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Archive for December, 2013

Takeaways from Week 16

December 23rd, 2013 Comments off
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Does Atlanta have enough to slow down Colin Kaepernick?

We’ll get the chance to see the Atlanta Falcons tonight against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night football.

I don’t have particularly high hopes for the Falcons, although the last time I expected them to get blown out was in Week 12 against the New Orleans Saints. During that week, the Falcons had the factors of playing at home and against a familiar opponent in their favor. They will be in a hostile environment tonight against the San Francisco 49ers, particularly since it will be the final home game at Candlestick Park, assuming the 49ers and the other NFC wildcard team don’t make improbably deep playoff runs. And the familiarity of the 49ers just isn’t that strong. It was roughly 11 months ago that the two teams squared off in the NFC Championship game, so the Falcons won’t have to clean too much dust off their game plan to try and get an accurate read on the 49ers.

The 49ers since then haven’t changed that much. They are still an offense that is predicated on the run game and the vertical passing attack. But they aren’t as effective in either area this year as they were a year ago.

They were among the league’s best rushing team a year ago, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. They ran the ball on about 50.8 percent of their offensive plays in 2012. This year, their yards per carry has fallen to a much more mundane 4.2 yards per carry. They are running the ball more however, up to 53.3 percent.

That increase in runs is largely due to their inability to generate as many big plays in the passing game as they did a year ago. Colin Kaepernick led the league with a ridiculous 60.6 percent completion rate on passes of 20 or more yards (per Pro Football Focus). He’s still near the top of the league this year, but it’s down to a much more human 46 percent completion rate on those deep passes. Despite only starting roughly half the season, Kaepernick completed 19 of those 20-plus yard throws last year for a total of 595 yards. This year in nearly twice the playing time, he’s completed 19 for 632 yards. So in one sense, he’s been half as effective throwing deep.

Much of that centers on the lack of reliable weapons that Kaepernick has been asked to throw with Michael Crabtree being injured for most the year. In fact, no 49ers receiver besides Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, and Vance McDonald have caught deep passes from Kaepernick this year. Boldin is certainly not a deep threat by nature, and McDonald is not quite as adept as Delanie Walker was a year ago. Last year, players like Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, and Kyle Williams all contributed there as well as Crabtree.

But will any of this matter against the Falcons? Probably not. The Falcons run defense is among the weakest in the league, and the 49ers absolutely dominated the Falcons in the trenches in last year’s NFC title game. With the Falcons run defense giving up 100 or more yards in 11 straight games, it is doubtful that streak is snapped this week.

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Categories: Features Tags: ,

Pudge’s Picks – Week 16

December 22nd, 2013 1 comment

Another good week to finish the season, where I went 10-6 against the spread last week. That brings my season total to 111-113, just two games below .500. Now of course what will happen is now that I’ve gotten so close, I’ll probably go 6-10 this week and kill any chance I have of reaching .500.

I also went 10-6 with my straight up picks, bringing my season total to 142-82.

Atlanta Falcons (4-10) at San Francisco 49ers (10-4)
Monday, December 23 at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN

Line: 49ers (-11.5)

I think the 49ers are going to dominate the Falcons in this game, although they may only manage to win by 10 points instead of the 12 necessary to cover. But I’m not picking the Falcons regardless. The 49ers rushing attack should just roll through the Falcons defense, as they did in the NFC Championship game. With no pass rush, Colin Kaepernick should have all day to pick apart the Falcons defense when they pass.

The 49ers defense will likely shut down a Falcons offense that has struggled to score points and move the ball against the Redskins terrible defense.

Spread Pick: 49ers
Straight Pick: 49ers

Miami Dolphins (8-6) at Buffalo Bills (5-9)
Sunday, December 22 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Bills (+2.5)

I’m not sure the loss of E.J. Manuel is going to be felt by the Bills offense with Thad Lewis getting the start. But the loss of Stevie Johnson will be felt.

Spread Pick: Dolphins
Straight Pick: Dolphins

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Moneyball 2013 – Week 15 Review

December 17th, 2013 Comments off

After reviewing the All-22, no doubt this was an ugly win for the Atlanta Falcons over the Washington Redskins.

As I noted yesterday, the offense was fairly conservative in terms of taking deep shots down the field. It appeared that the Falcons only drew up three plays in which Matt Ryan was looking to throw the ball beyond 15 yards. I noticed how often the Falcons run plays that require the receivers to run to the sticks or a yard shy, and that’s it. There was a play-call on a 3rd-and-21 in the second quarter where it was supposed to be a clear-out for Darius Johnson. I get that with the Falcons backed up inside their 10-yard line, that Dirk Koetter didn’t want to risk Ryan taking a deep drop and increase the potential for a safety. But Johnson got no separation from David Amerson on that play and it was just a three-yard gain. That play sort of epitomizes the sort of conservative approach of the offense.

I thought Ryan did some good things, particularly in terms of his movement within the pocket to avoid pressure. There were about three times where he was able to step up in the pocket to avoid pressure and deliver a completion down the field. So much of this season I’ve watched Ryan check it down in the face of pressure, and it was nice to see him using his legs to create space and extend plays.

The only real complaint I have with Ryan in this game was his overthrow on his interception, on one of his few shots downfield at the end of the first half. I like that he was being aggressive, he just needed to make a better throw. This week will go down as one of his lower earnings of the season, but I think that had more to do with play-calling than him playing poorly.

There were problems (as usual) with the pass protection with too many breakdowns. Lamar Holmes struggled to handle Brian Orakpo, with both of his sacks allowed coming against him. Ryan Kerrigan also did good work against Ryan Schraeder on the other side with a sack and a hurry, but also was very effective when matched against our tight ends when they were blocking. I was surprised to see such a big game from defensive end Chris Baker, who got credited with a hurry (against Justin Blalock), hit (against Holmes), and pressure (against Peter Konz). He also mauled Holmes on one of the goal line runs in the second quarter where Steven Jackson got stuffed in the backfield (that was Holmes’ credited missed block). He’s a free agent after this season, so I definitely made a mental note for March.

On the bright side up front, I thought Joe Hawley had another solid game at center, and I was very impressed with Harland Gunn in his limited action on two or three series. He looked much better than Konz did at right guard. I’d say Konz probably had one of his best games of the season, but still struggled too many times. He spent a lot of time on the ground on the opening drive, and for those that don’t know, that’s not a good sign for an offensive linemen. But I’ll give Konz some credit, I think Sunday’s game was the first time he ever hit an assignment on the second level with a nice cut block on a screen pass that Jacquizz Rodgers gained 15 yards on in the third quarter.

But Gunn looked much more violent and physical, playing with better balance and footwork, and doing a better job using his hands. I really liked how quick Gunn was coming off the snap and getting to the second level. He and Hawley are two peas in the same pod, in that what they lack in power and pure strength they make up for with aggressiveness and knowing how to get position against bigger defenders. Despite not having ideal size or strength, Gunn seemed to be the only blocker that was effective at times one-on-one against Baker. That includes Blalock, who probably had his worst game of the season. He wasn’t bad by any means, but got pushed around too much in pass protection, more so than he has to date in 2013.

There isn’t much else that needs to be said about the offense. I thought Steven Jackson ran hard, and his trucking of Josh Wilson will certainly be one of the highlights of the year.

PLAYER
PASS
RUSH
REC
BLK
SPEC
PEN
TOTALS
Steven Jackson$0$9-$1$0$0-$2$6.00
Tony Gonzalez$0$0$5$1$0$0$6.00
Jacquizz Rodgers$0$2$2$0$1$0$5.00
Matt Ryan$6$0$0$0$0-$2$4.00
Harry Douglas$0$0$3$0$0$0$3.00
Joe Hawley$0$0$0$3$0$0$3.00
Roddy White$0$0$2$1$0-$1$2.00
Justin Blalock$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Peter Konz$0$0$0$2$0$0$2.00
Darius Johnson$0$0$1$0$1$0$2.00
Jason Snelling$0$0$0$0$1$0$1.00
Harland Gunn$0$0$0$0.5$0$0$0.50
Levine Toilolo$0$0$0-$1$0$0-$1.00
Ryan Schraeder$0$0$0-$0.5$0-$1-$1.50
Lamar Holmes$0$0$0-$2$0-$3-$5.00

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FalcFans Podcast – Ep. 52 “Post-Turner Stress Disorder”

December 17th, 2013 Comments off

Allen and I are joined by Dave Choate of the Falcoholic to recap the Atlanta Falcons’ Week 15 win over the Washington Redskins as well as preview their primetime Week 16 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. We all agree that it was an ugly win for the Falcons and search for positives that can be taken away. We discuss Mike Shanahan’s decision to go for two, lineup changes to the offensive line, Steven Jackson trucking Josh Wilson, and which San Antonio Spur that Tony Gonzalez compares most to. A lot of this episode centers on the cornerback position with Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, and Asante Samuel occupying a large chunk of the discussion. I give my thoughts on the evolution of defense and what it could mean for the value of the cornerback position in the future. And of course Allen and I close with discussing the playoff races, the epic collapse of the Dallas Cowboys, the Arizona Cardinals becoming our new favorite team among other NFL topics in their ‘Around the League’ segment.

Episode 52: Post-Turner Stress Disorder [Download]

Duration: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Allen writes for TJRSports.com as well as the Pro Football Spot. His twitter handle is: @Allen_Strk.

Dave writes for The Falcoholic and can be found on twitter: @TheFalcoholic.

If you have any questions and comments, you can hit us up on Twitter, post in the forums in the podcast thread, or drop an e-mail at: pudge@falcfans.com.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and be sure to rate us there! You can also subscribe directly to our feed at the following URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/falcfans/LXSt

Takeaways from Week 15

December 16th, 2013 Comments off
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Osi Umenyiora is likely to become another expendable veteran player

The Atlanta Falcons offense sunk to new depths of ineptitude and ineffectiveness, despite defeating the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

Against the league’s worst scoring defense, the Falcons offense was only able to mount two successful offensive series, and netting just seven points off those two drives.

Thankfully the Redskins turned the ball over seven times, which helped give the Falcons 20 points thanks to short fields and they were able to win the game.

But of course the key point of the game was Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to go for the win rather than settling for overtime. Shanahan called for a two-point conversion with the Redskins down a point with less than 20 seconds to go. Desmond Trufant broke up the throw to Pierre Garcon, and the Falcons were able to hold onto the lead and eventually gain the win. It was a ballsy, and in many eyes stupid call.

I don’t consider myself one of those people that would call it stupid. I generally don’t fault coaches or players for being aggressive. Obviously there is a thin line between being appropriately aggressive and stupidly aggressive. And I wouldn’t argue against anyone that said Shanahan crossed that line.

The reasons why it could be considered stupid is because the Falcons offense really did nothing all game. And thus in overtime, there’s no reason to think that the Falcons can mount a drive to win. The Redskins had marched the ball up and down the field for 476 total yards, and as long as they don’t cough it up, there’s every reason to believe Washington had the advantage if it went into overtime.

You know what I’m going to say. The Falcons didn’t have a single play of 20 or more yards, and it’s not a coincidence in my eyes that their offense really struggled. On those two aforementioned good drives, the Falcons were able to convert five of six third down tries but were zero for eight on their other seven possessions.

People will continue to blame the subpar play of the offensive line for why the Falcons struggle to generate those big plays, but as the win over the Bills showed two weeks ago, having a leaky front doesn’t preclude you from taking shots downfield.

The real problem the Falcons have is that they lack the weapons that can create those plays down the field. Matt Ryan attempted just three deep passes in the entire game, with Roddy White being the lone receiver to reel in one. White had a 19-yard catch on the opening series, the longest play of the day for the Falcons. Again, probably not a coincidence that was the one drive where the Falcons offense managed to move the ball and finish with a touchdown.

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Redskins Turnovers Lead to 27-26 Falcons Win

December 15th, 2013 Comments off

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Desmond Trufant breaks up a two-point conversion to seal Falcons win

The Atlanta Falcons pulled out a 27-26 win over the Washington Redskins to get their fourth win of the 2013 season in a game that saw the Redskins turn the ball over seven times. The Falcons got off to an early lead, but the Redskins were able to come back and take a lead at the end of the first half. But the Falcons responded and retook the lead. But the Redskins were able to mount of a potentially game-tying drive in the final minutes of the game. But they opted to go for the go-ahead two-point conversion rather than settling for an extra point to force overtime, and the attempt failed, allowing the Falcons to stave them off.

Matt Ryan led, completing 29 of 38 passes for 210 yards with a touchdown and interception. Steven Jackson led rushers with 38 yards on 15 carries and a pair of touchdowns. Tony Gonzalez led receivers with six catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. Roddy White and Harry Douglas each had five catches for 53 and 37 yards, respectively. Matt Bryant hit on both of his field goal tries from 20 and 51 yards out. Matt Bosher had a good day punting, booming six punts for an average of 49.3 yards with three placed inside the 20-yard line. Robert McClain returned three punts for an average of 8.3 yards, while Jacquizz Rodgers had three kickoff returns for an average of 26 yards. The Falcons struggled to convert third downs for much the game, finishing with five conversions on 14 tries (36 percent). They were able to score touchdowns on three of their five red zone trips, with one of their failures coming on a failed fourth-down attempt from the one-yard line. On that play, Jackson was stuffed at the goal line. The Falcons turned the ball over two times, but that paled in comparison to the Redskins issues with retaining the football. The Falcons were able to capitalize on those Redskins mistakes, generating 20 of their points off the favorable field position presented by those miscues.

The Redskins turned the ball over seven times on the day, including five lost fumbles. The Falcons were able to pick off the Redskins twice as well. Otherwise, they didn’t have much success slowing down the Redskins offense, who put up 476 total yards. That marked the second-highest yardage total allowed by the Falcons defense this season. That included 103 yards on the ground, marking the eleventh-consecutive game in which the Falcons have allowed over 100 yards rushing to the opposing team. The Falcons defense got stops on four of the five red zone trips by the Redskins, forcing a pair of field goals and a pair of turnovers. Robert Alford and Paul Worrilow shared in the team lead in terms of tackles, each tallying nine stops. Jonathan Babineaux (one tackle, two fumble recoveries); Joplo Bartu (six tackles); Malliciah Goodman (one fumble recovery); Jonathan Massaquoi (five tackles); Robert McClain (five tackles, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries); William Moore (five tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery); Zeke Motta (five tackles); Stephen Nicholas (five tackles, one forced fumble); Corey Peters (four tackles, one pass deflection); Desmond Trufant (seven tackles, one interception, two pass deflections); and Osi Umenyiora (two tackles, one sack, one forced fumble) had notable games.

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Pudge’s Picks – Week 15

December 15th, 2013 Comments off

Thursday Night Football hasn’t been that kind to me over the past six weeks, where I’ve compiled a 1-5 record when picking against the spread. Here’s hoping that I pick Sunday’s slate of games as well as I did a week ago where I went 9-6 against the spread.

Washington Redskins (3-10) at Atlanta Falcons (3-10)
Sunday, December 15 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Falcons (-6.5)

Sure, the Redskins are in disarray, but this isn’t a good matchup for the Falcons. They don’t have a pass rush, so regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Redskins (it’ll be Kirk Cousins), he’ll have plenty of time to locate his receivers. And the strength of the Redskins offense still remains Alfred Morris, and the fact that the Falcons run defense has been porous throughout this season doesn’t bode well for them. It’s a boost for the Falcons that Redskins tight end Jordan Reed looks out for this game, otherwise he was likely to have a field day against Zeke Motta, who will draw his first start of the season.

The major positive for Atlanta is that Washington might have one of the few defenses that is worse than their own. And given the more comfortable confines of the Georgia Dome, the Falcons offense should look competent if not good this week.

Spread Pick: Redskins
Straight Pick: Falcons

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Moneyball 2013 – 3rd Quarter Stats

December 14th, 2013 Comments off

These are the stats through the first twelve games of the 2013 based off the Moneyball game reviews of the All-22.

If you’re unfamiliar with the rules of Moneyball, you can check out this thread in the forums that explains things. You can also click here to see a glossary of some of the abbreviations used in the following tables.

Also if you want to check out the stats from the first four games of the season, you can here by clicking here and the first eight games here.

PASSING
1stD
3rdC
20+
40+
TD
PT
INT
Skd
TOTALS
Matt Ryan84 (28)44 (12)28 (7)8 (1)19 (4)50 (19)12 (2)3 (1)$145.00 ($35)
Dominique Davis2 (2)00001 (1)00$1.00 ($1)
RUSHING
5+
10+
1stD
3rdC
YAC(5+)
TD
MH
TOTALS
Jacquizz Rodgers17 (1)6 (3)8 (3)1 (0)2 (0)2 (0)1 (0)$43.00 ($10)
Steven Jackson18 (11)4 (2)3 (2)2 (2)5 (2)3 (3)0$42.00 ($27)
Jason Snelling9 (1)2 (0)4 (0)01 (0)1 (0)0$20.00 ($1)
Antone Smith1 (0)4 (4)001 (1)2 (2)0$14.00 ($13)
Matt Ryan1 (1)4 (2)04 (3)000$13.00 ($8)
Harry Douglas00001 (1)00$1.00 ($1)
Julio Jones0010000$1.00 ($0)
RECEIVING
1stD
3rdC
20+
40+
RAC(10+)
TD
Drop
TOTALS
Tony Gonzalez20 (5)17 (5)4 (0)03 (0)5 (1)0$54.00 ($12)
Harry Douglas14 (7)11 (3)8 (2)5 (1)11 (3)2 (1)6 (2)$52.00 ($17)
Julio Jones12463723$36.00 ($0)
Jacquizz Rodgers7 (3)1 (1)1 (1)013 (3)2 (0)1 (1)$25.00 ($7)
Jason Snelling4 (3)4 (1)2 (0)06 (2)2 (0)2 (0)$18.00 ($6)
Roddy White8 (3)6 (4)4 (4)001 (1)3 (1)$17.00 ($12)
Steven Jackson6 (3)0006 (2)1 (0)1 (0)$13.00 ($5)
Darius Johnson10 (5)0002 (1)1 (1)5 (4)$9.00 ($4)
Drew Davis1 (0)2 (0)3 (0)01 (0)1 (0)1 (0)$8.00 ($0)
Levine Toilolo2 (1)0001 (0)2 (0)1 (0)$6.00 ($1)
Bradie Edwing2000200$4.00 ($0)
Kevin Cone01 (0)00000$1.00 ($0)
Patrick DiMarco1 (0)000000$1.00 ($0)
Antone Smith0000001 (1)-$1.00 (-$1)

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Pudge’s Picks – Thursday Night Week 15

December 12th, 2013 Comments off

Things are off to a good start as I indicated last week I’d need to pick at least 9 games correctly against the spread in the last four weeks to get my season record to .500.

Well I went 9-7 last week against the spread, bringing my season total to 101-107.

Straight up, my picks were 11-5 last week, bringing my season total to 132-76. There’s really no benchmark I’m trying to hit there at this point, although I’d like to hit double-digit wins every week for the remainder of the season.

San Diego Chargers (6-7) at Denver Broncos (11-2)
Thursday, December 12 at 8:25 pm ET on NFL Network

Line: Broncos (-10.5)

The question really isn’t whether San Diego can beat Denver. Not unless something catastrophic happens, is that really fathomable. The real question is whether San Diego covers the spread.

They can but only if they can score in the red zone, something they struggled to do last time when they lost to the Broncos by 8 points at home. I suspect history will repeat itself and I expect this week’s Broncos team to score a lot more than 28 points. The main fear is the backdoor cover by the Chargers, which is always possible against a weak Broncos defense. Especially if Keenan Allen has a big night, which he did not have last time. I’d like San Diego’s chances better if they were at home.

Spread Pick: Broncos
Straight Pick: Broncos

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Boise State Finds Coach and It’s Not Dirk Koetter

December 11th, 2013 Comments off

Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports tweets that Boise State University is expected to hire Bryan Harsin as it’s next head coach. Harsin was a candidate for the vacant position, alongside current Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.

Both Harsin and Koetter interviewed for the position this past Monday, and reports surfaced that talks between Koetter and the school were heating up after he conducted a second interview with officials on Tuesday.

Harsin is a former assistant with Boise State, who served as their offensive coordinator from 2006-10, before joining the staff at the University of Texas where he shared play-calling duties with Major Applewhite for two seasons. He then was hired last year to become the head coach at Arkansas State, posting a 7-5 record as that team is set to play Ball State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in January.

Koetter was formerly the head coach at Boise State for three seasons, posting a 26-10 record from 1998-00. He then became the head coach at Arizona State, where he compiled a 40-34 record before joining the ranks of NFL assistant coaches when he accepted the offensive coordinator position with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007. He served in that role for five seasons before being hired by the Falcons in 2012.

Categories: News Tags: ,