Week 3: Surprising/Not Surprising

2 of 2

Not Surprising: Indy kept the game close against Pittsburgh. Yes, the Colts are bad, especially without Peyton Manning. But this was a playoff team last year and they still have some talent on both sides of the ball. Playing at home in a nationally televised night game, I expected that they’d put up a fight and they did. The Steelers’ offensive line, already weak, lost a couple of players during the game and couldn’t open up any running lanes and had a hard time slowing down Colt ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney. The better team won, but I’m not surprised that it took a late field goal to do it.

Surprising: Darren McFadden ran all over the New York Jets defense. McFadden is quickly entering the discussion as one of the top running backs in the league, but the Jets are built to be a defensive-first team. Oakland’s passing game is somewhat unknown and inexperienced, I figured the Jets would do everything they could to take way the Raiders’ running game and make them win through the air. Maybe they tried and McFadden and the run blocking was just too good to overcome. Or maybe the Jets just had a huge hole exposed. This week’s game against Ray Rice and the Ravens will tell.

Not Surprising: Chris Johnson continued to struggle, gaining only 21 yards rushing against a suspect Denver defense. There is no doubt that Johnson is one of the top backs in the league. But his 2,000 yard season of 2009 was his high water mark and is very unlikely to be duplicated or nearly duplicated. And while he keeps himself in excellent shape, he did miss all of training camp and the preseason so I’m not sure he is in “football shape.” The Titans are also relying on a passing game with few weapons (especially now that Kenny Britt has been lost for the season), allowing defenses to focus their effort on stopping Johnson. I expect things to get better as the season progresses and Johnson is able to start breaking off his long trademark runs, but I doubt that he approaches his 1,364 rushing yards from last year.

Surprising: The decision making related to Minnesota going for it on 4th-and-1. The Vikings had the ball in field goal range with a three point lead in the fourth quarter at home against an opponent that hasn’t won at the Metrodome since 1997. Head Coach Leslie Frasier didn’t hesitate to send the kicking team onto the field (to a chorus of boos) but quickly pulled them back when Adrian Peterson and other players waived them off. I suppose you can debate the merits of going for it versus kicking the field goal in that situation but by pulling the kicking team back off of the field, it appeared that Frasier either caved to his teams’ wishes (what player doesn’t want to go for it on fourth down???) or even worse, did it to appease the fan base. Either way, it was inexcusable, and it was still a better decision than the play call. Instead of giving it to the best running back in football or even running a play fake to him, you hand the ball to your fullback and have him run up the middle against one of the best interior defensive lines in the league? There are so many things to dislike about this entire sequence.

Not Surprising: Arian Foster didn’t play against the Saints. From the time his injury happened, it seemed like it was worse than anyone was letting on. Most estimates had Foster missing at least 3-4 weeks. He suited up and started in week 2 against Miami, but only made it to halftime before removing himself from the game. The Texans have some capable replacements – Derrick Ward has had some success in the league and Ben Tate has shown signs of being able to be an above average lead back – so there was no need to rush Foster back into service. In fact, I’m a little surprised that Houston is counting on Foster starting in week 4. Hamstring injuries like his tend to linger and be aggravated easily, this isn’t something that he or the team wants to be dealing with for the rest of the season.