The Dolphins bullied the Jets to win their 3rd straight, the Broncos crushed the Saints, and the Cowboys and Eagles continue to battle for most laughed at team in the NFL. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
Week One Headlines
Dolphins playoff bound?
Two months ago many believed the Dolphins would finish the 2012 season as one of the NFL’s worst teams. Now, they’ll likely be an AFC Wildcard team. After dismantling the New York Jets in New York, the Dolphins find themselves with a winning record for the first time since Week 14 of the 2010 season. More importantly, the Dolphins are at the front of the AFC Wildcard pack.
We’re about halfway through the season, so it’s obviously a little early to say who will or won’t be in the postseason, but look around the AFC, who’s going to keep the Dolphins out? The Colts? No, defense isn’t good enough. San Diego? No, offense is an abomination. Raiders Bills Bengals? No, all fatally flawed.
The clear-cut favorites for the AFC Wildcard are the Dolphins and Steelers (or Ravens if Pittsburgh catches them). The Dolphins run the football better than any of the aforementioned teams and play better defense, too. Furthermore, as we witnessed Sunday, the Dolphins have depth at the most important position; quarterback.
Matt Moore led the Dolphins to a 6-3 record in the last nine games of the 2011 season. Many believed he should have been Miami’s starter in 2012, not rookie Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill has been solid, though, and improving every week. But it was Moore that beat the Jets Sunday with an efficient, mistake-free outing. Miami is two overtime losses from a 6-1 record. Their remaining schedule makes 10-6 possible. Don’t be surprised to see the Dolphins back in the playoffs for the first time since Ace Ventura saved Snowflake.
Broncos now among AFC Elite?
I can’t decide what to make of the Broncos. Sunday night’s dismantling of the Saints was impressive, but it was the suffocating defensive performance that could change Denver’s season. We already knew Peyton Manning transformed the Bronco offense into an elite offense, capable of scoring 30+ points every time they take the field. It was Denver’s defense that was the big question mark. The defense couldn’t stop the Texans or Patriots until both games were mostly decided. Since those are the two best teams in the AFC, and opponents Denver will have to go through to reach the Super Bowl, something needed to drastically change on the defensive side for the Broncos to really contend for an AFC title. Was smothering Drew Brees and the Saints proof of drastic improvement or just a superior effort that won’t be replicated again? If it’s the former, the AFC just got more interesting.
Cowboys, Eagles define “losers”
Each week these two teams find new ways to torture their fan bases. Two weeks ago, the Cowboys fought all the way back against the Ravens only to blow it in the final seconds with poor clock management. That same week, the Eagles handled the Lions for three quarters before disappearing in the 4th and eventually losing in overtime. Fast-forward two weeks.
The Cowboys needed a win over the Giants Sunday, a team they dominated earlier in the season, in order to stay in contention for the division crown. The Eagles, fresh off a bye, took on the NFL’s only undefeated team. With a new defensive coordinator and a fresh outlook, many believed the Eagles would turn their season around with a win over Atlanta.
Instead, the Eagle defense surrendered touchdowns on Atlanta’s first three drives and then surrendered field goals on their next three. Six possessions, six scores. So much for improvement. It got worse. Michael Vick did nothing to mount a comeback, the offense continued its horrendous season, players blatantly quit, and the finger pointing started.
For the Cowboys, they turned the ball over four times in the 1st quarter, fell behind 23-0 only to take a 24-23 lead in the 4th quarter. Of course, after giving their fans hope, Dallas ripped it away with a costly 4th quarter turnover and somehow still came within an inch’s worth of Dez Bryant’s hand of winning the game. I can’t wait to see how these teams lose in Week 9.
Someone take them to Chick-fil-A (NFL’s top 5)
1. Giants – Two less-than-stellar performances in consecutive weeks. The Giants probably deserve a bump from the top spot but the Packers still lack a running game and struggled as a result yesterday. I think the Giants midseason swoon is upon us.
2. Packers – Green Bay got a tougher fight than most expected. Aaron Rodgers was under siege. Since the Packers can’t run the football (66 yards on 26 carries) and Rodgers’ top two targets were out with injury, it wasn’t a pretty day in Lambeau. But a win is a win.
3. Texans – Still the best team in the AFC, and probably the NFL, too. In a few weeks, after we’ve all forgotten the drubbing Aaron Rodgers put on them, I’ll bump the Texans back to the top spot.
4. Falcons – While crushing the lousy, dysfunctional Eagles isn’t a great accomplishment, ending Andy Reid’s unbeaten streak after the bye is impressive. Still not sold on the Falcons defense against elite offenses.
5. 49ers – I should put the Patriots here, and I would – if they promised to remain committed to running the football. Because when they do, they’re awfully tough to beat.
(Last Week: NYG, GB, HOU, ATL, SF.)
Hardly Ramen Noodle worthy (NFL’s bottom 5)
28. Panthers – If I’m a Panthers fan, I’m severely disappointed by Carolina’s 1-6 record. HOWEVER, I’m encouraged by recent events and more importantly, the team’s attitude (but maybe not Cam Newton’s at times). Unlike the Eagles, the Panthers keep fighting. Furthermore, Carolina could have easily won each of its last four losses. Young teams have to learn how to win games before they’re competing for division titles etc… The Panthers are doing that now. The foundation for the future is being built by these heart-breaking losses. It hurts now but stay positive, Carolina. The future is bright.
29. Saints – Peyton Manning and the Broncos marching up and down the field against the Saints defense was expected. Drew Brees completing only 52% of his passes for just 213 yards was certainly not.
30. Eagles – It just keeps getting worse in Philly. The Eagles play like a 2-12 team with no hope, not a 3-4 team in the middle of the NFC playoff hunt.
31. Jaguars – Blaine Gabbert isn’t horrible. I still don’t think I’d want him as my franchise quarterback, but at least he’s improving and showing signs of being a capable starter. He’s also tough. You can’t teach toughness.
32. Chiefs – That’s probably the last we’ve seen of Brady Quinn as a starting NFL quarterback. Though he’s never lived up to expectations, he’s also had terrible luck.
(Last Week: OAK, CLE, CAR, JAC, KC.)
Stock rising (but not in top 5, yet)
Broncos – If the Broncos defense is for real, and Sunday night was no fluke, whoa, look out. At this point, is there any question Peyton Manning isn’t a top 5 QB again? Denver will win the AFC West by default. Now the question is, can they wrestle a first round bye from the Patriots/Ravens?
Lions – In the past three weeks, Detroit stormed back to erase a 4th quarter deficit against the Eagles, lost to the Bears because they continually shot themselves in the foot, and rallied to defeat a tough Seahawks team. At 3-4, the Lions are in the thick of the NFC playoff race.
Dolphins – Already covered this in the headlines section, but the Dolphins are easily a top 6 team in the AFC.
Stock falling (but not in bottom 5, yet)
Titans – Tennessee needed a win over the Colts Sunday to gain an inside edge in the AFC Wildcard race but red zone issues (0/2 Sunday) scuttled what should have been a division victory. At 3-5 with the Bears and Dolphins on deck, the playoffs look like a long shot.
Chargers – Blow a 24-0 lead and lose. Bye week. Lose to the Browns without scoring a touchdown. Yeah, this is bad even for a Norv Turner led team.
NFC East – The NFC Wildcard race is running away from the Cowboys, Eagles and Redskins. While the Giants are still due for their annual midseason collapse, their cushion in the division is likely enough to withstand any rally from their rivals.
Things I thought and would’ve said on TV if someone paid me…
- This is how the Cowboys torture their fans. Down by five with minutes to go, Dallas was driving. They faced a 3rd and 1 and threw an incomplete pass. On 4th and 1, same result. I hate it when most teams throw the ball on 3rd and 1 when they wouldn’t go for it on 4th down, but not running it on 3rd down when you KNOW you’re going for it on 4th is beyond dumb. Yards and time don’t matter in this situation. You know why? BECAUSE YOU NEED A 1st DOWN TO CONTINUE THE DRIVE! Jason Garrett is the worst game manager in the NFL. He makes Andy Reid look like Bill Belichick.
- I was hoping to wake up Monday morning to a sign that read “Yard Sale” and Nnamdi Asomugha sitting near it. Please just sit him on the bench. He’s atrocious.
- Rob Gronkowski went 2011 Rob Gronkowski on the St. Louis Rams. Not sure why the Patriots haven’t fed him more this season. Maybe they will now.
- Tough loss for the Panthers and Cam Newton. He wasn’t efficient, but it was a solid game by Newton. His post game demeanor was the best of his career. Hopefully it was more about a change of heart than acting. Regardless, the Panthers were a Steve Smith slip away from beating the Bears in Chicago.
- Mike Shanahan has done a great job running the Redskin offense this season. However, I didn’t understand why the Redskins wanted to pass so much against Pittsburgh. Do what you do best and make the defense stop you.
- People like to talk about Matthew Stafford having an off year compared to 2011. Why not point the finger at Calvin Johnson who, for the third consecutive week, dropped a touchdown pass. Larry Fitzgerald; still the best in the game.
- I guess Rex Ryan is waiting for the Jets to be completely eliminated before he gives Tim Tebow a chance. Yeh, that makes sense. Why give the miracle worker an opportunity to pull off a miracle?
- Ryan Mathews fumbled again. I’m going to have a heart attack and die from that surprise.
- It’s almost comical how much Aaron Rodgers hates throwing the ball to Jermichael Finley. Rodgers knows Finley will A. Drop it. B. Make minimal effort. Or C. Both. Rodgers lofted a jump ball for Finley (one of the most gifted athletes in the league) and Finley stood flat footed waiting for the ball instead of catching it at its highest point. It was nearly intercepted. Rodgers was not pleased.
- What’s the deal with Jamaal Charles? 17 rushes for 44 yards in the last two weeks. Even Andy Reid would give Charles the ball more.
- Dez Bryant landed just out of bounds, but the Giants secondary deserves a lashing from Tom Coughlin. How do you allow a receiver to get behind you in that situation? What’s worse, watch the New York defensive back take a huge swat at the football to knock it down and completely miss. Comedy of errors in Dallas on Sunday. Like I said, the Giants defense isn’t very good. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant gifted the Giants that win.
- Dumbest thing I heard all afternoon – John Lynch of FOX prior to the Atlanta/Philadelphia game: “Some guys just have nicknames, other guys earn their nicknames. Matty Ice. So appropriate, because he plays his best when it matters most.” Hey John, “Matty Ice” is 0-3 in the postseason. His numbers: 70/110, 584 Yards, 3 TDs, 4 INTs, and 2 Fumbles, including a pick six and a fumble returned for a touchdown. He’s also never surpassed 200 passing yards in a playoff game. Oh yeah, he got shutout by the Giants in last year’s playoffs. Like I said earlier in the year, ice apparently melts in January.
Things I never thought and would not say this week, even if you paid me…
- Kurt Coleman is the type of safety you build a defense around. He’s disciplined, a sure-tackler, and he knows where he’s supposed to be at all times.
- Just as we predicted, Blaine Gabbert threw for more yards than Aaron Rodgers.
- I was shocked to see Dez Bryant and Tony Romo struggle in a big game. They’re as clutch as they come.
- I hope the Eagles make the right call and bring back Michael Vick for the 2013 season. It’s not his fault. It really isn’t.
Fantasy Nightmare Football update of the week…
- Arian Foster was on a bye this week. Therefore, so was my team.