Welcome to what will become a 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 enjoy the banter, insight, or whatever you want to call this – this is What We Learned.
It’s happening. Football – sixty minutes of heart pounding action – is making its comeback. It was bound to happen eventually. The distracting players – I’m looking to you, exempt list – are no longer required to play the game. Translation: They are no longer interfering with the game. Love them or hate them, players that pull their personal lives onto the field become a distraction. Some players make a career out of being a distraction (a la Terrell Owens) and some are too distracting to have a career (a la Johnson-Ochocinco-Johnson). That is part of football, but we don’t have to deal with it constantly. Occasionally, (and not often enough) players will tape up, line up, and get beat up. That’s what draws us in, and that’s what keeps us from leaving.
The only reason we deal with the infidelity of the League is because we love the pleasure we get from the show. In a twisted, even disturbing, way, we have gotten trapped in a one-sided relationship with the NFL. It disgusts us, goes against everything we stand for, and spits in our faces if we dare speak up. We have every reason to turn and leave. We don’t.
We can’t. We are addicted to the feeling. Somewhere along the line we lost control. What we tried to keep casual – the relationship we wanted to be fun without dragging us down – has become an investment. At some point, emotions got involved. We don’t leave – we can’t leave – because we care too much. We have developed an affection for this game, flawed as it is, that will not permit us to turn our backs. We probably should leave – we probably would be better off. But we won’t.
Since we have decided to stay the night, we may as well look for the good – and it’s happening. Real football, played on the field between the whistles, is starting to make news. Good players are struggling, bad players are… bad, and injuries are ripping teams apart. That is football. That is the news we want to hear about, because even though it hurts to see it, we would rather deal with a scar than a secret.
It’s no secret, though, that consistency is key. If the NFL continues to promote headlines from the stadium bench rather than the judicial bench, we will be just fine. That is a learning process, and we will keep working on it week after week. This week, we worked on it a little more. Here’s what we learned…
- The Falcons look like they are back – putting up 56 points (just shy of a point per minute average). However, take note of the 4 turnovers… better teams will turn those into crushing blows.
- The Buccaneers are surprisingly underachieving. With decent talent and a newly re-vamped coaching staff, Tampa Bay should be better. It’s possible they still will be.
- The Vikings lost a lot this weekend. Minnesota lost the game, lost Kyle Rudolph, and lost Matt Cassel. It is officially Teddy Time for the Vikings, and the rookie looks ready to roll.
- The Saints found their first – and much needed – win. The difference in this game is simple – red zone effectiveness. The Vikings settled for field goals. The Saints smashed in touchdowns.
- The Ravens have played all three of their division opponents already – and beaten two. That gets the season rolling pretty quickly.
- The Browns are the only team with a first-round rookie quarterback not starting as of this week. Give it a few weeks, and that may not be the case.
- The Chargers went cross-country and took care of business on the road. Losing Woodhead for the season will hurt, but San Diego is still a good team.
- The Bills are banged up and can’t afford it. The top three receivers – Watkins included – are all on the current injury report. EJ Manuel can get the job done with healthy receivers, but 90% won’t be enough help from the wide-outs.
- The Cowboys overcame a massive deficit to win on the road. If they can figure out how to do that – win, that is – in front of their fans, they might have a chance to be America’s team again.
- The Rams are an average team in an above-average division. With Seattle, San Francisco, and Arizona all on the schedule twice, it’s tough to look good.
- The Redskins are not the favorite to win the NFC East. Is it possible that they do? Of course. Losing to division rivals doesn’t help.
- The Eagles gained a new respect for Nick Foles. While Philadelphia was trailing, Foles had to go to the air to mount the comeback. He stood in the pocket and got creamed. He took shot after shot and just kept getting up and doing it again. Credit, Foles. Troubling notice, offensive line.
- The Texans had offensive struggles early and often, turning it over three times. Getting Foster back could fix that problem in a hurry, but he tends to be injured a lot. Anybody miss Ben Tate?
- The Giants rushed for almost 200 yards and Eli Manning did not throw an interception. They won. There’s the formula; rinse and repeat.
- The Titans almost didn’t score at all. If football were a fair sport, they wouldn’t have. They were down by 33 points at the time and deserved to be.
- The Bengals scored with every available weapon – including Andy Dalton, the wide receiver. Yes, Dalton – Cincinnati’s quarterback – went out for a screen and made the catch and proceeded to run for a touchdown.
- The Packers scored quickly, then stopped. Green Bay looked very average for most of the game, running only 51 plays on nine drives – compared to Detroit’s 74 plays on the same number of chances. There were good plays, but not enough of them to string together and put up points.
- The Lions pulled out a huge division win. Beating the Packers (and specifically Aaron Rodgers, who has only lost in Detroit twice including this game) could be good momentum for a team that typically lacks it.
- The Colts needed some momentum to get on their feet – and they had Jacksonville on the schedule. It’s kind of like going to Wal-Mart in the middle of the night to feel better about yourself; it’s wrong but it helps. Needless to say, Indianapolis rolled to a big win.
- The Jaguars are officially the worst team in the league. The only bright spot may be that it only took three games to realize this and pull the trigger – Blake Bortles is the official starting quarterback for Jacksonville.
- The Raiders have some talent, and it has potential to shake some things up. Still, it’s Oakland – don’t get too carried away with your predictions.
- The Patriots have struggled this season. Some are blaming Brady, insisting that the inevitable fall from greatness has begun. Others are blaming the reality of his awful offensive line. Give Brady the protection and weapons he deserves, and the greatness will return.
- The 49ers, remember, were in the Superbowl not that long ago. This same team, essentially, represented the entire NFC in the most-watched television event of the year. San Francisco may have an even better roster now, but they aren’t even the best (and probably not even number two) in their own division.
- The Cardinals are a solid football team. Drew Stanton – no, you are not supposed to have heard of him – is the interim quarterback until Palmer recovers from injury. Even with that, Arizona is getting the job done.
- The Broncos finally provided the game everyone had been waiting for. Peyton and the Denver defense forced overtime against the defending champs, and may have been a coin-flip from taking the win.
- The Seahawks held on to beat the Broncos once again. Seattle dominated the time of possession, but also was the only team to touch the rock in overtime, bringing plenty of ‘Hawk-Haters to the surface to question the effectiveness of overtime rules.
- The Chiefs won a game and did it well. Even better, the primary source of output from Kansas City was the newly-exceptionally-wealthy Alex Smith.
- The Dolphins have too much talent to not be performing better. Tannehill’s job is being threatened, but by whom? Matt Moore, the rollercoaster of a quarterback? Miami has a few weeks to fix things.
- The Steelers looked pretty decent against Carolina. Roethlisberger tossed two touchdowns and the defense forced two turnovers. With James Harrison – yes, that James Harrison – back in the huddle, maybe Pittsburgh can do some damage again.
- The Panthers are not a bad team. Even good teams lose a game here and there. Rivera is the reigning coach of the year, Newton is known as Superman, and Kuechly is a thing of nightmares.
- The Bears started strong and did just enough to hang on to the win. Cutler found Jeffery for over 100 yards while Marshall caught only one pass. The defense is pretty suspect, though, giving up over 400 yards.
- The Jets dominated the total amount of yards in the game. However, three turnovers – three free drives for the Bears – negated that advantage. Chris Ivory may be gunning for the RB1 spot, but fumbling (one of four for the team) doesn’t help his case.
There it is – 32 points that are completely made up. The information is true, but whether that means anything to you is your choice. Chances are, at the very least, you care. Football is a dirty relationship, but we’re not going anywhere. You can deal with the distractions. The game is taking over, and you’re just along for the ride.