Lombardi: My TNF thoughts, NFL power ratings and Week 2 preview

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The NFL season is already in full swing, so here are a bunch of my thoughts on Thursday Night Football last night, my quarterback and team power ratings and more.

GAME REVIEW FROM LAST NIGHT

Brandon Staley might lose his stature with the analytics community after punting last night with 3:55 left in the game and his team down one score.  Staley was ultra-aggressive last year, almost showing contempt for any punt -- and it cost his team a playoff berth.  This season because he feels more confident in his defense, he is still going to be aggressive (just not reckless), and for that I applaud him. 

Thursday Night Football was a fascinating game on many fronts. Justin Herbert making a rare mistake and Andy Reid taking three points after failing to move the ball an inch facing first-and-goal from the 1-yard line.  Reid collected the points, made everyone surprised and in the end, those points were the difference.  Reid knew his team was not moving the ball effectively against the Chargers defense.  His offensive line was getting pushed around and Mahomes was taking too many hits -- which must concern Reid moving forward.  Mahomes made great throws, also got away with several dropped interceptions and as the year moves along and the Chiefs’ style of play becomes more apparent, their margin of error on offense against a good defense will be small.

The Chargers are one of the most talented teams in the league. Losing two starting -- offensive lineman center Corey Lindsey and right tackle Trey Pipkins -- during the game affected their protection, as Herbert was on his back more in the second half after throwing then Los Angeles would like.  These injuries are worth monitoring for the Chargers’ future power rating. 

The Los Angeles defense forced four punts in the first half and controlled the ball for 17:53 in the second half.  The Chiefs only had the ball for 4:06 in the fourth quarter, accumulating just three first downs.  One mistake cost the Chargers the game, but if they continue to play at this level, avoid injuries and protect the ball, they will be a huge problem for any team come December and January.  Herbert is great and I still want to know how you can watch both players and pick Tua over Herbert.  It’s mind boggling.

QB RATINGS

Last week on my pod I listed my Blue (top five QB’s in the NFL) and Red Chips (6-10). 

Blue Chip QBs

  1. Aaron Rodgers
  2. Tom Brady
  3. Justin Herbert
  4. Josh Allen
  5. Patrick Mahomes
  6. Joe Burrow
  7. Matthew Stafford
  8. Derek Carr
  9. Dak Prescott
  10.  Kirk Cousins

The QB list will not be like the power rankings list as everyone can have a bad game.  However, after four weeks, I will update each section -- and because of Dak’s injury, we have to remove a red chip player from their team. 

I think you need to watch the game to rate the quarterbacks.  Daniel Jones was 17-of-21, had a 115.9 QB rating and the New York Giants won. All is good in Giants land.  When you peel back the numbers and watch the tape, though, it wasn’t so impressive.  Jones turned the ball over twice, once allowing points for the Titans and once preventing the Giants from scoring.  In addition, 65 of his 188 yards came off a blown coverage by the Titans, which gave him a touchdown pass.  Will every team blow a coverage for a 65-yard touchdown each week?  Doubtful.  Remove the blown coverage and Jones was 16-of-20 for a 123 yards and hardly the reason the Giants won.  Don’t fall for QB rating.  Watch the tape and determine when the game is on the line, who is making the play? 

POWER RATINGS FOR TEAMS

Buffalo

Tampa Bay

Kansas City

Baltimore

Rams

Green Bay

Minnesota

Philadelphia

Chargers

Indianapolis

New Orleans

Denver

Cincinnati

San Francisco

Cleveland

Las Vegas

Miami

New England

Carolina

Arizona

Pittsburgh

Tennessee

Dallas

Seattle

Jacksonville

Washington

Detroit

NY Giants

Chicago

Houston

NY Jets

Atlanta

Buffalo’s outstanding performance against the Rams moved them up from a week ago.  Dallas obviously slides down with the Dak injury but the Cowboys sliding even if he were healthy.  Their lack of offensive design working around their two best players, Zeke Elliott and Tony Pollard, was a huge problem before Dak’s thumb was broken.  Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is great on the opening drive, but then making the right adjustments, or calling the game to get his best players involved has never been his strength. 

I know the Jets moved the ball last week and held the Ravens to 13 first downs, so they should not be lower than Houston or Chicago.  However, my power ratings are partly accumulated from last season’s stats (Jets were 32nd in most areas) and the value of the coaching staff and quarterback -- which are another area of concern for New York.  As we play more games, the Jets will move higher, even though they might not win many games.  The Jets can win this game against the Browns since they match up well, and if Joe Flacco doesn’t give away the game I expect it to be close.  If they don’t win this one, who will they beat before the break in Week 10? At Pittsburgh in Week 4?  Home for the Dolphins week 5 and the Patriots in Week 8?  The Jets getting 6.5 on the road is tempting. 

FOURTH QUARTER THOUGHTS

For me, the game of football is broken into three parts.  The first quarter is all about assessment.  Did we practice the right way?  Is our game plan in sync?  Did we handicap the player match-ups on the field?  Once that is accurately determined, then we proceed into the second and third quarters making the needed adjustments.  Once the fourth quarter begins, the game becomes a standalone game.  Since the fourth quarter operates under different strategies, it becomes the best quarter to handicap teams.  For example, when a team is trailing in the fourth, by 10 points or less, the defense knows they have to pass, which should make it harder to throw the ball for the QB.  In one-score games, when the defense wants a stop and the offense needs to throw to score, this scenario allows the purest form of an evaluation. 

Take Trey Lance on Sunday against the Chicago Bears.  When the 49ers got behind and had to throw the ball to catch up, he struggled.  Yes, I know the weather was bad and it was hard to throw the ball effectively.  But watch the tape:  He didn’t just miss the open receiver, he was out of the strike zone.  If the 49ers fall behind to anyone late in games, they won’t be able to mount a comeback with Lance.

Geno Smith played well against Denver if you examine the stat sheet.  However, the Seattle offense was only able to get five first downs in the second half and hold the ball for 10 minutes.  When the Seahawks needed offense when the game was tight and running out of time, they couldn’t make a play; same with the Texans.  After the Texans mounted a long drive from their own 1, (Frank Reich continues to turned down three points) holding the ball for 6:20 seconds, they only were able to get two first downs the rest of the game, including the overtime.  The Colts defense knew they wanted to control the ball and the Texans didn’t have the talent to make plays. 

When the Philadelphia Eagles got the ball back against Detroit with only a three-point lead and 3:51 on the clock, they were able to run eight plays, get two first downs and seal the game.  The Eagles can operate when the other team is desperate. 

The fourth quarter is revealing.  Good teams keep leads in the fourth, while bad teams don’t. 

LINE OF THE WEEK

Last week the Arizona Cardinals opened as a 3.5-point home dog against the Chiefs. The line grew to Chiefs -6 quickly and finished around -7 on Sunday before kickoff.  This week they open as a 3.5-point dog on the road to the Raiders and immediately went to 6. Are the pro betters telling us something about the Cards?  Lines don’t move that fast two weeks in a row.  That is not happenstance, it’s based on information.  Currently, I’m not sure what the information is driving this line, but I’ll try and find out. 

COORDINATOR BATTLE OF THE WEEK

Frank Reich against his former head coach Doug Pederson will be fun to watch. Often when two coaches know each other well, it becomes a great game to study for future reference.  Familiarity allows other teams to have a peek inside what bothers the playcaller. 

As for this game, VSiN senior editor Steve Makinen provided me with this stat for teams playing either two road games in a row, or two homes games to start the season: Teams playing in s second straight road game are on a 7-1 SU/8-0 ATS streak since 2019. Prior to that they were 7-28 SU/10-23-2 ATS between '08-'18.

This would affect Indy and the Patriots. 

Teams playing a second straight home game in Week 2 are 6-7-1 SU/5-9 ATS over the last five seasons.

This would affect Detroit and Dallas. 

Another coordinator battle to watch is in Green Bay, as the Bears (with two new coordinators) face the Packers. Luke Getsey the Bears new offensive coordinator was in Green Bay last year and knows all the things Matt Lafleur loves to do against the Chicago style of defense. In 2020, the Colts defense directed by Bears head coach Matt Eberflus, turned Aaron Rodgers over four times and won an overtime game 34-31.  Rodgers threw for 301 yards in the game, and would have dominated the score had it not been for the interception and three fumbles lost, one by Rodgers.  I know Getsey understands Rodgers and LaFleur, but are the Bears talented enough to do something about it?  I doubt it. 

Enjoy the games!

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