by NFL Gimpy
With the season roughly halfway over (teams have played 7 or 8 games thus far), we’re finally starting to get a little separation from the parity. If the 49ers beat the Cardinals tonight, there will be no ties atop the divisions. Each division will have a team with at least a half-game lead. All but the AFC East involve a 1 game or more lead. Obviously a lot can happen. MVP favorite Matt Ryan can get injured and the Falcons crash hard. Jay Cutler’s temper tantrums could cause a Bears collapse. Maybe the Eagles pull their collective heads out of their place where the sun doesn’t shine and play up to their talent level.
But, a little separation is finally there. With 8 of 17 weeks in the books, the trends are forming. Let’s take a look at what we know:
In the NFC, the Falcons are top dog but most people would say that the Packers and 49ers are a better team. The Falcons have only played one opponent with a winning record (Broncos) and Peyton was still getting his groove back. Anyone who has watched the Broncos the past 2 weeks knows that game would look a lot different if they played today. I said last week it looks like the Packers offense is back on track and while they had a rough game against Jacksonville, I’m still buying them. In a previous column I looked at the 49ers record after a loss under Jim Harbaugh, which is undefeated. At 5-2 and refusing to lose back to back games, they’re a strong contender.
The Bears are 6-1 but they can’t keep relying on the defense to score touchdowns in close games. Forcing turnovers is certainly a skill, but there’s a lot of luck involved in taking it back for 6. We’ll find out if the Bears are a wildcard team or a first round bye team starting in Week 10. They play the Texans at home and then fly to San Francisco to play the 49ers. Lose both of those and all of the sudden the Packers and Vikings are right with you.
The Giants are winning ugly and were about 2 inches away from a loss when Dez Bryant’s hand hit the chalk yesterday. With Eli at QB and a defense that can rush the passer, the Giants are always a team to fear. The good news for the Giants is that the Eagles can’t get their act together and the Cowboys consistently find ways to lose. The Redskins have an awful defense and their receivers are dropping balls at an absurd rate.
My prediction for the NFC top 6 (in order of playoff seeds): Falcons, 49ers, Giants, Packers, Bears, Vikings.
The hardest spot to pick is the 6 seed in the NFC. The Vikings and Packers are the only non-division leaders 2 games over .500 right now and while the Vikings are struggling right now, they can play defense and run the ball. If Christian Ponder just stops turning it over, they’ll be a good bet.
The AFC is a lot more wide open after the Texans. The Texans are the clear favorite and most likely the best team as well. Top 5 defense, they can run the ball, and they have weapons in the passing game. They’re a complete team and as I said in my preseason predictions column, a Super Bowl favorite. The Ravens are 5-2 but it’s tough to believe in them. The defense is struggling without Ray Lewis and LarDarius Webb and does anyone believe Joe Flacco can win shootouts consistently? The Steelers have a ton of flaws but they could easily surpass the Ravens because I’m more confident they’re able to win a shootout. The Bengals can’t be entirely written off yet either.
I think with back-to-back wins, the Broncos have taken a strong lead in the AFC West. It’s only a 1 game lead on paper, but the Chargers are falling faster than Felix Baumgartner after their second half collapse to the Broncos. The Chiefs and Raiders are obviously nothing to fear. Peyton is easily the favorite for comeback player of the year.
The AFC East is the only division that lacks a leader with a 1 game or more lead. The Patriots only have a half game lead (by virtue of playing one more game) over the Dolphins. The Dolphins have quietly won 3 straight and are 2 FGs away from 6-1. They have allowed only 36 points over the past 3 games. Ryan Tannehill is playing efficiently and between Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, they’re running the ball effectively. The Patriots are clicking on all cylinders on offense but they have some giant holes on defense, especially the secondary. With Tom Brady you’re always in the game but I would not be surprised to see the Dolphins win the AFC East.
My AFC Prediction: Texans, Broncos, Ravens, Patriots, Dolphins, and Colts. The Colts at 6 may surprise some people, but with games against the Jaguars, Titans, Bills, and Chiefs remaining, I think a 9-7 squad could get the 6 seed. The NFL also gave them a big gift by scheduling a Week 17 home game against the Texans. The Texans may not have anything to play for and that could be the win the Colts need to punch it in.
Year of the Rookie QB
Andrew Luck: 26/38 297 yards 1 touchdown 1 interception. 6 rushes for 28 yards and 2 sacks for 11 yards. 89.5 QB Rating and an overtime, come from behind win.
Robert Griffin III: 16/34 177 yards 1 touchdown. 6 rushes for 8 yards 1 sack for 8 yards. 72.8 QB Rating and a loss.
Ryan Tannehill: Injured early in the game, not going to evaluate stats on 6 drop backs.
Brandon Weeden: 11/27 149 yards. 4 rushes for 4 yards 2 sacks for 12 yards. 55.9 QB Rating and a win.
Russell Wilson: 25/35 236 yards 2 touchdowns 1 interception. 1 rush for 9 yards. 96.8 QB Rating and a loss.
There’s a rumor out there that we’ll have a new member in the Rookie QB party (more on that in Quick Hits) but let’s focus on the guys who played. It’s crazy that Brandon Weeden had an off game and his team still won. It’s been the opposite most of the season. Russell Wilson had a pretty good game and his defense choked one away.
Detroit took the lead 21-17 in the 4th quarter and Wilson responded with a 12 play, 87 yard touchdown drive to get the lead back. I was able to watch this whole drive and Wilson was impressive. 6/8 for 75 yards and a touchdown. He completed an 18-yard throw on 3rd and 10 and a 6-yard throw on 4th and 2. He was decisive, didn’t panic, and should have had the win. Sadly, the Seahawks defense choked and gave up a touchdown with 20 seconds left.
You’d assume RG3 didn’t look good based off of his stats and you’d be wrong. I saw people criticizing him on Twitter and I don’t get it. By my count, I saw 8 drops by his receivers. In one sequence, he threw three touchdown passes and his teammates only caught one. A few of his throws were just a hair off. The Steelers did a good job keeping him in the pocket (only 8 rushing yards) and forcing him to throw. He threw the ball just fine, his receivers just kept dropping it. His defense didn’t help either. I saw way too many missed tackles, especially by London Fletcher. I know he’s not healthy at the moment and he probably shouldn’t have played. He looked slow and weak. The injuries have killed the Redskins on defense but anyone watching can see a team that can be really good in a year or two.
I didn’t see much of the Chargers-Browns game and what I saw wasn’t pretty. The Browns defense won that game and it’s about time they did so. Weeden has had several good games in which the defense sucked. I stick by my assertion that the Browns aren’t that bad of a team. The Jaguars, Chiefs, Panthers, Titans, and Raiders are all teams I think are worse than the Browns.
The Colts offense struggled to put points on the board on Sunday, but they scored them when it mattered. The offense moved the ball, but shot themselves in the foot throughout the game. They settled for a FG in the first quarter inside the 5. In the 2nd quarter, a 15-yard personal foul on 2nd and 3 knocked them out of FG range. Then Adam Vinatieri had his FG attempt blocked. The Colts only had the ball 3 times in the first half thanks to time consuming drives by the Titans.
The 3rd quarter again had a few mistakes. Another personal foul penalty set them back. An interception in the end zone took potential points off the board. They finally had a good drive in the 4th quarter without any setbacks and put 7 on the board. They only faced one 3rd and more than 1 on that drive. Then in overtime, Vick Ballard had a dive that would have won him Olympic Gold in London to end the game.
Luck’s stats look good and without a defense that couldn’t get off the field or some miscues, the Colts win this game easily. It was close and Luck made the plays when it counted. With a drive to tie the game in the 4th quarter and a game winning touchdown drive in overtime, Luck gets the coveted MAQB Rookie of the Week Clipart Certificate.
Overpaid/Underpaid Players of the Week
Overpaid: Nnadmi Asomugha, CB Philadelphia Eagles
A lot of people are criticizing Nnamdi’s play with good cause. Nnamdi has not been the shutdown corner he’s paid to be and he got burned badly on Sunday. Julio Jones is certainly fast, but no NFL DB should allow a guy to simply run around him then run in a straight line and gain 2-3 yards of separation that quickly. I don’t think Nnamdi even got a finger on him the entire play, which was a 63-yard touchdown. That’s bad. Really, really bad.
Nnamdi, take your $11 million salary and give Andy Reid a nice present. Either A) Play like a CB who deserves $11 million or B) Help him out when your play is part of the reason he ends up fired in January. I really wanted to give this award to Jay Cutler but sadly his team came back and won. I really, really don’t like Jay Cutler. (Ed. Note – I don’t think Jay, his hot wife, or big bank account really care…but we do)
Underpaid: Tim Jennings, CB Chicago Bears.
Jennings is in his 7th season and this is easily the best one he has ever had. In his first 6 seasons in the NFL, Jennings had 7 interceptions. In 2012 he already has 6. Jennings has had a great season for the Bears and it culminated with an incredible game against the Panthers.
Sure, Steve Smith had some good numbers against him but Jennings made them pay when Smith slipped. Jennings jumped the throw and took it back for 6. A good way to judge a player is how he responds after getting beaten. Earlier in the game, on 3rd and 8 late in the first half, Jennings got beat for an 18-yard gain. That set the Panthers up with 1st and 10 on the Chicago 44. Two plays later, Jennings picked off a pass intended for Greg Olsen. That’s how you earn awards from me. Everyone gets beaten. How do you respond? Jennings made a play.
Tim, take your meager $900k salary and see if you can get Jay Cutler some behavior training. You’ll need his head in the game if you’re going to make noise in January.
-My heart broke when I saw Marcus Lattimore’s injury. That was awful. I don’t know how you can come back from an injury like that, but I sincerely hope I’m proven wrong.
-There were rumors on twitter early this morning that Andy Reid is going to bench Mike Vick and the reasoning was that Vick was messing up audibles. If he does bench Vick, it continues to reek of desperation. Firing Juan Castillo kind of made sense at the time but the defense was better than the offense and special teams during their first 6 games. If that happens, Nick Foles will become the 6th rookie QB to start this season.
-I’m surprised there aren’t more trade rumors, but the four players most likely to be traded are: LeGarrette Blount, Steven Jackson, DeAngelo Williams, and Dwayne Bowe. Notice a trend? 3 RBs and a WR. RB is the easiest position to insert into an offense and there are a few playoff contenders that could use a RB, mostly the Arizona Cardinals.
I really think the Dolphins should toss a mid-round pick or something to the Chiefs for Dwayne Bowe. They have a real chance at making the playoffs and Bowe will get out of KC no matter what after this season. Bowe is a bit of a headcase and I’m not a fan of his, but he is talented. I doubt anyone will take DeAngelo Williams, his contract is awful.
-I’m annoyed by the NFL schedule yesterday. They had 2 games in the 4pm slot. 2.They had 9 in the 1pm slot. NFL fans were given the option of Chiefs-Raiders or Cowboys-Giants. Really? I refuse to believe that there was no way they couldn’t give CBS a better option. I understand that Cowboys-Giants is a national game. No argument. But CBS only had an option of a 1pm game or 2 basement dwellers in the AFC West. Even as a big NFL fan that game did not look like one I wanted to watch.
-Speaking of the Chiefs, I’d like to thank Jamaal Charles for my first ever fantasy football tie. I’m in a league that has no fractional points, so a tie isn’t that impossible. Charles had 0 points. 4 rushing yards and 6 receiving yards on 8 touches. Since neither his receiving or rushing totals hit 10 yards, I got 0 points. It’s rare to see a coach fired after one season, but Romeo Crennel should be fired. (Ed. Note – for incompetence or making you tie at FF?
-While we’re on the hot seat, Ron Rivera might want to start looking for open defensive coordinator gigs in 2013. The Panthers are 1-10 in games decided by 1 score. After a lot of improvement last year, they have taken numerous steps back and with a new GM coming to town, he’ll likely want to hire his own guys. Norv Turner is as good as gone. Andy Reid needs a to go at least 7-2 to have a chance at keeping his job and the Eagles still have 5 division games left. Reid will likely get a new head coaching gig if he wants it though.
-I’m saying it publicly: Notre Dame goes into their game with Pitt way too cocky after beating Oklahoma and blows their national title hopes. Ray Graham or Rushel Shell will be the first RB to get a rushing touchdown against their defense. Pitt will be the first team to score 20 on them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Pitt is a better team. If ND plays like they did against the Sooners, Pitt loses by at least 2 scores. But, Pitt will come into this game with a lot of confidence and ND could easily overlook them. (Ed. Note – no way Pitt wins without a big game from Dan Marino, Tony Dorsett, or Mike Ditka)
-Stay safe in the hurricane, east coasters. My company has closed all offices along the coast and our Harrisburg office is closing soon. In Pittsburgh, there’s likely to be a travel ban tomorrow, so it looks like I’m getting a day off!!
-I literally just had to look up who won the World Series. That’s how little it matters to me. I miss hockey. Not so much right now because I have football, but come February I need it badly.
Monday Night Football Prediction:
The Cardinals have allowed 29 sacks in their past 4 games. They’ve lost 3 straight. This isn’t going to go well for poor John Skelton. Ryan Lindley, a rookie from San Diego State, might see the field.