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.
As the old adage goes – Time heals all wounds. If this is the first week of the NFL that you have noticed, save yourself the backstory and embrace the future blindly. There is no need to live in the past, and learning from history is essentially irrelevant in the “ever-changing” League marked by cyclical movement. Quite simply, the NFL has not done anything out of character, nor will they, to warrant examining the foundations of the League. Another proverbial tidbit holds that people don’t really change – the NFL is as traditionalistic as any of us.
For those of you that have noticed that televisions have been ransacked every Thursday and Monday night, as well as all day Sunday, for the last several weeks – keep looking ahead. It is likely impossible to forget all that has happened since training camps began. For you, the truth is no different. The NFL moves in circles, inching only slightly in any direction each season. You can choose to believe in the progress being presented, or embrace the cynical viewership that hangs on the problems rather than the successes. Either way, you have embraced the NFL.
The mess of the early season on and off the field ramped attention up to the midseason high the NFL constantly seeks to boost. Year after year the numbers climb higher. The journalistic motto that no news is good news never made it to the ranks of the NFL – all news is good news, because news brings attention and attention brings money.
Now you’re here – over a month into the money. The NFL is hoping that time does indeed heal the wounds, because we are licking them right now. The sting is wearing off, though. The future is looking better – good teams are clicking, bad teams are becoming extra bye weeks. The things that made you want to walk away before you even started are distant memories. All you care about now is now. What’s happening today trumps what happened last week. You’ve learned how to cope with the abuse the NFL dishes. You’ve learned how to enjoy the NFL even though it’s dripping with problems. You’ve learned how to keep the good feelings and ignore the others. It’s a process, but you’re learning. Here’s what we learned…
- Minnesota looked pretty lost in Green Bay. The Vikings didn’t just seem to be starting a new quarterback – they seemed to forget how they won the week before. Everything that worked on Sunday they didn’t do on Thursday.
- Green Bay is dominant at home. After putting up two touchdowns in each of the first three quarters, the Packers gave the starters a break. How generous of them.
- Indianapolis looked primed and ready to host their city of origin. The once Baltimore Colts invited the current Baltimore namesake to town and showed them around town. The defense, though, gave the tour – just as Luck would have it.
- Baltimore seemed out of sync on offense. Steve Smith, Sr. could not get going, Torrey Smith missed a couple of plays, and Flacco didn’t give them the easiest homework either.
- Chicago will rise and fall on Cutler’s shoulders. The good news is that he can win games. The bad news is that he is prone to lose them more often.
- Carolina is hanging on, but they are not the same Panthers from last season. Cam Newton is still not running with full strength, and the running back group is desolate.
- Cleveland is 2-2. That’s not a losing record. And party boy what’s-his-name hasn’t been looked at since the preseason. The Browns are definitely winning.
- Tennessee can look on the bright side – they play Jacksonville twice each season, so they will win eventually. Other than that, it’s not overly hopeful.
- St. Louis can put up good yardage and decent scores. Keeping the turnovers down could actually keep games winnable, but in the NFC West…
- Philadelphia seems to do very well out of the gate, but things slide from then on. The Eagles are like a sprinter running the 800 – they start fast and lap the competition, but wear themselves out before they can close the deal. Sometimes the lead will be enough, but not consistently.
- Atlanta looks far from the team that appeared to be a perennial NFC title contender. The Falcons are missing something – but nobody can quite pin it down yet.
- New York is returning to form. After opening the season with some losses, the Giants have won three straight. Eli may have finally found the niche in his new offense, and Coughlin’s seat is cooling off a little bit.
- Tampa Bay is on the cusp of doing something big. The Bucs are good, not great. Lovie Smith has turned this team into a competitive group of men, but it will take time to iron out the wrinkles.
- New Orleans is great at home. The Saints haven’t lost at home for a long time. They haven’t won on the road in a long time either.
- Houston is a formidable team. Getting Clowney back in a few weeks will bolster a defense that already boasts JJ Watt. The team’s success will hinge on the defense, and that might just work.
- Dallas is far better than anticipated. The Cowboys are a consistently average team – by definition, even. However, the ‘Boys have lost only one game so far this season. Barring a losing streak, Dallas may not drop to .500 (knock on wood).
- Buffalo looked to have made the right call at QB. Putting in Orton in place of Manuel secured the team a win on the road. The talent is there – let them play. And when they win, carry them off the field, if you must.
- Detroit looked like they forgot their offense at halftime. What’s worse for Lion fans is that Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson is in the shop for repairs yet again.
- Pittsburgh may be surprising some people this season. For an aging defense that really should not have the energy to win, the Steelers just don’t know when to give up. Then again – they played Jacksonville. Toss out prior statement.
- Jacksonville does one thing no other team in the NFL can – be the constantly bad team. Year after year – with good draft pick options aplenty – the Jaguars are near the bottom (if that high) on the rankings.
- Arizona got handled by Peyton Manning. Guess what? Everyone does. Plus, the Cardinals spent most of the game with their third string quarterback. No offense to him, but he’s not expected to be good enough to win.
- Denver helped get Peyton over another milestone. He now has over 500 touchdowns in his career – and it’s only week 5. The record is his for the taking, and his weaponized offense can get it done.
- Kansas City is not a bad team, nor did they play poorly. The only turnover in the game (for either team) came at the last minute. The Chiefs need big production from their defense to run away with games, and they didn’t have it.
- San Francisco needed some trickery to get the job done, but a win’s a win. The Niners can’t afford to lose close games if they want to be relevant in 10 weeks, so Harbaugh will take all the chances he has to.
- New York did not score a single point. After Geno Smith failed to, well, do his job, Mike Vick got a shot. And blew it. He admitted that he was unprepared. Geno went to the movies, so what’s Vick’s excuse?
- San Diego is arguably the best team in the NFL right now. Some would say the ‘Hawks deserve that spot, but who beat Seattle? That’s right – the Chargers.
- Cincinnati is immortal no more. Three turnovers proved that the Bengals – still – are not ready for the big stage. Pressure seems to shrink AJ Green and Andy Dalton.
- New England needed to prove to the country that the whooping in KC was not a sign of things to come. A 43-17 beat down of the only undefeated team in football did the job. The Patriots dominated the time of possession, racked up over 500 yards of offense, and never turned the ball over. Game over.
- Seattle dominated the time of possession. The LOB helps with that, giving the ball back to Wilson and Lynch pretty quickly. The defending champs are looking to get back to the big time, and the road may well go through Seattle.
- Washington is somewhere in that in-between stage, hovering between great and awful. It’s enough to win some games and sell tickets, but not enough to push into the playoffs.
- Oakland got a bye. There is mercy in the NFL.
- Miami got a bye. Again… mercy.
And there you have it – 32 points about 32 teams. It doesn’t really matter, but it’s part of the show. With time, you’ll convince yourself more and more that it does matter. It still doesn’t. You’ll feel good about it and keep going, anyway.