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Winners, Losers & Wannabes – NFL Week 8

The Cowboys collapsed, the Patriots rallied, the Steelers flopped, the Packers rolled, and the Falcons, Redskins and Vikings kissed their seasons goodbye. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

Winners

Detroit Lions
The Lions did everything I expected from a Jim Schwartz team. They battled, they made plays, and they shot themselves in the foot enough to lose another game. Then the Cowboys did what a Jason Garrett team does; they collapsed. Obviously, Matthew Stafford and the Lions deserve a ton of credit. That final drive was executed to perfection. Then again, if the Cowboys don’t foolishly surrender the sideline, there’s no way Detroit has enough time.

Calvin Johnson
Remember earlier in the week when Dez Bryant thought he was as good as Calvin Johnson? Yeh, he’s a funny guy. Dez Bryant made some big plays Sunday… two to be exact. Johnson made some big plays, too. About 10 of them. The Cowboys were hopeless against Megatron. He’s the best receiver in the game and maybe the best since Jerry Rice. 329 receiving yards is amazing, but what impressed me most were his 14 receptions on 16 targets. Essentially, when the Lions wanted Calvin Johnson to get the ball, he came through. Calvin Johnson is on a level all by himself.

New England Patriots
The Patriots are getting a weird underdog vibe going. It’s very interesting. You can almost see the similarities between this team and the early Belichick teams that shocked the league as Super Bowl champions. I’m intrigued.

NBA
The NBA comes back this week. Needless to say, I’m beyond stoked. Let’s face it; the NBA has more going for it than any professional sports league right now. The NFL is suffering from concussion backlash, the Redskins ordeal, too many ticky-tacky penalties, and worst of all, a cloudy future. The NBA has the most marketable and famous athletes in the country in LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. They have a potential dynasty in the Heat. The league is stocked with budding superstars (Rose, Durant, Irving, George, Curry, Westbrook) and established Hall of Famers (Bryant, Duncan, James, Wade, Garnett, Paul, Parker, Nowitzki). There’s at least eight teams contending for the title and even the tanking this season should be epic. Needless to say, I won’t sleep much for the next eight months.

Andy Dalton
Dalton’s stats the last three weeks; 1,034 yards, 11 TD, 2 INT. If Dalton can maintain this level of play, the Bengals are legitimate contenders in the AFC. This was the year Dalton was supposed to take the leap. Perhaps he’s doing so a few weeks later than expected.

Kansas City Chiefs
I can’t decide if all these close games are a sign the Chiefs aren’t as good as their record indicates, or if these tight wins will go a long way in preparing a relatively inexperienced team for the postseason. Either way, Andy Reid is looking like a genius.

The World Series
Game 1 aside, the World Series has been awesome. Tight games, controversy, great pitching, clutch hits, unforgettable moments. I can’t wait ‘til the Phillies are back in the Fall Classic when I’m 76.

New Orleans Saints
The schedule has been pretty soft to this point, but starting Novemeber 10th the Saints will play the Cowboys, 49ers, Seahawks, and Panthers over a five week stretch. We should know all we need to about the Saints after that.

Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers with a running game? This is a new wrinkle. Last time Rodgers had a running game was when James Stark went on a four game “tear” through the 2010 postseason. We all know how that ended.

Losers

Dallas Cowboys
It takes a special team to win the turnover battle 4-0, hold a six point lead with a minute to go while the opponent can’t stop the clock, and still lose the game. Jason Garrett is the best. I hope Dallas rallies to a 9-7 record, wins the division, and brings Garrett back again.

Philadelphia Eagles
Chip Kelly’s offense is revolutionizing the game. Or not. The Eagles haven’t scored an offensive touchdown for the last 129 minutes of game time. I get that Kelly is playing shorthanded, but his offense was praised for being electric regardless of who you plugged in. On the bright side, the defense appears to have figured some things out.

The Place Beyond the Pines
I’ll save you two hours and tell you exactly what happens. Nothing.

Miami Dolphins
Losers of four straight. That’s not even the worst of it. Ryan Tannehill is going backward. He’s had multiple turnovers in five of his last six outings.

Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers playoff hopes dove off a cliff yesterday because they slept walk through the first quarter and because Shaun Suisham missed field goals of 34 and 32 yards. Mike Tomlin won a title with Bill Cowher’s squad. Maybe he’s just not that great of a coach? Smells like a Jon Gruden-Tony Dungy situation to me.

Overthrowing Third Base
The Red Sox are 0-2 in games when they overthrow 3rd base in critical situations.

Getting Picked Off
I was 100% ready for Carlos Beltran to add another clutch home run to his playoff resume. There’s no reason to steal a base in that situation, so how in the world do you get picked off?

Jacksonville Jaguars
0-8.

Wannabes

Dez Bryant
When you come at the king, you best not miss. Dez Bryant said he was as good as Calvin Johnson. Bryant finished with three catches to Johnson’s 14 and 257 fewer receiving yards. However, Bryant did beat Johnson in the childish sideline breakdown 2-0. So congrats there, Dez.

Robert Griffin III
Griffin is supposed to be getting better as his knee improves. He’s actually getting worse. In Griffin’s first four games he completed 62% of his passes to go along with six touchdowns and four interceptions. In his last three games, Griffin has completed just 53% of passes, thrown three touchdowns and four interceptions.

Arizona Cardinals?
Are the Cardinals a playoff contender? It’s possible. If Andre Ellington’s debut as a starter wasn’t a fluke, I think Arizona is good enough to grab that final playoff spot. The Cardinal defense is already a top 10 unit that is often stuck trying to bail out a turnover prone Carson Palmer. But if Ellington and the running game can produce like they did Sunday, Palmer’s job becomes much easier. More importantly, the Cardinals hold key tiebreakers over both the Lions and Panthers.

DeSean Jackson
Is there another player in the NFL that gets hit less than Jackson? He plays a contact sport and fears contact. I think this is a problem. On a 3rd down in the 3rd quarter, Jackson caught a pass and turned upfield. Much to his dismay, a Giant defender was closing in. Jackson easily had the 1st down but would have taken a hit to get it. He opted to go east/west and failed to move the chains. I can’t remember an Eagle I’ve despised this much since Mike Mamula. Oh, I forgot about Nnamdi Asomugha.

Young QB Rankings

(Let’s face it, the biggest story/stories driving the league right now is the play of young quarterbacks. Since it’s such a big deal, I’ll be sure to rank the top seven after each week starting right now. There are no real criteria other than they must be within their first five years in the league.)

1. Andrew Luck – He was very good against Denver. He’s obviously the best of the group but I’m less intrigued than most.
2. Russell Wilson – With Percy Harvin returning soon, Wilson will only get better.
3. Colin Kaepernick – Starting to find that Week 1 mojo again. That’s bad news for the rest of the NFC.
4. Cam Newton – Last three weeks; 58/75, 8 TD (2 rush), zero turnovers.

(Space is to emphasize the guys above are on a different level than the ones below.)

5. Andy Dalton – As mentioned earlier, Dalton is on a tear.
6. Robert Griffin III – Bum knee or not, Griffin simply can’t throw the football well.
7. Jake Locker – Week 7 was first week back from injury but still looked better than Tannehill & Bradford.
8. Not Nick Foles. Or Matt Barkley

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