1. I think I’m not sure how long it will last, but I’m glad the Raiders are finding their footing for the sake of GM Reggie McKenzie’s job security. When McKenzie took over the Raiders in 2012, he was essentially showing up to a drag race in a Geo.
McKenzie is a Ted Thompson disciple, and as you might have heard all but three members of the 2015 Packers have never played for another NFL team. McKenzie wants to build through the draft. Yet, for his first draft in Oakland in 2012, the previous administration had already dealt the team’s first- and second-round picks, and their third was gone from taking Terrelle Pryor in the 2011 supplemental draft. They also had traded a 2013 second (along with that ’12 first) to Cincinnati in the deal that landed Palmer.
The guy had virtually no margin for error in building this team in the short-term. It was going to take a while. And now that he’s had a chance to build through the draft, he seemingly has a quarterback, a stud receiver, a monster pass rusher… Oakland’s not going to win 14 games this year, but they’re clearly on the right track. Even if they go 5-11 or so, McKenzie deserves a few more years to see this thing through.
• RAIDERS ARE FINALLY IN GOOD HANDS: After drafting Amari Cooper and signing Michael Crabtree to catch passes from rising star Derek Carr, the Oakland offense might finally be headed in the right direction.
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2. I think I have little interest in playing the role of Captain Hindsight in regards to the Steelers’ collapse on Thursday night.
But I will say this about keeping Josh Scobee on the sideline on that second fourth-down play in overtime. Some 32 days earlier, the Steelers thought enough of Scobee to give up a real, honest-to-God draft pick to get him. He hasn’t kicked it well, obviously, but both his misses on Thursday night were by a combined, what, three feet? I guess what I’m saying is: If you thought so highly of Scobee 32 days ago that you were willing to pay a relative king’s ransom to get him, two narrow misses shouldn’t have rocked your confidence so drastically that you kept him on the sideline instead of attempting a potential overtime game-winner from 49 or 50 yards. (Well, I guess it’s not going to be an issue going forward.)
Oh, and also, when the aliens come and the fate of Earth is to be decided by an American football game between the humans and the space invaders, Justin Tucker is our kicker.
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3. I think I’ve seen and heard a lot of How did Karlos Williams last until the fifth round!!!!!-isms lately. I watched a lot of Florida State football last year, and you didn’t have to be a professional scout (which I’m not!) to realize that Williams wasn’t very good last year. Nagging injuries might have had something to do with it, but mostly he was a tentative, upright runner who was stunningly easy to bring down for a guy who outweighed most opposing linebackers (though he was outstanding in the passing game). Whether it’s good health or good coaching in Buffalo, the guy the Bills have now is not the guy the Noles had a year ago. That guy was a fifth-round talent.
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4. I think I laughed out loud (LOLed, as the kids would say), when ESPN ran a side-by-side comparison graphic of Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith, with Pro Bowls as one of the categories. It’s fine if they want to play the game, but we, as informed observers of the NFL, need to stop referencing Pro Bowls on player résumés. It’s completely meaningless. Every year a third of the starting quarterbacks in the league are Pro Bowlers because no one shows up for the game. Andy Dalton made it last year—for the second time!—with a 19-to-17 TD/INT ratio. Matt Schaub made two Pro Bowls. Was Matt Schaub ever one of the 20 best quarterbacks in the NFL? Matt Cassel made the 2010 Pro Bowl. The 2009 Pro Bowl included Vince Young (10 TD passes, 2,160 passing and rushing yards combined), Schaub and David Garrard were among the Pro Bowl QBs. It’s reaching a point where you—yes you, reading this right now—have a legitimate chance at a Pro Bowl appearance at some point in the next decade.
• AARON RODGERS AND THE ART OF AVOIDING THE INTERCEPTION: A need to avoid turnovers has been drilled into him dating back to a quarterback competition in eighth grade. Now, a lack of turnover among the Packers’ coaching staff has helped build him into football’s most efficient quarterback.
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5. I think it’s time to check in on the Chip-O-Meter. Moving towards Spurrier after the first win of 2015? Madness, no? But here’s the thing: The Eagles benefited from four Jets turnovers (including two gift-wrapped by Brandon Marshall) and got an 89-yard punt return TD from Darren Sproles, not exactly a play the coaching staff draws up. The offense was as anemic as ever, managing just 231 yards of offense.
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6. I think I think some things about college football…
a. A bummer for Ole Miss last night, but still a nice first month of the season for Chad Kelly, nephew of Jim. More importantly, at least for the time being the once-troubled young QB seems to have his life back on the right track.
b. Welp, it’s gonna take a while, Texas. But you have to give Charlie Strong at least three years to try and rebuild this thing. He’s your guy through 2016.
c. Yeah, sweet finger to the lips, shoosh the crowd celebration in Winston-Salem, Dalvin Cook. Looked like there were about 12,000 fans there, guy, and about 8,000 of them were wearing garnet and gold.
d. Re: Leonard Fournette. “There is no word to describe his perfection, so I am forced to make one up. And I’m going to do so right now…”
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7. I think, while you’re counting down the hours to kickoff, you should spend some time with The MMQB Read of the Week: Emily Kaplan on long-time NFL and NCAA coach Mike Sherman, who is now coaching high school football in Cape Cod.
He’ll dissect tape if someone asks him to look at something, and he keeps up with the scores and standings. “But I can’t watch football,” he says. “It makes me too emotional. It makes me feel like I should be there.”
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8. I think these are three guys I like in FanDuel one-week leagues:
RB Karlos Williams ($6,300) vs. N.Y. Giants: He’s the no-brainer play of the week, as Williams will be the bell cow against a soft Giants run defense. The only real bummer here is that everyone will have the rookie in their lineup.
RB Frank Gore ($7,300) vs. Jacksonville: Still only moderately priced, the Colts will rely heavily on Gore with or without Andrew Luck. A week ago he had 14 of Indy’s 16 carries by a running back, plus his best game as a colt (86 yards, 6.1 avg, 2 TDs).
TE Jordan Reed ($5,600) vs. Philadelphia: Reed is essentially 1A along with Pierre Garcon, with 26 targets (vs. Garcon’s 27) through three games. He’s the best bargain out there in Week 4.
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9. Thirteen things I think about Sunday’s 13 games:
a. I’m not a big Thursday Night Football guy, but I like the Breakfast at Wimbledon game. As for this week’s edition, you’re going to learn a lot about the Dolphins. This team has to play with a little bit of desperation, particularly on the defensive line. I know he’s playing hurt, but boy is Cameron Wake having a milk-carton kind of year.
b. I always thought Andrew Luck played a little too much Roethlisberger ball, holding onto it and trying to shrug off pass rushers. It looks like it’s starting to catch up with him.
c. Another week without Victor Cruz for the Giants. One thing I noticed when they lost to Atlanta was how easily Kyle Shanahan was able to move Julio Jones and find ways to get him the ball. Meanwhile, Ben McAdoo couldn’t get it to his only weapon, Odell Beckham, in the second half (hello, Preston Parker). With Stephon Gilmore likely shadowing him this afternoon, let’s see what McAdoo can come up with.
d. Carolina has a chance to go 4-0 if they can win in Tampa. You know who has won in Tampa? And Carolina has more wins in Tampa over the past two seasons than the Bucs do. Under Lovie Smith, Tampa is 0-9 at home, where they’ve been outscored by an average of 11.6 points per game.
e. I like Matt Jones. But one thing I don’t like: He seems to want to bounce everything outside. Gotta pick your way through traffic between the tackles if you’re going to be a feature back in this league.
f. Maybe Jay Cutler suits up this afternoon, maybe he doesn’t. But one thing Bears fans learned last week’s 146-yard, 10-punt performance in Seattle: Cutler is probably the lesser of two evils.
g. Things are getting very interesting for the Texans. Arian Foster might suit up this week, adding some much needed stability to this offense, the Colts are a mess and Andrew Luck is ailing. A winnable game in Atlanta.
h. Just a gauntlet for the Chiefs, following up games against Denver and at Green Bay with a trip to Cincinnati on a short week. It’s juts a bad matchup. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali are the strengths of this K.C. team, but nobody is protecting better than this Bengals line.
i. I still think the Chargers are a playoff team, despite a disastrous two-game trip to the Midwest. Hosting the Browns is exactly the kind of game that can allow them to regain their footing.
j. Big week for Colin Kaepernick. The Packers give up points, and they’re hitting the road and coming cross-country on a short week. Kaep has burned them in the past. He looked great at home in the opener.
k. The league’s most underrated player (Aaron Donald) visits the league’s most underrated team (Arizona). Make some time for this one.
l. In regards to C.J. Anderson, I’m always skeptical of backs who come on midseason. A year ago, Anderson was essentially kept in cellophane until Week 10, after which he emerged as Denver’s feature back, running with fresh legs against opponents who had been worn down by the season’s first half. I know he’s been battling injuries early on, but I’ll be curious to see if last year’s eight-game run goes down as the best stretch of his career.
m. Alright Drew Brees, let’s see what you’ve got. NBC will be awfully bummed out if you come out throwing like you did two weeks ago.
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10. I think, at 12:58 p.m. ET, you should turn your volume all the way up and press play…