Well, it's been fun, but all good things must come to an end. And more applicably, all bad things too. I've enjoyed this, but given school's starting back up, and the starters aren't playing more than a few series this week, this'll probably be the last analysis thing I do for now. So lets enjoy the last one!
*Cedric Benson: Money well-spent. Sure he's had some off-field issues - who outside of the rookies and Dalton-Green haven't in Cincy? - but Benson has been a consistently good runner for Cincy, putting up three consecutive 1,000+ seasons, including getting 1,251 yards in only 13 games in 2009! I was surprised when they let him walk, and he finally gives Green Bay someone to run and take heat off Rodgers for now. Revenge is a dish best served cold. And with cheese, I guess.
*Dalton's been inconsistent this preseason. For all we know it's just Cincy trying out different schemes and plays and it means nothing, but on numbers alone, the first game he was bad, but not terrible(64.1), then he was great against Atlanta(110.7), and he was abysmal against Green Bay(39.6) this week. It's probably not that reassuring that his worst performance was in the week 3 dress rehearsal, and against a defense like Green Bay's.
*Flying Flacco? I just want to say that as a Ravens fan, I loved the Joe Flacco I saw this week, and if this "dress rehearsal" week is at all accurate, I am ridiculously excited for the aerial attack this year. 75% completion percentage, 266 yards, 7.4 average, 2TDs/1INT in a half and a few drives? Against the underrated defense of Jacksonville? That's not what you expect from someone I almost wanted to see benched at times last season, especially since that pick was on a half-ending hail mary you'd never risk in a real game. And that was with both of his much-loved TEs, who'll both be back for week 1, out on injury. I know everyone said this last year, and I am ridiculously biased, but I can very easily see Flacco transforming into a respectable, top-ten QB, and definitely round out the top five in the AFC after Brady, Rivers, Roethlisburger, and Peyton. Hell, he could easily outdo Rivers, Big Ben, or Peyton if they're not of last year's funk, in limbo with Todd Haley, and not his old self, respectively. Speaking of standout Ravens,
*100+ yards one game removed from an ankle sprain, on top of everything else. Torrey Smith will top 1,000 yards, and step above Boldin as the #1 WR this year. Go ahead and take that to the bank. Sure an ankle sprain is a minor injury, but for a WR like him dependent on speed, it can be huge, at least huge enough to keep him from 100 yards for a game or two, though not as huge as his injury all last season was. He has blazing speed(Not even a full .10 slower than DeSean Jackson at the 40!), he's improved his hands and his route running, Flacco likes him, Boldin's not getting any younger, and he's going to play even if you flatten him with a truck - you try running 20 yards on a torn groin muscle, let alone 850! He's like Julio Jones or AJ Green, except since he's not replacing Chad Johnson/wasn't a top ten pick, or even a first-rounder/didn't have a big crazy trade for him, he has nowhere near the hype he should.
*Bobby Rainey again. You know when you get one of those players who nobody expects anything from because they were an undrafted free agent and started at the bottom of their depth chart, but suddenly are looking like one of the top backups? Those guys who go from the names in the press releases you don't even read since it's a fair bet they're getting cut to key contributors to the team? That's Bobby Rainey. Sure he only rushed for seven yards. Because he was too busy catching for 73 yards and a touchdown. As scary as giving a rookie the reins formerly handled by a 12-year vet is, he and Bernard Pierce are looking like a great pair behind Ray Rice, Pierce providing a powerback style on short distances, and Rainey giving something similar to Ray when he needs a breather.
*Blaine Gabbert keeps looking better. Still not good, but this is a very good sign for him - it shows he can improve, that he's not a bust and that last year's embarrassment isn't his ceiling. If he can keep improving at a steady rate, he may provide Jacksonville with a good option at QB after all. He even has a good-looking receiver now in Blackmon! Unfortunately, his O-line still sucks. Seriously, who the hell lets Haloti Ngata, the best defensive tackle in the game, go unblocked up the middle? So much for the lack of Suggs letting people double-team Ngata.
*MJD will be back before week 3. He's not on the same caliber. Definitely not. There are maybe three other backs in the league you can argue can compete with MJD. However between Gabbert playing better, Rashad Jennings looking eager and ready to be a starter, and the fact it's not like they're going to push for the playoffs anyway, all of the leverage is with the franchise, not the player. He'll be back.
*Jake Locker looks less bad. He's still not good, but he's a new starter that I like, and I think will be good in a year or two. Right now though, he's the fresh new kid relying on his star back. He performed well, but there's still needed improvement.
*There are no winners in the Arizona quarterback duel, just losers of a lesser degree. Seriously, this is just ugly. Please just cut Kevin Lolb, trade the Browns for McCoy or Weeden, or preferably the Seahawks for Flynn, make Skelton a backup, and get this over with. It's painful to watch, and it's just plain cruel to do this to Larry Fitzgerald.
*Hey, Cleveland, stop being stupid. I know that goes against your M.O., but please stop being stupid. Weedon is not better than Colt McCoy. Trade him to someone desperate for a QB like Arizona or Oakland or New York or someone before they realize he's no better, instead of benching someone who knows the offense, is younger, and is no worse.
*Nick Foles. People really really like him apparently. I think he may be a little overhyped, but he is playing well. Still, I'll wait to see how he does when Vick is inevitably injured, carted off the field, and he gets shoved into real NFL action.
*Tom Brady needs better line play. Seriously, he may be an all-time great, but even he can't carry the team when he has one second to pick his receiver and throw the ball. His line has been plain bad all preseason. On the bright side though, he may have a running game thanks to Ridley and, once he returns from injury, Vereen. Running games always make quarterbacks better.
*Russell Wilson has won the quarterback duel, much to my delight. He'll also win rookie of the year 2012. They're either going to win the division if things go bad for San Fran, or they're going to be very viable to get the wild-card. He has played out of his mind all preseason, I seriously hope it carries into the regular season. It'll be either him or RG3 for rookie of the year too, if my predictions are right - RG3 I think will do better, but Wilson wasn't a #2 pick, he was a 3rd round pick who had to fight for his job.
*RG3 vs. Luck. It was a fun game and another good look at these two. We still don't know enough, but both look pretty good so far.
*The Steelers aren't competing for anything this year. Mike Wallace is useless for at least the first six or so games, half the runningbacks are injured, the defense is old, Ben's already filled half of his annual injury quota, everyone's learning a new offense, and speaking of which, the chaos of Todd Haley is already brewing, as Ben stopped listening to him and started calling the plays himself. On top of all that, now their #1 pick and one of the young sparks supposed to help their woeful offensive line is out for the season with some serious ankle injuries. It's just a matter of when they explode, they're still going to be competitive because they're that good, but they're not going to push into the playoffs that deep, if they push at all.
*Peyton's coming-out party. Is he a little worn? Yes. But he still looks pretty damn good again. It probably helps it was against the Niner's D, too. Everyone in Denver is praying to their former QB this is the Peyton that goes into week 1. Speaking of whom...
*Loljets? Loljets. Do I really need to say anything else?