The Jaguars won. Let’s get their picture out front while we can. Elsewhere, Drew Brees chokes, Peyton Manning makes history, and Seattle is upside down. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Drew Brees played his best game of the season right up until he gave it away. On 3rd and 9 with fewer than four minutes to go and the Saints nursing a six point lead, Brees forgot to locate the charging safety when he looked for Marques Colston over the middle. The interception led to a Detroit touchdown and a one-point lead. Brees still had time to win the game. Only needing a field goal, Brees and the Saints had over 90 seconds to move the football 45 yards. Instead, Brees went 1/7 for –1 yard. It was clear Brees was shell-shocked following his critical interception. I’ve never seen Brees so “out of it” in such a crucial situation. He had the Eli Manning empty stare going on. It was as if he couldn’t get over the fact he’d just given the game away. What’s Kobe Bryant always say about missing 12 shots in a row? He’ll make the 13th. Brees didn’t have that outlook Sunday and it was painfully obvious.
The Peyton Manning TD Record is a fantastic achievement. It’s also caused a schism among sports fans. Many argue Manning is the greatest of all time. The other side argues Manning is the product of playing in era that protects quarterbacks, outlaws defense and rigs the game in favor of exciting, pass-heavy offenses. You know what? Both sides are right. Manning is the greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history. There’s never been a more consistently great quarterback. It’s true, though, Manning does benefit greatly from rule changes that guys like Marino, Elway and Montana never enjoyed. I 100% agree with those that compare the current NFL to the steroids era of baseball. The offensive numbers are misleading. However, even when looking at swollen offensive numbers, Manning’s are still the best. This excellent graphic from YAHOO! Sports gives you an idea at how spectacular Manning is compared to his peers:
Remember last week when reports emerged that Brian Hoyer wouldn’t consider an extension in Cleveland unless Johnny Manziel was moved? Obviously, Hoyer’s camp refuted those reports, but there was likely some truth there. Manziel will always be an intriguing story for fans and media alike. As long as Manziel’s the backup, the starter will always be under more scrutiny than most quarterbacks in the NFL. Anyway, Hoyer fell flat on his face against one of the NFL’s worst teams. His 16/41 (39% completion) and two turnovers were fitting after Hoyer puffed out his chest earlier in the week. Also, who in Hoyer’s camp thought he had enough leverage to strong arm the Browns? This is Brian Hoyer, not Aaron Rodgers.
It’s amazing what can be turned on its head in a year.
The Miami Heat is dead.
LeBron James is apparently a national treasure.
Matthew McCaughey is an award-winning actor.
The Seahawks can’t run the football or play defense.
Last season, Seattle won a Super Bowl title on the shoulders of its defense. The secondary was unbeatable. The pass rush relentless. This season, teams are picking on Seattle’s defense by exploiting the secondary and lack of pass rush. In 2013 the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” was the NFL’s top ranked pass defense. In 2014, they’re 22nd. Marshawn Lynch and the ground game have also struggled. Lynch hasn’t rushed for more than 90 yards since Week 1. In 2013, he rushed for at least 90 yards seven times. However, Lynch went five games without surpassing 72 yards late in the 2013 season. That stretch coincided with Seattle’s worst play of the season where they went 3-2 with ugly defeats to the Cardinals and 49ers. Seattle’s 2014 rushing numbers aren’t alarming right now because they’ve been bloated by Russel Wilson’s ability to scramble. Wilson trails Lynch in rushing yards by less than 100 yards. That’s rarely a welcomed feat in the NFL. Seattle simply isn’t the same team it was a year ago. Whether or not they can get back to being that team will determine how far they go in the postseason, if they can even get there at all.
If you haven’t heard, there are reports of dissension in the Seahawks locker room. Let’s be clear: When a person has ill-will toward a fellow person because he’s not “black enough,” that’s racism. What that person is really saying is, “you act like you’re white.” That’s what’s happening here. Russell Wilson is a Super Bowl winning quarterback who takes his role as a public figure seriously. He’s well-spoken and careful when he speaks to the press. During his free time he visits local hospitals and takes on other charitable endeavors. Is that not black enough? He doesn’t flap his trap on or off the field. Wilson doesn’t get arrested. Is that not black enough? Racism is an ugly thing. Sadly, it’s still very prevalent in our society today. Part of combating racism is exposing it as such. There isn’t dissension in Seattle’s locker room. There’s racism.
The Houston Texans sit at 3-4, riding a three game losing skid. Their problem is focus and consistency. In consecutive weeks Houston has completely shut down for brief stretches that ultimately cost them the game. Against the Colts, Houston opened the game with three-and-outs on their first three possessions. They also fell asleep on an onside kick and couldn’t get Andrew Luck off the field. In eight minutes, the Texans trailed 17-0. That score ballooned to 24-0 before the end of the 1st quarter. As you know, Houston battled back to make it a one score game. Then the Texans closed the game much like they opened it, turning the football over on their final two possessions with the game on the line each time. Fast-forward a week to Pittsburgh. Houston dominated the first 27 minutes of the game only to completely fall apart in the final minutes of the 1st half; a three-and-out, a blown coverage, an interception, a fumble. Boom. The Texans surrendered 21 points in two minutes. Good teams don’t suffer devastating breakdowns on a consistent basis.
Time to critique NFL.com’s Power Rankings. Seattle took a nose dive after another disappointing loss. The Broncos continue to prove they’re worthy of the top spot. The full rankings can be found below.
NFL Power Rankings: Wk 8 1. @Broncos 2. @dallascowboys 3. @Eagles 4. @packers 5. @Colts FULL: http://t.co/a29aKLDvqY pic.twitter.com/OXfKTFFGFj
— NFL (@nfl) October 21, 2014
This week, instead of critiquing the NFL’s rankings, I’m going to rationalize my own. First, I don’t like having the Packers so high. They’re not that good. Though, I don’t think the Cowboys or Eagles are worthy of the two slot either. San Diego is certainly beatable and Indianapolis hasn’t played a dynamic offense since the opening weeks of the NFL season. Essentially, Denver is the NFL’s best team and then there’s a handful of teams vying for that second spot. Second, The Chiefs leapfrogged the 49ers because Kansas City is the best team no one is talking about. Finally, yes, I left off the Cardinals again. They haven’t played well since Week 3.
- Green Bay
- San Diego
- New England
- Kansas City
How Todd Haley kept his job for another season was always a head scratcher to me. His performance Monday night proved why he’s one of the worst coordinators in the NFL. Up two scores with less five minutes remaining, Pittsburgh opted to throw the football on 2nd and 3rd down. Both passes were incomplete, leaving valuable time on the clock for a Houston comeback. Did I mention the pass on 2nd down was a deep ball? Who does that? Even if you complete the pass you look like a fool for taking the risk when you have the game in your hands. In Haley’s defense, there is the possibility that he was responding to harsh criticize from the Pittsburgh media over his decision to run the football on 3rd and 5 with 90 seconds to go while nursing a 4 point lead against the Buccaneers a few weeks ago. In that situation, Haley made the right decision and got burned. I don’t have a problem with offenses throwing on 3rd down while nursing a lead, either. It’s the deep, low percentage throw on 2nd down that was totally unnecessary and foolish that had me laughing at my TV. Also, kudos to Steeler fans everywhere for leaving your stadium 1/3 empty for a nationally televised Monday night game. Such diehards you are.
The NFC looked wide open after Dallas upended the Seahawks in Seattle. After Week 7, the NFC looks like a total crapshoot. Many now call the Cowboys the favorite, and it’d be difficult to argue otherwise. However, that defense isn’t as good as the hype they’re getting. Similarly, the Eagles defense isn’t as good as it looked in shutting out the Giants. In fact, the NFC is full of really good but not great teams. Many excel on one side of the football while surviving the other. The Packers are Aaron Rodgers. That’s it. And yes, that is good enough to win the NFC. I don’t know where to classify the Seahawks and 49ers right now. They’re both a mess. It’ll be hard to fully judge the 49ers until healthy, anyway. The Lions keep winning despite a surprising dreadful offense. Even the Cardinals continue to scrap together wins. After seven weeks we often have an idea of the handful of teams capable of reaching the Super Bowl. In the NFC, that list could include more than half the conference.
Buffalo’s insertion of Kyle Orton to the starting lineup was about one thing: Getting Sammy Watkins the football. EJ Manuel was an exceptional athlete but he couldn’t throw a stone in the ocean. Watkins is Buffalo’s biggest offensive advantage. They couldn’t win if he wasn’t getting opportunities. Watkins was targeted 14 times Sunday and responded with 9 receptions and two touchdowns, including the game winner. Watkins carried a ton of hype with him to Buffalo. The Bills moving up in the draft to pick him certainly didn’t temper expectations. Physically, Watkins has lived up to the hype. He’s unbelievably fast and he plays bigger than his 6’1 frame. With Orton at quarterback it appears Watkins’ production will begin to match the hype, too.
A. My apologies to Cam Newton and Jay Cutler. Last week I praised both for their stellar Week 6 performances. Both played horribly in Week 7. I promise to never say anything positive about Nick Foles. But hey, Tony Romo is looking like an MVP right now! That guy is amazing! Speaking of jinxes, sorry, Kirk…
B. Kirk Cousins has been benched. Yes, I foolishly asked if he was possibly the best QB in the NFC East four weeks ago. Cousins has thrown 54 interceptions and fumbled 16 times since then, or something close to those numbers. Once again, I’m an idiot.
C. Matthew Stafford and Andy Dalton are suffering mighty without their all-pro receivers. We often assume the quarterback makes the receiver, and in many cases that is absolutely correct. However, it appears Calvin Johnson and AJ Green are the exception.
D. The AFC West may own the “Best Division in Football” title.
E. For the 2nd consecutive week, the NFC South went winless. It’s entirely possible 7-9 wins that division.
MVP: Rams Special Teams.
Runner Up: Peyton Manning.
Not on the ballot: Brian Hoyer.