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The Plot Thickens. NFL Week 9 Recap

All eight of the NFL’s division crowns are up for grabs and the race for the playoffs is more like a congested traffic jam. Also, Brett Favre saves the Vikings, NFL rule changes, and a new team tops the rankings.

Week Two Headlines

Division Races Heating Up
Normally, we have a reasonable idea of who will win a few of the divisions by this time of year. Not in 2010. Every one of the NFL’s eight divisions is still up for grabs. The AFC North will be won by either Baltimore or Pittsburgh. Although the Jaguars aren’t taken seriously (and rightfully so), there are still four teams in play for the AFC South. The AFC East and West could be won by three of the four teams in each respective division. In the NFC, all four divisions still have three teams contending for division crowns, and the NFC West may have four depending on what the 49ers do over the next few weeks. There isn’t a great team in the NFL this season. For some, this makes the league unwatchable. In my opinion, it makes Sundays more exciting. Every game is unpredictable. Playoff scenarios are endless. Superbowl contenders? There is a handful, maybe even ten. The NFL is a jumbled mess. By my count, only seven teams aren’t in position to compete for a playoff spot. The final two months of the season will be a war of attrition. I can’t wait.

Tom Brady’s Decline
I’d like to announce that I will no longer include Tom Brady in the same conversation as Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Yes, he has more titles than Manning and Brees combined, but currently, he’s not on the same level. In fact, I wouldn’t include him in the same class as Philip Rivers or Aaron Rodgers, either. Brady looks scared in the pocket, afraid his knee will be taken out on every play. He misses open receivers like Donovan McNabb and even looks disinterested at times. Whether it’s injury, age, contentment, or super-stardom, something has made Brady’s play steadily decline over the past two seasons. I know Brady doesn’t have a running game, but neither does Rivers, Manning, Rodgers, or Brees. There are no more excuses. Brady just isn’t a top tier quarterback any longer.

NFL Rules Need Adjusting
Two things. First, the Calvin Johnson rule is outrageous. Arian Foster and the Texans lost a touchdown this afternoon because Foster let the ball slip out of his hands as he reached down to balance himself after crossing the goal line. Foster clearly had possession, made a football move, and was standing in the end zone. The rule makes absolutely no sense. Second, the helmet on helmet rule needs tweaking. Austin Collie took a big hit and was knocked out of Sunday’s game in Philadelphia. The play wasn’t dirty and yet the Eagles were penalized. The play changed the game at the time. If the offensive player is hit, or makes a move that puts their helmet in the path of the defender’s helmet, a flag should not be thrown. The NFL is already asking these athletes to process when and how a receiver can be hit while running around the field at a frantic pace. To hold them responsible for contact caused by another hit or an offensive move is absurd. The game is violent. Players know this. That is why they are paid handsomely for the risks they take. I’m all for protecting the players, but at some point, the NFL must accept that football is violent.

Someone take them to Chic-Fil-A (NFL’s top 5)

1. Ravens – I know this is a big leap from 4 last week, but the Patriots looked so bad I had to drop them from my top 5. I couldn’t put the Steelers in the top spot after a loss, either. Therefore, the Ravens are #1 after their impressive win over a tough Miami team.
2. Giants – The Seahawks are far from an elite team, but going into Seattle and winning by 34 is impressive nonetheless.
3. Steelers – The offense has yet to click under Ben Roethlisberger. Despite the Bengals’ struggles, winning in Cincinnati on Monday night won’t be easy. Time for Big Ben to step it up.
4. Packers – That’s right. A second NFC team in the top 5. I could have gone with the Saints or Falcons here. Instead, I went with Green Bay because shutting out the Jets in New York is slightly more impressive than beating Pittsburgh in New Orleans.
5. Jets – I can’t give the Jets the boot after a win. However, they’re on notice. Another sloppy outing and they’re out.
(Last Week: NE, PITT, NYG, BAL, NYJ)

Not even Ramen Noodle worthy (NFL’s bottom 5)

28. Cardinals – Good teams lead by two scores in the 4th quarter when on the road. Bad teams surrender 14 points in the final 3 1/2 minutes of regulation and lose in overtime. Arizona is the latter.
29.
Broncos – Hopefully Josh McDaniels used the bye week to find a running game…or a new job.
30. Cowboys
– The 2010 season can’t end soon enough for the Cowboys. Dallas’ schedule is so brutal, we may see a 3-4 win Cowboy team at season’s end. Shocking.
31.
Bills – When you surrender three touchdowns and no field goals, and score three touchdowns and no field goals, you’d expect a tie. Not when you’re the Buffalo Bills. They managed to lose by three.
32. Panthers
– It doesn’t matter who the Panthers have at quarterback; they’re bad either way. I hope Jon Beason doesn’t waste away in Carolina on non-contenders for the next five years.
(Last Week: DEN, AZ, DAL, BUF, CAR)

Stock rising (but not in top 5, yet)

Chargers – I’m convinced Philip Rivers could throw for 300 yards with high-schoolers at receiver. After two solid wins, San Diego is once again on their annual mid-season surge.
Raiders – Three consecutive wins, 3-0 in the division, a winning record in November, and only a 1/2 game out of first in the AFC West? Things are looking up in Al Davis land.
Browns – Cleveland won’t make the playoffs, but for the second year in a row, they appear intent on ruining everyone else’s party along the way.

Stock falling (but not in bottom 5, yet)

Texans – The playoffs (and the likelihood of Gary Kubiak returning in 2011) are unlikely. The division is still within reach but unless the defense is fixed soon, even that won’t matter.
Seahawks – When you lose two straight, have been outscored 74-10 over the past two weeks, have a .500 record, AND  are still tied for first place in your division, you must play in the NFC West.
Buccaneers – They haven’t beaten a playoff contender yet. At some point, we must realize Tampa Bay is a team that only beats bad teams. I think I’m there.

Things I thought and would’ve said, but my son is only 4 months old and wouldn’t understand…
  • The Houston Texans lost to the San Diego Chargers because they couldn’t finish drives. Field goals in the 2nd and 3rd quarters instead of touchdowns came back to haunt Houston. At the time, Houston was dominating the game and could have put the Chargers to bed for good. Also, the Texans ignored Arian Foster for a good portion of the 2nd half after he had thrashed the San Diego defense for most of the afternoon. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
  • I love DirecTV and NFL Ticket, but I was close to throwing my remote through my television. I missed the first 10 minutes of the Eagles game because my local CBS affiliate thought I wanted to see the end of the Jets and Lions instead. When I switched to the NFL Ticket channel broadcasting the Eagles game, it said the game was blacked out on that channel because it was showing locally. Uh, not now it’s not!!! This happened last year too. Can we get a fix here, DirecTV?
  • Seattle fans were cheering loudly on a Giants 3rd and 21 even though the Seahawks were down 21-0. From a Seattle standpoint, that was about the only impressive thing from Sunday’s thrashing.
  • Everyone but Andy Reid knows that giving Peyton Manning more than 30 seconds at the end of the half will cost you at least three points. And I mean everyone.
  • The Cowboys are horrible, but Dez Bryant is really, really good.
  • Calvin Johnson is also really, really good. However, when you’re limited to one catch and 13 yards, you’re probably not one of the top three receivers in the league yet. Even the lethargic Randy Moss had more success against Darrelle Revis.
  • Chiefs; 12 penalties for 100 yards. Raiders; 15 penalties for 150 yards. I still like the Chargers’ chances.
  • Jacoby Ford was the difference for the Raiders on Sunday. His improbable catch toward the end of regulation that allowed the tying field goal was his most impressive, but the 47 yard bomb he caught in overtime won Oakland the game. Ford is DeSean-Jackson-fast.
  • If you had money on Wes Welker and Ndamukong Suh kicking PATs on Sunday, you won yourself some cash.
  • My favorite play of the day: 3rd and 15 for the Patriots late in the 4th quarter. Tom Brady completed a pass to Aaron Hernandez for 12 yards. Standing right above Hernandez after the play ended was Blake Costanzo. Costanzo looked over to the Cleveland sideline and collapsed in pain like a sniper took him out. The Patriots were racing to the line to get a play off before the Browns could get set. Instead of a timeout, the Browns faked an injury to get their unit settled. The CBS announcers were oblivious to the whole thing. The gamesmanship between Eric Mangini and Bill Belichick continues.
  • The Eagles and Giants on Sunday Night Football in two weeks should be a doozy.
  • I’m not just saying this because he’s on my fantasy team, but Ryan Mathews has been a huge disappointment thus far. If he’s not injured, he’s fumbling. San Diego won’t admit it, but Mathews is no LaDainian Tomlinson.
  • That was the first I’ve seen Peyton Manning harassed all afternoon since the Colts went to Houston in week one. The Eagles’ defense shows flashes. If they can find some consistency, Philadelphia will contend for a Superbowl berth.
  • With how poorly the Saints have played at times this season, it’s somewhat amazing they’re 6-3. That’s bad news for the rest of the NFC.
  • I can’t prove this, but sending the 49ers and Broncos to London and the Bears and Bills to Toronto won’t do much for broadening the NFL’s reach. It’s equivalent to sending the governors of Iowa and Kentucky abroad instead of the President.
  • Ray Rice finally put together a vintage performance; 80+ yards rushing, 95+ yards receiving. When Rice is productive, Baltimore is tough to beat.
  • Jerry Jones claims he won’t fire Wade Phillips during the season. I would argue this is the most horrific form of punishment Jones could impose on Phillips.
  • Say what you will about Brett Favre, but he is a load of fun to watch. The way he rallied the Vikings against Arizona was a thing of beauty. He may be a jerk off the field, but to see a player get emotional after a comeback is neat. Favre is so unique in the way he invests himself in the game. I for one, think the NFL is a better place with the Ol’ Gunslinger.
  • Based on the footage shared by CBS today, Andy Reid must have been teased a lot as a child.

2 Comments

  1. Finally someone agrees with what I have been saying about Tom Brady for a while. Tom Brady is no where near the efficiency that Peyton Manning has each week on the field. He’s still a pretty good QB and definitely in the top 5, but I would put Breeze and Manning over him any day.

    And I also agree with you that the NFL rules need adjusting big time. In that same game with the Eagles there was a play where Peyton Manning got touched on his helmet by the defensive player while he was trying to strip the ball. They said he hit the QB in the head and kept the Colts alive, thankfully the Eagles still pulled it off. I seriously doubt a little slap to the helmet can cause any kind of major injury to the head.

  2. When that delicate touch to the helmet of Manning occurred, the defender was engaged by another player. That is just not right. Pretty soon, the home team will be penalized for a breeze through the stadium.

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