We’ve had a full month to evaluate all the NFL teams. Some clubs will make adjustments and start to fix problems. These are always teams that are well coached or have significant depth with which to turn things around. For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers rested during their bye week with a 1-2 SU/ATS record. What’s wrong with fields? Well, nothing really, if you look patiently at the situation, which is what good handicapping is all about.
The Steelers have had a brutal schedule, especially the last two games, losses in Jacksonville and at home to the Bengals. But there is nothing to worry about. His defense is 13th overall and a robust fifth against the run. The only concern is getting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger healthy, and you have to give the kid some slack. He endured a traumatic motorcycle accident in the summer and then had an appendectomy in September! This team will be fine, and should have beaten the Bengals if not for two late turnovers.
This is the time of year to make adjustments if things are not going well. Two years ago, the Buffalo Bills weren’t playing on the ground until they decided to throw young RB Willis McGahee into the mix. McGahee powered up Buffalo’s running game, and the team was on fire, almost making the playoffs after an 0-4 start. That same season, the Patriots struggled a bit against the run, and during an October loss at Pittsburgh they allowed 225 rushing yards. The Pats coaching staff then inserted veteran nose tackle Keith Traylor in place of starting rookie Vince Wilfork. The move made a key difference as New England’s run defense was much stronger and more consistent. Here’s a look at some of the teams’ current weaknesses.
Cardinals: What’s wrong with Arizona’s great passing attack? He was No. 1 in the NFL last season. But this is a team that is overrated offensively. The addition of RB Edgerrin James is negated by the fact that his offensive line is terrible. They still don’t have a running game to balance things out, which would make the passing game more effective. James has an average of 3.4 ypc.
In Sunday’s 32-10 loss at Atlanta, Arizona’s only TD was a 99-yard interception return by Adrian Wilson. Quarterback Kurt Warner had another miserable game in Arizona’s third straight loss and was quickly demoted to backup quarterback. Coach Dennis Green announced that rookie Matt Leinart will start next week against Kansas City. Warner completed 11 of 20 passes for 128 yards with one interception and two fumbles. James was limited to 41 yards on 20 carries while the Cardinals rushed for just 31 yards. Adding rookie Leinart might help in the long run, but it won’t save them this season.
Ravens: What’s wrong with Baltimore’s offense? Despite a 4-0 start, this is a flawed team. QB Steve McNair hasn’t played well, with 5 TDs and three picks. Despite the comeback win over San Diego, the offense had 150 yards passing and 56 rushing. The offense is 10th worst in the NFL. Oh, his defense is excellent, which explains the 3-0-1 under the total mark, a trend that is likely to continue. And the defense has faced some really bad offenses (Tampa Bay, Browns, Raiders), so don’t burn yourself out and buy a future ticket on this still-undefeated team.
Raiders: What’s wrong with the Raiders’ offense? Well, what’s not wrong with it! This offense just sucks, with coaches who have been out of the NFL for years and no quarterback. Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter have been sharing time, but Walter proved he’s not quite ready for the NFL: Sunday against the Browns he was 9-for-23 for 68 yards! No change except the return of a young Daryle Lamonica will help this offense. Oakland is 5-31 SU, 9-26-1 ATS his last 36 as a dog and since losing the 2003 Super Bowl to Tampa Bay, the Raiders are 14-36-1 against the spread!
NY Giants: What’s wrong with the Giants’ pass defense? The team has an excellent and balanced offense that ranks second in the NFL. But the pass defense has been terrible, allowing 281 yards per game, third worst. They were lucky enough to beat the Eagles and were down 42-3 in Seattle before getting the respectable final score. The Giants are allowing 30 points a game and are 2-1 overall. Teams will continue to attack that weakness until they make changes. Good luck, as always… Al McMordie.