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

Advertisements

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

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

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

AFC EAST

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

AFC NORTH

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

AFC SOUTH

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

AFC WEST

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

NFC EAST 

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

NFC NORTH

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

NFC SOUTH

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

NFC WEST

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

NFL: Week 4 Picks

Week 4 and that means we get the first round of teams on their bye.  So we won’t see Cleveland, Cincinnati, Denver, Seattle, St. Louis or the Cardinals, or 4 teams that have gotten off to great starts and two that haven’t.  I hate that byes start so early.  I can’t imagine how these teams feel, knowing they won’t get a break for the rest of the season.

I went 10-6 last week, moving me to 27-21 to start the season. I’ll take it, especially after going 7-9 in week 2.

Thursday Night Football

  • Giants @ Redskins: It’s an NFC East showdown to kick off week 4 of the NFL season.  Both teams enter action at 1-2, but are coming off very different games.  New York played the perfect game against a good defensive team in Houston to pick up their first win, while the Redskins lost in a shootout to the vision leading Philadelphia Eagles.  Sure Washington’s offense looked great, but their defense looked anything but.  The Giants could be 2-1 despite needing some time to adapt to their new offense.  So with that, I’m taking the road team to even up their record. NEW YORK WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Packers @ Bears: I’ve been disappointed with the Packers thus far, while Chicago has been impressive, especially on the offensive side of the ball.  But as someone who picked Green Bay to go far this season, I think they can turn it around, and though playing at Soldier Field is no picnic, I think they find a way and Aaron Rodgers gets back to looking like an MVP. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Bills @ Texans: Buffalo has been better than expected, while Houston looks to rebound off their first loss of the season.  This is going to be a defensive struggle.  Ryan Fitzpatrick looked off a week ago in New York, while EJ Manuel continues to grow.  So who makes the plays in the end?  Give me the home team. HOUSTON WINS
  • Titans @ Colts: Tennessee has been down right awful.  Indy took their early frustrations out on the Jaguars to avoid an 0-3 start.  To me, this one is simple.  Indianapolis is a better team, and they’re at home.  I like the Colts to even up their record at 2-2. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Panthers @ Ravens: The winner of this one moves to 3-1.  With the fire-power in the NFC South, Carolina needs this one more than Baltimore.  The Ravens haven’t had too many issues succeeding without running back Ray Rice. I know Baltimore is the home team in this one, but I like Carolina in this one.  CAROLINA WINS
  • Buccaneers @ Steelers: Remember when everyone though Tampa was going to challenge for a playoff spot this year?  Yeah about that… Steelers get the victory at home. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Dolphins @ Raiders: Charles Woodson said they were bad, and he wasn’t wrong. Oakland has scored the fewest points in the league through the first 3 weeks.  I’d say that doesn’t bode well for them, but the Dolphins have allowed the fourth most points in the league. Despite any possible QB controversy in Miami, they’re still a better team than Oakland.  MIAMI WINS
  • Lions @ Jets: Detroit is clicking on both sides of the football.  New York continues to be inconsistent.  I give the Jets a shot if Geno Smith can limit the mistakes, but against a hungry Lions defense, and possibly being without Eric Decker once more, I can’t see New York getting the win. I didn’t think the Jets would start 1-3, but that’s what I see happening.  DETROIT WINS

Sunday 4:05/4:25PM Games

  • Jaguars @ Chargers: The Blake Bortles era in Jacksonville has begun.  So that’s where Jacksonville is.  As for the Chargers, they look every bit as good as the second half team that forced its way into the playoffs a year ago. SAN DIEGO WINS
  • Eagles @ 49ers: Philly is one of 3-0 teams standing, while the 49ers are a disappointing 1-2.  But the Eagles defense was shown up by Washington a week ago, and they will be without their starting center, which won’t help LeSean McCoy get back on track. Many people felt going into the season that San Fran was poised to make another deep playoff run, and for that to happen, it has to start now.  And I think it does. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Falcons @ Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater gets his first career start.  Atlanta looks to get back to the team they were in week 1 when they beat the Saints.  Matt Ryan has been quite good all season, and I think that gives them the edge. ATLANTA WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Saints @ Cowboys: If you asked me before the season which of these two teams would enter action at 1-2 and which at 2-1, I’d say the road team would be looking for an impressive 3-1 start.  But I’d have been wrong.  Dallas’ defense hasn’t looked as horrible as we all predicted, and both sides of New Orleans game hasn’t been what anyone thought through 3 weeks.  That being said, I just cannot see Drew Brees and company starting out 1-3. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Patriots @ Chiefs: Tom Brady has said the offense needs to step up.  Sure, it hasn’t looked like the high octane offense of the last few seasons, but even so, this team is still 2-1.  Kansas City on the other hand looks nothing like the team that started out 9-0 last season.  The fact that their defense isn’t what it was, coupled with New England being “due,” I’m going with the road team in this one. NEW ENGLAND WINS

There you have it scoreboard watchers.  Here’s to seeing who stays unbeaten, healthy and starts the road to recovery.  Enjoy the games!

NFL: Season Preview & Week 1 Picks

Hello again!

I know, I know.  It feels like forever ago that the Seattle Seahawks made easy work of the Denver Broncos in Superbowl XLVIII.  But never fear.  It’s September, which means football is back! 

My 2013-14 season predictions had the Denver Broncos over the Seattle Seahawks.  And here as we enter week 1, I’m just happy I had the matchup correct.

Here’s how I see 2014-15 will go down:

NFC East                                                            AFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles                                       1. New England Patriots
  2. New York Giants                                            2. New York Jets
  3. Dallas Cowboys                                             3. Miami Dolphins
  4. Washington Redskins                                    4. Buffalo Bills

NFC West                                                           AFC West

  1. Seattle Seahawks                                          1. Denver Broncos
  2. San Francisco 49ers                                     2. Kansas City Chiefs
  3. Arizona Cardinals                                          3. San Diego Chargers
  4. St. Louis Rams                                              4. Oakland Raiders

NFC South                                                          AFC South

  1. Carolina Panthers                                          1. Indianapolis Colts
  2. New Orleans Saints                                        2. Tennessee Titans
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers                                 3. Houston Texans
  4. Atlanta Falcons                                              4. Jacksonville Jaguars

NFC North                                                           AFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers                                        1. Cincinati Bengals
  2. Chicago Bears                                                2. Baltimore Ravens
  3. Detroit Lions                                                   3. Pittsburgh Steelers
  4. Minnesota Vikings                                           4. Cleveland Browns

NFC Playoff Teams                                                               

  • Eagles, Packers, Seahawks, Saints, Panthers, 49ers

AFC Playoff Teams

  • Broncos, Patriots, Colts, Bengals, Ravens, Chiefs

NFC Championship Game

  • Packers over Seahawks

AFC Championship Game

  • Broncos over Colts

Superbowl

  • Broncos over Packers

So with all that said, here are my week 1 picks.

Thursday Night Football

  • Packers @ Seahawks: It’s opening night and a rematch of the infamous “game-winning interception.”  It’s also as you read, a preview for my NFC Championship game.  I have the Packers winning in the playoffs, but it is too difficult to win in Seattle, and add the Superbowl ceremony the 12th man will get to experience, give me the Seahawks in a close one. SEATTLE WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Bears: The run-game needs to be supreme for Buffalo for this team to have a chance.  But I think even if it is, the Bears are simply a better team on both sides of the ball.  Give me the home team big. CHICAGO WINS
  • Browns @ Steelers:  You have to love an AFC North showdown in week 1.  The Browns enter another season with massive changes to adjust to, while the Steelers come off an 8-8 record.  Pitt doesn’t miss the playoffs two years in a row often, but I think that happens this year.  That being said, the Steelers will take the opener.  PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Bengals @ Ravens: Two teams with good defense, two teams with guys who know how to get their teams to the playoffs.  Only one team has succeed in the postseason.  I’m taking the team that HASN’T succeeded.  Andy Dalton was given a monster deal in the off-season, the defense is healthy this year, and AJ Green is a monster.  It’ll be close, but without Ray Rice, Baltimore is in a tough spot.  CINCINNATI WINS
  • Redskins @ Texans: Can RGIII get back to his Rookie of the Year form?  Washington definitely needs him to get close if they hope to get back to the playoffs.  As for Houston, they made sweeping changes in the off-season following a 14-game losing-streak to end 2013, after many had them making a Superbowl run.  The Texans defense was very good last season despite being put in horrible field position over-and-over again, so I think JJ Watt and company end their losing streak. HOUSTON WINS
  • Patriots @ Dolphins: Tom Brady is getting old, as everyone tends to do, but no one told his game.  He did great things with a young receiving core last year, and with the return of Rob Gronkowski, there’s no reason he shouldn’t flourish again.  Miami is looking to put last year’s issues behind them and make some noise in the AFC East.  I just don’t think they do it at home this time around.  NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Vikings @ Rams: This might be the worst quarterback match-up of the week.  But Minnesota does have the crazy talented Adrian Peterson to pick up the slack.  But St. Louis has one of the better defenses in the league, and they know who to shutdown.  ST. LOUIS WINS
  • Jaguars @ Eagles: Jacksonville is definitely moving in the right direction.  But they’re still young.  Philly made the playoffs last season, but it was in a down year for the NFC East.  Can Nick Foles duplicate his great 2013?  If he continues to be accurate, it could mean another playoff run for the Eagles, starting with this home win to open the season. PHILADELPHIA WINS
  • Saints @ Falcons: The first taste of the NFC South rivalry.  Atlanta had a down season last year, but look to make another run at a Superbowl.  New Orleans is always in the discussion, and I think they’re the best team in that division. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Raiders @ Jets: This might finally be the year the Jets get back to the playoffs.  Upgrades at the skill positions should help 2nd year QB Geno Smith.  And don’t forget that defense.  Oakland could keep it close, but I don’t see them getting the road win. NEW YORK WINS

Sunday 4:25PM Games

  • 49ers @ Cowboys: San Francisco has had some off-the-field issues during the off-season, while Dallas looks to avoid another 8-8 season.  It’s going to be tough for the Boys this season with a lot of questions on defense, including the loss of DeMarcus Ware. Dallas has issues at home, the Niners are a favorite to make it back to the NFC Championship.  Give me the road team to open up the season with a W.  SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Panthers @ Buccaneers: I have been back and forth about this one.  Carolina was so good on both sides of the football last season, but Cam Newton is banged up and the Panthers aren’t returning enough of their offensive play-makers.  While I think Carolina has a better season than the Bucs, give me Tampa’s defense to steal one at home.  TAMPA BAY WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Colts @ Broncos: Revenge for a regular season loss to the Colts a season ago, give me the Broncos in a high scoring game months after scoring just 8 points in the Superbowl. Yes I know that an important piece in Wes Welker will be missing for the Broncos, and while I think both teams will have great seasons, a tough 3 game stretch to open the year, Denver has to take advantage at home. DENVER WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Giants @ Lions: New York is in transition offensively, and is coming off a bad season.  The Lions continue to boast a lot of big time names, but never seem to put it together.  If they can all season remains to be seen, but I do think their familiarity will help them edge out Eli Manning and his Giants. DETROIT WINS
  • Chargers @ Cardinals: Philip Rivers got back to being Philip Rivers last season, forcing San Diego into the playoffs.  The Cardinals are on the rise, thanks in large part to their defense.  And that’s why I like the home team in this one. ARIZONA WINS

There you go.  The first week of picks in a 17-week season! Looking forward to this season and hearing from you on why my picks are right or wrong. Enjoy opening week!

Enjoy.

NFL: Week 10 Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFC SOUTH (Things Are Getting Interesting)

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

NFC WEST (The Hawks Are Flying High)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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