Heroically, I fought off a mean case of the bye week blues and was still able to watch football from 1-11:30 PM yesterday, but it wasn’t pretty. With the Pats out of the action, we got the chance to get a good look at games across the league on Sunday, and man, was that ugly. I am not sure if that is what the league is normally like, and I just miss out while watching the Pats win each week or was Sunday abnormally piss-poor?? It truly doesn’t get any worse than flipping back and forth between two games that featured Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage as the starting QB’s. Until 4PM, when it did get worse as the Niners, Cards game featured CJ Beathard VS Drew Stanton. Other lowlights included the Giants giving up even pretending to care, the Bengals being so bad that AJ Green wanted no part in playing the last 3 quarters of their meltdown vs the Jags, and the Buccaneers filling in admirably for the Browns during their bye week. Nobody wanted to win the Titans Ravens game and the Falcons SB hangover was the only hangover worse than my own yesterday.
One team that escapes that group is the Philadelphia Eagles. The Iggles put up a 50 burger on the Denver Broncos yesterday, and have established themselves as the class of the NFC. Granted, Brock Osweiler was under center for Denver, but that is still a vaunted defense, which Carson Wentz picked apart to the tune of 4 TD tosses. There is a Lot of chatter surrounding Wentz’s MVP candidacy and while I don’t think he is quite worthy yet, he can absolutely do no-wrong right now. Philly is a well-oiled machine they got even more dynamic on offense with the addition of Jay Ajayi, who ripped off a 46 yard TD in his first game with the birds. With all of those weapons on offense and a fast and physical D, this team has some serious Super Bowl aspirations for the first time since the Donovan McNabb days. As for Denver, they are a team that people fully expected to be playing in January, however are living proof of how tough life is with no quarterback. I know they were able to win with a beaten and battered Peyton Manning just a couple years ago, but one thing Peyton didn’t do in his final days was turn the ball over while relying heavily on the ground game. These days, neither Simien nor Osweiler can stop throwing the ball to the other team, and their run game is nowhere to be found. It is clear that Elway needs to find himself a quarterback for next year, and at 3-5, all hope for 2017 has slipped away. A 51-23 pounding doesn’t even tell the full story in the difference between these two teams, with one at the very top of their conference and the other heading straight towards the cellar in theirs.
Before we declare the Eagles NFC champs, there are a few teams that could stand in their way this winter. One of those teams knows no winter, but is unbelievably tough to hang with in their dome; New Orleans Saints. Drew B and his bunch whooped up on the division rival Buccaneers 30-10 on Sunday for their 6thstraight victory. After an 0-2 start, many called for major changes in the Big Easy and whispers of the Payton/Brees era coming to a close were prevalent. At some point out of nowhere, this team completely switched up what their identity has been for the last decade. Gone are the days where Drew Brees throws for 500 yards and loses a game where both sides score in the 40s. They are now playing defense and pounding the rock. Trading away Adrian Peterson opened things up for Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara who have emerged as a two-headed monster in the backfield, and this defense has given up more than 20 points just once all year. It is a crazy transformation, but it has the Saints right on the Eagles heels for the top spot in the conference. Home field advantage will be crucial for the black & gold, as there may be no team in pro sports who plays so much better at home than on the road. Good news for Nola, is that they still have another game remaining against these Bucs, who have gone from a dark horse playoff pick, to a complete laughing stock. The only thing more cringe worthy than Jameis Winston’s pregame “pump-up” speech was his teams play on Sunday, and making matters worse was Jameis re-injuring his right shoulder. Mike Evans tried to join his buddy on the sidelines by sprinting from across the field to level a Saints defender from behind after he had exchanged shoves with Winston. It was the only time Evans would be found in the highlights all day after grabbing 1 ball for 13 yards and has earned himself a 1 game timeout for his foolish actions. Desean Jackson was equally as invisible, and not even a little Fitzmagic in relief could bring the Bucs back from the hole they dug here. A team that was once 2-1, is now 2-6 and could be without their franchise QB for the foreseeable future.
Keeping it with the theme of two teams heading in complete opposite directions, the LA Rams traveled cross-country to take on the more pathetic of New York’s two franchises. The Giants defense made the Rams look like the greatest show on turf, allowing huge plays all day long and letting Jared Goff’s passer rating nearly reach perfection. Goff is looking like one of the best young QBs in football, and talk around New York is that Eli’s run of consecutive starts may come to an end with a benching next week. Ben Macadoo has as much control over his football team as I do over my salary, and the G-Men couldn’t be further off from where many people expected them to be to start the year. At 1-6, they are officially in full tank mode, while the other team in New York has gone from tank talk, to winning games in primetime and dancing it up on the field. A team once familiar with tanking, is now being led by the youngest head coach in NFL history right to the top of the NFC West and blowing teams doors off in the process. The Rams have already scored more points through Week 9 than they did the entirety of last year, which is a good statistic to display the combined genius of Sean McVay with the incompetence of Jeff Fisher. With a relatively favorable schedule remaining, this team has a real good chance to dethrone Seattle in the NFC West, and host a playoff game at the LA Colliseum later in the year. Unclear if any fans will show up for kickoff during a playoff game.
A couple teams that wont have to worry about selling tickets come playoff time faced off in Houston yesterday, where Jacoby Brissett was somehow the best Quarterback on the field in an NFL game. It is hard to believe Tom Savage has a job at this point, and even harder to understand how Bill Obrien chose him to start the Texans season Week 1. Savage was 19 of 44 Sunday with a blazing QBR of 15.3. He still had a chance to win the game at the end with the ball from inside the Colts 10, but was unable to even sniff a game winning completion in 4 attempts. Brissett meanwhile completed 20/30 for 308 in the Win, which was the first for Indy this year against a team that has won a game. Both of these teams are hoping their franchise quarterbacks will be able to return to full health next season, but as for this season, we should continue to expect ugly losses and an intriguing race towards the bottom of the AFC South.
While those teams duke it out in the basement of the division, the team that normally finds themselves there got another win on Sunday, over the lowly Cincinnati Bengals. Blake Bortles continues to play his best football for the Jaguars who are at 5-3 and tied atop the AFC South. Despite suspending Leanord Fournette prior to the game, this one was never really in doubt for the Jags, whose defense gave it to Andy Dalton all day long and is playing at an elite level. And if were talking suspensions, then AJ Green will be expecting one after choking out Jags DB Jalen Ramsey in the 2nd quarter and landing a couple of punches to his helmet. It was a diabolical move by Green who received nothing more than a little love tap from Ramsey before losing his mind and going ballistic. It is highly likely that he just had no interest in playing the rest of that game with his team getting dominated. Looking ahead for the Jags, they play a really soft schedule which includes games against the Browns, Colts, Niners, and Texans and definitely have a realistic shot at the postseason. There one test will come with Seattle in town on December 10th.
Kirk Cousins and the Redskins aced that same test, on the road in Seattle yesterday with an impressive 17-14 win. This wasn’t the prettiest ballgame, but a late drive and score by the R-Words clinched a huge win to keep them alive in the NFC East. The story in this one was Blair Walsh, who missed 3 easy Field Goals to help boot the game and likely lead him to the same fate he suffered in Minnesota. Captain Kirk Cousins was held in check for much of the day, which included a sack safety by Seattle, but a 70 Yard drive in under :35 seconds at the end of the game was enough to pull out the win. Russell Wilson was not at his best in this one, throwing a couple of bad interceptions, and another one on what would have been a game tying 2 point conversion that looked eerily similar to the Malcolm Butler pick. Still, Wilson led his team down the field for the go ahead score with 90 seconds to go, only to watch his defense give one back. Things get interesting for Washington at 4-4, with the Vikings coming to town then a trip to New Orleans, and a Giants game before a showdown with the Cowboys. That does not sound easy for them especially in a division that the Eagles have separated themselves in, and a Dallas team that is clicking on all cylinders.
There was plenty of concern in Big D when the Boys fell to 2-3, but all of that seems like a distant memory after a manhandling of the Chiefs Sunday afternoon. Also seemingly a distant memory is the Chiefs being everybody’s choice to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl after 1 week of football. They have come crashing back to earth, and at 5-3 are in danger of losing out on any home field advantage in the postseason with potential trips to Foxboro or Heinz Field on the line where Andy Reid sees ghosts during playoff games. Dallas controlled this ball game on both sides, with some more dominant play from their O-Line and a D-Line that held Kareem Hunt to a career low 37 Yards on the ground. Zeke Elliot will continue to run through gaping holes as long as his lawyers win the battles up front, and few quarterbacks are better at taking care of the football than Dak Prescott. Dak threw for two and ran for another, leading Dallas to an impressive 28-17 Win, their third straight. Things will get extremely interesting with two remaining games against the division leading Eagles, the first of which is in two weeks. As long as they can keep Zeke on the field, this team might end up being the team to beat in the NFC. Their offensive line play makes them capable of winning anywhere in any sort of conditions. Elliott is simply unstoppable with holes like that to run through, and Dak has proven dangerous with all the time in the world to find an open man. Philly vs Dallas will make for a really good couple games later on, and Dak vs Wentz might end up becoming the next great QB rivalry for years to come.
The best QB rivalry that happened yesterday was definitely not CJ Beathard vs Drew Stanton, in a game that is not worth talking about. The Cardinals beat the Niners in what was probably there best chance to win a game all season. We will see how long it takes for them to go with Jimmy G as their guy, and if they want to subject him to an offense that features no reliable weapons and no protection up front. Jimmy looked helpless on the sideline on Sunday, but he continues to say how excited he is to get an opportunity in San Fran. We will see if it remains that way when he starts playing with that roster and away from the comfort of Josh McDaniels’ play book.
Sunday night was a brutal and cruel back door cover from the Miami Dolphins, scoring a meaningless late game touchdown and 2 pt conversion to lose by 3 at home to Oakland and that’s all there is to say about that. The Dolphins can pretty much call it a season, after a promising 4-2 start, while the Raiders are hoping to go in the right direction. Sunday was a nice bounce back game from Marshawn Lynch, and this team has the talent on offense to get back in the mix.
Monday night should be a good one with the Lions traveling to GB to take on Brett Hundley and the Packers. Both teams could use a win big time, but I am going with the Lions to get one. I don’t trust Brett Hundley to beat an NFL defense, and Stafford usually raises his play against the Pack. Take the Lions -2 on the road tonight.