What We Learned – by Alex Larsen

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.

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Any given Sunday.

 

Watch football enough and you’ll start talking about it. Talk about it enough and you’ll hear this odd phrase tossed out – Any given Sunday. What about it? It’s not even a complete sentence. Yet it’s possibly the most accurate statement of the National Football League possible. A team is only as good as they perform each weekend.

It’s not about the salaries.

It’s not about the 40-yard dash time.

It’s not about the vertical.

It’s not about the name on the jersey.

It’s all about the logo on the helmet.

 

Football is a team sport – win and lose together. The better player doesn’t always win the game. The winningest coach doesn’t always get another ‘W’. The more expensive team doesn’t always buy the victory. The team without the superstars isn’t out of the contest. The first-time head coach isn’t down and out. The homegrown team isn’t bound to lose before the game even begins.

 

The better team – the eleven man unit that plays tougher, stronger, faster – wins the game. The more cohesive group can overcome the deeper pockets. On paper, maybe things look different. Any given Sunday, things can change. Any given Sunday, anybody can show up. Any given Sunday…

We learn things every Sunday (or Thursday or Monday) that change how we think of the NFL and certain teams. The throne crumbles each week, as we watch different people climb into it. Any given Sunday, we learn new things about the NFL. This week was no exception – this is what we learned…

 

  1. Few games will end in more spectacularly surprising ways than the Bengals and Dolphins matchup. It took more than 60 minutes for Miami to take the win, getting the job done with a safety.
  2. Cincinnati may have lost to Miami, but the Bengals are no joke. Dalton is a question mark, but has the potential to take this team to the playoffs.
  3. Minnesota may – for the time – have a quarterback. Christian Ponder played well, though nowhere near superstardom. The Vikings may not need him to be, though, with AP in the backfield.
  4. The Cowboys aren’t that great. Yes, the won the game against Minnesota. Yes, they are in the best position to win the NFC East. No, that doesn’t mean other teams should be scared.
  5. It took 12 meetings for Cleveland to get one. A dozen times the Browns have faced off against the Ravens – only now did they come out on top.
  6. Baltimore looked like they were missing their fire. Ray Rice hardly touched the ball, Flacco looked like his timing was off, and that entire defense looked like they couldn’t find their passion. The talent’s there – but the spark isn’t right now.
  7. The Chiefs are undefeated, sitting at 9-0 and heading into their bye week. It’s not smooth sailing just yet, but the playoffs certainly seem like a lock.
  8. There may be a silver lining in Buffalo. After yet another loss, Bills fans can hope in the fact that EJ Manuel is looking ready to get back in the action, giving the Bills a chance to (maybe) win some games.
  9. The Titans – and the entire country – have been wondering where the CJ2K version of their running back went. He’s back. Johnson pounded out 150 yards on 23 carries, good for 2 touchdowns.
  10. St. Louis has a chance at a good draft pick. With a fairly tough remaining schedule, and the lack of a legitimate quarterback, the Rams may need to start watching some Saturday night football.
  11. San Diego is done – put a nail in the coffin and pack it up. The Chargers needed to win out if they wanted to steal the second AFC Wildcard spot, but that dream all but died with another loss.
  12. Washington isn’t fighting for the playoffs. Or maybe they are – the East is awful this season, and a losing record may be a winning seed. The Redskins are fighting for pride, though. The city is behind them, finally having reason to root for their football team.
  13. The Saints have been stunned. A loss to the Jets is inexplicable. Brees and his team get to go back to the Big Easy next week, and that Mercedes Benz Superdome will be rocking.
  14. J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets? New York beat New Orleans. That’s not a typo; the Jets actually got the better of a legitimate playoff team. Maybe things are turning around in the Big Apple.
  15. Last season, a win over the Falcons meant something. This season? Not quite. Atlanta really is nowhere near the level fans had been accustomed to – maybe relying on a handful of superstars is a bad idea.
  16. The Panthers are on a win streak. Cam Newton is playing high-level football. That Carolina defense is shutting teams down. 5-3 after routing a division opponent looks pretty good.
  17. Nick Foles, ladies and gentlemen. After having to watch the Eagles struggle through Michael Vick, Foles got the official nod for the weekend and flung 7 TDs, getting his game-worn jersey into the same glass case in Canton as Peyton’s season opener. A backup alongside a legend seems wrong at this point, but maybe someday the two will be one-and-the-same.
  18. Oakland is a work in progress. There’s some talent on both sides of the field, some playmakers, and maybe even hope for success in the future.
  19. Seattle was taken to overtime by Tampa Bay. The winless Buccaneers forced the NFC favorite Seahawks to take the game later into the day. Seattle pulled it out, but fans were pulling their hair out for the first three quarters. Are the Hawks in danger, or is DangeRussWilson just that clutch?
  20. Tampa Bay fought toe-to-toe with one of the best. Does that put them in the discussion as a legitimate playoff team? Absolutely not.
  21. Brady got back. Robert Kraft likes big plays, and Brady has them. He walks in and the crowd is sprung – the firework potential is constant. Patriots are back on track.
  22. The Steelers are aging, quickly, and should probably consider a rebuild season to stay competitive.
  23. Indy is making a case for AFC control. They already bested Seattle and Denver, and really only have Kansas City left to prove their hold on the division.
  24. The Texans aren’t bad – really. They are significantly better with Keenum under center, and Andre Johnson will always be a threat. Foster may be done for this season, but he will be back.
  25. Chicago one-upped the Packers at Lambeau. The Bears were starting their backup quarterback, but the Packers ended up with the same situation.
  26. Green Bay lost a division game, which is tough. The Pack lost their captain, Aaron Rodgers, for a month or more. Clearly the worries in Green Bay go beyond a close loss to Da Bears.
  27. Denver got a bye – as if they needed it. Peyton gets an extra week to watch film and analyze defenses, which means he’ll be even more surgical going forward. Yikes.
  28. Detroit gets to rest, then come back for the second half of the stretch looking to take the NFC North, which is reasonable, if not expected.
  29. The Giants took some time off from playing football; only it was actually their bye this time.
  30. The Cardinals got a bye to work on tightening their schemes, which include weaponizing a secondary home to Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
  31. The 49ers really need to capitalize on their bye week. Seattle is closing in on securing the division, and San Francisco will have to fight to get a wild card.
  32. Jacksonville can’t lose if they don’t play… right?

 

That’s it – another week done. If by some chance this weekend is any given Sunday, then we should have plenty more to talk about next week. Until then, enjoy the game.

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