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

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

5 Best Teams Through Week 8

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

Worst Teams Through Week 8

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

Best of the Rest

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

Best Chance to Rebound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFC SOUTH (Indianapolis is starting to pull away)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFC SOUTH (The most disappointing division in football?)

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

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

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

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

NFC

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

AFC

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

NFL: 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 9 Predictions

Welcome to the second half of the season.  Another 6 teams have their bye week here in week 9: the Giants, Broncos, Cardinals, Jaguars, 49ers and Lions.

A very good week for me in week 8, as I went 11-2.  Let’s try to match that this week shall we?

Thursday Night Football

  • Cincinnati @ Miami: One team is on a 4-game winning streak, the other, a 4-game losing streak.  And while I think the Dolphins are better than what they’ve shown during their skid, I think the Bengals are too hot right now.  I give the road team with their stellar defense, and on-fire quarterback the edge in this one. CINCY WINS

1PM Sunday Games

  • Atlanta @ Carolina: The Panthers have been really good of late on both sides of the football.  The Falcons have been inconsistent to say the least.  If the birds want to make a run at a playoff spot, they’ve got to start with this road divisional game.  I think it will be close, but I think Matt Ryan limits the turnovers and the defense does just enough to help them get win number 3. ATLANTA WINS
  • Minnesota @ Dallas: The Vikings scored a lot on Green Bay’s defense last weekend.  This as the Cowboys allowed a lot of scoring on their own defense in a bad last-second loss.  And despite not knowing if the Boys will get back their starting running back or not, Tony Romo is a better quarterback than everyone on Minnesota’s roster. So I’m taking the home team. DALLAS WINS
  • New Orleans @ New York Jets: The Saints are cruising atop the NFC South, while the Jets sit two back in the AFC East.  Geno Smith has yet to lose two, or win two in a row in his rookie campaign.  But I think Drew Brees and company will change this, and hand New York their second straight loss to drop them below .500. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Tennessee @ St Louis: The Rams defense did a very good job of stopping the Seahawks high-powered offense on Monday night.  But the offense couldn’t help them out.  The Titans are fresh off their bye with getting to .500 on their minds.  Jake Locker has been a lot better this year than most people realize, because he tends to get banged up a lot.  But I think having had the extra week to get healthy, the Titans are ready to pick up a big road win.  TENNESSEE WINS
  • Kansas City @ Buffalo: Sure the Chiefs are probably due for a loss, and this being a road game against a pretty good defense, this could be the week.  But I haven’t really liked what I’ve seen from Thad Lewis since taking over for the injured EJ Manuel.  I think if Alex Smith continues being smart with the football, this will be a fairly easy win for the leagues remaining undefeated team. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • San Diego @ Washington: The Chargers have been inconsistent this season, but are on an upward trend coming out of a bye.  RGIII is in the midst of a sophomore slump following his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2012.  The biggest difference for San Diego right now is their running game, led by Ryan Matthews, is starting to round into form. I think this continues, and the Chargers hand the Redskins their 2nd straight loss. SAN DIEGO WINS

4/4:25PM Sunday Games:

  • Philadelphia @ Oakland: The Eagles offense is not what Chip Kelly invisioned when he signed on to be the head coach before the season.  A big reason for that is the oft-injured Michael Vick, who left Sundays game against New York after reinjuring his hamstring.  That means Nick Foles will be back under center.  As for the Raiders, Terrelle Pryor has already matched their win total from a year ago, despite not having stellar numbers throwing the football.  His biggest threat has been on the ground, and I think that’s where he, and Darren McFadden get it done again this week.  OAKLAND WINS
  • Tampa Bay @ Seattle: The Bucs remain winless, and now have to go to a place where Russell Wilson doesn’t lose.  And this after Wilson had a bad game in St. Louis.  That just doesn’t seem fair, but this is football.  SEATTLE WINS
  • Baltimore @ Cleveland: Cleveland continues to show improvement, even in losses, but there are no moral victories in Football.  As for the Ravens, they’re coming off a bye and looking to right the ship.  Ray Rice has had a down year, but always plays well off the bye, and will need to this week in order to get a road win.  Also look for Torrey Smith to have a big game.  BALTIMORE WINS
  • Pittsburgh @ New England: The Steelers are another team having a down year, while the Patriots continue to find new and interesting ways to scrape wins together.  I think this will be another close game for the Pats, but they always do well at home, and with Stevan Ridley running the way he is, give me the home team. NEW ENGLAND WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Indianapolis @ Houston: Case Keenum showed something in his first start for the Texans, almost leading them to a win against KC.  But their defense hasn’t been what everyone thought pre-season, and the run game is beat up.  As for the Colts, they’ve beaten some of the leagues best teams, and Andrew Luck has looked good doing it.  I want to say the Texans will make a game of it, but in the end, the Colts get it done. INDY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Chicago @ Green Bay: This is my favorite match-up of the week.  Two very good NFC North teams looking to establish themselves as the team to beat in the division.  The packers hold the edge right now thanks to already having had their bye week, but a Bears win would go a long way in closing the gap.  Their defense got off to such a hot start, but has seen a drop-off since their 3-0 start.  Losing Jay Cutler didn’t help the team, and he won’t be back this week. So despite the Packers defense letting Minnesota score a lot last week, give me Aaron Rodgers by 7.  GREEN BAY WINS

There you have it.  13 games that are sure to be fun to watch. Enjoy everybody.