NFL: Week 4 Picks

5 undefeated teams remain as we head into week 4 of the NFL season.  I went 9-7 a week ago, bringing my season total to 26-22.

Bye Week: Philadelphia and Green Bay

Thursday Night Football

  • Dolphins @ Bengals: Miami barely squeaked by the Browns last week, while the Bengals were beat down by the defending champs at home.  The Dolphins got a big day from Jarvis Landry, but inconsistency continues to plague Ryan Tannehill, who threw a pick six in the win. Cincinnati got their running game going, but still lost to 1-2 for the first time in five years.  After two very good weeks, Andy Dalton couldn’t do much against the Broncos defense. I like the Bengals at home with another good rushing game to get their second win of the season. CINCINNATI WINS

Sunday Morning Football 

  • Colts @ Jaguars: London here they come! Indianapolis got their first win of the season last week, while Jacksonville is still looking for theirs.  Andrew Luck has the uncanny ability to turn a bad day into a big day passing the ball, but the Jaguars defense isn’t the problem so far, so he’ll need help.  Blake Bortles on the other hand, has been pretty awful for Jacksonville in his third year under center. So what happens this weekend across the pond? Give me a cleaner day from Luck to lift the Colts. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Patriots: Three different quarterbacks have started for New England, but that hasn’t stopped the winning.  And as for the Bills, they got their first win over a team many think, myself included, are a playoff team destined for a deep run.  Both teams got big two-touchdown games out of their number 1 running backs, so look for another day of running the clock. The Patriots have to get through one more week without Tom Brady, and while they’ve done a great job doing so, and are very, very good at home, I’m taking the road team in this one. BUFFALO WINS
  • Titans @ Texans: It was a very bad week for Houston, who not only lost their Thursday game versus New England 27-0, they learned that JJ Watt re-injured his back and will be out the rest of the year.  Tennessee’s week wasn’t much better, as they scored just 10 points in their loss to Oakland. Both teams enter action having scored the same amount of points through 3 games, but of course that’s skewed with the Texans O-fer last weekend. Marcus Mariota and Brock Osweiler have both thrown 4 interceptions so far this season, so whoever can limit mistakes has the edge. A Titans win puts them in a tie for the division early.  But I don’t think they get it, because I like the Texans skill position players better. HOUSTON WINS
  • Lions @ Bears: The Lions are 1-2, but haven’t struggled in the passing game, as Matthew Stafford has found a new weapon in Marvin Jones after Calvin Johnson called it a career in the off-season.   The silver lining there for the 0-3 Bears is that their defense has actually done okay against the pass so far this season.  Chicago got a pretty good game out of Brandon Hoyer, who finished 30-49 for 317 yards, though most of that came with the game out of hand already. Both teams have the ability to get the points in the air, and with two middling defenses, that shouldn’t be a problem.  So this game will be won in the trenches, and the edge there lies with the Lions. DETROIT WINS
  • Panthers @ Falcons: Carolina is another team I thought would have a great season, but has disappointed so far.  Thanks to the struggles of the Panthers and the rest of the NFC South, Atlanta finds themself atop the division early on in the season.  This dispite allowing 31, 28 and 32 points in their first three games.  The Falcons may not be getting sustained success in their ground game early, they are getting it when it counts.  Tevin Coleman has just 110 yards on the ground, but has 4 rushing touchdowns, including 3 on Sunday in New Orleans. Carolina entered action red-hot at home dating back to 2014, but we shut down by a red-hot Vikings defense a week ago.  I still believe in the Panthers defense, and as hot as Atlanta has been, I think Carolina gets the win on the road. CAROLINA WINS
  • Seahawks @ Jets: The good news for Jets fans? Ryan Fitzpatrick can only be better than he was a week ago. The bad news? He has to be a lot better against the top defense in the league. After scoring just 3 points against L.A. in week 2, the Seahawks exercised some demons putting up 37 against the Niners.  Russell Wilson was hobbled in the game, but still managed to leave with a nice lead.  Big games from Christine Michael and Doug Baldwin helped get the offense back on track.  New York can solace in the fact that they have had a pretty good run game all season, and while some of it came in garbage time, Seattle did allow the Niners to get over 130 yards on the ground, finding pay dirt twice.  This shouldnt be as ugly for the Jets as it was last week, but it will still be a loss. SEATTLE WINS
  • Raiders @ Ravens: Baltimore finds itself among the undefeated teams heading into week 4, in large part thanks to their defense and a good day from kicker Justin Tucker.  The Ravens are second in total defense through 3 weeks of play.  Their opponents won their 2nd game by  forcing three turnovers, with a sack after entering week 3 having allowed the Saints and Falcons to walk all over them.  So based on defenses, Baltimore should have an easy win.  But I actually like Oakland’s offense a lot more, and as someone who thinks this is a playoff team, I’ll take the Raiders in the upset. OAKLAND WINS
  • Browns @ Redskins: Cleveland should’ve gotten their first win of the season in Miami a week ago, but an inability to stop the air attack, and three missed field goals left them at 0-3. They gave themselves a shot, but couldn’t take it.  Cody Kessler’s first career start wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good for Cleveland, though at this point, coming out healthy is huge for the Browns. Washington did get their first win, taking down the Giants on the road. After a couple lackluster offensive weeks, Kirk Cousins let it loose and got a number of big plays in the passing game to help get that first win and move back in the right direction to defend their NFC East title.  So can the Browns get their first win this week? Yes. Will they? I don’t think so. They stayed in last week thanks to mistakes by Tannehill, but Cousins won’t make those same mistakes. WASHINGTON WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Broncos @ Buccaneers: The Superbowl Champs are showing no signs of slowing down as they look to start the season 4-0.  Denver got off to a slow start last week against the Bengals, but came on strong late thanks to a big day from rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian.  Siemian threw four touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter for the win.  Not to be outdone, the Broncos are a top flight defense that held down Andy Dalton and their rushing attack.  They’ve got another tough test when they take on Jameis Winston this weekend.  The Bucs 2nd year quarterback is tied for the league lead in touchdown passes so far with 8, though he has thrown six picks to.  It won’t be a blowout, none of Denver’s games really have been, but it will be another win for the Broncos. DENVER WINS
  • Rams @ Cardinals: I’m shocked at the start the Cardinals are having at just 1-2. Carson Palmer has had a bad TD-turnover ratio through 3 weeks.   Arizona isn’t getting quite out of David Johnson on the ground, while their defense is allowing the 5th most rushing yards per game.  This is as good a week as any to get back to what they want to do in all phases as they take on their division rival Rams, who find themselves tied atop the division at 2-1.  Los Angeles has rebounded nicely from a shutout on opening day, winning their last two games.  The Rams tend to play up or down to their opponents, evident by a 9-3 home win over Seattle and a 37-32 shootout on the road in Tampa Bay.  Going off those results,  I’ll take the Cardinals at home in what should be a close game throughout between these two West foes. ARIZONA WINS
  • Cowboys @ Niners: Dallas couldn’t have asked for more from rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot through three weeks.  The Tony Romo-less Cowboys were a game-winning field-goal away from being 3-0 right now. Dez Bryant has a hairline fracture in his knee but is still expected to play this weekend.  San Francisco was manhandled in week 3, and still isn’t making a change back to Colin Kaepernick.  The biggest thing the Niners have going for them is Carlos Hyde has looked pretty good.  I like what the Caowboys have done this season, but I have a feeling about San Fran this week. It might be a bad feeling, but I’m rolling with it. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Saints @ Chargers: It’s still early, but the Saints need to start picking up some wins quickly if they want to make the playoffs as I predicted they would as a wildcard team in the NFC.  The offense hasn’t been the problem.  Drew Brees is already over a 1,000 yards passing, with an 8-1 touchdown to interception ratio, though that one interception last week was a fourth quarter pick six for Brees.  New Orleans defense hasn’t been been able to stop anyone, as they’ve allowed the 2nd most total yards.  Worst at stopping the run, that’s where the Chargers will need to take advantage this week.  But without Danny Woodhead, San Diego needs Melvin Gordon to get going, so this is the perfect opportunity for that.  I like Philip Rivers, but I like Drew Brees more.  Give me the road team to get win number 1 this week. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Chiefs @ Steelers: What a defensive performance put on by the Chiefs this past week! Two defensive touchdowns and six interceptions helped Kansas City get the easy win over the Jets.  The offense wasn’t great, but they didn’t need to be with that showing on defense.  Alex Smith continued to show his game management skills, and why Travis Kelce is one of the better tight ends in the league right now. They’ve got a desperate Steelers team thsi week, who didn’t score a touchdown in a week 3 beatdown by the Eagles.  After two very good weeks, DeAngelo Williams was stymied on the ground, so the rushing attack will gladly welcome back Le’Veon Bell from suspension this week. The biggest test for the Kansas City defense will be stopping Antonio Brown, but I don’t think it will matter much even if he does have a big day. KANSAS CITY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Giants @ Vikings: This should be a battle of two unbeatens, but a late game collapse left the Giants at 2-1 heading into today.  Too many penalties, a couple late turnovers and allowing Washington to open up the field multiple times led to the home loss for New York.  They lost Shane Vereen to a triceps injury as well.  Eli Manning and company need to do more in the passing game, and they have the capability with three wide receivers.  The bad news for New York is that the Vikings are running on all cylinders right now.  Their defense has been relentless through three weeks, and despite losing starting QB Teddy Bridgewater before the season started, the offense has been very good.  Sam Bradford has come in and fit in better in two weeks then he’s done in the first few seasons of his career.  It’s going to be tough for the Giants on the road, but I like New York will figure things out and get back in the win column.  NEW YORK WINS

NFL: Week 3 Picks

We’ve reached week 3 of the season, and still have 8 undefeated and 8 winless teams. There have also been a lot of big injuries early that will have a big impact on week 3 and beyond.  As for my picks, I’m 18-14 through 2 weeks. Here’s what I’m thinking going into week 3.

Thursday Night Football

  • Texans @ Patriots: Jimmy Garoppolo left with a shoulder injury for New England, who still managed to move to 2-0.  This was thanks in large part to Garoppolo’s 3 touchdown passes before his injury as well as a big performance from LeGarrett Blount in the run game. The Texans took down the Chiefs on the strength of their defense to move to 1-1, a stark difference from their 33-0 loss to Kansas City in the playoffs.  Without Garoppolo, I think the Texans will do enough to get another win to start off the week 3 action. HOUSTON WINS

Sunday 1pm Games

  • Ravens @ Jaguars: Baltimore got very lucky in week 2, as they overcame a 20-0 1st quarter deficit to improve to 2-0.  Cleveland never scored again, while Joe Flacco brought his team back with a 25-45, 302 yard performance.  Their opponents have been disappointing to me so far.  While I didn’t think the Jaguars were going to make the playoffs this season, I thought they’d be better than they’ve shown, starting 0-2 again after They crossed midfield only six times and committed three turnovers. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Lions @ Packers: Both teams enter 1-1 after losing in week 2, and are looking to keep pace with the 2-0 Vikings.  The Packers lost their game in the 4th quarter, turning the ball over twice, while allowing Rodgers to be sacked 5 times. Detroit also lost their game in the 4th quarter when they were outscored 13-0 by the Titans, including a 93-yard game winning drive.  The Lions didn’t have a go to back in week 2, losing Ameer Abdullah to an injury.   So who gets back in the win column this week? I’ll take the Packers at home with a much-needed big day from Eddie Lacy. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Redskins @ Giants: Washington won the NFC East a year ago, but have opened up this season 0-2.  Struggles in the red zone and an inability to force turnovers meant a loss in a back-and-forth affair with Dallas last week. New York’s offense moved up and down the field pretty easily on Sunday, but also struggled in the redzone, and had too many turnovers in the 1st half.  But the defense and special teams stepped up and they moved to 2-0. So who takes this division matchup?  Give me the home team to get over their redzone struggles and take advantage of Eli Manning’s league leading completion percentage, which should be even better as the Giants receiving core dropped at least 5 balls in week 2. NEW YORK WINS
  • Browns @ Dolphins: For the 5th week in a row (dating back to last season), Cleveland will be starting a different QB.  Someone should tell them this isn’t baseball, there’s no starting rotation in football.  Even with the QB carousel, the Browns almost, and should have, pulled out their first win in week 2.  They were up 20-2 on the Ravens, thanks in big part to their ground attack, but fell late.  Miami isn’t in any better a position than their week 3 opponents, as they enter action at 0-2 as well.  The Dolphins were down big early to the Pats, but made a comeback after Jimmy Garoppolo went down with an injury.  Cleveland will be in this game until the end because Miami has had issues stopping the run early.  But even of Isaiah Crowell goes big on the ground, I still think they pull out the win at home. MIAMI WINS
  • Vikings @ Panthers: Minnesota will now be without their starting QB and running back for the rest of the season after Adrian Peterson went down in their game on Sunday night. The Vikings defense looked stong against Aaron Rogers in week 2. As for Carolina, they rebounded offensively in week 2, but they still struggled a bit on defense, allowing the Niners to score 27.  They’ll be without their running back Jonathan Stewart, but were picked up by Fozzy Whittaker on the ground.  Despite the 27 points allowed, I like the Panthers chances of stopping Sam Bradford and the new Vikings weapon and league receiving yards leader Stefon Diggs. CAROLINA WINS
  • Broncos @ Bengals: Andy Dalton has gotten off to a nice start this season, leading the league with 732 passing yards, so here’s a good test for the Broncos league leading defense.  CJ Anderson is having a good start to the season, and we’ve seen the Bengals give up the most rushing yards per game to start the season, so he should be able to help eat a lot of clock for Denver. DENVER WINS
  • Cardinals @ Bills: Arizona rebounded from a tough week 1 loss by handily beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The Cardinals led the league in total offense, while the Bills dropped to 0-2 despite putting up 31 points of their own in week 2. Buffalo has let their offensive coordinator go, so they really need this game.  Too bad I don’t think they’ll get it.  Look for a big game from running back Daniel Johnson. ARIZONA WINS
  • Raiders @ Titans: Oakland has not been able to stop anyone through two weeks, something I wasn’t expecting, allowing 70 points so far.  Tennessee has actually done a very nice job on defense.  Both teams are 1-1 heading into this game, but I still like the Raiders better.  The Titans offense hasn’t shown the big play ability the Raiders have, so Oakland should be able to hold them down better than they did with New Orleans and Atlanta. OAKLAND WINS

Sunday 4/425pm Games

  • Rams @ Buccaneers: LA’s defense showed up in week 2, Tampa’s did not.  The difference between these two teams is the offense.  While the Bucs went from scoring 4 TDs to 1, I feel more confident about their offense than the Rams, who have scored just 9 points in two games.  The best chance the Rams have is if their defense can do what it did a week ago, and good game out of Todd Gurley. That being said, I’ll take the home team in this one. TAMPA BAY WINS
  • 49ers @ Seahawks: This is a big (albeit early) NFC West battle between two 1-1 teams.  San Francisco followed up a surprise week 1 win with a defensive breakdown against Carolina.  Seattle had one of their worst offensive games in this recent stretch of Superbowl quality teams, scoring just a field goal against the L.A. Rams. I can’t see the Seahawks being held down again, especially by the Niners.  Russell Wilson should be able to dominate in this one. SEATTLE WINS
  • Steelers @ Eagles:  I never thought this would be a game where both teams have a chance to move to 3-0, but here we are.  DeAngelo Williams has been huge for Pittsbrgh in the abscense of Le’Veon Bell, who is out one more week due to suspension. Philadelphia has gotten about as good as you can ever hope to from a rookie quarterback in Carson Wentz, who hasn’t turned the ball over yet. It should be a good game, but I will go with the experience in this one. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Jets @ Chiefs: Two teams I picked to make the playoffs in the AFC face off in Kansas City this weekend.  New York picked up their first win last week, thanks to the offense.  Off-season acquisition Matt Forte finished with 100 yards rushing, and three rushing touchdowns. Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall both finished with 100 receiving yards as well.  The Jets defense wasn’t as impressive as it was week 1.  The Chiefs hope that’s the case again this week, as they couldn’t get much of anything started against Houston. A lot went right for New York last week, and I can’t see them doing quite that well against Kansas City’s defense as they did against Buffalo.  If this were a home game for the Jets I might choose differently, but it’s a home game for the Chiefs, so I’ll go with them this week.  KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Chargers @ Colts: San Diego is 2-0, Indianapolis is 0-2.  I really thought that the Colts would be able to do better than they have on defense, but they haven’t. San Diego has looked very good on offense to start this season, Indy has been very up and down. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Bears @ Cowboys: Chicago is 0-2 despite holding early leads in both week 1 and week 2.  And now they’ll be without starting quarterback Jay Cutler due to a thumb injury.   Their best hope to beat the Cowboys is to continue limiting the passing game, as the Bears rank 4th in the NFL allowing 224 yards a game.   As for Dallas, they picked up their first win thanks to another clean day from Dak Prescott and a big night on the ground. The Boys were already a better team than the Bears before the Cutler injury, so give me Dallas at home to move to 2-1. DALLAS WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Falcons @ Saints: Atlanta picked up their first win against an impressive Raiders team in week 2, while New Orleans dropped to 0-2 after a game winning field goal by the Giants.  Atlanta hasn’t had any problems scoring this season, but their defense has struggled at times.  New Orleans’ defense was much better in week 2, forcing 3 turnovers, but it wasn’t enough.  I picked the Saints to make the playoffs, so this is a huge game for them.  If they want to get their first win, they have to figure out how to run the ball.  The Falcons tend to be very inconsistent, so give me New Orleans at home in a shootout. NEW ORLEANS WINS

NFL: Week 17 Picks

The final week of the regular season is upon us, the Panthers are undefeated no longer and there is still a lot to decide for the postseason.  There are two spots left up for grabs, both in the AFC, but seeding isn’t even close to set yet.  We still don’t know who wins the NFC North and we don’t know who wins the AFC South.  Three different teams can finish with the number 1 seed in the AFC, while two teams have a shot in the NFC.  So sit back and enjoy what is essentially the first week of the playoffs!

I went just 7-9 in my picks last week, making my season total heading into the final slate of games 134-106.

Sunday 1PM games

  • Jets @ Bills: It’s simple for the Jets. Win and you’re in. New York has won five straight and are back to doing what got them out to a quick start to the season.  Buffalo has been up and down all season, and the money they put into the defense didn’t pay off. There are other ways for the Jets to get into the playoffs if they lose, but with a shot to get in against their former coach, I’ll take Gang Green on the road. NEW YORK WINS
  • Patriots @ Dolphins:  New England’s loss to New York in week 16 means they still have something to play for this week, and that’s the number 1 seed in the AFC.  They need to win and they get it.  If they lose, and the Broncos win, Denver gets it.  Miami is playing for pride and to play spoiler.  But they won’t.  The Patriots injuries are concerning, but Tom Brady in a most win situation and a chance to have the AFC go through Foxborough? I like those odds.  NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Saints @ Falcons: This wasn’t the season I thought we’d see from New Orleans.  I thought they’d bounce back from a down 2014-15 season, but an 1-4 start was too much to come back from, though they tried, getting themselves to .500 at 4-4, before the wheels fell off.  The defense was never there for the Saints.  It’s been an even stranger year for the Falcons, who got off to a fast 6-1 start, then went on to lose six straight.  Now they’ve won two straight, including ending the Panthers undefeated season.  They were eliminated from playoff contention thanks to the Vikings win on Sunday night, but they can salvage the season and finish at 9-7, which i think they do in front of their fans. ATLANTA WINS
  • Ravens @ Bengals: A win secures a first round bye for the Bengals, which is always big, but for a team that has been bounced in the first round four straight years, would be huge. Baltimore was plagued with injuries all season, and are just looking to end the season on a high note.  Cincy is coming off a tough OT loss to Denver, but AJ McCaron showed he can succeed while Andy Dalton gets better.  At home, with that defense, I am taking the Bengals to give themselves a shot at the bye. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Steelers @ Browns: Pittsburgh can still make it to the playoffs, but they need to win and they need help.  Good thing for them is they are playing the Browns, who can still finish with the worst record in the league.  And continuing issues at QB leaves Cleveland with another off-season of questions ahead.  Give me the road team to end on a high note, even if they don’t make the playoffs. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Jaguars @ Texans: Houston doesn’t have to win to take the AFC South crown, but you always want to take the division, not back into it.  They get a tough match-up in Jacksonville, who has shown the ability to score in the second half.  But the Texans defense at home with a chance to punch their own ticket will be too much for the Jags to handle. HOUSTON WINS
  • Titans @ Colts: Indianapolis needs to win this game and get a whole lot of help if they’re to win the South.  But as I have already picked the Texans, I don’t think they get there.  However, they will win this final game of the year.  Tennessee benefits more from losing, plain and simple. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Redskins @ Cowboys: The Redskins already have the division and can’t finish anywhere but fourth in the NFC.  But capping off the season on a four-game win streak and a 9-7 record will further validate their being in the playoffs. Dallas will want to finish on a high note, but they’ve put so many key people on IR that even if the Skins take it easy and rest most of their players,  I can’t see the Boys winning their season finale. WASHINGTON WINS
  • Eagles @ Giants: The loser finishes the season in third place in the NFC East, despite both leading the division at different parts of the season. New York had a clear path to the division, had they played better in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter this season.  Good teams finish, and they weren’t able to consistently enough. 7 of the Giants 9 losses were by one score. As for the Eagles, they never got their running game going, and Sam Bradford was a turnover machine.  The Eagles destroyed their NFC East rivals at home in their first meeting of the season, so I’ll take the Giants to finish with some pride and return the favor to end both their seasons. NEW YORK WINS
  • Lions @ Bears: The loser gets the NFC North cellar all to themselves, a far fall for the 11-5 Lions of a season ago.  Both teams have played better here in the second half of the season, just good enough to fall closer to the middle of the pack record wise in the league. So who avoids the basement? I like the Lions on the road to finish strong and take a three-game win streak into the off-season. DETROIT WINS

Sunday 425 PM Games

  • Buccaneers @ Panthers: Tampa Bay showed flashes in 2015 under 1st year QB Jameis Winston, staying the playoff race most of the season.  But finishing up the season against the no longer undefeated Panthers is a tough way to go out.  Carolina still has something to play for as they haven’t locked up the number 1 seed, and with the Cards playing at the same time, they can’t go into this one knowing if they can rest players or not.  Either way, I like the Panthers to finish up at 15-1 and force the NFC to come through Carolina en route to Super Bowl 50. CAROLINA WINS
  • Raiders @ Chiefs: Oakland could linger on what could’ve been this season after a decent 4-3 start, but they should be excited for the future, after winning just 3 games a year ago, they stayed in the playoff hunt for most of the season with a young team.  As for Kansas City, they’re the hottest team in the AFC, and are getting the best of Alex Smith.  It’s amazing how the Chiefs got off to such a slow start BEFORE losing Jamaal Charles.  Oakland will make this tough, but I think the Chiefs make it 10 straight heading into the playoffs. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Chargers @ Broncos: San Diego is going to finish with one of the worst records in the league, while Denver can finish anywhere but 4th in the AFC. A win and a Patriots loss would give them the 1 seed.  I think they get the win, but as I think New England wins,  I see the Broncos finishing as the two seedDENVER WINS
  • Seahawks @ Cardinals: Two of the NFC’s best take flight in week 17.  Both teams are playoff bound once again.  Seattle has been on fire in the second half, looking more like the two-time defending NFC Champs they are as each week passes. That was before they looked bad at home against the Rams last week.  As for Arizona, why are we not giving Carson Palmer more praise for what he’s done with the Cardinals? The team is 29-8 with him under center, 19-2 the past two seasons.  They still have a shot at the number 1 seed if the Panthers lose again. This division match-up will have a playoff feel, but I think the home team gets the W. ARIZONA WINS
  • Rams @ 49ers: San Francisco’s season was shaped in the off-season when they moved too many pieces. The defense played better as the season when on, and they got a couple more wins after changing QBs, but they’ve got a lot of work to do if they want to get back to their winning ways.  As for the Rams, they showed their age, defeating some of the league’s best, including a season sweep of the Rams and handing the Cardinals their first loss. This is also a chance for the Rams to finish 8-8 for the first time since 2006, and I think they finish the job. ST LOUIS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Vikings @ Packers:  The battle of the NFC North title caps off the regular season slate.  Minnesota has been carried by their defense and rushing attack all season, while Green Bay has been extremely up and down since starting the season 6-0.  The Packers rushing attack has been severely underwhelming, and Aaron Rodgers offensive line hasn’t been doing him any favors. The Vikings will be able to hold time of possession, but as the calendar turns to January and the playoffs, I think we will get the best version of Aaron Rodgers, and the Pack will clinch the division on the seasons final day, as they did two years ago against the Bears. GREEN BAY WINS

NFL: Halfway to the Finish Line – Where does your team stand through 8 weeks?

Time flies when you’re having fun, which must be why it is so crazy to think we are half way through another NFL season.  And that means it’s time to take a look at my five teams, my bottom teams, and the best of the rest through the first half of the NFL season.

5 Best Teams Through Week 8

  1. New England Patriots (7-0) – There’s just no stopping this team right now.  Not even in their worst game of the season against the New York Jets could they be stopped from putting up 30. The Superbowl Champs are in their opponents heads in every way possible and they’re taking advantage.  Not to mention Tom Brady is having one of his most efficient seasons at 38. They’ve got a massive three game lead in the AFC East, so unless something crazy happens, they’ll easily win their seventh straight division title.
  2. Denver Broncos (7-0) – That defense. It’s the reason they are where they are. Denver’s is number one in total defense, passing defense and fourth in run defense.  I’d say that’s pretty good. The run game showed up BIG time in week 8 to help take down the previously undefeated Packers at home.  Peyton Manning has had an uncharacteristically bad start to the season, but it hasn’t mattered. Most of their wins have been dicey, but they made it look easy in week 8 and showed just what this team can do.  If they can get more consistency out of the passing game, they will go very far this season.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (7-0) – For a team that has made the playoffs four years running, they’ve still got a lot to prove thanks to all of their first round exits.  They could finish 16-0 and still not be thought as favorites. Not here though. They’ve played smart, mistake free football all season, have an MVP candidate in Andy Dalton and a top flight defense.  They played their worst game in week 7, but as good teams do, they found a way to pull out another victory.
  4. Carolina Panthers (7-0) – I was skeptical of this team through four weeks because it’s hard to win every week when your offense can barely scrape together 200 yards of offense. But here they are, still undefeated and atop the NFC South. Their defense has been great all season, though it did allow Andrew Luck to force OT with a poor second half.  And with a top five run game, the passing game was able to work itself out and get better every week.  They’re not blowing teams out, but their wins tend to feel easy nonetheless. The second half will test them, as they haven’t faced the Falcons yet, but if they stay healthy, look for them to make it to the playoffs one way or another.
  5. Green Bay Packers (7-1) – It hasn’t been pretty offensively of late, and running into the Broncos defense didn’t help.  Aaron Rodgers had just 77 yards passing in their first loss of the season, and the run game didn’t do much better.  But they are still capable and have a pretty favorable schedule the rest of the way, with five games still left in their division.  The defense has been there all season, so you hope as a Packers fan their inability to stop the run game in the red zone week 8 was just an anomaly.  And you can’t be too worried about Aaron Rodgers, who has had many more great games than duds in his career.

Worst Teams Through Week 8

  1. San Francisco 49ers (2-6)Fans were calling for Colin Kaepernick to be benched, and it’s a fair call that’s rumored to be set in motion.  When your quarterback, whether they’re a mobile QB or not, rarely ever thinks pass first, that’s a problem.  And if you’re going to run as much as Kaepernick, you better move the chains more than the 49ers do. This run first mentality has also led to 28 sacks, second most in the league this season.  San Fran has struggled on both sides of the ball, sitting dead last in total offense and points per game, as well as bottom five in total defense.  They play in one of the best divisions in football, and they’ll be very lonely in the cellar for the rest of the year.
  2. Tennessee Titans (1-6) – Opening weekend was such a tease for Titans fans.  Marcus Mariota burst on the scene against the Bucaneers, putting up 50 easy.  Then it all went down hill from there.  Six sraight losses and theyve taken their bye already.  Mariota has missed the last two with injury.  The defense has had some pretty good games, but the offense is non-existent with no end in sight.
  3. Detroit Lions (1-7) – They’re just bad. Plain and simple. They were 11-5 last season and didn’t lose much in the off-season, so I thought they’d be back again this year.  But that hasn’t been the case, and they’re just lucky to not be win-less at this point.  Matthew Stafford has a terrible TD-INT ratio of 13-11, adding to seven lost fumbles by the team.  The run game has been non-existent all season.  The defense can’t stop anyone, and didn’t even stop the Bears well in their only win of the year.  Detroit is allowing the most points per game.  It’s all pretty bad for the Motor City right now.

Best of the Rest

  • Arizona Cardinals (6-2) – They did what they needed to do in the first half of the season, but now they face probably the hardest second half schedules in the league.  It helps that they’ve got a two game lead in the NFC West, and that they’ve remained relatively healthy.  But they’re going to need to stay focused for the full 60 minutes in every game, because the two times they haven’t they’ve lost.  Of their eight remaining opponents, you’ve got three teams that are currently playoff contenders, two games with the Seahawks or the Rams, who they’ve lost to already. They’re very well-balanced on both sides of the ball, sitting top five in total offense and total defense.
  • Minnesota Vikings (5-2) – I’m not sure how I feel about this team yet.  I thought they’d have a shot coming into the season at a playoff spot, and I was right .  But they haven’t had a hard schedule to this point, and every team they play the rest of the way is currently above .500 except the Bears in week 15.  They win close games, they win at home and are just a game behind the Packers in the North with both games left against them.  They truly control their destiny, but could also fall out of this very quickly if Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t figure things out in the passing game.
  • Atlanta Falcons (6-2) – Early on they were running all over opponents with a breakout start from Devonta Freeman.  They had a cake first half, but managed to lose two games to below .500 teams.  But that’s all slowed down.  Four straight nail-biters against the non-elite and you have question how far this team can actually go.  Two second half match-ups versus Carolina will tell a lot, and decide the division, but only if they continue to beat up on the teams they should.  Matt Ryan needs to find consistency in the passing game again.
  • New York Giants (4-4) – It’s amazing how many late game collapses this team has had through 8 weeks.  If you watched every minute of this team as I have, you know they should be no worse than 6-2, having only been out of 1 game (at Philly).  Their defense played well the first four weeks, but mismanagement led to their first two losses.  Eli Manning is having probably the best start to a season in year two of Ben McAdoo’s offense.  But the defense has been on a rapid decline since week 5 and are on pace to go down as maybe the worst defense of all time.  Injuries haven’t helped, but allowing 7 touchdown passes a week after allowing the Cowboys to run for 233 yards is just unacceptable.  If the defense can at least be average, this team should still capture the NFC East pretty easily, which is why I keep them in the best-of-the-rest category.  I know this defense can get better with some health, and they’ll get another body back in Jason Pierre-Paul.
  • Oakland Raiders (4-3) – No this isn’t a mistake. The Black and Silver have already won more games than they did in 2014, and as many as they did in 2013.  They currently boast the second ranked run defense in the league, and Charles Woodson looks like he’s 29 again, leading the league with five interceptions.  Amari Cooper is proving why he was a top draft pick and Derek Carr continues to improve week-to-week. They’re not turning the ball over, as Carr has a 5-1 TD to INT ratio.  Oakland finds themselves in second place in the AFC West, in a fight for a while card and are a lot more consistent than the teams below them, so they could stay there.  We’ll learn a lot about this young team in the second half, with four games left in the division, and three against other playoff contenders.
  • New York Jets (4-3) Two straight losses for a team that looked like they’d keep pressure on the Pats all season.  The defense has allowed 60 points the last two weeks after allowing 75 total the first six weeks.  Add to that an injury to Ryan Fitzpatrick and nagging issues for Chris Ivory and things might seem bleak.  However, the Jets schedule is favorable, with their eight of their nine final ,opponents currently at .500 or below, with a home game against the Patriots in week 16 as their biggest test. So take advantage the next seven and there’s still hope for not only a wild card but if the Pats falter at all, the division.

Best Chance to Rebound

  • New Orleans Saints (4-4) – The offense is rounding into shape nicely, but as mentioned withe the Giants, their defense is very bad.  Drew Brees had faith in this young group after their 0-3 start, and that faith is paying off.  An NFL record tying 7 touchdowns in week 8 shows Brees still has the arm and drive to lead this team.  They’ve got a lot of work with the Falcons and Panthers both ahead of them, but with so many under .500 teams in the NFC, they can absolutely grab a wild card spot if they can continue to improve and get better on defense.
  • Seattle Seahawks (4-4) – The defense continues to be a step below what they’ve been the past two seasons, but they’re making the plays when they need to. The offense has been shaky, and nearly lost to the Cowboys in week 8.  But they know how to win and as the NFC champs to years running, you can’t count them out until yet.
  • St Louis Rams (4-3) – This is a strange team. They’re 3-0 in their division, a division that boasts two playoff teams from a year ago. But sometimes young teams are inconsistent, and St. Louis is definitely that. They seem to play up or down to that day’s opponent.  1-3 against the rest of the league, with two of those coming to the Redskins and a Roethlisberger-less Steelers team.  But the run game has been explosive with the addition of rookie Todd Gurley, helping kill clock and lessen the possibility for mistakes in the air.  Add a defense that has allowed the fourth fewest points through 8 weeks, and you can see why this team can make some noise now.
  • Kansas City Chiefs (3-5) – Much like the Seahawks, this team knows how to get into the playoffs.  They started out slow, and lost their best offensive weapon in Jamaal Charles, but they’ve looked a lot better the last two weeks, and the wild card battle in the AFC is wide open. Five of their final eight are against below .500 teams, and the three that aren’t, are the teams ahead of them in the West.  They can move up quickly if Alex Smith can continue to spread the wealth in the pass game and avoid the late turnovers that have plagued him.

NFL: Halfway to the Finish Line… Who are the pretenders, and who are the contenders?

I cannot believe we are here already. 9 weeks down. The playoff picture is starting to take shape.

So who has themselves in prime position, who has work to do and who is on the clock?  Here is a breakdown by division of how all 32 teams look midway through the season.

AFC EAST (Remember when we all thought Tom Brady was done?)

  1. New England Patriots (7-2): Since being blown out in week 4, the Pats have won 5 straight, 4 of those by double digits.  They made easy work of the of 3 teams that could be in the playoffs, including a 22-point victory over the Broncos last week.  Tom Brady is top 5 in passing yards in a season where Rob Gronkowski came in off injury and Julian Edelman was leading the team in receiving yards early.   It took a couple weeks for them to figure things out, and now here they are, atop the AFC once again.  It’s almost like in the NBA when everyone calls out the Spurs for being too old, and they go and win the championship.  Maybe we should stop underestimating Brady and Belichick?
  2. Buffalo Bills (5-3): They’ve lost their top running back, their 2nd back is banged up and yet here they are, fighting for a wild card spot.  A big reason why is their defense.  They’re 6th in points per game in the league and are a +7 in turnover differential.  Add to that a steady progression from rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins to a big play threat, the ability to close out games and decent production from QBs EJ Manuel and Kyle Orton (yes that Kyle Orton).  If this team wants to stay in the conversation, they have to continue their strong defensive presence and get Fred Jackson back.
  3. Miami Dolphins (5-3): Ryan Tannehill has taken a step.  It’s in the right direction, but I’m not ready to say it’s a step that puts him in the next tier of quarterbacks step yet.  His decision making has gotten much better, as has his accuracy, all things you want to see as your franchise starter gets older.  Losing Knowshon Moreno was big, but Lamar Miller has done a good job picking up the slack.  They find ways to win, and just demolished the once high flying Chargers to the tune of 37-0.  Like the Bills, their defense is where they make money, and of the two teams, I think they have a better shot at a wild card spot coming off an 8-8 record a year ago.  They’re no worse than a season ago.
  4. New York Jets (1-8): 8 straight losses with no hope on the horizon.  Geno Smith is on the bench. Eric Decker hasn’t been the addition they hoped for.  Their defense has been awful and the run game has been abandoned.  Things are so bad for the Jets that fan put their money together to buy a “Fire Idzik” billboard (their GM).  Could Rex Ryan be out at the end of the season?  Time will tell, but they’re fighting hard for a very high draft pick, and not the playoffs like I thought they would be this season.

AFC NORTH (Who would’ve thought all these teams would be above .500?)

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1): They’ve been inconsistent since coming out of their week 4 by with a record of 3-0.  Inconsistency is bad in any sport, but it’s very bad for Cincy this year, as they can’t afford a slip in the only top-to-bottom over .500 division in football.  Andy Dalton has shown flashes of deserving the big 6-year $115 million contract he got in the off-season.  But again, inconsistency is an issue.  Hopefully AJ Green is over his injury issues, because everyone knows how lethal he is in the passing game, and putting a confident Mohammad Sanu, who stepped up for Green in his absence, next to him is huge.
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3): 12 TDs in two games. Historic numbers.  That’s what Ben Roethlisberger and company have put up of late to get back into the division champion conversation.  Pittsburgh is still very inconsistent.  They started out 3-3, and despite their 3 game win streak, the Steelers defense is nowhere near the “steal curtain” of old. It’s more like a bead curtain.  It’s easy to outscore your opponents, until it’s not.  Can they keep it up?  Yes.  Will they?  Who knows.
  3. Cleveland Browns (5-3): So… we all saw this coming right?  The Browns are 2 games over .500 despite not getting much from Ben Tate on the ground, an oft injured Jordan Cameron and a QB controversy heading into the season.  They’ve been impressive, finding ways to win games late that they would’ve lost in years past.  Brian Hoyer has gotten better at late game decision making and has his team looking at winning it’s most games in a while.
  4. Baltimore Ravens (5-4): After looking like they’d turned a corner, Baltimore has lost two straight in the division, finding themselves momentarily in the basement.  The positive for this team?  They have games left in the division and it’s close, so it won’t take long to jump back into the top.  But they can’t be so inconsistent on defense.  The offense without Ray Rice hasn’t really skipped a beat, so if they can get some more stops, they will be in it til the end.

AFC SOUTH (Indianapolis is starting to pull away)

  1. Indianapolis Colts (6-3): After an 0-2 start, the Colts have righted the ship in a huge way.  Andrew Luck leads the league in passing yards, with a healthy 3,000 plus already! So you wouldn’t be surprised to know they have the best total offense because of it,which has helped cover up their middle of the pack total team defense.  Those numbers are a bit skewed at 18 after allowing over 600 total yards to Pittsburgh in week 8, but it is what it is.  They already beat Houston once, so in affect have a 3 game lead, and with how they’re playing, I think they’re easily on their way to another division crown.
  2. Houston Texans (4-5):  The good news?  JJ Watt is a beast and they’ve already doubled their win total from a year ago.  The bad news. they are in the same division as the Colts, and Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t the greatest replacement for Matt Schaub, which has led to him being benched in favor of Ryan Mallett.  But they are still in the conversation without any real production out of number 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney, so there is room for improvement.  Add better days from offensive weapons Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, and I see them hovering around .500 the rest of the way.
  3. Tennessee Titans (2-6): They’re in the bottom third of the league on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football. So frankly, I don’t know how they have two wins (one of which came against Jacksonville).  Two of their losses were by a combined 3 points, which shows a lack of late game execution, which reeks of bad coaching and bad personnel.  Delanie Walker might be the lone guy that’s having a representative season for Tennessee.  And after a 7-9 season a year ago, there was a place for improvement, and they haven’t and look like they won’t even get back to a similar record this year.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8): They’re not good, but I have to give the Jags some credit.  They aren’t rolling over on a weekly basis.  They took down the Browns for their first win in wee 7. Things weren’t made easy for the Bengals and Dolphins following that win.  Denard Robinson has proven to be a very good starting running back and Blake Bortles has shown some glimpses as the 4th pick in the 2014 draft.  So while the record will again put them in the running for a top pick, there are at least signs of talent at skill positions in Jacksonville.

AFC WEST (Denver might start to run away with this one)

  1. Denver Broncos (6-2): Peyton Manning is still really good, but even he couldn’t lead his team past the red hot Patriots.  But at 6-2, they’re still in prime position to make a deep playoff run despite a very difficult schedule.  The difference between last year’s Broncos and this year’s… the defense.  A bad showing against New England not withstanding, off-season acquisitions are doing big things for this team on both sides of the football.  This offense is so good, Wes Welker is now the 4th option. Think about that.  I’m not worried about this team, and even though they haven’t run away with the division, the Chargers have dropped and they can do no worse than tying the season series with both them and the Chiefs.
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-3): The defense hasn’t allowed more than 26 points in a game, and that came week 1.  Jamal Charles continues to have the ability to break out on any day.  Alex Smith isn’t lighting up the stat sheet, but he’s done enough to keep them in the conversation in the division.  This team was never going to repeat the 9-0 start from a year ago, but they’ve responded from a slow start, and can still make a play at a wild card spot, if not the division.
  3. San Diego Chargers (5-4): This team was 5-1 and looked like a top 2, top 3 team in the league.  Now they’re on a 3-game slid that’s seen them score 3 TDs in the past 8 quarters of football.  The defense can’t live up to that, but it’s hard to outscore 35-plus point efforts as well.  So if this team wants to get back in the conversation, both sides of the football need to improve and fast.
  4. Oakland Raiders (0-8): They may never win again.  This team has yet to show me any reason to ever pick them.  Charles Woodson called it early, and it never sparked a fire.  They’re the worst team in the league, but could always fall into a win, and could lose that title to a Jets or Jaguars team.  But I doubt that happens.

NFC EAST (Is this division really as “strong” as the records suggest?)

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (6-2): They’re well on their way to a possible 2nd straight division crown.  But a couple of big injuries in week 9 could derail their Superbowl aspirations.  Nick Foles is set to be out 6-8 weeks with a broken collarbone, while DeMeco Ryans is out for the season with a torn Achilles.  The latter could prove more costly, as Philly at least has a backup QB in Mark Sanchez who has proven he can help lead a team deep into the playoffs.  But if they want to survive the injuries, the run game has to pick up the slack.  So this team will only go as far as LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles can run, in conjunction with Sanchez limiting the mistakes.
  2. Dallas Cowboys (6-3):  Just when you thought this might be their season, Tony Romo goes down.  DeMarco Murray is on a record pace on the round, but with his injury history, how much more can you ask from him?  Brandon Weedon wasn’t horrible with Cleveland, but you’re not going far with him either.  You’ve got to hope you can get Romo back after the bye week in week 12, while hoping teams like the Packers, Panthers, Seahawks or 49ers don’t get hot and steal a wildcard spot.
  3. New York Giants (3-5): The G-men were feeling good about themselves after a 3-game win streak that saw them score 30-plus to get them above the .500 mark at 3-2.  But it’s been downhill from there.  Eli Manning hasn’t thrown an interception since week 4, and has just 5 all season. But the injuries are piling up and Manning has no real deep threat.  They’ve put themselves behind the 8-ball, but with games left with both the Eagles and Cowboys at home, to go with some softer games in the 2nd half, it’ll be tough, but they don’t have any wiggle room if they want to make a real run for the playoffs.
  4. Washington Redskins (3-6): RGIII came back, for better or worse and it didn’t make them better.  The former Rookie of the Year looked slow and out of it in his return, and I didn’t understand bringing him back when they did.  Colt McCoy (yes he still exists) looked pretty good and got them a win against Dallas. I would’ve run him out there again.  They’re the worst team in the division, even with how banged up the Giants are.

NFC NORTH (This was always going to be a fight between Detroit and Green Bay)

  1. Detroit Lions (6-2): They boast the best team defense in football.  You’ve been looking for this team to put all their talent together for a while now, and this seems to be the year, led by the D.  But that being said, their offense has been off lately. Calvin Johnson has missed time, the run game isn’t what you want and they’ve played games using their 4th string tight-end.  But when your defense is top 5 in rushing and passing defense, it tends to hide offensive question marks.  If they can get Megatron healthy, this team is going to be very dangerous in the playoffs.
  2. Green Bay Packers (5-3): They might be in 2nd place, but they’re the best team in this division.  Green Bay got off to a slow start, but while defense has carried the current leader, the Pack is a much more balanced team.  Aaron Rodgers is an MVP candidate again.  And if Eddie Lacy could ever be the consistent threat they need on the ground, I don’t know how you beat this team.
  3. Chicago Bears (3-5): You boast probably the best wide-receiver combination in football to go with a top 5 running back, and yet they find themselves under .500.  The defense, aside from allowing a 51 spot to New England in their last game has been pretty good.  The issue is on offense, where there is questions of a lack of trust between Jay Cutler and his targets of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.  And when there is questioning of each other in the media, it’s hard to recover from.
  4. Minnesota Vikings (3-5): considering they lost their starting QB and their All-pro running back early on, Mike Zimmer has his team competing.  Even with Matt Cassell and Adrian Peterson, I don’t think this team would be much better than 3-5, but they’ve learned that Teddy Bridgewater is a capable starter.  In a tough division like the North, at least they’ve shown they can play with teams outside.  Now they just have to figure out how to make games in the division close.  And with how bad Chicago looks, finishing 3rd is in the realm of possibility, especially with two left against the Bears.

NFC SOUTH (The most disappointing division in football?)

  1. New Orleans Saints (4-4): It’s been a long trek back to .500 for the Saints after an 1-3 start.  Drew Brees’ low is 17 points scored… that on the road against the Cowboys.  So the offense has been pretty good.  But this team is only going to go as far as the defense.  They are very lucky to be in a division having a down year top-to-bottom.  Having a game up on Carolina already for me gives them a clear path to the division crown.
  2. Carolina Panthers (3-5-1): So I think their defense forgot how to play… well defense.  Carolina finds itself top 3 in points allowed and the bottom 3rd of the league in total yards allowed.  Add to that, a banged up Cam Newton, and an offense that finds themselves in similar spots in offense as defense.  All ingredients for a below .500 record.  And nothing I’ve seen of late has me thinking they can rebound in the second half of the season here.
  3. Atlanta Falcons (2-6): Remember when this was a good team?  Yeah, neither do I. A 2-0 start, the Falcons look like the 2013-14 Texans that finished the season on a 14-game skid. You know, minus the loss of a quarterback.  Matt Ryan has been healthy, and has had enough weapons to get some wins here.  The issue is on defense.  Their secondary is basically swiss cheese, and the front 7 isn’t any better.  I do think they’ll find a way to win again this season, but it might not be more than once or twice.
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7): Ugliness. I thought they’d be a playoff team.  Nope.  A rotating door at quarterback has shifted back to Josh McCown.  Doug Martin looks like he’s never ran a football.  The defense is atrocious.  Vincent Jackson seems to forget that he’s a load and can out muscle any secondary player.  It’s just bad for the Bucs.

NFC WEST (Arizona far atop the hill, just like we all thought… right?)

  1. Arizona Cardinals (7-1): I give you the best team in the NFC, and it’s not really even close.  They swept the NFC East that currently holds 2 of the 4 best records in the conference.  They survived a couple weeks without their starting quarterback.  Not to mention they’re getting healthy and are consistent on both sides of the ball.  Arizona’s only real issue is that they still have two match-ups with the defending champs, but with how they’ve played, there’s no reason they shouldn’t at least split with them and maintain their led in the division.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (5-3): For a team that entered the year as defending champs, they look nothing like a team capable of a repeat.  Russell Wilson is leading one of the worst passing offenses in football.  Marshawn Lynch is a shell of himself. Percy Harvin, a dynamic offensive weapon, was so distracting they traded him for nothing to the Jets.  And the Legion of Boom has been disappointing to say the least.
  3. San Francisco 49ers (4-5): This team is a mess.  Between off-the-field issues and a lack of a run game to help take pressure of Colin Kaepernick who has his team in the bottom half in passing offense, they find themselves on the outside looking in.  Rumors that Jim Harbaugh is leaving don’t help.  Their only bright spot is their team defense, ranked 2nd in total yards allowed.  What they need is to take advantage of 3 games left with the teams ahead of them, and for Kaepernick to figure some things out offensively, particularly in the red zone.
  4. St. Louis Rams (3-5): I have to give them credit, they don’t quit.  They’ve shown glimpses with getting big leads early over the Cowboys and Seahawks, but then they regress to a 3-5 team by losing both of those leads.  Now they look to play spoiler (as they did against San Fran this week).  Losing your starter just before the season starts is tough.  If they could’ve executed better down the stretch of games, they could be in the conversation for 2nd in this division with a down year from the champs and niners.

So if things continue on the track they are, here are my 12 playoff teams as of now:

NFC

– Arizona, Green Bay, Saints, Philadelphia, Dallas (if Romo comes back quickly) and Detroit

AFC

– New England, Denver, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Miami and Baltimore

NFL: What We Know at the Season’s Quarter Pole

4 weeks down.  Time flies when we’re having fun watching games doesn’t it?

So what do we know?  Here is a breakdown by division of how all 32 teams look one month in.

AFC EAST

  1. New England Patriots (2-2): So this team hasn’t been good at all, with Monday Night being the ugly icing on the early season cake.  Sure they’ve won 2, but they weren’t impressive wins.  Tom Brady and the offense have not looked good at all.  The only receiver that has looked good has been Julian Edelman, and that ended Monday as well.  Not to mention how terrible the defense looked on the road in Kansas City.  They couldn’t defend the run or pass.  Makes it kind of hard to win when you can’t do much in any phase of the game. They’re lucky to be tied for first.
  2. Buffalo Bills (2-2): Kyle Orton is in at quarter, E.J. Manuel is out despite the .500 record.  This team got off to a fast start, mostly on the strength of their run game and defense.  And while neither of those phases has dropped off much in weeks 3 and 4, Manuel hasn’t helped, hence the change.  That being said, I don’t think Orton makes this team any better.  But hey, with how even these teams seem early on, maybe the run game and defense can keep them in the race for the long haul.
  3. Miami Dolphins (2-2): Joe Philbin has been reluctant to name Ryan Tannehill the starting quarterback early in the week.  And this week, Tannehill showed him why it shouldn’t even be a question. Sure they played the Raiders, but if you simply look at Tannehill’s decision making and throws, you saw the guy Miami has been waiting for; completing 23-of-31 passes for 278 yards and 2 touchdowns.
  4. New York Jets (1-3): Could it be time for a quarterback change? I don’t think so, but it’s not long off.  Geno Smith has had moments of greatest, but this team continues to shoot themselves in the foot.  New York should really be no worse than 2-2.  But between poorly called timeouts, 2nd year QB growing pains, no secondary and not using their running backs properly, they sit at the bottom of the East.

AFC NORTH

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0): Talk about a team that got the bye way too early. They’ve made the start of their season look easy.  Andy Dalton is earning his new contract, even catching a TD pass in their week 3 victory.  This is a team that has made the playoffs each of the last 3 seasons, but were knocked out in the first round every time.  If they continue to play like this all season, and can stay relatively healthy, Cincy is poised to not only challenge for a first round bye, but make a deep playoff run.
  2. Baltimore Ravens (3-1): A perennial playoff team, this week they put everything together to look like a playoff contender once again.  What a game for veteran wide-receiver Steve Smith against his former Panthers team! Not to mention how well the defense kept down Cam Newton.  And to be succeeding despite all the off-the-field drama revolving around Ray Rice, shows the strength of the guys in the locker room to put all outside issues out of their mind between the lines.
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2): This team has been hard to figure out for a few years now, and the start to this season is no different.  Blowing leads to bad teams left and right, the steel curtain looked more like a bead curtain as they allowed the win-less Bucs comeback in grand fashion.  They have the running back and they have the quarterback to get back in this.
  4. Cleveland Browns (1-2): They’ve had their bye, and get two of their injured stars back thanks to it.  Jordan Cameron and Ben Tate will play Sunday, and that should help their struggling offense.  The defense was the highlight to start the season, and Brian Hoyer has shown he can lead this team to victory.  Improvement is what this team is looking for, not a playoff berth this season.

AFC SOUTH

  1. Houston Texans (3-1): Remember when this team finished 2013-14 on a 14-game losing streak?  Well talk about a turnaround!  The defense was pretty good last season, and this year is no different.  Other than laying an egg against the Giants in week 3, they’ve been stout, led by early MVP candidate JJ Watt.  A former Defensive Player of the Year, Watt has scored on a pick 6, continues to sack at will, as well lined up at tight-end more than once. It also helps that Ryan Fitzpatrick has brought stability to the quarterback position.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (2-2): The first two weeks were very different than the next two.  But that isn’t something to be too happy about, as  they’ve shown they can beat the bad teams, not the good teams.  Last season Andrew Luck was able to lead this team to big wins over the Seahawks and Broncos.  So we know he can lead this team, now we just need to see it this season.  Their first test comes against the red-hot Ravens in week 5.
  3. Tennessee Titans (1-3): Defense has been an issue, offense has been an issue.  Only two teams have allowed more points than the Titans, while only three others have scored fewer.  Not the recipe for success.  Tight-end Delanie Walker, despite an injury, has been a bright spot.  The good news, they’ve played just one home game, so there’s room for improvement.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4): They’re heading straight for another number 1 pick in the draft.  It’s a young team that I think made a mistake not starting QB Blake Bortles out of the gate.  Jacksonville had to know that they weren’t going to compete for a playoff spot, and needs to get their young pieces as many reps together as possible.  At this rate, you’re looking for some sort of improvement as the season wears on.

AFC WEST

  1. San Diego Chargers (3-1): They snuck into the playoffs a season ago thanks to a 2nd half surge.  The way they’re playing so far suggests there will be no sneaking necessary.  Only 3 teams have allowed fewer points, while QB Philip Rivers is 6th in passing yards, 1st in completion percentage and has thrown just 1 interception.  The only negative was the loss of Danny Woodhead, leading to a running back by committee situation.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-1): The 2013 runner-ups have had two weeks to think about their first loss of the season, an OT loss to the Seahawks in week 3.  The time should have helped Wes Welker get back on track, after a pre-season injury and two game suspension limited him.  The defense has been solid, but they need more out of the run game in order to be a balanced team.  If Peyton Manning continues to be Peyton Manning, and stays healthy, a deep postseason run is in the cards again.
  3. Kansas City Chiefs (2-2): Just when you thought this team might take a step back from last season, they completely dominate the Patriots on Monday Night Football. Jamaal Charles was impossible to stop. Alex Smith helped eat clock with short completion passes.  And the defense was relentless.  They’re in a tough division, but they can definitely make some noise if they play close to how they looked in week 4 on a consistent basis.
  4. Oakland Raiders (0-4): Head coach Dennis Allen barely survived the flight back from London.  Charles Woodson called out the team early on.  The worst scoring team in the league, Maruice Jones-Drew has been a serious downgrade at running back from Rashad Jennings.  Derek Carr has taken over at QB and is showing rookie growing pains. New Head Coach Tony Sparano thinks the team can turn things around, I just think he’s spouting lines you say when you get a new job.

NFC EAST 

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1): Despite the run game not being what we thought it would be, this team finds itself amongst the NFL’s best through the first quarter of the season.  Nick Foles has done a good job making last season not look like a fluke.  The defense has been pretty good, and they were one of the 3 teams to start the season 3-0.  But they have shown vulnerability, and with the Boys and Giants looking stronger than a year ago, a repeat as East champs isn’t a given.
  2. Dallas Cowboys (3-1): Remember when we all thought this team was going to have a historically bad defense? Well, that hasn’t been the case.  They aren’t the leagues best either, but the offense is starting fire on all cylinders after a rocky start.  DeMarco Murray is getting back to being an elite back, leading the league by more than a 100 rushing yardsm while Tony Romo continues to look horrible one day, spectacular the next.  They’re in good shape to at least give themselves a good shot at breaking a 3-year string of finishing the season at 808.
  3. New York Giants (2-2): For as bad as this offense looked the first 6 quarters of the season, this team could be 3-1.  Eli Manning has never been a high completion percentage guy, but the past two weeks he has been on point like few others.  Much like his postseason stats, in wins, he has a 6-1 touchdown to interception ratio.  Add to that a good defensive effort all year, a run game that’s coming on and a breakout from tight-end Larry Donnell, this team looks poised to prove some people wrong.
  4. Washington Redskins (1-3): Their point differential doesn’t tell the whole story.  Kirk Cousins has looked out-of-sorts at times, especially in week 4 against the Giants.  DeSean Jackson hasn’t been the play-maker they thought they were getting.  They put up a good fight against the Eagles, but the defense couldn’t make the stops needed.  RGIII continues to be hurt, and if they can’t get production from the former Rookie of the Year, they’re not going far, no matter how adequate Cousins can be.

NFC NORTH

  1. Detroit Lions (3-1): Boy is this team putting something together! They’ve had the talent for years, but now everyone is living up to it, particularly on defense.  I mean they’ve already made the Packers offense look terrible. The offense has always been sharp, led by Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.  This could be the year they get to, and advance in the playoffs.
  2. Green Bay Packers (2-2): I laughed when people said Olivia Munn was why Aaron Rodgers and offense have looked off early.  If completing nearly 67% of your passes for 9 touchdowns to 1 interception is off, than I think he’ll be okay.  They haven’t looked good on the road, but still have 7 home games to come, meaning many of them will be in the cold, adding to the home field advantage that is Lambeau Field.
  3. Minnesota Vikings (2-2): Adrian Peterson and his off-the-field issues have left a gaping hole on offense.  But Teddy Bridgewater got off to quite the start.  The defense has been pretty good, and to be 2-2 without Peterson, in a balanced division, is pretty impressive.  I don’t know how long it can last, but you’ve gotta be happy with how the on-the-field product has looked.
  4. Chicago Bears (2-2): It’s not easy to go 2-0 on the road.  It’s also not easy to go 0-2 at home.  The up-and-down Bears have a fairly even points allowed to points scored ratio.  Jay Cutler has been pretty good getting his team into the endzone, but as a whole the offense is in the middle of the pack.  As is the defense, hence the 2-2 record putting them at the bottom of the division early.

NFC SOUTH

  1. Atlanta Falcons (2-2): Their best game came in week 1 when they took down the Saints at home.  They’ve been a different team on the road.  Good teams win at home, great ones win everywhere.  Matt Ryan has the weapons but the defense has been too inconsistent.  A road win would boost this teams confidence, but heading to New York in Week 5 to take on an invigorated Giants team might be too much to overcome.
  2. Carolina Panthers (2-2): If you asked me if the defense would be the problem early on, I’d think you were crazy.  If anything, I’d have thought Cam Newton’s injury concerns would slow down Carolina.  It has, but allowing nearly 20 more points than you’ve scored doesn’t help.  This team got a taste of success last season, so look for them to look to that feeling to help propel them going forward.
  3. New Orleans Saints (1-3): I did not see this start coming for Drew Brees and company.  The defense has looked awful, the offense not much better.  They’re first two losses were late game collapses, their 3rd an ugly blowout from the Cowboys on Sunday Night.  If there’s anyone who can get his team turned around it’s Brees, but in a conference that has seen the NFC East get off to a better start overall than expected, coupled with a tough Western division, you’re only guaranteed one spot coming out of the South.
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3): A change back to Mike Glennon under center, and a porous Steelers defense helped them avoid an 0-4 start.  But if they want to be success going forward, the run game needs to get involved, as well as more consistency from their defense.  Many thought they’d be good this season because of their defense, and there’s still time for them to be respectable thanks to it.

NFC WEST

  1. Arizona Cardinals (3-0): Carlson Palmer goes down, and Drew Stanton picks up the slack.  The defense has been the best in the league through 4 games, allowing just 11 points a game.  They’re not the most impressive undefeated team ever, but it’s hard to win games in the National Football League, and they’ve managed to win all 3 this season.  If they can find a way to split with the Seahawks and 49ers, they could steal a Wild Card spot, or even the division.  To me, it all hinges on the quarterback play.  We know the team can play defense.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (2-1): Despite a loss to San Diego, this team looks like one ready to repeat.  They’ve had their bye, so it will be interesting to see if conditioning comes into play late.  You could be concerned about blowing a big lead late to the Broncos in week 3, or you can focus on the championship type drive Russell Wilson orchestrated in overtime.  Marshawn Lynch is still a beast.  Richard Sherman doesn’t get challenged.  This team is good. Simple as that.
  3. San Francisco 49ers: (2-2)  Colin Kaepernick’s TD to interception ratio is nothing to write home about at 6 to 4. They’re playing close games, leaving no room for error.  A loss in division puts them behind the 8 ball, but of course they have 5 more chances to get back on track. The Niners defense is in the top half in points allowed per game.  If they want to get past the Cards and Hawks, they need to get more consistent on both sides of the football.
  4. St. Louis Rams (1-2): Losing Sam Bradford before the season began put this team back.  I thought they’d make improvements this season, and of course they still can.  Their defense is pretty good, something I am not surprised about.  Hard to place the offense, as they’ve only played three games, but I can say it’s not a competitive offense, and therefore not a competitive team.  Another top pick in the draft awaits St. Louis.

NFL: Week 13 Thoughts

13 down. 4 to go.

It’s not often that 1 player goes off for 200+ yards on either the ground or in the receiving game.  But this week we saw 3 players have exception games.  How about 3 to 4 touchdowns for one player?  There were a few of those as well.

NFC EAST (This One’s Going Down to the Wire)

  • Cowboys: They got off to a slow start, but were able to come back from a 21-7 deficit to maintain their tie atop the division. An opening kick-off fumble by Terrence Williams was returned for a score, putting them down as quick as you can be down.  DeMarco Murray was huge in the redzone, scoring 3 rushing touchdowns, adding a number of big catches to help lead the comeback. Tony Romo managed the game well, finishing with 235-passing yards and a touchdown pass to Dez Bryant.  Back-up rusher Lance Dunbar added a career-high 82 yards in the ground game.  It’s the first time all season Dallas is 2 games over .500.  (7-5)
  • Eagles: Make it 19 touchdown passes with no interceptions for Philly savior Nick Foles. Though he did throw a pick in the game, it didn’t go against him as it was called back on a defensive penalty.  No matter what, Foles continued to shine against a very good Arizona defense, throwing 3 touchdown passes for 237-yards in their 4th straight victory.  He also set an Eagles record for most passes without an interception (233), breaking Michael Vick’s mark of 224 set in 2010. DeSean Jackson went over the 1,000 yard mark for the season.  Rookie receiver Zach Ertz on 2 of his 5 catches on the day.  The only concern is this team continues to be shutdown in the 4th quarter, something that gave Arizona multiple chances to steal a win on the road.  But the defense held, and the division crown still remains in play. (7-5)
  • Giants: Big Blue rallied from 14-0 down to at least keep their slim playoff chances alive, thanks in big part to their run game in the red-zone, and their defense.  Justin Tuck looked like his old self, racking up a career high 4 sacks, and after a bad start, the defense held the Skins to just 95 2nd half yards.  The run game overall wasn’t spectacular, but Andre Brown made his 35-yards count, scoring two touchdowns including the go-ahead score.  Eli Manning threw touchdown, and one interception, the Giants lone turnover of the game.  They’re the only team with at least 1 turnover in every game this season. (5-7)
  • Redskins: RG-still-stuck-at-3-wins and company got off to a very hot start Sunday night, but cooled off late.  Griffin was 16-for-17 at halftime, but went just 8-for-15 in the second half, and was dropped 5 times.  Washington had a chance to go the length of the field in the final minutes to try and tie. But a mix-up by officials with a 1st down being called a second with no measurement, the Skins play calling suffered and ultimately resulted in having to go for it on 4th down, and not converting.  The loss officially eliminates them from the playoffs.  (3-9)

NFC NORTH (Detroit Puts Some Separation Between Themselves and the Rest of the Division)

  • Lions: The Thanksgiving Day skid came to an end at 9 thanks to a big day from just about everyone.  Matt Stafford got off to a shake start, but he finished with over 300-yards passing, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.  Calvin Johnson caught one of those TDs, his 5th straight Turkey day score, as well as his 5th straight game this season.  Reggie Bush put an opening drive red-zone fumble behind him, rushing for 117-yards and a score in the rout.  The win helps put them in the driver’s seat for the division title. (7-5)
  • Bears: Matt Forte finished with 120-yards on the ground, and that wasn’t even the best total on the ground in the game, let alone the best from scrimmage total on his team.  Rookie wide-out Alshon Jeffery went off for two touchdowns and 249-yards receiving, giving him the two best receiving games in Bears history, ever.  The usually sure-footed Robbie Gould wasn’t so on point though, missing 2-of-4 field-goal attempts, including a 47-yard attempt that would’ve won it in overtime. (6-6) 
  • Packers: Matt Flynn “savior” wasn’t to be this week.  After a 10-3 start, the Pack were completely shut down by the Lions.  The defense did all it could, forcing 3 turnovers, including the early fumble they returned for Green Bay’s lone touchdown of the game.  But they couldn’t outplay their quarterback. Flynn threw a pick, lost two fumbles and was sacked in for a safety in the 3rd quarter.  The loss doesn’t put them out of contention for a wildcard spot or the division title, with a game against Chicago left.  But it does make things harder.  Aaron Rodgers could be back in week 14.  (5-6-1)
  • Vikings: Down 20-10 after 3 quarters, 10 unanswered in the 4th forced overtime for the second straight week.  The Vikings were 1:43 away from their second straight tie, but a Blair Walsh 34-yarder gave them the win instead. Walsh missed a 57-yarder earlier in overtime but Minnesota was given new life after the Chicago miss. Oh and in case you forgot, Adrian Peterson is really, really good.  Peterson ran for 211-yards on 35 carries for a 6-yard-per-attempt average.  Christian Ponder went down with an injury early in the game, and Matt Cassel came in and did a good job in his place.  Cassel threw 1 touchdown to Greg Jennings, a pick and finished with 243-yards in the air. (3-8-1)

NFC SOUTH (We Have a Battle For 1st Place on our Hands)

  • Saints: Other than one long drive in the 1st to cut the deficit to 17-7, the Saints offense looked like a shell of themselves. The one touchdown went to Jimmy Graham.  Drew Brees was held under 200-yards passing, and the run game was non-existent.  Just one turnover, but it was recovered for a touchdown early. Those 7 points scored by New Orleans, according to NFL.com, are the lowest scored by the Saints since Sean Payton became headcoach in 2006.  Making things worse, plane troubles kept them in Seattle overnight. (9-3)
  • Panthers: 8 straight wins and this time around, it was never in doubt.  The defense ravaged Tampa’s offense, holding them to just 2 field-goals, recording 5 sacks and forcing two turnovers.  Cam Newton did throw 2 picks, but he also threw for 263-yards and two touchdowns to go with 68-yards on the ground and a rushing score.  5 receivers finished with at least 35-yards, with Brian LaFell and Ted Ginn Jr each finding the end-zone.  Now they sit tied for 1st, with 2 games to go against New Orleans. (9-3)
  • Buccaneers:  They actually led the Panthers, not for long and not by much, but in a 21-point loss, I guess you take any positives you can find.  Mike Glennon has been very good for Tampa, but not this week as Tampa saw their win streak snapped at 3 games.  Glennon went on to post 14-21 completions, 180-yards, no touchdowns and an interception in the loss.  The defense did all it could, forcing a couple turnovers, but they had no real answer for Newton short of those takeaways. (3-9)
  • Falcons: It took overtime, but the skid ends at 5 for Atlanta.  Steven Jackson had his first multi-touchdown day as a Falcon as a part of an 84-yard rushing performance.  Matt Ryan didn’t throw any interceptions, something foreign to him this season, but he did lose one fumble.  Ryan was good throwing the rock though, finishing with 311-yards passing and a touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez.  Roddy White had nearly 150-yards receiving. They never led in regulation, and won it thanks to Matt Bryant’s 2nd field-goal of the game in the extra frame. (3-9)

NFC WEST (Seattle Just Continues to Fly Higher)

  • Seahawks: It was all Seattle early, thanks to a fumble recovery for a score for Michael Bennett, his first careers touchdown.  And it stayed Seattle’s night, thanks to Russell Wilson, whose throws we’re on point all game long.  The 2nd year quarterback threw for 310-yards, 3 touchdowns and added another 47-yards on the ground.  The defense was huge against a potent Saints offense, holding them to under 50-yards rushing and Brees to under 200-yards passing, a rare feat. Home field throughout the playoffs looks way more likely now with a 2-game lead over the rest of the NFC. (11-1)
  • 49ers: There was a big time Anquan Boldin sighting in week 13, as the wide-out caught 9 passes for 98-yards.  Tight-end Vernon Davis added an athletic leap over a defender, 82-yards and a score to San Fran’s 10-point division win. Colin Kaepernick threw for nearly 300-yards and a score. 3 Phil Dawson field-goals and a Frank Gore rushing touchdown was the rest of the niners offense as they put a game between themselves and Arizona.  They never trailed, and currently hold the 6th and final playoff spot in the NFC. (8-4)
  • Cardinals: They put themselves in a 21-7 hole early, and they were never able to fully recover.  Carson Palmer threw 3 touchdown passes, but also threw 2 interceptions, as well as lost a fumble.  Those 3 turnovers proved costly in a 3-point game.  Rashard Mendenhall had one of his better games of the year, picking up 79-yards on the ground, but it wasn’t enough.  Michael Floyd came up just short of the 100-yard receiving mark, while Larry Fitzgerald added another 72 in the passing game.  Both scored touchdowns.  The loss hurts drops them back in the hunt for a wildcard spot, but they still have a better shot than most.  (7-5)
  • Rams: They did a decent job of holding down the 49ers early, but the offense couldn’t do much against San Fran.  Kellen Clemens finished with over 200-yards passing, a touchdown and an interception, while Zac Stacy gained 72 on the ground.  But drives stalled, and they had to settle for field-goals rather than touchdowns on 2 of them.  They are still much improved over last season, but with 3 teams to jump in their own division, the playoffs aren’t realistic.  (5-7)

AFC EAST (It’s Still The Pats Division)

  • Patriots: They won, but I wouldn’t be too proud of myself if I was a Patriots player after Sunday’s performance  Down 17-7 at the half to a 2 win Houston team, they needed a big 2nd half to save themselves from a bad loss.  The game saw 5 lead changes as Tom Brady finished with 371-yards passing, 2 touchdowns and an interception. Both Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman finished with over 100-yards receiving.  LeGarrett Blount added a score in the run game.  But they couldn’t stop the run in the red-zone, allowing 4 rushing touchdowns.  They rallied again, but the defense was suspect and their run game wasn’t great. (9-3)
  • Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill finished the must-win game completing 28-of-43 passes for 331-yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception.  4 players combined for over 120-yards on the ground, including 22 from Tannehill.  The defense took advantage of a down New York offense, holding them to just 3-points. Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace combined for over 200-yards and 2 scores while  3 Caleb Strugis field-goals book-ended the scoring for Miami, who keeps playoff hopes alive.  (6-6)
  • Jets: Well, they’re in a free-fall now.  Geno Smith hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since before the World Series began, and was finally benched in favor of Matt Simms. not that it made a difference.  Smith went 4-for-10 for 29-yards with an INT before being replaced by Simms, who completed 50% of his passes for 79-yards, a fumble lost and a pick. The only offense New York could muster was a 2nd half Nick Folk field-goal.  After not winning or losing 2 straight, the Jets are now on 3-game losing streak, and see their playoff hopes die  with each loss. (5-7)
  • Bills: They had their chance to win in regulation on a possible game winning drive, but a lost fumble ended those hopes, and they eventually fell in overtime.  It was a good day for the running backs, with CJ Spiller nearing the 150-yard mark, while Fred Jackson scored a rushing and receiving touchdown.  But a couple lost fumbles, and their defense’s inability to stop Atlanta, meant disaster. (4-8)

AFC NORTH (The Ravens are Trying to Fly Back into the Race)

  • Bengals: Andy Dalton’s 190-yards passing put him over 3,000 for the season, making him just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 3,000 in each of his first 3 seasons.  Peyton Manning is the other.  Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis had one of his better games of the season, picking up 92-yards and finding the end-zone for the games first score. The defense showed up big time, forcing 3 turnovers, and 2 sacks to help maintain their 2 game division lead. (8-4) 
  • Ravens: It was close throughout on Thanksgiving night, but Baltimore held on in the end, stopping Pittsburgh on a late 2-point conversion to hold on and keep playoff hopes alive. It was a first quarter Joe Flacco to Torrey Smith 7-yard touchdown pass that put Baltimore up for good.  And then it was the Justin Tucker, who continues to have a monster season, hitting on all 5 of his field-goal attempts. (6-6)
  • Steelers: Jerricho Cotchery’s 1-yard touchdown catch with a minute left in regulation looked like it might force overtime, but a failed 2-point conversion meant a loss.  The Steelers couldn’t recover from an early 13-0 deficit, despite 73-yards and a rushing touchdown by Le’Veon Bell.  Ben Roethlisberger did everything he could to help lead his team to a comeback win on Thanksgiving, throwing for over 250-yards, 2 touchdowns and no turnovers.  But the road win and a .500 record wasn’t to be. (5-7)
  • Browns: Cleveland scored a touchdown in every quarter, but it wasn’t enough as they allowed a late score to Jacksonville.  The loss spoiled a historic effort from wide-receiver Josh Gordon, whose team record 261-receiving-yards made him the first player in NFL history to have back-to-back 200-yard receiving games.  Gordon also had 2 touchdowns, including one late in the 4th that looked like it might be the game-winner.  Brandon Weedon had a very up and down day in his return to the starting lineup.  He threw for 370 and 3 scores, but also threw two picks, lost a fumble and took a 4th quarter safety. The loss brings their losing streak to 3 games.  (4-8)

AFC South (Indy on the Verge of Wrapping This One Up)

  • Colts: 1 more win, another Titans loss, or a tie would give them the AFC South crown thanks to their 8-point victory over Tennessee.  It wasn’t an impressive win for the offense, but sometimes you have to win ugly.  Adam Vinatieri continues to show why he’s one of the best kickers to ever play the game, hitting all 5 of his field-goal attempts, including a go-ahead 49-yarder in the 3rd quarter.  Andrew Luck struggled again, finishing with just 200-yards passing, no touchdowns and an interception.  Donald Brown’s touchdown run in the 4th sealed the victory. (8-4)
  • Titans: They held in there against Indy, even taking a 14-12 lead in the 3rd quarter, but the Colts defense got to Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Tennessee’s quarterback finished with 201-yards passing, a touchdown, 54-yards rushing, but 3 interceptions and a fumble loss.  Those turnovers helped a struggling Colts offense to set up those 5 Vinatieri field-goals. The loss basically puts them out of range of a division crown, but they are still in the hunt for a wildcard. (5-7)
  • Jaguars: Dont look now, but the Jags are on a winning streak, and no longer have the worst record in the league.  Their 2nd straight win came in comeback fashion, capped off by a 20-yard touchdown pass from Chad Henne to Cecil Shorts with just 40-seconds left in regulation.  Maurice Jones-Drew had himself a day, picking up 77-yards on the ground, and throwing an 8-yard touchdown, his first (you know because he’s a runningback). The defense wasn’t great, but they got the win anyway. (3-9)
  • Texans: Early on, it looked like they might snap their skid, instead the losing streak hit 10 thanks to a 3-point loss to New England. Ben Tate was huge in the red-zone, scoring 3 touchdowns of 20, 10 and 8 yards.  Case Keenum added a rushing score of his own, to go along with his 270-yards passing and 1 interception. Andre Johsnon finished with over 100-yards receiving. They put up a good fight against a very good team, but a final game-winning drive stalled and they couldn’t get that 6th lead change for-the-win. (2-10)

AFC WEST (The Chiefs Picked the Wrong Time to Start Losing)

  • Broncos: They put themselves in a touch position early against a good team, but for the 3rd straight game KC’s defense was lacking, and Peyton Manning took advantage.  After 2 early interceptions, Manning went on to throw for 400 yards and 5 touchdown passes. Eric Decker was the beneficiary, registering a career day 174-yards and 4 touchdown passes. Rookie running back Montee Ball added a career high 103-yards on just 4 carries.  One concern was the fact that Von Miller went down twice in the game, though he would continue both times. The win all but ensures them the AFC West crown after taking both games of the season series against Kansas City.  (10-2)
  • Chiefs: From 9 wins in a row, to 3 losses in a row.  The offense did all it could, picking up over 400-yards of total offense, and going up 21-7 in the 1st half.  Add to that a franchise record 108-yard kick-off return touchdown  from rookie Knile Davis, and it looked like it might be their day. But the Chiefs defense betrayed them again, allowing Eric Decker to run circles around Champ Bailey all day. They’re lucky the AFC wildcard isn’t as tightly bunched as the NFC, as they have a 3 game lead over the 6th seed, so their playoff dreams are still very much in tact.  (9-3)
  • Chargers: The defense wasn’t the problem, it was the offense against a good Cincinnati squad.  Their lone touchdown was scored by tight-end Ladarius Green, in the 2nd quarter.  San Diego was held to just 1 field-goal in the 2nd half.  Keenan Allen found a way to have another good day, catching 8 Philip Rivers passes for 106-yards.  Rivers finished the loss with 252-passing-yards, the Green TD pass, and an interception.  This team has been inconsistent all year, and Sunday was just another example of that. (5-7)
  • Raiders: They returned the opening kick-off fumble for a touchdown.  And gave themselves a nice 2-score cushion on Thanksgiving, but the Cowboys are just a better team.  After those 21 first half points, they managed just 1 field-goal in the 2nd half.  2nd year wide-out Andre Holmes had a nice game, 5 catches for 136-yards, but that’s where the good days ended.  Sure, Rashard Jennings found the end zone twice, but only had 35-yards rushing.  Matt McGloin threw a pick, and no touchdowns as a part of his 255-yard passing performance. (4-8)

There you have it.  If week 13 wasn’t fun enough for you, week 14 promises to be even more eventful as the playoffs inch closer.

Enjoy.

NFL: Week 11 Thoughts

11 down. 6 to go. And playoff races are starting to heat up.  The final undefeated has fallen, while leads atop divisions have shrunken, grown and switched hands.  Everything you could hope as the days inch closer to the holidays.

2 more teams were off this week: the  Cowboys and the Rams.

NFC EAST (The Birds Are All Alone Atop the Division… For Now)

  • Eagles: A 3rd straight victory snapped a franchise record 10-game home losing streak.  Up 17-0 at the halftime break, the defense was able to hold off a 4th quarter comeback.  The offense looked great in the 1st half, but only scored once in the 2nd half.  Nick Foles used his legs, not his arm, to find the end-zone this week.  Philly’s new top gun ran in for a score, while LeSean McCoy did the rest, finding pay-dirt twice on the afternoon.  Foles threw no TDs, while continuing his streak of no interceptions in tack as apart of a 298-yard passing day.  They became the 8th team in NFL history with at least 2,800 passing yards and 1,600 rushing yards through it’s first 11 games. With Dallas off, Philly takes over sole possession of 1st in the East, but they have already lost once to the Cowboys with another match-up ahead. (6-5)
  • Cowboys: Bye Week. (5-5)
  • Giants: 4 straight wins for the Giants, and this was the best all-around game in the stretch.  Eli Manning looked as good as he has since week 1 (the part after those 3 interceptions to start the year).  The struggling 2-time Superbowl MVP threw a 26-yard touchdown to Ruben Randle in a game where he completed 25 of 35 passes for 279 yards.  Running backs Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs did their thing on the ground, combining for 75 yards and a score.  The defense allowed just the 2nd touchdown in their last 18 quarters, and they continued to shut down opposing backs.  Up just 7 in the 4th, Jason Pierre-Paul sealed the win with a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown. (4-6)
  • Redskins: The offense couldn’t do anything right until the 4th quarter.  Down 24-0, Robert Griffin III threw TD passes of 62 and 41 yards to Darrel Young and Aldrick Robinson, while converting on both 2-point conversions to get within 8.  With one final drive, Griffin drove Washington all the way to the Eagles 18 before a Brandon Boykin interception sealed the loss. Griffin and Alfred Morris combined for 137 yards on the ground, but two RGIII turnovers proved too costly in the end. They’re now alone in last place, with two against the Giants left to be played. (3-7)

NFC NORTH (It’s Crowded at the Top)

  • Lions: A golden opportunity to at least hold onto their 1 game lead, they got off to a slow start in Pittsburgh and never recovered. They now have company atop the division, though should they end in a tie with Chicago, they hold the tiebreaker.  Matt Stafford did become the franchise’s leading passer thanks to his 362-yards passing.  And Calvin Johnson put up monster numbers again, with 179 and a score.  But much of their damage came in a 27 point 2nd quarter.  Detroit was shutout in the 2nd half, while the defense surrendered 4 Steelers touchdowns and 3 field-goals.  (6-4)
  • Bears: A long weather delay gave Chicago new life, leading to an overtime win on the strength of a 38-yard Robbie Gould field-goal.  Down 10-0 with 4:51 in the 1st, play was stopped because of tornado warnings.  Nearly 2 hours later, play resumed, and the Bears woke up. Josh McCown connected with Matt Forte on his lone TD pass of the day.  Forte added 83-yards on the ground to that receiving touchdown.  Defensive end David Bass added a score on defense with a 24-yard interception return of Joe Flacco in the 2nd quarter. (6-4) 
  • Packers: Scott Tolzien had a chance to tie in the 4th quarter, but a pick 6 sealed a 3rd straight loss since losing Aaron Rodgers and then Seneca Wallace. Despite nearly 350 yards passing, the team couldn’t recover from Tolzien’s 3 interceptions, including the game sealing  pick 6. Rookie running back Eddie Lacy was all but shutdown, managing just 27 rushing yards and a score that turned into nothing more than window dressing.  All hope is not lost, with Rodgers back to practice and match-ups against all three division foes left on the schedule. (5-5)
  • Vikings: Neither Christian Ponder, or Matt Cassel could solve the Seahawks defense, combining for 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and a lost fumble on Sunday.  Toby Gerhart and not Adrian Peterson led the team in rushing yards, but the 132 combined yards on the ground didn’t help stave off defeat.  Just about the only things they did well were to keep it close at half, and limit Lynch everywhere but the redzone.  (2-8)

NFC SOUTH (The Saints Keep Marching On)

  • Saints: It was a defensive struggle in the 2nd half, but 9 points in the 4th gave New Orleans the come-from-behind home victory over San Francisco.   Tied late, Marques Colston finished off a record day with a 20-yard catch to set up Garrett Hartley’s 31-yard game winning field goal as time expired.  The wide-receiver out of Hofstra finished the day with five catches for 80 yards to become the Saints all-time leader in yards receiving with 7,922. It wasn’t the Saints best day offensively, but it was enough thanks to the play of the defense.  3 sacks and a pick of Colin Kaepernick gave Drew Brees and company enough time to get 3 scoring drives in the 4th. (8-2)
  • Panthers: Maybe now is the time to start talking about this team as a threat. A 4-point win on Monday night gives them 6 straight, and back-to-back statement wins.  Cam Newton threw for 3 touchdowns for the 3rd time this season, something he did only twice his first 2 seasons in the league.  He spread the wealth, hitting 3 different receivers for scores, while 3 finished with at least 50-yards receiving.  Ted Ginn Jr was the recipient of the game winner with just over a minute to play in regulation. Newton was also the only real threat in the run game, leading the way with 62 on the ground to go with 209 in the air.  The defense forced two turnovers, including a Brady INT in the end-zone as time expired.  According to the Panthers PR department, they’re the first team since the 1935 Giants to allow 1 or fewer first half touchdowns over their first 10 games of the season. (7-3)
  • Buccaneers: Don’t look now but the previously win-less Bucs are on a win streak. Waiver wire pick-up Bobby Rainey had himself a day in the place of the injured Doug Martin and Mike James.  162-yards rushing and 2 scores for the 2nd year back out of Western Kentucky.  Not to mention a 3rd touchdown catch for Rainey thrown by Mike Glennon, who finished with 231 and two scores on the day. Vincent Jackson had a monster day, grabbing 10 passes for 165 and a touchdown. (2-8)
  • Falcons: I never thought this team would be at the bottom of the division with all the talent they have, but here they are.  They’ve now dropped 4 straight, and according to NFL.com, they’ve been outscored 135-61 in that stretch.  Matt Ryan threw 2 touchdowns, but also another 2 interceptions.  Harry Douglas had another good game despite being questionable leading up to kick-off, catching 6 passes for 134-yards and a score.  The run game was finally decent, but if you can’t stop the run or get stops in the red-zone, you’re not going to win many games. (2-8)

NFC WEST (The Hawks Are Flying Away With It)

  • Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch didn’t have the monster yardage total he’s accustomed to, but he made his yards count, taking it in for 2 scores, one on the ground and one in the air, in a big win over the Vikings.  Russell Wilson didn’t throw it much, but he did complete 13 of 18 for 230 and two touchdowns.  It was still a game at the half, but the defense did it’s job in the 2nd half, including a pick 6 to help pull away for good.  The win makes them just 1 of 3 teams with just 1 loss, and keeps their 1-game lead for the NFC’s number 1 seed in tact after the Saints win.  Not to mention all but locks up the West after the aforementioned New Orleans win over San Francisco. (10-1)
  • 49ers: Make it two straight losses after a 5-game stretched where San Fran looked nearly unbeatable.  This team doesn’t blow many leads, but they did just that against the Saints. Colin Kaepernick was sacked 3 times, threw 2 touchdowns and an interception.  He nor running back Frank Gore could get much going on the ground.  Aaron Brooks had really the only good game on defense, picking off Brees, getting the teams lone sack and forcing a fumble.  Now they’re tied for 2nd with Arizona. (6-4)
  • Cardinals: Nobody is talking about this team, but they are in a fight for a wildcard thanks in large part to their defense.  They got off to a slow start in the 1st quarter, but then both sides of the ball dominated the Jaguars for the rest of the way. Carson Palmer threw for 419 yards and two scores and no picks for the first time all year.  Receiver Michael Floyd finished with a career-high 193 yards receiving, including a 91-yard touchdown. (6-4)
  • Rams: Bye Week. (4-6)

AFC EAST (The Pats Maintain a Decent Lead)

  • Patriots: They were down 10 early, but rallied back to take the lead in the 4th, but it wasn’t enough. Tom Brady threw for just 1 touchdown, and didn’t get the help he needed from his run game.  He had a shot with 4-seconds left from his own 18, but his final throw was picked off in the end-zone.  Controversy struck when a flag for what New England thought would be defensive holding was picked up.  Brady was visibly upset with the refs as the teams took the field to shake hands. Whether or not the call should’ve been made, the Patriots were once again shutdown by a top flight defense.  Lucky for them the Jets didn’t close the gap.  (7-3)
  • Jets: They’re consistently inconsistent. According to NFL.com, they’re the first team to alternate wins and losses the first 10 games of the season.  Geno Smith looked like a rookie on the road today, with 2 turnovers in the 1st half alone. Things got worse when he was benched in favor of Matt Simms.  Down 20-0 at the half, they could never make a threat on the Bills. Chris Ivory had really the only good day, falling just short of a 100 yards on the ground to go with a score. (5-5)
  • Dolphins: This needed a win for many reasons, and they battled til the end to get one. Their first since the bully scandal broke, Ryan Tannehill led his team to victory.  The 2nd year quarterback threw for 268 yards, including a 39-yard score to tight-end Charles Clay to break a 10-10 tie in the third. Miami also managed 104 yards rushing behind a makeshift offensive line. (5-5)
  • Bills: EJ Manuel led his team to their 1st win in 3 weeks. Manuel was on point, completing 20 of 28 passes for 245 and 2 scores.  The run game didn’t come into play much, but the way the defense stepped up, they didn’t need help on the ground.  Jarius Byrd forced two of the Jets 4 turnovers, while Da’Norris Searcy returned his interception for a score.  The two teams split the season series, each winning at home.  (4-7)

AFC NORTH (The Bengals Pounce, Give Themselves A Big Cushion)

  • Bengals: Nothing like 31 unanswered 2nd quarter points (the largest output in a quarter in team history) to put a bad start behind you.  After losing two straight games in overtime, a rout was what this team needed to get back on track.  Andy Dalton shook off a bad start that saw two of his passes picked off in the 1st quarter, one returned for a score, to put them down 13-0 quick.  But he came back to throw 3 scores, but on just 93 yards passing. It was a good all around game, with both the defense and special teams finding the end-zone, with a fumble recovery and a blocked punt for a score.  (7-4) 
  • Steelers: Don’t look now but they’re technically not in last place anymore after a very slow start to the season.  Big Ben and company had their most impressive day on offense.  Ben Roethlisberger threw for 367 yards, 4 touchdowns and no turnovers.  Add 3 more field-goals for Shaun Suisham and it’s pretty easy to see why this team held off the Lions. (4-6)
  • Browns: They jumped out to a quick 13-0 score.  But then they fell apart on both offense and defense, and you can’t do that against a hungry team like Cincinnati. Jason Campbell threw 3 interceptions, Chris Ogbonnaya lost a fumble and their special teams allowed a score.  And despite creating a couple of turnovers of their own, they couldn’t get any real pressure on Dalton. (4-6)
  • Ravens: Justin Tucker’s 21-yard field goal forced over-time, but it wasn’t enough to save them from the loss. Baltimore jumped out to a quick 10-point lead thanks to a 1-yard Ray Rice touchdown run, and a Tucker 52-yard field goal in the 1st half. But then the weather delay happenedRice finished with his best total of the season, 131 yards and that score.  Joe Flacco ended with 162-yards passing, a touchdown and two interceptions, one of which was returned for 6.  It was a golden opportunity to move into a better spot for a possible wild card spot, instead they fall 3 games back of the division lead. (4-6)

AFC South  (Indy All But Has This Things Wrapped Up)

  • Colts: A slow start wasn’t enough to hand Indy their second straight loss, which would’ve been a first in the Chuck Pagano era.  Andrew Luck and company woke up in the 3rd quarter to rally from a 17-6 half-time deficit and get their 7th win.   The Colts got some much-needed help from Donald Brown, who ran in for two scores for the first time in his career.  Luck added an 11-yard scamper of his own.  Tight-end Coby Fleener had a career high 8 catches for 107 yards. (7-3)
  • Titans: Things looked good early, when Chris Johnson’s 30-yard and 7-yard touchdown runs in the 1st quarter put the Colts’ backs against the wall early.  But if you can’t turn over the Colts, or stop the run in the red zone, you’re in trouble.  Ryan Fitzpatrick had a good day in place of the injured Jake Locker, completing 22 of 28 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown.  But it wasn’t enough in the end.  They started off the season well, but have taken a turn for the worse as they’re losers of 2 straight and 5 of their last 6. (4-6)
  • Texans: Make it 8 straight losses.  Two early turnovers including Case Keenum’s first career interception gave the Raiders two quick drives from their own 16. Oakland scored on both turnovers and put Houston down 14-0 in the 1st.  But 17 unanswered points capped by a career-long 51-yard field goal by Randy Bullock had them up at the half.  Down 21-17 in the 3rd, Houston decided to remove a healthy Keenum for Matt Schaub, who hadn’t seen action since he went down in week 6.  (2-8)
  • Jaguars: They jumped out quick, but it wasn’t enough as they were shutout through the final 3 quarters.  They scored a touchdown (2 in fact) for the first time at home all season.  Maurice Jones-Drew only finished with 23 yards rushing on 14 carries, but he did have one of the two Jacksonville scores.  Chad Henne threw two picks, one touchdown.  The defense sacked Carson Palmer 3 times, but was unable to turn the Cardinals over.  (1-9)

AFC WEST (December is Going to Be Fun in the West)

  • Broncos: In the biggest game of the week, Denver put up the most points on KC of any opponent.  Peyton Manning wasn’t sharp, but the run game was huge in the red zone, while the defense did their best Chiefs impression, with a number of impressive stops and takeaways. Manning extended his record for 300 yard passing games to 81, but threw just one touchdown and lost a fumble in the process. Rookie running back Montee Ball had his best game of the season, capitalizing in the red zone by finding the endzone twice.  A huge reason for the good run game was the offensive line, which prevented a sack-happy defense from touching Manning all night.  They hold the end in the division, for now.  Their 2nd match-up comes in 2 weeks in KC. (9-1)
  • Chiefs: Alex Smith threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns as his team suffered their first loss of the season. They were in the game the whole night, but couldn’t find a way to get over the hump.  Dwayne Bowe had a 57-yards receiving and a` touchdown in a game he could have been out for days after being arrested for speeding and marijuana possession. The defense held down the potent Broncos defense for the most part, but it was still almost 15 points more than their opponents average.  Jaamal Charles had a good day on the ground, running for 78 at 4.9 yards a carry. (9-1)
  • Raiders: Matt McGloin made quite the impression in his first NFL start. 3 touchdowns (2 of which came on turnovers) and no interceptions for the former Penn State QB.  Rashad Jennings continues to make Oakland fans ask Darren McFadden who? with 150 yards and a rushing touchdown to help get his team their 4th win.  The defense forced 3 turnovers, and held late with a goal-line stand in the final seconds to stop the Texans comeback attempt. The win ensures they finish with a better win total than a year ago. (4-6)
  • Chargers: Forever the inconsistent team are these Chargers.  San Diego could only muster one touchdown, coming in the 1st quarter to fall for the 3rd straight game. They stayed in the game til the end thanks to 3 Nick Novak field goals.  But their possible game winning drive ended with an incomplete pass in the end zone.  Philip Rivers fell just short of 300 yards passing, with a touchdown and an interception.  Ryan Matthews was able to get back over 100 yards rushing, but was unable to find the end zone. (4-6)

That’s it.  Week 12 approaches as teams look to continue bettering their playoff positioning.

NFL: Week 10 Thoughts

10 down. 7 to go.  No more win-less teams, and just the 1 undefeated team left as week 10 wrapped up.

A number of quarterbacks went down, while many crazy, circus catches were made.  Long story short, this week was fun.

4 teams were off this week: the Patriots, the Jets, the Chiefs and the Browns.

NFC EAST (The Eagles Have Flown Into a Tie for First)

  • Cowboys: A week after winning despite not running the ball, Dallas went run early and often.  DeMarco Murray had 80 yards rushing and a touchdown at the half. But they abandoned the run in the 2nd half, Murray finished with just 89 yards and Tony Romo couldn’t pick up the slack.  Dallas’ QB completed less than 50% of his passes, and threw just 1 touchdown pass. Injuries continue to come on to key members on defense, this time to linebacker Sean Lee. All of those injuries are showing themselves, with this defense allowing the most yards in a 10 game span in franchise history. They continue to be up and down, and now it has cost them sole possession of 1st place.  (5-5)
  • Eagles: Nick Foles was never going to put up 7 touchdown passes for a second straight week, but Philly’s QB did enough to get a second straight win.  Foles threw for 228 yards and 3 scores.  And how about this stat: just the 3rd QB to throw at least 16TDs before their first interception of the season. The other two: Milt Plum in 1960, and Peyton Manning earlier this season. LeSean McCoy had a monster day on the ground, rushing for 155 yards, while Riley Cooper added two 3rd quarter touchdowns to help Philadelphia pull away. (5-5)
  • Giants:  Make it 3 straight in the win column for New York.  The special teams put them down with an opening kickoff fumble which was then turned into 7.  Then they got it back with a blocked punt for a score, New York’s first since 1988. Then normal scoring took place. Andre Brown returned from a fractured leg suffered in pre-season, and looked like his old self. Speaking of a guy who’s done big things coming off a big injury, Terrell Thomas was named NFC Defensive Player of the week after week 8, and he made his presence felt in the 3rd quarter this week.  A 47-yard interception return helped the Giants find the end zone on a Brown run and take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.  Going back to before the injury suffered late last year, it gives the back a rushing TD in 6 straight games.  Eli Manning survived his 3rd pick six of the season. (3-6)
  • Redskins: It’s hard to lose a game when you don’t turn the ball over, but that’s what happened on the road to start week 10.  Alfred Morris had a good day on the ground, while Robert Griffin III threw 3 touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough.  They had a shot to tie at the end 4th quarter, but Santana Moss couldn’t get his second foot in bounds on a pass in the corner of the end zone on fourth down.  Washington was 3-6 last season when they went on a 7-0 run to steal the Division and get into the playoffs(3-6)

NFC NORTH (And Just Like That the Pack Aren’t Leading the Pack)

  • Lions: Make it a season sweep of their division rivals from Chicago, thanks in large part to a stop on a two-point conversion with 40 seconds left in regulation. Calvin Johnson’s two touchdowns moved into first for the most TD receptions in Lions history.  Matthew Stafford completed just over 50% of his passes, but still managed to throw for 3 scores. Reggie Bush had 89 of his 105 yards rushing in the 2nd half to help Detroit move into a tie for 1st. (6-3)
  • Bears: Jay Cutler wasn’t very sharp in his return from a groin injury, throwing for just 1 touchdown and 1 interception.  To make matters worse, he left the game with an ankle injury.  Brandon Marshall benefited from having Cutler back, grabbing that one score in a 139 yard day.  Alshon Jeffery also had over 100 yards receiving on the day.  But other than that, no one else really contributed on offense, with Matt Forte gaining just 33 yards on 17 carries.  The defense didn’t do a good job stopping the run or getting to Stafford.  (5-4) 
  • Packers: They lost Aaron Rodgers last week, then lost backup Seneca Wallace in the 1st quarter this week around. This team had been able to find ways to score after losing many big targets in the passing game, but it’s hard to win when you get down to your 3rd string QB, especially as fast as this team did.  Third year QB Scott Tolzien came in and threw two interceptions.  The defense couldn’t help out, allowing the Eagles to run all over them.  Mason Crosby continues to struggle kicking the ball, missing two of his four field-goal attempts.  Eddie Lacy did a good decent on the ground, while Jarrett Boykin went over 100 yards receiving. (5-4)
  • Vikings: Christian Ponder went down late, but not before he helped lead his team to their first win since week 3 against Pittsburgh.  After an early interception, Ponder settled down to throw 2 touchdowns, before leaving with a left shoulder injury late in the 3rd quarter.  Adrian Peterson with a second straight big week, with 2 touchdowns on 75 yards rushing. Tight-end John Carlson with the big day in the receiving game, grabbing 7 balls for 98 yards and a score.  The defense did enough to hold off the Skins in the end. (2-7)

NFC SOUTH (Things Are Getting Interesting)

  • Saints: After a bad road loss in week 9, a big bounce back moved them to 5-0 at home.  Receiver Marques Colston and running back Darren Sproles both returned from injury and made their impact felt immediately, with a combined 3 touchdowns in the 1st half. Drew Brees was on point all night, and finished with nearly 400 yards passing and 4 touchdowns. Colston, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram (career high 145 yards rushing) each finished with over 100 total yards.  Rookie Kenny Stills, Ingram and Thomas each found the end-zone as well.  New Orleans finished with 600-plus total yards on offense, and their 40 first downs set an NFL record. (7-2)
  • Panthers: This team is for real.  Make it 5 straight wins after absolutely dominating last years NFC Superbowl representatives, the San Francisco 49ers.  The league’s only defense ranked top 10 in the rush and pass, as well as points allowed, showed they’re not there by accident.  DeAngelo Williams scored the games only touchdown, while Graham Gano’s 53-yard field goal in the 4th proved to be the game-winner.  Cam Newton didn’t do much against a good niners defense.  Luke Kuechly continue to have a good year defensively, with a game high 11-tackles and one of the teams 5 sacks. (6-3)
  • Falcons: They’re just not the same team this season. Matt Ryan finally figured out how to avoid the turnovers, something to take away from a turnover happy Seattle defense.  But he couldn’t even reach the 180 yards passing mark to go with no run game.  Not to mention the defense had no answers for the Seahawks. It’s their 3rd straight loss, putting them two losses away from their first losing season since 2007 or pre-Ryan. (2-7)
  • Buccaneers: Watching the Jaguars get their first win must have inspired Tampa Bay.  They saw their 15-7 halftime lead evaporate heading into the 4th quarter, but their defense pitched a final quarter shutout to give the offense a chance.  Mike Glennon led the team on a long drive to start the 4th, and it ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tackle Donald Penn.  The run defense was on point to say the least… holding the Dolphins to just 2 yards on the ground, a staggering number.  The defense added a safety 2 key sacks and a pick to their impressive night. (1-8)

NFC WEST (The Hawks Are Flying High)

  • Seahawks: After two straight shaky wins, there was nothing shaky this week against Atlanta. Marshawn Lynch continues to live up to the nickname “beastmode” after a averaging 6 yards a carry, finishing with 145 and a rushing touchdown.  Russell Wilson threw connected with Golden Tate on a one-handed grab in the corner of the end-zone as a part of his 2 touchdown day.  It was a rematch of a 2012 playoff game, a match-up won by Atlanta.  How quickly things change. (9-1)
  • 49ers: Colin Kaepernick couldn’t get anything going against a stout Panthers defense.  The mobile QB couldn’t crack 100 yards passing, and only gained 16 yards on the ground. His one interception iced the victory for Carolina.  Phil Dawson was the only offense, kicking 3 field goals, including a season high 53-yarder. Frank Gore ran for 82 yards, while Mario Manningham caught 3 passes for 30 yards in his season debut. (6-3)
  • Cardinals:  They almost gave it away, but held on to move match their win total from a year ago. The Cards took a quick 7-nothing lead when on the game’s first play John Abraham caused a fumble and Matt Shaugnessy returned it 6 yards for the score.  Carson Palmer threw 2 touchdowns, but also threw a pick and lost a fumble.  It was Rashard Mendenhall’s fumble deep in their own territory that allowed the Texans to stay in the game, but in the end the defense held.   (5-4)
  • Rams: Snapping a 3 game losing streak was due to a big defensive performance, and this time they got a lot of help on offense as well.  Tavon Austin had just two catches, but he made them both count; 138 yards and two scores.  Add a 98-yard punt return for a touchdown, and the rookie helped blow out the previously 6-2 Indianapolis Colts.  3 interceptions of Andrew Luck, to go with a strip sack, helped St Louis make easy work and pick up their first win since losing Sam Bradford. (4-6)

AFC EAST (The Two Best Teams Didn’t Play)

  • Patriots: Bye Week. (7-2)
  • Jets: Bye Week. (5-4)
  • Dolphins: They got off to a slow start, but were able to rally back to score 19 unanswered points to hold a lead heading into the 4th over a win-less bucs team.  But it wasn’t enough as they couldn’t get anything done in the 4th, losing by 3.  Ryan Tannehill threw two touchdown passes and Caleb Strugis hit on two field-goal attempts in the comeback effort. Their biggest problem came on the ground, with the team managing just 2 measly yards on the ground all night. In their first game since the bully scandal really blew up, they sure did miss their offensive linemen.  The loss drops them further back from the top two teams, with a match-up with the Jets upcoming. (4-5)
  • Bills: EJ Manuel’s return wasn’t a good one.  After coming back from an MCL injury, the rookie only managed 155 passing yards, a score and a turnover.  He couldn’t help himself out on the ground, and the rest of the backs didn’t do much against a Steelers defense that needed to bounce back after a horrible week 9 performance.  Rookie tight-end Chris Gragg scored the Bills lone touchdown in the 4th quarter. Make it 3 straight losses for the East’s bottom-dwellers. (3-7)

AFC NORTH (Cincy Falters, Still Holds a 2 Game Lead)

  • Bengals: Andy Dalton connected on a crazy tipped hail mary touchdown as time expired to AJ Green to send the game to overtime. Green finished with a 151 yards receiving thanks to that 51-yard TD catch. But a questionable play call on 4th and 2 in their territory gave Baltimore good field position, and they ultimately lost on a field-goal.  Dalton threw 2 touchdowns, but also threw 3 interceptions in their 2nd straight loss. (6-4) 
  • Browns: Bye Week. (4-5)
  • Ravens: Justin Tucker’s 46-yard field-goal in overtime saved Baltimore from a crushing loss at home, and snapped their 3 game skid.  They blew a 17-0 halftime lead when they didn’t bat down the Bengals hail mary attempt. The run game continues to be non-existent, while Joe Flacco continues to under perform.  Sure he threw two touchdown passes, to Torrey Smith and Dallas Clark, but he also threw two interceptions, and fumbled in the fourth. They found a way to win, a division game at that, and that’s all that matters for the Superbowl Champs.  (4-5)
  • Steelers: After a franchise low on defense a week ago, the Steelers stepped up and made easy work the Bills.  They held Buffalo to just 95 yards on the ground, nearly 50 below their average  while giving up just 10 points, after 55 a week ago. Add 3 sacks and a pick to their defensive effort. Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t great, passing for just 204, a touchdown and an interception, while Le’Veon Bell added 52 and a score on the ground. But they did enough for the home win. Shaun Suisham added 3 field-goals. According to ESPN stats, Pittsburgh is now 17-2, including the playoffs, against rookie quarterbacks since 2004.  (3-6)

AFC South  (The Jags Won and the Colts Didn’t- Fact)

  • Colts: Talk about a letdown.  Andrew Luck threw 3 interceptions, and lost a fumble, and still managed to throw for over 350 yards.  And when your not mobile quarter back leads the team in rushing, you know you’re in trouble.  This team doesn’t lose often, let alone this badly and at home, but an improved Rams defense and bad special teams play burned them.  Their lone score came in the 3rd quarter, a Donald Brown score, capped off with a 2-point conversion to Coby Fleener. Their 30-point loss was the largest margin of any game this week. Lucky for them the Titans lost, so they still hold a 2 game lead in the division. (6-3)
  • Titans: Jake Locker just can’t stay healthy, leaving with what is probably a season ending lisfranc injury. Ryan Fitzpatrick did a good job in relief, running in for a score and throwing 2 more.  But the damage was done early, and Tennessee couldn’t recover against a previously win-less Jaguar team. They had a chance late, but with no help on the ground this week, the win-less Jags took advantage.  Four turnovers didn’t help in what ended up a 2-point game. (4-5)
  • Texans: For the first time in franchise history, Houston is on a 7-game losing streak.  A third good start for youngster Case Keenum, but again, it results in a loss.  Keenum threw 3 touchdowns, including 2 to Andre Johnson.  But he did turn the ball over on the games first play, putting them in the hole from the get go.  JJ Watt did all he could to keep his team in the game, forcing two fumbles, including one late in the 4th that helped score and get to within a field-goal of tying the score. Gary Kubiak wasn’t with the team after collapsing at halftime in Indianapolis, but he could be back sooner rather than later after suffering a “mini-stroke.” (2-7)
  • Jaguars: A 13-game losing streak dating back to last season finally comes to an end, and on the road no less.  Maurice Jones-Drew and Jordan Todman each ran in scores, but only combined for 52 yards on the ground.  Chad Henne wasn’t good, throwing two picks to no touchdowns. A fourth quarter safety turned out to be the difference in the game. The reason they won, their defense turned the Titans over 4 times. (1-8)

AFC WEST (It Was Always Going to be a 2 Team Race)

  • Chiefs: Bye Week. (9-0)
  • Broncos: Peyton Manning threw for 4 touchdowns, 3 to Demaryius Thomas to move within a game of the division lead. Manning took a shot late to his ankles and came up hobbling, and underwent an MRI early Monday.  The team was without head coach John Fox, who had heart surgery last week.  But it didn’t slow them down.  Knowshon Moreno had a big day, with over 100 yards of total offense.  Julius Thomas nearly cracked the 100 yard mark, and scored Manning’s fourth TD pass. (8-1)
  • Chargers: Phil Rivers wasn’t great, throwing for just 218 and a score.  It’s a second straight loss by just 1 score, dropping them under .500. Ryan Matthews was better than a week ago on the ground, finding the end zone once, but again didn’t crack the 100 yard mark after two straight games doing so.  This team continues to be very streaky, something they can’t afford with arguably the two best teams in the AFC both in their division. (4-5)
  • Raiders: They scored 17 points off turnovers.  You can call Tracy Porter a Manning magnet.  The 6th year corner-back is the only player with a pick 6 against both Peyton and Eli Manning.  But it was their own turnover late in the 3rd, a Terrelle Pryor interception, that put them down for good.  Pryor was pressured all game long, and despite getting passes off early, eventually it got to be too much.  Rashard Jennings did all he could do on the ground in place of the injured Darren McFadden, but it wasn’t enough. According to CBS, this was their 9th straight loss to NFC opponents.  (3-6)

That’s it.  Week 11 approaches as teams look to better their playoff positioning.

NFL: Week 8 Thoughts

We’ve reached the mid-way point of the season, and 2 win-less teams, while just 1 undefeated squad remain.

This weeks bye teams: Baltimore, Houston, San Diego, Tennessee, Indianapolis, and Chicago.

I know it’s the NFL, and injuries are apart of the game, but this week seemed to contain a lot more season ending ones than normal.

NFC EAST (We Live in a World Where a 2-win Team is Just 2 Games Out)

  • Cowboys:  What looked like win number 5 ended in a heart-breaking last second loss.  When you force 4 turnovers, and don’t turn it over yourself, you should probably win.  Sean Lee’s two interceptions, and Dez Bryant’s 2 touchdowns mean little in a bad road loss. (4-4)
  • Eagles: Michael Vick left hurt again, and Matt Barkley turned the ball over a lot.  Make it 10-straight home losses, further extending a franchise record.  With another bad offense showing, they’ve gained just 479 yards the past two games. (3-5)
  • Redskins: They did something no other team had done against Denver, carry a lead into the 4th quarter.  The defense was great the first three quarters, turning two Manning turnovers into points to help build said lead.  But they just couldn’t stop the Broncos in the final period.  More troubling was the play of Robert Griffin III, who only completed 50% of his throws, couldn’t hold onto the ball, threw two picks, and was a non-factor in the run game.  (2-5)
  • Giants: This team will take ugly wins any day, and they got their second of the year Sunday.  Eli Manning and his offense didn’t hurt themselves with turnovers, though they did stop drives with drops and bad passes.  Btu they scored on 5 of their drives, thanks to Josh Brown’s career high 5-5 on field goal attempts.  The defense pitched a second straight shutout, with the only score coming on a special teams fumble recovery. (2-6)

NFC NORTH (These Teams Can Score With Anyone)

  • Packers: When you score on every possession until you take victory formation, you know you had a good day.  This team has lost a number of weapons, but Aaron Rodgers continues to find new weapons.  Rodgers completed 24 of 29 passes, with Jordy Nelson going for 123 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. Micah Hyde added a second quarter 93 yard punt return touchdown, while Eddie Lacy rushed for 94 yards and a score.   (6-2)
  • Lions:  Matt Stafford and company turned the ball over 4 times, but when it mattered the offense got down the field mistake free for an 80-yard game winning touchdown drive to sink the Cowboys.  Their biggest weapon showed once again why his nickname is “Megatron.”  Calvin Johnson had himself a day for the ages, grabbing 14 balls for 329 yards, the 2nd best performance in NFL history.  The monster total trails only the 336 yards receiving Flipper Anderson had for the LA Rams  in an overtime game against New Orleans back in 1989.  The game winner was a fake snap keeper by Stafford, that perfectly capped off a strange game. It was a huge come-from-behind victory, that helps Detroit in a the race for a playoff spot. (5-3)
  • Bears:  Bye Week.  (4-3)
  • Vikings:  Rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson set an NFL record with a 109-yard return on the opening kickoff to give Minnesota a quick lead.  But it wouldn’t last.  Adrian Peterson rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown while Christian Ponder’s return wasn’t anything to write home about.  The newly reinstated starting QB ran for a score, but managed just 145 yards passing.  The big problem was the defense had no answer for Green Bay, though they’re not alone there.  (1-6)

NFC SOUTH (The Panthers Are Looking to Pounce)

  • Saints: It was slow going early, but once it was all said and done, they came out with a big home win.  A big reason why they picked up win number 6: big contributions from guys returning from injury.  Jimmy Graham came back from an ankle to score 2 touchdowns, while Lance Moore added one of his own to the get the scoring started for New Orleans.  Add a big day from rookie Kenny Stills, 5 Drew Brees touchdown passes and a defense that rattled Thad Lewis all day, you’ve got why this team is sitting pretty atop the division. (6-1)
  • Panthers: They got the best of a division match-up to start off week 8, meaning that for the first time in Cam Newton’s career, he’s over .500 and on a three game win streak (which has seen them score 30+ point in each).  In another easy win on Thursday Night, Newton became the 1st player in NFL History to run for 25 and throw for 50 touchdowns in any three year span of a career.  Carolina’s mobile quarterback threw 2 scores, and ran for another in the win, while DeAngelo Williams added another score on the ground.  The defense did it’s job as well, picking up 3 sacks, while recovering a fumble.  (4-3)
  • Falcons: So much for putting together a second straight good game.  Matt Ryan threw four picks, after only throwing 3 in their first 6 games.  Harry Douglas had another good game as a featured wide-out, but it didn’t matter. They got absolutely nothing on the ground, while their defense couldn’t stop Arizona in the run game.  (2-5)
  • Buccaneers: Another day, another loss.  They couldn’t get anything going on offense, particularly in the run game.  Mike Glennon was forced to throw the ball 51 times. It’s the 7th time in franchise history that they’ve opened up losers for their 1st 7 games.   (0-7)

NFC WEST (So Many Wins)

  • Seahawks: Russell Wilson was on the ground, a lot.  But they found a way to win despite a big effort by the Rams defense.  In the end it was their defense that held, stopping the Rams on a last second goal-line stand where it was touchdown or bust for Seattle.  It wasn’t a crisp night on offense.  Wide-out Golden Tate caught both of the games only touchdowns.  It was rare rough night on the ground for both Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, who managed just 23 yards on the ground.  They’re the only team to force at least two turnovers in the first 8 games of the season(7-1)
  • 49ers: It was time and travel money well spent for San Fran, who knocked off the hapless Jags in London for their 5th straight win.  The defense did it’s job against Jacksonville, but the offense was the story.  Colin Kaepernick continues to wreak havoc not with his arm, but with his legs.  Two rushing touchdowns, one thrown for the Niners QB.  Not to mention another two on the ground from their actual running back Frank Gore.  (6-2)
  • Cardinals: Rookie rusher Andre Ellington is a huge reason why this team got to .500.  The youngster out of Clemson rushed for 154 yards on 15 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run.  And how about Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald’s day.  Number 11 caught four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown, becoming the youngest player – at 30 years, 57 days – in NFL history to reach 800 career receptions. (4-4)
  • Rams: Robert Quinn had himself a Monday night.  The defensive end now has 10 sacks through 8 games, 3 of them against Seattle, which hasn’t happened by a Ram in 25 years.  In fact, the entire defense was crazy active all night, getting Russell Wilson to the ground.  In his first start for the injured Sam Bradford, Kellen Clemens didn’t help his teams cause, throwing 2 interceptions. Zac Stacy and Greg Zuerlein were the offense.  Stacy with 134 yards rushing, and Zuerlein went 3-4 on field goal attempts.  But when they needed it most, Stacy was shaken up and the team through 8 games still doesn’t have a rushing touchdown. (3-5)

AFC EAST (New England Continues to Find a Way)

  • Patriots: A big 2nd half comeback helped New England avoid losing back-to-back division games for the first time since 2006. 24 unanswered points by the Pats, including two touchdowns in the span of 7 plans in the 3rd quarter helped shake off an ugly first half.  But Tom Brady had another bad start, throwing for just 116 yards, and managing just 1 touchdown pass. But the defense held long enough for them to find a way, and it means putting some distance back between them and the rest of the division. (6-2)
  • Jets: Win, lose, win, lose.  This team is inconsistent to the point they haven’t been on any sort of win or losing streak this season.  A week after a big win over New England, the Jets looked lost against the Bengals.  To be fair Cincy is hot right now, but Geno Smith wasn’t good, and the defense had no answer for a relative no-name in wide-receiver Marvin Jones. It didn’t help when you starting back only gets you 11 yards on the ground  but again, that’s a product of the Bengals crazy good defense.  (4-4)
  • Dolphins: Remember when this team was 3-0?  Yeah me neither.  This week, they came out firing in the first half, carrying a 17-3 lead to the locker room.  What could’ve been a big road win, turned into their 4th straight defeat.  Ryan Tannehill threw for 2 touchdowns, but turned the ball over 3 times. (3-4)
  • Bills: They were in the game at half-time, but the Saints offense was just too much for Buffalo.  Thad Lewis had no chance with the pressure New Orleans put on him, sacking him 4 times, and forcing 3 fumbles, two the starting QB lost.  Fred Jackson found the end-zone, but didn’t have a great day on the ground. (3-5)

AFC NORTH (Cincy Isn’t All Defense These Days, But They Are All Alone at the Top)

  • Bengals: This team isn’t just about defense, and if Cincy figures out how to get more from their run game, the AFC should be very afraid.  Andy Dalton is on the best streak of his career, adding a high of 5-touchdown passes against New York.  Marvin Jones, and not AJ Green was the story on offense, catching a Bengals record 4 of Dalton’s five TD passes.  Green could’ve had a big day, but had some drops.  The defense didn’t let the Jets do anything on offense.  The weeks biggest blowout allowed the Bengals to rest their starters, including Dalton for the 4th quarter. This team is running away with this division. (6-2) 
  • Ravens: Bye Week.  (3-4)
  • Browns: They played a lot better with Jason Campbell under center, but KC’s defense is just too good.  They were in the game the entire time, thanks in large part from a good day by Josh Gordon, who went for 132 receiving yards and a touchdown. Campbell took over for the ineffective Brandon Weedon, and did a good job not turning the ball over, and avoiding big hits against a sack-happy Chiefs front 7. (3-5)
  • Steelers: Just when you thought maybe this team was turning it around, they lose Oakland. And it’s not so much that they lost, it’s how they lost.  They had absolutely no answer for the run game, letting both Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden combine for almost 200 yards and 3 touchdowns.  This defense used to be known or their ability to stop the run, but you wouldn’t know that looking at the box score of this one. And their own ground and pound was non-existent, meaning Ben Roethlisberger had to throw it 45 times. (2-5)

AFC South  (Nobody Gained or Lost Ground With Just the Jags Playing)

  • Colts: Bye Week. (5-2)
  • Titans: Bye Week. (3-4)
  • Texans: Bye week. (2-5)
  • Jaguars: The only South team in action, Jacksonville went all the way to London to just to lose their 8th game of the year, and 13th straight dating back to last season.  The offense wasn’t necessarily the problem, with Maurice Jones-Drew having one of his best day on the ground and in the pass game of the season.  Chad Henne was also okay, throwing for a touchdown and committing no turnovers.  But the 49ers on a level so far out of sight that there was really no chance.  The run defense was non-existent.  They really will be in a race for worst record with the likes of Tampa Bay and Minnesota all year(0-8)

AFC WEST (It’s A Two Team Race)

  • Chiefs:  They continue to find ways to make enough plays to win, and remain unbeaten halfway through the season. It wasn’t pretty, but Alex Smith continues to be smart with the football, throwing for 225 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers.  Jamaal Charles had another good day on the ground.  The defense only managed one sack, a rare thing for them this season, but they held Cleveland scoreless in the 1st and 4th quarters. They’re the first team to win their first 8 games after losing 14 the previous season.  (8-0)
  • Broncos: It’s hard enough to score 31 points in a game, let alone a quarter, making Denver’s 38 in the 4th look even more impressive.  Peyton Manning had a bad day, something you don’t say often about a guy who throws for 354 yards and 4 touchdowns.  But the former MVP also threw 3 interceptions and lost a fumble.  But he led his team to victory in the end, and that’s all that really matters.  That and he showed no ill effects from a ankle issue that held him out of practice early in the week.  (7-1)
  • Chargers: Bye Week. (4-3)
  • Raiders: Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden had a huge day on the ground.  Pryor scored on a 93-yard run, the longest by a quarterback in NFL history, while McFadden found pay dirt twice.  They almost blew the lead late, but their defense did enough to pick up win number 3, which matches last seasons win total. (3-4)

So that’s it.  One half down, one to go.