Thursday, October 2, 2008


It's been a physically, mentally and somewhat emotionally exhausting week that has cause Scribe to suffer a bit. With that said, after many of you throw your dinner at the television because you're caught up in the Vice Presidential debates, here's some food for thought.

We're gearing up for Week 5 to set off the October action. Now with a clearer picture of who are the top dogs and the struggling masses, the Week 4 version of Props is dedicated to the teams that have left the month of September in surprisingly good shape and why.

Kickoff: Matt Bryant - Of course, this is an appropriate start considering the tragedy that befell the kicker's family and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization. Bryant, who had to bury his young child during the week, not only practiced for the game against the Oakland Raiders, but kicked the winning field goal. Because the league does not have an official bereavement policy, the team couldn't allow for him to take time off and sign a kicker to a short-term contract. The competition committee will look into amending some sort of policy for future considerations, but for Bryant to have enough focus to do his job is remarkable indeed.
Yes, I know that kickers and punters are not considered 'real' football players, yet they are the most important players on the roster once everyone else screws up. They focus on doing one thing and one thing very well, which is placing foot to ball for an aerial lift through the uprights or far back to the opposite end of the field. It leaves maybe too much room and time to get swallowed into other thoughts whereas position players have so many facets of their game to work on that it's difficult to physically and mentally go astray. Whatever Bryant has to do from here on out to keep himself focused is something that personally intrigues me, but I hope for him and his family, it works.

1st Quarter: Tennessee - I know that most casual and some diehard football fans love those 45-41 kind of games where defensive coordinators essentially post their resumes on Monster hours after it's over. Yet, I have always enjoyed watching a good, very good, great or extraordinary defense at work. These Titans have a very good defense led by defensive tackle Albert Haynseworth and arguably the most underrated linebacker in the NFL, Keith Bullock. These guys are smacking everyone upside their heads with a run-stuffing front seven that has allowed just under 86 yards a game on the ground. They have also been pretty good against the pass with 25 pass deflections, eight interceptions and allowed around 177 yards in the air.
You may say, "yeah, but they've played Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Houston and Minnesota with three of those games at home".
I say Jacksonville showed themselves to be a pretty balanced team on both sides of the ball in the second hald of 2007 and David Garrard will show his terrific form as the season progresses. Cincinnati may be in shambles, but they can still score from anywhere... just as the champs reminded me two weeks ago at the Meadowlands. Houston has offensive playmakers in Andre' Johnson and Owen Daniels (underrated tight end). Minnesota has Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor to keep defenses restless.
What did Tennessee do? Keep all four teams to just 11.5 points per contest while actually opening up the offensive playbook a bit. Their 25.5 PPG on offense has been a result of getting efficient play under center from strong-armed veteran QB Kerry Collins and excellent running from rookie Chris Johnson.
They get even more props as they are invoking one of the best nicknames in the league, the Tennessee Tyrants. Now wouldn't that be nice if they really changed the team name to Tyrants?

2nd Quarter: Buffalo - Trent Edwards, Marshawn Lynch, and Lee Evans are still a long way from being compared to the near Hall-of-Fame trio of Jim Kelly (in), Thurman Thomas (in) and Andre Reed (should get in), yet they have given northern New York state (and Toronto) a dose of what's to come for at least the next five years. J.P. Losman is a talented, big-armed QB who should get a fair shot with another team in 2009, but Edwards became the starter last season because he can make the critical passes underneath to keep opponents honest. He can toss it deep as well, but in the short game, quick passes and a powerful rush from Lynch tire out defenders. Evans, he of the new contract extension as of this post, has returned to his 2006 form that pushed him to the upper echelon of wideouts in the game.
The offense will continue to come along, but it has already added to what is another top-notch defense. The Bills have very good speed and sound tackling in the linebacker corps and secondary, which accounts for much of why they have the sixth-best defense against the pass. They traded for former Jaguar Marcus Stroud to create movement on the defensive line and in time, that will translate into better pressure on the QB. This is a team that is stilll putting it together, but if there is one team that was capable of upending the Patriots in 2008 more so than the New York Jets, this is it.

Halftime: Brett Favre - Can't front. Six touchdowns?!?! Even if the Jets could be criticized for running up the score and the Arizona Cardinals had more issues than the John McCain campaign, six touchdowns is just outerworldly impressive.

3rd Quarter: New York Giants - Without getting too deep, so far much of the season preview that I've written for the champs has come true. As they return from their bye week with the Plaxico Burress saga seemingly standing in front of the Seattle Seahawks, we'll discover how for real the champs are.

4th Quarter: Lane Kiffin - Remember when the WWE was at its last peak of popularity because of the rivalry between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Mr. (Vince) McMahon? I'm a bit disappointed that the rift between the now-former Oakland Raiders head coach and its owner Al Davis didn't reach those levels for the sheer entertainment value. However, he handled the entire mess as best as any of us could have.
Have you ever had a boss who was so vile and disrespectful that it took every ounce of energy from you to not snap? How many times did you tell yourself that you'll just get what you need to get out of that job (salary, benefits, quantifiable experience towards the next job, office supplies to steal) and then you'll let him or her have it? Kiffin may have been a well-compensated professional, but his situation was one that many of us could relate to. He could have essentially isolated himself within the organization until Davis officially axed him, but he was able to coax out greater efforts from a roster that has bottomed out since the Super Bowl appearance in 2002. The team had been in every contest so far this year admist this drawn-out affair and much of this was to the constant focus Kiffin had to game plan each week.
He may or may not have another head coaching opportunity in the NFL, but what he proved was that even in chaos, he could bring about some semblance of order.

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