What We Learned – by Alex Larsen

What We Learned - Week 2

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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Every team gets a bye week. A few select teams earn another. The base bye week, though, is a given. It’s a week off that, in recent history, can spark a team into a winning streak. The bye week could be viewed as a safeguard in the schedule, but that’s a tough argument to make. Sure, if weather were to get to a point that a game could not be played, those teams would end up playing on their pre-designated bye week. That’s possible, but very unlikely. What it really comes down to is money.

The NFL uses the bye week to turn the season into 17 weeks of action, plus pre-season games, plus playoffs, plus the Pro Bowl, and of course the Super Bowl. That’s milking the cash cow for all it’s worth.

That’s really what the bye week is all about: Money.

And if you want to twist that thought, of course it is. Players get bonuses (aka more money) for better performances. Better performances often come after some rest. So, by that logic, a bye week actually takes more money from the NFL than if the players didn’t get a week off. Then again, by the same logic, players only get the extra money because they spent another week of their time working; they don’t go on vacation during the bye, or else it would have no advantage.

The NFL and the NFLPA (player’s association) have decided that all the teams in the league deserve a week off sometime mid-season. It stands to reason that NFL writers and bloggers deserve the same reprieve. For that reason (and due to a localized outbreak of the flu), this writer took a bye week. No money involved, just a week off, pure and simple.

Taking a step away came with new insight, though. A bye refreshes the mind; things aren’t quite so monotonous anymore. Taking time off can help refocus attention and start a new track to even better performance, forgetting the slips and taking forward the leaps. It’s a week of reflection, preparation, and a change of pace. No wonder the players come out of the tunnel after a bye looking like they haven’t had to kill for their living in an eternity – they miss the competition. When they don’t miss it anymore, then it’s time to retire – but that’s another issue.

Players learn something every week, even when they don’t play. So it’s our responsibility as fans to learn something from the bye weeks as well. And of course we learn from the games being played – as always. This week the byes didn’t matter – they’re done. Every team has had their rest, and now it’s all-out until the end of the season. So hold on, because we’re about to learn a lot before the stockings get filled with the typical amounts of coal for you bitter sports fans. Here’s what we learned…

  1. Houston and Jacksonville squared off in a battle of the worst – both trying to claim the top pick in next year’s NFL Draft. Houston won… or rather, they lost. Hard to decide which it was. The Texans scored less points; count that how you please.
  2. The Jaguars are on a win streak. Seriously – it’s happening. They’ve won four games, and the top draft pick is likely a solid two games behind them now.
  3. The Vikings and Ravens played in one of the craziest finishes in NFL history. The Vikings scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. So did the Ravens. Make some of those 79-yard screens or 77-yard kickoff returns, and you understand just how wild the finish was.
  4. Baltimore came out on top, edging Minnesota and the blizzard with a toe-tapping touchdown with just four seconds left. That score marked the 28th point inside the two-minute warning, and the home crowd erupted from their frozen state.
  5. The Colts were about one loss away from losing any interest in the extremely lucky (pun slightly intended) team. Although atop their division, Indianapolis only has to be better than the Texans, Jaguars, and Titans to claim that crown.
  6. The Bengals stomped on the visiting Colts, and suddenly Cincinnati looks like a team to beat. They’re no New England or Denver, but the AFC is not guaranteed to a veteran team – not this year.
  7. The Falcons will bounce back. Yes, they lost again. But Matt Ryan is still tossing a few hundred yards per game, as well as over 20 TDs on the year. The talent is still there in Atlanta, so with health will come wins.
  8. Green Bay used to be a feared team. Without Rodgers at the helm, they barely beat the dismal Falcons. The team has not made an official call on the quarterback’s status for the remainder of the season, but it would be smart to shut him down; let him heal and come back next year.
  9. The Browns shut out the Patriots for an entire half. And if it wasn’t for a pesky onside kick, they probably would have left Foxborough with a win.
  10. But they didn’t. The onside kick gave Brady and whomever he has at receiver another shot at the end zone, and of course they capitalized. Brady continues to make his case for MVP, as well as maybe the best quarterback in the league.
  11. The good news for the Jets is they can’t really get much worse. Geno Smith has turned out to be another Mark Sanchez, and the franchise is fairing about as well as before. Thankfully, fans still had the brown paper bags from last season. Oh, and this comes after a win at home. That’s fandom, folks.
  12. The Raiders never really offered false hope. Any fan who truly believed that Oakland had a chance to do something this season hadn’t watched the team – it’s like a fireworks show with no explosion, just lots of sparks.
  13. The Lions had the NFC North locked up. Now, with just a few weeks to go, the Bears are about to take it away. The late season slide is nothing new in Detroit, but it almost seemed as if this season would be different.
  14. Nick Foles is, statistically, the best quarterback in the NFL right now. He had 19 touchdowns before he tossed his first pick. That’s a Peyton Manning statistic. The Eagles, not surprisingly, are on track to win their division if they keep the wins rolling.
  15. The Dolphins helped themselves and the Ravens, all at once. By beating the Steelers, the second AFC Wildcard position is now Baltimore’s, since they own the tiebreaker over Miami. The ‘Fins could still get that spot with a strong finish, though.
  16. Pittsburg showed signs of a possible resurgence, but it faded as quickly as it appeared. It may be officially time to rebuild the Steelers, despite the stoic nature of this team.
  17. The Bills throw almost as many passes to the other team as the do their own. EJ Manuel has only one more touchdown than interception on the season, and Buffalo thought he was the franchise solution.
  18. Tampa Bay may be staying intact after the season. Since axing Josh Freeman, head coach Greg Schiano has the rookie Mike Glennon off to an impressive start, putting up solid numbers week after week.
  19. Kansas City needed to play a team like Washington. It’s been said that a bad offense will revive itself if they just play the Redskins – 45 points later, the Chiefs would agree with that statement.
  20. The Redskins may rest RG3 the final three games of the season, to preserve his health. Ironically, had they rested their quarterback for the first three games of the season, they could be looking at the playoffs.
  21. Peyton Manning continues to pad his stats, tossing four touchdowns with just under 400 yards against his old division rival, Tennessee. Plus, Matt Prater booted a 64-yard field goal like it was an extra point. Score for the soccer boys out there.
  22. The Titans are close enough to the Colts to keep building. This Tennessee team may not be winning the division, but a season or two down the road they could change the AFC South drastically.
  23. The Cardinals lost far more than they won Sunday. They won the game, but with the playoffs out of the question, it’s the losses that sting more. Tyrann Mathieu, the Cards’ second leading tackler and ball-hawking safety is done for the season – a torn ACL ending the rookie’s season early.
  24. The Rams know what it’s like losing a star player to a torn ACL. St. Louis has been without their quarterback, Sam Bradford, for several weeks, and the record is reflecting that loss.
  25. The Giants, who almost had a shot at winning the awful NFC East, likely put the nail in their coffin, losing to the Chargers. Interestingly, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers swapped colors before their careers really began, switching coasts in a draft-day trade. Eli has the jewelry, but Philip won the day.
  26. The Chargers are a decent team, trapped in a far better than decent division. With powerhouse teams like Denver and Kansas City in the division, decent doesn’t get the job done – even with wins against easier teams.
  27. Seattle, still considered to be the best team in the NFL, lost to their division rivals. The loss didn’t change the power rankings for Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman, but the ‘Hawks will carry the chip on their shoulder nonetheless.
  28. San Francisco may have gotten a win at exactly the right time. Beating Seattle will be huge momentum going forward, but the ultimate challenge is still winning in the Pacific Northwest. The 49ers are capable, as they showed this weekend, but nobody’s done it since Wilson started playing.
  29. The Saints are marching – and shredding anybody that stands in their way. Drew Brees and Co. routed the Panthers, keeping the perfect home record going. Brees and Payton are a deadly combo in New Orleans.
  30. Carolina will get a chance at revenge sooner rather than later. In just two weeks, the Panthers will host the Saints in an epic rematch. The game could hold the fate of at least one of the teams in the balance, and Cam Newton doesn’t want to disappoint the home crowd.
  31. The Cowboys are good in November, then begin to slide in December. It happens all the time. Check your calendar, and then guess what happened last night.
  32. Da Bears are looking like a playoff team right about now. The biggest question Chicago will have to face coming up is whether Cutler gets his starting spot back when he’s healthy. McCown has played better for the last several weeks, and maybe a quarterback change keeps the wins coming.

There it is again – a long list of facts that some guy typed up just to fill some time and web space. It took a bye week to get this back on track, and the results will be evaluated in the coming weeks. Maybe another bye will be earned, or maybe it will be a fight to stay alive each and every week. Sometimes that’s better for success than taking a rest, anyway. Nobody ever won a game taking time off – it’s a bye, not a break.

 

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