Trick or Treat. NFL Week 8 Recap

Donovan McNabb is taking a lot of heat for the Redskins’ offensive struggles. Is he really to blame? Also, the Packers give the Jets a taste of their own medicine, and the NFL embarrasses itself in London.

My apologies for not posting my week 8 picks. I figured I would take a bye along with the Eagles.

Week Two Headlines

McNabb is Hurting
If you follow my writing, you know I’m a Donovan McNabb apologist. I know he’s not the greatest quarterback ever. I know he’ll probably never win a Super Bowl or be in the same conversation as the all-time greats. I also know it’s rarely all McNabb’s fault. Currently, McNabb’s play is under fire in D.C., and rightfully so. He’s been average at best and putrid at his worst. I can’t defend his play, but I can certainly explain it. Once again, McNabb has no offensive weapons to work with. Santana Moss’ best days are behind him, Chris Cooley is a nice tight end but not a game-changer, Joey Galloway is 74 years old, and Anthony Armstrong is a one-trick-pony. Furthermore, McNabb’s offensive line equates to Swiss cheese, the Redskins can’t run the ball, and McNabb is learning an entirely new offense. The beating McNabb took from Detroit on Sunday was the worst I’ve seen since his early years in Philadelphia. Find me a quarterback that excels when he’s pulling himself up off the turf after every play. You can’t. I hate to beat a dead horse, but McNabb has quarterbacked an elite, balanced offense once in his entire career. Once. In 2004, Terrell Owens was in his prime, Brian Westbrook was one of the league’s best backs, and the Eagles’ offensive line kept McNabb clean. In 2009, McNabb had talented receivers but little protection and no running game as Westbrook’s career was finished and LeSean McCoy’s emergence was still a year away. McNabb’s play has been disappointing thus far in Washington. But if you try to build a house with rusty screws and malfunctioning nail guns while learning Mandarin, you too would find it difficult to succeed.

The Pack is Back
The Packers are a good team, but shutting out the New York Jets in New York was the biggest surprise of week 8. No team has been crippled by injuries like the Packers. It’s no secret they can’t run the ball, either. Yet, somehow, Aaron Rodgers was able to do enough against one of the league’s stingiest defenses to lead the Packers to their 5th victory and a 1½ game cushion in the NFC North. Although this was a great win for Rodgers, it wasn’t an earth shattering performance. He completed only 44% of his passes for an average of 5 yards and didn’t throw a touchdown pass for the first time all season. What made him successful, though, was his poise and decision making. Rodgers threw balls away when there was nothing and didn’t force plays that would put his defense in a difficult spot. Instead, Rodgers protected the ball and allowed his defense to frustrate Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense, ultimately forcing three turnovers. New York outgained Green Bay both in the ground and through the air, held a slight margin in time of possession, and converted more third down opportunities. Still, the Packers refused to budge. While we all discuss how Green Bay is missing key contributors, they’re winning games with the players they have available. The Packers have the best quarterback in the NFC and an underrated defense, too. Solid quarterback play and stingy defense wins Superbowls. The Packers appear to have both.

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

1. Patriots – The Patriots resemble the mundane, grind out win after win version of the early 2000’s. You know, the version that actually won Superbowls.
2. Steelers – The defense is good enough to stay in the top two. However, the offense needs to find a rhythm if they’re to compete for the crown.
3. Giants – New York overcame two early interceptions to beat down the Dallas Cowboys. Yes, Tony Romo went down to injury, but the momentum had already turned by that point. The Giants D looks scary. Like 2007 scary.
4. Ravens – I still can’t get past last week’s lapse against Buffalo. Also, is Joe Flacco ready to win a Superbowl?
5. Jets – Tennessee was poised to move into the top 5 until they stumbled in San Diego. The Packers are flirting with the top 5, but for now, the Jets stay put for another week.
(Last Week: PITT, NYJ, NE, BAL, NYG)

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

28. Broncos – Kyle Orton can throw for all the yards he wants. But until Denver establishes some sort of ground game, they’ll continue to be embarrassed by opponents like the Raiders and 49ers.
29. Cardinals – Max Hall was pulled before he could complete his 3rd touchdown pass to the Buccaneers. I know the Cardinals have three wins, but with their quarterback situation, their is no way they aren’t one of the five worst teams.
30. Cowboys – I can’t even begin to explain how great it feels to put Dallas here. Losing Tony Romo was devastating, but being humiliated at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars is inexcusable for a roster like the Cowboys’.
31. Bills – Buffalo has played so tough the last two weeks and nearly knocked off two teams atop the AFC standings. Unfortunately, they lost both (especially against the Chiefs)  due to missed opportunities and poor coaching. Both telling signs of a bad team.
32. Panthers – Carolina was supposed to contend for a playoff spot. Now they’re contending for the top pick in the 2011 NFL draft. See ya, John Fox.
(Last Week: DET, CAR, BUF, SF, AZ)

Stock rising (but not in top 5, yet)

Packers – Green Bay continues to grind away. A division win against the Vikings, and a surprise shutout of the New York Jets have the Packers comfortably atop the NFC North. Better yet, the wounded Cowboys come to Lambeau next week before the Packers get a bye to rest up for their playoff run. A 6-3 record despite their resume of injuries would be an accomplishment in itself.
Chiefs – The Chiefs continue to beat the teams they’re supposed to beat. Lucky for them, their remaining schedule is full of bad or underachieving teams. In fact, only the Rams, Raiders, Titans, and Seahawks have winning records. Of those teams, only the Titans resemble a legitimate contender. Kansas City could win 12 games.
Raiders – After two convincing wins, Oakland can close the gap on the Chiefs with a win next week at home. Being in contention for the division crown after 8 weeks is Oakland’s greatest success in recent memory.

Stock falling (but not in bottom 5, yet)

Redskins – Subpar quarterback play is hardly the reason the Redskins are struggling. The defense is great one week and miserable the next, the offensive line is horrendous, and the offense lacks playmakers. Still enough time to work out the kinks, though.
Vikings – Minnesota’s season is hanging by a thread. They trail the division-leading Packers by almost three games and their starting quarterback is concussed and in a walking boot. Furthermore, offensive players have openly criticized the head coach’s decisions.
Bengals – I couldn’t put them in my bottom five, at least not yet, but Cincinnati is getting close. Time to blow it up and start over.

Things I thought and would’ve said, but my son is only 4 months old and wouldn’t understand…
  • We all know Legarrette Blount can sucker punch with the best of them, but his full speed hurdle of Arizona safety Kerry Rhodes was awesome.
  • I became a fan of Tim Tebow during his final year at Florida because of the way he approached the game and handled all the naysayers. However, I can’t defend his tweet after the Broncos lost to the 49ers in London; “Going to bed in London with a smile on my face! It’s great to be a Florida Gator!!!” Uhh, Tim? While you’ll always be a Gator, you’re now a Bronco, and you just lost to the 49ers. Probably should feel a little down or at least pretend for the sake of Denver fans.
  • Without the Eagles around this week, I got to float around the early games a little more than usual. It wasn’t pretty. Out of the seven early games, only six quarterbacks produced a QB rating higher than 80. And 80 isn’t very good.
  • The Dolphins beat the bad/mediocre teams, but if they want a playoff spot, Chad Henne needs to put up touchdowns, not field goals. Miami’s kicker, Dan Carpenter, has kicked five field goals in two consecutive weeks. Good for him. Bad for the offense.
  • During the 2nd half of the Broncos/49ers game in London, I tweeted the following; People watching the NFL in London are sitting there thinking, “Really? They think our futbol is boring?”
  • Redskins rookie Brandon Banks is a special teams terror. His kickoff return for a touchdown gave the Redskins back the lead in the 4th quarter. Earlier, he had a punt return for a touchdown called back on a penalty. Banks is one of the few bright spots for Washington this season.
  • Josh Freeman and the Buccaneers win football games. I’m not always sure how, but they do.
  • Jerry Jones apologized for his team’s performance. What he really meant was, “I’m sweating bullets trying to figure out how to pay this stadium bill if I can’t sell the place out for the rest of the year.”
  • To no one’s surprise, Terrell Owens shows up his quarterback more than any other player in the NFL. It’s disgraceful. Why hasn’t a teammate publicly called him out for this behavior? I don’t get it. He’s not even cool.
  • The Broncos were disgraceful in London, but Brandon Lloyd put on a show. He has an amazing set of hands.
  • Brad Childress is an Andy Reid disciple, so game management is obviously a weakness, but Childress challenges the most obvious plays. It’s embarrassing. Oh by the way, when on the road early in a tie game, kick the field goal, Brad. Just kick the field goal.
  • On a similar note, at some point, Todd Haley is going to get burned by passing on field goals. It almost bit him this week.
  • New Orleans’ victory over Pittsburgh put the NFC on notice. The Saints are marching, again.
  • Max Hall took two very big steps backward this week. I still don’t get what everyone sees in him.
  • Antonio Gates is the most difficult matchup for NFL defenses. He terrorizes opponents week after week. If I were an AFC West opponent, I would recruit an athletic NBA power forward for two weeks a year to compete with Gates.
  • Vince Young’s block to spring Chris Johnson’s 29 yard TD run in the 2nd quarter was a thing of beauty. Fullbacks everywhere were proud.
  • Gus Johnson is supremely entertaining, and intelligent too. On a Buffalo 3rd and 3 in the 3rd quarter, Johnson called the following, “Empty backfield for Fitzpatrick. Remember, he’s a terrific runner, as well. (Play begins.) Fitzpatrick……AAANND he takes off!……First down!!!!”  Well done, Gus.
  • If I were a Cowboy fan, I would be most disappointed in my defense. They were one of the league’s best in 2009. What happened?
  • It was fun while it lasted, Matt Moore. Carolina should go back to Jimmy Clausen to figure out if they’re taking a QB with a top three pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
  • Buffalo will win at some point this season. They’re too scrappy to go 0-16.
  • Find me a defensive player more disruptive than Green Bay’s Clay Matthews. He’s unbelievable. He chases down running backs and hounds quarterbacks with a motor that never stops. Fun to watch.
  • Early in the Redskins game, FOX showed McNabb under heavy pressure from Detroit. The video clips were followed by an Eagles banner flashing across the screen. This just in, McNabb is no longer an Eagle.
  • Randy Moss won’t answer any questions from the media for the rest of the season. Unless, of course, he’s doing the interview himself. Huh?
  • And the first team to check out of the 2010 NFL season……… The Dallas Cowboys. Congratulations, Jerry Jones.
  • I haven’t watched a full inning of World Series baseball.
  • Welcome back, Michael Vick.

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