By: Shawn Davis
This week’s games – and the schedule last week – produced some contests that were just confusing (Dal 7 @ Phi 34 on Sunday and last week’s stink job in Indy). The Saints responded by getting manhandled by the winless St. Louis Rams. You cannot knock New Orleans for “mailing it in” because the Rams’ front four dominated line-play the entire game. In doing so they were able to commit extra defenders in the passing game to stifle Drew Brees and kill any chance of the Saints finding an offensive rhythm. When the scoreboard was all zeros, the final score read: NO 21 @ STL 31, but it was NOT that close. Brees led two late touchdown drives that masked how disheveled his team looked all day long.
Philadelphia clicked on all cylinders last night and erased any doubts about their ability to contend with anyone. Dallas seemed flat from the opening snap and that was directly attributed to the Eagles defensive scheme. Nnamdi Asomugha played all over the field, a la Charles Woodson, and confused Tony Romo the entire contest. LeSean McCoy rushed the ball for185 yards on 30 carries (with 2 tds) while Michael Vick threw for 279 yards and 2 tds. The Eagles were efficient, didn’t get clumsy with the football and reminded everyone that although they have a record of 3-4, they are going to be formidable the rest of the season.
Kansas City defeated San Diego in an exciting contest that went to overtime because Phillip Rivers had a tough time handling a snap. It was clock-killing time in the 4thquarter with the Chargers about to kick the game-winning field goal before the devastating fumble with under a minute remaining that forced the game into the extra set. In the end, the Chiefs won 23-20 for their fourth victory in a row (bringing their record to 4-3 so far) to take control of the division when it seemed they were headed for the top of the NFL draft. Games aren’t played on paper, people! I don’t care who’s on the schedule, a four game win streak is noteworthy.
Thank heavens the Steelers defeated the Patriots because – it seems Brady – can do no wrong. Although the last Patriot playoff victory was the 2007 AFC Championship game but I’ll leave that alone. All week, the Steelers heard how Brady has been killing them the last few seasons and I’m sure they felt vindicated by taking a key win on their home turf. The defensive scheme against the Pats was fantastic, why? Most teams drop into zones and then wonder why Brady surgically exploits the soft spots but the Steelers matched them by using true man-defense to eliminate the big play – and holes within the coverage. Hats off to the Steelers – a club TOO many thought was too “old.” Yeah ok!
Now that we’ve arrived at the halfway point of the season, we’re starting to gain some clarity on what franchises are viable (or not) and we can begin to separate the fat since we’ve had a good sampling of games to go on. I used these categories in my Week 4 Overview and we’ll look at them again: Playing For The 2012 Draft, I Have No Idea, No Easy Out, Prove It, Good and Playing For The Trophy.
There has been some movement among the categories and I’m still tinkering with the groupings as six seems too many. In my defense, some teams are so difficult to get an accurate pulse on…like the Saints. I had them in the “Playing For the Trophy” grouping and I’m not sure they’re anything more than good (depending who they have to play). A truly elite team does not let a winless one run them over; kudos to the Saints for costing me a win in my pick-league. Jerks!
From the top down:
Playing For The Trophy
Green Bay (7-0), Pittsburgh (6-2), New England (5-2)
At this point it looks like we could – possibly – have a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl (oh yeah) which I would be in favor of. Green Bay is still undefeated, downright scary at times, but teams can move the ball against them (and they have). Aaron Rodgers has been spectacular enough to keep the team on track but someone will bite them because of their defense. Boy, the Steelers have gotten old, right? Ok.
New England has their weaknesses but they are one of the few teams that can actually crash the party. The biggest red flag they have against them is that they generate no pass rush to fear. Compounded by the fact their secondary has seriously regressed (with the exception of Patrick Chung) and it’s no wonder why they haven’t been able to get a playoff victory over the last 4 years.
Baltimore (5-2), Detroit (6-2), NY Giants (5-2), Tampa Bay (4-3), New Orleans (5-3), Philadelphia (3-4), San Francisco (6-1), Buffalo (5-2)
I sincerely wanted to move Baltimore to “No Idea” status because Joe Flacco has been so uncharacteristically inconsistent (You like that, right? Wordplay.). The defensive unit alone can win a Super Bowl but I truly feel that Flacco will be their undoing. Honestly, the defense is title-worthy and if their offense can catch up to the pace and aggressiveness of the other side of the ball – it won’t surprise me to see them have the confetti shower.
Buffalo, Detroit, and San Francisco have convinced me that they are good. Of course the rest of the season will tell the true story to what degree they happen to be competitive but I believe all these teams will be in the playoffs – or in the hunt until the final week of the season. A lot of people were looking to Detroit to rise up…and boy have they!
Did you see the Giants play the Dolphins? How hard are the Dolphins playing? Hard enough that they want no part of the Luck strategy; they complete at a high level but they are still losing games that they’ve controlled for a good portion of the contest. The Giants, seriously, almost lost me another game in my league. Jeez!
Houston (5-3), Tennessee (4-3), Kansas City (4-3), Cincinnati (5-2)
I really do respect the Bengals and we’ll see how good they really are after their next four games are in the books (@TENN, host PITT, @ BAL, host CLE) and then they can get a detailed look from yours truly. I’m still not sold on Houston, even though it seems they’ll fall asleep and still win the division. Kansas City is coming on strong and I feel they will matter over the next few weeks…but only time will tell.
No Easy Out
Oakland (4-3), Carolina (2-6), Cleveland (3-4)
Cleveland inspires nothing but sleep for me, Oakland now has Carson Palmer (whatever that means), and Carolina is still finding ways to lose (but they scare the hell out of everyone they play).
I Have No Idea, Well…
Atlanta (4-3), Dallas (3-4), Chicago (4-3), Washington (3-4), San Diego (4-3), NY Jets (4-3)
The Jets and Chargers are new to this division as they suffer the same Jekyll and Hyde syndrome that the Cowboys go through annually. I think Chicago is getting better (as long as they keep the short-strike passing attack and feature Forte) and could very well play themselves into the postseason. I could also see them imploding…like every other team here. Atlanta seems to be trending upward but we’ll see how they fare once the third quarter of the season is upon us.
Playing For The 2012 Draft
Minnesota (2-6), Miami (0-7), St.Louis (1-6), Indianapolis (0-8), Denver (2-5), Jacksonville (2-6), Seattle (2-5), Arizona (1-6)
There isn’t much to say here because these teams are bad. They smell so trashy that KC got their act together, fought to tie for the AFC West lead and left this group in their stew of filth. In spite of all their major injuries (Charles, Berry, Moeaki) they’ve rattled off four consecutive victories (turning a lot of heads in the process).
Miami is just finding ways to shoot themselves in the foot. They had Denver beat by 15 last week (and lost) and jumped out on a bored Giants team (and lost); they’re playing too hard to have zero victories at this point but you are what your record says.
Denver got pummeled 45-10 so there is nothing more to say about that or them. Arizona is bad, ditto for the rest of this division. Ponder seems to have breathed life into the Vikings – at the expense of Mr. McNabb.
With all the drooling over Andrew Luck I find it weird that no one has really been a detractor of the Stanford QB. He’s good but what if he turns out to be Matt Leinart? I’m not sure I’ve heard any analyst critique him in a negative fashion. Has anyone?
I will return next week and look into a new format for how I detail the games, at least that’s the plan. I think.
Photo: Phillip Rivers; thegirllovessports.blogspot.com