Tag Archives: Michael Vick

MNF: Steelers at Chargers Preview, Prediction and Pick Against the Spread

John Morgan
October 12, 2015 at 1:10 pm ET

Despite an abundance of injuries, NFL week five’s Monday night football game should be a good one. Although the two clubs are just 2-2, the San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers both have legitimate playoff aspirations for this 2015 season. Pittsburgh is coming off a 23-20 home overtime loss to the Ravens a week ago Thursday, while the Chargers eked out a 30-27 home victory over the Browns last Sunday. Both teams are currently 2-2 and are seeking to keep within two games of undefeated leaders in their respective divisions (the 5-0 Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals). Game kicks off at 8:30 pm eastern time and is broadcast on ESPN.

 

San Diego entered the week with the NFL’s number one offense (since surpassed by the Patriots), averaging 421 yards per game. Quarterback Philip Rivers has single handily carried the Charger offense, completing 71% of his throws and averaging 312 passing yards per game. San Diego will be without three starters on offense: LT King Dunlap (concussion), LG Orlando Franklin (ankle) and WR Stevie Johnson (hamstring), and has five other starting or key offensive players injured (C Chris Watt, RG D.J. Fluker, OL Chris Hairston, WR Jacoby Jones, WR Malcom Floyd). The Chargers do get TE Antonio Gates back after serving a four-game suspension for a banned substance, but the biggest obstacle for San Diego will be giving Rivers a clean pocket behind a banged-up makeshift offensive line.

 

The Pittsburgh secondary has improved since the debacle against the Patriots in week one, but it is still a work in progress. That group has been helped out by an effective pass rush; the Steeler front seven versus San Diego’s o-line will be the key to the game. If Rivers has enough time he is capable of torching the Pittsburgh defensive backfield with throws to Gates, WR Keenan Allen (33 receptions for 387 yards and 3 TD) and old friend Danny Woodhead (16 catches for 203 yards; 347 yards from scrimmage and 7.1 yards per touch).

 

The Steelers will have had 11 days to get Michael Vick acclimated to the offense, so he should be more productive than he was a week ago. With Antonio Bryant (an NFL-best 119.5 yards receiving per game) on the field, San Diego cannot focus on stopping RB Le’Veon Bell. Bell is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and 95.5 yards rushing per game, and should feast on a San Diego defense that is allowing 4.9 Yards per carry (third worst in the NFL).

 

Both the Steelers and Ravens have had a tendency to let down and underachieve in games after they play each other; we saw a glimpse of that Sunday when Baltimore was defeated at home by the Cleveland Browns. Add in OC Todd Haley‘s often perplexing and overly conservative play calling, and Pittsburgh is far from a lock to win this game – despite San Diego’s woes on defense (they have allowed at least 24 points in every game thus far) and their MASH-unit of an offensive line. The Steelers are 2-7 west of the Rockies in the Mike Tomlin era; the last time Pittsburgh won a game in the pacific time zone was ten years ago. To get an idea of how long ago that was, Ben Roethlisberger was in his second year in the NFL.

 

Prediction: I don’t feel strongly either way in this game; it’s easy to find reasons why either team should win (or lose). I’ll go with the Chargers to win, but Pittsburgh keeping it close enough to cover before a Tomlin brain cramp gives the game away.

 

Pick: Chargers 27, Steelers 24

Steelers +3½; over 45½; Steelers +155

AFC North Notes after NFL Week 3 – Big Ben injured; Bengals remain undefeated while Ravens drop to 0-3

John Morgan
September 29, 2015 at 8:52 am ET

Another week and another marquee NFL player is sidelined with a serious injury. Ben Roethlisberger was off to a fantastic start of the 2015 NFL season but  will reportedly be out 4-6 weeks after suffering a medial collateral ligament sprain and bone bruise from a low hit in the pocket by St. Louis safety Mark Barron in the third quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers12-6 victory over the Rams on Sunday. Big Ben had completed over 75% of his passes this season and was leading the league with 10.2 pass attempts; in the first two games of the year Roethlisberger threw for a whopping 720 yards, and was picking the St. Louis defense apart, completing 20 of 24 passes before the unfortunate hit. Just over a month ago it looked like 35-year old Michael Vick‘s NFL career was over, before the Steelers signed him on August 25th. The first overall pick of the 2001 draft will take over an offense with plenty of weapons, featuring Antonio Brown (29 receptions for 436 yards and two touchdowns through three games) at wide receiver and Le’Veon Bell (2,215 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns in 2014) at running back. Head coach Mike Tomlin will have a short time to prepare Vick: the 2-1 Steelers host division rival Baltimore on Thursday night in what should be a very interesting game.

 

In what has to be a bit of schadenfreude and poetic justice for Pats Fans, the 0-3 Baltimore Ravens still have yet to win a game since whining about New England’s legal formations in last season’s playoffs and then collaborating with the Colts to set up an ill-advised and bungled sting operation. Baltimore could easily be 3-0 instead, but continues to find ways to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.  Patriots president Jonathan Kraft could not resist the opportunity to take a jab at the Ravens when asked about their start, sarcastically calling Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh a “sweetheart” and commenting on their early struggles that “it’s too bad, isn’t it?” The Baltimore secondary has been extremely ineffective, and the Ravens keep shooting themselves in the foot with penalties. The Ravens were penalized 13 times for 116 yards against the Bengals, and now have been penalized for 240 yards (fifth worst in the NFL). Even though only five teams in NFL history have begun the season 0-3 and then gone on to make the playoffs, it is still far too early to write the Ravens off – but certain folks predicting that Baltimore would win the Super Bowl are hoping nobody remembers their prognostications.

 

The Cincinnati Bengals advanced to 3-0 with their win at Baltimore Sunday and for the moment control the AFC North. Cincy’s run defense was stellar, stuffing Justin Forsett to just 29 yards on 14 touches while holding Baltimore to a paltry 36 yards on 18 carries overall; DT Geno Atkins in particular appeared to have a very good game. The pass defense was another matter though; Steve Smith toasted the Bengals to the tune of 13 receptions (on 17 targets) for 186 yards and two touchdowns.  Cincinnati has been a good defense/average offense in recent years, but that appears to have changed. Andy Dalton threw for 383 yards, three touchdowns and averaged an incredible 12 yards per pass attempt. Nobody seems to have an answer for WR A.J. Green, who was unstoppable with ten receptions for 227 yards and two touchdowns – including the game-winner with 2:10 remaining. Green is averaging 18.6 yards per reception on the season and is fourth in the NFL with 335 yards receiving. The next four games will tell us a lot more about this team, as they face some pretty good defenses: next up are home games against the Chiefs and Seahawks, followed by games at Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

 

The Cleveland Browns displayed a hallmark of bad teams on Sunday, as they were unable to handle success – in their case a single victory the previous week – and lost at home against a west coast team that had not won an eastern time zone early game in their last 14 tries. The Browns inexplicably signed WR Dwayne Bowe to a two-year contract with $9,000,000 guaranteed – despite the fact he has not caught a touchdown pass since 2013. Bowe was inactive Sunday and has been on the field for just eight snaps this season. The Browns have given up an NFL-worst 475 yards rushing through three games with poor fundamentals – they missed 14 tackles in the loss to the Raiders – and for whatever reason stick with 36-year old journeyman Josh McCown at quarterback rather than seeing what Johnny Manziel can do, and assess his future with the team. Things don’t get any easier for the Browns in the foreseeable future; after a two-game road trip at San Diego and Baltimore they host Denver, followed by a game at St. Louis, home against Arizona, and then two more road games at Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.