…Whoa. Did you see that? Another week of football just went buzzing by, and we’ve officially hit the halfway point of the season. Let me slow some things down for you.
No Fins No!
17-3 at halftime felt like a mirage, and a mirage it turned out to be. New England, as much as I dislike it, are simply a better coached team, and their halftime adjustments proved the difference as they scored 24 unanswered points to take the game. After three straight wins, four straight losses outweighs our early success, and we need to regroup and figure out how to play four quarters of football.
What We Learned On Sunday
You always learn something. I called every game right on the money this week, something I haven’t done in a long time, but many of the games played out in unexpected fashion nonetheless.
While I missed the telecast, the Cowboys and Lions seemed to spend three quarters sizing each other up before unloading in the fourth with 41 total points scored. Along the way, a certain wideout who has ties to the Transformers franchise had the 2nd-best performance in the history of the NFL at his position. And his team had an incredible last-minute drive to win the game, with his QB calling for a spike play with seconds left, only to dive over his (apparently) unknowing offensive line into the endzone. Undoubtedly the best game this week. Expected…and yet unexpected.
Kansas City is still undefeated, but most analysts seem to want to belittle the accomplishment for a variety of reasons. “They’re not playing tough competition”, they say. “They’re barely winning, not winning convincingly”, they say.
Similar things were said about the 2012 Baltimore Ravens. I’m not predicting a Superbowl trip for Andy Reid and his Chiefs, but the simple fact is, they’re the only undefeated team in the league. However ugly, however against the grain, they’re undefeated.
After avoiding the possibility of doing the exact opposite last week against the Vikings, the Giants went into Lincoln Financial Field (which is neutral ground for the “hometown” Eagles, who haven’t won at the ‘Linc’ since September…of 2012) and managed to score five field goals…and win. Whether this speaks to the improved defense of the Giants, or the work-in-progress that is Chip Kelly and his offense (doesn’t help when your top two QBs are out) being, quite simply, ineffective. At 2-6, the Giants are somehow still in a position to win the NFC East.
I predicted the Bengals to beat the Jets, but not like that. That, my friends, was an absolute embarrassment for Geno Smith and his entire team. Everyone and their grandmother knew the Bengals defense were a must-start in fantasy leagues, and their two pick-sixes justified that easily…but Marvin Jones catches four touchdowns? The Red Rifle throws five? Who is Marvin Jones? See above picture.
The Oakland and Arizona wins were upsets in my eyes, but upsets I had a gut instinct on. The Raiders manhandled Pittsburgh defensively for most of the game, despite their offense’s repeated attempts at costing them the game. In Arizona, a not-so-good team closed the door completely on the Atlanta Falcons making the playoffs, which has to be the single biggest disappointment in the NFL in 2013.
Outside of Houston, at least.
I sat down and watched the Broncos-Redskins game, because I’m not afraid to say I am a rubbernecker when it comes to trainwrecks. It was a wreck, and a bad one, but not the 62-40 endzone fest I predicted; instead, the Redskins managed to keep themselves in the game until it was time for them to lose. It was almost like a switch went off somewhere on the Washington sideline, and Mike Shanahan let his team know “Okay, throw it”. I’m not belittling the team, not at all…the Broncos are the NFL elite, and to keep them at bay for nearly an entire game is a major feat. It’s just that giving up 31 points in one quarter, and not responding in kind to any of them, is just…scroll up and look at that picture again.
Sunday night turned out to be more of a game than I thought, and it started off in grand fashion, with rookie Cordarelle Patterson taking a kickoff 109 yards, tying a record that cannot be broken. While it never really felt like the Vikings were going to win, even after that play, they deserve a bit of credit for keeping it close for most of the game.
If you didn’t see this throw, then you might have missed one of the absolute best plays of the year. I still can’t fully comprehend how Rodgers managed this…
In case nobody noticed, the 49ers dismantled the Jaguars, embarrassing the worst team in the NFL in another country. The shame…the shame…
What We Learned On Monday
I’m not the biggest fan of Richard Sherman, but when he was asked whether the 14-9, skin-of-their-teeth win over the Rams was worrisome, his answer was exactly right.
“I think that’s how championship teams have to win sometimes.”
A win is a win, plain and simple. I can go back and reference the 2012 Baltimore Ravens again, but anyone who watches enough football knows that each year, the team that ends up hoisting the Lombardi trophy will have gone through some tough games along the way. Games they could have lost, games that hinged on a single play, a single player making a single act that ultimately decides the final outcome. That’s one of the great things about the NFL, and despite the lack of scoring, this was one hell of a game. Both defenses played above and beyond, Seattle doing it as expected and St. Louis doing it surprisingly, but in the end, they gave their respective offenses every opportunity to win the game. The better offense won, but they did so with less than 150 total yards of offense.
Expected…and unexpected. That’s football.
(No “It’s The Numbers, Stupid” segment(s) this week, folks. I’ve got a couple of articles coming later in the week that will be chock full of numbers, so don’t fret.)
What Are You Doing, Nndamukong Suh?
A week without a fine? Fine by me. Hell, he could have been punching fans while the Dez Bryant “tirade” was taking place; every camera and pair of eyes in the stadium were on the wideout at that point.
QB Of The Week: Cam Newton. The numbers don’t lie, and the circumstances in which he shines don’t, either: he’s learning what it means to be truly elite, and the rest of the NFL needs to take notice.
RB Of The Week: Andre Ellington. Dude pretty much carried the Cardinals to their victory. 15 for 154 and a big 80-yard touchdown run. Well done, young man.
WR Of The Week: Calvin Johnson. I almost wanted to give this to Marvin Jones, but Megatron was being shadowed by one of the best cornerbacks in the league (this year, at least) in Brandon Carr, and still managed to have one of the best games a receiver has ever had. This guy is about eight years of consistency away from being the undisputed best wide receiver in NFL history.
Offensive Line Of The Week: St. Louis Rams. They paved the way for only the 2nd 100-yard rusher (Zac Stacy) the Seahawks have allowed this year, and generally kept Kellen Clemens clean enough to at least attempt to make plays down the field. It was an inspired performance that ultimately wasn’t enough.
Defensive Performance Of The Week: I can’t pick just one, so I’ll just give props to Cincinnati, Arizona and St. Louis for playing absolutely outstanding defense this week. Seattle as well, but who actually thought they wouldn’t be able to handle the Rams and their backup QB? Being gashed by the run all night keeps them from the award.
Goat Of The Week: Matt Ryan. Your season is an inch away from being in the books halfway through it, and you throw four interceptions? Uncharacteristic, but perfectly summing up the entire Falcons team in 2013.
Coaching Performance Of The Week: Bill Belichick. I explained this already, and due to the lingering sickness in my stomach, I decline to explain any further.
A short turnaround for my Fins as we host the Bengals this Thursday. I’m already crying inside.
The Panthers and Saints appear to have very winnable games this week, against the Falcons and Jets, respectively. While I don’t expect Carolina to pull away with the division in hand down the stretch, it should keep the conversation intriguing going forward.
A lot of so-so looking matchups for week nine, but the Steelers-Patriots has some nostalgic value and should be a physical, hard-fought win for New England. Monday Night will be the game of the week, with the Bears fresh off a bye preparing to face their division rivals without their starting QB or best linebacker. Can they pull off the upset?
Can Calvin Johnson do what he did to the Cowboys?
All final thoughts are honed in on a couple of special articles for this week, including my 2nd installment of 2013’s fantasy rankings, and a post highlighting my fantasy and pick ’em performance so far this year.
Still can’t get that Rodgers-to-Nelson TD pass out of my head, though.