What We Learned
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.
Teams are given half the regular season to figure out what’s wrong. Really, that’s what the NFL gives them to work with. Eight weeks in, teams know if the playoffs are even in the realm of possibility. If a team feels that they are on the edge, they make moves to sneak in. Sometimes that means bringing players up from the practice squad. Other times it means signing free agents. Most commonly, though, it means trading for someone. It’s (usually) sending away potential talent in exchange for a win-now piece to the puzzle.
Some names show up on the boards that catch attention – names that could change the power of the NFL. Big name trades rarely happen, but they can be so unexpected and happen so fast that we have no option but to be shocked. Jim Irsay (the owner of the Indianapolis Colts) grabbed the headlines first, moving to acquire Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns. A former first-round draft pick switching teams early in the season meant that Indianapolis is going for it all – a plan that is working fairly well, so far. The trade deadline passed Tuesday afternoon without a real blockbuster – but a few made their way to the Sportscenter feed. Jared Allen’s name was tossed around, with Seattle and Denver listed as possible buyers. The Vikings either didn’t offer a tempting enough deal, or were not really willing to let the perennial Pro-Bowler go. The names on the table are very telling, though.
A football team is a puzzle, and once all the pieces are put together it displays the Lombardi Trophy. Indianapolis thinks they are ready to make a push. Denver thinks, as does most of the country, that they may finally have all the pieces – including the one Jacoby Jones stole last season. Seattle thinks their missing piece is on the roster already, just waiting to come back from injury. New Orleans, even, thinks they still have the pieces they had from their run a few seasons ago.
We know what’s at the center of this year’s puzzle. Shining silver and smeared with sweaty fingerprints, the Lombardi Trophy hoisted high above the sea of smiling, rejoicing players. The only thing we don’t know, though, is who will have their hands on the trophy – Will it be Brees, Peyton, Wilson, or Luck? Or is there a piece to the puzzle we don’t even know about yet? We’ll find out in a few months, but we have to keep learning from each week. This is what we learned…
- Cam Newton really is almost Superman. The Panthers are winning back-to-back-to-back and have improved to 4-3. Without a single turnover and over 200 passing yards, Carolina is competing.
- Tampa Bay is home to the hottest coaching seat in the league. With a winless record, it may be a matter of weeks until the Bucs have a new captain at the helm.
- Green Bay is injury laden, but sitting comfortably in the NFC North. Rodgers is the central cog to the team, and as long as he remains under center, the Packers can win games.
- The Vikings only had 243 total yards on offense – not a winning recipe. However, thanks to the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota put up 31 points. Another plus for Viking fans – quarterback Christian Ponder did not throw an interception.
- The Cowboys simply can’t close. They had the lead, won the turnover battle by 4, and did it all with less than half the opposing offensive yardage. However, when it came down to the wire, they snapped.
- The Lions – led by Matthew Stafford and Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson – may have accomplished the greatest drive of the season. Johnson also had one of the best individual performances ever, racking up 329 receiving yards.
- The Browns dropped another game, falling to 3-5. Cleveland, though, is in a fairly weak division and is still managing to put up points. Kyrie Irving is the best athlete in town to watch, though.
- Kansas City is up to 8-0 – halfway to a perfect season (knock on wood). Andy Reid has taken the Chiefs and Alex Smith to levels that fans haven’t seen in a long, long time.
- The Patriots are not as solid as they need to be – as they have always been. Brady is showing struggles, and the offense is barely able to stay on the field for even three downs at a time. Still, they’re atop the AFC East.
10. Miami should be better than they are. With Mike Wallace at receiver, the long touchdowns should be coming in. Tannehill has an arm, and it should be no issue getting the ball down field. Something is just not clicking yet.
11. New Orleans is cruising. The last time that happened, Brees ended up with his son in one arm and a shiny silver football in the other.
12. Buffalo is not worth their cost. The Bills invested large sums of cash in offseason acquisitions, including draft picks like EJ Manuel. This money has yet to produce anything of similar value.
13. The Giants, bad as they have played, beat the Eagles and trail Philadelphia by only one game in the NFC East standings. Things are strange in the NFL.
14. The Eagles – Chip Kelly’s high-scoring offense – put up only 7 points. Sure, they didn’t give up a touchdown – but five field goals still put them away. What’s worse: Philadelphia has yet to win at home this season.
15. San Francisco played almost even time, with nearly even yards, and even turnovers against the Jaguars. The difference was that the 49ers are more efficient – they score when they have the ball.
16. Jacksonville is winless, and yet no one expects anything more.
17. The Jets are truly a confusing team, winning one week and then getting destroyed the next. New York was unable to get into the end zone and only put up 240 yards. No wonder they lost.
18. The Bengals outscored the Jets by 40 points. The biggest thing is the consistency – 14 points in each of the first three quarters, and then another touchdown in the fourth. Andy Dalton tossed 5 TDs in the blowout, matching Drew Brees for the dominant QB performance of the weekend.
19. The Steelers are not very good – but their division isn’t either. Roethlisberger saw his name end up in some trade talks, and Pittsburg considered abandoning ship. It’s not over yet.
20. Oakland has a uniquely gifted athlete playing quarterback. Terrell Pryor may not be the best passer or game manager, but he has raw athletic ability – as evidenced by his 93-yard touchdown run.
21. The Redskins gave Denver quite the scare. RG3 had Washington up 21-14 going into the fourth quarter. Then things went really wrong.
22. Things going wrong for Washington was good news for Peyton and the Broncos, who used 5 turnovers to put up 45 points. With a 31 point shutout in the fourth quarter, Denver reminded everyone why they are Superbowl favorites.
23. The Falcons are missing Julio… and Roddy… It’s getting out of hand. The trade deadline passed and Tony Gonzalez is still in Atlanta, which may be a major disservice to him at this point. The legendary tight end is likely in his final year of football, and he won’t get a ring with this team.
24. Arizona is at .500, but things like that have happened before. Cardinal fans know better than to get excited about the record, especially with a division full of powerhouse teams.
25. The Seahawks edged out the Rams. The game was a lot closer than most expected, but Seattle manages to pull out even the tight games.
26. St. Louis is still looking for a quarterback – Favre is out. You want in?
27. The Bears got some rest – much needed for Cutler and his sensitive injury.
28. Tennessee took a week to plan, but it likely won’t do much. They need a lot more than planning to beat Indy.
29. Indianapolis took time off to plan, too. Only for the Colts, that means something. The Colts are on their way to a legitimate shot at the Superbowl.
30. San Diego needed a week off. The Chargers need to focus – they aren’t out of the playoff picture just yet. Denver and Kansas City will be in, but that second wildcard spot is up for grabs.
31. Baltimore really needs to regroup. After a tough few weeks with sub-par play, the defending world champions are looking to get back to Raven football.
32. Houston named Keenum their starting quarterback, ending (maybe finally) the Matt Schaub era for the Texans. The fans turned on him for good, and the team finally decided to move on.
There it is – another week’s worth of pieces to the puzzle. It may not be a complete picture any time soon, but keep working on it. Eventually the picture will come together.