Darren McFadden

10 Observations from Week 3 in the NFL

1. The Steelers are now heavy favorites to win the AFC in my opinion. A 3-0 start with Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch at quarterback is no fluke. As long as they stay healthy, they’re the deepest team in that conference and no one can stop them. But health was an issue for them last year, so nothing is guaranteed.

2. I’d like to know the real story behind Trent Edwards’ release in Buffalo. How does a Week 1 starter not even have a spot on the roster two weeks later? There has to be something going on behind the scenes that we all aren’t aware of.

3. It’s nice to see Darren McFadden finally living up to expectations. He went over 100 yards again this week and has 345 on the season. Now if only Oakland could get some consistency at quarterback…

4. The 49ers are panicking already by firing offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye. How long before they panic some more and pull Alex Smith in favor of David Carr or Troy Smith? He’s already thrown five interceptions this season and I can’t imagine Mike Singletary will have the patience to let him keep up that pace for much longer.

5. That was a great road win for the Titans against the Giants this weekend. But I think we’ll know a lot more about the Titans over the next three weeks. They’re at home against the Broncos, then at Dallas, then at Jacksonville on Monday night. All three of those games look winnable. But they could just as easily go 1-2. If they come out of that stretch with a 5-1 record, they could be headed towards a playoff berth.

6. The Chargers are lucky Marcus McNeill is coming to the rescue soon. But they better hope his temporary replacement Brandyn Dombrowski doesn’t get Phillip Rivers killed in the meantime. It seemed like Rivers was under pressure all day against the Seahawks – a team that doesn’t even have a great pass rush.

Cleveland Browns

Peyton Hillis nearly led the Browns to an upset in Baltimore

7. Peyton Hillis is a beast. His 144 yards on Sunday were the most the Ravens have ever allowed to a division opponent. That’s in a division that has featured Jerome Bettis, Corey Dillon, Eddie George and plenty of other quality running backs over the years.

8. Want proof that Peyton Manning is a miracle worker? Austin Collie is the NFL’s leader in receiving yards.

9. I think the Broncos are a lot better than I expected, but they’re still going to finish in the bottom third of the league. They don’t have a running game, and no one on that roster appears ready to emerge as the answer to that problem. I’m even starting to wonder if it’s time to consider Knowshon Moreno a bust? It’s still early, but it rarely takes 1st-round running backs this long to develop. It’s not as though he’s playing in an inept offense. The Broncos have a solid passing game and a respectable offensive line. He should be producing by now.

10. The Chiefs may be 3-0, but I still put their chances of making the playoffs at well less than 50 percent. They’re off this week, then at Indy and at Houston. They’ll be 3-2 by mid-October and looking more like the team we all expected them to be.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Raiders, Steelers, Titans Comments Off

10 Underachievers that must step up in 2010

10. Aaron Curry – LB – Seahawks
It’s tough to  say a rookie underachieved, but Curry entered the league as a can’t-miss prospect. His 2009 season was a disappointment from day one. He started 12 games for the Seahawks and played nearly every snap when he was healthy, but just never produced. Making the transition from the ACC to the NFL certainly wasn’t aided by the sinking ship that was the Seattle Seahawks in 2009. The new regime has no allegiances to him, meaning he’ll have to earn his job in 2010 and the expectations will be very high.

9. Charlie Johnson – OT – Colts
Maybe this isn’t the right list for Johnson, because no one has really ever expected much from him. But he remains the starting left tackle for one of the league’s best quarterbacks, and with that comes the expectation of success. Johnson was a liability last season, especially in the Super Bowl when he allowed one hit and three pressures. As Manning gets older, protecting him becomes more important and Johnson needs to prove he can step up the challenge.

8. Jonathan Vilma – LB – Saints
Vilma was the Saints best linebacker in 2009, but that’s not saying much. They’ve since parted ways with Scott Fujita and failed to find an adequate replacement. Vilma will need to continue to improve in order to make up for the deficiencies at outside linebacker in New Orleans.

7. Levi Brown – OT – Cardinals
Brown’s poor play was masked by Kurt Warner’s pocket presence the past few seasons, but his sloppy play must stop now that Matt Leinart is under center. He’ll be asked to anchor the Cardinals patchwork offensive line and finally live up to expectations.

6. Amobi Okoye – DT – Texans
Drafted as a 19-year-old in 2007, Okoye was supposed to be an instant terror on the Texans’ interior defensive line. Instead, Okoye has been a liability against the run and  rarely made an impact as a pass rusher. He registered just two sacks and five hits in 2009, numbers that much improve if he’s to avoid a bust label in his 4th season in the league.

5. LaRon Landry – S – Redskins
Landry was supposed to be the leader of the Redskins’ secondary in the post-Sean Taylor era. He’s made his presence felt in run support, but he’s struggled to adjust to the speed of the NFL passing game. He is stiff in coverage and is often caught out of position. The Redskins have remained committed to him, but his days could be numbered if he doesn’t impress the new regime early on.

4. Derrick Johnson – LB – Chiefs
Johnson was a college legend at Texas, but his transition to the NFL has been a tough one. He’s never lived up to expectations in Kansas City and he could be getting his last chance in 2010. Romeo Crennel will look to him to step up as a starter at inside linebacker and he’ll need to perform if the Chiefs have a chance to rebound from a miserable defensive performance in 2009.

3. Darren McFadden – RB – Raiders
McFadden was supposed to have an Adrian Peterson-like impact and help turn around the Raiders fortunes. Instead, he’s struggled to hold off Michael Bush and Justin Fargas for the starting job in Oakland. McFadden needs to finally live up expectations before the Raiders send him packing along with JaMarcus Russell.

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 03: Quarterback Matt Leinart #7 of the  Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game against the Green Bay Packers at  the Universtity of Phoenix Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Glendale,  Arizona. The Packers defeated the Cardinals 33-7. (Photo by Christian  Petersen/Getty Images)
The bust label is ready to be slapped on Leinart if he doesn’t step up in 2010

2. Matt Forte – RB – Bears
After a memorable rookie season Forte suffered a brutal sophomore slump. Mike Martz likes to incorporate his running back into the passing game as much as any offensive coordinator, which could mean Forte is due for a breakout season. We should get a good idea for how much Martz trusts Forte based on how they use him in training camp and in preseason games.

1.Matt Leinart  – QB – Cardinals
All eyes will be on Leinart early this season. He has the physical tools to be an elite quarterback, but he just hasn’t put in the effort to live up to expectations. Perhaps the light bulb has finally gone off now that Warner is gone and he’s been given his last chance to succeed in Arizona. Derek Anderson will be breathing down his neck, pushing Leinart every step of the way.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Cardinals, Chiefs, Colts, Raiders, Redskins, Saints, Seahawks, Texans 1 Comment