Tag Archive: New Orleans Saints


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

BJ Coleman Interview:

Tom: First of all BJ thank you for your time, I really appreciate the chance to talk with you more in depth and I know it’s been a busy week for you.

Tom: I have been high on you as a quarterback since before the season started, so it was fun to see you down here. How do you think your senior season went overall?

BJ: Senior season was tough. It felt great starting out, opened up in Nebraska. It was an awesome opportunity to play in Lincoln, it was really impressive. We were off to a great start, 2-1, played against App State got beat and then I got knocked out during Georgia Southern. I had a shoulder injury and was out until the rest of the season until the last game, wasn’t out the whole season, but was out until Wofford. Threw the ball around fairly well I’d say, was able to finish and come back which was big. The guys fought hard, I was blessed to be a part of that group of guys, didn’t go the way we wanted it to so that’s a credit to my teammates and the coaches.

Tom: I was trying to watch that Georgia Southern game, it looked like a tough injury.

BJ: It was one of those plays, you look at it on film and it looks like the guy didn’t even hit me that hard but the guy just caught me in the perfect spot and came down right on that AC joint. When you get that AC joint messed up, it’s really hard to lift that arm. I really hard to let my arm heal for a while, do little shoulder exercises, and I feel like my arm is stronger now I’ll be honest with you.

Tom: What has been your favorite part of being down here this week?

BJ: I would definitely say Sunday, being able to go to the hospital and visit those kids, those 3 hours are something you will remember for a lifetime. It was special and to be a part of that was way more than I could have ever asked to be a part of. I love the game of football, football is what got me here so I owe those memories to football, but being here is pretty special. After that obviously it’s been the guys, I love being a teammate and this has been special. Nothing is guaranteed after Saturday, we’d love to think that everyone will get picked up and play at the next level, but nothing is guaranteed after Saturday. We just need to go out and have fun; it’s the last send-off from college football for all of us.

Tom: What is one thing you think you have done very well this week?

BJ: I think I picked up the offense very well, I feel very good with what we’re doing. Coach Carr has done a great job preparing all of us in the meeting rooms and on the field. I think I have gotten better with my feet this week, I think that has been huge for me. I have never really had someone focus in and coach me on my feet. It was a good feeling to get a lot out of what Coach Carr was saying about feet and how it measures up with where to go, the timing of the throw and the accuracy. So I think I picked up the offense well and got better with my feet.

Tom: I agree, it’s always good to see someone that can take coaching well and improve over the course of the week and I think you proved that you could do that this week.

BJ: Oh absolutely. Ever since I was 4 years old my Dad has always been there for me and he coached my little league teams. I’ve always been able to listen and focus in on what the coach is saying and try to execute it the way they want. Sometimes it’s not going to work that way and you have to improvise a little bit, but it’s very important that you don’t get too mechanical and that the fundamentals stick so that it’s like muscle memory so you don’t have to think about that stuff when you’re playing. That way you can play fast and you can react. Sometimes I catch myself guessing a little bit, but this week I was able to kind of release, say “hey, I know this offense” make a pre-snap read, get the ball out, react and just play football. I think I’ve always been able to pick things up quickly and that was big this week as well.

Tom: What is something that your coaches have taught you this week that you consider particularly valuable?

BJ: I would say it would be the fact that it’s important to show up, and keep focus for certain amounts of time. What I mean by that is that everyone comes in and always going to be amped up to try something new. Scouts are coming in and you get the chance to play in a very prestigious game, one that’s been around a long time and that has produced a lot of NFL players, some Hall of Famers and some future Hall of Famers. We all know that. But when you come in you have all that excitement. What are you going to do when you get tired? What are you going to do when you finish practice and have to go to two hours and forty five minutes of meetings? Are you going to put your head down, take your cell phone out and not keep focus? For the most part I was very impressed with the guys in that meeting room with me because they all worked hard. Because this is a job interview for all of us, and when you go to that next level it’s a business, it’s a job. It’s something that you are going to do to put food on your plate for your family. It’s still fun, and you gotta treat it like it’s fun, but at the same time it’s what you do.

Tom: What do you think your greatest strength is as a quarterback?

BJ: I’d say teammates. The most important thing for a QB ESPECIALLY, yes you have to know the offense, yes you have to be able to interact and communicate, but to say it all in one word it has to be teammates. If you’ve got 10 other guys that are looking at you in the huddle with 20 eyes and they look back at you and they believe in you and what you’re selling, and they believe that you’re going to take whatever is thrown at you and make it positive, then you can accomplish anything. If you don’t have anyone that believes in you it doesn’t matter how good you are, it doesn’t matter how strong your arm is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are and it doesn’t matter if you know where to go with the ball, you’re not going to be able to do it on your own because this is an 11 man game. You’re playing against 11 other men who are very determined to stop you from your goal, especially offensively. It could be the opposite if you’re a defensive player, but I think if you’ve got guys who believe in what you’re selling and believe in you as a quarterback I think that the sky is the limit. It’s not going to be perfect, but do you give your team the best chance to win.

Tom: I think that’s a fantastic answer BJ, this has been a very refreshing interview so far.

BJ: Haha, well I’m an up-beat guy! Some people will say “Woah, easy, easy calm down!” but my mother is a principal and she has always taught me to be a leader and as a quarterback you gotta be. You gotta be outspoken and at times you gotta be able to take coaching but at the same time you have to let guys know that in a time of duress; everything’s fine. Even if it’s not!

Tom: I agree, you always look for those intangibles from a quarterback. I think that’s what sets the good ones and the great ones apart.

BJ: Oh absolutely. And you know, everyone here is a good football player. Excuse me, a great football player. I’ve seen some amazing athletes and amazing people this week, but the littlest of things, and I’m talking the littlest of the little, set some of these guys apart.

Tom: What about something you need to work on?

BJ: You would put me on the spot, Tom. I’d say touch. I think that’s another good one. Touch on the shorter passes, and I think a lot of that to with touch on the red zone, I think a lot of that comes with knocking the rust off it’s been a little while since we’ve been out here playing. But I’ve got a great feel for the long ball, I’ve got a good feel for touch, and I missed some of them this week which I was upset about. But at the same time when you get a good feel for the receivers you’re throwing to and you get time to work with them then that stuff comes. But I think that touch when throwing the check-downs and the shorter passes, other than that I was pretty pleased.

Tom: You know, it’s easy to grade a quarterback during these weeks and say “Oh he missed this throw, oh he was inaccurate that day” but playing quarterback is so much about timing, anticipation and having a good feeling for all of your receivers.

BJ: Absolutely! That’s a great point. And being down here I love seeing the big receivers and the strong legs and people that can move down the field and eat up grass fast. I think that’s what excited me because I knew I had the arm to get it there. But sometimes you get so amped up that you get a little heavy on some of those touch passes. You just have to slow yourself down, not your game, but you have to understand what throws to make in certain situations.

Tom: I agree, and I think that people forget sometimes that as a quarterback you have to develop chemistry with your receivers in just a few days of practice because you’ve usually never played with or even met any of these guys before. So I think watching the whole week to see if the chemistry starts to develop or whether the quarterback and his receivers just aren’t on the same page still is important.

Oh absolutely. I got off the plane and started shaking hands because I had never met these men. But we have done a lot of hard work this week and now it’s time to let the hard work go to work.

Tom: Do you have any mentors for the position or people you modeled yourself after?

BJ: Well, I have. It was my freshman year at UT with the Vols under Coach Fulmer, I went to Coach Cutcliffe. I went to Coach Cut and said look, I know I’m redshirting, I am going to take 18 hours of classes and I want to get every piece of film you have on Peyton. I got as much as I could and I I watched his release and his feet, and I still got some way to go on my feet, but my release I really like. It’s comes over the top, it’s not a ¾ release, it’s over the top to get the ball over the defensive line, I like it and it comes out quick with no waste of motion. I got a lot of that stuff from Peyton and I love watching Peyton. I call him “The Sherriff” because he can dissect a defense better than anyone I’ve ever seen. So if you’re going to model your game after someone he’s not a bad one to model yourself after.

Tom: How would you describe your work habits? Do you watch a lot of film?

BJ: Junkie baby. I want to be one of those guys that when you walk in “hey BJ, why are we running this play?” I want to be able to tell you. I love watching film. Throughout my career at Chattanooga and at Tennessee when I was there I watched as much as I could weekly along with class, but making sure that I could balance it and take care of business in the classroom. I watched between 20 and 25 hours of film a week on top of school and on top of the film we watched with our coaches. Preparation is important to me. I think that being unprepared for what you’re doing on game day is the worst feeling. I can safely say there were not many times in my career when I was out there and I had to say “Coach I have no idea what they’re doin.” I have been very blessed to have some great coaches prepare me. Preparation is key and it’s something I’ve always been able to do. I’m not the fastest guy, I don’t have the strongest arm and I’m probably not the smartest but if I can prepare and understand how teams try to attack us defensively and I can try to put us in the best situation to be successful.

Tom: If you don’t mind me asking, what was the biggest factor that led you to transfer from Tennessee?

BJ: The truth is, the biggest factor was that I wanted to play. I love this game, I enjoy it. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to showcase that if I stayed there. I wasn’t there to just sit on the bench. I knew I had the intangibles to get guys to play and to get excited, and to know that if they blocked for 2.5 seconds that the ball was going to come out and that we could be successful. And that’s the biggest thing with me. I wanted to go a place where I could play in a pro-style offense. There is NOTHING that is close to a NFL offense, but I wanted to go somewhere that would line me up with two backs, let me do play-action passing, do 3 step, 5 step drops. So I was able to get some of that stuff in my muscles early. That was the biggest reason. I wanted to play. I love the game and that’s what I wanted to do.

Tom: What do you think is an attribute that is crucial to play and succeed at the quarterback position?

BJ: I think you have to have a great mind. I think it’s as simple as this too, I think you’ve got to have a good arm. You don’t need to have the strongest arm, but you’ve got to be able to throw the football. I think the NFL has really become a passing league and I believe you need to be able to push the football down the field. I think if you watch the league, guys like Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Manning, Rivers, Jay Cutler, Brett Favre, they can push the football down the field. It’s important to carry out your fakes to hold those defensive ends, but it all comes down to completions, completions, completions. That’s what you wanted, I can sum it up in one word: Completions. To be able to play quarterback in the NFL you’ve got to be able to complete the football. You can never go broke making a profit, and if you complete the football… getting a yard in the NFL is very tough, and I don’t know anything about it, but listening to these coaches this week they say that getting a yard is very tough and winning is even harder. So I think it all starts with being able to complete passes.

Tom: That reminds me, I have always noticed that you do great ball fakes even when it’s in drills without a running back. I think that is part of what makes your play-action fakes so effective on film.

BJ: I learned this from Coach Clausen. He said that you want your defensive line and linebackers to see the ball in the running backs pocket. You want them to see that and if they take a picture, they would think he’s got it. Then you can carry out your fake and make big plays down the field. But if you don’t carry out your fake correctly and get that ball in the right spot then it’s not going to be effective.

Tom: Who are a few players on defense that have stuck out to you this week?

BJ: You’re going to have to work with me with some of the names, but I really like the Merrimack kid (Shawn Loiseau). I love his intensity. I love his energy, his passion. You can tell he loves to play the game for the game. There are several good defensive linemen here. Defensive back wise there’s some good ones. The kid from Notre Dame, the Blanton kid is pretty good. The Hampton kid is a solid football player.

Tom: Anyone on offense that you have been impressed by?

BJ: Tauren Poole. I’ve known him for a while but that’s not why I like him, he really works hard. I think our tight ends have done a great job. Ford, Rodriguez and I can’t pronounce the last one Tom, we just call him Big Ig. Those guys have been a solid group. The offensive line has done extremely well. You’ve got to give those guys credit, and I’m not just doing that because I’m a quarterback. For four days to get the protections down well is impressive. The receivers have gotten better all week. I like the Michigan State kid (B.J. Cunningham), I like his burst and I think he’s got something to him. I like Jenkins from Illinois and the Benford kid has made some strides as well. We’ve got some weapons, and those guys have really stood out.

Tom: If you don’t mind me asking, what teams have you talked to this week? Any interesting questions?

BJ: Oh man. I’ve talked to a bunch which I hope is a good sign. I was able to talk to several teams. Every one of them was something different which I thought was something intriguing. Those guys are just down to earth type people. They interact with me just like they would anybody else. It was a really neat experience. They asked me what type of offenses are you in, can you explain certain plays, what do you expect out of your career. Some cool things, I was intrigued. It was a neat experience, and they asked a bunch of the same things you’re asking me about my strengths, weaknesses, what do I like or dislike, what type of guy are you. They just want to get to know you.

Tom: Well I’m glad some of my questions are reminding you of those interviews, I think that’s a good sign for me! Haha.

BJ: That’s exactly right!

Tom: If you don’t mind me stealing one of their questions, what do you see from your career?

BJ: I’ve always loved this game. It’s funny, I understand the situation that it’s very difficult. There’s 96 quarterbacks give or take a few, 3 per team, 32 teams. Those jobs are very few and far between. I understand that. My goal is to play football in the NFL. I want to be on a team, but I want to contribute. My goal is to play in a Super Bowl. I want to be a starting quarterback in the NFL and I want to play and win a Super Bowl. I want to have a long, successful career and I want to be the best. I think that’s something you should always strive for, to be the best. There have been some GREAT quarterbacks in the NFL, but I think that’s the goal you have to have.

Tom: I love hearing players, but especially quarterbacks, say that they want to win and that they want to hear a Super Bowl. That’s not always the first thing to come to people’s minds. But you can throw for a lot of yards and everything, but it comes down to being able to win and I think that’s why Tim Tebow has created such a big stir, because he has been able to win games.

BJ: Oh absolutely! I love what he has done in Denver. He goes out there and he has “it.” I believe you can look into a guy’s eyes and say “he has it.” You gotta be able to have that factor for people to gravitate to you. That comes down to playing quarterback and being a leader, being somebody that you can look at and say “I want to follow that guy and do whatever I can because I know that if he succeeds, we succeed” and that’s big.

Tom: Now, here’s the big question: Do you think YOU have “it”?

BJ: Gosh, I would prefer if someone else told me that I have “it”. But deep down in my gut I truly believe I do have “it”. I believe I have the ability to walk into a room and take control, and not in a “hey look at me” way, I’m talking about walking into a room and you have their respect and their eyes pop up. I think Coach Cutcliffe had “it.” When he walked in you knew he was there, you could feel him in the room. That’s the difference to me between good and great. When Peyton Manning walks into a room you can feel him, I’m positive. When Brett Favre walks into a room, people felt it and they could tell “hey, it’s time to go to work.” I love to have fun, but when it’s time to go to work you’re going to be accountable.

Tom: Where will you be training for the combine and your pro day?

BJ: As of now I have been working out in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. My agent is Bus Cook so I have a great man representing me. He’s a lot like me outside of athletic clothes I wear cowboy boots and jeans. I have gotten to work out with Brett Favre a couple times so I am very pleased.

Tom: Wow, how was working out with Favre?

BJ: Oh man, it’s been great. He’s a hall of fame quarterback man. He’s everything and more that anyone could think about, and I’m very lucky to be able to work out with him and Sam Morris my weight trainer down there. I’m not anything flashy man, I don’t like flash. I’m working out at a local high school in Hattiesburg with the head trainer there named Sam Morris and that’s exactly how I want it. I’m from Chattanooga, Tennessee and I wouldn’t want to be from anywhere else. To be able to go down and train with people who are very respectful “yes sir, no sir” type people is all I could ever ask for.

Tom: What is some of the advice he’s given you so far?

BJ: His biggest thing is that you gotta go in prepared. You never know what’s gonna happen. Make sure that when you go in you have a plan and when you snap the ball you can react. That’s what I’ve been trying to do this week. You have to do what you do, and you can’t be afraid to make mistakes. Our quarterback coach, Coach Carr for the East, he said “Hey look, I don’t want you to play so uptight that you’re afraid to pull the trigger.” And that’s how I’ve played this week, I’m not afraid to pull the trigger. Was it always perfect? No, but because of that it allowed people to kind of see that this kid here is not afraid to throw the football.

Tom: What was your favorite moment during your senior season?

BJ: Senior season… It felt good to come back, I’m not gonna lie to you. It felt good to come back. It was a feat that I wanted to accomplish. Since I was very young I hadn’t missed a game in any sport I had played. This was the first time I had to sit out of anything. You can get to a point where you start playing mind games and you say “Am I ever going to be able to come back, is my arm ever going to be healthy” and the guys there, and my family were great and told me not to think that way. They told me that this is a part of playing athletics. You’re going to get injured, you’re going to have knocks, but my mom always said that every knock is a boost. If you can get through it it’s only going to make you stronger, and I really believe my arm is stronger now. I just gotta continue to build on it.

Tom: You know, it might be a strange thing, but I believe that sometimes those hardships that might feel awful when they happen, but knowing how to deal with an injury and rehab from it is important for going to the NFL. And maybe, if you hadn’t gotten hurt, you wouldn’t have known what to do but now you have some experience dealing with that adversity.

BJ: Absolutely!! My mother always says that everything happens for a reason. I had no idea Tom, I had no idea what it was like to get injured! I mean I’ve played with bad ankles, with a bad whatever, but I’ve always played. It didn’t matter, I always played through it. But this time the good Lord was saying “Hey man, you’re a guy who is just like everyone else and you’ve got to learn these things.” Did I like it? No, not at all. It was my senior season and we had great aspirations, and I was sorry that it happened that way not just for me but for my teammates, but everything happens for a reason.

Tom: Is there one thing specifically you want to work on or develop once you get to the NFL?

BJ: Sure. I think the biggest thing is that whatever ball-club I end up with I want to take in that system, learn all the ins and outs and everything I can learn about it. I’m one of those guys that loves to study and I want to learn all about it and I am one of those guys that really focuses in on the little things about it. But I think the most important thing is to learn from the guy that’s there. Obviously you want to be the guy, but I think there’s a lot to be said for a guy that can come in and really learn from the guy that’s there. It’s important for a new guy to come in and take in everything people are willing to teach him. It’s important to take some instruction and I’m very willing to do that. I think there’s a lot to be learned from those guys that are up there. They aren’t up there for no reason, they are up there because they can play football and I think they can really be good leaders too.

Tom: Is there any offense that you would like to play in?

BJ: I really… I’m very pro-stylish. I love what the Colts do, I know that’s Peyton, but the Colts do it. The Saints and Drew Brees do it. Play action fake and push the ball down the field. I like what Green Bay does with Aaron Rodgers, and he’s a guy that can move outside the pocket but it’s a lot of ball fakes and throwing the ball down the field. I like that I really do. I’ve never really played in a spread offense so I don’t know too much about it and I don’t know who runs it, I know some teams have dabbled in it, but wherever I go I’ll be able to adapt to whatever they do.

Tom: Do you have any specific goals left for the rest of the week?

BJ: Have fun. I think the biggest thing is for the rest of this week is, as I have been all week, is to just go out and have fun. As I said earlier, nothing beyond this Saturday is guaranteed and the teammates thing is pretty hard to swallow. I miss the guys back in Chattanooga, I miss my boys and Go Mocs. Those guys have been awesome for me. I’ve talked to a few of them since I’ve been down here, my brother is on the team, so I just really miss the team. You miss bleedin’, you miss sweatin with those guys, but now I have been blessed to try to make another ball squad. That’s my focus, it’s still an interview, but you go out, you have fun and you stay focused. Even if it’s just a disaster, that’s ok, you pick yourself up and you go on to the next day.

Tom: What is one thing you would like the world to know about you that it may not already know?

BJ: That’s a tough one, but I could talk to a wall man. I’m always open to meeting new people. But if you give me a call Sunday after the game I can have a better answer for you than that, you put me on the spot! But I really appreciate you takin the time to talk to me and taking the time to follow me and the guys, it really means a lot.

Tom: No problem BJ, this has been great. I’ll check in with you on Sunday, and if I don’t talk to you before the game good luck on Saturday!

I’ll be sure to update this once BJ gives me his final answer on what he would like the world to know about him, so stay tuned for that. Hopefully you enjoyed the interview; I had a lot of fun talking to BJ.

–Tom

Playoff Prediction Post:

I realize I’m late on this, meant to post it earlier but lost track of time today. I had the Texans picked though, I swear!

Wild Card:

Texans over Bengals
Saints over Lions
Giants over Falcons
Pittsburgh over Denver

The Giants-Falcons game could be interesting depending on what Falcons team shows up. They have struggled against quality competition this year and have gotten to the playoffs largely because of a weak schedule (especially to finish the season). The Giants pass rush could give the Falcons offensive line fits, but if they can run the ball and keep Matt Ryan upright they could make things interesting. The Giants should be able to pass all over the Falcons if they want to, but may struggle to run the ball a bit. I’m picking the Giants because they know how to win in the playoffs and the Falcons haven’t proven that they can yet.

Divisional Round:

Ravens over Texans
Patriots over Pittsburgh
Saints over 49ers
Packers over Giants

The Texans have been an inspiring story winning without Matt Schaub and Mario Williams, but I don’t think T.J. Yates will be able to threaten downfield enough to keep the Ravens from working to take away Arian Foster. The Ravens offense is going against a quality defense but I think they will be able to move the ball. Joe Flacco may not have a ton of playoff experience, but he certainly has more than Yates. I’m not sold on Yates making critical plays in big games and I think the Ravens will expose his flaws for all to see.

The Patriots over Pittsburgh is a tough call for me. I think the Patriots are a good team but their secondary is a mess and I am not sold on their defense at all. Pittsburgh can move the ball and threaten teams vertically, so they could make New England pay if they bite on the run. It’s tough to bet against Tom Brady in the playoffs though, and even though the Patriots haven’t won a playoff game in a while I think they have a good chance to win one with Pittsburgh coming up to Foxboro.

The Saints over 49ers isn’t an automatic either, but I think the Saints might be the only team in the NFC that can beat the Packers. There’s just no way I can bet against Drew Brees, especially with Alex Smith starting opposite him.

The Giants are one of the few teams that is built to beat the Packers. The Packers can’t run the ball very well and rely on passing the ball quite a bit, and the Giants have shown that they have the blueprint to beat passing teams when they upset Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2007. This is an interesting match-up, especially since Aaron Rodgers didn’t play in week 17, but I expect the Packers to end up winning despite some of their struggles on defense.

Conference Championship Games:

Ravens over Patriots
Saints over Packers

The Ravens have a great defense that I think can slow down the Patriots offense enough for their offense to win the game. I don’t think the Patriots can slow down the Ravens enough to win this game personally. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think much of the Patriots defense, especially their secondary, but I do love the Ravens defense. So I’m going with them to beat the Patriots!

Yes, I’m picking the Saints. I can’t stand the Saints for what they do to the Falcons every year, but I do respect them. Their defense certainly isn’t elite, but they will be able to pressure Rodgers a bit and won’t have to worry much about the running game I don’t think. The Packers defense has little chance of slowing down the Saints offense and I think this game will end up being a shoot-out, but despite it all I think the Saints can win. They are playing the best football in the NFC right now and as the Packers know it’s all about getting hot at the right time. The Saints are hot, the Packers are not.

Superbowl:

Ravens over Saints

I am a defense first guy even though I love slinging the ball around and scouting quarterbacks, so that has something to do with my pick here. The Saints are a great offense, but the Ravens defense can slow them down in my opinion. Do they match up perfectly? No, I don’t think so. But I think they can rattle Brees and knock him around enough to contain their offense when they need to. The Saints know how to manufacture pressure, but I think the Ravens can run the ball on them and extend drives that way. I am a closet Ravens fan so take that into consideration, but I believe defense wins championships so one of the few good defensive teams left has a great shot to win the title!

Thanks for reading, it’ll be interesting to see how I do!

–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

My Thoughts on the Saints-Vikings Game

This won’t be an overly long post, I just want to voice some of my thoughts about the opening game of the NFL season last night. Contrary to what it may seem, I really do love the NFL and the regular season, even if it seems like I am more consumed by the offseason and the draft at times.

I watched most of this game, though I missed a chunk of the third quarter. Predictably I was not particularly impressed with the Vikings, who were not at full strength without Sidney Rice and they were missing Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook at corner. The Saints went after that weakness early by attacking whoever the Vikings trotted out at corner on the outside or in the slot, and even Antoine Winfield struggled in coverage. He really seems to have lost a step to me, and he gave up some catches last night that I don’t think he would have given up a couple of years ago. Remember he was the one who got burned on what I think was a hitch and go by Devin Aromashodu for the winning touchdown in overtime against the Chicago Bears late last season.

However, my biggest qualm about this game was not the Saints offense only putting up 14 points, it was about the Vikings unwillingness to adjust. This is something that has bothered me about the Vikings since Brad Childress took over, but never has it been more obvious than it was last night. I understand that they were not at full strength, but that is not an excuse for not adjusting to what the Saints were doing throughout the course of the game. I was willing to give them some lee-way in the secondary because honestly their secondary is a serious weakness at this point. Madieu Williams is solid when healthy, plus Winfield and Griffin at corner is a solid tandem, but I am not a big fan of Chris Cook and clearly Tyrell Johnson has not panned out or he would be starting over Husain Abdullah at strong safety. I was quite surprised that he didn’t win the starting spot, though I don’t know much about him as a prospect.

Anyways, I really do not understand why the Vikings can’t make adjustments. Here are a couple of situations that I am talking about: First, when Bryant McKinnine left the game and they moved Phil Loadholt, a Right Tackle with very slow feet, over to Left Tackle, they just left him there one on one with Will Smith, one of the better pass rushers in the NFL. A player who is good enough to give Bryant McKinnie, who apparently is a Pro-Bowler, a run for his money. Then Will Smith proceeded to beat the pants off of Loadholt whenever I would look over at him. He got a holding penalty promptly after being put in the game, and shortly after that he opened his hips too early to take away the speed rush and got beat badly by a nice move to the inside by Smith.

My point here is simply this: Why didn’t the Vikings give Loadholt, a player they had to know would have trouble shifting from the right side to the left, any help once he moved to that position? They just left him one on one with him. The Saints were much more concerned with Jared Allen, and were happy to chip him with a tight end or a running back to keep him away from Brees in the first half, so it’s not surprising that Brees had all day to throw and picked the Vikings apart. But when the Vikings were faced with a similar problem with Loadholt trying to block a dangerous pass rusher they elected to leave him one on one instead of adjusting to the injury and making sure they kept Favre upright long enough to scan the field without having to scramble and panic like he did when he threw his interception.

This really frustrated me. Yes it was late in the game, and yes it was an unforeseen circumstance, but if Loadholt really did take snaps at left tackle during their week of practice like he said he did in an interview after the game then the Vikings had to have known that he wouldn’t be able to handle Will Smith one on one. He couldn’t handle speed rushers at left tackle when he was at Oklahoma, so it shouldn’t have been any different against the Saints right? I just can’t understand why they wouldn’t have doubled him with Kleinsasser or chipped with Visanthe Shiancoe before he went out on a route. It makes absolutely no sense.

And the same blog that referenced Loadholt taking some snaps at left tackle in practice mentioned that the Vikings made some nice adjustments on the defensive side of the ball in the second half. It is true that the Vikings didn’t get gashed through the air, but really is it any better to get beat up on the ground versus the air? The Vikings have one of the most vaunted run defenses in the entire league, yet at the end of the game all they had to do was stop their running game, force a 3rd and long and tackle them before they got to the marker if they threw it and they couldn’t do it. The Saints ran right at the strength of the Vikings defense and Pierre Thomas just darted up the middle for good yardage play after play, and ended up with 71 yards rushing despite having, if I remember correctly, two carries for only one yard in the first half. That would mean he had 17 carries for 70 yards (a 4.12 yards per carry average) in the second half, including the winning touchdown. But even his final stats wouldn’t have mattered if they had adjusted to what the Saints were doing on the last drive of the game when they clinched the game. I don’t remember the plays specifically, but I believe they ran a counter a couple of times for a nice chunk of yardage, and then Thomas got a 10 yard gain on 2nd and 6 to seal it. Before that, despite the “adjustments” the Vikings had made in coverage, they gave up two first downs on passes to Heath Evans and Devery Henderson. The pass to Henderson occurred on a crucial 3rd and 7 that was set up by the only good play the Vikings had against the run on the drive, a two yard loss on a tackle by Chad Greenway. The other four rushing attempts the Saints had on the drive, excluding Brees’ kneel-downs at the end of the game, produced 24 rushing yards combined.

So I guess what I am trying to say is, I definitely thought the Saints deserved to win this game. I wanted to pick the Vikings to win before it, I really did, but I just don’t have any faith in their coaching staff to make crucial adjustments when they need to. In the first half they got completely gashed by the pass and struggled to pressure Brees, then in the 4th quarter when they needed to step up versus the run to force a 3rd and long they gave up more than four yards per carry on average. So I suppose I would disagree with anyone who thought the Vikings made good adjustments in this game. I thought the Vikings did a poor job of relying on Adrian Peterson in the second half when in the second quarter he helped the Vikings orchestrate a drive that lasted over nine minutes by touching the ball eight times and producing 55 total yards on those touches. I thought they did a solid job of protecting Brett Favre, but it is inexcusable to leave a natural right tackle one on one with a quality pass rushing defensive end when your left tackle gets hurt. And on top of that, if you really do have one of the best run defenses in the NFL, then you should be able to stop a team that before last year couldn’t run the ball to save their lives when you really need the ball back late in the 4th quarter.

We will have to see if this wakes the Vikings up. Usually it takes one of these awful games to get them to perk up and play well for an extended period of time. But ultimately my opinion of the Vikings is that they are overrated as playoff contenders and Superbowl contenders. They aren’t overrated because of Favre, Adrian Peterson, Kevin Williams, Jared Allen or Sidney Rice either. They are overrated because people seem to be under the impression that Brad Childress and his coaching staff are capable of making quality adjustments, and I don’t believe they can.