Week 6: The Early Games
Or as it should be called, ‘the week the Defences took control’. Some great games this week. We only have 2 undefeated teams and they’re in the same division.
New York Giants 21 Chicago Bears 27
When the season is over the Giants will be kicking themselves that they didn’t win this very winnable game. But once again turnovers were the big difference and the predominant reason this team is 0-6. It is pretty difficult to tell who to blame, but whatever is happening it seems obvious that Manning is not on the same page as his Receivers. Worryingly for the Bears, Jacobs had a great game and in part made up for the inadequacies of the passing game, with over 100 yards from 22 attempts and scoring 2 touchdowns. The Giants have some serious problems on Defence too. The Secondary has never been an area of concern for big blue, but they seemed to be beaten regularly in this game by the Bears big Receivers. Losing a few games can be chalked up to a bad start, when it gets to 0-6 then there are serious problems with the team.
The Bears came away with a victory but it never felt like they were playing particularly well. That being said Cutler led the Offence masterfully and regularly connected with Marshall for a big gain. Forte struggled to get the run game going but did enough to be a concern for the Giants. It’s the Defence however that is the real concern for the Bears. Throughout the season a Bears team that has made its money on Defensive pressure could not get to the QB. To make matters worse the front 7 is fighting some serious injury concerns with Melton, Collins and now DJ Williams out. The Bears Defence did however continue to make the most of turnovers with Tim Jennings leading the way with a pick 6. In short, sloppy games for the Bears as they begin to look like the third best team in the NFC North.
Green Bay Packers 19 Baltimore Ravens 17
On a day with 2 of the highest paid QBs in the game facing off, it was the Defences that stepped up in this battle of 2 recent Super bowl Champions. On Offence however the Ravens did manage to play a decent game through the air with Doss stepping up as legitimate Receiver, whilst Torrey Smith has his first disappointing game of the Season. Dallas Clark seems to have gotten over his case of ‘dropsies’ and now looks like a decent threat at Tight-end that this team needed. As previously mentioned the Defence played a great game and for the most part, kept the Packers out of the end zone, forcing them to kick field goals 5 times. Unfortunately for the Ravens the Packers also played a decent Defensive game and managed to keep the Ravens out of field goal range more often than not. With the rise of some unexpected teams in the AFC and with the Bengals finding their form, there is a very good chance this team doesn’t make the post season.
The Packers are beginning to find their form on both Offence and Defence. If you took the Super bowl winning team of a few years back and added some talent in the running game, you’d have the team they have now. The Ravens did a great job of keeping this team away from the end zone, but couldn’t stop Rodgers and Lacy moving them down field and getting points on the board through field goals. The Defence almost completely stopped the run and forced the Ravens to go through the air, forcing them to punt and not be able to keep up with the Field Goals the Ravens were scoring. As stated previously, this team is really finding its feet and will almost certainly go through as Division winners forcing the Lions and Bears to battle it out for a possible wild card.
Cincinnati Bengals 27 Buffalo Bills 24
“The Bengals have a great team, but their QB lets them down”. Wise words of one Dan McLaughlin last week who is proved thoroughly wrong this week as Dalton puts the Bengals on his back to get the win in this game in overtime. After several quiet weeks we had an AJ Green appearance and in a big bad way as he catches for over 100 yards against a Secondary that’s being playing at an elite level. On Defence they looked like the team we were promised, but made some mistakes that kept the Bills in this game. Slowly but surely this team seem to be asserting their dominance on the AFC North and are no. 1 in the rankings. With competition in the AFC at a high level, this could be 100% necessary if they want to make the play offs.
The Bills put up a valiant fight, even without their no. 1 QB, who was replaced by Thad Lewis. Lewis actually had a decent game, making plays whenever they were asked of him. Spiller and Jackson continued to split carries which took the pressure off of Lewis and left him open to sling the ball about. The Defence continued to play at a high level against a Bengals team that were in the mood to decimate a team, keeping this young Bills team in the game. The Bills probably aren’t hitting the play-offs this year, but the future is definitely bright.
Detroit Lions 31 Cleveland Browns 17
Despite The Lions being behind at the half way point the Lions scored 24 unanswered points to decimate the Cleveland Browns. This has to be an encouraging win for the Lions against a strong Defence that took Megatron out of the game and coming from behind meaning they had to run a pass heavy Offence that they did to great success. Queue the emergence of the much needed piece they needed at Tight-End as Fauria steps up and scores 3 Touchdowns whilst the Lions equivalent superstar Tight-End, Jordan Cameron had a relatively quiet day. The Lions Defence continued to dominate and as previously mentioned shut out the Browns completely in the 2nd half. The more I see this team, the more impressed I am. Whilst I think some of their pieces push the rules of the game to the limits, it is clear this team is exceptionally talented and will be strong contenders for a Wild Card spot ahead of the Bears, but behind the Packers.
If the Browns play like this again they could have serious problems. Firstly allowing 31 points on this Browns Defence is unacceptable when they know their Offence will rarely be able to keep up with a high score like that. That being said the Browns Offence has to have some presence in the 2nd half if they are to win any game. For me the main issue was once again a lack of balance and patience. The Browns threw 43 times, but only went to McGahee 10 times with a total of 17 attempts. This will always be a problem that will throw 2 TD’s but also 2 interceptions. The problems on Defence are slightly easier to solve. Don’t let your foot off the gas, especially when you know they’re going to pass and you’ve already taken the Lions main weapon out of the game. If the Browns continue to play like this the playoffs will be a distant dream, especially with everyone else in the AFC getting better. That being said they’re not out of it, but the Ravens are in the way.
St Louis Rams 38 Houston Texans 13
Clearly the Rams didn’t get the memo about this being the turn around game for the Texans season as they took advantage of a team that likes to make mistakes. So how did they win this one? Simple, great Defence and mistake free football. The Defence created great field position through turnovers and Defensive stops, leaving Bradford just with the job of not cocking it up, which to be fair to him, he did admirably. Despite having less than 200 yards through the air Bradford scored 3 touchdowns and converted on the majority of opportunities given to him. So what did the Defence do? They simply played to the potential they have. This Defence is loaded with talent and for once we got to see it as they made the most of a Texans team that likes to turn the ball over. The Rams probably aren’t playoff bound and I still don’t think Bradford is the QB they need, but this must look encouraging for the future of this franchise.
Before I get into the Texans, let’s talk about the fans cheering when Schaub left the game injured. It’s disgusting. Whatever I think about it, it is just a sport and cheering for a player to get injured is simply not right. It doesn’t change anything either, so why do anything. As it was as well, Schaub played a pretty good game. He didn’t turn the ball over, he hit his Receivers and then they’d turn the ball over. There were however some positives on offence. Foster looked great in both the running and receiving game, picking up just under 200 yards collectively. But the turnovers killed them and kept them on the back foot. The Defence looked decent but were always on the field and defending short yardage, which was always going to be difficult. I’m at the stage with this team that I have to think it might not be the team and that it might actually be the coaching, after all it was only a few seasons ago the Texans were close to getting rid of Kubiak and I think the fans will be calling for his job when they realise Schaub might not be the problem.
Oakland Raiders 7 Kansas City Chiefs 24
Tough day at the office for the Raiders as Pryor played his first disappointing game, throwing 3 interceptions. This was always going to be a problem against a tough Defence, when you have a mobile QB and a questionable O-line. Aside from the interceptions Pryor had a decent day through the air, liberally spreading the ball to a no. of different Receivers. The Defence did well considering they were regularly up against short yardage and the Offence wasn’t doing enough to keep them ahead. Raiders fans don’t be disheartened by this game, with everything in the build-up and the way the Chiefs have been playing, the writing was always on the wall in this game. What’s important is how much this team has improved with decent young weapons. If the Raiders start to make the right moves, they might be contenders in a few seasons.
It was a great day to be Chiefs fan. First a couple of records were broken, most impressive of which being the loudest roar at an open air stadium, beating the record the Chiefs set earlier. What this means Chiefs fans is you have your fortress back. Teams will again fear coming to Arrowhead, in the same way an away game to the Seahawks makes teams think twice. But the best thing that happened was obviously the Chiefs going 6-0, now 1 of 2 teams with a perfect record. On Offence they look great, Charles is looking like an MVP and Smith makes safe moves but is getting the chains moving, probably playing the best football of his career. On Defence, they could be the best single unit in the league. They always seem to keep the score low and manageable and in this game got an amazing 10 sacks and 3 interceptions. Once again I have to mention this Special Teams unit that doesn’t seem to get enough love. No one can run it out against them giving the opposition a mountain to climb with every play. This team is for real and will cause a few problems for pretty much any team in the league. An interesting test will the two games against the Broncos, with Peyton Manning seeming to be able to move the ball from pretty much any position on the field, but maybe their Defence can do enough to keep the score low. Clearly this team is bound for the playoffs, but I am still not on-board that they can make it to the Super bowl. But already they’ve played beyond what anyone thought so I guess we’ll see.
Carolina Panthers 35 Minnesota Vikings 10
What a lot of people saw was a poor game from the Vikings, which it was there is no doubt about it, but what I saw was how potentially good this Panthers team can be. Cam Newton looked like the Cam Newton of his first season in the league, poised focused and knowing what to do to punch it in to the end zone. Also it wasn’t just plays with his feet, but through the air to a multitude of Receivers, his favourite of which being Brandon LaFell. The Defence also looked like the unit we were promised in the pre-season, just utterly dominant and not allowing either Cassel or Peterson to make plays. This is a very important win for the Panthers, who could still push for a Wild Card spot in a weak NFC South, more importantly its games like this that could keep Ron Rivera in a job.
Vikings fans, let’s get one thing out of the way. Adrian Peterson is an inspiration as well as one of the best players I’ve ever seen. There was no chance he ever misses this game, despite having an unimaginably tough week. Obviously our thoughts go out to Adrian Peterson and family. Cassel had a rough day at QB throwing 2 interceptions and having an inability to punch the ball into the end zone, which is something the Panthers would be used to seeing. On Defence it was a rough day as Cam Newton found a way to carve them up both through the air and on the ground. When I look at this team I start to think what a great fit Freeman will be. I can’t be the only one thinking this and their paying him $3m so I expect to be starting soon. At which point, surely the Vikes have to let a QB go and right now it’s looking like Ponder.
Pittsburgh Steelers 19 New York Jets 6
Another Field Goal-tastic game here, with 4 for the Steelers and 2 for the Jets. In the end though the Steelers ran away with it by scoring a Touchdown. Let’s be honest Steelers fans, this wasn’t a barn burner, but a win is a win. Big Ben continues to make decent plays behind a paper thin O-line, but still can’t create magic in the Redzone. Le’Veon Bell looked good again, but a little less explosive which has to be a little bit of a worry. The Defence pulled their socks up and finally got a turnover as Geno had a ‘bad Geno’ game. Do I think this is the win the Steelers needed to turn their season round? No. Do I think they get a few more wins? Yes, but not many, still the worst team in the AFC North.
Do I need to say too much more than Bad Geno, in regards to the Jets? I do think the Jets have a QB that irons out all these problems, but I don’t think it’s this season and things will probably get worse before they get better. The Defence played a decent game, managing to keep them out of the Redzone on every play bar one. But if the Offence can’t get a touchdown then that is a problem.
Philadelphia Eagles 31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20
Sometimes I forget how much potential this Eagles team has and I think Foles might be the man to unlock it. Foles seems to hit every Receiver and managed to not turn the ball over. There was still room for the run, as LeSean McCoy had another 100 yards+ game, but Foles also seemed pretty good as a game manager, keeping the pace of the Offence pretty even, giving his Defence a chance to rest. The Defence has been an issue in previous games and in truth it is hard to tell if they’ve improved, but they did play a nice game, but really the stars were the Offence, who simply outscored the Bucs. In the NFC East, the Eagles are very much in the running and need to keep getting wins to keep up with the Cowboys, who look like they might have hit their stride.
When I get into my power rankings it will be difficult to decide who I think would win the most games out of the Bucs, Giants and Jags. That being said the Bucs do look slightly more together this week, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Glennon is as good as Freeman and he certainly isn’t the answer but he does look like he gives a damn and he did bring Vincent Jackson into this Offence. On paper the Bucs Defence should be one of the best in the league, but they simply can’t get it together and seem to struggle to keep their team in the game. Revis is clearly being misused (or Revis is wrong for the scheme depending on how you look at it), leaving some very good Safeties to not make plays they could be making. I guess what I’m trying to say is, how long is it before we realise, this is all in the coaches? The Bucs clearly have a very good team, but there is a different controversy every week, they don’t have a legitimate no. 1 QB and they are playing their star players out of position. This team is a mess and it will get worse before it gets better. The only silver lining is it should get a lot better.
So that’s Thursday and the Early Games covered. Late games will be up tomorrow with the Monday Game.
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Main Image: AP Photo/Steve Nesius
Featured Image: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh