Demise of Ball-Hogging Diva Wideouts

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Welcome back to The Pregame Flyover, your weekly trek through the small intestine of the NFL. 

Before we get to this week’s slate of games – and tell you which games will Probably be worth watching, which games will be of Doubtful worth, which games will be of Questionable worth, and which game will be of interest to Brandon Weeden fantasy owners – let’s talk about the relative stability of wide receiver records. 

Last year Drew Brees and Tom Brady surpassed Dan Marino’s long-standing mark for passing yards in a season and Matthew Stafford fell short by 46 yards. They were among 10 quarterbacks who eclipsed 4,000 yards through the air, a number that’s reflective of an era in which all the rules seem to favor the offense, and defensive players are made to feel shame and insecurity at the lives they have chosen.

It’s not surprising that passing totals have taken off. What’s surprising, however, is that certain receiving records remained unchallenged. Sure, Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham set records for the most yards receiving by tight ends last year. But no one approached the receiving yardage records for a single season or a single game. Apparently quarterbacks have too many options, so no one’s hogging the ball. 

The single-season record for receiving yards is held by Jerry Rice (1,848), set in 1995. The single-game record is held by – you guessed it - Flipper Anderson, who put together 336 yards in an overtime game in 1989. His quarterback that day was the irrepressible Chris Jim Everett.  

I love that Flipper Anderson holds this record. It’s the kind of random factoid that usually happens in baseball. Well, screw you baseball, this charming bit of marginalia belongs to the NFL. But can we expect it to survive this era of unparalleled passing? Well, only two receivers had more than 200 yards receiving in a game last year – Wes Welker, 217 yards; and Calvin Johnson, twice, 214 yards and 244 yards. 

So in his best game, Johnson was still 92 yards shy of tying Anderson. That’s a little less than an average game TOTAL for Megatron, who led the NFL with 1,681 yards last season. Will he or someone else ever break Flipper’s long-standing record? Let’s look at some of the candidates.

Calvin Johnson: Megatron would seem to be the proverbial favorite to break this record. Not only has he amassed several 200-plus yard games in his career, but he is Matthew Stafford’s favorite wooby.

Odds he breaks the record: The same as him breaking something else because he’s on the cover of Madden 13. 

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Rob Gronkowski: A tight end that catches more than 336 yards in a game? The only way that’s happening is if the Patriots are facing the Bills. (*Checks schedule*). Nov. 11 at home!

Odds he breaks the record: Pretty good. After watching the Patriots score 48 points on Buffalo in one half last week, I think he might be able to set the record in two quarters. 

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Brian Hartline: Last week Hartline amassed 253 yards receiving against the Cardinals, a total made all the more remarkable by the fact that Hartline is a white wide receiver for the Dolphins.

Odds he breaks the record: The same as Dan Marino winning a Super Bowl.

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Kenny Britt: Britt had a 225-yard game against the Eagles in 2010, the type of breakout performance that prompted fantasy owners to invest their hopes in him over the last two seasons. In his career Britt has surpassed 100 yards receiving games six times – just two fewer times than he’s been arrested since entering the league in 2009. 

Odds he breaks the record: The same as him becoming a driver’s education instructor.

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Backup quarterback ratings

From time to time we’ll look at the top backup quarterbacks in the league. We arrive at these rankings using a complex algorithm that accounts for many things, including the won-loss record of the starter, the potential of the backup quarterback, and the possibility that sports columnists will talk out of their ass when discussing the intangibles of the backup quarterback.

1.Tim Tebow. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three kinds of NFL fans: 1) Those who love Tim Tebow, 2) Those who hate Tim Tebow, and 3) Those who love watching people hate Tim Tebow. I am in the last group. 

Anyone with two working eyes knows that Tebow is incompetent at quarterback, and that last year’s playoff win against the Steelers – in which Tebow was a pedestrian 10-of-21 and threw the pass of his life to Demaryius Thomas in overtime – was an anomaly. Yes, the Broncos had been pulling wins out of their wazoo in amazing ways all season, but even the wine at Cana had to run out at some point – which it did the following week, when the Broncos got waxed by the Patriots 44-10.

That was more in line with what you’d expect with Tebow - under center. So don’t put him under center. Put him in the wildcat. Put him at tight end. Put him at running back. Put him somewhere where he touches the ball on every other play. Hell, put him at center so he touches the ball on every play. Just keep him on the field, as a constant threat to maybe throw the ball.  

God willing he’ll somehow lead the Jets to a victory over the Texans this week. Will that mean he’s a good QB? Hell no, he sucks, and any sentient creature with a kindergarten education knows that. But he drives certain people batshit crazy, and watching that is good, clean fun.

2. Tebow, Tim. 

3. Tim to the Tebow. Why does he occupy the top three spots? I don’t know, why is there a Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Some things are just self-explanatory. 

4. Matt Flynn. Russell Wilson’s Hail Mary pass to Golden Tate temporarily masked the fact that Russell Wilson is having some difficulty grasping this NFL quarterbacking thing. The Seahawks’ offense is Marshawn Lynch running the ball, Leon Washington returning kicks, and the Seattle defense creating turnovers that Lynch can turn into touchdowns. 

Wilson is averaging a league-low 148 yards per game passing, and has thrown just one pass of more than 40 yards on the season. Yes, he’s completing a respectable percentage of passes (60 percent), but the only person who thinks his 5.9 yards per attempt is respectable is Blaine Gabbert, and that’s because Gabbert (5.8) is the only quarterback with a lower YPA average. 

Put in Matt Flynn. He might be the difference between a truly great Seattle team (think their 7-9 division winners from 2010) and a merely pedestrian incarnation.

5. Brady Quinn. Kansas City is last in the NFL in turnover margin, quite a ways behind the next nearest team (Dallas, -7). Some of this can be blamed on Matt Cassel, who has thrown seven interceptions and lost three fumbles through four games. And some of this can be blamed on Jamaal Charles, who coughed up the ball twice last week against San Diego. None of this can be blamed on Brady Quinn, who has yet to take a snap for the 1-3 Chiefs this season. 

What a waste. You don’t bring in a former Browns quarterback and let them pickle away on the bench. You need to recognize that the same skill this guy exhibited in Cleveland - running for his life behind a crappy offensive line – is perfectly suited to the situation in Kansas City.


The Weekly Best

Welcome to the Weekly Best, where we gang tackle the best in football.

Best 0-4 in the NFC: The Saints.

Best 0-4 in the AFC: The Browns.

Best offensive rookie in September: RGIII of the Redskins.

Best defensive rookie in September: Chandler Jones of the Patriots.

Best check with Officer Barbrady: Roger Goodell says it’s okay for Sean Payton to attend the Saints-Chargers game as Drew Brees attempts to break Johnny Unitas’s record of throwing touchdown passes in 47 consecutive games.

Best division in football: Can it really be the NFC West?

Best division in football: Some will say it’s still the NFC East.

Best division in football: No one will say it’s the AFC South. 

Best turnover margin in the NFL: Belongs to the 4-0 Falcons (+10).

Best vote of confidence: Panthers coach Ron Rivera opted to punt on fourth-and-1 against the Falcons instead of trying to finish off Atlanta with a short run. 

Best vision: Is hindsight. The Falcons drove down the field for the game-winning field goal.

Best deep threat in NFL history: And Randy Moss is just along for the ride in San Francisco. 

Best football series on television: The NFL Network’s “A Football Life” has become destination viewing.

Best excuses for losing have evaporated: Now that the Steelers have Polamalu, Harrison and Mendenhall back. 

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Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out

Just as the NFL puts out an injury report on the likelihood that certain players will suit up each week (Probable, Questionable, Doubtful or Out), we rate the NFL schedule on the likelihood that games will be worth watching. Because let's face it, you can't watch them all.

Probable Game of the Week: Broncos at Patriots.

Thankfully this game is scheduled for the late afternoon, which promises a seamless transition from one game of promise – Eagles at Steelers – to this contest. Obviously there’s no guarantee that either of these games will be great, but on paper they would appear to be interesting and exciting, and that’s all you can ask for. If this game doesn’t live up to its billing, you’ll have these matchups to choose from in the late games: Seattle at Carolina; Chicago at Jacksonville; Tennessee at Minnesota; and Buffalo at San Francisco. Your Pro Bowl starting quarterbacks will not be seen in these games. 

The next time Tom Brady tackles Peyton Manning will be the first time. Hey, did you know that Brady and Manning are never on the field at the same time? It’s true! Know what else is true? No one is watching this game to see how Willis McGahee fares against the Patriots’ front seven. And no one is watching this game to see how Tim Tebow bounces back from last year’s playoff embarrassment to the Patriots. Which is good, because both of those storylines (Tebow’s, in particular) promise to be rather uneventful.

(Other games receiving votes: Falcons at Redskins; Steelers at Eagles.)

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Questionable Game of the Week: Texans at Jets.  

The Jets are not dead. Yes, the Jets lost their best defensive player to injury (Darrelle Revis) and they also lost a well-known wide out (Santonio Holmes). But it’s not like they lost their best skill position player. I’m not overly familiar with the Jets’ roster, but coach Rex Ryan said at the start of this season that this was his best team ever, so there’s no way losing Santonio Holmes (or Mark Sanchez or Shonn Greene or anyone else drafted in my fantasy league) could be that devastating. The Jets are obviously a team built around non-fantasy contributors. 

Let’s be honest, the Texans have very attractive uniforms. Even when David Carr was running for his life in the early years of the organization, you couldn’t help but think that he was able to absorb some of that punishment because he was wearing an enviable color scheme. If he’d been wearing something else – say, the creamsicle colors of the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – he probably would have been killed in the first half of his first game. But Carr is still in the league 10 years later, serving as the Giants’ backup quarterback. During mop-up duty against the Panthers two weeks ago, Carr was 1-of-2 for 4 yards. He also fumbled once and (for old time’s sake) took one sack.

Cowboys are now the second-best team in Texas. With a 4-0 record, the Texans are unquestionably the premier team in the Lone Star State. If the 2-2 Cowboys have any free time – ya know, like their bye week – they should watch the Texans to see how a class outfit runs its business. 

On paper the Texans seem strong on both sides of the ball. Other than having T.J. Yates as their chief protection against a Matt Schaub injury, they have no weaknesses. And we all know Schaub is impregnable, so we might as well hand the Lombardi Trophy to the Texans right now. 

(Other games receiving votes: Dolphins at Bengals; Bills at Niners; Titans at Vikings; Chargers at Saints.)

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Doubtful Game of the Week: Packers at Colts.

Can the referees once again make a terrible call that goes against the Packers? The odds say no; but my heart says, “Please?” 

No one likes it when calls go against their team. But the Packers are not my team, so it’d be interesting to see if Twitter can handle the traffic - #packersfanbitching – that would accompany another officiating snafu.

(Other games receiving votes: Ravens at Chiefs; Seahawks at Panthers; Bears at Jaguars.)

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Out Game of the Week: Browns at Giants.

I don’t like putting the Browns in this slot for the fourth week in a row, but I’m superstitious by nature, so they’ll remain here until they win their first game. Like you, I expect it to come this week. 

The Giants have a habit of playing to the level of their competition. (Remember their loss at home to the Seahawks last year? If you had them in your survivor pool, you sure as heck do.) Cleveland, while winless on the season, has played respectably in defeat. The Browns have lost their four games by a combined total of 25 points. Quarterback Brandon Weeden looked less than horrible versus the Ravens last week, passing for 320 yards. Is he the second coming of Derek Anderson, the legendary Browns quarterback who once made a Pro Bowl? Probably not. But Browns fans would be happy with even a faint resemblance of their 2007 quarterback. 

Cameron Martin has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, ESPN.com, Yahoo! Sports, and CBS Sports. Send your ideas to cdavidmartin@yahoo.com.

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