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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It takes time.

Each game takes time, and each week takes time. Figuring out what team is really as good as the ranking takes time. Realizing how important a single player really is takes time. Deciding if Vegas is crazy or if they just know what they’re doing takes time. Realizing the difference between the truly great players and streaks of favorable bounces takes time. Figuring out the playoff picture takes time.

Good thing we have time.

After eleven weeks of National Football League battles, we are starting to put things together. We know that we really can’t know very much at all. And beyond that, what else is there to try and know? Do you really want to know how many yards your favorite running back is going to have or how many touchdown dances will grace their way across your television, laptop, and phone? Those are the things we wait and watch for.

And so we will – wait and watch. We’ll continue to tune in every week. We won’t just check stat lines or look up highlights. We’ll do that, but that’s bonus material. We’re still going to sit on the edge of our couch, shouting at the screen as if the referees, coaches and players. Our jerseys are still hallowed, but we wear them like a favorite shirt. We have our rituals that we rush through whenever a kicker lines up a game-winner. We know what our favorite players are doing during the bye week, because we’ve been getting minute-by-minute updates on Twitter. We drag ourselves out of bed the morning after a loss and force ourselves to get some sleep after a win. All that we follow, watch, and do takes time.

Maybe we spend too much time on this sport. Perhaps we could get a lot more accomplished if we cut back on football. Maybe our time is better spent.

Maybe not.

 

Week after week, we keep learning. It takes time to know a team forward and backward. Toss in injuries, bad calls, weather, and that whole heart thing, and we’re going to need a lot more time. We put in the time this week, and this is what we learned…

  1. The Colts are starting to show a weakness. Sure, Luck is getting his team wins, but not in the first half. A tale of two halves won’t get Indianapolis far in the playoffs.
  2. The Titans are riding that line, right down the middle of the production scale. They aren’t good enough to make the playoffs, but they aren’t bad enough to justify a full rebuild. Any decision is highly risky, but it has to happen.
  3. Minnesota fans are abandoning ship. Sure, the true fans are hanging in there – but for what? The quarterback circus may be over (even though Cassel came in for Ponder late in the last game). That’s good news, but it also means the Vikings are no longer trying to save the season. Draft picks could piece together some talent, but that’s a long way away.
  4. Seattle is the real deal – and Harvin is healthy. For the few plays that the Seahawks had Percy on the field, the Vikings remembered why they were reluctant to trade him. His speed and elusiveness will be a lethal weapon for the Hawks moving forward. And they are moving forward.
  5. In the longest game of the weekend, da Bears held on for a win. Rain and tornado warnings kept teams in the locker rooms for almost two hours, giving them a chance to eat, video chat with their kids, or just rest. Then, of course, the game went to overtime. And, of course, it ended with a field goal.
  6. The Ravens couldn’t outlast the weather in Chicago. It took five hours to blow a game in overtime. It really was Baltimore’s game to lose – they were up by 10 after a quarter and still up by 4 at halftime. The defending champs are having a tough time closing any games.
  7. The Bills, apparently, have the ability to blow out opponents. They may be as shocked as you.
  8. The Jets are starting to return to form – paper-bag-over-the-head form, that is.
  9. The Bengals put up 31 points in the second quarter. It’s worth noting that the defense had more than one of those scores, but it’s still a monster attack of scoring. Cincinnati is taking control of the AFC North.
  10. The Browns are better than even they expected. Trading away the former first-round running back should be a sign of tanking, but they win at home. Cleveland wasn’t home, though, and they got crushed. If they could perform on the road, they could be a serious threat. That’s a big ‘if’.
  11. The Redskins went three quarters without a point scored. Hard to win games like that, even if you’re RG3.
  12. The subpar Eagles are the top of the NFC East. Seriously, people, the East is up for grabs to anybody who can actually win games.
  13. The Steelers, after looking like the worst team in the league for a few weeks, are in the playoff hunt. It’s not really a surprise anymore, is it?
  14. The Lions are, right now, the best NFC North team. That’s not saying much, though. Most teams could still beat them.
  15. The Falcons – the NFC Championship contenders from a year ago – are 2-8. They lost to the Buccaneers. Atlanta may want to rethink, well, everything.
  16. Tampa Bay has a potential star on their hands with Mike Glennon. The Bucs quarterback has four interceptions to thirteen touchdowns, including at least one TD toss in every game he’s started.
  17. The Cardinals are not getting the credit they deserve. Why? Blame the division. With powerhouses like Seattle and San Francisco in the division, it’s tough to get credit. The secondary boasts Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, though – it’s a locked-down no-fly zone.
  18. Jacksonville won a game. That’s more than anyone expected, so let’s not worry too much about the rest of the season.
  19. Houston is just plain awful. In all the talk of how bad, say, the Vikings are, many people have forgotten that the Texans and Falcons have the same record. There’s a very real race for the top pick of the draft developing.
  20. Matt McGloin is working on getting himself a starting job. A win for the Raiders over the “mighty Texans” doesn’t hurt to toss on the resume.
  21. The Chargers are playing classis San Diego football; enough to give you hope, but not to fulfill it. With a chance to win their way into the playoffs, the Bolts lose again.
  22. Miami is a .500 team, and that may be a playoff team this season. Perhaps the salary cap is hurting the level of play more than anticipated, after all.
  23. It went down to the wire, but New Orleans pulled out another win. This time, Who Dat nation defeated the reigning NFC Champions from the Bay. That’s a good sign for the Saints.
  24. The 49ers team that played in New Orleans last week is not the team that played in the same stadium last February. This San Francisco team is getting beaten around, and has struggled to stay ahead in the win column.
  25. The Packers are Superbowl contenders with Rodgers. The Packers are not even wild-card contenders without him.
  26. The Giants are winning – and they’re up to 4-6. Remember how bad the NFC East is? Eli isn’t out of the race just yet.
  27. In the matchup of the season, at least so far, the Sheriff took care of business. Peyton led the Broncos to an impressive win over the Chiefs.
  28. Kansas City never brought down Peyton Manning. That’s something that the Chiefs have relied on all season, and right now it isn’t happening. Kansas City needs to get the defensive pressure fixed or things could spiral out of control quickly, with San Diego and Denver again on the schedule.
  29. The Patriots are getting to their stride – Brady is better in December. Unfortunately, this isn’t December. Add a notch in the wrong column for New England.
  30. Carolina’s defense is for real. Keeping Tom Brady and the Patriots out of the end zone for the first half is almost impossible, but they did it. Beating New England, even if they’re visiting, is tough – but the Panthers did it.
  31. St. Louis took their bye, fresh off a big win. Hopefully the Rams carry the momentum into the last stretch of the season.
  32. America’s team – aka the Dallas Cowboys – lose no fans on their bye week. It’s a safe weekend for Dallas. Even Jerry Jones has a hard time getting in trouble when the team isn’t playing.

There it is – another week in the books. It takes time to watch it all unfold, and it takes time to reflect on it. It takes a little time to review it, and even some time to recover from the shock or disappointment. Thankfully, as fans, we have time. We’re just learning as we go, and we’re taking our time getting there.

 

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