Last week we took a look at the offseason needs for all of the teams in the AFC, and now it’s time to tackle the NFC. We’ll start by taking a look at the offseason needs of the four teams in the NFC East.
Dallas Cowboys – The Dallas defense is going to need a lot of work done this offseason. It starts along the defensive line, as Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer are likely to go elsewhere in free agency, which could force the Cowboys to add defensive linemen early and often during the NFL Draft. Dallas will need at least a couple of interior linemen, and if they get a chance, they’d be wise to add a defensive end that can play opposite DeMarcus Ware. Dallas definitely needs to add depth at linebacker, although if they can find an outside linebacker that can step in and start right away, that would be the best-case scenario. Once the defensive front-seven is addressed, Dallas can always look to add help along the offensive line to help protect Tony Romo, although the offensive line was much improved in 2013.
New York Giant – The Giants started remaking their offensive line last year when they drafted Justin Pugh in the first round, and that rebuilding effort will have to continue this offseason, preferably with a left tackle early in the draft. Elsewhere, New York needs to add at least one top-flight pass rusher, assuming they’re unable to re-sign Justin Tuck. But even if Tuck returns to New York the Giants could use another pass rusher, not to mention a serious upgrade a linebacker, although re-signing Jon Beason would be a good move. The Giants also have to figure things out at the running back position, and while they may be able to make up for the inevitable loss of wide receiver Hakeem Nicks to free agency with Reuben Randle, signing a pass-catching tight end to add to their offensive arsenal would be helpful after Brandon Myers was a huge disappointment in 2013.
Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles will enter the offseason in good shape offensively, although both Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin are free agents, so if they can’t retain both Philadelphia will have to find a way to replace them. On defense, the secondary needs a lot of work after the Eagles had trouble holding onto big leads this past season. It would be great if the Eagles could find an impact player in free agency, if not they’ll have to use their early-round draft picks at either cornerback or safety. If Philadelphia can improve in the secondary through free agency or early in the draft, they should look to add help at linebacker, specifically an outside pass rusher that can put pressure on the quarterback and help protect a questionable secondary.
Washington Redskins – There’s not a whole lot Washington can do offensively in 2014 except hope that Robert Griffin III is healthy and clicks with new head coach Jay Gruden. However, there is a laundry list of areas that need to be addressed on defense. All four starters in the secondary are free agents, and while there are a couple of young players that may be ready to step into starting roles in 2014, that unit is going to need a lot of attention this offseason, and it wouldn’t hurt to find some veterans in free agency rather than rely on rookies coming out of the draft. Washington will also have a lot of vacancies at linebacker, most notably Brian Orakpo, who will be a highly-sought free agent this offseason and could be tough to re-sign. Re-signing Perry Riley should be a priority for them, as he will help solidify the middle linebacker spot, although they’ll have to add players around him if the Washington defense is going to show significant improvement in 2014.
NFL Black Monday: Cowboys, Redskins, Giants, Lions, Bucs, Vikings, Raiders and More to Fire Coaches?
Well, the NFL regular season is over, but before we can turn our focus to the playoffs, we must first endure Black Monday. There were eight new head coaches in the league this year, and there could be just as many teams looking to fill head coaching vacancies for next year. Gary Kubiak has already been let go by the Houston Texans, and there are several other coaches that could also be out of a job by the end of the day, possibly by the end of this sentence. Let’s run down the coaches on the hot seat and look at who will be fired and who deserves to stay:
Jason Garrett, Dallas – Garrett’s fate may have been sealed with Kyle Orton’s interception, although Jerry Jones has previously said that Garrett would be back next season, so there’s no telling what Jones is going to do. Garrett isn’t a bad coach, but the Cowboys have lost out on a chance to go to the playoffs to a division rival on the last week of the season three years in a row, which doesn’t sound like something Jones would be content with, and could push him over the edge towards firing Garrett. Don’t be surprised if Jones takes a few days to think about everything before making his decision regarding Garrett’s future, which is anything but certain right now.
Tom Coughlin, New York Giants – There’s a slight chance that Coughlin walks away willingly and a slight chance he gets fired, and it might be best for all parties if that happens, but the most likely scenario is Coughlin staying in New York and trying to turn things around in 2014. This season will be remembered for the Giants starting out 0-6, but despite inconsistent play from Eli Manning all season, the G-Men played well done the stretch and ended up with a 7-9 record, which isn’t bad at all considering how their season started and how poor their quarterback play was. The strong finish should inspire some confidence in Coughlin’s ability to get things turned around and get the Giants back into the playoffs next year.
Mike Shanahan, Washington – Shanahan may have a couple Super Bowl rings on his hand, and he may have a long history as an excellent head coach, but there’s no way he survives the kind of season the Redskins have had. Washington finished 3-13 and lost their final eight games of the season. More than that, they’ve been a complete mess on and off the field, making it obvious that Shanahan needs to go.
Jim Schwartz, Detroit – A month ago the Lions were a virtual lock to win the NFC North, but under Schwartz Detroit went winless in December and was already out of contention before the start of week 17, which means that now it’s a virtual lock that Schwartz will be fired. With the Lions having such an array of talent on offense and a powerful defensive line, there’s no excuse for not winning a division in which the other three teams were without their starting quarterbacks for a significant chunk of the season, much less finish 7-9. In five seasons, Schwartz led the Lions to a winning record once, with no division titles and no playoff wins; not to mention the Lions are 22 games under .500 over the last five seasons. There’s no way Schwartz will be employed this time tomorrow.
Leslie Frazier, Minnesota – It’s tough to pin Minnesota’s season all on Frazier, considering all the issues at quarterback that the Vikings have had, but he’s had one playoff season sandwiched between two awful seasons, and in an impatient NFL, that’s probably going to be enough to cost him his job. The Vikings haven’t played as bad as their record indicates, and they were 4-3-1 the second half of the season, which could give Frazier some hope to keep his job, but more than likely by Tuesday morning Frazier will be looking for a job as a defensive coordinator and Minnesota will be looking for a new head coach.
Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay – Schiano’s job status could actually go either way, which didn’t seem possible at the midway point of the season when the Bucs were 0-8. However, Schiano has a lot of years and money left on his contract, which could force Tampa Bay to keep him for another season. The Bucs also played well for a stretch this season, winning three in a row and four out of five at one point, and rookie quarterback Mike Glennon did show some promise, so despite a 4-12 record there could be cause to bring Schiano back in 2014. That being said, the Bucs’ play was unacceptable for long stretches of the season, and for a guy with no NFL track record, it’s tough to feel too optimistic about the future in Tampa if Schiano is allowed to stay.
Mike Smith, Atlanta – Smith isn’t likely to be fired, but it wouldn’t be unheard of for someone in his position to be let go after one bad season. The Falcons had high hopes for 2013 after coming one game short of the Super Bowl last year, and obviously they fell well short of those expectations. Injuries did play a significant role in Atlanta’s poor season, but it wasn’t the only reason. Also, don’t forget that Atlanta is just 1-4 in the postseason under Smith and that their window for reaching a Super Bowl could be getting smaller, so it would be shocking but not impossible for Smith to get fired, although by no means did the Falcons roll over at the end of the season, so the locker room remains behind Smith, which is a positive sign.
Joe Philbin, Miami – Philbin is an interesting case. The scandal that rocked Miami through a large portion of the season is a black eye for the organization, and while he’s partly to blame for the situation, he also weathered the storm and put the Dolphins in a good position to make the playoffs heading down the stretch. Of course, Miami had a complete meltdown the final two weeks of the season and blew a golden opportunity to go to the playoffs. Philbin is two games under .500 in two seasons in Miami, which isn’t awful, but it’s not that good either. It helps that he has a young and promising quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, who is still maturing and improving as a player, and that will likely bring Philbin back next season, but the heat is definitely on, and if they wanted to, the Dolphins probably have enough to justify firing him.
Rex Ryan, New York Jets – Before the season, Rex Ryan looked like a lock to be fired with new general manager John Idzik coming aboard, and a month ago that still seemed to be the case, but now there have been rumblings that Ryan might have done enough this season to save his job. The Jets were expected to be one of the worst teams in the NFL this season, but Ryan led them to a respectable and overachieving 8-8 record, doing so with a rookie quarterback and a limited amount of offensive skill players. Ryan will still enter next season with a lot of pressure to win games and reach the postseason, but he will be back in New York next season, which is something nobody thought was possible at the start of the season.
Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland – Much to everyone’s surprise, rumors started leaking Sunday night that the Browns would fire Chudzinski after just one season. If Cleveland thought they had a franchise that could be turned around in one year, they are sadly mistaken. Things obviously didn’t go well, with the team losing 10 of its final 11 games, but Chudzinski inherited a futile situation at quarterback and the team traded away 2012 first round pick Trent Richardson the first month of the season, signaling that they were building for the future, presumably with Chudzinski as the head coach. Unless the Browns know something we don’t and have a big-name coach lined up to take the job, firing Chudzinski after one season is a puzzling move.
Mike Munchak, Tennessee – The Titans needed to see some progress this season, and because they haven’t Munchak will likely be fired. It may be a little unfair, because there’s no telling how the season would have been different had Jake Locker not been hurt after a promising start to the season. However, that excuse may not be enough to save Munchak, who’s had back-to-back losing seasons in a fairly mediocre division. It’s not a guarantee that Munchak will be fired, but all signs point to that being the case.
Dennis Allen, Oakland – It’ll be interesting to see what the Raiders do with Allen, because it’s unfair to have expected him to turn things around in Oakland in just two seasons. A pair of 4-12 seasons doesn’t look like a lot of progress has been made, but the AFC West is a lot better this season than it was last year with the other three teams all making the playoffs, so repeating the same win total from 2012 isn’t so bad, especially considering that the Raiders were using an undrafted rookie at quarterback for a big chunk of the season. Two seasons isn’t giving Allen a fair chance, although losing eight of their last nine games doesn’t leave a good lasting impression, and if Allen hasn’t done enough to make the Raiders think year three will be different, he’s likely to be fired.
We got a nice head start on week 13 on Thursday, now let’s take a look at all of the NFL games on the slate for Sunday:
Jacksonville at Cleveland – The season is over for both these teams, but the Jaguars are continuing to play hard and have won two of their last three games, while the Browns are spiraling out of control, and now have to go back to Brandon Weeden at quarterback. Don’t expect too many points in this game, although if Weeden plays well, Jacksonville could struggle against Cleveland’s top receivers Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron.
Tennessee at Indianapolis – We saw this game a couple weeks ago, with the Colts coming back from an early deficit to steal a win on the road. Last week, Indianapolis continued to struggle while the Titans pulled out a late-win against the Raiders, giving the Colts a two-game lead in the division, a lead that could be in jeopardy if they lose this game. If the Colts get off to another slow start, the Titans are good enough to take advantage, and confidence is running high in Tennessee this week after a 300-yard passing game from Ryan Fitzpatrick last week. The Titans are fighting for their playoff lives, but considering how Indianapolis has played the last few weeks, all the pressure is on the Colts.
Chicago at Minnesota – The Vikings should be excited about the possibility of playing spoiler against the division rival Bears, who need to keep pace with the Lions atop the NFC North. Chicago’s defense has been a disaster recently, and that could be a serious problem as they try to stop Adrian Peterson, not to mention that Christian Ponder played well in Minnesota’s tie last week. The Bears have the weapons to score points on offense, but it may not be enough if their defense can’t play better.
Miami at New York Jets – This may be the most important game in the AFC Wild Card race left in the season, at least until these two teams meet again the final week of the season. The race for the final postseason spot in the AFC remains cluttered, and neither team can afford to lose this game. The Jets have been pitiful the last two weeks, and they could be on the verge of completely collapsing if they can’t get their act together this week, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Meanwhile, the Dolphins seemed to have weathered the storm of off-field controversy and are playing well, as they’ve been in close games each of the last four weeks, winning two of them. The Jets may get blown out, but there’s no way the Dolphins aren’t in the game in the 4th quarter, but if they don’t find a way to win in the final minutes, they could be done, as their schedule is difficult the final four weeks.
Arizona at Philadelphia – These are two of the hottest teams in the NFL over the past month, and both need to keep winning to remain on the right side of the playoff bubble. This game could come down to a matchup of strength vs. strength, as the Eagles are the top rushing team in the NFL, while the Cardinals boast the second best rush defense in the league. If the Cardinals can slow down Philadelphia’s running game, they should be able to outscore the Eagles, but if not, expect both teams to put a lot of points on the board.
Tampa Bay at Carolina – With seven straight wins, the Panthers own the top wild card spot in the NFC and may be making a push for first place in the NFC South. However, they can’t sleep on the Bucs, who have won three in a row. Carolina isn’t explosive offensively, which means Tampa’s defense should be able to keep them in the game, giving rookie Mike Glennon a chance to lead the Bucs to their fourth straight win if he can outplay Cam Newton.
New England at Houston – The Patriots are starting to click on offense, and after last week’s win against Denver, they are still in contention for the top spot in the AFC, so they won’t be taking the Texans lightly. With nine straight losses, things can’t get much worse for Houston, who will be lucky to stay competitive with the Patriots this week.
Atlanta at Buffalo – The Bills are still alive for the postseason if they can take advantage of a weak schedule the next three games, beginning with the Falcons this week. Buffalo has a strong defensive line that should keep Atlanta’s running game contained and put pressure on Matt Ryan, which will force the Falcons to play good defense if they expect to stay in the game. If E.J. Manuel plays well, he’ll keep Buffalo’s slim playoff hopes alive.
St. Louis at San Francisco – The San Francisco defense has been exceptional lately while the offense is getting some key players back, which bodes well for the 49ers moving forward. However, the Rams are a lot better not than they were when the 49ers beat them early in the season, and St. Louis is ready to put up a fight. Both teams have a strong defensive front-seven to stop the run and pressure the quarterback, and because the Rams are limited throwing the ball, the key to this game will be the play of Colin Kaepernick, who can carry the 49ers to victory if he can regain the form he had last year.
Denver at Kansas City – The winner of this game will have the inside track on winning the division and having home field throughout the AFC playoffs, while the loser will likely have to settle for the wildcard. Kansas City’s defense hasn’t been the same over the past couple of weeks, and it’ll be difficult to regain their early-season form with injuries to Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, regardless of whether they’re able to play or not. The Chiefs need to keep this a low-scoring game, and it’ll be hard for them to keep up with the Broncos if they have to score more than 20 points, even at home.
Cincinnati at San Diego – A win over the Chiefs last week kept the Chargers in the playoff hunt, but they need to keep on winning in order to get to the postseason, even against a talented Cincinnati team. If Andy Dalton can shake off his recent problems with turnovers, the Bengals should be able to score against San Diego’s defense, which means it’ll be up to Phillip Rivers to have another exceptional game and lead the Chargers to victory, much like he did last week against Kansas City. As Rivers goes, so do the Chargers, and he’ll have to be significantly better than Dalton this week in order for San Diego to keep their playoff hopes alive.
New York Giants at Washington – Both teams are out of playoff contention, but these two division rivals should find a way to keep this game interesting. Both teams would like to finish strong, and both coaches could be on the hot seat this offseason if they don’t win a few games down the stretch, especially against division foes, so this game does carry some importance for both sides.
NFL Week 12 Predictions: Steelers-Browns, Redskins-49ers, Chargers-Chiefs, Patriots-Broncos, Cowboys-Giants and More
In a weekend headlined by Manning vs. Brady and RG3 vs. Colin Kaepernick find out who else we like to come out on top in week 12:
(Bryan Zarpentine 86- 49 overall)
(Cole Stevenson 84-47 overall)
Bryan Zarpentine: St. Louis 27, Chicago 24 – I don’t trust the Bears on the road, as they lose the Howie Long Bowl.
Cole Stevenson: Chicago 24, St. Louis 21 – I am picking Chicago only because almost all of my other picks match Bryan’s.
Bryan Zarpentine: Pittsburgh 23, Cleveland 13 – This game could go either way, but Jason Campbell’s turnovers last week are a huge concern.
Cole Stevenson: Pittsburgh 21, Cleveland 18 – Pittsburgh finally seems to have righted the ship and should win this crucial game.
Bryan Zarpentine: Detroit 24, Tampa Bay 20 – This one stays close, but the Lions will find a way to scratch this one out.
Cole Stevenson: Detroit 27, Tampa Bay 24 – Detroit MUST rebound from one of the worst losses of the year.
Bryan Zarpentine: Green Bay 23, Minnesota 10 – The Packers step up on defense and come out on top in a must-win game.
Cole Stevenson: Green Bay 25, Minnesota 17 – I have very little faith in Green Bay, but even less in Minnesota.
Bryan Zarpentine: Kansas City 24, San Diego 21 – Phillip Rivers and company come close, but they can’t pull out the win at Arrowhead Stadium.
Cole Stevenson: Kansas City 24, San Diego 23 – I really want to pick San Diego in this one, but at Arrowhead is too much.
Bryan Zarpentine: Carolina 23, Miami 20 – The Panthers make the plays on defense when the game is on the line, and that gives them seven straight wins.
Cole Stevenson: Carolina 25, Miami 17 – Carolina defense is too good for a depleted Miami offensive line.
Bryan Zarpentine: New York Jets 15, Baltimore 7 – The Jets have alternated wins and losses all season, and this week is a win, but no one’s saying it’s going to be pretty.
Cole Stevenson: New York Jets 17, Baltimore 13 – Still not picking Joe Flacco the rest of the year.
Bryan Zarpentine: Houston 21, Jacksonville 7 – It’s temping to pick the Jaguars, but Houston is more talented and will get the job done.
Cole Stevenson: Houston 24, Jacksonville 13 – Gary Kubiak might lose his job if the Texans lose this game.
Bryan Zarpentine: Tennessee 20, Oakland 13 – Ryan Fitzpatrick builds off last week and finally leads the Titans to a win.
Cole Stevenson: Tennessee 23, Oakland 18 – Not a huge believer in either of these teams, but Tennessee is more fundamentally sound.
Bryan Zarpentine: Arizona 31, Indianapolis 27 – The Colts start slow again, but their comeback falls short against the Cardinals.
Cole Stevenson: Arizona 29, Indianapolis 24 – I become less and less sold on the Colts every week.
Bryan Zarpentine: New York Giants 28, Dallas 21 – The Giants won’t be giving Dallas six turnovers this time around; instead, Eli Manning and company torch a Cowboy’s defense that’s in rough shape.
Cole Stevenson: Dallas 30, New York Giants 27 – Everyone seems to be picking the Giants, which is why I am going Cowboys.
Bryan Zarpentine: Denver 38, New England 24 – The Patriots hang around for a while, but their not stopping Denver’s offense.
Cole Stevenson: Denver 27, New England 24 – My head says Denver, but my heart says New England. If the weather is bad, the Pats will win on a late game winning drive by Brady.
Bryan Zarpentine: San Francisco 27, Washington 21 – Another late comeback by the Redskins falls short, while the 49ers get back on track.
Cole Stevenson: San Francisco 28, Washington 17 – After being ripped off last week, the 49ers will be playing with an extra chip on their shoulder.
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NFL Week 12 Preview: Steelers-Browns, Vikings-Packers, Chargers-Chiefs, Panthers-Dolphins, Cowboys-Giants and More
The playoff race is heating up in the NFL, and with six weeks left to play almost every team is still alive, but many face must-win situations this week in order to keep their hopes alive. Let’s take a closer look at every game on the week 12 schedule:
Pittsburgh at Cleveland – Both teams need this game, as the winner will be in the midst of the wild card chase while the loser will be a long shot to get there. The Steelers have come on strong as of late, winning four of their last six and looking real good the past two weeks. Meanwhile, the Browns shot themselves in the foot last week with turnovers, and that’s a problem they’ll have to get under control this week against a Pittsburgh defense that will be looking to force turnovers. If Jason Campbell can take better care of the ball Cleveland will have a chance to get back on track; if not, expect the Steelers to keep their momentum going.
Tampa Bay at Detroit – The Bucs look like a real NFL team after winning their last two games, and they have a real chance to make it three in a row this week. Look for Tampa to continue feeding the ball to running back Bobby Rainey, although the Lions are one of the best teams at stopping the run, and if they force Mike Glennon to beat them they should be in good shape. On the other side of the ball, the prolific Detroit passing attack that got shut out in the second half last week by Pittsburgh will be challenged again this week by Tampa’s talented secondary. Expect this game to be a lot closer than the team’s records on paper would indicate.
Minnesota at Green Bay – Aaron Rodgers still isn’t back, but with or without him this is a game the Packers need to win after losing three straight. Green Bay’s defense has allowed 27 points each of the last three weeks, and despite some key injuries on that side of the ball, they can’t afford to allow that many against Minnesota, a team that scored 31 points against them a month ago. Scott Tolzien has been decent, but he’s not going to be able to climb out of a hole if he faces a double-digit deficit, so this game will come down to the Packers keeping Adrian Peterson contained and keeping the Vikings out of the end zone.
San Diego at Kansas City – If the Chargers are going to make the playoffs, they’ll need to find a way to beat either Kansas City or Denver down the stretch, and while winning in Arrowhead is difficult, it’s certainly possible for Phillip Rivers and company, despite three straight losses. San Diego has had some success this season with a short, quick passing attack, which could help them take Kansas City’s pass rush out of the game. If the Chargers can control the clock and avoid turning the ball over, they should be able to keep the game close and give themselves a chance to win in the 4th quarter.
Chicago at St. Louis – The Bears enter this game tied atop the NFC North, but beginning a stretch of four road games in five weeks, although the Rams have struggled to win at home this year. Last time out, St. Louis hung 38 points on the Colts and if the Bears don’t play better on defense, there’s a chance something like that can happen again this week. In a battle of backup quarterbacks, Chicago should have the advantage with Josh McCown, but they can’t ask him to do too much on the road, which means their defense better come to play, or their playoff hopes could start to slip.
Carolina at Miami – By now, just about everybody should be convinced that the Panthers are for real, and now they’ll put their six game winning streak on the line down in Miami. Ryan Tannehill has played well the past few weeks, but he’ll have his work cut out for him against Carolina’s defense, and the Dolphins shouldn’t count on scoring too many points. If Cam Newton and the offense can get it going and find the end zone a few times, the Panthers should feel good about getting their seventh straight win.
New York Jets at Baltimore – Based on their pattern of alternating wins and losses this year, the Jets are slated to win this week, but that won’t be a given against the Ravens. Baltimore ran the ball better last week, and their defense has also played better of late, so it’ll be tough for Geno Smith to find a groove and get back on track this week. Of course, the Jets boast the top rushing defense in the NFL, and they’ll be looking to bounce back after last week’s embarrassment against the Bills. If you like stout defenses and futile offenses, this is the game for you, as the first team to reach 20 points should win, assuming either team is even able to score that much.
Jacksonville at Houston – There’s not much at stake here except for positioning in next year’s draft. If the Texans lose at home to Jacksonville, things will get real ugly for Gary Kubiak, although the Texans have been a lot more competitive this year than the Jaguars, as Houston has lost its last four games by less than a touchdown, so the Texans should be clear favorites despite having just two wins on the season.
Tennessee at Oakland – Both teams need to win this game if they expect to remain in contention in the AFC wildcard race. Ryan Fitzpatrick was solid last week against the Colts, but the Titans have yet to win a game that he’s started. On the other sideline, the Raiders will start Matt McGloin for the second straight week after he helped lead Oakland to a win last week. Both teams are desperate for a win and forced to go with a backup quarterback, so whichever defense does a better job of making things difficult for the opposing quarterback will have the advantage.
Indianapolis at Arizona – The Colts have survived a slow start in two of the last three weeks, but they’ll be playing with fire if they start out sluggish again this week, as the Cardinals are a team that can run them out of the building if they start slow, as Arizona comes in with a three-game winning streak. Arizona has a stout run defense that should be able to slow down Indy’s inconsistent running game and put all the pressure on Andrew Luck, who will at least need to get some help from his defense, with Carson Palmer is coming off a game in which he threw for over 400 yards. If the Colts allow him to do that again they could be in trouble. There’s a good chance that this game turns into a shootout between Luck and Palmer, and it could go either way.
There were certainly some unexpected occurrences during week 10 of the NFL schedule. Let’s try to recap everything and wrap up the week that was with the good, the bad, and the ugly:
Tavon Austin – We’ve impatiently waited for the 8th overall pick in this year’s draft to show us something and Austin finally delivered. He caught just two passes, but they totaled 138 yards and both finished with him running into the end zone. Austin also ran a punt back 98 yards for a touchdown, as he finally showed off his explosiveness and was the primary catalyst for the Ram’s blowout win over the Colts. The key is now for Austin to repeat that type of performance in the weeks to come, as St. Louis still doesn’t have much of a passing attack, even with his dynamic playmaking ability.
Seattle’s offense – The Seahawks have had some really poor performances in recent weeks and nearly lost their last two games, but they had a real nice bounce back effort against the Falcons on Sunday. Quarterback Russell Wilson flirted with 300 yards passing, running back Marshawn Lynch went for 145 yards on the ground, and Golden Tate topped the 100-yard mark receiving. Of course, it did come against Atlanta’s defense, so take it with a grain of salt, but Seattle gained nearly 500 yards, had great balance, and didn’t turn the ball over, which is a huge step in the right direction for their offense.
Antonio Brown – Brown was a one-man wrecking crew against the Bills. He had 104 yards receiving and broke off a 50-yard punt return, as he was Pittsburgh’s best player in two phases of the game. Brown has been the only reliable receiver Ben Roethlisberger has had this season, and when he has games like this the Steelers have a chance to win, which they did quite easily on Sunday.
Carolina’s defense – The Panthers were unbelievably impressive on defense against San Francisco. Granted, the 49ers haven’t been the most impressive offensive team in the NFL this year, but holding them under 100 yards throwing the ball and 151 total yards is a great accomplishment. Even against a quality offensive line, the Panthers were able to get pressure on Colin Kaepernick all game long and sacked him six times, holding San Francisco to just three field goals and giving their offense opportunities to put enough points on the board to win.
New York Giant’s turnovers – The good news is that the Giants won and kept their slim playoff hopes alive, but they certainly didn’t make it easy on themselves by turning the ball over three times. The Giants fumbled the ball away twice and Eli Manning continued his unsteady play by throwing a pick six. Ultimately, they were able to hang on for the win, but they won’t be able to get away with mistakes like that against tougher teams moving forward.
E.J. Manuel’s return – The Bills were glad to welcome back their starting quarterback, especially after last week’s failure with Jeff Tuel at quarterback, but Manuel definitely had some rust to shake off and didn’t play the way Buffalo was hoping he would. Manuel had trouble with his accuracy, and even when he did make accurate throws, his receivers didn’t do him any favors, as the Buffalo offense was stagnant for much of the game. For a rookie to miss a month with an injury, we should have expected him to struggle, but if Manuel had been sharper the Bills would have had a chance to win a game they needed to have to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Jay Cutler’s return – There was a lot of excitement in Chicago about Cutler’s return for the big divisional matchup against the Lions, but things did not go according to plan for the Bears. Cutler looked a little off for much of the game, and despite plenty of good throws, he completed just 21 of his 40 pass attempts. By the end of the game, Cutler was back on the sidelines with another injury, as Josh McCown nearly led the Bears to a game-tying score. McCown played well while Cutler was out, and who knows if things would have gone differently had Cutler taken another week off to recover and McCown had played the entire game.
Injury to Sean Lee – Lee left the Cowboy’s game against the Saints in the first half with a hamstring injury, and it completely changed the complexion of the game. Dallas was missing the leader of their defense, and it showed. The Cowboy’s defense looked like last year’s defense, as they got torched against Drew Brees and the New Orleans passing game without Lee’s intelligence and coverage skills.
Jake Locker’s injury – This week was supposed to be an opportunity for Locker to get back on track, but instead Locker threw just nine passes, including an interception, before having to leave with an injury that appears to be season ending. Back up Ryan Fitzpatrick played well, but the Titans still lost to Jacksonville, and despite still being in the middle of the wild card race, they can’t feel good about their chances with Fitzpatrick as their quarterback for the rest of the season.
Andy Dalton – For most of their game against the Ravens, Dalton did more harm than good for the Bengals, and reminded us that he may actually be the biggest thing that’s standing in the way of Cincinnati being able to make a deep playoff run. Dalton threw three interceptions and completed less than 50% of his passes, as a subpar performance by him played a big role in a Cincinnati loss for the second straight week.
Indianapolis Colts – The Colts had the advantage in several statistical categories, except for the ones that really mattered: they had just 18 rushing yards, they turned the ball over five times, and they converted just two of their 12 third down opportunities. Andrew Luck had perhaps his worst game as a pro, throwing three interceptions and fumbling a ball that got returned for a touchdown. Indianapolis followed up last week’s close call against Houston with a truly pitiful effort, as they are a far cry from the team that beat Denver a couple weeks ago.
Green Bay’s quarterback situation – If losing Aaron Rodgers wasn’t bad enough, back up Seneca Wallace couldn’t even get through his first series without going down with an injury as well. Wallace actually completed his first five passes and looked to have good command of the offense, but when the Packers had to go to third string quarterback Scott Tolzien they didn’t have much of a chance, especially after the Eagles took a commanding lead early in the 3rd quarter. Not only did Green Bay lose at home, but they are also in real bad shape at quarterback moving forward, and could have trouble staying in contention until Rodgers gets back.
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.
There were a few less games on the schedule in week 8, but the games that were played did not disappoint. Let’s try to wrap our heads around everything that happened with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Calvin Johnson – There was just no stopping this man at all on Sunday. Johnson had an immortal performance against the Cowboys, with 14 catches for 329 yards. What Johnson did against Dallas could end up being the best performance by a single player all season long.
Matthew Stafford’s leap – All of Johnson’s efforts would have been for naught had Stafford not made an incredibly heady play to leap into the end zone when the defense was expecting him to spike the football. Despite a pair of interceptions, Stafford owned the Cowboys, with nearly 500 yards passing, and the final dagger was his leap over the pile in the closing seconds, which was a huge step forward for both Detroit’s season and Stafford’s career.
Drew Brees – Brees got knocked around a bit by the Buffalo defensive line, but he would eventually get it going against the Bills and ended up with five touchdown passes and well over 300 yards, doing so against his former offensive coordinator Doug Marrone. Perhaps most impressive about Brees’ performance is that he connected with 10 different receivers, and not one of his receivers had more than four catches. The combination of a quarterback as talented as Brees and that many viable receiving options is simply unstoppable over four quarters.
Andy Dalton – Dalton matched Brees with five touchdown passes of his own, as the Bengals crushed what was supposed to be a good Jets defense. Of all people, Marvin Jones became Dalton’s go-to guy, making eight receptions, four of which went for touchdowns. Both Jones and A.J. Green were over 100 yards receiving, with Dalton throwing for 325 yards, as Cincinnati made a huge statement and continue to asset themselves as one of the top teams in the AFC.
Tony Romo – He may have thrown for three touchdowns, but Romo had an off day, as some of his passes sailed on him, and he missed on some throws that he usually makes with ease. He barely reached the 200-yard mark and completed fewer than 50% of his passes. Romo’s numbers were pitiful compared to his counterpart, and considering the fact that he didn’t get sacked and wasn’t facing a particularly good defense Romo should have been far better than he was on Sunday.
Dallas’ ability to close – The Lions did everything they could to give the game away to the Cowboys, committing four critical turnovers, but Dallas would just not allow themselves to win. The Cowboys ran for just 62 yards, averaging 2.4 yards per rush, and they failed to run out the clock when they had a 4th quarter lead with time running out and the Lions out of timeouts, giving Detroit one too many opportunities to win the game. The Dallas defense didn’t help either, completing folding on the final drive of the game when all they had to do was keep the ball in front of them.
The Giants in the red zone – The Giants aren’t in any position to be picky about how they win, but they were dreadful any time they got in or close to the red zone. Josh Brown was a perfect five for five on field goal tries, providing the only scoring the Giants were able to muster, and luckily for them, it was enough to win, but it wasn’t pretty. For a team with such a talented group of receivers and an accomplished quarterback, they have been truly terrible at executing on offense this season.
Detroit’s turnovers – The Lion’s dramatic win aside, there is no excuse for committing four turnovers. Detroit was a minute away from a devastating loss that would have changed the entire shape of their season, and all because they had trouble holding onto the football. The Lions should have run the Cowboys out of the building, gaining nearly three times as many yards, but instead they played with fire with those careless turnovers, which is unacceptable, whether they won the game or not.
Philadelphia’s offense – With Philadelphia’s special teams providing the only touchdown of the game, the Eagles were held without an offensive touchdown for the second straight week. Michael Vick was ineffective and then left the game with an injury, and then Matt Barkley was also ineffective, as was Philadelphia’s running game. Three total points scored by the offense the last two weeks, especially at home, is as ugly as it gets for an offense that was supposed to run up and down the field against everybody this season.
Thad Lewis’ ball security – Lewis has become a suitable replacement for the injured E.J. Manuel, and he’s done some good things to keep the Bills competitive the past few weeks, but he has some serious issues with ball security. Lewis fumbled the ball three times against the Saints, losing two of them, and Buffalo is not the kind of team that can lose the turnover battle and still hope to win games. If not for Lewis’ fumbles, the Bills could have been within striking distance of the Saints in the 4th quarter and had a better chance to pull off the upset.
Davone Bess’ fumble – They don’t get any worse than the fumble by Bess on a punt return. If he could have held onto the football, he would have set up the Browns in great field position to potentially take the lead, or at least tie the game against the only undefeated team left in the NFL. Cleveland fought hard and had a chance to win the game, but Bess ended up committing the only turnover of the game, and it ended up being the biggest difference maker between winning and losing.
More Ryan Tannehill Turnovers – Tannehill committing critical turnovers at inopportune times has become a trend during Miami’s four-game losing streak. The Dolphins led by two touchdowns at the half, but Tannehill fumbled the ball deep in his own territory, allowing the Patriots to tie the game midway through the 3rd quarter. Tannehill then threw two 4th quarter interceptions, ending any chance of Miami winning. It was a complete second half meltdown by the Dolphins, and Tannehill was right in the middle of it.
Shaun Suisham – Few people had a worse day than Suisham. Pittsburgh can’t pin their loss to the Raiders entirely on him, but missing two field goals in a game that was ultimately decided by three points is something that just can’t happen. The Steelers had built up a lot of momentum over the past two weeks, but losing to the Raiders has put a stop to it, and Suisham missing those two field goals is a big reason why.
In week 5 of the NFL, two unbeaten teams went down and two winless teams remained empty in the win column. Let’s try to make sense of everything with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Drew Brees – Talk about efficient, Brees connected on 29 of his 35 passes with two more touchdown passes to give him 12 for the season. Brees was smart and didn’t force things, doing a lot of damage with running back Pierre Thomas and tight end Jimmy Graham. His overall numbers weren’t as flashy as the numbers his counterpart Jay Cutler put up, but Brees was more efficient and didn’t turn the ball over, which is why the Saints were able to move to 5-0.
Indianapolis in the 4th quarter – The Colts pulled off the most impressive win of the weekend, and they did so by dominating the Seahawks in the 4th quarter. Andrew Luck was brilliant throughout the final quarter, leading the Colts to the go-ahead score and then helping Indianapolis kill a lot of time, putting the Seahawks in a tough spot when they finally got the ball back. The rest was the Indianapolis defense being able to close out the game once they got the lead.
Green Bay’s defense – Holding the Detroit Lions to just nine points and fewer than 300 yards of offense is impressive and deserves recognition. Calvin Johnson being absent helped, but the Lions were averaging over 30 points per game over the first four weeks of the season, and even Johnson isn’t worth 21 points per game. Green Bay sacked Matthew Stafford four times and held Reggie Bush to just 69 total yards, which took a lot of pressure off Aaron Rodgers and the Packer’s offense, which was a welcome change from the first month of the season.
The Peyton Manning/Tony Romo shootout – It was a lot like we expected, only better. Manning and Romo went back and forth all game, especially in the second half, ultimately combining for over 900 yards passing and nine touchdowns. It was one of the most entertaining games of the season and displayed what both teams are capable of doing offensively, and had both head coaches smiling after the game. Of course, the same can’t be said for the defensive coordinators.
E.J. Manuel’s injury – The Bills caught a tough break when Manuel went down with an injury Thursday night. Not only did it ruin any chance of coming back to beat the Browns, but he’s supposed to out a few weeks, which is going to make things very difficult for them with Cincinnati, Miami, and New Orleans on the schedule the next three Sundays. As long as Manuel is out, Buffalo’s options are either undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel or someone they pull in off the street, which doesn’t bode well for a team that has been competitive, despite being just 2-3 this season.
Tom Brady’s streak ends at 52 – Brady’s streak of 52 consecutive games with a touchdown was quite impressive, but it’s no more after the Patriots managed just two field goals in Cincinnati on Sunday. Even with Danny Amendola back, Brady continued to struggle with the lackluster group of receivers around him, as he completed only 18 of his 38 passes for fewer than 200 yards. The Bengal’s pass rush didn’t help Brady either, as he was under a lot of pressure and had one of his worst performances in a long time.
Luke Joeckel’s injury – Jacksonville’s top draft pick wasn’t exactly having a good rookie season, but he’s a talented player and it’s a shame to see his first year in the NFL end so quickly. The Jaguars aren’t going to win many games this year, if any, but there’s a lot that Joeckel could have learned from playing out the season, which is something he won’t be able to do after breaking his ankle.
Tom Coughlin wasting 2 timeouts on one challenge – It may not have changed the outcome of the game, but Coughlin threw away two timeouts on a challenge that he lost on a play that wasn’t exactly game changing. It was a move that reeked of desperation by a coach searching for answers, but in the end trying to win that challenge did more harm than good
Michael Vick’s passing skills – Vick is a good fit for Chip Kelly’s offense because of his legs, but his arm still leaves a lot to be desired. He didn’t complete a pass the entire 1st quarter against the Giants and was just 6-14 for the game. Vick, as always, relied on his legs too much, and that may have been a factor in the hamstring injury that sent him to the sidelines and forced Nick Foles to finish the game for Philadelphia. With his inaccuracy throwing the ball combined with the efficiency of Foles, Vick may have to worry about his job, even if he’s healthy enough to play.
The New York Giants – It’s not just one thing or another, the entire Giant’s team is playing ugly football, and a team that actually has a lot of talent can’t seem to find any answers. Against the Eagles, they couldn’t run the ball, they couldn’t stop Vick from running the ball, they couldn’t stop Foles throwing the ball, they committed 12 penalties for over 100 yards, and they turned the ball over four times. It seems to get more ugly every week, as the Giants have now fallen to an unthinkable 0-5 on the season.
Miami’s dropped passes – In a close game, the Dolphins hurt themselves by dropping too many passes. Mike Wallace caught seven passes for over 105 yards, but he also dropped a few passes, as he’s been known to do throughout his career. Wallace wasn’t the only offender, but if you’re going to gripe about how often the ball gets thrown your way, you have to haul it in when the ball does come to you, which Wallace and the Dolphins didn’t do, and in a three-point game, it made a difference in the outcome of the game.
Cam Newton – Yes, the 308 yards passing looks impressive, but not the three interceptions, seven sacks, or the fact that his team failed to score a touchdown. It was a typical game from Newton, as he put up some good numbers, but didn’t do a whole lot to actually help his team win. Going on the road is tough, but Newton needs to find a way to put more than six points on the board, as now the Panthers are 1-3 with their only win coming against the winless Giants.
2013 NFL Week 3 Good, Bad and Ugly: Ravens, Panthers, Cowboys, Redskins, 49ers, Giants, Jets, Bills and More
Things got crazy in week 3 with a handful of games that went down to the wire and could have gone either way. We’ll try to make sense of what happened with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Baltimore’s defense – There were some serious questions about Baltimore’s defense coming into the season with all the players they had lost and all the new faces, and those questions only grew after their disastrous season opener against Denver, but the Ravens played an outstanding defensive game Sunday against a talented and potent Houston offense. After allowing just six points to the Browns last week, the Ravens held the Texans to just three field goals and scored a touchdown of their own on a pick-six by Daryl Smith. The Baltimore defense has come a long way in a short period of time and is quickly looking like some of the Baltimore defenses of the past.
Cam Newton – He probably didn’t have the best performance of any quarterback in week 3, but considering what he did the first two weeks, Newton is certainly the ost improved, accounting for four touchdowns, including a 47-yard deep ball to Ted Ginn. The Panthers needed a performance like this out of their quarterback, as did head coach Ron Rivera, who was under a lot of heat following a 0-2 start, and Newton’s performance could be just the thing to get the Panthers back on track after losing two close games at the start of the season.
Three great comebacks – Brian Hoyer, Jake Locker, and Ryan Tannehill all led their teams on game-winning drives in the final minute of their games in order to steal a win. All three are young and largely unproven quarterbacks, but they all looked impressive in crunch time on Sunday. Hoyer surprised everybody by throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns, but also by shaking off three interceptions and have the confidence to lead a game-winning drive for the Browns. Both Locker and Tannehill orchestrated their drives with incredible efficiency, both executed difficult throws with the game on the line, and both made big statements about their viability as starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
DeMarco Murray – Rather quietly, the Dallas Cowboys had one of the more impressive wins in week 3, and it was because they finally got their running game going. Murray barely eclipsed the 100-yard mark the first two weeks of the season combined, but against the Rams he ran for 175 yards on 26 carries. St. Louis entered the game the 5th best team against the rush in the NFL, which makes Murray’s performance all the more impressive. A solid running game meant a more efficient Tony Romo, who threw three touchdowns with no interceptions, which helped to give Dallas an easy win.
RG3’s fumble – Griffin may have taken a couple small steps forward Sunday, but he also took a substantial step back after fumbling the ball three times. He may have only lost one of the three fumbles, but it came at a critical time and was something he should have been able to avoid. Griffin lost the ball when he the ground after sliding forward, but had he slid feet first instead the play would have ended when he hit the ground and he would not have fumbled the ball, which is a rule he has to know, not to mention the fact that he should be sliding feet first every time anyway. The fumble came at a time when the game was yet to be decided, and Griffin’s error became a huge reason why Washington eventually lost.
Colin Kaepernick – An off night last week in Seattle is understandable, but Kaepernick looking so bad at home against a team that doesn’t exactly have a top-10 defense is hard to fathom. He was 2-8 throwing the ball in the first half, and didn’t get much better in the second half. Kaeperncik wasn’t all that effective with his legs either, gaining just 20 yards rushing and getting sacked three times. If Kaepernick struggles for a third straight game, it could be time to worry, and he’ll have to bounce back quickly, as the 49ers have a Thursday night game in St. Louis this week.
Josh Freeman – Freeman seems to be making it a habit of making it into the bad part of my article every week. He only threw one interception, but once again he failed to even complete 50% of his passes. He may not have the support of his head coach, but he has the skill players around him to be better than he’s been over the first three weeks, and with one game left before their bye week and the Bucs still winless, Freeman may be running out of opportunities before he’s benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon.
St. Louis in the first half – A week after scoring three points in the first half and putting themselves in a 21-0 hole against the Falcons, the Rams went scoreless in the first half against the Cowboys and put themselves in a 24-0 hole. The Rams have an offense with plenty of potential, but they can’t afford to keep getting off to such slow starts. Sam Bradford was not sharp throwing the ball down the field and for the first time this season was under a lot of pressure, as he was never able to get in a rhythm offensively in a performance the Rams hope is not emblematic of things to come.
Giant’s offensive line – There was nothing pretty about what the Giants did on Sunday, but it started with the offensive line, which allowed Eli Manning to be sacked seven times, most coming in the first half. Even when Manning didn’t get sacked, he got hit and looked extremely tentative in the pocket, looking uncomfortable and rushing his throws. The end result was the worst defeat the Giants have suffered since Tom Coughlin came to New York, and until they can get their offensive line and running game straightened out, things aren’t going to get any better for Manning and the Giants.
Cincinnati and Green Bay’s ball security – These are supposed to be two of the best teams in their respective conferences, but they didn’t look like it on Sunday, as each team committed four turnovers. Of the eight combined turnovers, five were fumbles, which is unacceptable for teams that are favored to win their divisions this season. Both teams ended up returning a fumble for a touchdown, and when Cincinnati did so, it turned out to be the game-winning score. We were expecting to see two good offenses face off in this game, but with all the turnovers, neither offense was at the top of its game.
Washington’s defense – The Redskins came a lot closer to competing for a full four quarters this week, but their defense is still in terrible shape. They can’t cover, they can’t tackle, and they forced just one turnover and recorded just one sack against the Lions. Through the first three games of the season, Washington’s defense has given up the most yards any team has ever given up in the first three games of a season in NFL history. Something needs to change in a hurray because it’s incredibly difficult to win games with defensive efforts like the ones the Redskins have put on the field the first three weeks of the season.
The Bills and Jets – This game didn’t exactly go smoothly, but things just got out of control during the 4th quarter. There was a seemingly endless parade of flags during Buffalo’s drive early in the 4th quarter, many of them unsportsmanlike penalties that displayed a profound level of immaturity and destroyed any rhythm the game might have had. At one point, Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson was benched for his antics. The Jets ended up committing 20 penalties for 168 yards, as they continuously gave the Bills a chance to win a game that was almost too ugly to watch.