Thursday, September 30, 2010

Judging Undefeated NFL Teams: Did I Miss Something?

There are currently three undefeated teams in professional football. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs, have all managed to somehow weather the storm that is the first three weeks in the NFL. It’s pretty amazing. Out of all 32 teams, these three are probably the most unlikely to start off undefeated, right? I mean, who saw this coming? But looking back, perhaps we ignored certain aspects of the teams while making predictions. Maybe this is not so surprising after all. Let’s see what everyone neglected while putting out their predictions on these teams:

Chicago Bears:

Ability to Win Close Games: This is something the Bears have done all season. They have won games by 5, 7, and 3, respectively, including last night’s last second win over Green Bay (who I thought would have won easily). For anyone who says that those games were won by luck, think again. Do you know how hard it is to win close games, in any professional sport, imaginary person? The Yankees have 46 come-from-behind wins, the most in baseball this season. Is it a coincidence that they are also considered one of the favorites to win the World Series? The ability to; a) come from behind and b) win close games, is one of the most important things any playoff contender can do. It is absurd to say they won these games by luck. You may not want to agree with that last statement, since every one of Jay Cutler’s completed passes practically screams “LUCK”, but it is true.

Mike Martz?: Yes, everyone’s least favorite offensive coordinator is making a huge difference in Chicago. In his last few stops, his “Everyone Go Deep” offense has been tamed by poor quarterbacks and average receivers. Now Jay Cutler may not be a great quarterback, but he is the perfect quarterback for Martz’s system. What other quarterback would be willing to throw 60 yard bombs, 20 times a game? Jay Cutler lives for reckless abandonment. And so does Martz. Now, this may come back to harm them, when they play a team with a great pass defense. But for now, Martz and Cutler will continue to go wild.

Martz has one of the worst examples out of any coach in the league. For example, when I searched his name on Google Images, an atomic bomb explosion was one of the first things to appear. But now, Martz finally has those speedy receivers he thrives with, like those early 2000’s St. Louis Rams teams had. Johnny Knox and Devin Hester are considered two of the fastest players in football, and there is nothing they love more than going deep. Now, I did not ask them if they loved going deep, but I can only assume it is true. When you play backyard football, what is the one route everyone loves more than all. No, it is not a curl route. Everyone wants to go deep and raise hell. That is what Martz and his gang of rap-scallions is doing. For now at least.

Kansas City Chiefs:

Weak Competition: I wish I could play teams with a combined record of 1-8. But not all by myself. Anyway, the Chiefs have caught all the right teams at all the right times. They killed the Chargers in Week 1 in a Category 4 hurricane (The Chargers are 1-2). They faced an awful Cleveland Browns team who had Seneca Wallace playing quarterback, by only 2 points. Last weekend, they destroyed San Francisco who is very, very bad this year (I am not looking too hot right now with my prediction on the Niners season. They would have to go 12-1 the rest of the season to get to where I predicted. It can happen! They just fired their offensive coordinator who looked like a skinny James Earl Jones. That has to be good, right!). They have played awful, awful competition this season, and they will make it into the playoffs this season just due to the fact that they play in the AFC West.

Romeo & Charlie: Weighing in at a combined 3 tons, this mega-combo has managed to make a difference in Kansas City. They seem more explosive, and now they have a clue of what to do on defense. The whole Weis issue really frustrates me. I would watch most of Notre Dame’s game, and Weis is one of the worst play-callers in sports. But he is genius when he is just an offensive coordinator, and not a head coach. This is the same with Crennel. Now he probably has a better excuse, since he was the coach of awful Browns teams. But when these two are assigned to do just a specific job, they are some of the best out there.

Insane Running Game: When your quarterback is only averaged 164 passing yards a game, you better have a damn good running attack. The Chiefs have the best statistical running game in football, at just over 160 per game. Although they do not use Jamaal Charles as much as they should (He is the most explosive back in football not named Chris Johnson. Also, his lack of carries is carries is killing my fantasy team. Once again, I care more about myself.), Thomas Jones is still an excellent number 2 or 1 back, depending on how they use him.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

Troy Polamalu & Aaron Smith: The two most important players on the defensive side of the ball, were hurt the majority of last season. That would kill most teams, yet the Steelers still managed to go 9-7 and almost make the playoffs. Polamalu is arguably the best defensive player in football. Wait, is that even an argument? Now that Ed Reed has the hip of a 75-year-old man, is there even any competition? No player makes more difference and impact on Sunday than Polamalu. Aaron Smith has long been one of the most underrated players in the league. This is likely because he does not put up the absurd sack totals of other defensive ends, like Dwight Freeney or DeMarcus Ware. This is not Smith’s fault, because in the Steelers style of defensive, the outside linebackers are the ones who are required to put the most pressure on the quarterback. Smith still does put pressure on, but he does it the way the defense is designed. Without these two players last year, the Steelers really lost their identity as a hard-nosed football team.

Somebody Woke Up Rashard Mendenhall: Not only has Mendenhall gotten rid of his awful case of fumblitis (It got so bad at one point, I thought Mike Tomlin was considering sending Rashard to the Mayo Clinic), put Rashard is now getting more out of his carries. Last year he only averaged 4.6 yards per carry. That is still respectable, but to any avid Steelers viewer, Mendenhall would be infuriating to watch since that is as far as he would ever run. He would rarely bust off even moderate gains. It was surprising to see him run for more than 7 yards at a time, unless it was side-to-side, which would happen as well. This year, Rashard is averaging 5.2 yards per carry, and is breaking off those long runs. He averaged 7.5 YPC against the Bucs, and won the first game of the season with a 50-yard dash in overtime.

Out of these three teams at the beginning of the season, it is highly unlikely you would have predicted them to be the only teams left that are undefeated. Jay Cutler was coming off of one of the most miserable quarterback seasons of all time for the Bears, the Chiefs were supposed to be contended by the Chargers and the Niners in their first three games, and the loss of Roethlisberger was supposed to make a tremendous difference. The thing is, none of these things carried over into the season. Everyone ignored what these teams had going for them, myself included.

Random Thoughts from Week 3:

  1. Really, Roy Williams had two touchdowns on Sunday? Did he threaten Tony Romo, because Williams was M.I.A. the first two weeks.
  2. The Seattle Seahawks are 2-1, with both wins coming at home. That crowd is making more of a difference than ever, the infamous “12th man” at Qwest Field. I wonder if the Seahawks know they spelt Quest wrong.
  3. The New York Giants and Green Bay Packers screamed undisciplined this week. The Giants had personal foul penalties flying out left and right, and the Packers almost set the record for penalties on Monday Night Football. Both teams looked out-of-control, and the Packers should have won that game. The Giants just do not look good all around, and their immaturity is only making things worse.
  4. This week in the picks: 9-7 (26-22). Against the Spread: 8-8 (27-21). I started off 6-0 in the early games, but the damn AFC & NFC West’s bit me in the ass yet again. There is no tougher assignment than selecting who is going to win a West game. The teams are so equally bad and unpredictable, I am probably better off guessing. When two West teams play each other, it is pandemonium. Against the spread this year, I am 2-5. Just ignore me when I pick games involving two teams from the crappy, crappy West.
  5. Speaking of sports gambling, I am starting to get into the whole spread thing. The problem is, whenever I tell my dad about odds and whatnot, he has no idea what I am talking about. On Sunday, I told him the Steelers were only 3 point favorites against the Bucs, and that I was real surprised. He gave me one of these dead-eyed looks like Homer Simpson gives when somebody asks him what he does at his job.
  6. The 49ers look great.
  7. Wade Phillips will be allowed to see the rest of the week! Congrats!
  8. Why does Mark Sanchez look like he knows what he is doing? I am so confused.

Brendan O’Hare writes two to three columns a week for his website at You can follow him at twitter,

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