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.

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Week 2 Thoughts

2 weeks down.  15 to go.

Let’s break down 2-0 teams first:

  • Seattle: A Superbowl pick for many, and after an ugly win in week 1, the Hawks walked all over the 49ers, another consensus playoff pick in the NFC.  The defense was a takeaway machine, and Marshawn Lynch made it look easy, scoring 3 touchdowns against a good run defense.
  • Patriots: 2 wins by a combined 6 points.  Tom Brady isn’t getting much help from his receiving core, which is down 2012 stars Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.  They’re lucky to have faced two rookie quarterbacks to start the season.
  • Dolphins: They’re much improved under second year QB Ryan Tannehill, and their defense has picked up where it left off last year.  They’ve looked better than New England early.
  • Texans: First team since the merger to win their first two on the final plays of the game.  They haven’t made it easy on themselves, but Arian Foster woke up this week and sometimes you’ve gotta win ugly.
  • Broncos : No surprise here. Peyton Manning has put his neck injury far behind him, and is getting contributions from his entire receiving core.  9 touchdowns and 0 interceptions is a nice way to start your season.
  • Saints: Bounty gate behind them, Drew Brees continued to be Drew Brees, and New Orleans is showing they should be feared once more in the South.
  • Chiefs: Yes, after just 2 wins last year, the Chiefs find themselves at that mark heading into week 3.  Many, including myself, had them improving quick. With a good defense, an actual QB, and a healthy Jamaal Charles, this team will continue to make noise in the West.
  • Bears: Their defense has a knack for scoring off turnovers.  A big game from Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett helped them outlast the Vikings.

Next up the 1-1 teams:

  • Packers: Aaron Rodgers is really good, and with James Starks finally providing a 100 yard rushing game, Green Bay looks like the toast of the NFC North once again.
  • Lions: They looked poised to move 2-0, but they were shut out in the 4th quarter against Arizona.  A good day from Calvin Johnson was about the only thing they got on offense.  After a big first game by the running back tandem of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, the two combined for just 56 yards on 17 carries.
  • Colts:  Andrew Luck couldn’t lead another of his usual 4th quarter comebacks.
  • Eagles:  Offense isn’t the problem for Philly early, with Michael Vick looking like the guy Atlanta drafted so many years ago.  The defense however, has looked liked Swiss cheese, allowing 539 yards in their loss to San Diego.
  • Cowboys: They barely held off the Giants in week one, and bad offensive play calling saw them drop a 1 point game to the new and improved Chiefs.  Another year of mediocrity could be in Dallas’ future if they don’t get the run game going.
  • Falcons: Matt Ryan and Julio Jones got going against the Rams, but concern over a thigh injury to off-season acquisition RB Steven Jackson doesn’t help a team with Superbowl aspirations.  But with a great receiving core and defense, Atlanta should be fine.
  • Raiders: They’re 1-1 record is about as much as you can ask for.  They could be 2-0 if not for Luck’s comeback in week 1.  After years of sub-500 play, improvement each week is all you can ask.  They need more from WR Denarius Moore, their most athletic receiver, who was 0-2 on Sunday.
  • Titans: They held a big lead over Houston, but they the Texans overcome an 8-point 4th quarter deficit to win in overtime.  Chris Johnson looked good on the ground, while Jake Locker was okay.
  • Ravens: The defending champs have not looked good through 2 games.  The offense hasn’t gotten going, and with an injury to Ray Rice midway though their 14-9 win over Cleveland, a weak run game could get worse.
  • Chargers: A big day from Eddie Royal, Phillip Rivers and a 46-yard field goal from Nick Novak saved San Diego from an 0-2 start.
  • Cardinals: Their defense has shown flashes of greatness, but a hamstring injury to pro-blow wide-out Larry Fitzgerald hurts.   You have to hope it’s not serious.
  • Rams:  Sam Bradford had a good day, but a big pick 6 helped Atlanta take a big 24-3 halftime lead.  Bradford played well in the second half, but it wasn’t enough.
  • 49ers:  They’re usually stout defense has been suspect in two games early, and Colin Kaepernick has had one top-notch performance, and one full of bad decisions.  San Fran will need more consistency if they want to stay with Seattle all year in the division.
  • Jets: They held their own against the Pats, but when you hold Tom Brady to 13 points on the road, you need to win that game.  Geno Smith is a rookie, so you’re going to have to live with some mistakes, but you can’t have your QB throw 3INTs in the 4th quarter, especially in a division game.
  • Bills:  EJ Manuel has looked good in his first two career starts.  This team could be 2-0, but leading his team back against the Panthers for a win showed Manuel is capable of playing big when his team needs it most.
  • Bengals: After a 3-point loss on opening day, a big performance from rookie runner Giovani Bernard helped Cincy take down their division foe the Steelers.

And finally 0-2 teams:

  • Giants: 7 INTs for Eli Manning is concerning, but the lack of a run game might be more of a worry.  Manning had another big yardage game, but that doesn’t mean much with the 4 INTs.  In 300+ yard games for his career, the Giants are just 13-14, showing just how important the ground and pound game is to Big Blue.  They’re lucky no one in their division is better than 1-1.
  • Redskins:  The defense has looked bad through 2 games, and RGIII is clearly not the same player right now as he was last season.  It’s early, but they could go from first to worst in the East if they don’t pick it up soon.
  • Panthers: Two hard-fought games for Carolina, but two losses none the less.  A hungry Giants team awaits in week 3.
  • Buccaneers: Two tough losses to start the season.  They had week 1 locked up, and would’ve beat the saints if not for Drew Brees and his ability to drive quickly and easily.
  • Jaguars: No surprise here.  Not many wins to be had for Jacksonville once again.  No TDs through 2 games, tough to win that way. Not much else to say.
  • Browns: Their defense is doing the job early.  Their offense is bad.  You hold the defending champs to 0 points in the first half, you’ve gotta find a way to score more than 3.  Plain and simple.
  • Vikings: Adrian Peterson started off their season with a 78-yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage.  He’d score 2 more in the game, but it wasn’t enough to save them opening night.  And the Bears defense was too much for Christian Ponder and co in week 2.
  • Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger misses tight end Heath Miller and it shows.  Pittsburgh is going with tight end by committee, with the do-it all Miller out.  The defense hasn’t looked bad, and the return of Troy Polamalu has helped.

Looking ahead to Week 3:

  • Chiefs @ Eagles – Andy Reid comes home to Philly looking to get Kansas City to 3-0, while the Eagles look to improve defensively.
  • Texans @ Ravens – A match-up of AFC powerhouses.  The defending champs look to put together a complete game, while Houston looks to put a game away before the final drive.
  • Giants @ Panthers – one of these teams will pick up their first win, the other will be in trouble at 0-3
  • Lions @ Redskins – Detroit looks to keep pace with a couple of 2-0 teams in Green Bay and Chicago, while Washington looks to pick up their first win of 2013.
  • Chargers @ Titans – Phillip Rivers looks to grow off a big performance in week 2, while Jake Locker and Tennessee hope to rebound from an overtime loss to Houston.
  • Cardinals @ Saints – The Super Dome will be rocking, and as much as Arizona looks better than a year ago, I think Drew Brees will get his team to 3-0.
  • Buccaneers @ Patriots – The bucs have played well enough to be in both their games, only to lose late.  The Pats have done the opposite.  They’ve allowed teams to stay in it only to win on field goals late. I really dont like how New England is playing, but I have to give the home team the edge, and say they become a 3-0 team.
  • Packers @ Bengals – Two good defenses.  Aaron Rodgers is a former MVP QB, but Andy Dalton has some offensive weapons to work with himself.  Look for the run game to tell the story.  If James Starks can provide a spark like he did against Washington, Cincy has to hope for a big game from the tandem of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie Giovani Bernard.
  • Rams @ Cowboys – St Louis is no pushover, but I don’t see them pulling out the road win.  Tony Romo and Jason Witten have things going early, and after Dez Bryant got going last week, look for the boys to pull out a fairly easy win at home.
  • Browns @ Vikings – Another case of two teams looking for their first wins of the season.  The Browns defense has played much better than the Vikings has, but Minnesota’s offense has looked better than the boys in orange.  Special teams play could tip the scales in this one.  Look out for Vikings Rookie returner Cordarrelle Patterson to play a big role, he had a 105 yard punt return TD in week 2.
  • Falcons @ Dolphins – This is one of the more intriguing games on the slate.  Atlanta wants to continue to rise up and make a statement in the NFC, while Miami looks to surprise and keep pressure on the Pats in the AFC.  Atlanta is more polished on offense, but don’t look past an improved Dolphins team from top to bottom.
  • Bills @ Jets – It’s a match-up of rookie QBs, each looking to get their teams to 2-1.  Division games are always fun and this should be no different.
  • Colts @ 49ers – It’s a bounce back for both teams this week.  If you’re San Fran you want to score early and often, with the comeback ability of Luck and the Colts.
  • Jags @ Seahawks – Seattle will be 3-0.  Not even a thought of an upset here, especially after the Jags best hope on offense in RB Maurice Jones-Drew was hurt in week 2.
  • Bears @ Steelers – The bears defense has allowed a lot of points, but have also gotten a lot of takeaways through 2 weeks.  I never feel comfortable picking Jay Cutler, but I think he has more weapons to work with than Ben Roethlisberger, so I say they move get to 3-0.
  • Raiders @ Broncos – Another easy 3-0 team in Denver.  Oakland has looked okay so far, but the high flying Broncos offense at home is just going to be too much for Terrelle Pryor to try and out gun.

Enjoy week 3 everyone.