Panthers offensive nightmare continues

I”m going to assume that last week was a fluke and the Panthers we’ve been seeing all year came back to their usual pathetic state today. It was truly a horror show on offense for Carolina today as they failed to get hardly any drives going and ended up losing 20-10 to the St. Louis Rams and it could have been a lot worse had the defense not played well.

I’ll just post the offensive numbers because I’m already pretty bad about the game and I think the numbers will speak for themselves.

201 total years
8 first downs
25 total rushing yards
4 turnovers (3 INT’s 1 fumble)
1 possession in the red zone

There’s so many ways I can define this shitshow of an offense but I’m just going to call it an abomination for now. Matt Moore threw three interceptions as a result of poor decisions. First one coming off a flea flicker which he LOBBED towards Steve Smith and it was intercepted by James Laurinaits. The last interception was similar to what he was doing earlier in the year. Awful decision to sling a pass downfield to Steve Smith instead of going for a better option. Remember how we thought David Gettis would be our X factor this week? He had zero catches today. ZERO. Steve Smith was responsible for most of the receiving yards and he had a couple of drops as well as a horrible fumble. Brandon LaFell made a few nice catches and was one of the few solid players on the offense.

Moore looked like he did in the Giants game where he looked confident when he was completing passes and moving the chains. That only happened inside the two minute warning in the 1st half and the 2nd to last drive where we scored a TD. Aside from that, he looked like he usually does. He panicked too early, threw awful passes and made terrible decisions. I really thought he could build off of his performance last week but I guess I was wrong.

Jonathan Stewart had another rough game only rushing for 30 yards on 14 carries. I felt we should have given him the ball more but he is clearly not playing well and I don’t know what is wrong with him this year. The offensive line certainly didn’t do him any favors though as they were brutal today. Matt Moore was sacked three times and Chris Long was in Moore’s face all game.

It was more of the same from the defense. The Rams were running a lot of short yardage plays with the longest one being a 33 yard pass to Brandon Gibson. There were definitely a lot of coverage issues in the secondary as Sam Bradford completed 4 or more passes to 4 different receivers. I mentioned in the preview that Danny Amendola was the one he went to most and he found him 6 times, one of which being a TD and he was his favorite target in the red zone. I also mentioned that Brandon Gibson would be a possible threat and he was. Bradford just kept finding open receivers and slowly chipped away at the Panthers defense and they put enough points on the board to win the game. It helped the the Carolina offense has been playing at an abysmal level so 20 points were all they needed.

I felt the defense did a fine job of keeping the Panthers in the game for awhile but they can only do that for so long. If the offense doesn’t do anything then it’s very difficult to win. The defense did hold Steven Jackson to only 58 yards on 23 carries and James Anderson had a nice day but that can only take us so far. We didn’t force any turnovers and the game could have been a lot closer if we did.

Then of course, I have my issues with the play calling and coaching as usual. Starting the game off with a flea-flicker was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. Then there were the constant deep passes despite only being down 10-3 and getting us in an even bigger hole. I also hated the decision to try an onside kick after making the score 20-10. We, obviously, didn’t recover it but held the Rams to a 3 & out and they pinned us inside our own 5 with the punt. We had 2 timeouts left at the time and could have kicked it away, held the Rams and then forced a punt to get better field position. You only try an onside kick when you’re down by one score. Awful, awful decision.

In the end, the Panthers are 1-6 and I said earlier in the year that they are a 4-12 team AT BEST with the way they were playing. That’s what I saw out there today, an awful team. The silver lining is that we will get a high draft pick this season. It’s a rough season because the team really should not be this bad but they are. All we can do is wait for the real rebuilding process to start and hoping that we won’t see these piss fucking poor efforts from the offense. I thought we really had some improvement last week but we ended up taking 5 or 6 steps back today with this game today.

NFL Week 8 Picks

Burning the midnight oil for awhile and I have to go to sleep and wake up in time to watch the games so I will keep this week short and sweet.

Miami Dolphins vs. Cincinnati Bengals

I could actually see this as a potential upset for the Bengals. Miami’s secondary has been torched in recent weeks and the Bengals passing game’s been hot-and-cold this year but when it’s hot, it’s on fire. However, the Bengals passed the ball well last week and still lost so I think the Dolphins will edge it out.

Pick: Dolphins

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Dallas Cowboys

I don’t care if Kitna is starting or not, the Cowboys still have the advantage here because the Jaguars are back to playing awful football. Oh, and I’m pretty sure Todd Bouman is still their QB.

Pick: Cowboys

Washington Redskins vs Detroit Lions

I think these two teams play each other every year… Anyway, I’m going to take the Redskins but the Lions could definitely pull the upset if they can stop McNabb. That’s a big, big if though with how their secondary has played this year, though. Not that McNabb isn’t prone to mistakes or anything, because he is.

Pick: Redskins

Buffalo Bills vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Will probably end up like last week for the Bills. Strong showing but they’ll still lose in heartbreaking fashion. Chiefs probably know all of Chan Gailey’s plays by heart and know what’s coming too.

Pick: Chiefs

Carolina Panthers vs. St. Louis Rams

I’m expecting Jonathan Stewart to have a huge game since he’s the starting running back and get the Panthers their first “win-streak” of the season. That and I think Moore’s going to be finding David Gettis on a lot of single coverage plays like he did last week.

Pick: Panthers

Green Bay Packers vs. New York Jets

Tough one. Jets seem to have the upper hand in almost every category and it’s going to comedown to whether or not they can stop Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay passing game. Jets are good enough to do that so I think they will win.

Pick: Jets

Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers

Kevin Kolb, Matt Moore, Matt Cassel and Matt Hasselbeck have all looked great against the Niners. No reason why Kyle Orton can’t do the same.

Pick: Broncos

Tennessee Titans vs. San Diego Chargers

Let’s see Kenny Britt have that kind of a performance again. Chargers defense played well against New England but they have a big test this week against the Titans. I think they can live up to it and the Chargers have to get out of this hole they’re in sooner or later. The game is a “must win” for them in a way. If only their running game can come to life….

Pick: Chargers

Seattle Seahawks vs. Oakland Raiders

Instincts say Seahawks in an easy win but they’ve struggled on the road and the Raiders are coming off a 59 point performance. The good news is that Jason Campbell won’t need to beat the Seahawks since Darren McFadden seems to have finally unleashed his talents. Plus, Seahawks played pretty bad last week despite beating Arizona fairly easily.

Pick: Raiders

Minnesota Vikings vs. New England Patriots

Favre is starting with two fractures in his ankle. Forget about it. I’m done picking against the Patriots for awhile when they play against teams that are desperate.

Pick: Patriots

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Arizona Cardinals

Tampa’s D has a fairly easy task on their hands against the Cardinals. Can they stop Larry Fitzgerald? Maybe. Can they stop Derek Anderson/Max Hall? Absolutely. Plus, Freeman’s proving to be a good clutch QB in close games.

Pick: Bucs

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New Orleans Saints

One of the few times where I’ll root for the Steelers. The Saints are going to want to redeem themselves after that Browns game but the Steelers defense is really overpowering teams this year. Do the Saints have enough firepower to overcome it? Last year, yes; but it looks like a lot of that magic is gone now.

Pick: Steelers

Houston Texans vs. Indianapolis Colts

I’m really iffy on taking Houston here since they are such a hit-and-miss team but the Colts have been one as well. I have to think the Colts will gameplan for Arian Foster more this time but I don’t know if their secondary can keep up with Andre Johnson. Then again, the Texans have a depleted linebacking corps and the Colts can do a lot of damage with their running game against them if they use it. What’s a pick-em blog with out taking risks, though? Texans win and get their first sweep of the Colts ever.

Pick: Texans

Caps-Flames Recap

So yeah…that was an awesome 40 minutes of hockey the Caps played tonight, eh? It started off looking like the Wild game and then the 2nd period happened. Ended the first nicely with a beautiful powerplay goal from Nicklas Backstrom (set up nicely by Green and Laich). Then Alex Ovechkin scored twice in 12 seconds during a 5 on 3. After that, the score speaks for itself. It looked like things got easier for the team after the first goal and then they just picked the Flames apart. Outshot 16-8 in the first period then they began the 2nd by outshooting Calgary 11-0.  I figured the goals would come for the first line sooner or later and tonight they finally did. They’ve been getting pucks to the net the last couple of games it was only a matter of time before it paid off. There was also Cory Sarich’s comical play where he shot the puck into his own net. I said there would be a favorable matchup when he was on the ice but I didn’t see that coming.

Short recap but I’ve got other stuff to do. Great game by the Caps, haha.

Three Stars:

1. Alex Ovechkin

2. Nicklas Backstrom

3. Mike Green

Honorable Mention: Alex Semin

Mark Giordano contract extended

Recently, Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano was given a 5-year extension on his contract worth $20,100,00, with a cap hit of $4,020,000. Giordano was entering the final year of his current contract and it was a good move for the Flames to hang onto him after the year he had last season. Was this too much for him, though? Giordano has shown talent on the powerplay and with blocking shots but is he a good long-term investment for Calgary?

You could say that this is a contract based more on potential than production but Giordano is 27 and close to peaking as a defenseman. I still think he can get better and become a real threat on the powerplay for Calgary but if he doesn’t, then it’s kind of a bad investment for the Flames. Also, Giordano was matched up with some weak competition last year and his rating was higher because of it. Don’t get me wrong, he is a top 4 defenseman on any team in the league but he wasn’t getting top 2 minutes with Calgary last year. It will happen with Phaneuf, Bouwmeester and Regehr are on the same roster as you.

The Flames have $18.4 mil invested in their blue line next season with this move and this is assuming that Staios and White are gone so the top 4 need to perform at a top level to prove they are worth that much. If Giordano can improve on last season and play more difficult minutes, then he definitely will be worth it. Whether or not he will is still up in the air.

Caps-Flames preview

The Washington Capitals and the Calgary Flames both sit at 6-4-0 to start the year but they have different issues. The Caps are having trouble scoring and the Flames are giving up way too many goals. Washington is coming off a nearly lifeless effort against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday where they lost 2-1 with Alex Ovechkin scoring the team’s only goal.

It’s unaware of what Bruce Boudreau will do to get the team out of this scoring rut but on Friday, he made the team watch some select moments from Thursday’s game against the Wild. My guess it was for motivation for the team but who knows how much that will do. Boudreau hasn’t done much to shake up the lineup other than supposedly adding Boyd Gordon into the lineup and taking Mathieu Perrault out. Tyler Sloan is also hurt and is a game-time decision so Branden Fahey could replace him instead.

Know Your Enemy: Calgary Flames edition

The Flames are tied for 6th in the league in goals with 30 and have been getting a lot of production from RW Rene Bourque. They’re coming off a 6-5 loss to the Colorado Avalanche which showed them playing some poor defense and starting their backup goaltender Henrik Karlsson. The Flames have a lot of money invested in their blue-line (including a newly re-signed Mark Giordano) so that’s definitely a disappointing performance from them. It will be a good chance for the Caps to get their offense back on track but an issue with that is Miikka Kiprusoff has a history of playing well against Washington. Not to mention they have a strong penalty killing unit (87 percent effective on the year) An interesting note is that their leading point getter is Brendan Morrison, former Capital. It’s good to know he’s starting the year off well.

Things To Watch

Capitals:

Mike Knuble: Man, he sure got old fast. I’m expecting him to contribute better than he has so far and he’s been doing a good job of getting to the net the past few games so I just hope he keeps that up. Good things happen when players go to the net and Knuble’s made his living by doing that. I think he’s due for a goal now.

3rd line (Chimera-Fleischmann-Fehr): This line (with a different center some nights) was great last season but they’re definitely off to a slow start, much like the rest of the Caps offense. I think it’s time they start making the most of their matchups. If Branden Mikkelson and Cory Sarich are matched up against them then I wouldn’t be surprised if they found their way on the score sheet.

Brandon Fahey: Just to hope he looks better than he did in Nashville.

Karl Alzner, Jeff Schultz, Mike Green, Eric Fehr: All (except Alzner) are Alberta natives and their folks will be in attendance tonight. I just felt like mentioning that.

Flames

Miikka Kiprusoff: Like I said, he lights out against the Caps and could be the reason the Flames steal a win if needed.

Mark Giordano: Since he was just recently signed to a contract where they’re trusting him to be the team’s future powerplay QB, I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts going on a tear as a result.

Jay Bouwmeester/Robyn Regehr: The two of them both had awful games, especially the latter. No better way to respond than shutting down Ovechkin and co.

Rene Bourque: Leads the team in goals and he’s been a force for Calgary this season and is likely going to continue that pace given his potential.

Lines

Washington Capitals


Ovechkin – Backstrom – Knuble

Laich – Gordon – Semin

Chimera – Fleischmann – Fehr

Hendricks – Steckel – Bradley

Green – Schultz

Carlson – Erskine

Alzner – Fahey

Out: Johansson, King, Perrault, Sloan, Poti, Varlamov

Calgary Flames


Tanguay – Stajan – Iginla

Hagman – Jokinen – Bourque

Glencross – Backlund – Morrison

Conroy – Meyer – Jackman

Regehr – Bouwmeester

Giordano – White

Mikkelsson – Sarich

Out: Kotalik, Langkow, Stone, Ivannas,

Panthers vs. Rams Preview

 

 

Going into this season, I looked at our schedule and saw that we play the Rams on Halloween. I marked it down as a game that the Panthers “should” win. Now that we are 7 weeks into the season, things have changed quite a bit. The Panthers sit at 1-5 while the Rams are 3-4 and are playing a lot better than most expected them to be. Regardless, I’m going to mark this as a game that Carolina can win but it wont be an easy one. It will be even more difficult with DeAngelo Williams listed as doubtful with a foot injury. There will be a lot of pressure on Jonathan Stewart to carry the running game like he did at the end of last season. More on that later.  Last week’s win over the 49ers did give me a lot more confidence int he team, though so I am hoping Matt Moore can build off his strong performance and lead us to a win.

Know Your Enemy

As I said earlier, the Rams have been a bit of a surprise this year at 3-4 since a lot of people saw them winning only 3 games this whole season. All three wins have come at home and against pretty tough opponents in Washington, San Diego and Seattle. While three of their four losses are on the road against teams like Oakland and Detroit. I have to think they have the advantage in this game  since they obviously play better inside the Edward Jones Dome than they do on the road.

The Rams have a fairly balanced offense where they tend to pass more (it’s been about a 55/45 ratio this season) but they have a very strong running game led by  Steven Jackson. He has been a top 5 running back for the past few years and he’s gone over a 100 yards in three games this season. The Rams tend to give him more than 20 touches a game, too. Another key piece to their offense is the No. 1 overall pick, Sam Bradford. His rookie season has been pretty good so far as he’s thrown for 1483 yards and 9 TD’s in  7 games despite having a depleted/young receiving corps. However, he hasn’t had the best protection; Bradford’s been sacked 15 times and thrown 8 INTs this season.

The Rams defense is in the middle of the road in terms of stopping the run and pass. They have allowed only one 100 yard game from a single back this season (Darren McFadden) but they have been giving up about 108 yards per game on the ground. Their passing D is ranked 18th and while they have done well against other teams #1 receivers but have had trouble covering #2 targets and tight ends. The key player here is LB James Laurinitus, who led NFL rookies in tackles last season.

Now that we’ve gotten to know some of the Rams, let’s see how they matchup with the Panthers and vice versa.

Panthers passing game vs. Rams secondary

Matt Moore finally looked like his 2009 form in last week’s game throwing for 308 yards and 2 TD’s. Can he continue to put up these kinds of results is the question. The Rams have been good at limiting success to team’s number one receivers so Steve Smith could have another tough game. However, this situation isn’t as bad as it was earlier in the year since we know that Brandon LaFell and David Gettis are capable of exploiting single coverage and Moore’s been good enough to get the ball to them. Corner Ryan Bartell will be covering Smith and he’s been good, but shaky at time so Smith will definitely have his chances. The slot receivers are the ones that are going to get the most targets, though since the Rams are dead last in coverage to #2 and 3 receivers. This is partially due to having injuries to Bartell, teams using 3-4 WR sets making them use nickel and dime packages with younger corners and a lack of outside linebackers that can play pass coverage. Hey that sounds familiar! Let’s hope our tight ends can take advantage of this matchup. Just hope that Moore doesn’t overthrow any passes because free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe is capable of picking those off. Of course, there’s always the question of whether Moore’s performance was just a one-week thing. Hopefully it wasn’t.

Panthers run game vs. Rams run defense

Jonathan Stewart is going to be starting at running back and this is a good chance for him to break out of this slump he’s in. The Rams defensive line seems to play better against the pass than the run but there’s a good chance they will be stacking the box with 6-7 guys and all will have their eyes on Stewart before he can get anywhere. Stewart is a back that’s better at going in between the tackles so I’m expecting him to be used in short yardage situations and in the red zone. However, him breaking out for a few big runs to the outside isn’t out of the question. The Rams stacking the box is a concern but their linebacking corps is weak outside of Laurinaitus. Laurinaitus is a linebacker similar to Patrick Willis of the 49ers with his combination of speed and size along with his ability to chase down running backs. Larry Grant and Na’il Diggs do not concern me at all so runs to the outside are going to be Carolina’s best friend in Sunday’s game.

Panthers offensive line vs. Rams defensive line

This could be what prevents us from passing the ball. The Rams defense has 20 sacks on the year with 16 of them coming from the defensive line. Garry Williams had a solid game in his debut at right tackle last week but that was against a 3-4 with a lot of pass rush coming from linebackers. How will he fare against James Hall? Hall has 6.5 sacks on the year and I’m expecting him to be double teamed by Williams and Schwartz while Kalil takes care of defensive tackle Gary Gibson. Hall’s success has a lot to do with the presence of Chris Long on the left end, who has drawn a lot of attention from other team’s offensive lines. The Panthers offensive line will need to buckle down like they did last week if we want to have any success in the passing game. It will be tough since the Rams generate a lot of pressure from the front four and screen passes to Stewart and Mike Goodson could be essential to having early success for the offense. If they do leave the backs open on flat and screen routes, it’s up to Moore to see that and take advantage of it.

Rams passing offense vs. Panthers passing defense

Sam Bradford’s had a solid rookie season thus far and one of the most impressive things is how he’s made use of a depleted receiving corps. The Rams have seen season-ending injuries to Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton, who were projected to be their top 2 receivers. Their go-to guy now seems to be Danny Amendola, who usually lines up in the slot so he could see a big day against Carolina. Who will get the other targets is a good question. It looked like Danario Alexander would be the #1 receiver after a strong game against San Diego but he is injured and rookie Mardy Gilyard took his place. Brandon Gibson is another possible target and there’s always the threat of Steven Jackson on screens. So, the question here is who are the Panthers corners going to cover? We usually shift Richard Marshall over to the nickel position if the slot guy causes a lot of trouble, leaving Captain Munnerlyn on the #2 receiver. It’s kind of a scary matchup but the Rams passing game’s been a tad inconsistent all year and the Panthers have played well against the pass lately so I think it could be a good game for them.

As I said earlier, Bradford’s been making targets out of a lot of “unknown” guys so there’s always a chance someone else can step up. There isn’t a real “big play” threat with Mark Clayton out for the season so covering Amendola will be key. Safeties Sherrod Martin and Charles Godfrey will need to keep their eyes out for overthrown/bad passes Bradford will likely throw and pick them off.

Rams running game vs. Panthers run defense

Carolina’s given up two 100 yard rushing games in a row and it could be three with how good Steven Jackson is. The Rams are a team that loves to run the middle most of the time, so it’s up to Derek Landri, Ed Johnson and Dan Connor to stop him in his tracks. I would also keep an eye on James Anderson since he has shown the ability to sniff out ball-carriers this season. It’s also up to SS Charles Godfrey to be in the right place keep Jackson from getting any big runs. With how the last few weeks have gone, the Rams have a better chance at beating us through the air than on the ground and we have to limit Jackson’s big plays as much as possible. It’s especially important with the TOP game as well.

Rams offensive line vs. Panthers defensive line

The defensive line’s looked steadily better with each game and the Rams have allowed 15 sacks this year (probably due to a lot of passing attempts). Key matchup here is DE Charles Johnson vs. RT Jason Smith. Johnson’s been the team’s best pass rusher so he’s got the best chance of making Bradford uncomfortable and forcing errant throws. Stopping Jackson will also be up to the defensive line since the weakest link of the Rams o-line is RG Adam Goldberg, a poor run blocker. DT Ed Johnson will have the best chance at getting in the backfield than anyone else. I would like to see some blitzes from Jon Beason and James Anderson, as well. Regardless, the Panthers will have their chance to get to Bradford, but whether or not the front 4 can do it alone is still a mystery.

Things I Want To See From This Game

– A win. (duh)

– No interceptions from Moore. I’m willing to let the one last week slide as awful as it was. Point is, we need to stop turning the damn ball over if we want to win more games.

– Gettis and LaFell to have another big game. Either or the other. I’m not asking for another 100+ receiving performance but I think 5-7 catches and a TD for one of them isn’t terribly out of the question.

– The offensive line to stay stable. They played well last week but the Rams are going to be a tougher challenge than the Niners were.

– Jonathan Stewart to shut up fantasy owners. Seriously, I’m so tired of people asking me “WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO JONATHAN STEWART? HE’S KILLIN’ MY FANTASY TEAM MAN!” Yeah, he hasn’t been good but I hardly give a damn about your fantasy team so maybe him having one big game will get people to stop crying.

– Another 20+ point performance. Yeah, I’m raising my expectations a little, haha.

– Better time and clock management.

– Get to Bradford, make him uncomfortable and throw bad passes and turn them into turnovers.

– Moore not to get killed back there. The Rams defensive line kind of scares me with how much Moore’s been getting beat up this year. Hopefully we can limit how many times he gets sacked and pressured this week.

Prediction

With my confidence about this team up right now, I’m going to be a little more cocky with my pick this week. This is assuming everything I typed above goes as planned (which it rarely does). I’m predicting another ugly win like the one against the Niners this week but I don’t think ti will come down to a game winning field goal this time. Hopefully not.

Panthers 24 Rams 19

Recap? Sure.

I don’t have a lot to say about tonight’s game other than the Capitals looked really flat. You could tell it was their second game of a back-to-back as they looked out of sync for most of it. Pretty much the opposite of how they played yesterday and the Wild responded well by forechecking hard and not allowing us to get much offense for most of the game. Washington started to skate better and get some momentum in the third period but could only muster up one goal which wasn’t enough to get them the win.

I’m taking nothing away from the Wild since they played a great game and Niklas Backstrom had a few fantastic stops but the Capitals simply didn’t play that good tonight. It’s hard to win when only one line is creating pressure for 2/3 of the game and it doesn’t help when you have 5 penalties. 4 of which were killed off. I’m not putting a lot of stock into this game since it was the second of a back-to-back and games like this will happen. Nothing left to do but hope they come out strong against Calgary on Saturday night.

Also, I’ve had my complaints about Craig Laughlin before but listening to the Wild broadcast team do tonight’s game was brutal so I’m going to be thankful that I don’t have to listen to them every night.

Three Stars

1. Niklas Backstrom

2. Miikko Koivu

3. Matt Cullen