By Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff
Normally at this time of the season, the San Diego Chargers are 2-4 or so and folks are wondering why a team so loaded with talent can look so incompetent. This year, the Chargers are 4-2 and folks are wondering why a team so loaded with talent can look so incompetent. The Chargers took a 21-10 lead into the fourth quarter at the Jets last week and lost 27-21. The reasons were typical of the most underachieving outfit in the league over the last few years: stupid mistakes, poor clock management, lack of common sense and situational awareness and so on. Most of this can be traced directly to coach Norv Turner, who is a very good offensive coordinator and play caller but has never been much of a head man. His teams routinely (hello!) make stupid mistakes, exercise poor clock management, lack common sense and have lousy situational awareness. It doesn’t help that quarterback Philip Rivers, seemingly on the cusp of true greatness these past three or four years, has seemed to have regressed this season, having thrown nine picks against seven TD passes and losing four fumbles while posting an average 82.3 passer rating. Or that the defense always a strength, is allowing 121.7 yards per game on the ground as well as 22.7 points per game, both in the bottom half of the league rankings. And it can’t be terribly heartening for Chargers fans to know that both times their team has played a good team so far this year, last week against the Jets and in Week 2 against the Patriots, they’ve lost. The AFC West isn’t as weak as it’s been in years past this season, but the Chargers should win it again anyway. Just don’t expect them to do much after that or at any time afterward as long as Turner is in charge.
This Week’s Five Best Teams
1. Green Bay: It’s sort of ridiculous at this point with Aaron Rodgers. Sunday at Minnesota, trailing 17-13 at the half, the soon-to-be MVP came out and led the Packers to 20 straight third quarter points and put away a 33-27 win. He finished the afternoon 24-of-30 for 335 yards and three TDs. With all apologies to Tom Brady, there is no quarterback in the NFL better than Rodgers right now.
2. New England: Coming off the bye, the Pats travel to Pittsburgh, where they routinely trounce the Steelers, including a not-as-close-as-the-score-indicates 39-26 win last November. Brady is 6-1 in his career against the Steelers and the only time Pittsburgh has beaten the Pats in the past eight years was in 2008, when Brady was injured. In other words, advantage Pats.
3. New Orleans: The Saints bounced back from their loss in Tampa by vaporizing the worse-than-hideous Colts 62-7 on Sunday Night Football. Perhaps even more impressive than the final score, though, was Drew Brees’s line: 31-of-35 for 325 yards and five scores. Overall, New Orleans garnered 557 total yards while holding Indy to just 252.
4. Pittsburgh: All comments about their lack of success against the Pats aside, the Steelers are the hottest team outside Wisconsin in the NFL right now. They’ve won three straight after running over Arizona last week and have now caught Baltimore, which destroyed them in Week 1, in the AFC North standings. Ben Roethlisberger is getting healthier and the defense is looking more itself. Watch out.
5. San Francisco: A week off for the Story Of The Year Niners and now, with some injured players coming back and consecutive home games against Cleveland and Washington looming, they look to get even better.
This Week’s Five Worst Teams
1. Miami: You could argue for the Colts or Rams in this spot but I’ll go with the Dolphins, who blew a 15-0 lead at home to the Broncos in four minutes, had their coach openly plead with an official to change a call because if he didn’t “I’ll get fired,” during the game and held a pre-game ceremony honoring the college team their opponent’s QB played for before anything. I wonder what Don Shula and Mercury Morris think of this disgrace?
2 Indianapolis: Asshat team president Bill Polian came out yesterday and said coach Jim Caldwell is doing a “great job,” this year even though the team is 0-7 and basically packed it in the minute Peyton Manning had neck surgery (reminder: that was before the season even started). Time for a full-scale housecleaning in Indy and Polian should be the first to go.
3. St. Louis: It stands to reason that coach Steve Spagnuolo, who turned the Rams from 5-30 over the two-plus years before he arrived into a borderline playoff team last year, only to see them fall to 0-7 this year in a shitstorm of injuries, lose his job at season’s end. It’s soon to be 0-8 after this week’s game against New Orleans.
4. Minnesota: Inserting rookie Christian Ponder at QB for last week’s loss to Green Bay was the right move; the Vikings looked as good on offense as they have all year and nearly pulled off a monumental upset. But the fact of the matter is, this franchise is lost and it has a certain quarterback who’s name is verboten around these parts (hint: he played for them the past two seasons) to blame.
5. Arizona: Can you believe this team was in the Super Bowl three years ago? The Cards are now 1-5 and have to play at Baltimore this week. Arguably the biggest disappointment in the league this year.
- The Chiefs: Got to hand it to coach Todd Haley – the Chiefs looked dead after two weeks having lost both their first two games by a combined score of 89-10 and having lost two of their best offensive players and one of their best defensive players for the year. But KC has quietly won three in a row, is on the cusp of first place in the AFC West thanks to the annual underachievement of San Diego and can vault into the top spot with a win over the Chargers at home on Monday night.
- The Jaguars Defense: Jacksonville stinks but they showed a lot of resolve in hanging on to beat the Ravens last Monday night. The Jags held Baltimore to just 146 total yards in their 12-7 win and although that could be seen as another example of the complete ineptitude of the Ravens offense, let’s give Jacksonville some credit too.
- DeMarco Murray, Cowboys: The Cowboys third-stringer, thrust into the starting role thanks to the weekly injury to Felix Jones, ran for a franchise record 253 yards on just 25 carries in a blowout win over the Rams. Naturally, being as incompetent as it usually is, Dallas won’t even name Murray the starter for this week’s game at Philly, even though the always incapacitated Jones is expected to sit out again.
- The Redskins: Things are finally looking more familiar in the nation’s capital now that the Redskins have fallen back to .500, have no idea who will play quarterback, have lost two key members of their offense (Tim Hightower and Santana Moss) to injury and King of the Overrated coaches Mike Shanahan is looking foolish, clueless and defiant. When Washington misses the playoffs again, which will make Shanahan 0-for-the postseason in his last six seasons as a head coach, will people finally start catching on that he’s not that great?
- The Titans: Tennessee’s 3-1 start was a pleasant, early season surprise. But the Titans have now lost their last two by a combined score of 79-24 and look to be fading fast. A date with the Colts on Sunday should reverse their fortunes.
- Josh Freeman, Bucs: I can’t figure it out with this guy. He has a great clutch situation acumen. He’s considered one of the top, up-and-coming QB’s in the league. Yet he’s alternated his last three games as follows: 45-point loss, home win over the Saints, loss to the Bears in which he threw four picks, giving him four more through six games than he had all of last year.
So who’s heard of this Tim Tebow guy? His supporters will tell you that all he does is win and they may be on to something. With 4:06 left in last week’s game against the Dolphins, Tebow had 24 yards passing. Not 224. Not 124. 24. He was so horrendous that Deion Sanders said on NFL Network that his passing performance was so ugly, “he wouldn’t even compete in a Punt, Pass and Kick competition.” But then he led three scoring drives over the last 2:44 of regulation and overtime and not only finished with 220 total yards (161 passing), two TDs and the game-tying two-point conversion, he most importantly won the game. It’s hard to say what will happen with Tebow going forward. The Broncos are so lousy, there’s no reason not to play him and if he’s going to pull games out of his ass like last week in Miami, all the better for Denver. Plus, the fans love him. Add all that together and the Broncos may well have a relevant quarterback for the first time since John Elway hung em up.