Today, we continue our offseason preview of every team in the NFL one division at a time with the NFC South, a division that sent two teams to the postseason last year. Let’s check out the offseason needs of the four teams in the NFC South.
Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons are coming off a disappointing season, but they lost a lot of close games and struggled mainly because of injuries, so with a positive offseason they can become a contender once again in 2014. Offensively, they have the quarterback and receivers that can win games when everyone’s healthy, but they need to make significant improvements to their offensive line. They don’t necessarily need to use their first round pick on a lineman, but they may need to bring in three or four new starters up front, and that needs to be their biggest priority this offseason. Defensively, the Falcons also need help at the line of scrimmage. The best-case scenario for Atlanta would be to get a young pass rusher early in the draft and then try to bring in a couple of interior linemen later in the draft or through free agency. If they address their needs along the line of scrimmage early in the draft, they could stand to get younger at running back and tight end later in the draft.
Carolina Panthers – The Panthers won the NFC South in 2013 on the back of a top-flight defense, and their top priority this offseason is to keep that defense in tact as best they can. Carolina needs to re-sign Greg Hardy, even if it means putting the franchise tag on him. The Panthers also have a few free agents in their secondary, and they’ll need to re-sign those players unless they have a specific plan on how to replace them. On offense, they’ll have to make a decision on whether or not to re-sign tight end Greg Olson. They should also look for a place in the draft where they can pick up a wide receiver, possibly two, as Steve Smith may not have much left in the tank. The Panthers could also look to reinforce their offensive line and perhaps look to upgrade their backup quarterback.
New Orleans Saints – The Saints have plenty of key players entering free agency this year, and they’ve already had to cut a few players to save cap space, so they should have a challenging offseason ahead of them. The biggest question is the status of Jimmy Graham and whether they’ll be able to sign him to a long-term deal or have to use the franchise tag on him. Elsewhere, the team has already cut Jabari Greer and Roman Harper, while Malcom Jenkins is entering free agency, which means there are a lot of empty spots in the New Orleans secondary alongside Kenny Vaccaro, and the Saints need to make filling those spots a priority if they’re going to remain one of the top passing defenses in the league. The Saints will also need to add help at linebacker, and could utilize an early-round draft pick at that position. Offensively, there are a couple of starters on the offensive line entering free agency that New Orleans may want to re-sign if they have the cap space, but the rest of the offense looks to be in good shape, assuming Graham is back with the team one way or another.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – With Lovie Smith being the new head coach and Leslie Frazier the new defensive coordinator, expect that side of the ball to be Tampa’s focus this offseason. The top priority for the Bucs should be to find an impact pass rusher; the talent in the secondary isn’t an issue, but that unit could be even better if Tampa get put a lot more pressure on the quarterback, so the Bucs could be looking for a defensive end early in the draft. Tampa Bay will also be looking for a middle linebacker in the first two rounds of the draft that can lead that unit into the future much like Luke Kuechly is doing for division rival Carolina. On offense, the Bucs will probably wait a year until they decide if they want to move forward with Mike Glennon as their quarterback, but they do need to make sure that their offensive line is in good shape heading into 2014, and if possible they may try to add a wide receiver or tight end to help put Glennon in position to have success in 2014.
NFL Week 17 Preview: Panthers-Falcons, Ravens-Bengals, Jets-Dolphins, Browns-Steelers, Eagles-Cowboys and More
Well, it all comes down to this. With one week left in the NFL season, there have already been eight teams that have clinched a playoff spot, but that means there are still four spots available, while all four divisions in the NFC are still undecided, as well as the home-field advantage in both conferences. Let’s take a closer look at the games on the week 17 schedule that have postseason post-season implications:
Carolina at Atlanta – With a win the Panthers can clinch the NFC South title, secure a first-round bye, and possibly get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if Seattle loses. However, Atlanta has not been a pushover late in the season, especially at home, so despite the disparity in their records, it won’t be an automatic win for Carolina. The Falcons are the worst rushing team in the league, but if they can get Steven Jackson going, they’ll have a chance to keep the game close and put some pressure on Carolina, who is one of the best teams in the NFC, but they’re also a team that hasn’t had to handle success before this season, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Panthers play with a lot on the line.
Baltimore at Cincinnati – The Bengals have a chance to earn a first round bye with a win and a New England loss, which would give their postseason hopes a huge boost. They’d also like to avenge an earlier loss to the Ravens, and at home they should be expected to win. As for the Ravens, there are a lot of scenarios that will get them into the postseason, but most require them winning, and there’s no way they’ll win if they play like they did last week. The Baltimore offense needs to get its act together and not put the defense in a bad situation like they did last week, as it’ll be tough to keep the Cincinnati offense out of the end zone for four quarters.
Jacksonville at Indianapolis – A lot needs to happen for the Colts to get a first round bye, but after some unsavory play during the latter part of the season, it’d be nice to enter the playoffs on a three-game winning streak, so they need to secure a win even if there’s nothing to gain in the standings. The Jaguars have shown that they can stay competitive with good teams, so the Colts need to take them seriously or else they could struggle to come away with the win. Andrew Luck and the offense should be fine, but the key for Indy is their defense, which has only given up 10 points over the past two weeks, and needs to keep that going with the postseason approaching.
New York Jets at Miami – The Dolphins will need some help to get the playoffs, but they’ll also have to win, which isn’t a certainly after the way they played last week against the Bills. Miami dominated the Jets less than a month ago, but Gang Green has played better since that game and started to find their stride offensively, which could be a concern for a Miami defense that doesn’t exactly shut down opponents on a regular basis. This game could come down to Ryan Tannehill’s health and his effectiveness after a disastrous game last week. Look for Rex Ryan’s team to come out loose and excited to play spoiler, and if the Dolphins come out tight, they could be in trouble.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh – The Steelers will need a lot of help this week, but getting a win shouldn’t be much of an issue against a Cleveland team that has lost six in a row. Pittsburgh has looked the part of a playoff team down the stretch, and even if the Browns come to play and compete, the Steelers should be able to find a way to win at home.
Green Bay at Chicago – It’s as simply as it gets in the NFC North, the winner of this game goes to the playoffs and the loser stays home. The Packers have somehow held on long enough to get Aaron Rodgers back on the field. Rodgers may be a bit rusty, but he’ll be facing a Chicago defense that was humiliated last week against Philadelphia with a chance to clinch the division. Of course, the Chicago offense is capable of putting points on the board as well, so this game could come down to how sharp Rodgers is in his return and which offense can be more effective.
Denver at Oakland – Even with the loss of Von Miller and a slew of other injuries, the Broncos should be able to handle the Raiders and secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It’s a rivalry game, so Oakland will be ready to play and hoping to play spoiler against Denver, but Peyton Manning won’t let his team lose focus this late in the season, especially since a loss could mean a return trip to New England, which is the last thing the Broncos want.
Buffalo at New England – The Bills almost pulled out the win when these teams met back in week 1, so perhaps they’re ready to surprise the Patriots on the road, especially after an impressive shutout of the Dolphins last week. Buffalo doesn’t have an offense that can keep up if the Patriots get rolling, but they have a defensive line that can put a lot of pressure on Tom Brady and slow down the New England offense, would could keep the game low scoring and give them a chance to win.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans – A win and the Saints are in the postseason; it’s as simple as that. However, New Orleans has lost three of their last four games, and the Bucs are just good enough to make things difficult for them, especially after the Saints barely survived a 16-14 game with Tampa in week 2. The Tampa offense has sputtered in recent weeks, which will make it tough to win on the road, but if they can put pressure on Drew Brees and slow down the New Orleans offense, they’ll give themselves a fighting chance.
San Francisco at Arizona – The defending NFC champs can rest easy knowing they’re in the playoffs, but there’ll be nothing easy about a trip to Arizona, especially with the Cardinals riding high from their win in Seattle last week and knowing that they need to win to give themselves a chance to reach the postseason. The Cardinals have the top rushing defense in the NFL, so if they can slow down the San Francisco running game it’ll put more pressure on Colin Kaepernick to move the ball with his arm, which isn’t necessarily what the 49ers want. Of course, Arizona will also have to move the ball and score points, while avoiding four turnovers like they had last week.
Kansas City at San Diego – The Chargers need a win and some help to get into the playoffs, but they should feel good after winning four of their last five games, including a road win over the Chiefs. Meanwhile, Kansas City knows they’ll be playing a road playoff game next week, and they also know that they need to get their act together, as the only teams they’ve beaten in the last six weeks and Washington and Oakland. The Chiefs are no longer dominant on defense, which will make it difficult to stop Phillip Rivers and win this game. This should be a good practice game for next week, but if the Chiefs can’t rediscover their incredible pass rush from earlier in the season, they’ll not only have trouble beating San Diego, but they’ll also enter the playoffs on a downward spiral and void of confidence.
St. Louis at Seattle – The Seahawks need to shake off a home loss from last week and get ready for a St. Louis team that has proven they can go toe to toe with some top teams. Seattle is in fine shape on defense, but their offense has had some trouble in previous weeks, which could cause problems against a great Rams pass rush. St. Louis doesn’t have anything to play for except trying to finish the season at .500, but is the Seahawks lose it could cost them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and possibly the division, which could take them from being the NFC favorite to a team that needs three road wins to get to the Super Bowl, so it’s imperative that Seattle finds a way to win this game.
Philadelphia at Dallas – The winner goes to the playoffs while the loser goes home, just the way it should be in the NFL regular season finale. All the focus has been on the health of Tony Romo, but ultimately this game will be decided by whether or not the Dallas defense can slow down the Philadelphia offense, which has looked close to unstoppable in recent weeks. The Cowboys have been deplorable on defense the second half of the season, and it won’t matter who’s playing quarterback or what their offense does if they can’t find a way to get stops, or at least force turnovers, which has been tough for any defense to do against Nick Foles this season. If Dallas expects to make the playoffs, their defense will have to make some kind of positive contribution, or else the Eagles and their high-powered offense will soar into the postseason.
NFL Week 15 Preview: Redskins-Falcons, Bears-Browns, Patriots-Dolphins, Packers-Cowboys, Bengals-Steelers
We’re getting down to the nitty gritty with just three weeks left to play, and the playoff picture in both conferences is still far from decided. Things are bound to start taking shape after this weekend’s games, so let’s take a closer look at the week 15 schedule:
Washington at Atlanta – This game is meaningless playoffs wise, but it does have draft order significance, although the Redskins won’t have their first round pick anyway. Kirk Cousins is taking over at quarterback, so it’ll be interesting to see if he moves the ball any better than Robert Griffin III did. Of course, Cousins will have little affect on Washington’s defense, which will have to stop an Atlanta offense that is capable of scoring points against a weak defense.
Chicago at Cleveland – The Browns let one slip away last week, but they’ll have another chance to play spoiler this week, as the Bears can’t afford to lose another game the rest of the season. Chicago was lightning in a bottle offensively Monday night, but that won’t be so easy against a tough Cleveland defense. Despite winning one game in the past two months, the Browns have a solid defense, and with Jason Campbell at quarterback, Cleveland’s offense is capable of scoring points against a questionable Chicago defense, which means a win is far from a certainty for the Bears, whose defense needs to play with a sense of urgency on the road in order to win.
Houston at Indianapolis – The Colts have already locked up the division, but they need to start playing better down the stretch or their postseason will be brief and disappointing, and this is a game the Colts should be able to win in order to get back on track. As for the Texans, they are still riding an 11-game losing streak, but they’ve lost plenty of close games during that stretch and looked better with Matt Schaub back at quarterback last week, so this is a game they can steal if Indianapolis continues to struggle and doesn’t play a complete game.
New England at Miami – The Patriots are lucky to have won the last two weeks, and they won’t have much margin for error this week down in Miami against a team that needs to win to stay in the playoff hunt. Despite some deficiencies, the Dolphins are playing good football and always put themselves in position to win in the 4th quarter; Ryan Tannehill and company need to make sure they’re the ones making the game-winning plays late, especially against a team that has a history of making key plays when it matters the most. Miami is tied with Baltimore for the last playoff spot, but the Ravens own the tiebreaker between the two teams, so there is no margin for error down the stretch for the Dolphins, as they have to finish ahead of Baltimore to make the postseason, and that’ll be tough to do if they lose this game.
Philadelphia at Minnesota – The Eagles are really rolling right now, and their offense should be tough to stop inside a dome, where there’s no chance of the weather becoming a factor. The Vikings are a little better than their record indicates, and they’ll put up a fight against a contending team, but if Adrian Peterson doesn’t play, or isn’t 100%, it’ll be difficult to keep up with Philadelphia’s offense.
Seattle at New York Giants – The Giants put up a fight after starting the season 0-6, but after their performance last week in San Diego it looks like their season is over. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are comfortably in first place, but they won’t be happy about last week’s loss, which means they’ll be motivated to play on the road, whereas the Giants may have resigned themselves to just playing out the season.
San Francisco at Tampa Bay – The 49ers made a statement by beating Seattle last week, but their playoff spot is not yet secure, so they need to bring that same intensity with them to Tampa Bay. We know the Bucs are going to play hard, and they’re just good enough to take advantage of teams that aren’t at the top of their game, especially on defense. The San Francisco offense needs to do a better job of finishing drives in the end zone than they did last week, because if they don’t the Bucs will hang around and have a chance to pull off the upset.
Buffalo at Jacksonville – Nothing much to see here, although the recent resurgence by Jacksonville is a pleasant surprise for a team that some had pegged as a one or two win team this season. The Bills embarrassed themselves last week in Tampa, and they need to avoid repeating that this week and at least play with some pride.
Kansas City at Oakland – There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned AFC West rivalry. The Raiders are out of contention, but they’re going to play hard and look to knock off the Chiefs on their way to the postseason. If the Oakland offense can get it going like they have the past couple of weeks, this game could get interesting, although the Chiefs can lock in a postseason birth with a win, so they won’t be taking the Raiders lightly, while also hoping that their recent offensive surge will continue.
New York Jets at Carolina – The Panthers had a rough time last Sunday night and they need to respond well this week or speculation will start to grow that they peaked too early. Of course, the Jets may be the best team for them to play right now. New York had a nice game offensively last week against Oakland, but that’ll be tough to repeat against Carolina’s defense. As long as the Panther’s defense gets back on track, winning shouldn’t be an issue and they can go back to setting their sights on the postseason.
Green Bay at Dallas – It doesn’t look like Aaron Rodgers will play in this one, but that doesn’t mean the Packers won’t be able to score against the Dallas defense, which was atrocious Monday night and now has a short week to prepare for the Packers. If Green Bay can establish their running game early, it could soften up the Cowboy’s back-seven and create some space in the secondary for Matt Flynn to get the ball downfield. If the Packers are anywhere close to as efficient on offense against Dallas as the Bears were Monday night, once again all the pressure will be on Tony Romo and the offense, which is not where Dallas wants to be. The Cowboys can score on offense, but it won’t matter unless their defense can get some stops.
Arizona at Tennessee – This could be a tricky game for the Cardinals, but with Seattle and San Francisco on the schedule the final two weeks, it’s a game they need to win. Arizona has built up a lot of momentum over the past month and a half, and they need to keep that going into the final three weeks. In this game, the Cardinals need to start fast and take an early lead. The Titans would like to win and play spoiler, but if Arizona gets up early, it’ll be easier to take care of business against a team that’s just 2-4 at home this season.
New Orleans at St. Louis – The Saints were quite impressive last week at home against the Panthers, but now it’s time to show everybody that they can just as impressive on the road. The Rams haven’t looked all that threatening the past couple of weeks, but they’re capable of pulling of a surprise, so the Saints need to make sure they’re crisp and efficient on offense by controlling the St. Louis pass rush, which could pose some problems for the Saints. For now, New Orleans has a strong hold on the NFC South, but a loss in St. Louis could cause some problems for them heading into their road trip to Carolina next week.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh – A couple of close losses the past two weeks have all but ended Pittsburgh’s postseason hopes, but they’ve playing much better than they were early in the season, and they’ll have a chance to knock off the Bengals at home Sunday night. The Steelers are going to have to clamp down defensively and force Andy Dalton into making bad decisions and bad throws because playing from behind against the Cincinnati defense will be a difficult task for them. If the game stays low scoring, the Steelers will have a good chance of winning, but if Dalton plays mistake free football the Bengals should score plenty of points, making it hard for the Steelers to keep up.
NFL Week 14 Preview: Colts-Bengals, Falcons-Packers, Raiders-Jets, Lions-Eagles, Chiefs-Redskins and More
We’ve made it to December, and that means just four weeks left in the NFL regular season. There is plenty left to be decided concerning the playoffs, so let’s take a closer look at all the games on the week 14 schedule:
Indianapolis at Cincinnati – Both these teams are heading to the playoffs, although they probably won’t meet unless both get to the AFC Championship Game. As bad as the Colts have been over the past month, they will clinch the AFC South with a win, although if Indy doesn’t get better performances out of their defense and running game, Andrew Luck is going to have a lot of heavy lifting to do against a good Cincinnati defense. Meanwhile, the Bengals have been in a lot of close games and are battle tested; in fact, they’re two overtime losses away from an eight-game winning streak, so they’re actually playing quite well coming into this game. Even if Andy Dalton isn’t at the top of his game, the Bengals have a lot of playmakers that will be tough for a questionable Colts defense to stop.
Atlanta at Green Bay – The status of Aaron Rodgers is still up in the air, but even without Rodgers, the Packers should be able to move the ball against Atlanta’s defense. Green Bay has a sliver of postseason hope left, but they can’t afford to lose at home to the Falcons, who are still playing for pride. The Packers will need to show a sense of urgency to secure their first win in over a month, even against the 3-9 Falcons.
Cleveland at New England – The Patriots almost let one slip away last week, and they need to make sure that doesn’t happen again this week against another inferior team, especially with New England still chasing Denver for the top seed in the AFC. The Browns shouldn’t be able to hang with the Patriots in Foxboro, unless the Patriots let them.
Oakland at New York Jets – Expect this one to be ugly. The Jets are good enough on defense to shut down the Raiders, but they’re also terrible on offense and shouldn’t be expected to score many points. Whichever team can make fewer mistakes and commit fewer penalties, a steep challenge for both sides, will have the advantage in this game.
Detroit at Philadelphia – This game has major playoff implications, with the Lions trying to create some distance in their division and the Eagles locked in a tie with the Cowboys in their division. The Philadelphia defense has shown signs of improvement lately, but playing Detroit will be a true test of how good they are. If the Eagles are truly better on defense than most people think, they should be able to slow down Detroit’s offense enough to win this game, because the Lions may not be able to stop Nick Foles and the Eagles on offense. However, if Detroit’s offense gets rolling as well, this one could go back and forth and become a shootout between Foles and Matthew Stafford.
Miami at Pittsburgh – This game is critical in the AFC wildcard race, as the Steelers are still alive, but only if they win this game. Pittsburgh won three straight before losing on Thanksgiving, and if they can get their offense rolling again, they could have the advantage in this game, especially at home. The Dolphins will need Ryan Tannehill to step up his game and lead them to victory in a tough road environment against a defense that can be tough to go against; otherwise, Miami’s playoff hopes could start to slip.
Buffalo at Tampa Bay – The Bills need to win out to have any hope of reaching the postseason, although it’s not impossible, considering their remaining schedule. Doug Marrone had Greg Schiano’s number when the two faced each other as head coaches in college, so the Bills should have an advantage in that department, although most coaches have had Schiano’s number the past couple of seasons. If Buffalo can avoid costly turnovers, they have a good chance to win on the road.
Kansas City at Washington – The last thing the Redskins need right now is to see a Chief’s team that is angry after losing three straight. Of course, Washington is at home and the Kansas City defense isn’t quite as intimidating as they were earlier in the season, so there is some hope for them. If RG3 can avoid Kansas City’s great pass rush, the Redskins should be able to score some points and have a chance to win. However, if the Chiefs get after RG3, a disastrous year in Washington will continue.
Minnesota at Baltimore – The Ravens have moved toward the front of the AFC wildcard race, but even at home the Vikings can be a tricky team to face. Baltimore has one of the top rush defenses in the NFL, but those stats go out the window when facing Adrian Peterson. If Baltimore can stuff the run, they should win easily, but if they can’t, it’ll be up to Joe Flacco to give the Ravens their third straight win.
Tennessee at Denver – The Broncos are rolling again after last week’s win in Kansas City, and they should be able to win again this week, officially end any hope the Titans have of making the playoffs. It will be nice to see John Fox back on the sidelines for the Broncos, and interesting to see how the team to reacts to having their head coach back, as they have four weeks left to come together and prepare themselves for a deep postseason run.
St. Louis at Arizona – The Cardinals need to avenge a week 1 loss to the Rams if they’re going to remain in the playoff hunt. Three turnovers doomed Arizona last week, and that’s something that can’t repeat itself this week against a St. Louis defense that can pressure quarterbacks and force turnovers. The Rams are also a little more dangerous offensively than they were in week 1 with two solid running backs and Tavon Austin starting to breakout, so the Cardinals will have their work cut out for them at home against a team that has the potential to play spoiler down the stretch.
New York Giants at San Diego – The playoff hopes for both teams are bleak and both will need to win out to have a chance, so both teams should have a lot of urgency to win. Outside of that, the matchup of Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers is always an interesting one, as the two were traded for one another on draft day about a decade ago. Whichever team gets better play out of their quarterback should win the game.
Seattle at San Francisco – The Seahawks crushed the 49ers back in week 2, and now San Francisco seeks some redemption against Seattle, who can lock up the division with a win. It’s hard to imagine anybody beating Seattle after what they did to the Saints on Monday night, although the 49ers look much improved in recent weeks and they have a front-7 that may be able to force the Seahawks into throwing the ball to win the game, and Seattle may not have the wide receivers to do that. However, the key to this game is Colin Kaepernick. His slump started when he faced the Seahawks the first time this season, and he’s going to need to make plays with his arm and his legs if the 49ers are going to have a chance to win.
Carolina at New Orleans – This is the game of the week, a Sunday night showdown with the NFC South Division lead on the line. These teams will meet again in two weeks, so this game isn’t the deciding factor in the division race, but it will go a long way. Moreover, the Saints haven’t played great football for the past month, and they are coming off a humiliating loss to the Seahawks Monday night, while the Panthers are riding an eight-game winning streak. However, New Orleans remains undefeated at home this season, so something will have to give. Carolina’s defense has shut down a lot of teams this season, but stopping the Saints in the Super Dome might be their toughest challenge yet, so we’ll see if they’re up to it.
NFL Week 10 Preview: Seahawks-Falcons, Bills-Steelers, Lions-Bears, Bengals-Ravens, Eagles-Packers, Raiders-Giants and More
We’ve officially passed the midway point of the NFL season, and things are starting to take shape, with games getting increasingly important. Let’s take a look at the games on the week 10 schedule:
Seattle at Atlanta – The Seahawks are the top team in the NFC right now, record wise at least, but they’ve played with fire the past two weeks, and definitely have some flaws that can be exploited. However, Atlanta may not be the kind of team that can exploit those flaws, as the Falcons continue to spiral, losing five of their last six games. Matt Ryan is having a good season, even without getting a lot of help from his top two receivers, but this week he’ll face one of the stingiest pass defenses in the NFL. If Seattle’s offense gets going, this game could be over early, as Ryan will have trouble facing Seattle’s defense playing from behind, but if Atlanta’s defense can play well, the Falcons will have a chance to knock off the struggling Seahawks.
Buffalo at Pittsburgh – E.J. Manuel returns this week, hoping to provide a second-half spark for the Bills, who had inconsistent quarterback play during his absence that kept them from staying in contention in the AFC East. If Manuel can move the ball, Buffalo should like its chances of getting a road win, as their defensive line should have no trouble having its way with a weak Pittsburgh offensive line, which will make it hard for Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense to score points. However, if Manuel shows some rust, this could turn into a low-scoring field goal game.
Detroit at Chicago – With the Packers in trouble without Aaron Rodgers, the winner of this game will be in control of the NFC North, making it of vital importance, especially for the Bears, who lost to Detroit earlier in the season. Jay Cutler is expected to return, which should help the Bears, but the real key to this game will be Chicago’s defense, which allowed the Lions to score 30 points in the first half alone back in week 4. Playing at home with Cutler returning, the Bears could have a slight edge, but only if they don’t put themselves in a hole early in the game. Of course, the Lions have had an extra week to prepare, while Chicago has had a short week, so Detroit could have an edge there. Expect this to be a 4th quarter game with the last team to have the ball having a chance to win late.
Cincinnati at Baltimore – It’s now or never for the defending champs. If the Ravens don’t win this game, the road back to the playoffs will be too difficult to traverse. Baltimore still can’t run the ball, and if that continues, the Cincinnati defensive line will be able to put a lot of pressure on Joe Flacco and cause all sorts of problems for the Raven’s quarterback, who isn’t getting enough support. The Bengals should be able to bounce back quickly from their overtime loss in Miami last week, and unless Andy Dalton struggles again, Cincinnati should be able to score points against Baltimore’s defense, which will make it difficult for Flacco and company to keep up, even at home.
Philadelphia at Green Bay – This should be an interesting matchup; Seneca Wallace will have a full week to practice, but he still doesn’t have a full stable of receivers to throw to. Instead, the Packers will try to pound the ball on the ground with rookie Eddie Lacy, and how the Eagles fair stopping the run could go a long way to determining which team has the advantage. Philadelphia’s offense was firing on all cylinders last week, and if that carries over it’ll pose a stiff challenge for the Green Bay defense, who needs to do its best to keep the game low scoring in support of a backup quarterback.
Jacksonville at Tennessee – Despite winning last week against the Rams, Jake Locker didn’t look sharp in his return from injury, throwing two interceptions. However, things should be easier for Locker this week against Jacksonville’s defense, as this is a good opportunity for Locker to get back on track and play the way he was early in the season.
St. Louis at Indianapolis – The Colts came out sluggish last week, which is a trend they’d like to avoid, beginning this week against the Rams. St. Louis is in the midst of their second three-game losing streak of the season, but they may have found something in the running game with Zac Stacy, who will be key for them this week against a weak Indianapolis run defense. On the other side of the ball, the Colts are hoping that T.Y. Hilton can continue to step up in the absence of Reggie Wayne. If the Colts struggle throwing the ball the way they did in the first half last week, St. Louis has a pass rush that can really make things difficult for them, and make this game closer than most think it’s going to be.
Oakland at New York Giants – If there’s any hope for the Giants to make a move in the NFC East, they need to win this game. They’d also like to play well and get their offense going after settling for five field goals in their last game, but a win anyway they can get it keeps them in contention. Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor won’t threaten New York’s secondary much, but he could give the front-seven headaches if they can’t contain him. The Giants have played well on defense the past two games, and that needs to continue, as they won’t want to put their offense in a tough position against a Raider’s defense that has hung tough this year.
Carolina at San Francisco – This could be the game of the week, as the Panthers try to prove that they’re a contender in the NFC. The Panthers have won four in a row, but all five of their wins this year are against teams with three or fewer wins. Cam Newton has made incredible strides over the past month, but he hasn’t faced a defense this good season week 1 when Carolina scored just seven points against the Seahawks. Of course, Carolina’s defense has been a big reason for the team’s success, and unless Colin Kaepernick can become a bigger threat throwing the ball, the Panther’s defense should be able to keep the game close and at least give Newton and the offense a chance.
Denver at San Diego – The Chargers need a win in order to stay in contention and they also need to make a statement following last week’s disappointing loss in Washington. San Diego’s defense has been able to contain some quality offenses this season, holding the Colts to just nine points and Dallas to a mere 21 points, but Peyton Manning and the Denver offense are in a league of their own, and could prove to be too much for San Diego to handle. The Chargers are going to need a big game from Phillip Rivers if they’re going to have a chance to take down the Broncos, and Rivers will undoubtedly be looking to redeem himself after his poor performances he had against the Broncos last season, turning the ball over nine times in two games: a performance that can’t be repeated.
Houston at Arizona – The Texans are reeling after a terrible collapse last week on the heels of their coach going down with a serious health issue, and they really need a win to lift their spirits, even if making the postseason is a stretch at this point. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are holding out hope for a postseason run with a strong second half, and this is not a game they can afford to lose if that’s going to happen. There are two key matchups to watch in this game. First, Arizona has good skill players on the outside that can move the ball through the air, but the Texans possess the top pass defense in the NFL and a pass rush that can get after Carson Palmer. Second, the Cardinals have a stout run defense while Houston relies on their running backs to ignite their offense. Whichever team can get the better of these two matchups will win the game.
Dallas at New Orleans – On paper, this game looks like it could have some offensive fireworks. New Orleans struggled on offense last week against a Jets front-seven that was putting pressure on Drew Brees, but that shouldn’t be much of an issue against the Cowboys, even if DeMarcus Ware returns to the lineup. If that’s the case, this game should come down to the Dallas offense scoring points against the New Orleans defense and winning in a shootout. But if the Cowboys can’t find more balance in their offense and look at least somewhat threatening running the ball, they could have a tough time against Rob Ryan’s defense.
Miami at Tampa Bay – Distractions are rampant on both sidelines, as the Dolphins are the center of attention in the league for all the wrong reasons, while the Bucs continue to deal with being winless and head coach Greg Schiano being on the hot seat. Whichever team can do a better job of shutting out the distractions and focusing on the game will have the advantage, although the game has a lot more importance for the Dolphins if they’re going to stay in the playoff hunt, as a loss to the Bucs amidst this scandal could spell doom for their season.
What a wild week 7 we just witnessed. Let’s try to recap the week that was and try to make sense of everything with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Matt Ryan – No Julio Jones, no Roddy White, and no Steven Jackson is apparently no problem for Ryan, even against a quality Tampa Bay defense. Ryan was able to lean on Harry Douglas and Jacquizz Rodgers, and ended up completing 20 of 26 passes, including three touchdowns. The Falcons really needed Ryan to step up and lead the team, and he did just that, keeping Atlanta’s season alive, at least for now.
Robert Griffin III – He looks a little better every week and seems to be working his way back to the form he had last year. RG3 threw for nearly 300 yards and ran for another 84 on the ground. He got a lot of help from Alfred Morris and Jordan Reed, but he helped lead Washington’s offense to five touchdowns, including the game winner with less than a minute to play, in a game the Redskins had to win.
Kansas City’s Defense – The Chiefs continue to roll, as they move to 7-0 on the season because of the continued domination of their defense. Yes, they were going up against an undrafted rookie at quarterback and Arian Foster only had four carries before being knocked out with an injury, but Kansas City’s defense did well to hold onto a slim lead in the 4th quarter, ultimately forcing a turnover that sealed the game.
Andrew Luck – All the talk in Indianapolis this week was about Peyton Manning, but Luck stole the show for much of the night. His numbers weren’t as gaudy as Manning’s but he threw three touchdowns without turning the ball over, while also making some plays with his feet. Luck’s team ended up winning, in part because he was the better quarterback for much of the night.
Defensive touchdowns – Tampa Bay, Miami, New England, St. Louis, Chicago, and the Jets all allowed their opponents to score a defensive touchdown, most coming early in the game, giving them a hole to climb out of. Not so coincidentally, all of those teams lost, except the Jets, who benefited from the Patriots also giving away points with a turnover. Most of those points scored by the defenses could have been avoided, and most ended up being the difference between winning and losing.
New England’s ball control – The Patriots did all of their damage early, but sputtered in the second half, which includes allowing the Jets to possess the ball twice as long as they did. Including overtime, New England had the ball for just 23 minutes, while the Jets had it for 46 minutes. The Jets didn’t break out too many big plays in the running game, but they pounded the Patriots on the ground and kept the ball away from Tom Brady, allowing them to hold New England to just six points in the second half and pull out the win in overtime.
Cleveland’s offense – Things have gone downhill for the Browns since Brian Hoyer went down with an injury, as Brandon Weeden has regained his starting spot, but he’s continued to struggle the way he did the first few weeks of the season. Weeden only managed to complete 17 of his 42 passes for a mere 149 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Packers. Cleveland won three in a row after trading Trent Richardson, but now their running game isn’t looking so good and it’s becoming obvious that the Browns are missing the player who was their best offensive playmaker. Gaining just 216 total yards, which is all they managed against Green Bay, isn’t going to cut it against anybody.
Penalty on New England’s Chris Jones – If you’ve never seen that rule before, you’re probably not along, but Jones did commit a penalty, and it ended up costing the Patriots the game. Instead of a short field for Tom Brady, the Jets got a first down within range to kick an easy field goal. It’s not what you expect to lose a game, but the devil is in the details, and Bill Belichick should know that as well as anyone.
Denver’s first three quarters – There’s no shame in losing to a good team on the road, but there is shame, as well as a little concern, in playing the way Denver did for much of the game. Careless turnovers and far too many penalties are what doomed the Broncos and put them in a hole they couldn’t quite crawl out of, and that’s not the way they wanted to lose, especially with a meager pass rush and problematic pass protection also becoming issues for them.
Arizona’s running game – The Cardinals rushed for all of 30 yards Thursday night against Seattle, which is beyond unacceptable. The running back position is a huge issue for them, as it puts all the pressure on Carson Palmer to move the ball. But the offensive line is also to blame, as they couldn’t get a push up front to help the running game, and they also allowed Palmer to get sacked seven times, which made it impossible for them to stay competitive with the Seahawks.
Philadelphia’s offense – Apparently, the Eagles do need Michael Vick, because even against the Cowboy’s suspect defense they couldn’t do anything without him. LeSean McCoy couldn’t get it going on the ground, Nick Foles threw for just 80 yards on 29 pass attempts before leaving with an injury, and rookie Matt Barkley was in way over his head, throwing three interceptions. For the first time in his career as a head coach, Chip Kelly’s team was shutout in a half, and it couldn’t have happened at a worse time, as Philadelphia had a chance at home to move into first place in the NFC East if they could have beat Dallas, but their offense was nowhere to be found, even though the Eagle defense held the Cowboys to just 17 points.
Ryan Tannehill’s turnovers – Turnovers always hurt, but Tannehill couldn’t have chosen a worse time to commit his against the Bills. First, he spotted Buffalo seven points with a pick-six on the game’s opening drive. Later in the 1st quarter, he threw another interception in the red zone. Finally, he fumbled the ball late in the 4th quarter when the Dolphins had the lead and were trying to close out the game, putting Buffalo in position to kick the go-ahead field goal with little time left on the clock. Tannehill has done a lot of good this season, but his turnovers came at the worst possible time on Sunday, causing Miami to lose its third consecutive game.
One of the biggest surprises, not to mention disappointments, of the NFL season to this point has been the Atlanta Falcons. After going to the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, including a trip to the NFC Championship Game last year, the Falcons have dug a big hole for themselves this season with a 1-4 start. But coming out of their bye week, is it possible for Atlanta to get things turned around and get back to the playoffs this year?
Atlanta’s 1-4 start is going to be difficult to come back from, but it’s not as if the Falcons have played poorly this season. They’ve been competitive in every game, but have suffered a string of close losses against quality teams. They lost by six points in New Orleans, who’s arguably the best team in the league, especially at home. They lost by four points in Miami, a team that appears to be on the rise. They lost by a touchdown to a 4-1 New England team and lost by two points to the Jets, who have surprised everybody this year. The Falcons are only a handful of plays away from being at least 3-2, if not 4-1, which makes it plausible that the they could making small improvements and start winning close in order to pull themselves back into contention.
The schedule coming out of the break sets up well for the Falcons to turn things around. They have a home game against Tampa Bay, followed by road trips to Arizona and Carolina. Despite playing two on the road, all three could be wins for Atlanta, as it’s a far easier stretch than their three games leading up to the bye week. If the Falcons can find a way to win all three games, they would be 4-4 and still in contention for a playoff spot. Over the second half of the season, the Falcons would have tough home games against Seattle and New Orleans, as well as difficult road games against Green Bay and San Francisco, but the rest of the schedule is manageable enough to make those games meaningful and at least put them in position to be playing for a spot in the postseason late in the year.
The schedule will give the Falcons the opportunity to turn things around, but whether or not they’ll have the horses to get it going is another issue. The loss of Julio Jones for the rest of the season is a crushing blow, as he’s been one of the best wide receivers in the NFL this season and an integral part of Atlanta’s offense. There is also great concern about the health and productivity of Roddy White, who has just 14 catches this season, as well as running back Steven Jackson, who has missed the past three games due to injury. Without Jones and a healthy White, the Falcons will rely more on Jackson, as well as Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas in the passing game, but they may not be able to take on such big roles in the offense, even with a quarterback of Matt Ryan’s quality throwing the ball.
Defensively, the Falcons need to be a lot better, as they’ve put too much pressure on the offense this season, and they’ve come up short even when the offense has done enough to win. Atlanta has just 11 sacks this season, and outside of Osi Umenyiora, the Falcons struggle to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which is an issue for a team that’s so young at the cornerback position.
What this means is that the Falcons turning their season around hinges on Ryan and Jackson, as well as the defense showing significant improvement. Atlanta needs Jackson to come back healthy and become a workhorse running back that can help them control the ball and shorten games. Without Jones, Atlanta isn’t going to be winning any shootouts, which means they need to win with a strong running game, good defense, and a quarterback that can make his receivers better. That’s the formula the Falcons have to follow in order to get things turned around. Judging by how they’ve played this season, it will be a tall order, but their schedule is favorable and believe it or not, they do have the potential to get things turned around.
2013 NFL Week 3 NFC Power Rankings: Seahawks, Saints, Bears, Falcons, 49ers, Packers, Cowboys and More
There are some major shakeups in the NFC power rankings this week after NFC teams lost six of eight matchups against AFC teams, indicating the conference may not be as deep as we thought. Let’s take a look at how the NFC stacks up heading into week 4.
1. Seattle – Yes, all they did was beat the lowly Jaguars, but there seems to be a growing distance between the Seahawks and everybody else in the NFC. Defensively, they are as tough as can be, and they’ll be almost impossible to beat at home this season. They could be challenged with road games against Houston and Indianapolis the next two weeks, but for now nobody is close to unseating them atop the NFC power rankings.
2. New Orleans – Sean Payton is making a strong case for coach of the year, as the Saints are a totally different team with him around this season. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan deserves a ton of credit as well, as the Saints have allowed a combined 38 points in three games this season, doing so against three teams with talented skill players capable of doing a lot of damage. The schedule really heats up the next three weeks, but New Orleans looks like a strong contender that’s getting the job down on both sides of the ball.
3. Chicago – I’m almost sold on the Bears, but not quite yet. They’re 3-0, but the teams they’ve beat have combined for two wins, and they needed to come from behind in the 4th quarter in two of those wins. That being said, Jay Cutler looks far more comfortable with Marc Trestman than he has with any head coach he’s had before, and he seems to have three or four skill players he’s comfortable throwing the ball to, and not just relying on Brandon Marshall. Going 3-0 is no fluke, but winning next week in Detroit will go a long way towards proving the Bears are for real.
4. Atlanta – There are three teams in the NFC that we thought would be towards the top all season that have instead started the season 1-2, and Atlanta has been the best of the three. The Falcons have their issues, like their running game and their secondary, but losing to New Orleans and Miami on the road by less than a touchdown is nothing to get worked up about. The pressure is on to beat New England next Monday, but as long as they win that game they’ll be fine, as it’s the first of three straight home games they can use to get back on track.
5. San Francisco – The 49ers get a pass for losing in Seattle, but there’s no excuse for losing by 20 points at home, it doesn’t matter how good the Colts may or may not be. It’s not the time to panic because the schedule has been tough, but they’re getting gashed on the ground defensively, and their quarterback doesn’t look all that confident. On top of that, they have the Aldon Smith situation hanging over their head and a short week before playing in St. Louis Thursday night, which means getting things back on the right track won’t be easy.
6. Green Bay – They’ve lost two close games, both on the road, but the Green Bay teams of the past would have found a way to win at least one of those games. Things are slowly falling apart for the Packers, as their offensive line is struggling, their running backs are dropping like flies, and there seems to be a rift between the head coach and the starting quarterback. Outside of Aaron Rodgers, there isn’t a lot that makes the Packers a good team right now, and unless he gets some help soon, there’s only so much Rodgers can do to keep the Packers towards the top of the NFC.
7. Dallas – Hats off to the Cowboys for a convincing win over the Rams this weekend, as they finally got their running game going, which made all the difference in the world. Usually a team that’s 2-1 and whose one loss game by a single point would be higher up, but the Cowboys haven’t beaten a quality opponent just yet and it’s still tough to put them ahead of the teams we thought were good heading into the season but played a tough schedule the first few weeks. Dallas still has plenty left to prove, but at this point they do look like the class of the NFC East, although that’s not saying much.
8. Detroit – Even without the services of Reggie Bush, the Lions managed to put in a good offensive effort this past week, albeit against a terrible Washington defense. Detroit has two wins against 0-3 teams, so let’s not overreact to a promising start, but the Lions look like they’ll be able to be competitive this season, and they’ll have a chance to prove themselves while making a statement within the division when they host the Bears this weekend.
9. Carolina – After what Seattle has done the past two weeks, Carolina’s five-point loss to the Seahawks in week 1 doesn’t look so bad, and the Panthers certainly looked real good against the Giants on Sunday. One convincing win and two close losses is enough to push them slightly ahead the middle of the pack in the NFC, but no one’s buying the Panthers just yet, as they’ll have to play three of their next four games on the road following their bye this week.
10. Blank – There really is no team in the NFC that deserves to round out the top 10 this week. St. Louis and Arizona simply did not show up on Sunday. Everybody’s re-thinking Philadelphia after their old coach completely shut down their high-flying offense. The Giants are terrible. Tampa Bay is a disaster. Washington and Minnesota may actually be the most competitive teams in the group, but neither has a win, so at least for now, the 10th spot stays empty in the NFC power rankings.
We’re just two weeks into the NFL season, and things are still a bit confusing, especially in the stacked NFC. Let’s try to make sense of things with top-10 power rankings from the NFC.
1. Seattle – What a defensive statement the Seahawks made on Sunday night, allowing just three points against the 49ers, who had no problem scoring points the previous week. The offense has a lot of room for improvement, but the Seattle defense has looked virtually impenetrable through the first two weeks, and that makes them the top team in the NFC right now.
2. San Francisco – The 49ers were embarrassed to a certain degree Sunday night in Seattle, but a road loss in prime time to a great team shouldn’t change our perception of San Francisco too much. They may not be pre-eminent leader of the NFC, but even with a poor performance in week 2, there are a lot of reasons to believe they’re still better than just about every other team in the conference.
3. Green Bay – The Packers really flexed their offensive muscle in week 2. Not only did Aaron Rodgers have a career-high in passing yards, but also James Jones had a big game, as did Randall Cobb at the wide receiver position, while James Starks stepped up at running back for the injured Eddie Lacy. Green Bay’s offensive prowess holds them steady at third in the NFC with an interesting match up with the Bengals looming.
4. Atlanta – The Falcons finally took off offensively in week 2, showcasing what we know they’re capable of doing, even with Roddy White hindered by injury. Atlanta allowed St. Louis to get back in the game, but they scored early and often, even scoring a defensive touchdown, and built too big of a lead to let slip away.
5. Chicago – The Bears aren’t the most convincing 2-0 team out there, as they’ve needed to come from behind in the 4th quarter in their first two games, but winning still means something, and so does making plays late in the game, especially when it comes form a guy like Jay Cutler, who’s played well in the clutch the first two weeks of the season.
6. New Orleans – The Saints definitely took a step backwards, despite their win over Tampa Bay. Even against a stout defense, the New Orleans offense should be able to score more than 16 points. However, their defense got shredded on the ground, giving up 144 yards to Doug Martin. Stopping the run could be a problem for them in the weeks to come when they play teams with better quarterbacks than Josh Freeman.
7. Arizona – The Cardinals continue to look better than anybody anticipated. Arizona’s defense only allowed two touchdowns against Detroit’s offense, which is no small feat. It’s also obvious that they an offense capable of putting up big numbers. They could find themselves in a shootout this week when they travel to New Orleans.
8. Detroit – There should definitely be some concern about the health of Reggie Bush; with him the Lions have a frightening offense, but without him they look similar to the team that won four games last season. But despite the loss in Arizona, the Lions do look the part of a team that will stay competitive all season.
9. St. Louis – The Rams put themselves in a big hole early against the Falcons, which is something they need to avoid in the future, but Sam Bradford is off to a good start and they look like they could have one of the best passing attacks in the NFL with the additions of Jared Cook and Tavon Austin. Next week’s game in Dallas will be quite telling for them.
10. Dallas – Despite the loss in Kansas City, the Cowboys crack the top-10, mostly due to the failures of other teams. Losing by one point in Kansas City against a great defense isn’t anything to be ashamed of for Dallas, although they have to get their running game going if they want to be able to take advantage of all the weapons they have in the passing game.
It was another interesting week in the NFL, as we continue to learn about each team. Let’s recap week 2 with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Mario Williams – There was a lot of criticism directed at Williams when he underperformed in Buffalo last year, but on Sunday he recorded a career high 4.5 sacks to help his team to victory. Williams and the Buffalo defense held Carolina to nothing but field goals in the 4th quarter, which kept the Bills within striking distance so that E.J. Manuel could lead the game-winning drive in the final minutes. The Bills don’t win without a great performance by Williams.
Julio Jones – Both Jones and Roddy White were less than 100% health wise heading into Sunday, but Jones was able to play through his ailments and have one of the best games of the weekend by any wide receiver. Jones caught 11 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown, helping the Falcons take a big first half lead that turned out to be insurmountable.
AFC West – This was arguably the worst division in the NFL last year, but they had a great week 2, with all four teams winning, including two wins on the road. San Diego was the most impressive by traveling 3,000 miles and being able to slow down Philadelphia’s offense just enough to eek out a three point win. Both Denver and Kansas City are off to 2-0 starts after their wins against NFC East teams on Sunday, as the Chiefs have already matched last year’s win total. Even the Raiders won, albeit against Jacksonville.
Aaron Rodgers – Rodgers has had some great games, but the 480 yards passing Rodgers had tied a single game franchise record. He was nearly flawless, completing 34 of 42 passes, and nearly unstoppable, as he led the Packers to 31 unanswered points to begin the game. The Packers don’t have the most impressive roster they’ve had in recent years, but Rodgers helps to hide that.
Tennessee’s ability to close – Following a pick-6 by Alterraun Verner with less than five minutes left in the game, the Titans had most of us convinced that they were about to pull of a pretty significant upset, but they couldn’t quite seal the deal. The Titan’s offense failed to run out the clock, which gave the Texans another chance to tie the game, which they did. Tennessee couldn’t run the ball and Jake Locker missed throws he needs to make, putting too much pressure on a defense that had played well for most of the game.
The hit on Malcolm Floyd – The word “ouch” doesn’t do a justice to what Floyd must have felt during the hit that knocked him out of Sunday’s win over the Eagles. It’s the kind of hit that will make anybody cringe, and it took Floyd out of the game after catching five passes for over 100 yards. The good news is that Floyd did accompany the team on their flight home and will hopefully be okay.
Reggie Bush – Bush went from so good to so bad so quickly. He missed a significant chunk of the game with a knee injury and was largely ineffective, touching the ball just 12 times and averaging less than three yards per carry. He suffered a minor thumb injury last week and played through it, but he couldn’t do the same this week. Bush is a dynamic player, but he’s not particularly useful if he’s not healthy, and Bush didn’t look anywhere close to healthy on Sunday before leaving the game for good.
Giants on third down – Going 1 for 11 on third down is just not going to cut it for any team, especially a team that’s given up 77 points over the first two weeks. Denver doesn’t have a great pass rush without Von Miller, and so Eli Manning and the Giants should have been able to convert more of their third down opportunities against the Broncos on Sunday. To make matters worse, Manning threw four interceptions, in part because he was trying to do too much on third down. Another culprit is the running game, which is putting the Giants in third and long situations, and needs to be fixed after two bad weeks.
Jets and Patriots scuffle – Just like last week with the Packers and 49ers, there was an unnecessary scuffle in the NFL in week 2, this time between the Jets and Patriots, although this one was a little more serious. Both Willie Colon and D’Brickashaw Ferguson were ejected for their role in the mêlée, which is inexcusable for two veteran players who should both know better, and now both could be facing suspensions. If this is how the Jets react to one loss, how are they going to react several weeks from now when they’ll undoubtedly have a lot more losses? The Jets will have to either learn how to win or lose with more dignity, because they can’t be starting fights on a regular basis, no matter how frustrated they are.
Philadelphia’s defense – The offense is certainly working for the Eagles, but the defense is getting in the way. There has been a lot of moving parts on Philadelphia’s defense this season, both in scheme and personnel, and it shows. They’ve given up over 50 points in the last six quarters and allowed over 500 yards against San Diego on Sunday. Unless this unit shapes up, the Eagles are going to be in a lot of shootouts this season.
Washington’s first half – For the second straight game, the Redskins were downright terrible in the first half. They faced a 26-7 halftime deficit in week 1 against the Eagles and went down 31-0 midway through the 3rd quarter against the Packers in week 2. In both cases, they turned it around in the second half, but it was too little too late, even after they were the better team in the second half in both games. Whatever the reason, the Redskins have been as bad as can be in the first half this year, and they need to find a solution to that problem, and fast.
Josh Freeman – It was definitely an ugly game on Sunday for Freeman, who completed just nine passes to cap off a terrible week for him, as the rift between him and head coach Greg Schiano grew deeper. Freeman turned the ball over twice and after a 1st quarter touchdown pass he did nothing to help the Bucs win a game that they should have been able to win considering the way their defense shut down New Orleans offensively. Considering the situation between Freeman and Schiano, things could get a lot worse before they get better.