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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Oh, how the mighty fall.

The National Football League is not a forgiving host, nor does it play favorites. A team that claws and climbs its way to the top one season is only a target for the flaming arrows of the league the next time around. Thirty-two teams all want one trophy, which means thirty-one teams want revenge. In an ever-changing hold on the throne, every team has a shot when the first whistle blows. The best can quickly get lost in their pride, and then how quickly comes the oh-so-biblical fall. Some teams will never disappear, but never make it past the first round of the playoffs. Some teams will earn, dutifully, the number one draft pick a year after making a deep playoff run. Some teams will hoist the Lombardi Trophy one season only to have a month of vacation the next. The mighty fall and the fallen rise back up.

 

There has to be some parallel here, right? Maybe the whole “the first shall be last” spiel or something about how getting too cocky is like spitting into the wind or the cliché “what goes around comes around” thing. Maybe it’s much more simple than that. Maybe it’s not the specifics that we are so familiar with, but the general concept. After all, finding some moral comparison to a three-hundred pound man ripping his anterior cruciate ligament would be a bit of, well, what he should have done more of – a stretch.

The idea of the best losing their title and the worst gaining ground – that’s something we all understand. Even if we don’t personally know what the fall feels like, we’ve seen it happen. And if we don’t know how it feels to climb higher, we’ve wanted to. Human nature is to constantly seek better – sometimes that means more, sometimes less. Regardless of what it looks like exactly, everyone knows what it feels like to chase his or her dreams and goals. The rise – the slow, painful process of pulling yourself out of the dust and getting up again, knowing full well that you may just get knocked down again – is what separates those who are willing to work for their place and those who aren’t. If you aren’t willing to fight for something, you probably don’t care that much. If you aren’t willing to fight at all, then you don’t understand the passion fighters have. It isn’t something that comes and goes – and it isn’t something that can be turned off. The passion that keeps people going doesn’t take a break. That’s what keeps the worst teams fighting. The best teams think they’ve made it, and they stop fighting – that’s when they fall.

 

The mighty have to fall some time, or else the others would never know what they are fighting for. The NFL is a perfect demonstration of this, every single week. The best teams fall to seemingly insignificant teams and the worst teams pull off impossible upsets. The Broncos, heralded as the unquestioned best of the AFC couldn’t handle the New England cold – both the weather and the heart of the coach. The Colts have relied on Luck all season, but didn’t have any luck on their side. The Texans looked poised to run the table after last season, but now are fighting for the right to grab the best college player available. The mighty Kansas City defense got shredded by a quarterback so synonymous with interceptions last season that fantasy owners didn’t dare draft him. Pittsburg is clawing its way back to relevance, after starting the season like a junior high team lost in the big world. The defending Champs have a kicker and a defense, but lost any sense of offense they once had. Atlanta went from being a playoff annual to being another bye on the schedule. RG3 used to run over and around defenses, but got run over and through all night.

 

They’re learning – you know they are. Why? Because they have that heart and passion that won’t let them sit still. They can’t quit working and they can’t stand not being the best. They keep playing and keep learning. We have to do the same if we want to try and keep up. So we will learn, every week. This is what we learned…

  1. New Orleans is getting ready to fight Seattle for the top NFC spot. The matchup won’t happen for quite a few weeks, but Brees has the Saints poised and ready to prove their worth.
  2. The Falcons looked like an NFC Championship contender last season, but the playoff woes of Matty Ice ended the flight early. This season, Atlanta hasn’t even managed to get off the ground, much less fly.
  3. It’s been thirty-five years since the Vikings last tied. That time around, it was the Packers. This time around, it was indeed the Packers. After blowing a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter, Minnesota deserved to lose, but escaped with a tie.
  4. The Packers were a playoff team just one broken bone ago. Green Bay sans Rodgers can’t even handle the Vikings, who are swimming in the deep end with water wings this season.
  5. The Jets scored three points in the first quarter, and decided to shut it down for the day. When the quarterback only completes a single digit amount of passes, it’s a long day.
  6. The Ravens won, and it looked big. However, the offense did nothing. Sure, defense wins championships. Getting to championships takes regular wins, though, and those take some offensive production beyond the kicker.
  7. The Steelers may be back on track. With a pivotal game coming up on Thanksgiving, Pittsburg could force their way back into the playoff discussion pretty quickly.
  8. The Browns don’t exactly exude confidence, do they? Four turnovers literally gave the game away, even though they had more yards than the visitors.
  9. Not a single NFC North team won this weekend. The Lions should have had a cakewalk against an inexperienced quarterback and a horribly injured tailback corps. Apparently, Detroit thought so too, and they got caught off guard.
  10. Tampa Bay looks pretty smart right about now. The wins aren’t exactly piling up, but Glennon looks like a franchise quarterback, and that’s something the Buccaneers can build around.
  11. Kansas City looked lost against Denver – they weren’t playing the same football they’ve played all season. Instead of turning it around and taking care of San Diego before playing Denver again, they kept going in the rut. Next week may be the final chop that cuts the rest of the cord holding it all together.
  12. San Diego, despite their average record, can still make the playoffs. With almost all their remaining games at home, the Chargers are set to make a push coming off a momentous win over the Chiefs.
  13. Chicago is getting bullied. The Rams doubled up on the Bears and ripped them apart. The NFC North suddenly boasts no serious threats.
  14. St. Louis is the classic decent team stuck in a great division. Put the Rams in the NFC North, for example, and they’re on their way to winning it after beating Chicago. Good luck beating the Seahawks, though.
  15. The Panthers are on a seven game win streak. The defense is tough and the offense is potent. Cam Newton is playing like Superman, finally, and Carolina is actually in the playoff picture. This is a team nobody will want to face come wild card weekend.
  16. The Dolphins have to decide if they can recover from their losses or if they need to piece together something else. Something isn’t working, and Miami keeps fluctuating between average and awful.
  17. Speaking of awful, Houston was a playoff team last season. Right? Cause sitting at 2-9 right now and losing to Jacksonville makes it hard to believe that the Texans have ever had any talent at all.
  18. The Jaguars have more than doubled their expected win total for the season, hitting their second. Too soon to buy a Los Angeles Jaguars jersey?
  19. The Titans are the epitome of average. They win some weeks, and lose some weeks. They surprise no one and disappoint even fewer.
  20. Oakland fans still get disappointed. McGloin is no Pryor, and the Raiders have to realize that.
  21. Arizona is underrated, without question. The No Fly Zone established by LSU studs Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson is on the field whenever Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald aren’t. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the NFC West is stacked.
  22. The Colts played a lousy first half of football – as expected. Somewhat surprisingly, though, they didn’t recover in the second half. Maybe it’s still too soon to bank on a guy like Luck.
  23. The Cowboys are likely headed toward winning their division. The bummer is that they can’t win on the road. Technically, they did this weekend, but that’s only their second road win of the year.
  24. New York is used to this trend – Eli Manning gets good late in the season. When Eli is careful with the ball, the Giants have a chance to win. This weekend didn’t pan out, but the Giants are still in the mix somehow.
  25. It almost ended as another tie – the Broncos couldn’t finish the Patriots. After going up 24-0 at halftime, all Peyton had to do was keep the ball moving and eat up some clock. Turns out, that’s harder to do than it looked when New England was giving Denver free possessions.
  26. We all need a Patriots-style halftime pep talk. Whatever was said in that locker room spurred an incredible comeback, as Brady and his no-name receivers put up 31 unanswered points. It took overtime, defensive stops, and penalties, but the Patriots made their case for why the Superbowl will have to go through New England.
  27. The Redskins have one player worth protecting – RGIII. He’s not only their quarterback, but also their face and future. After the game Monday night, fans have to wonder if Washington wants to keep the star around. RGIII got pounded, over and over, in an embarrassing loss.
  28. The 49ers looked, after so long, like the team that almost had a Superbowl in their hands a season ago. Kaep is back, and Anquan Boldin showed why he was worth stealing from Baltimore.
  29. Seattle got rest this week. That alone should terrify any remaining opponents.
  30. Philadelphia got some time off, but Chip Kelly still doesn’t have a starting quarterback. He might want to figure that out before kickoff next week.
  31. The Bengals took their bye coming off the top of the AFC North, and are definitely prepared to hold that spot until the playoffs begin.
  32. The Bills didn’t play this week, but you didn’t even notice. Why? They aren’t trying to get better, so you don’t care.

 

Boom – it’s over now. The mighty fall, the weak rise, and the articles end. There’s some good and some bad in that. With a few weeks left before the playoffs, and really an open race for the final spots, the teams that fight the most – the teams that work the hardest to get better and want to be the best – can take control. It’s in their own hands now, and they’re going to make the most of it.

 

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