What We Learned by Alex Larsen

Welcome back to the weekly recap of the NFL games over the weekend. This blog will hit on 32 points – one for each team in the NFL. The writing is biased, of course, but not blinded. So continue to enjoy the banter, insight, or whatever you want to call this – this is What We Learned.

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The National Football League instituted a new salary cap a few seasons ago. For those of you that don’t understand the meaning of this, it simply means a team can only spend so much money on their players. This shouldn’t be a problem, though. Players could take less than $15 million and spread the dough – everybody wins. (Well, maybe the Lamborghini dealership doesn’t win, but that’s a non-factor at this point.) The money is distributed – not evenly, but reasonably. By no means should a communistic, everyone-gets-the-same-amount system be put in place. Adrian Peterson deserves more money than Toby Gerhart – Tom Brady deserves more money than Ryan Mallett – Calvin Johnson deserves more money than Nate Burleson. What a player deserves, relatively, is based on several things. Please hang in there as a hint of a Baptist preacher comes through.

 

Production – A player that brings statistics to the table deserves to be paid a fair going price for such statistics. Be it touchdowns, first downs, blocks during the blitz, critical catches, or yards gained, a player is paid for what they bring with them to the field each weekend.

 

Profit – A person gets money if they make money – simple, right? The players who sell tickets get money for that. The jersey sales pay the players that can’t keep their jerseys on the rack. Sponsorships (a la Papa John’s, eh Mr. Manning?) pay for a face – the product is important, but the name and the face can sell almost anything.

 

Persistence – Sometime a player “gets his” by waiting his turn. Play long enough in the league, and the money will come. Maybe the statistics aren’t stellar or the iconic qualities are lacking, but consistency will eventually yield a reward.

 

So money is not going to be spread evenly – as it shouldn’t. However, (and back to the point) there is enough money to go around. People, though, are inherently greedy. Whether it seems like it or not, every player wants to take in as much money as he can. Texans running back Arian Foster explained it to his fans through ESPN the Magazine – one play could end a career. With that thought in mind, one contract has to set them up for life. It’s a little bit crazy, but not completely impossible to understand. So the big names get the big checks, and vise versa.

 

What’s the point?
Glad you asked.

 

Because of this system, teams are beginning to level out. The NFL hoped a salary cap would bring the super-teams down and give the low-end teams new names to play with. The ideal result would be weekend after weekend of evenly matched teams. That trend is coming quickly. Almost half the games this weekend – seven out of the fifteen – were decided by one score.  Five of the remaining games were coin-flip bets coming in, and the final three were blowouts. It’s not perfect, but the close games and coin-flip odds are what the League was looking for.

 

Now that we are unable to easily predict each and every game, we have to watch. We have to buy in. We have to invest. The NFL is a business, and they’ve got us. That’s not all we learned, though. As far as the actual teams go, this is what we learned…

 

  1. Seattle won a coin-flip. That’s still a win, but not as encouraging as getting a blow out. Percy’s coming… soon.
  2. Arizona lost a coin-flip. That’s a loss, and it stings. Carson Palmer had a good game, but not a Russell Wilson kind of game.
  3. Steelers and Ravens – battle of the kickers. The game is won in the trenches, usually by a 1-3 point advantage. This time was no different, with Pittsburg coming out on top.
  4. Baltimore fought pretty well, but really should not have lost to the Steelers. Now the Ravens have to chase the Bengals to get the division back, and that will require beating them.
  5. The Bengals snuck away with a win over the Lions. The Bengals have talent – AJ Green is a monster. Andy Dalton can toss it well enough. Cincinnati is by no means taking the division, but they have a chance to make a move.
  6. The Lions have skill players all over the field – and the bench. Solid wide receiver Nate Burleson is sidelined still with injury. When he returns (in a few weeks, they hope) the Lions can spread the passing attack… they can open up looks for Calvin Johnson. That’s a scary thought.
  7. Atlanta played in a coin-flip game. Only a year ago most fans would have thought that would be impossible. The Falcons – sans Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Steven Jackson – are not what they, well, usually are.
  8. The Buccaneers are struggling. Any team that cuts its starting quarterback is in trouble. Then losing the starting running back – probably for the season – is devastating.
  9. Buffalo outlasted Miami in a close game. The offense didn’t help much, but the defense and special teams did just enough to add on for a win.
  10. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw three touchdowns in a loss. Good production from the ma under center, but he didn’t close it out. Miami still needs to find that franchise solution.
  11. It took more than 60 minutes, but Rex Ryan got to shake hands with Bill Belichick after winning the game. The Jets took care of the rival Patriots in overtime, and Geno Smith is suddenly the best quarterback in New York.
  12. New England needs a go-to guy. Brady has always had somebody – Branch, Moss, Welker – to look for when he got panicked. This season, the Patriots are relying on unknown, untested receivers. So far, the Pats can’t close down the stretch.
  13. The Eagles got blown out. Week 1, they were on the other end of that type of game. Chip Kelly’s offense is sputtering, at best, and he has a lot to prove. Vick will be back in the game this weekend, which should give Philadelphia an upgrade in energy and talent from Nick Foles.
  14. Dallas shut down the Eagles offense, picking off Matt Barkley three times. The ‘Boys had more offense, less turnovers, and more time of possession; textbook win.
  15. Chicago lost a game this weekend, but maybe a lot more than that. Jay Cutler, really the only quarterback option they have, tore his groin. That means the Bears are quarterbackless for 4-6 weeks.
  16. The Redskins won a shootout by four points. It took almost 300 yards out of RG3 and about another 100 from Alfred Morris. But the ‘Skins did it – they won a close game. Maybe this is the resurgence of Washington football.
  17. The Rams are in trouble. Already at 3-4, St. Louis is now without a quarterback for the remainder of the season. Sam Bradford tore his ACL and is not coming back anytime soon.
  18. Cam Newton is leading his Panthers to wins this season. Simple statistic on why it’s working so well? He’s thrown just 8 incomplete passes in his last two games.
  19. The Jaguars don’t really need Jadeveon Clowney. He could help, but they need more essential pieces, like a quarterback. So maybe Jacksonville should look into trading the number one overall draft pick… it’s practically theirs already.
  20. San Diego is just in a tough spot. They aren’t really that bad – maybe even playoff contenders. However, they are in the AFC West. Peyton Manning and Alex Smith are in the AFC West. The Chargers are good, but not that good.
  21. The San Francisco 49ers are slowly getting back up to speed. They may not be in last season’s form just yet, but the potential to be is still there.
  22. Tennessee had an impressive 17 point fourth quarter – after not scoring in the first 45 minutes of play. More consistency could actually have the Titans making some noise.
  23. Finally, Cleveland played how everyone expected them to play. A couple field goals, a late touchdown in garbage time, and another “L” on the record.
  24. Green Bay is injury prone. Maybe it’s something in the water, maybe it’s a fluke. Jermichael Finley, the superb tight end for Aaron Rodgers, bruised his spinal cord and could be done for the year. Add him to a long list of banged-up Packer players.
  25. The Texans need to pick a quarterback, and then see what the problem is. Maybe it’s all fixable at this point. Nobody can tell, because it’s Schaub, Yates, or Keenum under center every week.
  26. The Chiefs are on top. As the only remaining undefeated team, Kansas City now leads the power rankings, sitting just above the Colts and Broncos.
  27. The Colts knocked off Peyton in his homecoming, letting Andrew Luck steal the show. Peyton will always be adored in Indy, but the fans were thrilled with the new kid, who may not be such a kid anymore.
  28. Denver got their first real challenge against the Colts, and it broke them. This could be the point that solidifies the team, making them even harder to beat. Or this could be the break that sinks them – though most are betting on the former.
  29. The Giants got their first win, but it was far from pretty. Lots of drops, missed opportunities, and simple mistakes kept the Giants from taking a huge lead. A win’s a win, though.
  30. Minnesota put up an awful Monday Night performance. So bad, in fact, that Freeman had statistically the worst game by a quarterback so far this season. 30 incompletions, and yet he was named the starter for next week. Concussion symptoms may keep him sidelined, though, giving Ponder one more chance to start.
  31. The Saints rested up, but probably didn’t need it. With the top NFL teams coming from the AFC, New Orleans is focused on getting to the NFC Championship and heading to New York in February.
  32. Oakland had to recover from the smack down Kansas City gave them last week, and then try to prepare for Pittsburg. At least the Steelers have to fly to California to meet the Raiders.

 

 

There you go – one more week of rambling. If you pounded through all of this, well done. Your dedication (or sheer boredom) is appreciated. We learned a lot this week, and we know now that we will continue to be surprised by what we learn all season long. We still have more than half the fun, so enjoy the learning.

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