Jason Pinkston had the potential to be drafted in the 3rd round, maybe even higher, so grabbing him in round 5 is a pretty solid value. You also have to love all the draft picks they got out of Atlanta as a result of the trade down. Those picks should be very valuable as they work on rebuilding and transitioning to a 4-3 defense.

San Francisco:

1st– Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri 8.0

2nd– Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada 7.0

3rd– Chris Culliver, S, South Carolina 7.0

4th– Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State 9.0

5th– Daniel Kilgore, OG, Appalachian State 7.5

6th– Ronald Johnson, WR, Southern Cal 7.5

6th– Colin Jones, S, TCU 7.5

7th– Bruce Miller, DE/LB, Central Florida 7.5

7th– Michael Person, OT, Montana State 7.0

7th– Curtis Holcomb, CB, Florida A&M 7.0

Overall Grade: B-

Analysis: Again, I don’t like the fit for Aldon Smith in a 3-4 scheme because I thought he was a perfect fit as a 4-3 DE, but that is just my opinion. I was very surprised to see the 49ers draft Colin Kaepernick in the 2nd round, and I wonder if they have a bad season again and end up with a top three pick, or maybe the #1 pick, if drafting him will keep Harbaugh and company from drafting Andrew Luck. I don’t think it would, but you never know. Kaepernick is very much a long term developmental project who is probably two years away from being a starter, so drafting him here when you could have made your team better and gotten a QB next year was a very strange move in my opinion. Culliver has a lot of athletic ability but I don’t like his lack of instincts, but I loved the Kendall Hunter pick. He could be one of the best values in the draft at that spot. The rest of the 49ers draft added some solid depth and special teams help, and it’s hard to hate that.

Tennessee:

1st– Jake Locker, QB, Washington 8.0

2nd– Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA 7.0

3rd– Jurell Casey, DT, Southern Cal 8.5

4th– Colin McCarthy, ILB, Miami 8.0

4th– Jamie Harper, RB, Clemson 6.0

5th– Karl Klug, DE, Iowa 7.5

6th– Byron Stingily, OT, Louisville 8.0

7th– Zach Clayton, DT, Auburn 7.0

7th– Tommie Campbell, S, California (PA) 7.0

Overall Grade: C+

Analysis: I thought #8 overall was too high for Locker, but it’s not hard to see why the Titans went in that direction. They wanted a guy with great intangibles, great leadership ability and a great work ethic. Essentially, they wanted the opposite of Vince Young. They got that guy with Locker so it’s hard to totally hate the pick, especially since everyone was convinced he would have gone #1 overall ahead of Sam Bradford a year ago at this time. I am very much not an Akeem Ayers fan and I wouldn’t have picked him until round 3, but Jurell Casey and Colin McCarthy are both solid players and I like the value they got for them. They improved their DT rotation and added depth at LB. If Ayers pans out they will have really improved their front seven with this draft. I am not a Jamie Harper guy at all and I think that was their worst pick by far, but I like the depth additions of Karl Klug and Byron Stingily. Klug will be a versatile DL for them and Stingily, while very raw, has the upside to be a solid starter at LT at some point.

Dallas:

1st– Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal 8.5

2nd– Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina 8.0

3rd– DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma 8.5

4th– David Arkin, OG, Missouri State 8.0

5th– Josh Thomas, CB, Buffalo 7.5

6th– Dwayne Harris, WR, East Carolina 8.5

7th– Shaun Chapas, FB, Georgia 7.5

7th– Bill Nagy, C, Wisconsin 7.0

Overall Grade: B

Analysis: Tyron Smith has the most potential of any LT in this draft class, so it’s hard to dislike that pick, but the Cowboys will have to wait a year at least before he is ready to start, so he won’t have an immediate impact on the team. If they are patient and coach him up it could be worth the wait though. The Cowboys definitely got an athletic specimen in Bruce Carter but I don’t know how well he will fit at 3-4 ILB, especially in the Cowboys scheme. They love athletes and they got one, but Carter doesn’t have great instincts and I don’t know how well he will do against the run when he has to shed blocks from big, powerful interior linemen. I love DeMarco Murray in round three even though they have Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, and David Arkin in round 4 should add more depth and an eventual starter to their offensive line. Josh Thomas is a solid depth addition at corner though I don’t think he will ever be a starter, and Dwayne Harris was one of the best values in the draft in round six. He has potential as a KR, PR and slot receiver, so it will be interesting to see if he sticks and plays well there.

Washington:

1st– Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue 7.5

2nd– Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson 8.0

3rd– Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami 8.5

4th– Roy Helu, RB, Nebraska 8.0

5th– Dejon Gomes, S, Nebraska 8.0

5th– Niles Paul, WR, Nebraska 8.0

6th– Evan Royster, RB, Penn State 5.0

6th– Aldrick Robinson, WR, SMU 7.5

7th– Brandyn Thompson, CB, Boise State 7.0

7th– Maurice Hurt, OG, Florida 7.0

7th– Markus White, DE, Florida State 7.0

7th– Christopher Neild, DT, West Virginia 7.0

Overall Grade: B-

Analysis: Again, Kerrigan doesn’t fit well in a 3-4 in my opinion. The Redskins seem to be a team that is in the wrong defensive scheme. If they used the same personnel but in a 4-3 scheme I think their defensive line would be extremely fierce. Orakpo at RE, Jenkins at NT, Haynesworth as the disrupting UT, and Kerrigan at LE? That would be as good of a defensive front as there is in the NFL if Haynesworth would get his act together. There would be zero room to run up the middle with Jenkins and Haynesworth plugging up the interior gaps, and Orakpo, Haynesworth and Kerrigan would be more than enough to get pressure on quarterbacks without having to blitz to consistently create pressure. But obviously that isn’t going to happen, I just thought I’d point that out because that occurred to me as the draft was going on even before they picked up Jenkins in round 2. Hankerson in round three is a nice value and I think he will prove to be a valuable pick-up. I wouldn’t have wanted him in the top 50 picks, but getting him there is a nice pick-up especially for a team desperate for WR help. Helu, Gomes and Paul are all solid depth additions, as is Aldrick Robinson, but I don’t think Royster will be in the NFL in 3-4 years. I was shocked that he was drafted at all.

Thanks for reading! Look out for the rest of my team grades in the next couple days as well as a preview for players that I expect to break out during the next college football season!

–Tom

This is my analysis of Matt Ryan’s Week 1 performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played poorly in this game as evidenced by his statistics: 27/44, 252 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, a completion percentage of 61.4% and a QB rating of 67.6. But there is definitely more to his performance than just his stat line, so when I re-watched this game and took twelve single spaced pages of notes on it I paid particular attention to Matt Ryan and how he played. Here is what I found:

”]Ryan had a poor performance in this game. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was when I watched it live, but he still had a pretty bad game considering everything that happened. The interception he threw to Polamalu was an incredible play on Polamalu’s part because of the instincts, closing speed and just overall uncanny ability to pick the pass off and get his feet inbounds, but it wasn’t an impossible play to make. Ryan had been throwing that same ball to Roddy all game long, he probably threw it at least 10 times or more over the course of the game. The Steelers’ corners started to key on it and had blanket coverage on a number of them as the game went on, but finally Polamalu tried to jump one and he came away with a great interception. That is on Mularkey for calling such a predictable game, but it is also on Ryan for staring Roddy down on that route and for throwing to him on that same deep curl over and over for the entire game. Plus Ryan doesn’t have the arm strength to throw a deep curl to the sideline like that, so his passes hang in the air a bit which gives the defender more time to close on the ball and make a play on it. Hence why Pittsburgh’s corners and defensive backs were in Roddy’s hip pocket all game regardless of how crisp he was going in and out of his break.

He had a number of bad throws in this game (I counted about seven in this game), some of which were due to bad footwork (I counted about five or so instances of this, meaning an off balance throw, throw off his back foot, etc.) and some just due to him getting flustered in the pocket and panicking. There were a few instances where he had time to throw and just missed his target, which will happen. However, we really need to stop making the deep curl and deep out such a critical route in our offense. Ryan can throw it and complete it, but if we keep doing it over and over like we did in this game teams will key on it and have some easy interceptions because of how long the ball stays in the air. He has to time the throw perfectly, throw an accurate ball and put it on the right shoulder for Roddy or anyone else to have a good chance at catching it, otherwise the defensive back will be able to knock it away if they close on it well or if they are expecting it. Mularkey really needs to work to Ryan’s strengths which involve beating blitzes, quick throws, throws over the middle and throws that require more touch and accuracy rather than pure arm strength like throws to the sideline require. We can’t scrap them from our offense entirely obviously, but there’s no reason we should be blatantly playing to one of his greatest weaknesses on such a regular basis.

Ryan threw the ball 44 times in this game. That number is much higher than I would prefer, especially when our running game was as ineffective as it was.

Ryan had a number of good throws in this game, I counted about seven good throws, five very good throws and fourteen solid throws overall. As you can tell, we threw the ball way more in this game than I think we would ordinarily want to. Our running game was just not effective for the majority of the game, but I will touch on that more when I break down how Turner, Snelling, Norwood and the offensive line did. However, Ryan and Roddy had a lot of pressure put on them to perform well and Ryan did a very good job of coming up with big 3rd down conversions in this game. He started out playing poorly on 3rd down at the beginning of the game which coincided with him looking very uncomfortable with his offensive line. He showed a number of examples of poor pocket poise at the beginning of the game as well as some bad footwork and bad decisions that occurred when he panicked in the face of pressure. That is definitely not something I expected to see out of Ryan so I made sure to see how he looked in those situations as the game progressed. As the game continued he definitely settled down and played better, made better decisions and showed a lot more poise. However, he was getting away with those deep curl throws to Roddy and Roddy made some very nice catches with defenders blanketed all over him which had to help Ryan’s confidence. So after he threw that interception to Polamalu his confidence took a huge hit and he resorted to his earlier antics a bit during the drive in overtime, but still looked better late than he did early in the game.

Ryan definitely had a mixed bag as far as good decisions and bad decisions as well as good/very good throws and bad throws. Again, we threw the ball way more than I would normally like (44 times, which is way too high for a run-first team like us) and we were completely ineffective running the ball (25 attempts, 58 yards and only 2.3 yards per carry). We couldn’t run the ball well so we got into 2nd and 3rd and long situations far too often, and Ryan had to throw us into field goal position to get us any points what-so-ever. We had no balance and eventually we just became entirely too predictable and mistakes were made like Ryan’s interception late in the 4th quarter. Because I am writing this after the fourth game of the season I have the benefit of looking for trends, and I found some that were similar to those I identified three years ago when he came out of Boston College. When he was at Boston College he regularly had to throw the ball a lot to keep the team in games and often when he did that he would turn the ball over more often than when the team had a semblance of a running game. In the two games that we have had no running game (against Pittsburgh and San Francisco we had a combined 156 rushing yards on 54 attempts for a pathetic 2.88 yards per carry average) Ryan threw the ball 44 and 43 times, respectively. In those two games he threw three interceptions versus only one touchdown, had an average of just under six yards per attempt versus over seven yards per attempt in the two games against Arizona and New Orleans, and an average QB rating of about 67 against Pitt and San Francisco versus about 112 against Arizona and New Orleans. In this case I truly believe the stats speak for themselves: When Ryan has to carry the offense by throwing the ball 35 or 40+ times in a game, we struggle and he struggles as well. The only times we will have to do that is when we get behind early in the game or when our run game sputters, which is what happened against Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

The disparity in Ryan's stats when he throws the ball more than 40 times versus 35 times or less is staggering.

Now, I haven’t re-watched the past three games yet so I can’t accurately describe how Ryan played in each of them, but I can tell you right now that the dominant running game we had against Arizona and New Orleans played a significant role in Ryan being vastly more effective and efficient. He is very good off of play-action, especially when we don’t roll him out to the sideline and we just let him make his progressions naturally. However, when the running game isn’t effective and he has to do a lot of straight three and five step drops to try to throw the team into the game he is going to turn the ball over more. That is just who he is as a player. He doesn’t have the rocket arm strength or arm to put the team on his back like Peyton Manning and throw for 400 yards and pull out a win in my opinion, which I now realize means that I don’t think he will be one of the best QB’s in the NFL for his entire career. That is a bit disappointing considering the incredible hype he had after his great rookie season, but he is definitely a good enough QB to put together a crucial game-winning drive when we need it most. I know that because he has done that regularly during his first two and a quarter seasons on the Falcons. That means we can win a Superbowl with him if we surround him with enough talent along our offensive line to consistently run the ball and if we give him enough weapons to keep the defense off balance by spreading the ball around. We don’t have those pieces in place yet so it will be interesting to see how we go about acquiring those pieces to allow Ryan to flourish. Because if we surround him with that talent I absolutely believe he will.

Overall I think Ryan had a below average game, but it was not nearly as horrible as I thought it was watching it live. The Polamalu interception was so late that it made everything seem so much worse than it was. Our offensive line really made it hard on Ryan, but he made quality throws to convert for first downs on at least eleven or twelve 2nd and 3rd downs with seven or eight yards needed to pick up a first down. Many of them were on 2nd and 10 or 3rd and 10. That had a lot to do with our ineffective running game obviously, but Ryan still stepped up to the challenge and did the best he could. He definitely missed some open targets in this game because he got too locked in on Roddy, and I saw probably three or four instances when he could have made a routine or solid throw and picked up a nice gain or a significant chunk of yardage. That will happen, but Ryan is usually much better about going through his progressions than he was in this game. It was a poor effort on his part, and that was reflected in his stats, but there was plenty of silver lining to be found in this game in the form of his number of good, accurate throws, his poise in the pocket getting consistently better throughout the course of the game, and his regular conversions in long yardage situations on 2nd and 3rd downs. It will be interesting to break down the rest of the Falcons games this year to see how Ryan progresses as the season goes on during my careful film study of each game.

Look out for more in-depth Falcons analysis! Go Falcons!!

Thanks for reading, hopefully you enjoyed this piece. I will have a number of other Falcons-focused reviews coming throughout the course of the season as I get around to re-watching each of the games, taking a lot of notes on each play, and then analyzing the information I gather and summarizing it for everyone to read. I’d like to do this for more teams than just the Falcons, but I think it makes sense to start with the Falcons and perhaps try analyzing a critical game for another team every once in a while. I’m sure I will have a Vikings and Packers game analysis at one point during the season since I see them play so often and I am so familiar with their rosters.

Thanks again!

–Tom