The vast difference between Rodgers and Kaepernick, a Raiders defensive reckoning and a new top 10 QB
1. I think the widest chasm I’ve ever seen between two quarterbacks entering a game is the one this week between Aaron Rodgers and Colin Kaepernick. Rodgers is coming off a five-touchdown performance in a Monday night win over Kansas City. He was brilliant recognizing mismatches before the snap and executing adjustments after it. Kaepernick is coming off a four-interception showing in a loss at Arizona. The first two picks were returned for easy touchdowns, and from a pure quarterbacking standpoint, the next two were, in their own unique ways, every bit as awful. Kaepernick showed no grasp for the subtlety of pocket movement, the importance of footwork or for how routes time up against specific coverages. In the two games since his encouraging Week 1 showing, he’s at times looked like an amateur.
2. I think the Raiders can have a top-10 defense. It’s a matter of whether their mostly young secondary becomes more consistent. It suffered too many individual breakdowns, both mental and physical, against the Browns last week. Fortunately for them, Josh McCown failed to capitalize several times. The Raiders have employed a classic 4-3 and a classic 3-4 in different games this season. In either structure they have the most dynamic edge-defending tandem in the league: Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith. Mack erupted last week; it’s only a matter of time before Smith does as well.
3. I think Carson Palmer needs to be placed back into the discussion of Top 10 quarterbacks. It’s been about 10 years since he was last in it. Palmer is throwing the ball as effectively now as he ever did in Cincinnati.
4. I think the Bills found their offensive formula at Miami with a game plan that featured play-action, go routes, dumpoffs in the flats and the occasional moving pocket or misdirection design. The common thread here? All of these tactics define the read for the quarterback. Instead of dropping back and scanning the entire field—which Buffalo’s heavy doses of isolation routes demanded in the loss to the Patriots—Tyrod Taylor could drop back and look for one specific target for whom the play was designed. Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman will have to call this sort of game again when his team hosts an overachieving, highly aggressive Giants defense Sunday.
5. I think Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith ought to feel like a real goober for getting himself suspended the first three games. His absence really hurt, particularly two weeks ago when Peyton Manning and the Broncos won almost solely by attacking Smith’s replacement, Jamell Fleming, in man coverage. The Packers feasted equally as much on Kansas City’s overmatched man defenders. Smith’s return solves the problem at left cornerback. Unfortunately, with underrated second-year man Phillip Gaines going down (ACL), there are still problems in the slot. You can bet the Bengals will set their game plan accordingly.
6. I think once Falcons rookie running back Tevin Coleman returns from his rib injury—which probably won’t be this week but could be next week—he’ll find himself playing second fiddle to Devonta Freeman. Coleman was sturdy in his one start, but Freeman, clearly, offers superior quickness and speed.
7. I think the more control Peyton Manning has over Denver’s offense, the fewer protection breakdowns we’ll see. There was already evidence of this a week ago in the win over Detroit. We’ll learn a lot this week when the Broncos host a Vikings D that lately has been more aggressive with inside pressure concepts than any team in the NFL.
8. I still think Colt McCoy will eventually be named the starting quarterback in Washington. Kirk Cousins has a lot of McCoy’s limitations, just to less of a degree. But Cousins also has a tendency to turn the ball over. At least with McCoy, Jay Gruden knows what to expect of his offense from drive to drive.
9. I think Chargers safety Jimmy Wilson needs a bounce-back game. He was at fault for Adrian Peterson’s 21-yard run and his 43-yard touchdown in last Sunday’s loss at Minnesota. Take out those plays and Peterson only posted 62 yards on 18 carries against what was a very disciplined Chargers run D.
10. I think the Cowboys need to ask more of Brandon Weeden than just check-downs on Sunday night. They have the league’s best offensive line and they’re facing what appears to be the league’s most anemic four-man pass rush in New Orleans.
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