AFC East Stock Market

Let’s talk a look at who’s stock is going up and who’s stocking is trending downward, both as a group and individually, in the AFC East.

  • Buffalo Bills (3-0, 1-0 AFCE)  The Bills started the season 3-0 with a huge upset victory over the Patriots to get out in front early in the AFC East.  They travel to Cincinnati to face a team that they’ve beaten 10 times in a row to go for their fourth win of the year.  After Cincy they’ve got two tough games against NFC East opponents but a confident young team can only get more confident with wins and they are prime for one this week.  Arrow pointing up.
  • New England Patriots (2-1, 1-1 AFCE)  The Pats suffered a disappointing loss in Buffalo this week and have to turn around and travel across the country to Oakland to face a tough Oakland team.  This is a big game for the Pats because they can defeat an opponent that the Jets lost to last week, setting them up at 3-1 going into a big AFC East showdown with the Jets.  It’s tough to bet on Brady losing two in a row.  Arrow pointing up.
  • New York Jets (2-1, 0-0 AFCE)  The Jets looked awful defensively against the Raiders in Oakland and their offense made another comeback attempt after a slow start.  I’ve said it before, their offense needs to show consistency throughout the entire game because good offensive teams like Oakland will make them pay.  They face a tough Baltimore team on Sunday Night Football before they travel to Foxboro to face off against the Pats.  They need to get their defense sorted quickly if they want to avoid getting in an early hole.  Arrow staying neutral.
  • Miami Dolphins (0-3, 0-1 AFCE) The Dolphins look like a mess, they made a 4th quarter comeback look way too easy for the Browns last week.  Sparano is clearly a lame duck head coach and we’ll see how that affects the coming weeks for Miami.  They travel all the way to San Diego this week to play the Chargers before heading into the bye and a loss could spell the end of the Tony Sparano era in Miami.  Arrow pointing down.

Here are the players on each team whose stock is up and down, respectively, after this week’s game.

Buffalo Bills

  • Stock Rising – CB Leodis McKelvin – McKelvin bounced back from a brutal showing against the Oakland Raiders by having a superb game against future Hall of Famer Tom Brady.  He picked Brady off once and was glued to Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco most of the day.
  • Stock Falling – OLB Shawne Merriman – Merriman had one pressure this week but still has yet to get to the quarterback this year.  The Bills have had a disappointing pass rush thus far and Merriman is the leader.

New England Patriots

  • Stock Rising – TE Rob Gronkowski – Gronkowski is a machine, he catches everything.  The throw to his back shoulder is too easy and almost indefensible.  I fear that his effectiveness could diminish once Aaron Hernandez returns to the lineup but until then he is the key cog in the Pats offense.
  • Stock Falling – WR Chad Ochocinco – We’ve heard all of the name calling.  Ochostinko, Ocho dropo.  Clearly he is not getting something.  If he can’t pick up the offense fast we may be calling him “OchoGalloway” in a few weeks.

New York Jets

  • Stock Rising – WR Plaxico Burress – Burress had an off week last week but he returned with a monster second half to help the comeback attempt by the Raiders.  It looks like the two years in jail didn’t hurt him too much.
  • Stock Falling – CB Antonio Cromartie – Cromartie was burned, he got called for penalty after penalty, and he suffered a bruised lung.  Insult and injury.  He’s not exactly making Jets fans forget about the pursuit of Nnamdi Asumugha.

Miami Dolphins

  • Stock Rising – RB Daniel Thomas – Daniel Thomas was the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal performance by the Dolphins offense.  He had his second 100 yard performance in as many games, his first two as an active player in the NFL.
  • Stock Falling – RB Reggie Bush – With the rise of Thomas Reggie Bush has reverted back to his old self, which is to say a guy that can contribute in many ways but when he’s off, which is he often, he disappears.

Random NFL Musings – Post Week 3 edition

A few random thoughts while the NFL starts preparations for the Week 4 match-ups.

  • One of the biggest stories so far this year, obviously, is the rise of the Detroit Lions.  Calvin Johnson may be the best player in the NFL right now.  Matthew Stafford is looking like the #1 overall pick, he just needs to stay healthy.  The sad part is they still may be the third best team in their division.  Green Bay looks to be on a mission to repeat and Chicago has had a brutal starting schedule (ATL, NO, GB) but always plays tough through the winter.
  • Just thinking out loud but doesn’t it make sense for Tony Sparano to return to Dallas after his inevitable firing and help out old pal Jason Garrett with that young and inexperienced offensive line?
  • Philadelphia needs to figure things out and figure things out quickly.  They received a break when they found out that Michael Vick didn’t break his hand but can he stay in the lineup?
  • What the hell is going on in Minnesota?  Three games, three blown leads.  Donovan McNabb looks spent.  Adrian Peterson is becoming Barry Sanders.  Not in the good way.
  • Wade Phillips got a lot of hype for going to Houston, and I acknowledge that he is a great Defensive Coordinator, but people still underrate the troubles moving from a 4-3 to a 3-4.  Things looked great the first two weeks but what must be discouraging about this week’s lose to the Saints is that their defense choked late, and with a lead, like they have so many times in the Schaub/Johnson era.
  • Darren McFadden has officially taken over the role of “Best player in the NFL who never gets mentioned in the conversation of best player in the NFL.”  The guy is averaging 6.4 yards a carry.  The Raiders are pretty good.
  • After the Bills broke the streak of 15 losses in a row against the Patriots in the regular season this past Sunday not only do they now hold the longest regular season winning streak against another team, but they put it on the line right away when they face the Bengals this weekend looking for win #11 in a row against them.
  • Kenny Britt is a rather big blow to the Titans who have surprised at 2-1.  Someone has got to step up and take that division though.  It will come down to Tennessee and Houston…who would have thought that at the beginning of the year?
  • Monday night’s game was as sloppy as you could get for an NFL game.  Are those two teams good, bad, or average?  At least Washington stayed true to their word that they would beat up on Tony Romo.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

Quick Thoughts on Bills/Patriots

Well once again there was one hell of a game on Orchard Park, NY on Sunday.  And once again the Bills came out on top.  I’m not quite sure how to break it down as to what it means for both teams…we may not find out exactly what it does mean for a few weeks or even months.  But what we do know is that the Bills are 3-0.  Here are my thoughts.

  • The words “Ryan Fitzpatrick agrees to lucrative, long-term contract extension” better show up on the ESPN ticker as breaking news real real soon.
  • Leodis McKelvin had a fine bounce back game after getting torched by the Raiders last week.  He and Florence seemed to bounce between Branch and Ochocinco and Branch was totally shut down and Ochocinco was ineffective when he wasn’t flat out dropping balls.  Leodis made a great play jumping the route and intercepting Brady at the beginning of the third quarter.  Honorable mention to Reggie Corner for coming in cold off the bench just a few weeks after being released and playing well in the second half for Aaron Williams.
  • The Bills offensive line is playing at as high a level as I’ve seen them play in years.  Eric Wood is becoming an elite center.  Andy Levitre is also playing at an extremely high level.  For all of the notoriety that Scott Chandler is getting catching touchdowns his blocking is even better.
  • The words “Fred Jackson agrees to lucrative, long-term contract extension” better show up as breaking news on the ESPN ticker real real soon.
  • Dan Connolly is doing a fine job of filling in for Dan Koppen, but then again he was just fine as a starter last year.  He handled Kyle Williams quite well yesterday.
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Bills have some of the better route runners in the league lining up in their offense.  Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey have done an outstanding job of identifying players that are perfect fits for Gailey’s offensive system, hence the 7th rounders and undrafted free agents are excelling in this offense.
  • It looks like the defensive line made a concerted effort to start getting their hands up at the line of scrimmage when they realized that Tom Brady was getting rid of the ball too quickly for them to get in the backfield.  The move paid off as several balls were tipped at the line, including one that bounced off of Marcell Dareus’ dome and into the hands of Drayton Florence for a pick 6.
  • Rob Gronkowski is a beast.  Plain and simple.  Put it up there and he will catch it.
  • The refs were way too ticky-tacky on some of the calls but as Ty Law said after the game, Sergio Brown can’t commit that pass interference penalty…it is way to easy to avoid.  The personal foul penalty on Jairus Byrd’s hit on Welker was laughable.
  • Tom Brady’s been picked off 4 times in a game 6 times and two of the times by Buffalo.  They’ve won both games.  Those are the only two times they’ve beaten Brady.  Maybe they’ve found the formula…easier said than done though.
  • Wes Welker’s day was record-breaking and obviously impressive but did anyone else get the feeling that it was almost by design by the Bills defense to leave it open in the intermediate part of the field so many times?
  • Marv Albert needs to get the NBA out of his head.  He’s going to be doing a hell of a lot more NFL than NBA in the coming months.
  • Nick Barnett is a beast.
  • So is Fred Jackson
  • I’m not a fashion expert but I may have drawn this conclusion – dress like a CFL team and you’ll play like a CFL team.  Dress like an old school AFL team and you’ll play like an old school AFL team.
  • Chris Berman must be pleased that his favorite catch phrase is back in style.

So it’s 3-0 for the Bills and onto Cincinnati and the Patriots will have to wipe the stink of this loss quickly as they travel cross country to face longtime AFL rivals, the Raiders.  It will be an interesting few weeks to watch this play out.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

For Nelson and Hernandez life after Tebow is going just fine

Aaron Hernandez and David Nelson both attended the University of Florida while a legend was at the helm.  Tim Tebow is perhaps the most celebrated athlete in college football history.  He was the Florida Gators quarterback for the four years he was there.  His numbers were astounding.  He scored 88 Touchdowns through the air and tallied 57 on the ground.  He amassed an unreal 12,232 yards of total offense in four years at Florida.  Leading up to the 2010 NFL draft Tim Tebow was a hot topic among NFL scouts and general managers.  Many thought that he wasn’t equipped with the skill set to succeed as an NFL starting quarterback.  Many thought “who cares, he just wins.”  Eventually Tim Tebow became the 25th overall pick of the draft by the Denver Broncos.  As far as his former favorite targets go, however, things didn’t go as well on draft day.  Supremely athletic tight end  Aaron Hernandez had to deal with some off-the-field issues and slipped into the 4th round, where he was plucked by the New England Patriots.  Reliable but rail-thin wide receiver David Nelson didn’t even get the call until after the draft and he decided to sign with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent.  So while the world watched for what Tebow would do at the next level two of his favorite targets were heading up to the AFC East.  Hernandez was a prime target at UF, catching 111 balls in three seasons for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns.  He was raw with a ton of potential when he arrived at Pats camp but was thought of as a 4th or 5th option for Tom Brady behind the likes of Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and 2nd round counterpart Rob Gronkowski.  Hernandez responded with a 45 catch, 563 yard season, 6 touchdown season.  Hernandez is off to an even faster start this season, already catching 14 balls for 165 yards and two touchdowns.  If Hernandez’s quick, meteoric rise was unexpected than David Nelson’s has been nothing short of shocking.  Virtually a part-time player with the Gators, Nelson caught 46 balls for 630 yards and 7 touchdowns in four years at Florida, Nelson has shown draft position matters little.  Nelson had the decked stacked against him for even making the opening day roster as an undrafted free agent but not only did he make the team but he thrived as his playing time increased.  By the end of his rookie year he had 31 catches for 153 yards and 3 touchdowns.  2011 doesn’t look to be a sophomore slump for Nelson as he has picked up right where he left off with 14 catches, 149 yards and a touchdown.  What’s amazing is after 18 games in the NFL, Nelson needs only 1 catch, 128 yards, and 3 touchdowns to match his totals from 4 years at the University of Florida.  And don’t expect these two to slow down anytime soon.  Hernandez gets better by the week and he has Tom Brady, one of the best of all-time, throwing him the rock.  Nelson has gotten more confident as the weeks have gone on and has quickly moved up the depth chart in Buffalo.  He is quickly becoming one of the primary targets of the emerging Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Through the first two games these are the two top scoring teams in the AFC and Hernandez and Nelson have both been key components for their respective squads.  Unfortunately Aaron Hernandez will likely miss this weekend’s showdown of the former Gators with an injured MCL but rest assured, there will be many more battles as these guys continue to tear it up in the AFC East for years to come.  Apparently life after Tebow, at least for these two, is not so bad after all.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

Quick Thoughts on Chargers/Patriots

This was a somewhat weird game.  The Patriots were, well, the Patriots but the Chargers got in the red zone 3 times and failed to score and Mike Tolbert committed one of the most bonehead running plays I have ever seen to turn the ball over to seal the game for the Pats.  Brady is on fire to start the season.  Quick thoughts:

  • How do the Patriot receivers get so wide open?  What is their trick, their secret?  Inquiring minds (and defensive coordinators throughout the NFL) would like to know.
  • I said last week that I liked Rob Gronkowski more as a player than I did Aaron Hernandez but is seems like Hernandez is determined to prove me wrong.  The kid looks to get better and better in every game that he plays.  It’s a big blow to the Pats lineup that he will miss the next several weeks with the MCL injury that he suffered on Sunday.
  • The Pats secondary has struggled in the early going and really needed someone to step up and make a play.  Enter 6’2″ “325 lb.” Vince Wilfork to make the interception and sprint down the sideline to set up a field goal before the half for the Pats.
  • Cam Newton is only two weeks into his NFL career but I bet that he is really staring to dislike Tom Brady.
  • Chad Ochocinco looked a little better this week.  Haynesworth was solid, if unspectacular.
  • It looks like the injury bug is starting to hit the Pats.  They are usually built to withstand that sort of thing with the depth they carry on their roster.  It looks like that depth will be tested early.
  • Of all of the veteran defensive linemen that the New England Patriots signed in the off-season who would have thought that Mark Anderson would be the trend-setter?
  • Tom Brady is on fire.  Dan Marino must already be crapping his pants at the prospect of Brady breaking his single season yards record that barely alluded him back in 2007.

Ho-hum.  Ho-hum.  Pats win.  Pats put 30 on the board.  Must be starting to get boring being a Pats fan huh?  What is particularly impressive is that they scored all of those points towards the end of last season in the elements.  If they get through this fall they may go two full seasons of 30 points.  Let’s see how they handle the injuries and the hostile crowd up in Buffalo against those upstarts from Western New York.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

WGR reports Bills talking with Fitzpatrick and Johnson

Howard Simon and Joe Buscaglia from WGR Radio in Buffalo are reporting that not only are the Bills talking extension with Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick but an actual offer was made last week to Fitzpatrick’s reps.  Jason LaCanfora reported on tonight’s NFL Total Access about the contract negotiations and he said that it seems like something that could get done during the season.  Simon also reported that WR Stevie Johnson and the Bills are about 2 million a year apart in their contract talks, which sounds like something that could be worked out.  Obviously those would be two huge pieces to lock up long term for the Bills.

 

Twitter @ErikVenskus

Quick Thoughts on Raiders/Bills

It was not pretty but at the end of the day the Bills got the job done.  How many Bills fans were sitting on their couches during the 2nd quarter thinking to themselves “Same Old Bills”.  Well, the Bills did manage to turn a lot of heads this week and put on one of the more entertaining games of the week in the process.  Where they go from here remains to be seen but it does feel like the worm is starting to turn in Buffalo.  Quick thoughts:

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick was off early and was hurt by a few penalties but boy did he catch fire later on.  I haven’t seen a Buffalo Bills QB play so confidently since Doug Flutie.
  • The biggest surprise of the Bills season so far has been the offensive line.  Andy Levitre in particular is playing at an extremely high level.  I’m talking near Pro Bowl caliber play in the first two weeks.
  • Nice coming out party for David Nelson.  I’ll have more on him later this week but something tells me that this kid is here to stay.
  • C.J. Spiller – you can see the corner, you know the way around it, you just need to get there.  Looks like you are at least heading in the right direction.
  • Stevie Johnson has to be among the best route runners in the NFL currently.  It is very hard to cover him one on one.
  • Leodis McKelvin followed his great day in Week 1 with a very poor showing against the Raiders on Sunday.  He was not helped by the play of George Wilson, who looked out of position more often than not.  Definitely a step back for this unit this week.
  • Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams were outstanding.  Chris Kelsay had a strong game too…Nick Barnett is all over the place.  I still think this defense is yet to gel, which means it will only get better as it becomes a more cohesive unit.
  • Glad that you got on the stat sheet Da’Norris.  Knock it down next time.
  • Not sure what there is left to say about Freddie Jackson.  The guy is as consistent as they come.  At 30 years old, he may even be getting better, not to mention he does some of his best work in the winter.  He’s already the #1 rusher in the NFL after two weeks…I see a career year when it is all said and done.
  • That Denarius Moore looks like a player.
  • That had to have been one of the most entertaining halves of Buffalo Bills football since…the Dallas Monday night game maybe?  There have been some fun games but they were always after the Bills were out of it, which loses some of the luster in the excitement.
  • The party out there looks fun Shawne Merriman…maybe it’s time to join?  Next week against #12 would be great, thanks.
  • I guess what Chris Berman says is true, nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills.

Well that was a good appetizer, now for the main course…if the Buffalo Bills are for real they will compete with the New England Patriots at home.  Notice I didn’t say win, I think a close game give them enough confidence to catapult themselves to some success for the rest of the year.  And if they do win?  Well, let’s just say they won’t be your father’s Buffalo Bills anymore.

Twitter @ ErikVenskus

Week 2 Inactives – Early Games

Raiders at Bills

  • Raiders – WR Jacoby Ford, WR Louis Murphy, S Mike Mitchell, T Stephon Heyer, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, TE David Ausberry, TE Kevin Boss
  • Bills – CB Terrence McGee, DB Justin Rogers, LB Arthur Moats, RT Sam Young, G Colin Brown, TE Lee Smith, NT Torell Troup

Jaguars at Jets

  • Jaguars – DB Rod Issac, CB Derek Cox, C John Estes, DE Aaron Kampman, WR Jason Hill, TE Marcedes Lewis, DT Nate Collins
  • Jets – QB Kevin O’Connell, WR Logan Payne, S Emanuel Cook, RB Bilal Powell, G Caleb Schlauderaff, OL Rob Turner, DT Kenrick Ellis

Twitter @ErikVenskus

AFC East for bettors

I’m not a betting man but here are my predictions for this week’s AFC East games for those who are:

  • Buffalo Bills 28, Oakland Raiders 20 – I don’t think the Bills play as good as they did last week but combine a pumped up crowd with a Raiders team traveling cross-country after a short week and I see the Bills going 2-0 for the first time since 2008.
  • New York Jets 31, Jacksonville Jaguars 10 – The Jaguars are a mess and have lost their best offensive player, Marcedes Lewis, for the game.  The Jets have all their guys going, including Santonio Holmes.  Super Bowl contenders don’t lose games like this and the Jets want to be Super Bowl contenders.
  • Houston Texans 35, Miami Dolphins 21 – The Dolphins looked bad on defense Monday night and I expect more of the same on Sunday with the vaunted Texans offense led by Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson.
  • New England Patriots 27, San Diego Chargers 24 – Expect a heavy dose of Mike Tolbert from the Chargers and Philip Rivers is up to task with playing play for play with Brady, especially in September, but in the end Brady gets it done.

Twitter @ErikVenskus

Quick Week 2 Notes

Some quick thoughts before the Week 2 slate of games is played…

  • In a weird scheduling quirk, all four AFC East teams will play at home today despite Miami and New York being home last week.
  • Ralph Wilson will be missing his first home opener in Buffalo ever today as he recovers from a broken hip suffered back in June.  All the best to Ralph on his recovery
  • Richard Seymour had 7 sacks against the Bills while he was with the New England Patriots.  That’s a pretty high number for a 3-4 Defensive End.  He will look to add to that number today as a member of the Oakland Raiders
  • It will be interested to see how the Chargers approach the Patriots Tight Ends after they ran roughshod all over the Dolphins last week.
  • Speaking of the Dolphins they will look to rebound at home this week against the Houston Texans offense, a tall task especially if Arian Foster plays for the Texans.  Matt Schaub must have been licking his chops after watching the tape of Miami/New England
  • The Dolphins are 1-8 at home in their last 9.  If they play like they did last week they will be 1-9
  • If the Bills can stop Darren McFadden their defenses will make a lot of believers out of people.
  • If Ryan Fitzpatrick can come close to matching his performance from last week he will as well.
  • What was up with the Patriots secondary last week?  We will find out today with Philip Rivers going up against them.  If it was a fluke we’ll find out today.
  • Not much to say about the Jets game, I guess that happens when you’re going up against a team with a lame duck coach and a QB who hardly played in the pre-season and was handed the job days before opening day.
  • A quick follow up to my Phil Hansen blog from yesterday…a lot of people made the correlation with Hansen making the INT that basically won the division for the Pats and started a dynasty.  Now personally I think that is a bit of hyperbole, Tom Brady is who he is and they would have won championships regardless but if one player was affected it would be Adam Vinatieri.  How do we see him by historical standards if you take away the two kicks in the snow?  And maybe the one in the first Super Bowl?

Tweet of the week:

DavidNelson86 David Nelson
Practice time- we HAVE to get better today
That was just three days after the Bills’ 41-7 shellacking of the Chiefs on the road
Twitter @ErikVenskus
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