What We Learned
by Alex Larsen
Welcome to the weekly recap of the NFL games over the weekend. This blog will hit on 32 points – one for each team in the NFL. The writing is biased, of course, but not blinded. So enjoy the banter, insight, or whatever you want to call this – this is What We Learned.
When a season begins, we expect certain things. Brees will throw for crazy yardage, and Vick will get hurt. Ray Rice will find the end zone, and Chris Johnson will talk bigger than he plays. Tony Gonzalez will snag uncatchable passes, and Gronkowski will make headlines without doing anything. The Patriots will be good, and the Browns will not. Any one of those statements would have been pretty well accepted in August.
Welcome to October, folks.
By now, we expect to see certain trends arising. We expect New England, Houston, Denver, and probably Baltimore atop the AFC standings. Three of those are true – but Miami is threatening, Indianapolis has opened up the lead in the South, Kansas City is tied with Peyton and the Broncos, and the North is a three-way tie with Cleveland and Cincinnati. There’s always an asterisk, after all. In the NFC, we expected to see the Giants, Packers, Falcons, and 49ers holding division leads. The Giants are in last place, the Packers are in third (one game ahead of Minnesota), Atlanta has won only one game, and San Francisco is tied for second with Arizona – behind Seattle. In a year, everything we thought we knew about the National Football League is gone. Streaks are being broken (Tom Brady not throwing for a TD for the first time since 2010) and streaks being started (Matt Schaub throwing a pick-six four weeks in a row). Everything is changing, and we haven’t caught up yet.
We are supposed to address morals in these at some point. This weekend brought too much shock. Upsets, shootouts, and inexcusable performances – we saw it all. Here’s what we learned…
- The Browns (who often get the last spot on this list, so most people don’t see it) are winning. That is not a typo – the Cleveland Browns have won more games than they’ve lost this season.
- Buffalo needs help, but it’s hard to tell where. Running backs are injured, receivers are sub-par, and quarterbacks can’t thrive with that surrounding them. It’s time for some smart spending for the Bills.
- The Dolphins are a solid team – good offense, good defense, pretty good special teams. Mike Wallace is underperforming, and that’s almost scary. When he hits his stride – when, not if – and stretches the field, the Dolphins could challenge the Pats for the top of division.
- Baltimore is quietly holding onto a portion of the division lead. Amidst the shock of Cleveland winning and Pittsburg bombing, the Ravens are staying in the race.
- Chicago is better than they have been in years. The record may not reflect the ability, but Da Bears are a threat. Brandon Marshall complained that he just wants to win games – he isn’t satisfied with just a winning record.
- Anyone who thinks a coach is replaceable is crazy. Sean Payton comes back to the Saints, and all of a sudden Who Dat nation is undefeated. The talent never left, but it needed its leader.
- The Patriots are no longer undefeated – though they probably should be. Over the years receivers have come and gone, running backs have been nonexistent, and tight ends have been anywhere from Number 1 to No: 174954. Brady has always gotten the job done – for 52 straight games. And the streak ended there.
- Cincinnati is underperforming. Tied for the top of their division, and underperforming greatly. With Andy Dalton and AJ Green, the win over the Patriots should not come as a surprise.
- The Lions are talented. Can that be all that’s said here? Organization is lacking, depth is lacking, and coaching is in question. Taking away Megatron shouldn’t render the Decepticons entirely hopeless, right?
- Green Bay, even after beating Detroit, is third in the NFC North. Dwell on that for a little bit. Aaron Rodgers is currently sitting behind Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler, with a one game edge on Christian Ponder/Matt Cassel.
- Alex Smith, stand up. This man has taken the Kansas City Chiefs – the two win Chiefs of last season – to being undefeated, which is huge in the same division as Peyton Somethingorother.
- Tennessee has yet to be completely blown apart. Three wins is not too shabby, but the leading rusher on Chris Johnson’s team should never be the quarterback.
- Seattle is undefeated no more. Maybe this steel defense isn’t quite so solid, after all. The again, it did take a lot of Luck (ahem) to beat the ‘Hawks.
- The Colts are putting together an impressive season, and with the Texans struggling so much, Indy could make an easy push for the division title.
- Jadeveon Clowney isn’t a good fit in Jacksonville. That’s a bummer.
- St. Louis put up 34 points. Sure it was against the Jaguars, but that’s still a respectable score. Consistency could be big for the Rams.
- New York is a brutal media, and Eli Manning deserves whatever they’re dishing him. Bad decisions late in games have contributed – not caused entirely, but added to – a winless start for the Giants.
- The Eagles are not a good team, and yet they are looking at a chance to win their division. What happened to the NFC East? All the power seems to have faded or moved west (see Kansas City).
- Arizona isn’t that great – don’t let a box score fool you. They beat the Panthers. Not the Broncos. Not the Seahawks. Not the Chiefs. Arizona is decent, but they aren’t winning that division.
- Carolina isn’t winning theirs, either. Cam Newton is stuck in his sophomore slump, it seems. Only problem? He’s a junior.
- The Cowboys handled the Broncos for a majority of the game Sunday. (Which is ironic, seeing how a cowboy rides a horse, and a bronco is, well… you get it.)
- Like most cowboys, though, eventually Dallas got bucked off. Peyton Manning threw a pick – it happens to non-humans, too. But he didn’t do it at the worst possible time. That award goes to Tony Romo – handing the Broncos another win.
- Houston is in serious panic mode. JJ Watt, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Owen Daniels – superstars galore. And a grand total of three (3) points scored. Three.
- The 49ers seem to have things back on track. If the trend continues, other teams need to be getting nervous again.
- Charger fans are used to this. They know what it’s like to get all excited about success and then smash into the ground with failure, and they know it will happen again. And again. And again.
- Oakland may have found their man in Pryor. They sure believe so, since they released their backup (Matt Flynn) on Monday.
- Atlanta lost to the Jets. Strike one. On Monday Night Football. Strike two. And likely lost Julio Jones for the season. Strike three.
- Geno Smith leads the NFL in game winning drives in the 4th quarter. Seriously? The kid’s nearly perfect in crunch time, and the Jets are letting him run the show.
- Washington is on a bye – and has to hope that RG3 can use it to heal. He hasn’t been himself yet this season, and that’s what the Redskins are missing.
- Tampa Bay released their starting quarterback. By season’s end, it’s likely the coach will find himself in a similar situation if he doesn’t start getting some wins.
- Pittsburg fans, rejoice! You can’t lose if you don’t play.
- The Vikings front office didn’t take a bye week, signing Josh Freeman (the fourth or fifth quarterback [depending on what you call Joe Webb] on the roster). To be fair, Minnesota did cut Bethel-Thompson on Tuesday, bringing the official QB count down to just three.
So here we are again. You made it through, or skipped to the bottom – either of which is fine. Find your favorite team and just read that, if you must. Or read it all and see the growing confusion surrounding the league. Maybe in a few weeks we’ll expect the Chiefs to be winning and the Patriots to be losing. Or maybe, just maybe, that will always be weird.