NFL

The Indianapolis .500: A Colts Guide to the Unexpected

The 2012 Indianapolis Colts season was truly unforgettable. It was a season that Kafka would have loved, but the fans surely hated. The team was in a strange place it had never been before (2-14), feeling unjustly persecuted (Manning’s injury), and hurting deeply from its father’s flaws (poor drafting by Nepotism Chris). The metamorphosis was sure to come, but thankfully, that did not mean some twisted, fucked-up,  Kafkaesque transformation, but a new head coach, a new GM, a new quarterback and a new era of Colts football the likes of which hadn’t been seen since Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback. For the first time, the team’s goals are not the playoffs, the top pick, or a Super Bowl, and that is alright. Every team’s goal is getting better, but where will the record fall within that “getting better” spectrum?  5 or 6 wins seems to be the general consensus and I think lots of Colts fans would count 6 wins as a coup after last year and the rebuilding that followed.

I say 8-8. It is not only a possibility, but a probability and it isn’t even that outlandish.

First off, the schedule matters. Teams go from last to first in their division all the time because of how the schedule sets up to put 4th place teams against other 4th place teams.  The Texans are clearly the class of the division, but the Jaguars are terrible and the Titans are just ok and going in with a 2nd year quarterback, no Kenny Britt and a new head coach. So what does that schedule look like?

@CHI, vsMIN, vsJAX, vsGB, @NYJ, vsCLE, @TEN, vsMIA, @JAX, @NE, vsBUF, @DET, vsTEN, @HOU, @KC, vsHOU

No, those bold games are not predicted wins, just games that are winnable. The only risky one is the Houston game, and I am going on the assumption the Texans will be resting players for that game. That is 11 winnable games, and while I am obviously not suggesting that they will win all these games, I am also not suggesting that they will definitely lose the rest of those games. I mean some of those games look completely unwinnable, but given the nature of injuries in the NFL, who is to say that Stafford and Calvin Johnson get hurt, putting that game in play, or Tom Brady getting hurt and making every Colts’ fan beam like Christmas morning? Sure, these things are unlikely, but these same rules apply to even just decent teams like Tennessee and Buffalo, who are one or two injuries away from ruin. 11 winnable games and you don’t think the Colts can get 8? Free your mind.

So how did I decide which games were winnable? It had little to do with the standings last year, though it certainly didn’t hurt that most of the teams were pretty mediocre. The new Colts era requires a fresh look at the Colts. It used to be that any team that had a strong offense, particularly running the ball, could give the Colts a run for their money. That appears to have changed. Teams have thus far been able to move the ball a little, but given the defensive scheme and run-blitzing that the Colts will do, the key to beating them no longer lies up front. The real issue is the secondary where Antoine Bethea and Jerraud Powers are good/decent and the rest of it is very much in question.  In order to beat the 2012-2013 Colts, you have to be able to throw the ball, and throw it consistently. That is why Minnesota and Adrian Peterson don’t scare me. That is why the Jets don’t scare me, That is why playing a 4th place schedule is often easy: there is a total lack of solid quarterbacks. Most of the time, none of those last place teams have good quarterbacks, but the Colts have one in Andrew Luck.

Much has been said about Andrew Luck, and it is for that reason I have yet to write a post on him. The short version is that he is really, really impressive. So impressive that I have little doubt the Colts will average 24 points a game this year. They look capable of moving the ball in the red zone on the ground, which will ease some of the burden, and look like they will be a decent passing team under Bruce Arians. The only teams that are going to be able to really stifle this offense are teams that are much better than the Colts. Few, if any, teams on the Colts level will be able to totally shut the team down. Thusly, it comes down to the defense. How quickly can Chuck Pagano get the system in place? How quickly can the players learn the ins and outs? Will the lack of a nose tackle make the front 7 toothless? All these questions still need to be answered, but even moderate answers to these questions suggest the Colts can string a few wins together and surprise some teams.

So who are they going to surprise? Let’s go through that list of winnable games.

The architect of the Ravens defense teams up with an architecture major at QB.

Vs. Minnesota (Week 2)

Adrian Peterson’s second game back from a torn ACL, Christian Ponder, and a pass rush that is a little bit scary. That is what you sign up for when you play the Vikings. So Peterson is not at 100% yet, but even 80% of him is more than enough to handle. The Colts will presumably make Ponder beat them, and I think he can for a half, but not for a  full game. This is a game that the Colts should win. The offensive line is not nearly as bad as it is being made out to be, the defense should be able to hold the vikings to 20 points or less and that means the Colts have a shot. If Ponder has a good game the Vikings win, if not the Colts will win. That is very much a toss up.

Jacksonville (Week 3 & Week 10)

The Jaguars are really bad, and if Maurice-Jones Drew doesn’t play they could be historically bad. Blaine Gabbert is nothing to fear and these are games the Colts should split at the very least. Winning both is a definite possibility.

@New York Jets (Week 6)

For all the press coverage Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow get, they still combine to make maybe one very good quarterback. Individually, neither is really very good or capable of picking apart a defense routinely. Sanchez does it from time to time, Tebow does it from time to time, but betting on either to do it without question on any given week is shaky. Given the Jets poor offensive line play thus far, lack of a receiving corps and ongoing instability,  picking the Jets third in their own division is totally reasonable. This is a very winnable game.

vs Cleveland (Week 7)

The Browns are not very good. They are not terrible, they are not completely without hope, but Greg Little and Brandon Weeden are not going to strike fear in the hearts of any opposing fans or coaches. This game is a borderline must-win.

Tennessee (Week 8 & Week 14)

The Titans are a very solid team and have been for a while. They are not overwhelming in any aspect of the game since Chris Johnson’s paycheck and I have serious doubts about Jake Locker. Winning both of these games would be a bit surprising, but not stop-the-presses shocking. The Titans defense might chew Luck up a little now and again but both games are winnable, and Colts fans should expect a team “getting better” and “making progress” to win at least one of these games.

vs Miami (Week 9)

Another perennially solid team that has few weaknesses but fewer overwhelming strengths. They will be decent and the Colts may very well lose this game, but starting rookie quarterbacks is risky, especially when that quarterback isn’t the fastest learner the coaching staff has ever seen. I have not watched tape on Ryan Tannehill, but I will be slightly shocked if he turns into a good NFL quarterback. He fits the mold of physical specimen that has technique issues (Patrick Ramsey, Jeff George, Josh Freeman, Jamarcus Russell) better than he fits the mold of some physical questions but does a lot well (Philip Rivers, Jeff Garcia, Jim Harbaugh). I’m not calling him a definite bust, but he has to prove himself, not confirm prior beliefs.About a 6 on the winnable scale.

vs Buffalo (Week 12)

I expect the Colts to lose this game in part because I expect the Bills to be good, but in part because even if they are not good, they will be able to move the ball easily against the Colts defense. This one is not all that winnable, but if we see broken ribs Ryan Fitzpatrick instead of healthy Ryan Fitzpatrick, this game could be in play.

@ Kansas City (Week 16)

This game is about on the same level as the Miami game in that the Chiefs have a lot going for them, but since it is never all working at the same time, you never know what you are going to get. If Jamaal Charles is on the field, things get a little trickier, but this is still a winnable game. Winning at Arrowhead might be tricky but after last year it seems like a definite possibility. If this game was week 1, I would probably count it out, but after 15 weeks of development and getting things in place, this game is absolutely in play.

If you give the Colts that week 17 win against a resting Houston (more than plausible), can you see 8-8? Can you let yourself believe that the Colts could be overachievers (in the eyes of all not just the pessimists) for once? Now maybe the talent pool would get replenished quicker if they went 4-12, but that is not happening. The Colts are better than that, and they are a .500 team this year. Expect it.

NFL: November 6th + Surprises of the Year

Before we get to the picks for the week, I want to go team-by-team and talk about at least one surprising thing about each team. Why? Because I don’t have much else to write about specific to this week and some of these guys/factors really deserve attention.

Buffalo Bills (5-2)– There are a lot of directions we could go with the DIVISION LEADING BILLS. I could focus on how awesome Fred Jackson is, or how Ryan Fitzpatrick is somehow one of the more reliable quarterbacks this year, but the biggest surprise in my mind is that going into most weeks, I have a lot of confidence in them to not only be in the game, but to have a legitimate shot to win. Last year they had some talent but did not even look close to contention at times. This year I would be more surprised by the Bills getting crushed than, say, Stevie Johnson becoming a breakout player last year.

New England Patriots (5-2)– I don’t think anyone really thought it was going to be a great defensive team but they are struggling to stop any team with a half-decent quarterback. Devin McCourty needs to be a little better, but the rest of the secondary needs to be a lot better.

New York Jets (4-3)– I can’t say I am shocked that Mark Sanchez isn’t that good, but perhaps more surprising this year is that the Jets can’t seem to run the ball especially well either. That was supposed to be a huge factor in their battle with the Patriots for the division crown. Now they are just fighting for a playoff spot.

Miami Dolphins (0-7)– The Dolphins being bad is pretty expected. So is Reggie Bush failing to establish himself as a big-time back. Signing JP Losman as a real starting option? Shocking regardless of situation.

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)– I wasn’t entirely sure on them coming into the year but figured they could get to 11-5 or something and be pretty good. That still looks realistic, but what is more surprising is how unconvincing they have been for a 6-2 team that can be fairly called the AFC favorite. I am generally not a Big Ben fan (we are talking football only here, not other issues) because he holds the ball too long, often seems to make bad decisions and really doesn’t inspire confidence, BUT with what he is doing without an offensive line again is pretty impressive.

Cincinnati Bengals (5-2)– I thought Dalton could be alright and I thought AJ Green could be alright. I never thought the offensive line would hold up to let them build any kind of rapport and I did not think they would click this well. I think they will ultimately miss the playoffs, but it wouldn’t be a complete shocker if they made it.

Baltimore Ravens (5-2)– It is a little surprising that the defense is as good as it is, but the real surprise here is just how bad Joe Flacco is. He never inspired a ton of confidence but he at least seemed capable in the past. This year he has looked like JaMarcus Russell.

Cleveland Browns (3-4)– I am not sure if there is really anything surprising about the Browns. They looked like a really average team and they are nothing if not average. Dick Jauron has done a pretty good job with the defense, so I guess that is my surprise. Boring, I know.

Houston Texans (5-3)– The big surprise here is that defense. Wade Phillips (!) deserves a lot of credit here, as does Jonathan Joseph. That defense is what will win the Texans a playoff game this year.

Tennessee Titans (4-3)A Memorial Service will be held for Chris Johnson this Friday at 9:00 AM. Pay your respects to the classically overpaid running back who has a bad year after getting paid. As a side note, if someone could alert Nashville PD’s Zombie Unit that Matt Hasselbeck’s grave has been robbed and he seems to be alive again.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6)– That defense is pretty good for being such a bad team otherwise. Tough schedule, but I need to see more growth out of Baline Gabbert before I decide to sign off on this year’s QB class being good top to bottom.

Indianapolis Colts (0-8)– Peyton Manning has been the most valuable player to his team for the last 6 years at least. Pat Angerer is pretty good. I don’t know what else to say that will not incite a page-long rant about my Colts.

Kansas City Chiefs (4-3)– I thought, along with everyone else, that the Chiefs were set up perfectly to crash and burn. They did for 4 weeks, then turned it on again and are now tied for the division lead. I still am but buying them to win the division, but they have been the most impressive team in the AFC West because of their last 4 games. Also, there is no team in the AFC West that I would give a grade higher than a B-.

San Diego Chargers (4-3)– Philip Rivers has been really, really mediocre. I don’t know if he is hurt like local reporters say, if he just isn’t having a good year, or if something else is up, but he has been extremely disappointing.

Oakland Raiders (4-3)– The big surprise here is not that the Raiders were decent and ran the ball well most of the year. The real surprise is that they really, truly thought that Carson Palmer was the answer and were willing to pay top dollar for him. Have they not seen him play the last 2 years? That is a trade they will really regret in a few years.

Denver Broncos (2-5)– There is not really any surprise here when you consider that the Broncos traded their best receiver and have some key injuries. I don’t really have a surprise for the Broncos, but I think I am contractually obligated to mention Tim Tebow and use the phrases “just wins games” and “comically inaccurate”. Done and done.

New York Giants (5-2)– There really isn’t any big surprise about the Giants either. They have a brutal stretch coming up and no one expects them to do much during that stretch. That sounds exactly like what will happen. Defensive injuries, inconsistent pressure on the QB, and over-reliance on Victor Cruz is not a very healthy combination.

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)– The obvious surprise here is that the Eagles have struggled so mightily, but equally surprising is just how good LeSean McCoy is. If I need a running back, I take Peterson, Forte, and then a tie between Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy for 3rd. He does everything you want. On another note, expect a giant letdown against the Bears.

Dallas Cowboys (3-4)- The least surprising thing about the Cowboys is that the media has overreacted to just about everything the team has done. The most surprising thing is that a defensive coordinator who hasn’t really had any major success at any point in his career (Rob Ryan) is having a hard time. Oh, wait.

Washington Redskins (3-4)- This one is not close. The most surprising thing about the Redskins by a long shot is that I have a clear and distinct preference for Rex Grossman over any other quarterback.

Green Bay Packers (7-0)- The Packers beat the Panthers by 7, Vikings by 7, were shut out in the 2nd half by the Rams, and because of the relative parity around the league they are clearly the best team right now. So I guess the most surprising thing would be that they were able to gain separation via those somewhat unimpressive results.

Detroit Lions (6-2)- Matthew Stafford is healthy. So is Calvin Johnson.

Chicago Bears (4-3)- Mike Martz swallowed his pride and protected his quarterback. Nothing else is really even close.

Minnesota Vikings (2-6)- If you would have asked me which quarterback among Ponder, Dalton, Flacco and Sanchez were most likely to be terrible this year, I would have picked Ponder. I would have been wrong. He seems alright and I need to watch him a little more to know just how decent he is.

New Orleans Saints (5-3)- The inconsistency with this team is pretty surprising, but specifically I am going with Drew Brees’ complete blackout-suck games that he has been throwing around lately. He seemed like Mr. Consistency.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3)- If I told you Tampa Bay’s Point Differential was pretty close to Arizona, Cleveland, and Kansas City and notably worse than Washington, Carolina and Minnesota, would you be confused? I know I was when I looked it up. The San Francisco game is the main culprit here (accounting for 45 of the -38, but damn.

Atlanta Falcons (4-3)- So I wrote the Falcons in for a Wild Card spot last week, but I am still not really sure if they are good. If they focus on Turner and use Ryan only when needed, i am in, but if they try to turn into the Flyin’ Falcons I can’t see them getting that last wild card spot. I guess the thing I am most surprised by with the Falcons is that no one has overrated them nor underrated them this year. Every step of the way it seems to be about right.

Carolina Panthers (2-6)- Cam Newton is surprising, but not THAT surprising. The big one for me is just how bad the defense is after hiring defensive-minded Ron Rivera from San Diego. That is a really bad defense that the Colts actually might have a shot at beating.

San Francisco 49ers (6-1)- Where do I start? Is it their 4 game lead in the division going into week 9? The awesome defense? Jim Harbaugh doing this good a job coming out of a lockout? Alex Smith seeming serviceable? All of it.

Seattle Seahawks (2-5)- 2nd place in the division at 2-5 is pretty surprising, but so is the entire thought-process that lead to Seattle thinking that some combination of Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst could compete.

Arizona Cardinals (1-6)- I am a little surprised that Kevin Kolb is this bad, but the big surprise is how much heart this team is showing in its quest for Andrew Luck. You couldn’t give this team a game at this point. They just want it too badly.

St. Louis Rams (1-6)- When you look at their schedule so far, it isn’t really that surprising that they are 1-6. The big surprise with the Rams is that the Cardinals got so incredibly hot going into the postseason and won a really great World Series.

Picks

Falcons (-6.5) vs Colts

Michael Turner is going to tear the Colts a new asshole. That will make it at least their 4th new asshole this season. The plastic surgery is getting expensive.

Buccaneers (+8.5) vs Saints

Bounce-back for the Saints or Bucs play the Saints close again? I am going with the latter but it could easily be the former.

Browns vs Texans (-10.5)

I can’t see the Browns scoring more than 17 points, and probably fewer.

Jets vs Bills (-2.5)

I believe in the Bills. I don’t think the other shoe is going to drop quite yet.

Dolphins vs Chiefs (-4)

Hot teams tend to beat cold teams. Someone tell the Nobel Prize board about my breakthrough theory.

49ers (-4) vs Redskins

Not even the 49ers penchant for close games can get me to bet on the Redskins.

Cowboys (-11) vs Seahawks

This line is 3 points too high, but I think they are going to kill the Seahawks so I can’t take the Hawks to cover.

Broncos vs Raiders (-7)

I’m not betting on Carson Palmer as much as I am betting against Tim Tebow and betting on Darren McFadden.

Bengals (+3) vs Titans

The quality-but-boring game of the week.

Rams vs Cardinals (-3)

This is a must-watch for all Andrew Luck Sweepstakes fans. Should be a terrible game.

Giants vs Patriots (-9)

This line seems a little high too, but how am I supposed to bet against an angry Pats team against a really mediocre Giants team?

Packers (-5.5) vs Chargers

I really do not understand why everyone seems to be picking the Chargers here. They have lost to both really good teams they have played this year and they have yet to look good. The Chargers do seem to zig when they should zag, but I would be really surprised to see the Packers lose this game.

Ravens vs Steelers (-3)

I am pretty sure the Ravens were looking past the Cardinals last week, but they have no excuse for the Jaguars game. The Steelers will win this game and I would bet a lot on it.

Bears (+7.5) vs Eagles

Upset of the week. The Eagles seemed posed for a letdown and I have been a vociferous Bears supporter for the second half of the year. It starts right here. Bears 23, Eagles 21.

Last Week: 5-9
Season: 51-59-6

NFL Week 12-13 (Abridged)

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen who visit this blog, we have gotten very busy very quickly. As a result, you may have noticed we have not been quite as active as normal, and that is not good. However, it is a necessary evil of not being a professional writer, so while we will do the usual NFL rundown, do not expect a 7,000 word column this week or the next few weeks. However, we are going to try something a little different this week just to mix it up in lieu of quantity. I am going to give you my gut feeling on how each team will do the rest of the year. Not looking at schedules (unless I just know about a game already), just going with how each team feels.

Jets- Losing this week will not derail their season in the least. Probably the most complete team at this point and if the entire team were to play well on the same day, it would be scary.

Patriots- Title contenders and they still remind me of the Saints a little too much. Opportunistic but weak defense, elite passing game, underrated running game. I hope they fail, but they look promising.

Dolphins- Mediority in Miami reigns once again! The only gut feeling to have about the Dolphins is that they will continue to disappoint.

Bills- Surging and fun to watch, but they just don’t have enough. Ryan Fitzpatrick has played like a Top 10 NFL QB this year. Somehow.

Steelers- They have started to dismantle parts of that spread offense I lambaste them for, but I still get that feeling that they are going to come up short. They will play the Chargers in Wild Card Week, upset the red-hot Chargers, then turn around and lay an egg the next week.

Ravens- Legitimate contenders whose defense will let them down in the playoffs. Probably against the Patriots. I could definitely see the Pats getting revenge in Foxborough from last year.

Browns- They will keep fighting and keep being about 4 pieces away from really being legitimate until the end of the year. Colt McCoy is next in line to be the QB who is a game manager that the coaches try to turn into more and it doesn’t work. It has to happen. This is Cleveland.

Bengals- Nothing doing here. Marvin Lewis, pack your knives and go. Yes, I have a gut feeling he will be on Top Chef. Maybe even Desserts. Regardless, his team is a mushy corn souffle with a maple dressing that tastes like baby food which makes Tom Colicchio vomit on Carson Palmer’s head and Padma punch Terrell Owens in the face as he makes advances.  If given the option between that and going through this season again, I think Bengals fans would choose the Top Chef scenario.

Was this enough to trigger the Super Bowl Runner-Up Curse?

Colts- Disclaimer: I am a Colts pessimist. As a fan, I always fear the worst. I think the Colts miss the playoffs. I do not like Jacksonville’s chances. I do not like the Titans chances, but the Super Bowl Runner-Up curse is lurking in the background. The offensive line has been trash, the Colts need Joseph Addai more than anyone really knew, and even the receivers have the dropsies. They could come out and kill Dallas, but something about this scenario has me very worried.

Jaguars- AFC South Winner. I don’t know how, but it is going to happen. Jack Del Rio is destined for another 5 mediocre years at the helm, and this will be enough to get them there. That or they will go back to being mediocre. I don’t know for sure, but I have a funny feeling about them.

Titans- Done. Moss is done, the offense is done, and the defense seems pretty done too. If they can beat the Jags, I will revise my position, but they have some issues going forward. A lot of them.

Texans- Doner? Is that a word? No? It is now. It is pretty much beating a dead horse at this point, but THE TEXANS FIND WAYS TO LOSE GAMES!!!!! Sorry. At least I didn’t say it was beating a dead dog after Vick beat them. Oh. I basically did by phrasing that hypothetically? Oops.

Chiefs- They will lose to the Chargers in San Diego. I am sure of that. They still have a half-game lead though and it depends on if they can win their other games to get into the playoffs. I am sensing a negative on that. Just a gut feeling.

Chargers- Classic Chargers. Late season push, sexy Super Bowl pick going into playoffs, and huge disappointment exiting playoffs. Last time, I referred to the kid who shows up really late to parties, then tears them up (in the good way) for the night only to pee his pants and remind everyone why no one likes him. One of my stranger comparisons, admittedly, but let’s just say that the Raiders are the Chargers version of chugging a couple beers to fill up that (Sepp) Blatter. Yeah, it’s a stretch. Screw you, Qatar.

Raiders- QB controversy. Do we start the guy who has been mediocre his entire career, or the guy who is mediocre in relief of mediocre quarterbacks? Or do we admit that Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski aren’t really good enough to make a real playoff push? Not a gut feeling. Fact.

Broncos- Tebow cometh too soon. Kyle Orton hath played nobly, good sires. Olde English maketh things sound more complicated. Sorry, I just really have very little to say about the.

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Eagles- Title contenders but not going to make it. Defense has too many flaws and I do not trust this Desean Jackson-Andy Reid situation. Is it so hard to imagine Desean Jackson quitting on his team? I don’t think so.

Giants- Missing the playoffs. Guarantee it.

Redskins- I have a gut feeling that they will continue to baffle me and be inconsistent. Is it me or has Shanahan sort of built a reputation for inconsistency where once he was Mr. Consistent?

Cowboys- Will they keep overcoming their flaws? Will they keep playing to the level of their competition. No and Yes. But which wins out? Week to week with this team,

Bears- NFC North Champions. They don’t deserve it, but it isn’t that impossible to believe. They have got to watch out this week even though the Lions might start Drew Stanton. With the Patriots next week, this has Trap Game written all over it. I hope I am wrong on my gut feeling on this one.

Packers- No idea if they are making the playoffs, but they sure as hell deserve to. Definitely dangerous, but McCarthy might abruptly end any playoff run.

Vikings- They can reload rather than rebuild, but it remains to be seen if they have the balls to get rid of Favre, go with Tavaris and re-invent the dead parts of their team.

Lions- To quote Mark Schlereth “This isn’t a try hard league, it is a do good league”. Lions aren’t doing well. They need Simba Stafford (just throwing that out there as a mediocre, somewhat mocking nickname) to stay healthy and to keep building. Like the Browns, only about 4 pieces away from being really good.

Falcons- NFC #1 seed. Will not lose at home. Will lose Super Bowl. You cannot convince me otherwise.

Saints- I have them and the Packers making it, but it is entirely possible that their schedule drops them below the Bucs. Very precarious position for the Champs. They really need that running game back.

Buccaneers- Step 1: Beat the Falcons. Step 2: Stay in playoff race. Step 3: Let the playoff be a microcosm of the season. Sit back, be just in it for most of the game, and win it in the 4th quarter. I would be surprised but not shocked to see them edge the Saints or Packers.

Panthers- Entering the Bills Zone of a team that is dead and starts to find its rhythm, but still sucks enough to not win.

Secretly one of teh better helmets in the NFL, though I liked the yellow more thn gold.

Rams- NFC West Champs by holding off a furious push by the 49ers. Sam Bradford for ROY and it isn’t close.

49ers- Late push not enough to makeup for season of disappointment. Frank Gore’s injury doesn’t help either.

Seahawks- If not for Qwest Field, they would lose to the Panthers this week.

Cardinals- They will continue to be a laughing matter. Something about the heat down there makes for hilarious press conferences.

NFL Week 9 SuperColumn

We have more to cover than Rex Ryan’s shirts, so no chit-chat, we are going straight into OTC’s midseason awards.

MVP

5. Philip Rivers, Chargers QB

The number this guy is putting up are bonkers. He is on track to break Dan Marino’s single-season passing record with wide receivers named Ajirotutu and Buster (Davis). If the team was not 4-5, I would put him at either the top of 2nd, purely because of how astronomical his numbers are and the undeniable fact that without him, the Chargers are a one win team at best (thus far). A really outstanding season that we will talk more about later in the context of the AFC West.

4. Troy Polamalu, Steelers S

Yup, going with the defensive love. Last year the Steelers were missing Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu on defense and were a mediocre team at best. Aaron Smith went down again this year and while the Steelers have struggled with it a bit, they still look like one of the top teams in the league, and that is in huge part because of Troy Polamalu. If you take him out of this defense, it goes down the drain in a hurry, and that is not just hyperbole. He is easily the most valuable defensive player in the league (which is different from being the defensive player of the year), and I think he is the 4th most valuable player in the league right now.

3. Chris Johnson, Titans RB

Ho hum. Chris Johnson isn’t going to rush for 2000 yards. He will have to settle with the 1400 yard projection he is on and a major role in one of the highest scoring offenses in the league. The bottom line is that if you take Chris Johnson out of this offense, they become completely impotent. Young cannot throw without him, the Titans cannot move the ball without him, and the team cannot win without him. His stats are impressive, but his value to the team is equally impressive.

2. Michael Vick, Eagles QB

Plain and simple, the Eagles have not lost with him playing the entire game. He has recaptured that electricity he had in Atlanta, but is quietly learning how to be an efficient passer as well. Just watching that Colts game, he only made one or two throws that were not exactly where he wanted them to be, and that is a scary thought considering how many times he could have just run for the first down. Kevin Kolb is just fine, but the bottom line is that the Eagles are a mediocre playoff team with Kolb, and a contender with Vick.

1. Peyton Manning, Colts QB

This has never been close. There has never, NEVER, been a player more valuable to his team than Peyton Manning. Without him, the Colts win two or three games tops. He cannot be replaced. They replaced Austin Collie, Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, and Dallas Clark and they still win with Blair White, Jacob Tamme, and anyone you want to grab off the street. The offensive line sucks, the running game is often non-existent, the defense is mediocre at best, and if you tell your buddies you are betting against the Colts any weekend, they tell you you are crazy. They need to name this award after him when he retires. He wakes up in the morning and pisses excellence. I have nothing more to say. Anyone who would argue there is a more important player to their team is nuts.

Just a quick tangent I like to go on for all the Patriots fans: You lost Tom Brady, a man you claim is as valuable as Peyton Manning, and went 11-5 with the magnificently mediocre Matt Cassel. Conversation over. If you gave Peyton Manning’s teams the Patriots’ defenses in the good old days when these teams would meet in the playoffs every year, there is no chance Manning would lose, or come close to losing. Those games were never about Brady being better than Manning, because he isn’t. No one is as valuable as Peyton Manning. Maybe of all time.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

5. Jahvid Best, Lions RB

I love the kid, but this is as high as I can put him. I get that he is putting up with a mediocre run-blocking line, but given the hidden quality of this rookie class, I can’t move him any higher. He is a player for the future who is underrated catching out of the backfield, but the passing game has really made that team go more than Best of late. The loss of Stafford should actually damage his chances down the road, because no defense will respect Drew Stanton if Shaun Hill cannot get healthy.

4.  Mike Williams, Buccaneers WR

Has anyone had a more anonymous really good season than Mike Williams? I mean it doesn’t help that his name sticks out less than Shannon Sharpe’s ability to pronounce names, but his numbers in a very middling offense are impressive. 36 catches for 559 yards and 5 TDs? Seriously? That projects to 72 catches, 1118 yards, 10 TDs and zero people who saw it coming. I only put him 4th because I think teams will start to gameplan for him and because I think the other guys will finish stronger.

3. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots TE

Ok, ok, I know his numbers are not as good as Williams, but he also has to compete for catches with Wes Welker, formerly randy Moss, and a far superior receiving corps. He is one of those rare rookie TEs who has all the physical tools AND can play smart and apply it. In other words, he is not Vernon Davis his first few years. He might be a little overrated by the end of the year, but he has been outstanding and is really pretty hard to gameplan against. He will continue to get his as the year goes on, perhaps unlike Mike Williams.

2. Colt McCoy, Browns QB

Right now, he is not there. By the end of the year he will have earned this spot beyond the shadow of a doubt. I had my doubts about Colt McCoy as a pro QB (he reminded e of Alex Smith), but it is clear that his leadership and playmaking are enough to get it done at this level. He has claimed a couple scalps of mediocre QBs you might have heard of too– Drew Brees and Tom Brady. I know he is not playing directly against them, but that is still damn impressive. He will climb to #2 as the Browns continue to play good football and inch closer to Cleveland’s Super Bowl title, which they will win in 2015. You heard me.

1. Sam Bradford, Rams QB

This is not close. If he was throwing to Donnie Avery, Michael Clayton, and anyone else you might have heard of, it would be different, but he isn’t. He is turning average receivers into stars and pulling the Rams, who won once last year, to a .500 record. He is everything they dreamed he would be, and there is no doubt that his full-season effort gets him a well-deserved nod as Rookie of the Year.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

5. Nate Allen, Eagles S

The stats are there, and I have admittedly not gotten to see him play much (he got hurt in the first half against the Colts), but he seems to be making a real impact on the Eagles secondary, which was mediocre at best last year. Think of him as being a little like Jairus Byrd from last year, except without the gaudy picks numbers. Pretty solid, but the stats seem a little inflated.

4. Eric Berry, Chiefs S

Ok, he still gets picked on sometimes, but he is an important part of a good defense and is more than holding his own. Stats lie sometimes, but Berry’s stats appear to be everything the Chiefs could have hoped for coming into the year, and they hoped for a lot. A rising star at safety without a doubt.

3. Ndamukong Suh, “House of Spears”
2. Ndamukong Suh, Actual Lion
1. Ndamukong Suh, Lions DT

Yes, he is that good. The real question is if he is a top 5 DT in the league right now, and I think the answer is yes. The Williams Wall is getting old in Minny, Haynesworth is a headcase, Wilfork and other NTs play a sort of different game, and the only guy I would put definitively ahead of him is Haloti Ngata of the Ravens. I mean have you seen this guy play? Coming into the draft, some people like Gerald McCoy more because he could rush the passer. Looks like Suh took exception to that, as his 6.5 sacks would imply. No rookie has been better. If they put the offensive and defensive rookies of the year head to head, I think I might even put him above Sam Bradford. That is how impressive he has been.

Biggest Disappointments

5. Minnesota Vikings

It is not so much that we thought they were fail-safe, but just how it has happened. They still have just about every ounce of talent they had last year, but cannot turn it into anything. Childress should have been fired already, results aside, and they are not deserving of the playoff spot they may end up grabbing.

4. Carolina Panthers

Ouch

I thought it could work. They were supposed to have a really good offensive line with a solid defense to go with that running back duo, but they really do not have any of that. Williams and Stewart are hurt, both those units suck, and they are down to Tony Pike with a lame duck coach. I did not think they would be great, but i did not expect them to be THIS bad.

3. San Francisco 49ers

Watching this team play this year has felt like writing “I will not trust Alex Smith” 1000 times on a blackboard. The level at which he holds his talented team back is really impressive. Like imagine Ryan Fitzpatrick stats at QB for the 49ers. Ok, now imagine Bruce Gradkowski, Jon Kitna, or even Brodie Croyle starts at QB for this team. Now imagine Alex Smith starting. None of those QBs is really good, but they are all a huge upgrade over Smith. Failing to draft a QB in next year’s draft would be a failure of epic proportions. Now biting on local hero Andrew Luck may be a bad idea as well, but that is a topic for another day.

2. Cincinnati Bengals

So much for that experiment. Frankly, it has not been the fault of the receivers as much as the fault of the coaches and quarterback, but it is still unforgivable. I think Marvin Lewis should probably lose his job for allowing his run-first, hard-nosed team to turn so heavily to the passing game and forget about its roots. Their season pretty much ended on Monday night (where they played well after the first quarter) and if things go the way they should, a lot of old faces will be leaving the Natti.

1. Dallas Cowboys

I am actually not sure if I have to say anything here, purely because of how predictable it is. This team was supposed to be good and it sucks something awful. End of story.

However, this does give me a chance to point out that Jason Garrett is not the man for the job. I have no idea if he is a big motivator or extremely popular in the locker room, but watching him systematically rip the franchise’s heart out by refusing to run the ball tells me all I need to (and want to) know. Cowboy haters should hope for a strong finish by the Boys so Garrett can stick around.

Notables:

The Chargers and Bears did not make that list for one reason. We knew there were issues. They are not disappointing, they are exactly what we thought. The Chargers have an injury bug, their classic slow start, and bad offseason karma to deal with, and yet are still probably going to win the division. If you were disappointed by their early season struggles, you are delusional about Chargers football, because that happens every year. The Bears are not disappointing because we knew they were not good going in. Their offensive line finally exposed itself, and if not for playing that game in Toronto, they would have fallen to the lowly Bills. They are not disappointing because we weren’t expecting anything of them.

Biggest surprises

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

This is my big mea culpa of the season so far. I should not have written them off because of their injuries from last year, and they prove me wrong every week. I could not get a solid 5th surprise team so I thought I would take this chance to formally say “my bad”, though I thought the 2 weeks at #1 in our rankings would have done the trick.

4. St. Louis Rams

They are not good, but they are way better than we thought they would be. Credit Sam Bradford on offense, and Steve Spagnuolo with making that defense a pretty solid force so far this year.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I have been torn on the Bucs for a while now. On the one hand, they seems to be in just about every game, but sometimes they let teams hang around and give themselves a shot to lose. I like Josh Freeman in the 4th quarter, but will remain skeptical of him until I can see something in quarters 1-3. The defense has been pretty decent too as Raheem Morris at least seems to have the youth movement under way. I am still not sure what exactly to make of this team, but they have been surprising at the least.

2. Oakland Raiders

Somebody break up the Raiders! Ok, they have not really done anything all that impressive yet, but anything is a start for the Raiders. I am not picking them to win the division or anything, but they have not imploded or killed themslves too much this season (Janikowski in Arizona aside), and that in itself is impressive for the Raiders. They are not fixed quite yet, but they are very watchable and have given Bay Area football fans something to cheer about.

1. Cleveland Browns

Quick, name a Browns wide receiver not named Massaquoi. Ok, name 3 defensive players. Can’t do it? Alright now tell me which loss was less of a big deal in hindsight: at Tampa by 3, vs KC by 2, or at Baltimore by 7. Yeah, the Browns could be 5-3 right now instead of 3-5. Their other 2 losses were to the Steelers and Falcons too, so don’t let anyone tell you they are getting lucky. Seriously, how has this team faced the Saints, Patriots, Steelers, Ravens, Bucs, Chiefs, and Falcons already? None of those teams has more than 3 losses! Most people would put 6 of those teams in the top 12 too. I cannot say enough about the job Mike Holmgren has done, and Eric Mangini is once again looking like a genius as the Browns defense is pretty good. Let’s hope he isn’t the Scott Skiles of the NFL, where he gets his teams to play great defense for a year, then wears them down.

Oh yeah, and they get the Jets this week. Watch out.

Notables:

The notables here are here for teh opposite reason of the disappointing notables. We thought the Chiefs and Lions would be good, and they are. The Lions have done it mostly without Matthew Stafford too, which makes it all the more impressive. The Chiefs are probably going to choke away the division lead, but could still be one of those scary playoff teams that can run it so well and defend so well that they become dangerous. Congrats to both teams.

Individual Disappointments

5. Felix Jones

I do not blame him for not getting carries, but I do blame him for not seizing the day when he does get carries. Huge disappointment in what many felt would be a breakout year.

4. Mike Singletary

He is not entirely to blame for the 49ers mess, but he has a share. Troy Smith needed to be starting 3 weeks ago, but if he goes with Alex Smith one more time, he will get rightfully fired. I thought he would calm down and be the wise coach on the sidelines, but he has kept his style and it does not work. I mean the last madman coach to win a Super Bowl was Jon Gruden with the Bucs. Since then Cowher, Dungy, Belichick, Coughlin, Mike Tomlin, Sean Payton. Those are all fairly calm guys on the sideline, with the exception of Cowher who was loud on the sidelines but the epitome of solid, unlike Singletary.

3. Ryan Mathews/Shonn Greene

Mathews was hurt and Greene got LT’d, but still. These were supposed to be the big breakout RBs of the class and they have done next to nothing.

2. Donovan McNabb

Quietly, Donocan McNabb’s career has come to a halt. He had that 400 yard game against the Texans, but since then, he has had one genuinely good game (vs GB) and it came on 26/49 passing. He was supposed to be a reason for hope in Washington, not the next NFL QB to fill a coffin. He got pulled from that Detroit game because he was not playing well, and regardless of if  Rex Grossman is better (he isn’t), McNabb is done. He isn’t even really hurt, he is just done.

1. Carson Palmer

Speaking of done. Carson Palmer is, by far and away, the biggest disappointment, They went out and got him Jermain Gresham, Jordan Shipley, and Terrell Owens, and he cannot turn it into anything? He has also had about 30495 dropped interceptions that, along with mop up yardage, keep his stat line looking respectable. He played well against Pittsburgh, but that does not negate his poor play the rest of the year. Carson is done as a semi-elite QB, and has been since he tore his ACL. I want to feel bad for Bengals fans, but the Tank Johnson and Pacman Jones signings, plus the Andre Smith draft pick, plus their refusal to do what they do best makes it hard to do.

Individual Surprises

5. Aqib Talib

I know this one seems random, but he has quietly become a shutdown guy. I am not calling him the next Revis, but he has been a big part of that Bucs defense.

4. Mark Sanchez

I thought he would regress a lot this year. Now he has struggled the last few weeks, but otherwise he has had a great year. He has been a big reason the Jets are good, rather than being a piece that holds them back. A surprise to me, at least.

Hillis and McFadden are both Pro Bowlers this year out of Arkansas

3. Kyle Orton

I understand some objections to Orton’s placement here. The argument would be that his passing numbers are up because they are always down and need to throw. However, this could not be further from the truth. Orton was best in the first few weeks when Denver was competitive (476 yards vs Indy comes to mind), and has really dropped off of late as the team has gotten worse. Whatever ails Denver, it is not Kyle Orton, who shook off all that Tebow talk and really cemented a place for himself in the league.

2. Arian Foster

I almost put Darren McFadden here, but you get the feeling with McFadden that it is about time. Foster, however, has been a revelation for the eternally 4-4 Texans. He has naturally dropped off a little as teams have set out to stop him, but he is still churning out yardage. Sadly, he would probably be the odd man out of the Pro Bowl right now with Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden and our #1 biggest breakout…

1. Peyton Hillis

Who knew? Hillis was recently compared to Mike Alstott on First Take “because of his number”. Or because Alstott was the last white running back to be even somewhat relevant. Hillis not only has that downhill running style that Holmgren loves, but he has surprisingly good hands to go with it. No one pegged him to outdo Arkansas teammates Felix Jones and Darren McFadden, but at least for right now, he is doing exactly that. He is a huge part of what they are doing in Cleveland.

Moving On

And 3400 words later, we get to the heart of the article. Don’t worry, it is not going to drag on. I am going to make my projections for the rest of the season, and get you back to work instead of wasting company money here.

Format: Team Name (current record, projected record, Playoff Spot)

NFC East

New York Giants (6-2, 12-4, NFC East Winner)- They might be the best team in football right now. We will know more after they travel to Philly in Week 11.
Philadelphia Eagles  (5-3, 11-5, Wild Card #1)- Undefeated when Vick plays an entire game, but the problem is that Vick is very injury prone.
Washington Redskins (4-4, 5-11, None)- The schedule is about to get very tough, and I expect an implosion.
Dallas Cowboys (1-7, 3-13, Top 5 pick)- A tough schedule combined with a dead team means a high pick for the Cowboys.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers (6-3, 11-5, NFC North Winner)- They are getting hot just as Green Bay is starting to get freezing.
Minnesota Vikings (3-5, 10-6, Miss Wild Card)- Sidney Rice returns soon, and the schedule sets up for a major run by the Vikes.
Chicago Bears (5-3, 5-11, None)- I PROMISE this is not just Chicago hate. Look at that schedule and find me a win. Try.
Detroit Lions (2-6, 4-12, Top 10 pick)- One of the best 4-12 teams around, but that schedule is brutal, and Stafford is gone. Look out next year.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (6-2, 12-4, NFC South Winner)- I am not huge on this team, but the schedule sets up nicely and they are almost impossible to beat at home.
New Orleans Saints(6-3, 11-5, Wild Card #2)-
If they get it together it will be scary, but it hasn’t happened yet. We will see after the bye week when Bush and possible Thomas are Healthy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-3, 10-6, Miss Wild Card)-
Schedule just does not shake out quite right to pull this off, but a great season for the Bucs.
Carolina Panthers (1-7, 2-14, #2 pick)-
Nothing on the horizon except a new coach.

NFC West

St. Louis Rams (4-4, 7-9, NFC West Winner)- A curse in disguise. They needed that high pick to be long-term relevant.
Seattle Seahawks (4-4, 6-10, None)- They cannot win away from home and have a lot of tough games left.
Arizona Cardinals (3-5, 6-10, None)– Told you Derek Anderson would be back. This team is awful.
San Francisco 49ers (2-6, 4-12, None)- I reserve the right to say 6-10 and drop the others if Troy Smith returns full time.

AFC East

New York Jets (6-2, 11-5, AFC East Winner)- It will not be easy. Or pretty. Or fun. But it will happen.
New England Patriots (6-2, 11-5, Wild Card #2)- That first game vs the Jets will haunt them.
Miami Dolphins (4-4, 7-9, None)- Tough sledding ahead for the Fins. The Henne benching is ridiculous. He isn’t that great, but I blame the coaches for throwing it so much.
Buffalo Bills (0-8, 1-15, #1 pick)- Either this week vs Detroit, or next week @ Cincy. If not, then it gets very tricky.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens (6-2, 12-4, AFC North Winner)- Ed Reed’s return has made all the difference. Even with the tough schedule, I could see 12-4.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2, 12-4, Wild Card #1)-
I was having flashbacks during that Bengals game, but I still think they are an elite team when healthy.
Cleveland Browns (3-5, 7-9, None)-
A huge improvement here that Cleveland can look forward to.
Cincinnati Bengals (2-6, 3-13, Top 5 pick)-
Their remaining schedule is beyond difficult and they are done it seems.

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts (5-3, 11-5, AFC South Winner)- All these injuries are starting to pile up. 11-5 is their worst record in 8 years and they may miss the playoffs.
Tennessee Titans (5-3, 10-6, Miss Wild Card)-
They have a definite shot at the division crown, so they should not be slept on.
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-4, 7-9, None)-
Inconsistency is their middle name.
Houston Texans (4-4, 5-11, None)– Their schedule is absolutely nuts and Jacksonville owns them.Tough year for the Texans.

AFC West

San Diego Chargers (4-5, 11-5, AFC West Winner)- Put it in the bank. No, I am not kidding. 7-0 the rest of the way.
Kansas City Chiefs (5-3, 10-6, None)-
It was promising, but they will have to wait for next year.
Oakland Raiders (5-4, 8-8, None)-
They made big strides, but not enough of them. How about the sneaky quality of the AFC West!
Denver Broncos (2-6, 3-13, Top 5 pick)- I feel like I have said Top 5 pick about 10 times. This team is done.

That was fun, now go enjoy some Thursday Night Football (if you get NFL Network).

On your mark, get set, NFL!

Ladies and gentlemen, it is that time again. Time for the gladiators of the gridiron to do battle on Sundays for the next 5 months or so. This post is not a preview, just a sign of things to come and a calendar to help you stay up to date with our upcoming division previews. We will going through the league division by division talking about every team just so you can get a better idea of what to expect from your team, and your team’s competition. We will leave no stone unturned as we look for signs of this year’s Super Bowl Champions.

Projected Schedule:

8/23 (Night): AFC East
8/24: NFC East
8/24: AFC North
8/25: NFC North
8/25: AFC South
8/26: NFC South
8/28: AFC West
8/28: NFC West
9/4: NFL Power Rankings, Review and Predictions

This is just a projected schedule, but I plan on having the previews done on each division on those dates. Stay tuned!

NFL Playoff Picture

The last few weeks of the NFL season are different from the other weeks. True, they count for the same amount in the standings, but they are just different. The weather is colder (better if you ask me), the teams seem to play with more passion, and there is just a different dynamic to the games. By this point there are at least 14 or so teams that are realistically out of the playoff picture, but would like nothing better than to ruin someone else’s chances, so they are more dangerous that ever. This adds to the usually parity-filled NFL intrigue, but with parity lacking this year, it will bring it back to levels we used to know. Games like Dallas at Washington are now not matchups of champ and chump, but “Team that is bad in December” vs. “Team on the rise that would LOVE to ruin the Cowboys year”. Since it has been a while since we took a swing around the league (due to finals), I figured there was no better time than the present to run through it all. Remember, I am not going to mention the teams that have no shot, but that does not mean they will not factor into the playoff picture by beating a contender and sending them into a potential tailspin. Like Jay-Z, let’s start “From the bottom the bottom, to the top of the pots” (Dirt Off Your Shoulder in case you were wondering).

The Wild-Card

The AFC holds a lot of good news and bad news for fans. The good news is that unless you are the Bills, Browns, Raiders or Chiefs then your team is probably 7-7 and has a shot at the playoffs. Unfortunately, of these 8 teams at 7-7 or 8-6, only 2 can make the playoffs.The Broncos and Ravens control their own destiny, so let’s look at them first. The Ravens have the Steelers and Raiders left. I could definitely see a loss in there, but if they beat the Steelers, they are in with all due respect to the Raiders. That said, they should make the playoffs because I believe they have the tiebreaker over the Broncos and a few other teams. The Broncos still have the Eagles and Cheifs left. I see a loss for them in Philly as well so they should finish 9-7 with the Ravens. This brings us to the 7-7 teams. It is a question of who can win out because a loss essentially eliminates them. Lets list:

Steelers- Ravens & Dolphins

Dolphins- Texans & Steelers

Jaguars- Patriots & Browns

Titans- Chargers & Seahawks

Jets- Colts & Bengals

Texans- Dolphins & Patriots

Amazing how so many of them play each other isn’t it? Remember that a loss essentially eliminates the 7-7 teams from contention so I cannot see the Jets, Jaguars, Texans, or Titans beating both of their opponents so we can somewhat safely cut it down to the Dolphins and Steelers, whom conveniently play in the final week in a potential wild-card pre-playoff game. Assuming the Steelers beat the Ravens is not at all a safe assumption, and get some help from the enigmatic Broncos, they hav e a shot at it but I would not bet on it. But really, who knows anything about this? The NFL brings something new to the table every week, so if you are a fan of one of the teams I just counted out do not give up hope yet. I expect to see the broncos and Ravens come playoff time.

The NFC picture is mercifully clearer. The Packers, Cowboys and Giants are going to fight to the death for the final 2 playoff spots. The Cowboys looked dead in the water earlier, but after an upset win in N’awlins the Boys are looking golden. The Packers play the Seahawks and an Arizona team that will probably be resting a lot of its star players. The Pack are in, rejoice Green Bay, all is not lost after Favre. This leaves us with only the Cowboys and Giants, the bitter rivals, fighting for the last spot. Obviously, if the Giants lose to the Redskins on Monday Night, it is good night doctor, but if they win then the Giants have a surging Carolina team and a Vikings team that will either be resting its starters or going for the #1 spot. Regardless, they need to win out to make it, but I am not sure they can. A 5-0 start gone to waste. On the other hand the Cowboys went from a soft coddled December-ophobic team to all of a sudden looking pretty good and playing some of their best ball all year. However, they have the upset-minded Redskins who have been playing well lately and the Eagles, who are playing some of the best football anywhere. The roads are not easy for either team, but the advantage is to the Cowboys. I would not be overly shocked to even see both teams lose out or win out, it is just that kind of year. Expect the Pack and Boys to make it, and for both to be dangerous in the playoffs. I know the cowboys have not won a playoff game in a decade or so, but if they can run the ball like they did in New Orleans they have a shot.

Obviously, the Colts, Chargers, Bengals, Patriots, Saints, Vikings, Cardinals and Eagles will make it. The Eagles could technically lose out and miss the playoffs, but it would be a shock if they did that. Dallas could still win the division, but the Eagles are essentially in. We will come back to them i a few weeks, but for now we will leave them alone.

Let’s talk awards again. We touched on it at midseason, but as the season draws to a close let’s get a better look at the big awards.

He should be holding up 4 fingers for his total MVPs

MVP

  1. Peyton Manning
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Chris Johnson
  4. Philip Rivers
  5. Ben Reothlisberger

I’m biased. Sue me. Go Colts, but how do you not give the MVP to the best quarterback ever to play and has yet to lose (knocking on wood as writing that)? I wouldn’t be surprised to see a co-MVP here, but I would be surprised if Peyton Manning did not win his 4th MVP award. I will repeat my sentiments on the Offensive Player of the Year. It is a consolation prize so expect Brees or Johnson to win it.

Defensive Player of the Year

  1. Darren Sharper
  2. Darrelle Revis
  3. Jared Allen

I am sticking with Sharper even though he hasn’t had any picks lately. He just played out of his mind this year and no picks lately does not mean no impact lately, so it still goes to him. Revis has quietly become the premier corner in the league with all due respect to Champ Bailey and Nnamdi Asomugha. I am hesitant to accept Rex Ryan’s theory that he means more than Ray Lewis or Ed Reed meant to the Ravens, but he is damn good. Allen has been outstanding as well, but just as not been quite on their level.

ROY

Offensive

  1. Percy Harvin
  2. Beanie Wells
  3. Mike Wallace
  4. Mark Sanchez

Harvin should be the run-away winner, but Beanie has showed well lately and has been huge for the Cardinals lately giving them a physical runner they have lacked in the past. Wallace has been sneaky good too and Sanchez gets plenty of publicity but barring something unthinkable, Percy Harvin will win it.

Defensive

  1. Brian Cushing
  2. Louis Delmas
  3. Jacob Lacey/Jerraud Powers
  4. Aaron Curry

This is a close one and someone not even on the list could make it, but Cushing probably has the best numbers. I want to talk about Lacey and Powers though because they are a huge part of the reason the Colts remain undefeated (knocking on wood again). A pair of rookie cornerbacks to go with a secondary missing Bob Sanders? Disaster waiting to happen right? Not in the least, they have really stepped up and deserve some talk for defensive ROY even if they are not going to win it.

Comeback Player of the Year

  1. Cedric Benson

Moving on.

Fantasy Studs and Duds

Studs (apart from the obvious)

  1. Ray Rice
  2. Aaron Rodgers
  3. Matt Schaub
  4. Ricky Williams
  5. Miles Austin
  6. Ben Roethlisberger
  7. Vernon Davis
  8. Jason Campbell
  9. Sidney Rice
  10. Steve Smith (Giants)

This list has it all. High draft picks (Roethlisberger,Rodgers, Davis), relative sleepers (Austin, Ray Rice,  S. Rice, Smith), guys who we all thought would get hurt who have quietly put together great seasons (Schaub) and Marijuana using former superstars who retired, came back and now is playing very well (Williams). You will not get these guys so cheap next year, but all have quietly overachieved at incredible levels. Davis has really taken off since Alex Smith took back over at QB, and Jason Campbell has been a late charger too. Rodgers is having one of the best seasons I have seen out of someone not named Brady or Manning in a long time and is doing it behind a shaky-at-best offensive line. Look at your league and you will find most of these guys on the teams who are still playing meaningful games. Joe Flacco for honorable mention.

Duds (non-injury related)

It would be cute, but to Chicagoans, it just reminds them that neither Cutler nor Forte has woken up for the season yet.

  1. Matt Forte
  2. Jay Cutler
  3. LaDanian Tomlinson
  4. Brandon Jacobs
  5. Braylon Edwards
  6. Steve Slaton (pre-injury)
  7. Calvin Johnson (I will explain)
  8. Matt Ryan
  9. Steve Smith (Panthers)
  10. Roy Williams

The Bears head this list and rightfully so. I laughed when SI picked the Bears to make the Super Bowl, but Chicago bought in and have been nothing but disappointed. The offensive line is to blame, but as far as fantasy is concerned, owners of Forte and Cutler could care less. Forte, I would argue, has been the biggest disappointment for a few reasons. You would think that a team with a bad line would have to check down to the RB, but Cutler keeps forcing the ball down the field, simultaneously killing both of their value. LT and Jacobs are just having bad years without a ton of interesting things to say about them. Everyone was picking the Texans pre-season, and they were picking Slaton to be a big part of the effort. Instead Slaton had a hard time getting in a groove and had big time fumble problems. Even before he went on IR, he was a disappointment. Ok, Calvin Johnson time. I realize he had injury problems and that his numbers in healthy games were affected by an injury problem at QB, but he had a chance to have a serious break out year this year. A new big-armed QB, a team that would in a game, and an athletic TE to draw some attention away from him in Brandon Pettigrew all pointed to improvement. However, Johnson just had a decent year without doing anything too special. I still like him in the long run, but his development will not necessarily be as rocket-propelled as we thought. Ryan has had interception problems, Steve Smith (Panthers) has been supplanted by Steve Smith (Giants) as the King Steve Smith and Roy Williams has just sucked to be frank.

Stay tuned for my sleepers coming up next week. Happy Holidays.

NFL Week 8 and Power Rankings

After a predictably unpredictable week in the NFL, I thought it would be nice to start it off with a Public Service Announcement

A PSA from these two

A PSA from these two generous fellows…

“Hi, I’m Jake Delhomme, and I’m JaMarcus Russell. Prejudices are dangerous things to deal with in the world today. As NFL players, it is our job to lead by example. We do not discriminate who we throw the ball to (showing clips of interceptions). The color of the jersey does not matter to us and I hope that others will follow our lead. Thank you.”

All jokes aside, here come the power rankings after Week 8.

32. Tampa Bay

Normally I would group all the horrendous teams at the bottom, but I felt the Bucs deserved some special recognition. Well done Tampa Bay!

31. Cleveland

This is how many wins this group of teams has against teams ranked above it...

30. Oakland

29. Washington

28. Kansas City

27. St. Louis

26. Detroit

All these teams have showed hope at one point or another in the season, but they did so in such sparing quantities that it is just embarrassing. Not really much to say about them. I thought Detroit was the best among them until they went and lost to St. Louis. At least the Rams and Lions are playing hard. I cannot say the same for the others.

25. Buffalo

The Titans drafted this guy, but it turned out the confetti was sold separately

24. Carolina

23. Jacksonville

22. Seattle

21. Tennessee

Keep in mind that these are not only projections for now, but down the road. Tennessee was winless until this week, but they looked ok with Vince Young at QB, so they get to head this extremely prestigious list. I still think the Titans can finish with 5 wins, but they will really need to step up in order to do it. Vince definitely has some magic in him, but it remains to be seen if his magic carries over to the NFL or if he only has J.J. Redick magic.

20. Houston

19. San Francisco

18. San Diego

17. Chicago

16. New York Jets

15. Miami

These teams are highly related to the teams ranked directly above them, except their playoff situations are considerably more complicated. For one reason or another, these teams are close but just cannot quite make the jump. Houston is soft and struggles to play in the cold. San Diego is doing what San Diego does best: underachieve. Chicago throws more than it has to, and Cutler forces the ball down the field a bit too much. The Jets are schizophrenic; looking great some weeks and awful others. The only conclusion is that they just are not that good, but could beat a lot of teams. Miami has all the tools to make a playoff run, but probably will not put it together. Their offensive line is great, their defense is solid, and they can run the ball with authority, but I am not sold that they will be able to do it in cold climates, so they get the dubious distinction of “best team not to contend for a playoff spot”.

14. Dallas

13. New York Giants

12. Green Bay

11. Baltimore

These teams too are just a little bit off, but two will make the playoffs out of necessity. Dallas throws way more than it should, but is talented. The Giants just are not as good as everyone thought and are in the midst of a 3 game skid. The Giants have just not been very good defensively, and as a result they have not been able to go to the power running game because they have been playing from behind. The Packers have extremely talented guys, but couldn’t block a quadriplegic. Baltimore has a great offense, but their defense, until this week, just did not have it like it used to. They are all almost playoff caliber teams, but at just a little bit off. Just a little bit off from being very good teams. Two will make the playoffs, but without fixing those problems, they will not contend.

10. Arizona

They have shown flashes of excellence (@ NYG) and flashes of incompetence (vs. Carolina). They only are listed this high because it currently looks like they are headed for the playoffs, if for no other reason than their division sucking. I do not necessarily think they are a better team than Baltimore, but the top 12 teams (in theory) make it, and right now Arizona is in that mix. I would not expect the heroics of last year, but they have looked good at times.

9. Pittsburgh

Words never before uttered: Pittsburgh needs to get a consistent running game. Well, there is a first time for anything and that time has come for Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger is a legitimate MVP candidate, but Rashard Mendenhall and Willie Parker need to start finding the limited number of holes the offensive line opens up or they will not do anything in the playoffs. All teams need a running game to succeed in January. The Cardinals last year ran the ball extremely well and it set up their pass. When the Colts won the Super Bowl, Dominic Rhodes romped and put himself in the Super Bowl MVP discussion. The only notable exception is the 2008 New England Patriots, and we all know how that ended. The Giants did not have to respect the run and they got after Brady. If Pittsburgh does not develop a running game, you can write them off as a contender.

8. Atlanta

The skill position players are obviously there on offense, but it remains to be seen if they can get down and dirty in the trenches when playoff time comes. They got pushed around by New England and I assume they will get pushed around by the Saints a bit on Monday. They are clearly a talented team, but I am not sure if they are capable of a deep run with such undersized lineman on both sides of the ball. They have not put a ton of pressure on the quarterback, or stopped the run especially well so far. If they can do that, they will be a scary team to face in the playoffs.

7. Cincinnati

The lowly Bungals are once again the Bengals and it has everything to do with Cedric Benson. Carson Palmer has been great and the defense has been much better than advertised, but the big difference is Benson. Remember when Rudi Johnson was rolling in the Bengals limited earlier glory days? Well Benson is filling that role now and to great effect. Palmer has always been clutch, but only when accompanied by a running game has he been a winning quarterback, and he has that in Benson. Whether or not Benson can hold up to a full workload remains to be seen, but if he can, he is more than worthy of at least MVP consideration.

6. New England

It looks like Tom Brady and his receivers are once again on the same page and Bill Belichick looks like he is back to drinking that Haterade and trying to win every game by 100. I would not want to play this game right now, but their defense is still suspect. If they can hold on defense, or jump out to huge leads, they should be okay on defense because it will make opposing offenses one dimensional, but you cannot expect that to work every game. The Patriots are scary, but not as good as they are scary.

5. Denver

The Broncos lost for the first time this year, but there is no reason to panic in Denver. The Broncos are a solid team in every aspect of the game and as a result will be a consistent team. They can throw the ball, run the ball and play defense; not to mention they are well coached. Remember that win over Cincinnati? Yeah, that could be a first round playoff matchup. Who knew? The Broncos can contend for a title, but I certainly would not pick them to do it.

4. Philadelphia

They have the offense, but the question with them is if they can run the ball. I think it is clear that LeSean McCoy is capable of running the ball, but the real question is if Andy Reid will let him. The answer in the past has been a resounding no. They will win the NFC East, but until they develop a serious ground game, I cannot consider them true title contenders. They are a very good team on both sides of the ball, but just need to develop the running game. The pieces are there, and the city is begging for it, but it will not happen.

3. Minnesota

They obviously have talent with Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Brett Favre, Percy Harvin and so on, but we still do not know if Brett Favre will be able to stay healthy and in full working-order in the cold of winter, and they have been extremely inconsistent so far in the season, barely escaping with their lives numerous times. They have the power running game, and have showed the potential to throw the ball. A lot to like here, but we will wait and see if they can stay consistent.

2. Indianapolis

We all know Peyton Manning is awesome. He is the front-runner for MVP and it is no big deal to anyone because he has 3 already. If he wins another it would be the second time he has won it back to back. We get it, he is really good. However, I am about to preach to you the power of the new Colts defense. The Colts switched defensive coordinators in the offseason, but it was not looking like anything special until directly after the Miami game, when they got embarrassed, but still won. See if you can figure out whose point totals belong to which defense.

A: 20, 13, 24, 23, 10, 31, 27,

B: 12, 23, 10, 17, 9, 6, 14

C: 10, 17, 23, 28, 20, 14, 17

Guesses?

A was the Vikings, B was the Colts, and C was the Steelers. Impressive, huh? The Colts have given up a few more big pass plays than they did in the past, but they have stopped the run exceedingly well since the Miami game. They gave up one big run to Frank Gore today, but otherwise did very well against a very physical football team. The offense has been great, but the defense has been the difference. The toughest has yet to come for the Colts, though, so they do not get them bump over our number one team. If they can handle a trip to Baltimore (where they are hated), and visits from Denver and New England, then they will be the odds-on favorites in the AFC.

1. New Orleans

The offense is scary. We all know that, but the defense is not bad at all. They have been feasting on young quarterbacks this season, but they are pretty solid all the way around. They have a leader in Jonathan Vilma and Darren Sharper, and between them, and fast, active defenders, they have forged a defense worth of a B or B+. No one wants to face them, they have a legitimate home field advantage, and their schedule features two more games against TB, two more against Carolina, one against Washington, and one against the Rams. Sheesh, could you ask for a nicer schedule? They do have a few tough tests left, including a game at division rival Atlanta, a game at home against New England, and a game against Dallas that will probably be so over-hyped that it could get into the heads of the Saints. Even if they were to go 1-2 in those games, they are staring at a 14-2 record and the label of prohibitive favorite to win the Super Bowl. They might drop the last game of the season simply to rest people, but they are staring at a 13-3 record at worst. Scary, but in the good way.

Should be a lot of fun to watch unfold and if it isn’t then sue the NFL for something ludicrous.

CLOWN OF THE WEEK: You know we didn’t forget about it even though it was not on the College Football Roundup. The clown of the week is DeShaun Stevenson for tattooing the 5 dollar bill on his throat. Really, DeShaun? This is not especially new news, but it is so clown-worthy that it is all good.

NFL Week 4

If I told you before the season, that the Broncos would be 4-0, the Titans would be 0-4 and the Baltimore Ravens would look better on offense than they did on defense, you would have called me crazy. That is what makes the NFL great; teams rise like Lazarus and fall faster than Andre Smith’s draft stock. I am going to try something new this week and say at least a few words about every team. Let’s start with the teams barely worth talking about.

The St. Louis Rams have scored 3 TDs this year and have an injured starting quarterback.

Sadly, this does not qualify them for the worst in either category as the Cleveland Browns also have only 3 TDs, don’t have a starting quarterback and their best player is Josh Cribbs, a kick returner. Though I will give credit to Shaun Rogers for keeping that game almost a tie.

The Oakland Raiders looked great against the Chargers week 1, but have not looked like an NFL team since and their passing game is so bad, Al Davis might as well be the quarterback.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also cannot be forgotten in the worst teams discussion. They fired their offensive coordinator, changed QBs once, will absolutely do it again, and haven’t held up on defense. Really, the Bucs are just horrendous so far.

Despite its 2-2 record, the Washington Redskins are a horrendous football team. They beat the Rams by 3, the Bucs by 3 and lost to the Lions. Barely any real offense, the defense, which was scary on paper, is really not much more than a paper tiger, and Clinton Portis, for all his hard work, is destined for injury yet again. Say hello to the NFC East cellar Skins fans.

The Detroit Lions have actually showed fairly well. Unfortunately, that second half against the Bears reminded us all why they have a long way to go still. The first half was pretty good though. Just keep your fingers crossed that Matthew Stafford is ok or else things are going to get bleak.

Carolina, Buffalo, Seattle, Arizona, and Kansas City all go into the same category: Have showed heartbeat, but more often than not look pretty dead. Maybe it is unfair to put Arizona in this category, but right now they do not look like a playoff team, even in that excuse of a division. The Chiefs fired their offensive coordinator too and just don’t look like they are fully invested in their season. Arizona will be the best of these teams, but it is probably little consolation in Sun City.

Not sure what to think about Miami. They have an injured QB, but a talented offensive line. They actually might be the only team living exactly up to their expectations. Not bad, but no repeat performances.

Same goes for the Titans. Should probably be better than this, but the lack of pressure Haynesworth put on both opposing QBs and offensive lines has been sorely missed. By the numbers they are tough on the ground still, but it is really more related to their utter lack of anything resembling a pass defense. Sadly for Tennessee, there is no rest for the weary as next week the Colts roll into town.

Jacksonville and Houston get their own division for looking phenomenal one week then laying eggs the next. It doesn’t matter though, because neither was going to the playoffs anyway. AFC South teams work like college football rivalries in that they know each other so well that the games are almost always close, Jacksonville v Tennessee excluded. Not much to say about them except their lack of consistency.

Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Cincinnati and San Diego all go into the not quite there category but for different reasons. Atlanta is st.ill developing a little bit and has had some line problems on both side of the ball. Pittsburgh has been surprisingly inconsistent but should pull out of it soon. San Diego always does this but have the Broncos run away with it? Probably not for good, but it might prove to be a margin too great for San Diego to make up and keep up. Cincinnati has been pretty good, but squeaked out that win against the hapless Browns, and if not for Carson Palmer making Marvin Lewis go for it, it might have been a tie. Green Bay is really more in the category of a horrible offensive line strangling the life out of a potent offense and a budding superstar at QB. Whether or not they can stick with this group has entirely to do with if they can protect Aaron Rodgers. All these teams should get better as the season goes on, except the Packers who need that condition of protecting the QB to improve.

The Cinderella category belongs to the 3-1 Jets and the 4-0 Broncos. Both have impressed on defense and done just enough on offense to be pretty good so far. The Jets impressing on defense was somewhat expected with their new head coach, but the Broncos D seems to have appeared out of thin air. They went from a completely helpless unit to having really shut down every team they have faced this year. The Jets D has shut down all comes as well, but the offense let them down against the Saints giving up points the defense could not even help. Both have been much, much better than expected though.

In the category of “Overrated, But Could Be Good”, we have the Dallas Cowboys. If this team took the example of the New York Giants and just developed a power running game and only passing when needed, they would be a really good team. Tashard Choice, Felix Jones, and Marion the Barbarian are more than enough horsepower and they have enough big boys up front to run all day, but they insist on calling Tony Romo a Pro Bowl QB. The way to turn him into a Pro Bowl QB is not by throwing 40 times a game; it is by developing the running game into a force so when Romo dropped back he wouldn’t have to deal with so many guys dropped back.

This brings us to the teams who are just a piece or so away from being among the elite. San Francisco, Philadelphia, New England, and Baltimore can count themselves among this group. San Francisco is really kind of a Cinderella, but such a dainty term does not fit the bruising, tough style of this team. They are a Brett Favre miracle from the ranks of the undefeated and should be ok even without Frank Gore. They are a little bit behind with the passing game and it is really the only thing holding them back at this point. Philly has been impressive even with McNabb out and the only real question remaining is if the defense can keep up after the tragic death of Jim Johnson. New England is with this group right now, but I would not be surprised to see them move into the ranks of the elite. Their defense has been a little suspect, but once the offense gets on rhythm, it should be scary once again. Baltimore is another team that will probably move to the ranks of elite, but they are not quite there yet. They have got the hype, and deservedly so, but they need to prove it week in and week out in order to really be in the top group.

Speaking of the top group, these teams are the Mt. Everest of the NFL right now. The Saints are for real. They have that potent offense everyone knows about but their defense is not bad at all. They are fast and I cannot name a team that would want to play the Saints right now. Minnesota has looked impressive too, but I am hesitant to crown them as true contenders. I need to see them do it outside in the winter with their 40 year old, as of this week, QB first. They have the pieces to do it, but whether or not Favre can hold up for a whole season still remains to be seen. Indianapolis is second from the top. Peyton Manning is the best player on any field he steps on and when the Colts are ahead, the defense is lethal. When they are behind, like in Miami? Not so much. They have the pieces to do it; they just need to be able to get the defense off the field. They will not blow a lot of teams out because the clock-eating tactics rightfully adopted by other teams keep it that way, but how many guys would you rather give the ball to with 2 minutes left down 3 than Peyton Manning? When Bob Sanders returns, they should be better, but the true testament to the Colts is the fact that such a glaring weakness is so universally known and yet they rarely pay for it in full.

The top of the heap is the New York Giants. Although the elder Manning has had the more impressive season, Eli, despite his plantar fasciitis, has led a really excellent team to a really excellent start. They can run the ball, throw the ball, play pretty good defense, and are experienced. What else can you ask for?

Alright, let’s get a quick rundown of the week.

Not a ton of great tidbits from the NFL this week. Washington and Cincinnati did their best to win by the smallest possible margin against the weakest possible opponents. The Manning Bros. dominated weaker teams. The Broncos D kept Denver in it against an overrated Dallas team (see above) until Brandon Marshall decided enough was enough and showed perfectly just how bad the Dallas defense is at tackling. Pittsburgh also did its best to throw away a huge lead against a typically underachieving San Diego team. Brett Favre impressed on Monday Night Football, Minnesota had better hope the Metrodome activities go this well Tuesday when the Twins and Tigers have their playoff. All in all, it was just another week in the tumultuous but fun, NFL.

NFL Week 1

MONDAY- Week 1

Ok, so I spoke too soon about Monday Night Football. I should have known better.

Buffalo, once again, choked and somehow, inexplicably, handed the game to the Patriots. Unbelievable loss, but I challenge anyone to tell me Buffalo did not deserve to lose that game after running the ball out of the endzone. I do not care how well they played for 56 minutes, when you do that, you forfeit your right to win. Hats off to the Pats for cashing it in, but wow Buffalo, good job on that one.

In other, completely shocking news, the Raiders kind of choked too. The entire game they lined up and just beat the Chargers to the punch. No exotic blitzes, no funny zones, just straight up man-to-man and the Chargers could not stay on the field.

This is where it gets good. So the Raiders are up 3 and have played well all game on defense. Do you think they A) did what they had been doing all game that had been working (man-to-man) or B) dropped into a prevent defense that NEVER works (ask the Browns vs. Elway). The club football team at small colleges choose option A. The Oakland Raiders boldly go where many have gone before: Option B. One drive later, the Raiders are stunned and down. They deserved it. If you cannot go with what has been winning you the game in the last drive, you don’t deserve to win either. I was speechless when I saw what they were doing on D but maybe I shouldn’t have been, I mean after all, they are the Raiders. Tisk tisk Oakland, you had your chances and you just threw them away.

CLOWN OF THE DAY- Referees. Ok, normally I wouldn’t go for Clown of the Day, but the refs were literally dressed like clowns. Was that a serious uniform? Just because the teams are in throwback doesn’t mean the refs should. I debated names for the zebras and all I could come up with was Creamsicle Zebras but wow how horrendous were those uniforms?

WEEK 1

With all the apparently competitive games out of the way by Sunday (Buffalo-New England and Oakland-San Diego appear to be blowouts waiting to happen) it seems like a good time to start looking at the week that was.

First up is Brandon Stokley’s miracle. As an Indianapolis native there is a special place in my football heart for Stokley who played the slot in Peyton Manning’s record-breaking year. What a catch, and underrated in all of this is Brandon Marshall not making the catch, but somehow getting away with it. He will get cut after this year, guaranteed. Rumor is that Shanahan was going to cut him, but got fired the day before he got canned. What a train wreck of a team, but look at the bright side, Denver, at least you aren’t Cincinnati. If anyone had doubts that the Bungals would still be the Bungals, rest assured, the Bungals are here to stay.

Next up are the upsets, most notablly the Jets over the Texans and the 49ers over the Cardinals. I have never said this about an 8-8 team before, but the Texans are the most over-hyped team in the NFL right now. We get it, Schaub is good, Andre Johnson is a beast and Steve Slaton is fast, but the defense is still suspect, as Mark Sanchez and Thomas Jones showed us and they play in a BRUTAL division with Indy, Tennessee and a physical Jags team. Not to mention it was at home. The Texans are still soft, give them time and stop hyping them if you want them to succeed. On the other hand, Mike Singletary’s Niners were the opposite of soft sticking in there and refusing to accept defeat against the defending NFC Champs. Players reflect their coach in teh NFL, the Titans are solid like Fisher, the Pats are hateable like Belichick and the Niners are hard-nosed like Mike Singletary.

Next on the docket is Sunday night’s suspense thriller of Packers 21  Bears 15. So on Rodgers winning drive, at least 4 people in a room of 6 called the play-action pass, myself included, yet somehow the Bears let the biggest threat on the field for Green Bay run wide open up the seam. I am not really going out on a limb saying this, but Aaron Rodgers is a shoe-in for the Pro Bowl and that defense looked phenomenal. I couldn’t decide if it was the Bear’s O-line or the Packers’ front 7, but the entire first half was just utter domination by the Packers defense. Chicago, hear me out. The first half was not Jay Cutler’s fault. it was either your offensive line being atrocious, or Green Bay’s defense looking like the Steelers out there. Without time, no quarterback can succeed, and Cutler is no exception. Get him some time and he will do good things for you. On the flip side, Cutler needed to check down a little more often when he had the blitz in his face. Matt Forte is an exceptional receiving back, USE HIM. Chicago, you can blame him for the decisions to throw the ball where he did, but blame the offensive sieve first.

Adrian Peterson scares me. bleeding profusely from the arm in the first half, absolutely abusing the Cleveland defense (especially on this run). Oh yeah also had 180 yds and 3TDs. The only negative thing i can say about the man is that his nickname (AD, for All Day) is confusing when his initials are AP.

As an Indy native, I feel obligated to say Colts 14  Jaguars 12 but frankly it was no different from any other Colts Jags game in that it was close and not at all comfortable for the Colts.

Anyway, props to Drew Brees for abusing the NFL’s punching bag, the Detroit Lions, and doing it with Mike Bell no less. Saints, as always, looked great on offense, and like a pee-wee team on defense.

Props to Mark Sanchez forhis first NFL win against a heavily favored team on the road.

That is all for this week, if you have any comments, don’t hesitate to do so.