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

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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 9 Thoughts

We’ve passed the half-way point, and there are still a couple team looking for a their first win, and the Chiefs remain unbeaten, despite teams best efforts.

6 more teams were off this week: New York, Detroit, Jacksonville, Denver, Arizona and San Francisco.

NFC EAST (A Strange Thing Happened- Everyone Not on a Bye Won)

  • Cowboys: They never make it easy, almost losing to a one win Minnesota team at home.  But Tony Romo shook off a late interception to drive his team to a late second game winning touchdown to Dwayne Harris.  Jason Witten had a good day, catching 8 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.  Their rush defense couldn’t slow down Adrian Peterson, but they did a good job on Christian Ponder in the pass game.  (5-4)
  • Eagles: Nick Foles really doesn’t want to give up his starting job.  He only threw for 7 touchdowns, tying an NFL record with 6 other QBs (Peyton Manning did this in the season opener).   Wide-receiver Riley Cooper was the beneficiary of 3 of those touchdowns, finishing with 139 yards receiving.  Not to be outdone, Desean Jackson finished with 150 yards and a touchdown on the day.  This after a few weeks of struggles on offense, and against a previously top 10 ranked defense in Oakland. (4-5)
  • Redskins: It took overtime, but Washington was able to pick up a win and stay on pace with the rest of their division mates.  As if they needed more weapons on the ground, with RGIII and Alfred Morris on the roster, full-back Darrell Young emerged and found the end-zone 3 times, including the game winner.  Entering action, Young had only carried the ball twice this season.  Add 121 more yards from Morris, and you have why this team survived the Chargers comeback attempt.  (3-5)
  • Giants: Bye Week. (2-6)

NFC NORTH (These Teams Can Score With Anyone)

  • Packers:  A division loss bigger than most.  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with a what turned out to be a fractured collarbone on Green Bay’s opening drive, and is expected to miss at least 3 weeks.  Seneca Wallace didn’t do much in his absence, completing just 11 of 19 passes for 114 yards and an interception.  Rookie runner Eddie Lacy did all he could to make up for the Rodgers injury, picking up 150 yards and a touchdown on the ground.  The loss snaps a 6-game win streak over NFC North opponents. (5-3)
  • Lions: Bye Week. (5-3)
  • Bears: No Jay Cutler. No problem.  Back-up Josh McCown had a good day, throwing for 272 yards and two touchdowns, and no turnovers.  Brandon Marshall had a big day receiving, catching 7 passes for 107 yards and a score.  The wide-out was only outdone by back Matt Forte, who ran for 125 and a score.  Defensive end Shea McClellin had 3 of Chicago’s 4 sacks on the night.  (5-4)
  • Vikings: They had a chance to pick up their 2nd win of the year, but they left too much time on the clock for the Dallas offense.  Adrian Peterson woke up, rushing for a 140 yards and a score.  Ponder added another score on the ground, and threw one to tight-end Kyle Rudolph, who left late with a foot injury.  3 sacks on the day, including two by Brian Robison.  Make it 4 straight in the loss column. (1-7)

NFC SOUTH (New Orleans Has Company)

  • Saints: If you’ve got a good front 7, you can beat this team.  Losing Darren Sproles in the 1st quarter, and being without franchise TD leader Marques Colston didn’t help, but there are too many weapons on this team to lose to an inconsistent Jets team.  But it happened, thanks in large part to two Drew Brees interceptions and a lack of a run game following the Sproles injury.  (6-2)
  • Panthers: Cam Newton wasn’t as mistake free as he’s been, but it didn’t stop Carolina from picking up their fourth straight win.  Newton threw two interceptions, and just one touchdown, but he did run one in.  The defense is a big reason for the win, pitching a shutout in the 2nd half, and picking off Matt Ryan 3 times.  Cornerback Drayton Florence returned one of those interceptions for a 38-yard touchdown.  Fullback Mike Tolbert scored his 5th TD during the win streak. (5-3)
  • Falcons:  So much for this team making a run.  Another 3 Matt Ryan picks meant another loss for a team with superbowl aspirations.  Steven Jackson had his first rushing touchdown as falcon, but littleness can be found in the bright spot category for Atlanta.  Much like Houston in the AFC, this team is a big disappointment.  (2-6)
  • Buccaneers: They managed to carry a 21-3 lead into the halfe time break against a very good Seahawks team on the road.  but then the Seattle defense picked up and their bid for win number 1 came to an end in overtime. (0-8)

NFC WEST (Seattle Hasn’t Looked Great Lately, But Keeps On Winning)

  • Seahawks: For the 2nd week in a row, this didn’t look like the best team in the NFC, but luckily for them, they weren’t playing high caliber teams.  They put themselves in a big hole early against the winless Bucs, and needed an extra frame to finish them off.  A big reason for the win was the contributions of Golden Tate on punt returns and Marshawn Lynch in the run game.  (8-1)
  • 49ers: Bye Week. (6-2)
  • Cardinals: Bye Week(4-4)
  • Rams: It took til week nine, but this team finally picked up their first rushing touchdown of the season.  It was apart of a second consecutive 100-yard game from rookie Zac Stacy, who finished with 127 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns.  Too bad for St. Louis, it wasn’t enough.  Kellen Clemens was mediocre, throwing for 210 and a score, but he did lose a fumble.   Their defense did get to interceptions, and record 3 sacks. (3-6)

AFC EAST (Looking Like A Two Team Race)

  • Patriots: They tied an NFL season high with 55 points, and had a big day on the ground and in the air.  Tom Brady had 252 passing yards in the 1st half alone, more than 5 of his first 8 games this season.  He finished with 432 and four touchdowns, including a 2 to Aaron Dobson and 1 to Rob Gronkowski, both who finished with over 100 yards receiving   Danny Amendola also tallied a 100+ yard game, as did Stevan Ridley, though his work was on the ground.  The defense wasn’t spectacular, but you don’t need to be if the offense clicks like it did this time out. (7-2)
  • Jets: This team continues to play to the level of their opponents, and has still yet to lose or win 2 in a row.  They absolutely shut down the Saints on defense, and did a lot of good on offense.  Chris Ivory bounced back from a poor week 8 to deliver nearly 140 rushing yards and a touchdown.  Geno Smith wasn’t great, but he didn’t turn the ball over either.  Nick Foles continues to have a great year kicking the football, making all 4 of his field-goal attempts; he’s now 23 for his last 23, the longest streak in the league.  The defense did a good job stopping the run, and limiting the Saints high-powered offense.  (5-4)
  • Dolphins: It wasn’t pretty, but when you snap a 4-game losing streak, all you want is the win.  For only the 3rd time in NFL history, Miami won on a safety, thanks to a Cameron Wake sack.  It was a strange way to end their skid, but there were a lot of good things Thursday night.  The defense was good all night, forcing 3 Bengals turnovers and limiting too many big passing plays, and of course the game winning safety.  Ryan Tannehill also had a nice game, especially on the drive late in the 4th to help force overtime. (4-4)
  • Bills: They managed a season best 470 yards of total offense against a stout defense. But two turnovers in the 2nd half were returned for scores, killing any chance of handing KC their first loss of the year.  Jeff Tuel’s pass at the goal line in the opening minutes of the 2nd half was picked off and returned a 100 yards to tie the score at 10.  CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson combined for nearly 200 yards on the ground, but no scores.  Their defense did a good job, but it wasn’t enough.  (3-6)

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

  • Bengals: They didn’t play like a team that entered action on a 4-game win streak.  To be fair, not many teams fair well on a short week, but after the way this team has been playing on offense, they were almost as bad for much of the game.  Two Mike Nuggent field-goals and running back Giovani Bernard wee the scoring offense for Cincy on Thursday.  Bernard found the end-zone twice, while fellow back BenJarvis Green-Ellis helped out on the ground in a nice way.  Andy Dalton had been so great in the past four, but three picks and taking a game losing safety in OT was a big step backward.  This while the defense did an uncharacteristically bad job stopping the Dolphins run game. (6-3) 
  • Browns: Snapping an 11-game losing streak to anyone is nice, but to a division rival, which helps you leap frog them in the standings, is a beautiful thing. Cleveland did a lot of good things against Baltimore, and it all started with Jason Campbell under center. The 31-year-old QB threw 3 touchdowns, 2 to Davone Bess, for 262 yards, while not turning the ball over. Greg Little had a big day, with 122 yards receiving. Cleveland won while getting nothing out of star tight-end Jordan Cameron and very little out the run game.  (4-5)
  • Ravens: The reigning Super Bowl champs countinure to sputter, losing to Cleveland for the first time in the Joe Flacco era. Flacco didn’t have a bad day, throwing for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns to Marlon Brown, but he was picked off once. And you know you have a problem when Flacco leads the team in rushing with 25. Ray Rice continues to struggle mightily on the ground, and this team isn’t the same without him going well. (3-5)
  • Steelers: You’re not going to win many games when you allow a franchise high in points, especially when it’s to the Patriots.  And that’s exactly what happened Sunday at Foxborough.  They got down early, and managed to come back to tie the score at 24 in the 3rd quarter, but were outscored 31-7 the rest of the way.  Jericho Cotchery benefited from a big day by Ben Roethlisberger, catching 3 touchdown passes, but big Ben also threw 2 picks in the loss.  They allowed New England to gain 630 yards of offense. (2-6)

AFC South  (The Luck Still Hasn’t Run Out)

  • Colts: For the 10th time in his young career, Andrew Luck led his team on a fourth quarter comeback. He had some help from breakout receiver TY Hilton, who caught 3 touchdowns. Hilton had really stepped up in the absence of Reggie Wayne. Indy continues to get nothing in the run game, as Trent Richardson continues to struggle since coming over in a trade earlier this year. A couple of two-point conversions on late TDs and a couple of missed Houston field goals helped secure the come from behind win. (6-2)
  • Titans: Jake Locker was not good, but luckily Chris Johnson picked up the slack on the ground.  Locker had only thrown 1 pick all season, but threw two Sunday, though he did score with his legs. The run game was the offense, with Johnson scoring twice, and Shone Green adding another. The defense did enough in the end, and this team is in the hunt, just two games back and two left with Indy, (4-4)
  • Texans:  Case Keenum looked like really good in the 1st half, thanks in large part to Andre Johnson  who had nearly 200 yards receiving before the break.  The young starter had his team up 21-3 over a good Indianapolis squad heading into the break, then things took a turn for the worse.  In a scary moment, head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed as the teams headed to the locker room.  He was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons and was treated at the hospital with medicine that’s “designed to break up clots consistent with people who suffer strokes.”  Wade Phillips took over head coaching duties, and the team didn’t respond.  Randy Bullock missed two field goals and the team was held to just 3 points in the half as the Colts came back yet again  They’re now losers of 6 straight. (2-6)
  • Jaguars: Bye week. (0-8)

AFC WEST (KC Likes Winning So Much They Just Keep Doing It)

  • Chiefs: Another case of making it hard on themselves, but finding a way to get it done for the leagues remaining unbeaten.  Down 10-3 at the half, the defense picked up in the 2nd half to help get them another win.  Linebacker Tamba Hali and cornerback Sean Smith both returned turnovers for touchdowns.  The offense was non-existent, managing just 210 yards of total offense.  (9-0)
  • Broncos: Bye Week – It wasn’t a quiet week off for Denver, as the learned they’ll be without head coach John Fox for an extended amount of time.  The 58-year-old Fox felt light-headed while golfing, went to the hospital, and will have heart surgery.  Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will take over in his absence. (7-1)
  • Chargers: With a chance to win in regulation, what they thought was a Danny Woodhead touchdown was ruled down inside the 1.  And somehow they couldn’t punch it in.  Resulting in a game-tying field goal, and ending in an overtime loss to Washington.  Rookie wide-out Keenan Allen continues to impress, catching 8 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.  Philip Rivers had a bad 1st half, but picked it up in the 2nd half.  In the end, the Skins ability to run it in from inside the 10 proved too much.  This team continues to be very up and down.  (4-4)
  • Raiders: The defense had been on a role, but they had no answer for the Eagles passing game on Sunday.  Their run game led by Terrelle Pryor was good again, with Rashad Jennings getting over 100 yards following an injury to Darren McFadden.  But it’s pretty hard to come back from a 28-13 1st half deficit if you yourself cannot throw the ball too well.  Sure Pryor finished with 288 yards passing, but couldn’t find the end-zone while throwing two picks. (3-5)

That’s it.  Week 10 approaches.

NFL: Week 7 Thoughts

Through 7 weeks, we’re down to 2 win-less teams, while just 1 undefeated squad remains.

New Orleans and Oakland had their byes.

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 Have a Winning Team Atop the Division)

  • Cowboys: Despite many injuries, the defense came to play.  They harassed Nick Foles all day, then knocked him out late in the 3rd quarter with an injury.  Not to mention holding a high octane offense in Philly to under 300 yards of total offense.  A decent day on the ground without DeMarco Murray, along with just enough from Tony Romo and a Phillip Tanner TD run, means a winning record and an NFC East lead all to themselves.  Dallas is also now 3-0 in the division.  (4-3)
  • Eagles: Down two quarterbacks following a head injury to Nick Foles, Matt Barkley saw his first action, and it wasn’t a great debut.   Three interceptions, no touchdowns for the fourth round pick out of USC.  The defense did all they could against the Cowboys, picking off Romo twice, and holding him to one touchdown.  The score was just 3-0 boys at the half. (3-4)
  • Redskins:  A good day for the offense, with both Alfred Morris and RGIII running for over 80 yards a piece.  Add 298 yards and 2TDs from Griffin to that against a take-a-way happy Bears defense.  But this day belonged to Roy Helu Jr, who scored 3 touchdowns, including the game winner with 45 seconds left.  Rookie tight-end Jordan Reed had a big day as well, catching 9 passes for a 134-yards including getting into the end-zone once. (2-4)
  • Giants: It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win, New York’s first of the season.  For the third straight game, the Giants defense shutdown a top 5 running back, this time the reigning MVP.  And for the first time this season, the defense pitched a shutout, forcing three Vikings turnovers to their one.  This while Eli Manning finally played turnover free football.  That’s not to say the Giants QB looked great.  There were a couple missed picks by the Vikings, to go with some poorly thrown balls and drops, but a turnover free day from the offense is something this team desperately needed.  Ruben Randle did lose a fumble on special teams, but made up for it with a 24-yard touchdown catch.  Peyton Hillis made an immediate impact running the ball, as did rookie Michael Cox, even if the numbers don’t show it.  Philly’s up next before their bye week. (1-6)

NFC NORTH (New Leader, But Still Crowded at the Top)

  • Packers: Aaron Rodgers and company got off to a fast start against Cleveland, leading 14-0 after the 1st quarter, and they never let up.  Rodgers threw for 3 touchdowns, while rookie back Eddie Lacy added another on the ground.  They’ve leaped back into first, but it came with a cost.  Tight-end Jermichael Finley, who was getting more targets with the loss of Randall Cobb, was carted off the field in the 2nd half after a big helmet-to-helmet hit.  As of Monday night, Finley was out of the ICU, had movement in his extremities, and is out indefinitely. (4-2)
  • Lions: Matthew Stafford had a big day, thanks in large part to his favorite target.  He hooked up with Calvin Johnson to the tune of two touchdowns and 155 yards.  Stafford ended up over 300 yards, something a passer hadn’t done to the Bengals in 20 games.  But it wasn’t enough, as rookie punter Sam Martin shanked a kick late in the game, which set up a Cincy game winning field-goal as time expired. (4-3)
  • Bears:  Devin Hester and Matt Forte were the stars.  Hester tied an NFL record with his 19th return touchdown, an 81-yard punt return in the 1st half.  Forte ran in for two touchdowns, including a 50-yarder in the 3rd quarter.  But the defense had no answer for RGIII and the Redskins, and it didn’t help when they lost Jay Cutler to a groin injury late in the 1st half.   They held two short lived leads, including 41-38 late, but it’s hard to win when you allow nearly 500 yards of total offense.  (4-3)
  • Vikings: How Josh Freeman is their best option is quarterback astounds me, but maybe we give the guy a break, as he learns a new system.  But what I really want to know is how a game changer like Adrian Peterson only ran the ball 13 times. I get the Giants did a good job stopping him, but he’s the type of back that no matter how a game is going, can rip a long one.  And this was a close game throughout.  That being said, without a special teams touchdown, there’d be no real positives for this team.  Sure they didn’t do terribly on defense, but they also missed a couple opportunities. (1-4)

NFC SOUTH (It’s Still All About the Big Easy)

  • Saints: Bye Week. (5-1)
  • Panthers: Another good day from Cam Newton and their defense helped Carolina double up the Rams 30-15.  Newton didn’t put up big numbers, throwing for just over 200 yards, but was accurate and smart with the football.  The run game was adequate with Newton teaming up with DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert to combine for over 100 yards on the ground.  The defense forced two turnovers, racked up 4 sacks and knocked the Rams Sam Bradford from the game. (3-3)
  • Falcons:  Harry Douglas was huge in the absence of Julio Jones and Roddy White.  The 5th year pro had seven receptions for a career-best 149 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown catch.  The Bucs made it interesting but the defense had its moments, like when safety Williams Moore sacked Mike Glennon to force a fumble on Tampa Bay’s first possession. Safety Thomas DeCoud added a 30-yard TD on a fumble recovery.  It was a much needed win for a team many thought had chances at a Superbowl run. (2-4)
  • Buccaneers: The offense had probably it’s best game of the year, and had a chance in the 4th, but couldn’t muster more than 2 field-goals in the final period.  Vincent Jackson continues to put up big numbers, grabbing 10 balls for 138-yards and 2 scores.  But in a winless year, things got worse.  Tampa Lost star running back Doug Martin for the year to a torn labrum.  (0-6)

NFC WEST (The Hawks Continue to Fly Higher than the Rest)

  • Seahawks: They never trailed Sunday against Arizona, but didn’t pull away until the 2nd half.  Seattle played well on both sides of the football.  Their defense picked off Carson Palmer twice and dropped the Cards QB 7 times.  The offense turned both those turnovers into touchdowns as a part of a 3 score day for Russell Wilson.  Wilson did fumble twice, but a fourth touchdown on the ground by Marshawn Lynch helped the hawks pull away.  Wide-receiver Sidney Rice found the endzone for the 3rd time in 2013. (6-1)
  • 49ers: The score says they only won by 14, but their fourth straight victory was never really close.  Up 17-0 at halftime, it took until the 4th for Tennessee to do anything productive on offense.  Colin Kaepernick wasn’t at his best in the air, but on the ground, him and Frank Gore did work.  Kaepernick found paydirt once, while Gore scored two rushing TDs.  The 49ers special teams added a score, when Kassim Osgood recovered a muffed punt for a touchdown.  (4-2)
  • Rams:  Sam Bradford was carted off late in the 4th, and it was revealed that he did in fact tear his ACL, and is lost for the season.  But the game was basically over by then thanks in large part to penalties.  St Louis was flagged for five personal fouls alone, and defensive end Chris Long was ejected for throwing a punch.  Turnovers and a lack of a ground game didn’t help. (3-4)
  • Cardinals: They kept it close early, but couldn’t avoid losing their 7th divisional game.  With absolutely no help on the ground, Palmer was forced to throw the ball 45 times, and managed just one touchdown and two interceptions.  Palmer did manage to spread the completions around, with 9 players registering receptions.  Jay Feely had a good day kicking the ball, going 3-3 on his field-goals, with a long of 52. (3-4)

AFC EAST (We Have a Race)

  • Patriots: They rallied late in the 4th to force overtime, but a new league penalty call helped set up New York’s game winner.   Chris Jones was called for and unsportsmanlike conduct for pushing a teammate forward in an attempt to block the kick.  But the game only went to overtime after New England rallied in the 4th after allowing the Jets to score 17 unanswered in the 3rd.  For the 2nd time in 3 games, Tom Brady didn’t throw a touchdown, and threw a pick 6 in the first half.  It was the run game and the leg of Stephen Gostkowski that gave them a chance in overtime.  Rob Gronkowski had a big day in his season debut, catching 8 Brady passes for 114-yards.  (5-2)
  • Jets: A risky 56-yard field goal attempt in overtime almost gave New England a chance to win it.  But the penalty on Jones gave New York new life, and Nick Folk an easier attempt from 42, which he nailed.  Geno Smith has yet to lose 2 straight games thanks to their overtime win against the Pats. Chris Ivory with over 100 yards on the ground. (4-3)
  • Dolphins: It wasn’t the performance you want coming out of your bye week.  Down 14-0 early, they managed to take the lead heading into the 4th quarter, but a turnover late set up a game winner for Buffalo.  Ryan Tannehill threw 3 touchdowns to lead the comeback, but his three turnovers (two interceptions) led to two Bills scores.  After starting out the season 3-0, the fins need to figure some stuff out in an improved division and quick. (3-3)
  • Bills: The defense won the game for Buffalo.  Rookie defensive back Nickell Robey’s pick six on the 3rd play of the game helped them build a big 1st quarter lead.  After blowing that 14-0 lead, Mario Williams had the play of the game, a sack forced fumble set up the game winning field goal but none other than former Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter.  Carpenter was released by Miami in August. The win snapped a 6 game road losing streak.  (3-4)

AFC NORTH (The Cats Have Come to Play)

  • Bengals: It wasn’t easy, but they did just enough to outlast a high-powered Lions offense.  Andy Dalton had a good day, showing he can go deep with an early 82-yard TD strike to AJ Green, as apart of a 3 touchdown, 372-yard passing day.  Dalton needed a big day in the air, because he got very little help on the ground.  Taking advantage of a short field in regulation, Dalton got into field-goal range, and Mike Nugent kicked the game winner, a 54-yard field-goal as time expired.  It was a big win, putting some distance between them and the rest of the league, with both Baltimore and Cleveland losing.  It’s also their 2nd straight road win. (5-2) 
  • Ravens: Another day, another close game doesn’t go their way.  They managed to come back and tie the Steelers in the 4th, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a 3rd loss in their last 4.  The defense did it’s job, holding Pittsburgh to mostly field-goals.  But once again Ray Rice did nothing on the ground, while Joe Flacco didn’t do much good or bad in the passing game.  Justin Tucker continues to be their only consistent offense, going 3-3 on field-goal attempts to keep it close.  (3-4)
  • Browns: Brandon Weedon with another bad start since returning from injury.  Cleveland’s QB went just 17-for-42 for 149 yards, a touchdown and an interception.  The Packers offense was just too much for their defense, which had been rounding into form during their 3 game win streak. Yet another case of a team not getting steady production on the ground, which puts the onus on the quarterback to throw more.  (3-4)
  • Steelers: Shaun Suisham’s leg was the hero, hitting all four of his field-goal attempts, including the 42-yard game winner as time expired.  Rookie rusher Le’Veon Bell ran for a career high 98 yards.  The defense only dropped Flacco once, but did a good job stopping the run.  It’s their 2nd straight win after starting the season 0-4. (2-4)

AFC South  (Luck Has Everything To Do With It)

  • Colts: This team continues to show they’re for real.  They have no defeated the Seahawks, 49ers and Broncos, and by an average of over 10 points.  It’s hard to win any games against Denver, let alone in Peyton Manning’s return to Indy.  But Manning’s replacement shows more and more why he was the number 1 pick in last years draft.  Andrew Luck was on point, An MRI confirmed that iconic wide-out Reggie Wayne is done for the year with a torn ACL suffered in Sunday night’s win.  (5-2)
  • Titans: Jake Locker’s return wasn’t enough to save Tennessee from a 2nd straight loss.  The offense couldn’t do anything until the 4th quarter, but by then it was too late.  Another week, another lack of production from Chris Johnson on the ground, though he did have a nice showing in the pass game.  Locker threw for 326-yards, but was sacked 3 times and picked off once in his return from injury. (3-4)
  • Texans:  Making a bad season worse, Houston is now on a 5- game losing streak, and saw both of their tailbacks go down.  Arian Foster left in the 1st quarter with a hamstring, then Ben Tate went down early in the 3rd, but he would return.  They also saw Brian Cushing go down with a left knee injury.  The defense got their first take away, a fumble recovery, since week 4 against Seattle,  One of the few positives was the play of Case Keenum at quarterback.  He looked steady all game, spreading the ball to many different players, and he didn’t throw any picks, something unique to Texans QBs this season.   But little protection late led to a lot of drive killing sacks, as well as the final one on a potential game winning drive which resulted in a lost fumble.  But look for Keenum to get another shot after throwing for more yards in a debut by a Texans quarterback. (2-5)
  • Jaguars:  According to NFL.com, their the first team since the 1984 Houston Oilers to lose every game of the season (played so far) by double digits.  The Oilers opened the season losing their first 10 this way.  After a decent showing against Denver, the offense couldn’t do much of anything.  Chad Henne wasn’t awful, throwing for over 300 yards, but he couldn’t find the end-zone, and threw one interception.  Maurice Jones-Drew and the run game was non-existent once again.  (0-7) 

AFC WEST (And Then There Was One)

  • Chiefs: Don’t look now, but a 2-win team from last season now stands as the last undefeated team and the division leaders.  Jamaal Charles ran for 86-yards and a score, while Alex Smith added a rushing score of his own.  They got one of their tougher tests from a desperate Texans team, but a strip sack with under two to play by Tamba Hali on rookie quarterback Case Keenum sealed the one point victory.  (7-0)
  • Broncos: They let the Colts jump out early, and they just couldn’t recover.  Peyton Manning sure tried to get his team to 7-0, and it looked like it would work.  But an interception and a fumble in the fourth quarter meant Denver just didn’t have enough time to complete a comeback.  They were down as many as 19, but managed to close the final deficit to 6. Eric Decker went for a season high 150 yards and a touchdown, while the run game continues to force Manning to throw nearly 50 passes. The loss ended their undefeated season and snapped a 17-game regular season win streak.  And just like that, they’re not even in first anymore thanks to a great start by KC.  (6-1)
  • Chargers: Ryan Matthews with his second straight 100 yard rushing game, while finding the endzone twice.  Phillip Rivers with a good day, going over 30,000 yards passing for his career.  The defense did exactly what it should against a team like Jacksonville.  They kept the pressure on them and held the Jags to just a pair of field-goals.  (4-3)
  • Raiders: Bye Week. (2-4)

So that’s it.  Week 8 is upon us.  It gets started in Tampa Bay on Thursday, where Mike Glennon hopes to lead his team to their first win of the year, while Cam Newton hopes to lead his team to a 3rd straight victory.  Enjoy it everyone.

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.