Michael Vick might be the only non-weatherman on the East Coast who's happy to see Hurricane Sandy. The ominous storm might have temporarily saved his job, bought him some time. After Sunday's ugly 30-17 home loss to Atlanta, Philadelphia heads might be ready to roll.
Andy Reid's normal Monday press conference was canceled, a nod towards Sandy's wake. There's been a battle of Philly quarterback rumors in the Twitterverse; WIP radio man Howard Eskin reported the Eagles are "likely" to go to backup QB Nick Foles in Week 9 at New Orleans, but later in the day Reuben Frank of CNS Philly wrote Vick is still the starter "as of now."
Maybe both reporters are right. Speculation is all we have today. (When Charlie Day breaks the tie, I'll let you know.)
I rewatched the Eagles-Falcons on Short Cuts and don't think Vick played that poorly. He played a turnover-free game, avoiding the giveaway bugaboo that held him back prior to the bye. But the mistake-free Vick might have come at a price, as the Eagles seldom looked downfield against Atlanta. Vick averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt and Philly had just one gain over 16 yards (a quick hitch to DeSean Jackson; he made a man miss and ran for 32 yards). Vick's never been known for his ability to make deep anticipation throws, and no one was running clearly open against the Falcons secondary.
The biggest goat in Philly's loss should be the beleaguered defense. The Falcons opened the game with six lengthy scoring drives, covering 80, 51, 63, 66, 69 and 78 yards. The Eagles offense ran just 24 snaps in the first half, one of them a kneeldown at the end of the second period. Atlanta's first punt didn't come until the 5:24 mark of the fourth quarter, and Matt Ryan had a clean pocket for most of the day (Philly's sack rate on defense is the worst in the NFC). It would be a good time for the Eagles to sacrifice the defensive coordinator, but Reid already played that card during the bye week.
Why do we care about Philadelphia's quarterback, anyway? Look at the schedule. The Eagles play at New Orleans next Monday, taking dead aim on a defense that can't stop anything right now, by ground and by air (you get the idea the Broncos could have scored 50 points Sunday night had they really needed to). The Cowboys won't be easy in Week 10, but the Washington and Carolina defenses lie in wait after that. Consider the plausible upside.
Foles is an untested rookie, of course, but we've seen all year that inexperienced quarterbacks can thrive quickly. You know the names, you know what they've done; it's obviously not just the Glitter Twins of Luck and Griffin. Foles posted snappy passing stats at the University of Arizona, and he was impressive during his first exhibition season (40-for-63, 553 yards, six touchdowns, two picks, 110.1 rating). Sure, defenses don't show anything exotic in the summer, but I dare you to name one thing about the Saints defense that's daunting right now.
Bottom line, I'm expecting the Eagles offense to post some useful (if not downright zesty) numbers over the next month. Maybe they come from the left hand of Vick, maybe they come from the right hand of Foles. If Vick keeps the job, see if you can buy low on him. If Foles gets the gig, you're obviously making him a free agent priority in deeper pools or two-QB leagues. Say whatever you want about Reid on game day, but he's been one of the best offensive architects in the NFL for over a decade. There's a buying opportunity here.
International spiking star (USP)• I don't know what it is about national (and local) Patriots coverage, but you hear some ridiculous things when this team is discussed. Maybe the shroud of Belichick secrecy encourages some media types to make stuff up. Remember when Randy Moss was reportedly on the cutting block prior to the 2007 season?
Some will tell you the Patriots offense has fallen considerably in 2012; I see 262 points in eight games, far and away the best output in the league (and it's come with little defensive help). Tom Brady slipping a notch? Have a look at the quarterback leaders and you'll quickly see how silly that idea is (especially when you consider how many strong defenses the Patriots have faced). Aaron Hernandez the key receiver in the offense? The team has probably played better without him this year, for what it's worth. Wes Welker marginalized? His stat page (60 catches, 736 yards) looks fine to me.
Maybe the Regression Police was right about Rob Gronkowski, all that "he'll never score 18 times again" talk. He's only on pace for a paltry 14 spikes. Gronk averaged 19.3 fantasy points per game last season; this year he's fallen to 16.3. He's still the runaway leader at the position.
The Patriots aren't a team without weaknesses, of course: the secondary has been spotty all year and the offense needs to unlock more splash plays, more successful downfield shots. But after you take the Texans off the board, New England is probably as good as any AFC contender right now. It should be a helluva battle for the second bye in the conference, with Pittsburgh and Denver rounding into form nicely as well.
• I've always been a "play for today" proponent in fantasy football, and with that in mind I'm not going to worry too much about a possible Week 16 shutdown with Falcons or Texans. I understand the angle, mind you, but I think it's unlikely either team would go into the tank, intentionally, as early as Week 16. Consider the calendar at play: a team that doesn't take Week 16 and Week 17 seriously (in advance of a bye) will then go into the Divisional Playoff round without having played a full-out contest in four weeks. Sharpness and timing matters, especially in football.
And it's not like these high-flying teams are going out of their way to shield their star players right now. The Texans have been running Arian Foster into the ground, exposing him for a number of fourth-quarter hits in lopsided games. The Falcons don't have Matt Ryan, Roddy White or Julio Jones on a short leash. As my good friend Jeff Erickson might say, don't be afraid of the monster under the bed.
• The Jets would never admit it publicly, but the decision to add Tim Tebow reflects how New York overrates its own coaching staff. The Jets idealistically figured offensive coordinator Tony Sparano could design a Tebow package that would do two things to opponents: distract them during preparation week, then gash them on Sundays. Obviously the reality hasn't met the optimism.
If Rex Ryan doesn't switch to Tebow for Week 10, after the bye — and I don't think he's going to — it's never going to happen without an injury. But unlike the Eagles above, it probably doesn't matter who the Jets use at quarterback. The collection of wideouts is mediocre at best, the offensive line has been so-so, the schedule is nasty (trips to Seattle and St. Louis lie in wait after the holiday). For all the legitimate critiques you can throw at Mark Sanchez, it's unfair he's had to deal with this circus during a critical put-up-or-shut-up season.
• I would never wish an injury on anyone, let me establish that up front. But given Darren McFadden's physical history (no pro seasons over 13 games), I want backup Mike Goodson stashed anywhere I can get him. While Goodson's durability is also open to question at 210 pounds, he's put some snappy gains on the field in limited action (15-111 rushing, 8-121 receiving). Oakland's second-half schedule looks like an absolute daisy against the run.
McFadden is coming off a strong game, of course, posting 137 total yards on 33 touches at Kansas City. The Raiders ran him into the ground late in the match, giving DMC eight carries inside of the final five minutes (while the Sanford & Son theme was playing). Perhaps they feel McFadden's understanding of the zone-blocking scheme can only develop through actual game reps. Seemed risky to me, but the Raiders don't call and ask for advice.
The most exciting member of Oakland's offense right now is probably second-year wideout Denarius Moore. He's scored in three consecutive games (and four out of five), and his worst fantasy post of the year still netted 67 receiving yards back in Week 2. It's scary to think of what Moore might be capable of if he ever gets back to 100 percent. If Moore stays on the field, he's a Top 20 fantasy receiver, easily.