Notes from cocktail napkins...FSU Road Trip, Fantasy Football Woes...and the Falcons most disturbing loss of the year.
When a team is battling adversity and trying to grind out a road win it needs its star quarterback to be the guy on the white horse, not the dude backing the stagecoach over them.
A quarterback can't do it by himself. See John Elway before the Broncos got him a running game and beefed up their defense. Some great quarterbacks like Dan Marino's Dolphins' teams seemingly never got either one right during his career. But those guys found ways to win, they were the one constant even in a losing effort you could always count on them to do their part.
People who take up for Matt Ryan's monster deal always use Peyton Manning's slow start in the post season to rationalize Matt's occasional short comings in big games.
This year's Falcons team has no running game and an injury ravaged defense...but now Matt Ryan who is supposed to be one of the NFL's top quarterback is regressing.
Critics of Matt Ryan argue that he can't make "all the throws". I disagree, the last few weeks Matt's thrown it to defensive backs, safeties and linebackers. He can throw into triple coverage, and sometimes in the red zone he will avoid the pick or making any play by simply throw it away. Joking aside, this season isn't in the crapper because of Matt Ryan. We're all familiar with the kind of clutch come from behind wins Matt has led the Falcons to over the years.
But with 7 picks in his last 2 games he is becoming just another misfiring cylinder in the engine. The Falcons need Matt to elevate his game even without Julio & Roddy. Not unrealistic expectations for a guy making a guaranteed $59 Million on $103 Million contract.
The Carolina game is as frustrating a loss as either the Jets or Dolphins games. In all 3 of those contests the Falcons were either evenly matched or at the very least in a position to win. Mike Nolan's D held a hot Panthers offense to 17 points going into the 4th quarter. Cam Newton did his part to keep the Falcons in the game, throwing 2 picks. You needed your franchise quarterback to put the game on his shoulders (or right arm) and take control of the game. You know your team's limitations, you needed Matt to be the man in the 4th quarter, not give the game away.
Sure the refs were brutal, Garrett Reynolds is bad enough without getting popped for a phantom holding call on what would have been Steven Jackson's first rushing TD of the year. Pass interference continues to be a league wide mystery not just for the Falcons, funny how 2-6 teams don't get the calls.
Don't even get me started on Steven Jackson...For the eternal optimists out there the Falcons will now need to reel off 8 straight wins in the tougher part of their schedule to sniff the NFC playoffs. You have better odds of Steven Jackson riding to work on a unicorn or rushing for a hundred yards in a game.
I would be much deeper down in the dumps over the Falcons continuing implosion if it wasn't for The Seminoles. FSU may not make it to Pasadena for the BCS title game, but man is it fun to pull for The Garnet & Gold this season. Jameis Winston has exceeded the hype and expectations. Although he was admittedly "over amped" for the Miami game throwing 2 awful picks he finished with 325 yards passing. This Noles team has the best wide receivers in college football with Greene, Benjamin & Shaw, 2 stud running backs in Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. and an offensive line that can run and pass block. Not to mention Nick O'Leary, arguably the toughest hombre playing tight end today. Whether he's running over Clemson's Travis Banks or flying over the hood of a car when some dingbat backed out in front of him on his sport bike, he's a bad man.
Despite the sportsmanship of the pregame handshakes, typical Miami-Florida State bad blood boiled over. This time a skirmish in the backfield as the Noles were about to punch it in mid-way though the 3rd quarter. The Noles responded with James Wilder scoring from 5 yards out and 20 unanswered points to send the U home with a Tallahassee beat down 41-14.
It was the largest crowd ever at Doak Campbell and the vibe was electric. As a Seminole fan I've had to re-calibrate my expectations with this team. Any enthusiasm from last year's ACC title was tempered by a tough loss in Raleigh to an inferior NC St team where the coaches coached as tight as the players played. The Gators walloped the Noles in the second half at Doak last November. An uninspired win over replacement division winner Georgia Tech in the ACC title game earned the Noles the trip to the worst bowl game in last year's BCS rotation. In the damned if ya beat 'em damned if ya don't Florida State overcame a sluggish start to put away NIU 31-10 in the lets move the little guy school up from the kid's table game.
Even harder to figure than the logic of Northern Illinois playing in The Orange Bowl was EJ Manuel being selected 16th overall by the Bills. EJ was a great kid and a popular leader of the team. But to most Noles fans he was solid but never spectacular. His 3 interceptions in the loss to the Gators at home last year was an example of Manuel not rising to the occasion when the spot light was the brightest.
So with all the hype surrounding the two sports star Jameis Winston a lot of FSU fans still took a wait and see attitude with the red shirt freshman going into 2013. Especially after being underwhelmed by the previous "phenom" EJ Manuel.
Winston is so good it's scary, not because he's the ultimate dual threat, but think of where is game is now and how much he still has to learn. He's already got swagger, attitude and charisma. Not to mention a cannon of an arm (he's thrown mid 90's for FSU Baseball). Even after his worst 2 picks of the season on some ill-advised down field chucks he showed poise, leadership and some fire. After the 3rd quarter fracas with the Canes, Winston was going nuts yelling at his lineman "not in our house" before the Noles made it 28-14 and never looked back. Winston told reporters after the game "Just like baseball, sometimes you go out there and strike out, Then you've got to come back and bounce back and my team really helped me through it.”I told the guys, 'No more turnovers and we're going to go out there and win this game.'"
The student section started chanting "We want Bama" and although FSU jumps ahead of Oregon in today's BCS Standings, their strength of schedule will not hold up. All Seminole fans can do is hope Florida doesn't lose any more games. And the same goes for the probable rematch with Miami. If the Canes fall to 3 loss Virginia Tech, FSU's goose (or duck) will be cooked by the computers. All eyes in T-Haz on those Oregon Ducks Thursday night vs #5 Stanford. But regardless of how the 2013 BCS plays out there's no denying the program in Jimbo Fisher's 4th year as head coach has stepped out of Bobby Bowden's shadow, asserted itself and has the look of his predecessor's glory years teams of the 90's.
This weekend was rough for almost anybody who plays fantasy football. The NFL had 6 teams on the bye for week 9, including all the play makers on the Broncos and 49ers. This is the kind of week where ya roll the dice on a few guys and hope you crack 80 points in most leagues. I cleverly picked up the Jets Chris Ivory to fill in for Frank Gore and he responded, grabbing 19 points for Bane's Audibles with 139 yards rushing and a TD. Not so clever was my last second call to start the Raiders Denarius Moore over the Skins' Pierre Garcon, after stinking it up the last few weeks Garcon snagged 7 RG3 passes for 172 yards...on my bench.
The Chiefs keep on winning, hitting a perfect 9-0 beating the Bills despite Alex Smith being a Fantasy Football zero in shoes. He was Peyton's backup on my squad until I ditched him Sunday for the Titans Jake Locker who got me a whopping 10 points vs the Rams. But that was still better than Smith's 4 vs Buffalo, way to justify my love Jake!
I was slapping myself on the back for my "reach" 5th round pick of the Browns Jordan Cameron, The first 4 weeks he was killing it for me, now he's killing me. It's like Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner got on the horn with the Ravens Jim Caldwell during Baltimore's bye week and discussed how they could destroy Mike Bell's fantasy team. Ray Rice is just a point sucking black hole right now in all fantasy formats.
I need Jordy Nelson to burn the Bears Defense tonight to avoid the shame of losing to our producer Squidbilly and his Octo-pussies squad. He got some juice from Tony Gonzalez and has Chicago's D/ST against my new favorite wide receiver of Caucasian persuasion. My Bane's Audibles squad is still hanging on to Roddy White, but any impact he'll have seems like a pipe dream in 2013.