Finally, A Lot of Sports Talk debuts the Tuesday 10-spot for the 2014 NFL season, and the games in Week Four definitely gave us a lots of reasons to chatter. Being based in New York City, I guess starting with one of the New York (well, New Jersey) teams is apropos, but we touch on many topics in the league, including why Aaron Rodgers’ spelling lesson last week to Packers supporters shouldn’t be heeded for now and why another team in the NFC North should be more optimistic about the here and now than it would have been just a week ago. Enjoy, and if you have any comments, make them at the bottom of the page, or email us at email@example.com.
1. It’s time to pull the plug on Geno Smith.
The second-year signal-caller is singlehandedly killing the tried and true football axiom that to succeed on the gridiron is to make sure to run the ball effectively in concomitance with stopping the run. If that’s true, then Gang Green ranking second in the league in rushing and first in run defense after four weeks should have led to the Jets being at least 3-1, and not the 1-3 standing that they see themselves in now. Although the Jets don’t have elite-level receiving talent on the outside for Geno, it’s better than last year’s group and Smith’s numbers, to be fair, have improved in some categories. But it’s the turnovers and the lack of awareness he continues to show on the field that has caused this team to be at a crossroads already. All the numbers state that the Jets are ready to win…except the seven turnovers responsible for by Smith, with five coming on the plus side of the 50-yard line.
2. Speaking of pulling the plug, do the same with the Miami Dolphins aqua pants.
At one point in my life – that point being when I was in elementary school and idolized Dan Marino for about a couple of years – I thought the aqua-colored pants were really cool, to go along with the aqua in the Dolphins color scheme overall. But I’m pretty sure I was partially blinded last Sunday after seeing them in London against the Oakland Raiders break out the extra-extra-extra neon version of the aqua pants. Not even seeing Marino, Mark Clayton and Mark Duper in those outfits could have saved the look.
3. The Minnesota Vikings have hope for the future…as well as the present.
Teddy Bridgewater, in his first NFL start, displayed swagger and big-play capability from the opening snap, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata combined to be a competent running back duo and those three players helped Vikings fans cling on to some amount of hope for a successful 2014 season as Minnesota took care of the Atlanta Falcons. Bridgewater’s 19 completions (out of 30) went for 317 yards, and he also showed real good athleticism on a 13-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter. McKinnon, a rookie out of Georgia Southern, took care of business in between the 20-yard lines (18 carries, 135 yards) while Asiata was the finisher, scoring on three short touchdown runs. The 2-2 Vikings are only a game out of first place in the NFC North, and Thursday’s game in Green Bay should be much more interesting than what we would have thought a week ago after the deactivation of Adrian Peterson.
4. I’m not going to R-E-L-A-X, Aaron Rodgers, even after your big win in Chicago.
While the Packers delivered a dominating-looking 38-17 win against the Chicago Bears, looking at the boxscore more closely shows that Green Bay still rushed for only 56 yards as a team while giving up 235 on the ground. In fact, each of the four Bears who had at least one rush in the game all had a yards per carry of over five, and that includes the 29 rushing yards on three carries by Jay Cutler. Also, the Packers ended up feasting on a Chicago secondary that’s down to its bare bones, much like the secondary the Pack faced when they won their other game, against the New York Jets (and they barely survived against Gang Green). My word to Packer fans after Week 4: U-N-C-O-N-V-I-N-C-E-D!
5. A Fox Box graphic jinxed the Pittsburgh Steelers from going to 3-1.
With 1:35 left in the game, the Steelers were holding on to a 24-20 lead and had the ball deep in their own territory when Tampa Bay called its final timeout. Between the second and third-down play, Fox put up a graphic stating that 65% of teams that start 3-1 since 1990 have made the postseason, and underneath that graphic, appearing in plain view for all to see, was another graphic displaying this: “PITTSBURGH: 3-1.” That premature declaration proved to be a serious jinx, and after the Bucs came back and scored a game-winning touchdown with seven seconds left to stun the Pittsburgh faithful, one line in the AFC North standings now clearly reads “PITTSBURGH: 2-2.”
6. The Eagles were thoroughly outplayed by the 49ers…and still should have won the game.
Yes, the Eagles were absolutely smothered by the 49ers defense and held Philly without an offensive point and only 22 yards of rushing in San Francisco’s 26-21 victory. But Philadelphia still had the ball inside San Francisco’s 10 late in the game, and after LeSean McCoy, who only had 17 yards on the ground in the entire game, ran for a 5-yard gain to the one right before the two-minute warning, the Eagles should have been able to gain one yard on two tries. Instead, Chip Kelly abandoned the run, opting to pass into the end zone, with the result being two incomplete passes and a turnover on downs. No matter how much the 49ers snuffed out the run game all day, McCoy should have gotten at least one more touch on one of those two final plays.
7. It’s good to see the impact HBCU players are still making in the NFL.
Larry Donnell’s three-touchdown performance in the Giants’ 45-14 demolition of Washington reminded me of all of the great players this league has seen that came out of historically black colleges and university. Donnell attended Grambling State University, and he follows in the line of NFL greats who attended the university like Hall of Famers Willie Brown, Willie Davis, Charlie Joiner and Buck Buchanan. (Doug Williams, MVP of Super Bowl XXII, also came out of Grambling State.) We have the AFL to thank for the influx of great talent from HBCUs into professional football in the 1960s, and Donnell is the latest to have a profound impact.
8. The early MVP of the league is…Scott Linehan?
It’s the addition of Linehan as passing game coordinator (and pseudo offensive coordinator) that has sparked the Dallas Cowboys offense into becoming one of the best in football as well as possessing the most vaunted rushing attack in the league right now. Jerry Jones does deserve credit for building the offensive line with first-round draft picks over the past few seasons as well. But Linehan has brought stability into the play-calling for the ‘Boys, which last year had three people sharing some sort of offensive coordinator duty and leading to utter confusion of the sidelines, which then translated to a lack of cohesion on the field. After four games, this offensive might be the most cohesive in the league.
9. Don’t get ahead of yourselves, Chiefs fans. Kansas City is still the third-best team in the AFC West.
As impressive as Kansas City was in thrashing the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football, don’t lose sight of the fact that they’re in same division as the defending AFC Champions, the Denver Broncos, as well as the 3-1 San Diego Chargers, whose only loss came by one at Arizona in a game they dominated for most of the contest. It’s more than possible that all three of those teams make the playoffs, but, in this person’s opinion, the Chiefs are still third in the pecking order in this tough division.
10. We should all attach “Senior” at the end of our names to increase our performance level.
I say that after Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., the artist formerly known as Steve Smith for the first 13 seasons of his NFL career while a Carolina Panther, torched his former employer to the tune of seven catches, 139 yards and two touchdowns. Adding that performance to two other 100-yard efforts to begin the season for the 3-1 Ravens, Smith became the oldest receiver (35 years old) to amass at least 400 total receiving yards in his team’s first four games of the season, as he now has 429.
[Cover photo (Steve Smith, Sr.) courtesy of Rob Carr/Getty Images]