Tom Brady quieted the doubters Sunday night, at least for now. Why doesn’t a certain franchise QB have more doubters? (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
I know most of America sighed when the Patriots pummeled the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday night. I was not one of them. I’ve always appreciated Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. I appreciate greatness. Brady will never be 2007 Tom Brady again. He doesn’t have the same weapons and he’s over half a decade older. However, part of what made Brady so great was his passion. For the first time this season we saw that raw emotion poor onto the field. Brady jawed at linebackers, dove recklessly for 1st downs, and played like he had something to prove. That’s always been my favorite part about Brady. He’s one of the few quarterbacks that plays with the emotion of a safety. I was happy to see the Patriots prove they’re still a worthy AFC contender. The NFL is better that way.
The mounting criticizing and doubt regarding Tom Brady’s play through the first quarter of the NFL season was panicky but also reasonable. Somehow, Drew Brees has avoided the doubters altogether and I’m not sure why. Though Brees’ numbers haven’t dropped off like Brady’s, he certainly hasn’t played up to par, at least for his standards. Brees has thrown six interceptions through five games. The most he’s thrown over a five game stretch since 2012. Brees also has yet to surpass two touchdowns in a game. The last time Brees went five games without more than two TDs in any game was back at the start of the 2007 season. I know what you’re thinking; It doesn’t matter who scores the TDs as long as they win. And you’d be right. BUT the Saints aren’t winning. They’ve lost to the Falcons, Browns, and Cowboys. Only the Browns have a respectable defense. Even in victories at home against the Vikings and Buccaneers the Saints have looked out-of-sorts offensively. Brees doesn’t appear injured. Though, he has been under heavy pressure and been hit often. Regardless, those same excuses didn’t work for Brady and his team stood at 2-2 entering Week 5. Brees’ Saints were a disappointing 1-3. I understand New Orleans’ defense is bad, but Brees has carried lesser teams to better results. It’ll be interesting to see if the bye week fixes things in the Nawlins.
Something needs to change for the Eagles and I won’t pretend I know the solution. Chip Kelly’s offense is a machine that is hard to stop on most Sundays. Despite red zone struggles, the Eagles march up and down the field and average over 30 points a game. Unfortunately, Kelly’s style of offense is killing his defense. Last year, the Eagles could close out wins behind the league’s best ground game. This year, with injuries and suspensions depleting the offensive line, the Philadelphia ground game has been a disaster. On top of that, large Eagle leads require opponents to commit fully to an aerial attack. The biggest weakness on the Eagles is the secondary, especially at the corner positions. Kelly and the Eagles are facing a situation where their greatest strength exposes their greatest weakness. I’m still of the belief the ground game will improve over time, especially once Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce return, but it’ll be interesting to see how Kelly can or will assist his defense, because we know there’s absolutely zero chance he alters the offense.
Entering the season many believed the NFC North to be one of the best divisions in football. While the Packers have rallied in recent weeks the rest of the division has hit a wall. The Lions, thought to have one of the league’s elite offenses, have been outscored by every NFC offense except the Cardinals and Rams. Detroit is likely 4-1 with a competent kicker but that doesn’t change the unexpected struggles of a loaded offense. The Bears appear untouchable at times (the 2nd half in San Francisco, the first five minutes in New York, a ten minute stretch in Carolina), but look sloppy and out-of-sync more often than not. An inconsistent defense certainly doesn’t help matters. Minnesota has already been forced to start its 3rd string quarterback and is also dealing with the indefinite leave of its All-Pro running back and MVP. Not a great first quarter of the season for the NFC North.
As disappointing as the NFC North has been, the NFC South may be worse. Many had the Saints winning the conference. Others had Tampa Bay winning the division. Currently, New Orleans boasts the NFL’s worst defense and the Buccaneers waited three weeks too long to insert Mike Glennon into the starting lineup. Atlanta’s defense is every bit as bad as New Orleans’ and the offense isn’t quite good enough to bail them out. Even Carolina is struggling defensively without its leading pass rusher, thus exposing a mediocre secondary.
Power Ranking time. If there were any doubts whom the top two teams should be, I think Week 5 ended the discussion. The Seahawks and Broncos are the NFL’s two best teams, and outside of San Diego, it’s not very close. Here are NFL.com’s rankings:
— NFL (@nfl) October 7, 2014
Sometimes we fall too in love with records. The Eagles deserve credit for grinding out wins despite injuries and a drunk Nick Foles. However, I can’t say with a straight face that they’re a better team than the Colts or 49ers right now. I’m not even that high on the 49ers. That offense is out-of-whack. Regardless, San Francisco has looked more competent as a team than the Eagles have the last three weeks. I think that has to count for something. Also, the Chiefs are too low. Andy Reid has once again turned lemons into lemonade. Kansas City is a good team. The same can be said for Carolina and Houston. I believe both should be in the top 17 before Miami, Detroit, or Pittsburgh. Anyway, enough griping, here’s my top 10:
- San Diego
- Green Bay
- San Francisco
- Kansas City
After Monday night’s loss to Seattle, Washington Redskins safety Ryan Clark referred to Russell Wilson as, “the best player in the NFL.” I found this interesting. Not because I think it’s untrue, but because, in a strange way, I kind of agree. Wilson may be the toughest guy to play against. He’s more diverse than any other offensive weapon in the league. Colin Kaepernick can run but he can’t hurt you in the pocket. Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning can pick you apart, but they won’t torture you with 20 yard dashes time and again. Only Wilson can effectively attack a defense from two fronts. So, while I’m not sure I agree with Wilson as “the best player in the NFL,” I would agree that he’s probably the hardest to defend. If you need proof, check out Wilson’s conversion on 3rd and long to all but clinch the game Monday. It was breathtaking.
Speaking of mobile quarterbacks, why is Colin Kaepernick so bad right now? Does he really miss Vernon Davis that much? Kaepernick has struggled to complete 55% of his passes the last two weeks. The offense has been a disaster. Kaepernick looks confused and overwhelmed. Maybe it is the absence of Davis, or perhaps Jim Harbaugh needs to rely more on the running game as he did in the 2nd half against Kansas City.
The Cowboys finally get a chance to prove the naysayers wrong. Despite a 4-1 record, Dallas has been forgotten due to the quality of its opponents through five weeks. That will change Sunday as they travel to Seattle. I don’t even think the Cowboys need to win to prove themselves. A competitive outing would be enough to prove to most that Dallas is a playoff contender. With that said, how embarrassed do you think Jerry Jones was to have the home fans drowned out by the visiting Texans?
MVP: Russell Wilson.
Runner Up: Aaron Rodgers.
Not on the ballot: Alex Henery