The Packers have dropped three straight. Peyton Manning got benched. The Patriots beat the Giants. 2015 is chaos. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
It was a wildly wacky week in the NFL. Peyton Manning was benched for poor play AFTER breaking the NFL’s passing record. Both Aaron Rodgers and the Seattle Seahawks were booed AT HOME. The Patriots finally exorcised their New York Giant demons after the Giants mismanaged the clock and then dropped the decisive interception in the closing seconds of a thriller. The Ravens and Cowboys also lost in head-scratching fashion that perfectly epitomized both franchises’ seasons. This is the NFL at its best. Total anarchy.
Packer fans… now would be the proper time to panic. The Green Bay offense is doing something I never thought possible. Not only is the offense making Aaron Rodgers look human, they’re making him look average, and it’s not even Rodgers’ fault. Rodgers’ throws are as precise as ever, his receivers just aren’t making plays. Look at Davante Adams’ stat line from yesterday; 10 REC, 79 YDS. Not a bad day for the young receiver, right? Not quite. Adams was targeted 21 times. 10 catches on 21 targets is less than ideal. Obviously, Adams didn’t have 11 drops. He’s simply not good enough right now to make the plays that Rodgers is used to from the likes of Jordy Nelson or Greg Jennings before him. If you watch the Packers, you see Rodgers is throwing to covered receivers. He’s putting the football in places where only receivers can make a play. The plays simply aren’t happening. With that said, I’m not sure what the Packers are doing schematically. Over the last three weeks, the Packer offense has looked dreadful until desperation forced it into a spread style hurry-up offense. Why not let Rodgers run-and-gun the entire game? It’s the only time the offense has appeared in rhythm, moved the football consistently, and most importantly, put points on the board. Sometimes coaches overthink things. Do what works. It’s not that complicated. When it doesn’t work anymore, move onto something else.
The Cardinals are really, really good. Carson Palmer is turning back the clock to 2005 when he, Chad Johnson, and TJ Housmawhatever were lightning up NFL scoreboards. Larry Fitzgerald has found the fountain of youth, too. In his previous three seasons, Fitzgerald’s receiving yards were 798, 954, and 784, respectively. His receptions in those seasons were 71, 82, 63, respectively. Now look at his 2015 output through nine games; 65 REC, 836 YDS, 7 TD. As fun as it is to see Palmer and Fitzgerald relive the glory days, there isn’t a coach in the NFL easier to root against than the Whining Czar himself, Bruce Arians. Seriously, I don’t understand how he has time to manage a game with how much he complains. The NFL needs to introduce technical fouls. With each T issued the opposing team gets three yards. After three technical fouls you’re ejected and the opponent gets an immediate try at a 48 yard field goal. The game stops, they try the field goal, then the game resumes. That should help Mr. Arians keep his whining to a minimum. But anyway, with apologies to the Carolina Panthers, the Cardinals are the most well rounded team in the NFC. Arizona sports the league’s top ranked offense in yardage per game and 2nd in points scored. Their defense is no slouch, either, ranking 3rd in total defense and 1st in interceptions. Though the Panthers are undefeated, the Cardinals appear the early favorites to win the NFC. (Please note I said “early favorites.” There’s a long way to go.)
I think it’s time we start paying attention to how bad Russell Wilson has been this season. Last week I mentioned the delicate balance of pocket presence in regards to Tyrod Taylor. Wilson is similarly suffering form a hypersensitive pocket clock. As Chris Collinsworth mentioned during the Sunday night broadcast, Wilson is often fleeing the pocket when there is no pressure and running directly into pressure. On Sunday night against the Cardinals Wilson was horrible, completing less than 44% of his passes and fumbling multiple times. In fact, Wilson’s touchdown to turnover ratio for the season is currently 1:1. Could you imagine the vitriol aimed at Cam Newton if for every touchdown he committed a turnover? For whatever reason, Wilson gets a pass from fans and media alike. He’s been almost as bad as Kaepernick this season. While Kaepernick got benched for Blaine Gabbert, Wilson keeps getting discussed as a top quarterback. The stats are not so kind. Wilson ranks outside the top 15 in nearly every category; yards, yards per game, touchdowns, QB rating, and sacks. There are a lot of problems in Seattle. Russell Wilson is one of them.
Speaking of Russell Wilson… Two years ago I used to include the “Young QB Rankings” in each of my weekly recaps. It mostly consisted of Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton rotating positions within the top four. Robert Griffin III appeared as well when healthy. Fast forward two years and one could argue only Cam Newton has noticeably improved. RGIII is barely in the league. Kaepernick is backing up Blaine Gabbert. Andrew Luck has developed into a turnover machine. Russell Wilson looks like he’s lost his mojo. In fact, outside of Newton, it’d be hard to make the case for any of the quarterbacks mentioned being among the NFL’s top 12 quarterbacks in 2015.
A quick not before getting to the POWER RANKINGS: After a handful of teams separated themselves early in the season, it appears the league is gravitating back to the middle. Only three teams remain undefeated and 20 of the NFL’s 32 franchises have between 3 and 6 wins. That should make for a highly competitive and entertaining close to the season.
With another season on the brink of failure, the Rams need to take a good, hard look at Nick Foles. Foles has unquestionably been one of the league’s worst quarterbacks this season. His stats burn the eyes. Seven touchdowns to nine turnovers, a completion percentage hovering around 56%, and most damning of all, an average yards per attempt good enough for 30th in the NFL. In 2013, Foles led the NFL in yards per attempt and had 27 touchdowns to only 4 turnovers. In today’s NFL, it takes a concerted effort NOT to throw for 200 yards. Foles has surpassed the 200 yard plateau only once through nine games. ONCE! That’s incredible. The Rams thought Nick Foles would improve the offense, especially the passing game. Instead Foles and the Rams rank dead last in passing offense and 2nd to last in points per game. You’ll always have 2013, Nick.
Only the Cleveland Browns could injure and remove the opposing team’s 3rd string quarterback and decrease their chances of winning. I’m quite certain Landry Jones wouldn’t have thrown for 379 yards. By the way, and I know I say it every week, but Antonio Brown is the most exciting player in the NFL. Hands down. There’s no one better right now.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Patriots fare with the loss of Julian Edelman. Combine Edelman’s broken foot with the loss of Dion Lewis and the Patriot offense has lost it’s top two options behind Rob Gronkowski. It showed Sunday in New York, too. Tom Brady was as uncomfortable as he’s looked all season, his security blankets stripped from the offense. New England’s 9-0 start will likely grant them a top 2 seed in the AFC, but they’ll need a healthy Edelman to repeat as champions.
The Minnesota Vikings are replicating the Seattle Seahawks success of recent seasons. Defense and a pounding running attack combined with an athletic quarterback capable of converting 3rd downs has propelled Mike Zimmer’s team to a 7-2 start. Minnesota and Adrian Peterson lead the NFL in rushing yards while the defense leads the league in points allowed. The 2013 Seahawks finished 4th in rushing yards and 1st in points allowed. In 2014, Seattle ranked 1st in both. It’s a proven model of success. Minnesota is a true threat in the NFC.
The Panthers keep winning. Their schedule isn’t the most daunting in NFL history, but credit the Panthers for this: They’re more physical then their opponents week in and week out. Also, despite lacking an “explosive offense,” Carolina ranks 4th in points scored. So maybe we should let that narrative go. Also, Cam Newton doesn’t care if you’re offended by his dancing. You don’t like? He dances more.
Cam Newton won't stop stuntin' on his haters pic.twitter.com/sVG7fIgV3i
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) November 15, 2015
I’m calling it now. Baltimore is a lock for the playoffs next year. Whatever could go wrong for the Ravens this year has. It all started with Terrell Suggs’ injury in Week 1. Then the secondary fell apart with injuries and horrific play. 1st round pick Breshad Perriman has been unable to get on the field due to a knee injury. Steve Smith went out with an Achilles tear. This happens in the NFL.
Defenses falling apart late in games is more devastating than offenses failing in the final minutes. The Eagles, Seahawks and Packers all needed late game stops to either keep the lead or have a shot at taking it. The Eagles allowed Miami three 1st downs that chewed nearly 3 minutes of game clock and burned all three of Philly’s timeouts. The Packers surrendered a 9 play, 80 yard touchdown drive. Seattle completely melted and let Arizona pound them with back-to-back touchdown drives of at least 80 yards. Way to finish strong. Good job.
Rob Ryan’s defense needs some help… um…. defending? Look at the last three weeks.
Giants: 416 yards, 49 points
Titans: 483 yards, 34 points
Redskins: 514 yards, 47 points
Did I mention the Saints allowed 394 yards to the Redskins IN THE 1ST HALF?!?! Did I mention New Orleans is ranked dead last defensively? Or that they allow 2.5 points more than the 31st ranked defense? Or that they’re the only team allowing 30+ points per game? Drew Brees is sobbing uncontrollably right now.
Drew Stanton is my favorite quarterback now.
Drew Stanton is amazing pic.twitter.com/b85pGTd2rR
— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) November 16, 2015
MVP: Ben Roethlisberger
Runner Up: Kirk Cousins… I guess
Left off Ballot: Peyton Manning… Sorry, Mr. Manning. This kills me too.