• Zone Blitz: Lions Come Up Large, or Your NFL Week 4 Open Thread


    BW:This past week proved to be a big week for a few teams, including the Lions and Steelers, who both came up large in week 3 following disappointing performances in week 2. With that being the case, what better week than to spread the wealth and bring in the Big Man for his unique take on this week in the NFL.

    Before we get started on week 3, I wanted to get into a bit of the phenomena known as the Red Zone Channel. To be honest, I still can't figure out whether or not this is a good thing. It's always most noticeable to me when the Steelers are not on in the early Sunday window, because that's the time where the most games are going on at once. In the past, I'd be fine with finding a game and settling in, perhaps flipping a bit during commercials, ready to call an audible if need be. But with Red Zone taking off over the past few years, I find myself taking the lazy approach, and just locking in on RZ (or even the new Fantasy Zone) if the Steelers aren't on.

    Obviously, Red Zone has become tremendously popular for a reason, and I've been sucked in like many others. I guess my question is, should I feel bad about that? I've always prided myself on being a Steeler fan, but also for liking football for football. I've never wanted to be a provincial fan, but the more Red Zone I watch, the more provincial it makes me feel since the only games I find myself sitting through uninterrupted are Steelers games. Even come playoff time, I sometimes find my attention wavering if the Steelers aren't involved, to the point to where I'm now doing fantasy playoff leagues to keep up my vested interest. I think I hate that I love RZ, because I feel like it's slowly turning me one of those people, and frankly, that's something that I've never intended to turn into. Maybe I'm just getting old...

    PS: Seriously, dude. Don't be so hard on yourself. With as much as you put into fantasy football, I'm surprised you don't have a separate TV just for the RZC.

    BW: I'll let you hit on the Lions, partly so you can take your chance to gloat, and partly because I didn't end up seeing any of that game. Basically, my question is, 17-9? I can see 34-27, but 17-9? How?


    17-9? 17-9.

    PS: Packers @ Lions was a weird game. The Lions patchwork secondary did a tremendous job. This was especially true of Darius Slay who showed that while he may be a bit of a liability in a zone scheme, he can play the hell out of some man. Deandre Levy continues to show he is one of the most underrated OLBs in the NFL, but he most likely will have to slide to the middle for the foreseeable future because another underrated player - Stephen "Discount Double I-Blew-Out-My-Knee" Tulloch - is down for the year with a torn ACL. By now, you have all seen the lowlights of this injury, so I'll simply say this: if that knee can get wrecked the way it did, that knee was on the verge of blowing out no matter what. Tulloch, for all the ridicule he is taking, may have gotten lucky. His knee could have gone while trying to tackle a bruiser like Eddie Lacy and he could have ended up with even more significant injuries.

    It is important to remember the Tulloch injury happened in the first quarter and that the Lions defense was just getting started. This game was 17-9 because both quarterbacks were harassed repeatedly. The Packers got after Matthew Stafford using only two defensive linemen and five linebackers for most of the game with the now once again injured Clay Matthews being as disruptive as ever. Of course, since the Lions were starting literally their fifth string right tackle, you know Julius Peppers was going to be in the mix as well. He was, laying hit after hit on the Detroit signal caller and forcing the old "Oh my god, I'm under siege, where is Megatron?!?!?" Matt stafford to make an apperance. It's a shame, too, because Golden Tate was open underneath all game.

    This all OK, though, when you realize the Lions defensive line made Aaron Rodgers look subhuman all day. They just straight up abused a porous Green Bay offensive line, getting to Rodgers early and often. Rodgers had statistically his worst game since taking over as the Packers in 2008.

    Why were the Lions able to do this? Simple. They, for one day at least, stopped treating the Pack like a big brother. They did not get too full of themselves when they were up late. Instead they stepped on the gas. Stafford was plain bad for three quarters, but when the Lions needed him to engineer a drive to put away the game, he responded with a 5:53 75 yard drive which culminated in a sweet Reggie Bush touchdown.

    BW: My biggest question is, can we expect this from the Lions moving forward? Is their defense finally ready to take the next step and become borderline dominant? Through 3 weeks, I've been very impressed with what I've seen from them thus far.


    Fly Eagles Fly

    BW: While I was fixated on Red Zone for much of the 1 PM window, I did eventually hone in on the Eagles-Redskins, which was fantastically fun. I'm quickly becoming the minority in thinking that RGIII can still become a superstar, but the biggest difference right now between he (when healthy) and Kirk Cousins, is that Cousins isn't afraid to get rid of the ball. He'll take a few shots down field, but his decisiveness at this point makes the Washington D.C. football club a more dangerous team.

    With the Eagles, it's amazing how they've yet to play a complete game, Shady struggled significantly when perhaps he shouldn't have been playing anyway following being tested for a concussion, Foles has been good but less than great, and yet they're 3-0, having scored 30 or more in every game. It is not possible for me to be more impressed with Chip Kelly, and I think there is no limit to the ceiling for this team. They get SF next week, but the two games of the year in the NFC could very well be when the Eagles travel to Arizona on October 26, and when the Seahawks travel cross-country to Philly in early December.

    PS: Maybe this division does not suck as badly as we all predicted...

    The Eagles look good, the Redskins are suddenly getting competent quarterback play and the Cowboys realized that Demarco Murray is pretty damn good. Add in the inevitable November surge from the Giants and that division race could get exciting.


    The Perfect Game

    After such a bad performance in the Super Bowl, it's not too surprising that Denver responded with a better effort against Seattle on Sunday. That the game ended the way it did was absolutely perfect. While Denver kept it close, Seattle was clearly the better team throughout. Up 17-12, with the way their defense was performing, I thought Pete Carroll made the right call in running clock and kicking the FG to go up 8. Based on 8 quarters of evidence, there is no way anyone thought Peyton Manning was driving 80 yards in under a minute. Yet, while Seattle clearly softened things up, taking them all the way down the field in 41 seconds, and hitting that perfect throw to the mostly invisible Demaryius Thomas for 2 was a a thing of beauty. Manning came up big, but like the champs they are, Seattle came up bigger. As surprisingly great as the Denver drive was to end regulation, the Seahawk drive was equally impressive in its methodical domination. I agree with Tony Dungy that Denver was able to gain a moral victory from their performance, and especially from how their defense was physically up to the challenge, but Seattle's response by winning the coin toss, and never giving Denver another chance, was the most impressive offensive drive of this young season by far.

    PS: As to the Broncos @ Seahawks game, while that was a nice showing by Peyton and his guys, this game was all about Russell Wilson. That life-stomping drive in overtime was a sight to behold. It's like Wilson has an extra gear or a secret energy supply which allows him to be faster and stronger in late game, it's all on the line situations. When he moves around in the backfield, he is deceptively fast and he never stops looking downfield. And he uses that pump fake while scrambling as well as any quarterback since Fran Tarkenton.


    Steeler Domination

    Last but not least, the Steelers saved their best performance in 3 seasons for last night. The defense dominated the Panther offensive line in a way they haven't done in years, and Ben and Antonio Brown continue to prove to be one of the best QB/WR combos in all of the NFL. While the story of the night may end up being the toll that the Steeler defense took, losing 3 starters, at least 2 of which to significant injuries (and possibly leading to the return of the Silverback), the star of the night was unquestionably Le'Veon Bell. Bell showed some flashes last year, but a really poor performance from the OL kept his YPC well below 4. This year, Bell has shown remarkable patience, a shifty burst, and an elusiveness in the open field that is reminding me of Shady McCoy. Bell currently leads the NFL in both yards from scrimmage, and in total combined yards, despite not having a single return on special teams. Credit also must go to the job Mike Munchak is doing with the offensive line, but with Adrian Peterson possibly being done, and Shady and Charles both struggling, and many teams around the league employing more of an RB By Committee approach, Le'Veon Bell may very well be developing into the best feature back in the NFL.

    PS: The Steelers are going to be fine now that they have - finally - remembered that they are the friggin' Steelers. That Carolina game was the classic "Steelers go on the road, crush opponents windpipe, don't let up until the final whistle" game. Good to see your guys coming around. The RB duo of Bell & Blount, a still developing but nasty offensive line and some quickly maturing young defensive players added to Big Ben and Antonio Brown? Dangerous. Here's to hoping Shazier is not out too long. I like watching that kid play.

    BW: The Bears offense took a leap last year and became a top 2 unit. With the newfound balance, and an improving OL, I can see Pittsburgh making a similar leap this year. Also, it was so good to see that killer instinct on Sunday night that really hasn't been present throughout the entire Mike Tomlin era. Their schedule sets up beautifully over the next few weeks, so don't be surprised if you look up in a few weeks and see the Steelers sitting at 6-1.

    Fantasy Minute

    BW: Right now, it's tough to argue against DeMarco Murray and Le'Veon Bell as the two best RBs in fantasy. I have DeMarco Murray in my home league, and I would not trade him straight up for LeSean McCoy, even with the injury history. Jason Garrett has finally taken his hands off the offense, and Scott Linehan is doing a great job at playing to the Cowboys biggest strength, which is Murray, and that really good run-blocking OL. As for Bell, the Steelers schedule is juicy with Tampa, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Houston, and Indianapolis over the next 5 weeks. Yes, you should trade Jamaal Charles or Eddie Lacy for him, if that will get it done.

    Also- Zach Ertz had a disappointing game on Sunday, but please, I'm begging you to use that to your advantage. Thanks to Chip Kelly, Nick Foles is constantly throwing to wide open receivers. Ertz is a very athletic TE. He was open all game against Washington, and really, has been open consistently through the first 3 weeks. Foles has missed him on multiple occasions, but I can't imagine that will continue. Ertz is about to break out in a major way, perhaps as early as this week against SF.

    Week 4: Packers-Bears

    BW: The early game feature will clearly be Packers-Bears. With the game in Chicago, the Bears have a huge opportunity to kick the Pack while they're down, and grab an early 2 game lead over their archrivals. For the Bears to have a shot, they need Alshon Jeffery to not suffer any setbacks with his hammy, Brandon Marshall to have his ankle improve significantly, and they need to find a way to get Matt Forte untracked.

    For the Pack, as disappointing as Aaron Rodgers was on Sunday, I'm even more disappointed in Eddie Lacy, who has looked terrible through 3 weeks. Lacy, much like Trent Richardson, is very much an old-school style RB, in that he's most effective as a closer. Sure, his first 15 carries may not be pretty, but he is to make his mark late in games, with his best runs occurring in that 16-25 carry plateau as the defense has been worn down. The problem is, in today's game, RBs rarely get 18-20 carries, and offenses rarely worry about wearing down defenses. If Lacy is only going to get 15 carries a game, then his ineffectiveness is going to continue, since he'll never get the chances that similar backs in the past, such as Eddie George and Jerome Bettis, got in closing games out to boost their totals.

    For this week, the Packers line is a mess, but I think Eddie Lacy rebounds with something like a 23/90/1, and Aaron Rodgers does enough against a banged up Bear secondary for the Pack to outscore Chicago 31-27.

    PS: The Packers are in disarray. Their offensive line is awful. Their defense is perplexing. And for the first time, Aaron Rodgers has shown some glimpses of humanity. Cover Jordy Nelson, play stout run defense and get after Rodgers and you have a successful formula for stopping the GB offense. The Bears, on the other hand, are showing "it". Not folding week two in SF was huge. Following that up with another road win in a primetime game may be even more huge. Gimme the Bears, 28-19.

    Eagles-49ers

    BW: The late feature involves the Eagles traveling to San Francisco. There's something not right with the 49ers, and I'm not sure that the Eagles are the right team to rebound against. Their defense is not nearly living up to its reputation, and Colin Kaepernick, despite all of his ability, has been unable to take the next step following his electric debut in 2012. I do think the SF offense should have a bit of a breakout this week, and I can see big numbers from Kaepernick and Crabtree, but do they have enough defense to keep the Eagles at bay? I'm not sure they do, so while SF rebounds with a good offensive performance, the Eagles produce a better one, and win 27-24.

    PS: That Eagles game is poison. If the real Niners show up, Philly could be toast. Do I think that happens? No. San Fran needs to get the wheels back on their wagon. Watch out for Jim Harbaugh's boys after the quarter pole. When they start getting back all that missing defensive talent, look out. Gimme the Iggles 26-20.

    The Road to Legitimacy

    BW: The other two games that are catching my eye this weekend are Buffalo traveling to Houston, and Detroit heading to New York to take on the Jets. The Bills and Lions have both had some impressive victories so far this year, but in order to be taken seriously, need to prove that they can perform on the road. The Texans and Jets are both quality defensive teams, but both can be exploited. The Bills have the weapons to wear down Houston with their running game, and the Lions should have a field day with that NYJ secondary. I'm calling for both road teams to make a statement this week, propelling themselves toward becoming legit contenders within their divisions.

    PS: I'm still not ready to buy Buffalo. Our resident Bills guys - ScottDCP, Swami - are not high on EJ Manuel, which is too bad. The rest of that team actually has the talent to do some serious damage. As to your question about the Lions, I have no idea. The fan in me wants badly to say yes. However, Detroit is still plagued by mental lapses and hampered by - shockingly {} - a badly banged up defensive backfield. That defensive front is gelling in a great way, though, and new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has shown a fearlessness like this Lions fan has never seen out of a man running the Lions D.

    Let's just say I am pleased my guys are tied for first and cautiously optimistic the offense will get their heads right and return to the form we saw week one on MNF.

    BW: To be fair, I fully understand where our Bills guys are coming from. As a Pirate fan, I can relate with a significant playoff drought, and the negativity that comes from it. However, what I like about the Bills is that they play good defense, they can move the ball on the ground, and they’ve done a good job of putting EJ Manuel in a position where he can succeed. Combined with my belief that the Patriots are finally hitting that fall into mediocrity, I think the AFC East is open for the Bills to pounce.

    PS: We've approached our character limit, we'll try to stay in bounds next week. Your FP Zone Blitz Week #4 Open Thread is officially open for business.

    Comments 21 Comments
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Morris Claiborne skips workout after demotion, is a baby.

      http://espn.go.com/dallas/nfl/story/...eup-news-bolts
    1. ScottDCP's Avatar
      I disagree with the notion that the Bills put Manuel in position to succeed. He is occasionally bailed out by his RBs, WRs, and defense. The YVES even admitted that on two first half red zone possessions against the Dolphins they intentionally played for the field goal. Nobody on the team is helped by the coaches. Either they have the fai th in their QB they profess, or they don't. Actions louder, etc.

      I would love for them to wear down the Texans with the run, but even the local television sports guys have figured out that the offense is predictable by personnel and formation, and most of those guys are idiots.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      I always liked Kirk Cousins. His conduct regarding whether or not he should remain the Redsklns' starter even after RGIII's ankle heals has just reinforced my respect for the kid.

      “I won’t change my statement that this is Robert’s team. I still stand by that. He was drafted high for a reason. He’s had success here. He’s done a lot of good things. He’s done nothing to have that be any different,” Cousins said, via the Washington Times. “This is his team and it’s my job as a backup on this team, hopefully when he comes back, give him a team with a good record and put him in a good spot to have success down the stretch. By no means does that say I can’t go in there, as a backup, and hopefully get the job done.”
      Attention NFL teams that need a quality quarterback (casts eye at Tampa, St. Louis, Buffalo)...
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by ScottDCP View Post
      I disagree with the notion that the Bills put Manuel in position to succeed. He is occasionally bailed out by his RBs, WRs, and defense. The YVES even admitted that on two first half red zone possessions against the Dolphins they intentionally played for the field goal. Nobody on the team is helped by the coaches. Either they have the fai th in their QB they profess, or they don't. Actions louder, etc.

      I would love for them to wear down the Texans with the run, but even the local television sports guys have figured out that the offense is predictable by personnel and formation, and most of those guys are idiots.
      I'll certainly defer to you on that, but I am a believer in their talent. I know your distaste for Marrone, and I can't argue that either, but I do think Manuel is improving, and I think they have the most talent top to bottom in the division. We'll see if they continue to grow or stagnate, but as an outsider, I see the potential.
    1. ScottDCP's Avatar
      I agree on the total talent assessment. Also that Manuel has improved (the difficulty with Manuel is how much room he had for it.) I hope I am wrong, but it is becoming difficult to retain enthusiasm when the mistakes are repeated, and then brushed off because I am stupidly paying attention to what the guys I don't like are saying between games.
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      Matt Cassel to IR- It's Teddy's team and they are one bad play away from returning to Mr. Sam Ponder.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Let's give RGIII a new nickname. I propose IR3.

      Thoughts?
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Rich Gapinski View Post
      Matt Cassel to IR- It's Teddy's team and they are one bad play away from returning to Mr. Sam Ponder.
      Add the loss of TE Kyle Rudolph to that report. Hard to believe folks were busily wondering if the Vikes might actually be good this year just a couple weeks ago.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      The Bears secondary consists of a rookie, an old DB in Jennings, and whatever rolls out of the trainers table on Sunday. Now the rookie appears to have inherited Penaut's punching power, but no safeties against Rodgers??

      Hopefully the DL has a great game. Play Houston more at DT and have Willie Young and Allen slamming ROdgers into the ground (won't happen)
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by iwatt View Post
      The Bears secondary consists of a rookie, an old DB in Jennings, and whatever rolls out of the trainers table on Sunday. Now the rookie appears to have inherited Penaut's punching power, but no safeties against Rodgers??

      Hopefully the DL has a great game. Play Houston more at DT and have Willie Young and Allen slamming ROdgers into the ground (won't happen)
      Bears are doomed. My wife and I have a long weekend in Chicago starting on Friday. I will be at the game. Doomed.
    1. Nancy's Avatar
      That Carolina game was the classic "Steelers go on the road, crush opponents windpipe, don't let up until the final whistle" game.
      They took out our only remaining RB, and pummeled Cam Newton into insignificance. I don't know if he will Good times.

      While the story of the night may end up being the toll that the Steeler defense took, losing 3 starters, at least 2 of which to significant injuries
      Serious lack of empathy here at the moment: see above.

      Another season, another of my teams humiliated on national TV by the Steelers. I could live without this tradition.
    1. Brian Williams's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Nancy View Post
      They took out our only remaining RB, and pummeled Cam Newton into insignificance. I don't know if he will Good times.

      Serious lack of empathy here at the moment: see above.

      Another season, another of my teams humiliated on national TV by the Steelers. I could live without this tradition.
      I'm actually a big fan of that tradition.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Rich Gapinski View Post
      Bears are doomed. My wife and I have a long weekend in Chicago starting on Friday. I will be at the game. Doomed.
      Good. The Lions need all the help they can get. Would you like me to overnight you a Suh jersey?

      {}
    1. SpartaChris's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Sullivan View Post
      Add the loss of TE Kyle Rudolph to that report. Hard to believe folks were busily wondering if the Vikes might actually be good this year just a couple weeks ago.
      Yup. I had them as a dark horse for a playoff spot. Hard to make it when you don't have the best RB in the game, your best TE and your starting QB..
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar




    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Joseph Fauria is out for the Lions after hurting his ankle at home Wednesday. Attention FF owners: if you have Eric Ebron, you may want to consider starting him. The Jets have a suspect pass defense and probably will not have the services of Dee Milliner this week. Ebron should get a lot of looks.

      At least he better, dammit.
    1. Hoser's Avatar
      The Niners needed that win to keep from going into full blown nose dive status. And to keep the locals from demanding a return to The Stick. It sure was ugly and they just about gave it away at the end but they fought and clawed their way to a victory. Hopefully it is a game like that that galvanizes them and propels them to a higher level. Kinda like a home loss to the Eagles did for the '94 SB champs. We'll see. There is still LOTS of room for improvement.
      The defense played awesome right up until they really had to and then they let the Eagles march the length of the field until they REALLY REALLY had to and they played great again. This team really needs Aldon Smith back.
      Frank Gore is the man. I don't think I've ever seen him run with that much purpose. He was GOING to have a big game and there was no way he was going to let the Eagles stop him. That was pure man style running. I loved it!
      The Bubbas up front continue to concern me. They just aren't the same without Anthony Davis (brief cameo but hurt again). Boone has made some big wiffs and Martin's play is starting to hurt my feelings. It's a good thing Kaeper is so swift because he doesn't have a while lot of time.
      Speaking of Kaeper...I hoped he would be better by now with game management. A few too many mental gaffes that I can no longer write off as growing pains. It's time to know how much time is on the clock and stop forcing throws into coverage. The sky is the limit but I wish I didn't feel like he is at a plateau. Still...MUCH better than Alex Smith.
      Penalties were better but still a problem. 10 is too much. At least there weren't as many egregious personal fouls.
      2-2 with some good mojo and right in the thick of the race. It could be better but I'll take it.
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Hoser View Post
      The Niners needed that win to keep from going into full blown nose dive status. And to keep the locals from demanding a return to The Stick. It sure was ugly and they just about gave it away at the end but they fought and clawed their way to a victory. Hopefully it is a game like that that galvanizes them and propels them to a higher level. Kinda like a home loss to the Eagles did for the '94 SB champs. We'll see. There is still LOTS of room for improvement.
      The defense played awesome right up until they really had to and then they let the Eagles march the length of the field until they REALLY REALLY had to and they played great again. This team really needs Aldon Smith back.
      Frank Gore is the man. I don't think I've ever seen him run with that much purpose. He was GOING to have a big game and there was no way he was going to let the Eagles stop him. That was pure man style running. I loved it!
      The Bubbas up front continue to concern me. They just aren't the same without Anthony Davis (brief cameo but hurt again). Boone has made some big wiffs and Martin's play is starting to hurt my feelings. It's a good thing Kaeper is so swift because he doesn't have a while lot of time.
      Speaking of Kaeper...I hoped he would be better by now with game management. A few too many mental gaffes that I can no longer write off as growing pains. It's time to know how much time is on the clock and stop forcing throws into coverage. The sky is the limit but I wish I didn't feel like he is at a plateau. Still...MUCH better than Alex Smith.
      Penalties were better but still a problem. 10 is too much. At least there weren't as many egregious personal fouls.
      2-2 with some good mojo and right in the thick of the race. It could be better but I'll take it.
      That timeout on 4th and 2 almost killed the Harbaugh...

      That D is great. Exepecting them to hold every drive to 3 and out is a little bit excessive.
    1. Nancy's Avatar
      So the Colts lose Landry for PED use for 4 games and cut Da'Rick Rogers who was arrested for DUI...by IUPUI Campus Police. Not to belittle the IUPUI CP--they are working in downtown Indy, where things can of course be really rough--but Da'Rick may be the first NFL player to be cut after being arrested by a campus policeman. This makes me sad, not because Da'Rick doesn't deserve it or because he was vital to the Colts offense, but because I will now be deprived of hearing Bob Lamey---who consistently referred to Charlie Whitehurst as "Charlie Whitehorse" on Sunday--trying to decide how to pronounce "Da'Rick."
    1. Hoser's Avatar
      The Chiefs thrashed the Pats. That sets up a very interesting test for the Niners next week. Will the real playoff bound team please stand up?
      I just hope there isn't any off field/locker room distractions for the Niners this week. Wait...what? Ugh...too late.