Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: Biggest Surprises in the NFL

Through six weeks of the NFL season, the Atlanta Falcons are far and away the biggest surprise of the NFL. They’re tied for first at 4-2 and they’re doing it with a rookie quarterback as their starter. I’d guess that 90% of all prognosticators didn’t think the Falcons would win more than four games all season, no joke. Count me in that group — I thought they’d be a 2-14 team. The Falcons opened up the gates surprising people with a 34-21 win in week one over the Lions. Five weeks later, they’re proving it’s not a joke. Aside from the mess that the Falcons were before the season began, the fact that they were starting a rookie quarterback made me think they were headed towards 2-14 doom. The NFL’s hard enough as is unless your last name is Brady or Manning; how would a rookie come in and be able to win? Already a good chunk into the season, Matt Ryan is defying all odds and leading his team to a successful start.

While I still figure the Falcons to finish no better than 8-8, they’re already a success. Ryan has made very few mistakes which is exceptionally difficult to do when you’re a young QB. Take Joe Flacco as a comparison for instance. The Ravens’ rookie QB has thrown 1 TD and 7 INTs and lost one fumble. Eight turnovers in five games for Flacco against just one score. Ryan on the other hand has thrown five touchdowns against three interceptions. He hasn’t lost a fumble yet either. Ryan’s already developed a rapport with top target Roddy White and turned him into one of the NFL’s leading receivers. There are times (like the game at Tampa Bay) when Ryan certainly has looked like a rookie quarterback, but overall, he’s playing well beyond his years.

In the end, when you take a quarterback with a high pick in the first round, you’re really rolling the dice and just hoping he can pick up the game and work hard enough to become a solid NFL quarterback. Seems like the Falcons have already struck gold and will have a franchise QB for years to come.

Umm, Michael Vick, who?

Video: Dan Orlovsky Takes Safety, Clearly Has a Strong Sense of the Field

For the same reason I praised Matt Ryan for being such a good quarterback despite being a rookie, I point out the following video of Dan Orlovsky. This is exactly how lost a typical young quarterback looks in an NFL game:

I remember laughing out loud when I was watching this play unfold during the game. How could someone lose a sense of where they are on the field that badly? I mean if Dan Orlovsky doesn’t show you what field presence is then I don’t know what does. As bad as Jon Kitna may be, it’s pretty obvious that Dan Orlovsky isn’t the answer. Video via Ballhype.

Speedometer Says Reggie Bush Runs at Near Usain Bolt Speeds

We knew Reggie Bush was fast, especially after seeing his two game-breaking punt returns for touchdowns on Monday night against the Saints. If you were watching the game you may have noticed that they were clocking Bush’s speed on a speedometer (at least I saw that part on the highlights). Now I knew that Bush was certainly moving on his punt returns, but I had no idea he was going as fast as he was. Check it:

If you don’t think 22 mph sounds that fast, consider this: Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt averaged 23.07 mph over 100 meters when he took the gold medal with his blistering 9.69-second performance in the Olympics. That’s according to EliteFeet.com, which also translated the times of star runners Maurice Greene (21.0 mph in the indoor 60 meters), Michael Johnson (20.71 in the 400) and Florence Griffith Joyner (21.32 in the 100), among others.

A few caveats here: Bush’s 22 mph was recorded at his peak while Bolt’s 23.07 mph was his average speed, including the final 25m where he coasted. Still, given that Bush is avoiding defenders and running with pads, I’d say that’s pretty darn impressive. I’d love to see them clock Randy Moss, Darren Sproles, and some of the other burners in the league because there’s no doubt these are some of the finest athletes on the planet.

Chiefs Should Try to Trade Tony Gonzalez

One of the rumors that’s been flying the last few days is that Tony Gonzalez has requested a trade from Kansas City, and that one of his potential destinations is the New York Giants. Even though I usually want players to honor their contracts and stick with their teams, I understand Gonzalez’s plight, and actually feel the team should try to trade him. First of all, as good as Tony Gonzalez is — one of the best receiving tight ends ever — having him still can’t mask the fact that Kansas City’s quarterback options are Brodie Croyle, Damon Huard, and Tyler Thigpen. He’s doing his best to help this team win, but they just need too many more pieces to become successful in the immediate future.

The bottom line is that the Chiefs are rebuilding and a long way away from contention. Taking the Jared Allen off-season trade as a sign you are rebuilding, why not deal Gonzalez for a 4th round pick or something just to get another selection? How can it hurt you if you’re the Chiefs? Shockey warranted a second and fifth round pick before the season, Gonzo’s got to be worth a 4th or 5th I would figure. Plus, Tony’s already set the record for most receiving yards by a tight end, and he did it all with the Chiefs. What more can he do for the organization? No doubt Tony would like to go to a contender and have a chance of winning a game or two down the stretch. I say they should do it — it will help both parties. Maybe a move to NYC could give Tony an opportunity to meet a new female fan base, too.

Has Eli Surpassed Peyton as the Top QB?

I’ve taken my shots at Eli Manning in the past, back when it was deserved. Funny thing though: a lot changes in less than a year. It was only November that I was criticizing Eli for throwing 4 interceptions (three returned for touchdowns) in a 41-17 loss to the Vikings. He was brutal that game. A month later, he was giving the Patriots a tough test in Week 17, and then boom! Playoffs hit, and Eli was a new man. The guy who threw more than a pick a game his first four seasons became one of the best care-takers of the football of any quarterback in the league. The change happened overnight. The improvement in Eli’s game — from Week 17 last year through this season — makes me wonder whether or not he has surpassed Peyton Manning as the top quarterback in the family, which in essence would make him one of the top quarterbacks — if not the top quarterback — in the game.

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Video: Reggie Bush Electrifying Punt Returns vs. Vikings, Gets Great Blocking

If there were any questions as to whether or not Reggie Bush would be able to do what he showed at USC in the pros, they certainly were answered on Monday night. Returning one kick or punt for a touchdown in a game is a big deal. But two? That’s pretty nuts. That’s Deion Sanders/Devin Hester material right there. The first punt return for a TD was awesome because of the excellent blocking Bush received on the play. Check out Jo-Lonn Dunbar lay out Erin Henderson to spring Bush, not to mention another domino fall almost simultaneously:

If I’m not mistaken, Henderson’s feet actually became higher than his head after that hit. I assume that’s what they mean when they say “decleated.” That was the first of Bush’s outstanding returns. Here is his other TD as well:

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Bill Ford Jr. Would Fire Matt Millen

Matt Millen William Clay FordIf you want to talk about people having dirty pictures of their bosses, the argument begins and ends with Detroit Lions President and CEO Matt Millen. The amount of mistakes and awful moves he’s made in building the Detroit Lions makes Isiah Thomas look like Theo Epstein. Since he’s taken over the team, the Lions have lost more games than any team in the NFL by a wide margin. They’ve been brutal. They’ve been embarrassing. And this year’s team is showing no signs of improvement. That’s why Vice Chairman Bill Ford Jr. called out Millen, despite William Clay’s constant support of him.

A reporter asked Ford what he thought of the Lions’ performance Sunday, a 31-13 loss at San Francisco. “It was an embarrassment,” he said. “The fans deserve better. And if I had the authority, I would have fired the general manager.”

About 15 minutes later, in front of a larger crowd of reporters, Ford was peppered with more Lions-related questions.

“It’s been disappointing,” he said then. “I think the fans deserve better. And if it were in my authority, which it’s not, I’d make some significant changes.”

Those changes include getting rid of Matt Millen. Honestly, after all the futility, the losing, the awfulness, it’s about time someone spoke up. Seriously, when was the last time a successful NFL team was built by using four first round picks on wide receivers in like the span of five years? I didn’t even think it was possible to build as bad of a team as he puts out there each year. May Lions fans finally get their wish … sooner, rather than later.