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10 Things, NFL Week 9

Andrew Luck and the Colts handled the NFL’s top defense and gave Denver its first loss. Are the Colts back? (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

TEN
Are the Colts officially settled in as a respectable AFC playoff team? Or will they revert back to a disastrous comedy show again? I thought Indianapolis found its form after clawing its way back to 3-2. I was wrong. The Colts lost two straight at home and were badly outplayed for all but 10 minutes in Carolina. Even worse, the offense committed 7 turnovers over a two week stretch, including a whopping 5 interceptions by Andrew Luck. Things got so bad the Colts were a loss to Denver away from moving into a 2nd place tie with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South.

So, back to my question, are the Colts back? The schedule certainly favors an Indianapolis resurgence. Of the Colts remaining seven games, only the Falcons and Steelers look like playoff contenders, and even there the Falcons look like garbage and Pittsburgh could still be without Ben Roethlisberger. Essentially, the Colts are a lock for the playoffs. How competitive they’ll be when in the postseason will depend entirely on how often Luck turns the football over. When Luck turns it over, the Colts are 1-4. That’s not saying Luck has to be perfect. We don’t know how the Colts fair when Luck only commits one turnover. It hasn’t happened yet. What we do know is the Colts can’t win when Luck is sloppy and careless with the football.

NINE
So much for all that nonsense about the Denver Broncos defense being as good as the 2013 Seattle Seahawks. Sure, it’s only one game, but the Colts did as they pleased Sunday afternoon. Indianapolis totaled 27 1st downs to Denver’s 16 and dominated the time of possession as if Chip Kelly were coaching the Broncos (21:39). Simply put, Denver’s defense could not get off the field, especially with the game on the line. With six minutes to go and nursing a three point lead, Indianapolis – with some help from Denver penalties – managed to run out the remaining time as the Bronco offense watched helplessly on the sidelines. One game shouldn’t define a defense. However, allowing an average offense to burn the final six minutes off the clock in a three point game will be a tough stench to shake.

EIGHT
I knocked the Packers off my Super Bowl Contenders list as soon as Jordy Nelson went down in training camp. In my opinion, he was too important to what the Packers do offensively for them to replace. Then Aaron Rodgers resurrected James Jones from the grave and I looked like an idiot as the Packers jumped out to a 6-0 start. After two straight losses in which the offense struggled for all but a quarter, it’s clear Rodgers misses Nelson. Randall Cobb, while a good receiver, is struggling to produce with consistency as defenses key on him. The Eagles and Jordan Matthews have experienced the same thing this season. It’s hard to have a potent offense when your best receiver is in the slot. Nelson’s presence on the outside stretched defenses and opened up the middle of the field for Cobb. I can’t remember a time in Rodgers’ career where he threw the ball deep downfield less than he has this season, especially over the last month or so. We all knew the Packers offense wasn’t as potent without Nelson this year, but I was still shocked to see Green Bay owned the 27th ranked passing offense in the league entering Week 9. That’s unbelievable.

Many have pointed to the ground game as a contributor. While it seems like a legitimate cause, it’s not backed up by statistics. In 2014, the Packers averaged 119 rushing yards per game at 4.4 yards per rush. In 2015, the Packers average 115 yards per game at 4.4 yards per rush. Though Eddie Lacy has been a disaster in 2015, the ground game has still produced at its 2014 level.

While injuries have been an issue for some of Green Bay’s younger receivers, it’s evident the absence of Jordy Nelson has been the biggest drag on the Packers elite offense. Nelson’s injury makes one appreciate Aaron Rodgers even more as Rodgers continues to produce MVP numbers without a legitimate top receiving threat.

SEVEN
The Panthers have a stellar defense. Though Cam Newton has been spectacular this season for Carolina, it’s the defense that has the Panthers undefeated through nine weeks. With that said, someone should remind the Panther defense that NFL games are not 50 minutes long. Take a look at what Carolina’s defense has allowed over 10 minute stretches late in the 4th quarter the last two weeks:

Colts: 197 yards, 17 points, surrendered 17 point 4th quarter lead.
Packers: 169 yards, 15 points, thisclose to surrendering 23 point 4th quarter lead.

For any defense, those numbers are bad. For a top ten defense such as Carolina’s, those numbers are embarrassing and worrisome. You can only play with fire for so long before you get burned. The Panthers have escaped to safety in consecutive weeks, but squandering 4th quarter leads is a sure way to bow out early of the playoffs.

SIX
I’ll cover more about the Eagles tomorrow. Until then, how ‘bout them Cowboys?!?! Seriously, there are few things in the world that bring me more joy than Dallas suffering. Watching Cowboy fans scramble to defend their franchise over the Greg Hardy signing has been high comedy. Watching them defend those two egregious pass interference calls on Byron Maxwell is a close second. Here are some facts for Cowboy fans.

1. You’ve lost six straight games.
2. Greg Hardy was mostly worthless Sunday against the Eagles. The Eagles offensive line isn’t even any good. Lane Johnson even said Hardy essentially gave up after things weren’t going his way. What a great show of character by Hardy.
3. Your season is, in all likelihood, over.
4. Dez Bryant is one of the league’s top receivers. He’s also the unanimous choice for whiniest.
5a. Jordan Matthews’ stats in 6 games this season; 33 REC, 318 YDS, 0 TD.
5b. Jordan Matthews’ stats in 2 games vs. Dallas: 15 REC, 213 YDS, 1 TD.
6. See you in 2016.
7. Sad Cowboy.

Sad Cowboy

FIVE
It’s been awhile since my last POWER RANKINGS. I’ve included my Power Rankings from Week 5 on the right. On the left are my power rankings after Week 9. As you can see, not a lot has changed outside of the New York teams backsliding a bit. Power Rankings Week 5 2015
1. Patriots
2. Bengals
3. Broncos
4. Panthers
5. Packers
6. Cardinals
7. Seahawks
8. Vikings
9. Falcons
10. Colts

FOUR
Dan Quinn wins the Week 9 award for pansy of the weekend. With just under 3 minutes to go and the Falcons trailing by 4, Quinn passed on an opportunity to take the lead on 4th and goal from the one yard line. He kicked the field goal instead, cutting the deficit to 1. Why? Seriously, why?

First of all, your chances of scoring on 4th and goal from the 1 are at least 50/50, if not greater. Second, even if you don’t convert, you’ve given the 49ers the ball at the one yard line under their own goal post. In all likelihood, you’ll get the football back with over 2 minutes to go. (Atlanta had 2 timeouts remaining.) Third, you have Julio Jones. Why the Falcons don’t throw at least two fade routes to Jones inside the five is beyond me. Yes, one fade went incomplete on 2nd down, but I’ll take my chances with Julio Jones on 4th down, thank you very much. Fourth, don’t be such a wuss. Win the game. I think the worst part was how confidently Quinn called for the field goal. He didn’t even hesitate. NFL coaches demanding courage and toughness from their players is such a joke when they themselves shrink and shiver at the thought of foregoing a field goal on a 4th and goal from the one.

Let’s be honest here, the Falcons are a disaster right now. They’ve lost three of four and are averaging a measly 16 points in those contests. Even worse, their three loses have come against teams with a combined 10-16 record. Atlanta’s defense was supposed to be the team’s Achilles heel this year. Instead, it’s Matt Ryan and the underachieving offense. More specifically, the Falcons red zone offense, which is converting only 36% of its red zone trips over the last three weeks. For an offense with Julio Jones, that’s an embarrassment. Atlanta has the NFL’s top receiver, their running back is 2nd in the NFL in rushing, and they can’t muster three touchdowns a game? Someone needs to give Matt Ryan a swift kick to the rear before he takes what was once a promising playoff season completely off the rails.

THREE
Antonio Brown is amazing. Sure he carelessly fumbled a punt with the Steelers up 14 in the 4th quarter that ultimately cost me a Pittsburgh cover, but he’s still amazing. 284 receiving yards in a single game is insane. It also speaks to how important Ben Roethlisberger is to Brown’s potency. With Roethlisberger under center this season, Brown’s lowest amount of targets was 11. Without Roethlisberger, Brown’s highest amount of targets was 9. Look at Brown’s averages with and without Roethlisberger this season.

Without (4 Games): 4.25 REC, 59 YDS, 0 TD
With (5 Games): 10.4 REC, 153 YDS, 0.6 TD

With Roethlisberger set to miss a few weeks, and with LeVeon Bell already out, the Steelers will likely lose the full potency of Antonio Brown over the next few weeks. That’s bad news for a team fighting for a Wildcard spot and four of their next five games coming against playoff teams.

THREE A
Why did DeAngelo Williams disappear in Carolina the last few years? He’s been amazing in a relief role for Pittsburgh. My guess is Carolina ran less of a stretch offense under Ron Rivera and more of a power running game. Once again, coaches don’t always know best.

TWO
Good job, Saints. Way to ride all that momentum to a devastating loss. At least the Titans were a respectable 2-6 heading into the game. Rob Ryan shouldn’t have a job this week. He must have some amazing photos in his safe at home.

TWO A
Sammy Watkins accounting for 93% of the Bills receiving yards is both awesome and concerning. Furthermore, if you’re a Dolphins player/fan, it’s downright embarrassing.

TWO B
This was my favorite part of the day. I sure hope that kid knows that woman he’s yelling at. Either way, her response is amazing. In fact, for all my Cowboy friends out there, this is the face I’m making when you whine about the Eagles’ win Sunday night.

TWO C
The Dion Lewis injury news is devastating. Certainly the loss is bad for the Patriots, but more importantly what a blow for Lewis. ACLs tend to be a two year injury in football. As a result, Lewis may not get to play out his contract with Patriots.

ONE
MVP: Antonio Brown
Runner Up: Sammy Watkins
Left off Ballot: Peyton Manning

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