I, for one, welcome our new Joe Flacco overlord.
After a summer chock full of “this isn’t your slightly older brother’s Joe Flacco” puff pieces, there was the new Joe in living color on Monday. He connected with Torrey Smith for a 52-yard bomb on the game’s opening play, and rolled up 299 yards and 34 points before the fourth quarter.
This new-age Flacco was so improved he was pulled out of mercy two series into the fourth. But there’s your first question. Was this some sort of new-age trick? Perhaps one enhanced by the Bengals’ injury ravaged secondary?
There are skeptics.
This writer isn’t one of them. It’s extremely difficult to cut through offseason coachspeak, particularly when it’s funneled through bored beat writers who need to turn in a 1,200 word story two days after the Fourth of July. But from Day 1 this summer, the Ravens and their associated media made one thing clear: the reins will be coming off Flacco in 2012.
Hype made its first turn toward reality in the preseason, where Flacco operated extensively — sometimes exclusively — out of the no-huddle. The end result was an exhibition slate where he completed 43-of-60 passes for 433 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Flacco’s 101.6 QB rating and 71.7 completion percentage would have both been new career highs by significant margins. But still, yeah whatever, preseason.
That chorus rings hollower after Monday, where Flacco’s 128.4 QB rating was his fourth highest in 65 career games, and his 10.3 yards per attempt his third highest.
(Note: I’m fully aware QB rating can be a highly misleading and often worthless stat, but work with me here.)
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has seen the light on offense, finally realizing why so many teams are adopting breakneck styles, and dumping the old-guard “break necks” style.
Flacco has the arm, smarts and personnel (lethal deep threat, shifty pass-catching back, two competent tight ends and a savvy, sure-handed and tough-minded veteran pass catcher) to make it work. At worst, the new approach should transform Flacco into one of the best fill-in fantasy quarterbacks in the league. At best — and most likely — it will certify him as a QB1 after years in the QB2 wilderness.
If Flacco was an offensive epiphany come to life on Monday, Carson Palmer was a setting phoenix. The former Heisman Trophy winner, No. 1 overall pick and two-time Pro Bowler appeared to be having a miserable time in the Raiders’ new arch-conservative offense, dumping it off to Darren McFadden so many times even “Checkdown” Charlie Whitehurst was watching in awe from the opposing sideline.
Granted, Palmer was missing two of his top three wideouts in Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford, and the show finally started to pick up as Oakland went into comeback mode. But if this first impression of Palmer and new OC Greg Knapp’s marriage was at all representative of what’s to come, the Raiders are going to be running a stunningly undynamic offense one season after deposed coach Hue Jackson did all he could to wring what was left out of Palmer’s noodle arm.
Palmer can’t be fairly evaluated until he gets a game or two with Moore and Ford under his belt, but he’s looking like a below-average QB2.
Catch and Run DMC
The upshot of the Raiders’ plan to never throw the ball more than three yards beyond the line of scrimmage was a staggering 13 receptions for Darren McFadden, who had previously never hauled in more than seven catches in a game.
It was a boon for owners in PPR leagues, but a puzzlement for those counting on McFadden to be a horse in standard formats. Not that those owners didn’t their points, too, but if the Raiders stick with this approach going forward, McFadden is going to be facing boxes so loaded he’ll never get out of the backfield.
An increased role in the passing game? That would be quite nice. An all-inclusive one? Probably “careful what you wish for,” for the Raiders and fantasy owners alike.
Bad Day To Be A Bill
The Bills didn’t need two poisonous cherries on top of the 48-28 dismantling they suffered at the hands of the Jets on Sunday, but that’s what they got.
First came word that Fred Jackson has a sprained right LCL, and will miss four weeks in a “best-case scenario.”
But that was nothing compared to the gut punch that followed just minutes later: a torn ACL for slot receiver David Nelson. Again, a team that got blown away by the laughingstock of the preseason lost two of its offensive linchpins in the process.
The plan to replace Jackson will be simple: feed C.J. Spiller. The plan to replace Nelson will be more complicated, and involves heavy snaps for third-round rookie T.J. Graham. It’s gut check time for a team that took more Week 1 body blows than any other club in the league.
As for fantasy owners? Consider yourself lucky if Jackson doesn’t get Wally Pipped by the No. 9 pick of the 2010 draft in his absence.
NFC Quick Slants: Greg Jennings’ status for Thursday’s game against the Bears is “unclear” after he suffered a groin injury in Sunday’s loss. He’ll almost certainly be a game-time decision. … The Rams lost C Scott Wells (foot) for the season. The lone upgrade to an offensive line that was the league’s worst in 2011, Wells’ loss is a devastating blow for a club embarking on yet another rebuild. … The Redskins offered a non-update on Pierre Garcon’s (foot) status. He’s very much questionable for Sunday against the Rams, but it would ultimately be surprising if he didn’t suit up. … Coach Mike Shanahan did officially endorse Alfred Morris as his starting running back, however. Take Shanny endorsements on a week-to-week basis. … The Falcons lost CB Brent Grimes (Achilles) for the season. So much for Atlanta’s secondary being an obvious strength. … Adrian Peterson experienced no unusual soreness or swelling in his surgically-repaired knee following Sunday’s win. He could flirt with 20 carries in Week 2. … John Skelton (ankle) may end up missing only a few games. … Jeremy Maclin (hip) is “pretty sore.” Typically “pretty sore,” Maclin will likely end up playing in Week 2.
AFC Quick Slants: Joe Haden lost his appeal of his four-game suspension, and will be banned for Weeks 2-5. He’ll be missed dearly as the Browns take on the Bengals, Bills, Ravens and Giants. … Jake Locker (shoulder) is expected to start vs. the Chargers. He could be officially cleared as early as this afternoon. … Ed Reed tweaked his hamstring in Baltimore’s win. It’s doubtful he’ll practice this week, but he should be ready for Sunday. … Javon Ringer has an elbow infection. … Kenny Britt (knee) will “have a role” in Week 2. … Austin Collie (concussions) will be re-evaluated this afternoon. … Browns coach Pat Shurmur gave a vote of confidence to rookie starter Brandon Weeden. … Darrelle Revis was diagnosed with a “mild” concussion. He’s in a race against time to be cleared for Sunday.