Lombardi: Why the Broncos are screwed, NFL power ratings and Week 5 preview

October 7, 2022 09:58 AM
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In June of 1948, Yankee Stadium was alive and roaring to watch an aging Joe Louis take on another aging boxer, Jersey Joe Walcott.  Two years earlier, Louis -- facing financial trouble -- fought Walcott for 15 rounds and took an awful beating.  When the decision was read by the public address announcer, giving Louis the win with a split decision, the fans booed loudly for five straight minutes.  Now, Louis was determined to show the fans, he was still the greatest champion of all time and defeat Walcott soundly.  Two aging heavyweights, once great, battled knocking each other to the ground and finally in the 11th round Walcott didn’t get up and Louis was the winner.  Still, every one of those 42,000 fans who watched the fight knew this was a battle of two boxers who were past their prime and should walk away from the ring. 

Many more than 42,000 fans watched the Colts battle the Broncos on Thursday night and I am confident everyone felt they were watching two former great quarterbacks who were past their prime, playing on instinct and feel with declining talent and the skill they once possessed.  The boxing analogy is important, because quarterbacks are often like boxers, especially late in their careers.  Their eye level comes down, they react slower to the punches thrown, they cannot escape or deflect the hard punch and their legs don’t have the same explosive moment.  Both Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson look like they are past their prime, and it’s hard to imagine they can play beyond this season. 

For the Colts, Ryan’s decline places them on the quarterback search list of teams.  This has been happening for the last three years in Indy, so it’s nothing new.  For the Broncos, they are screwed -- considering they clearly made one of the worst trades in NFL history by acquiring Wilson and have compounded that mistake by paying him. Both quarterbacks are scary bets moving forward. Do you trust either one to lead a comeback, or win the game?  Not a chance. 

Being a general manager in the NFL requires making two hard decisions.  Everything else isn’t as important as who will be the quarterback and who will be the head coach.  And so far, GM George has missed on both decisions, seemingly badly.  Wilson looks like the Seattle QB of last season, only everyone made excuses for his inability to be the Russ we once remember.  This doesn’t happen with old boxers, as fans can see them aging, see them miss punches and take too many hard hits. Boxers leave the game because they must leave.  Old quarterbacks stay because there is always someone who believes the old magic will come alive. With aging quarterbacks in the NFL, we make excuses, blame the scheme and never believe their skill set might be declining.  Wilson’s poor play was there on the tape last year, ask any Seattle fan.  They knew Russ wasn’t cooking like the had in the past. 

In a Denver Post column, Paton gave Post writer Ryan O’Halloran access into his thought process and decision making, presenting the reasons for Nathanial Hackett’s hiring.  They interviewed 10 candidates (nine in person) and had a five-person selection committee who graded each candidate on 15 different traits, ranging according to the Post “from presence (ability to command, inspire and motivate), intelligence (expertise), character, communication, game management, adaptability/innovation, emotional consistency, preparation and culture-building ability.”  Hackett was the clear-cut winner and became Denver’s coach. 

After watching Hackett work for five weeks, it’s hard to imagine that his command, game management and adaptability were strong.  Paton needs to re-examine his methods and the people who helped him do the grading.  Hackett appears like a coach who is in over his head and doesn’t have the expertise to make the right decisions or prepare his team.  He seems meek and mild and never offers confidence through his words, or actions.  Besides all the game management mistakes, the Broncos are not tough offensively, don’t do the little things well and seem unprepared to handle the game when the game gets tough.  After five weeks, Paton looks like he whiffed on the only two decisions that matter. 

The Colts won the game, but are they really winners?  They looked poorly coached, never adjusted offensively to their inability to protect Ryan and had they been playing any other team, would have been blown out.  The Colts were 2-of-15 on third down, the Broncos were 4-of-16 and the game featured 15 penalties and 12 punts.  It also featured further evidence to fade Indianapolis -- its problems don’t appear fixable -- and the Broncos -- injuries continue to mount and their lack of attention to detail is striking – going forward.

QB RATINGS

One thing is for sure: Wilson and Ryan aren’t not in the top 10, top 15 or even in the top 20.  Here are my quarterback rankings currently that are applied to my team power rankings.  Numbers are important, but grading the game, is far more important. 

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Josh Allen
  3. Lamar Jackson
  4. Justin Herbert
  5. Jalen Hurts

Geno Smith is playing well.  He has been accurate, is protecting the football and has moved the Seattle offense up and down the field.  He has played far better than Russ did with essentially the same skill players and two rookie offensive tackles.  Think about that for a moment: Seattle improved its position when it traded Wilson and started Smith.  Last year, Denver playing with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock averaged 19.7 PPG; this season with Wilson they are at 15 PPG.

Both Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are capable of playing into the Blue Category, but so far they have not jelled with their offense.  Most of the Red Chip quarterbacks from this summer have been disappointing, from Dak Prescott being injured to Kirk Cousins not playing as well as he once did.  Matt Stafford led the league with 17 picks last season, and after four games has six.  He is not playing nearly as well and his average per attempt which was 8.2 last season is the lowest in his career at 6.8.   

The bottom five could be the bottom 10 as so many quarterbacks are not playing near an acceptable level. 

32.  Justin Fields

31.  Baker Mayfield

30.  Matt Ryan

29.  Carson Wentz

28.  Daniel Jones

Kyler Murray isn’t too far away from the bottom five.  He leads the league in completed passes and is 30th in incompletions, which is a fascinating discrepancy.  What has hindered Murry this season is his lack of working the ball down the field.  He ranks 26th in net yards passing per play at 5.3.  Jones is at 4.6 and the last in the league and Fields is 31st with 4.7.  Elite quarterbacks get the ball down the field. 

POWER RATINGS

Before last night I had Indy and Chicago tied for the worst teams in the NFL -- and the Colts didn’t disappoint. 

Buffalo

Kansas City

Philadelphia

Baltimore

Jacksonville

Green Bay

Tampa Bay

San Francisco

Dallas

Miami

Cleveland

Chargers

Rams

Las Vegas

Cincinnati

New England

Minnesota

Tennessee

Pittsburgh

Detroit

New Orleans

NY Giants

Denver

Seattle

Atlanta

Carolina

Arizona

Houston

Washington

NY Jets

Chicago

Indianapolis

Minnesota is slightly low and should be better as their third down offense and red zone scoring have been subpar.  They can vault higher if they can play to the levels of their 2021 offense, and Cousins makes better decisions.

HALL AND OATES PLAY, I CAN’T GO FOR THAT

Two former Temple students formed a band in 1970 called Hall and Oates and went on to become one the greatest money-making performers of all time. Daryl Hall and John Oates had many classics songs, but the one that applies to betting is called “I Can’t Go for That.”

In any selection process, elimination is the key.  Setting criteria and removing games, heightens your chances of making the right decisions.  So each week, I always have a Hall and Oates play, that I cannot pick either side for a myriad of reasons.  This week, it’s Tennessee at Washington.

First and foremost, I am never backing Washington regardless of the number.  I am different that most handicappers and bettors, as my knowledge of teams weighs more than the number.  You often hear on every VSIN show, pros play numbers not teams -- and that is true. But you could make Washington a 21-point dog in this game and I’m not taking them. I don’t trust their quarterback, their head coach and their attention to detail.  They might cover and win, but I am not going to be involved. 

I don’t want to take Tennessee either this week as each Titans game is often close, and they have been known to play down to their level of comp.  Therefore, it’s a “Hall and Oates play” and I remove the game from my process. 

LINE OF THE WEEK

Chargers giving 2 to the hometown Browns.  Yes, I know the Browns have lost to the Jets and Falcons and playing the Chargers is a step up in competition.  I have the Browns being the favorite in the game and the matchup of their running game against the Chargers run defense will allow the Browns offense to move the ball.  Also, the Chargers will struggle to protect Herbert on the road with Myles Garrett returning. 

COORDINATOR BATTLE OF THE WEEK

There will be a reunion of sorts this Sunday in the Meadowlands as the Jets host the Miami Dolphins.  It’s a 49ers reunion, as most of the coaches on both staffs worked for San Francisco at the same time.  Each 49ers practice featured Mike McDaniel against Robert Saleh, and if McDaniel doesn’t know the Jets scheme inside and out, then he isn’t as smart as I think he is.  Yes, I know Tua isn’t playing but the question we should all be asking is what would this line be if Tua were playing?  It’s currently 3 as I write this column, down from 3.5 with all the money coming in on the Dolphins – a reverse line move for sure. If Tua was playing would the betting line, be 5 or 5.5?

My number for this game with Tua playing based on the current data is 6.8.  If adjusted for Teddy Bridgewater, maybe the line moves to 5.82, but not all the way down to 3.  And with McDaniel having detailed knowledge of the defense, I love the line moving away from Miami. 

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Betting Splits: Percentage of handle & tickets from DraftKings for every game on the board, updated every 10 minutes. GO HERE.

NFL Power Ratings3 sets of numbers from Steve MakinenGO HERE.

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