The Gents Re-Watch Review: Week 8
Some surprise results as we say goodbye to an undefeated team. This week also saw a 2nd year QB begin to look like a true franchise prospect that might bring the NFL’s ‘joke’ team to former glories, a blow out in London and the highest scoring game of all time.
Let’s do this.
Miami Dolphins 7 – New England Patriots 36
- Tom Brady: He continues to impress as the clear forerunner in this year’s NFL race. Brady over the last 3 years, has successfully transformed the Patriots offence into a fast paced offence, where he moves around the pocket and finds whoever is open. There is no-one better in the league right now at finding one of the Patriots many mismatches.
- The Patriots Offensive Line: The Dolphins have one of the best defensive lines, when it’s rolling. In this one they looked ordinary, holding the Dolphins to 2 sacks. I think as good as the scouting has been for this team, the level of coaching on the offensive line goes under the radar, as in my opinion the best in the league. The line has transitioned perfectly from being coached by Dante Scarnecchia to Dave DeGuglielmo, but gets little credit when we talk ab0ut the best units in the league.
- Dolphins Mental Errors: Tannehill didn’t play his finest game, there’s no denying that, but he wasn’t helped by some awful drops by receivers in space, that have been very good at not making mental errors over the last couple of games. There is no denying that there is a marked difference between the Patriots and the woeful teams in the AFC South. the problem is that they were dropping balls in space. That is a concern and although without these drops they still lose these games, it would at least have been vaguely competitive.
Detroit Lions 10 – Kansas City Chiefs 45
- Alex Smith: Once or twice a year we get to see the wheels that Alex Smith hides behind some usual vanilla play. In this game we saw something we haven’t seen all year… Smith putting the team on his back and leading them to a win. Smith ran for 78 yards and a touchdown exploiting some giant defensive holes. Smith being a duel threat in this game opened up the offence for the Chiefs and put Charcandrick West in a great position to settle in to his role with no Jamaal Charles for the remainder of the season. For a QB that has faced a vast amount of pressure, the Lions only picking up 3 sacks shows that this team is beginning to settle into a nice rhythm, which could lead a comeback for the last 8 games this season.
- Matt Stafford: You can’t judge the Jim Bob Cooter on just one game, but it might be becoming obvious that Stafford’s former glories are exactly are firmly in the past. Stafford has done a better job of spreading the ball around of late, which has seen better numbers for Calvin Johnson, but it hasn’t stopped him staring down his receiver. Stafford threw 2 interceptions and was lucky not to throw more. The line isn’t helping there is little doubt there and they did allow 6 sacks from 5 different players, but Stafford is simply not playing well and now there isn’t an offensive coordinator to hide behind.
- Lions Defence: Right let’s look at their rankings. Points allowed: 32nd, yards allowed: 27th, rushing yards allowed: 32nd. Last year this was… Points allowed: 3rd (282), yards allowed: 2nd (4815) and rushing yards allowed: 1st (1109). This defence has gone from 1st, to worst. This is one of many problem areas for the Detroit Lions.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23 – Atlanta Falcons 20
- Atlanta’s Offensive Mistakes: Julio caught for 162 yards and a touchdown. Ryan threw for 397 yards. Devonta Freeman ran for 88 yards. So what went wrong? For the 2nd week in a row the Falcons lost a game to defensive weaknesses and offensive errors. The fumbles were huge for starters. putting the ball on the ground 4 times and losing it 3 of them in more often than not an avoidable manner is unacceptable and needs to be something they focus on this week in practice. You simply can’t turn the ball over that much and expect to win. The Falcons woes didn’t stop there however. Atlanta got to the end zone 5 times and converted just twice. On the 1st drive of the game, Ryan drove the ball downfield, got to the red zone and gave up a pick that was called back, but could have been a pick 6. Even after getting the ball back though they were only able to get a field goal. Atlanta held the time of possession with 38 minutes, 496 yards total offence and 28 1st downs. Yet they couldn’t win the game. This team is dangerously close to following the Chargers to 2015 irrelevance.
- Kwon Alexander: Alexander played this game after an impossibly to comprehend situation, the rookie line-backer honoured his 17 year old brother, who died on Saturday, with a frankly staggeringly good game. I can’t imagine what Alexander was going through, but somehow he was able to put together one of the week’s best performances picking up 11 tackles and 2 turnovers. Alexander dedicated the game ball to his younger brother. Our thoughts are obviously with him and his family. Alexander has been excellent so far this season.
- The Good Lovie Smith Defence: Performances like this come from the Lovie Smith, opportunistic defence working to its highest level. They said they aimed for at least 3 turnovers, whilst keeping the offence in front of the secondary. In this one they managed to pick up 4. They won’t play this well every week, but when it’s rolling, it’s really rolling.
San Diego Chargers 26 – Baltimore Ravens 29
- Philip Rivers Staggering Losing Season: The Chargers are less than brilliant team, but Rivers is doing something pretty incredible for a losing team. Rivers is on for breaking Peyton Manning’s single season yardage record, despite having questionable weapons and an offensive line that seems to change on every drive. Rivers was matched by Joe Flacco in this game, but he’s been a paragon of consistency and has only thrown 7 interceptions. The Chargers lead the league in passing yards, but are 29th in rushing yards and 27th in points allowed all of which are creating shootouts that it is simply impossible to win and sees the Chargers bottom of the AFC West. On the plus side, Rivers goes up against the Bears secondary next week.
- Chargers Defence: The front 7 actually managed to get some pressure in this game, so really I should just be focusing on the dreadful secondary, which with the names on the unit really shouldn’t be this bad. Despite sparks of life (Melvin Ingram being the biggest), this unit is no doubt a problem, especially with the money they’ve invested in it. Next week they go up against the Bears, who also have a poor secondary. I think at that point we’ll really get an idea of how bad this group really are.
- Steve Smith: Smith was having a solid game when he went down with a torn Achilles. Steve Smith has now almost certainly played his last game, in a way I don’t think anyone wanted to see, an explosive receiver like Smith should go out with a bang. Despite potentially finishing his a career with an injury it shouldn’t mar the celebrations of one of the finest receivers of the last decade and look forward to seeing him pick up his gold jacket.
Cincinnati Bengals 16 – Pittsburgh Steelers 10
- Le’Veon Bell: Bell is, in my opinion the finest running back in the league, which will make the potential loss of the running back for an extended period of time a difficult hurdle to jump for Pittsburgh. Bell leaving the game meant they started to rely on the passing game, which saw a beaten up Roethlisberger throw the ball 45 times, with 3 interceptions amongst them being a difference maker in this game. De’Angelo Williams is a fine replacement for Bell and ended up with a combined 110 yards through the air and on the ground, but there is little doubt that the Steelers lost their most versatile weapon and a playoff run is looking more and more difficult.
- Reggie Nelson: Not a player that gets talked about too often, but Reggie Nelsons brace of interceptions were vitally important in a close match up that nearly saw the Bengals pick up their 1st win. Nelson might go under the radar, but coming into the season, since 2012, no Bengals player has had more interceptions. Nelson was 2nd on last year’s roster in terms of tackles with 92. This year he’s already picked up 38 tackles and 3 interceptions. With a growing list of Bengals that are sharing the limelight, it’s time to include Reggie Nelson in the mix.
- Andy Dalton: Dalton had his 1st game that made me falter slightly this week, but finished the game doing something distinctly un-Dalton like. Win the game. Dalton was under pressure from a surprisingly good Steelers front 7, although I think the term “surprising”, might be a bit redundant, when they seem to do this every week. Dalton’s performance here made me come to 1 conclusion. Dalton is finally making use of his unbelievably talented offence. Would I want him on an offence with few weapons? No, but what he can do is make use of the pro-bowl talent that surrounds him. You may scoff, but half the league would pick him up in heart beat and rightly so.
Tennessee Titans 6 – Houston Texans 20
- Zach Mettenberger: I’ve always considered myself to be a big enough man to admit when I was wrong and with the 2nd year back up QB, I believe I was almost certainly wrong. He actually isn’t very good. This is a conclusion that most people would respond to with a simple “duh”, but I believed there were the raw talents that could make him an interesting prospect teamed up with the right coach. To a certain extent I actually still believe that, I just don’t think we’ve seen a performance that will mean we’ll see someone pick him up. Mettenberger behind a beaten up Titans offensive line against a talented Texans defence that has spent the week in the news for not living up to their potential is a perfect storm that saw Mettenberger hit the ground several times, but it doesn’t make up for the boneheaded plays we saw continually throughout the game, which led to zero touchdowns. Marcus Mariota can’t come back too soon for the Titans.
- Houston Defence: I touched on it above, but it appears the Titans were the right team to awaken a sleeping beast in the Texans pass rush. Despite Clowney going out of this game, the Texans returned to last season’s form, with Watt and Mercilus combining for 6 sacks and Crick picking up another. JJ Watt also forced a fumble in a far more JJ Watt season than we’ve seen all season. Houston will need to lean on this defence if they’re to get enough results to take them top of a poor AFC South.
- Bryan Hoyer: Hoyer is now the Texans only real choice, which is fine if he can play like he did in this game for the rest of the season. Maybe I’m overstating it. He played okay for about 90% of the game. However for 2 plays in particular he looked great, including an exceptional pass to Nate Washington for a touchdown. Ryan Mallett may be a distant memory for the Texans and performances like this for their now out and out number 1 should make the loss even easier.
Minnesota Vikings 23 – Chicago Bears 20
- A Dreadful Bears Secondary: It wasn’t too long ago that Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings were leading the league in interceptions. That seems like a distant memory when you look at the distinct lack of talent Chicago has in their secondary now. The highlight of the unit’s play this week will be the interception picked up by Kyle Fuller, but this doesn’t make up for just how easy they were to throw on in the latter stages of the game where the Bears were actually ahead. The Bears secondary next week go up against the Chargers which just spells disaster for a unit that has seen an almost complete change this season and will no doubt see another one next year.
- All The Rookies: On both sides of the ball these teams played effective rookies, that have come in and made an instant impact. Eric Kendricks continues to be a front runner in the defensive rookie of the year stakes, continuing to lead the team in tackles. Stefon Diggs was a 5th round pick up and has made his way up the depth chart to be Teddy Bridgewater’s go to guy, bearing a remarkable resemblance to the Bears wideout, Alshon Jeffrey. For the Bears Jeremy Langford had to come in to replace Matt Forte. Despite some decent play, an easy 3rd down drop with the Bears last play, left the Vikings with enough time on the clock to move the ball down field and convert a field goal for the win. Finally Eddie Goldman had a quiet game, but has played pretty solid so far. A lot will be riding on Goldman with Jeremiah Ratliff leaving the organisation after some alleged controversial comments.
- Bears Special Teams: Much like the comments about the Bears secondary, it’s hard to watch the Bears special teams now after knowing how good they were. Punter Pat O’Donnell averaged just 28.8 yards with 5 punts. Vikings Punt returner took a 65 yarder in for a touchdown, thanks to poor tackling on the Bears front. Then there are the 2 balls that Mariani dropped on consecutive punts. The Bears special teams have been a staple to this offence, giving them decent field position. We haven’t seen that over the last 2 years and it’s become a huge issue for this team.
New York Giants 49 – New Orleans Saints 52
- Eli vs. Drew: On the way to a score like this, it’s pretty impossible to not break a few records. For starters, Eli Manning surpassed Joe Montana in all-time touchdown rankings. He did in fact surpass it by a few in the end as he finished the game with 6TDs. Drew Brees equalled the most touchdowns scored in a game with 7. Yet another record Drew Brees can add to his bio when he’s heading to the hall of fame. Finally this was the highest scoring game of all time, which isn’t really surprising when you see the score. As questionable as the defences were in this game, it is unlikely we will ever see a shootout quite this epic again.
- The Supporting Cast: It is impossible to have a solid offensive performance like this and not have a number of player rack up some crazy numbers. For starters Odell Beckham Jr. had his weekly insane touchdown run. Beckham finished the game with 130 yards and 3 touchdowns. Dwayne Harris was a name that didn’t carry a great deal of weight. Over the last 2 games however he’s hardly been out of the headlines, picking up 3 touchdowns in the last 2 games. The Saints had a variety of players proving their worth, with Watson continuing to outperform Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston keeping the location of the fountain of youth a closely guarded secret. Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead each also picked up a pair of touchdowns. Some insane fantasy numbers there.
- The Defence: There is no denying that the darker side to an epic shootout like this is the defences who were unable to stop the 2 QBs go duke it out with such a ridiculous amount of touchdowns. In terms of numbers, both defences combined for 2 sacks, 1 interception and 2 forced fumbles, as well as whole lot of missed tackles. These defences have struggled of late and will continue to struggle, but right now let’s just focus on the 2 exceptional offences we witnessed this week.
San Francisco 49ers 6 – St Louis Rams 27
- The Niners: I feel like every week I go off at an organisation and this week it’s the turn of the Niners. The Niners have fundamental issues starting with the Jed York and Trent Baalke, heading down through Jim Tomsula and Geep Chryst and finishing with their QB, Colin Kaepernick. For starters with a serious lack of depth at running back, now is not the time to release Jarryd Hayne, in favour of a pair of backs that managed 10 yards on 15 carries and Reggie Bush, who now looks like he’s done for the season, after many predicted his questionable injury history will come back and cause problems. As a result we could see the Niners go back to the ex- Australian Rugby star with their tail between their legs. On top of the messy release later in the week, the organisation’s insistence on sending Tomsula out to answer consistent questions about the locker room mentality of the team, specifically centred around the QB, is basically throwing him to the wolves. These are issues that have been talked about since Mike Singletary was in charge and yet the owners, GM’s don’t seem to want to say a word on the matter. Everything is staying behind scenes and whilst I question how serious the issue is in the locker room, there is no doubt that this is brought up on a yearly basis about this particular organisation. Whoever you want to blame, the issues are spilling onto the field, with undisciplined play which is resulting in penalties (see the utter shambles that led to the Rams getting a safety) and the lack of coaching Colin Kaepernick has received, a player who was on track to becoming a great player. Now it’s at a point where he’s simply not and he’s being asked to do an awful lot, which means he’s missing easy reads and as seen yesterday completely open receivers. So this is now an offence with no run game and a mistake riddled pass game. Much like the Colts this team needs a complete change of both upper management, players and attitude, until then this Niners team might just be one of the worst in the league. (sorry Simon).
- Todd Gurley: It is rare we get a straight shootout for rookie of the year, but the battle between Amari Cooper and Todd Gurley should be fun. Gurley has an ability to always look like there is no one ever near him, whilst displaying similar vision to Le’Veon Bell. Gurley turns this team into not only a watchable group, but also a potential play off surprise, perfecting what a number of teams would love to be able to do. Run the ball in a meaningful way and play great defence. I can’t imagine anyone’s criticizing the Rams draft now.
Arizona Cardinals 34 – Cleveland Browns 20
- Chris Johnson: The Chris Johnson comeback tour hit a slight speed bump when he put the ball on the ground twice in this one. Johnson however still managed to pick up 109 yards. Chris Johnson was a late pick up for the Cardinals and I think a lot of us thought he wouldn’t make the final team. Well he’s certainly proving us wrong. The 2 fumbles are a slight concern but there is no doubt that he is definitely their hot hand.
- Michael Floyd: Floyd finished the game with 106 yards and 1 touchdown. Really there could have been more for Floyd though with him regularly accelerating away from chasing defensive backs to be wide open. Early in the game a well-placed ball would have given the Cardinals a 14-0 lead with no one near Michael Floyd, as it was though a rare overthrown pass from Palmer meant it wasn’t to be.
- Josh McCown: Does he get hurt every game? It feels like it, McCown seemed to regularly get clocked, ending up underneath a hard hitting line-backer. I love players that show as much heart as he does, but there’s a reason he’s never really played a whole season of play. McCown needs to learn about self-preservation if he’s to be a season long difference maker for the Browns, a team who’ve already got their work cut out for them.
New York Jets 20 – Oakland Raiders 34
- Derek Carr: I feel like the world may have slept on Derek Carr and if you say you didn’t I want proof. It feels like something happened between the end of 2014, where despite a serious lack of weapons, Derek Carr looked solid and the start of 2015, where we moved him down the 2nd year QB rankings in favour of Bortles and Bridgewater. The fact is though that now he’s got a decent group of weapons and he continues to play behind one of the league’s best offensive lines (which we actually did say last year), he is the missing piece for a Raiders team that seems to have found some form. Carr finished the game with 4 touchdowns, and hit Jones and Holmes for some insane deep passes. Carr gets to practice his craft against a solid Steelers defence, at which point if he puts in this kind of performance the words “Pro” and “Bowl”, might start to be associated with his name.
- Raiders Defence: Remember when everyone was queuing up to take shots at Reggie McKenzie, because no one wanted to join the Raiders? Well I don’t think they’ll have that problem in the future. The Raiders have built a solid defensive unit. seamlessly switching to a 3-4 hybrid, without anyone really noticing. Khalil Mack was a player picked up in the 1st round last year and he’s been outstanding in nearly every game he’s played. This year he’s stepped up as a leader and as a result has made everyone on that unit better. Players like Curtis Lofton have taken a while to settle in, but has now found his feet, looking like a decent pick up. Denico Autry had the unenviable task of filling in for Justin Tuck, something he’s done incredibly well. Everywhere you look there is talent on this defence and whilst it won’t get the headlines the offence gets, I think they’ll be just fine knowing they are doing an exceptional job.
- Jets Clock Management: This week the issues revolved mainly around Geno Smith and some ridiculous plays. Geno seemed to refuse to throw the ball out of bounds and was instrumental in the clock winding down thanks to a sack and going out of bounds after forward progress. The Jets had just over 3 minutes to get the ball into the end zone twice, thanks to a questionable decision to throw the ball by the Raiders. in 3 minutes the Jets moved the ball just under 50 yards, not seizing opportunities to stop the clock. The blame can’t just be thrown at Geno however. Last week the Jets had an opportunity to get the ball back as the Patriots were eating up clock. Instead they let them run the clock down, refusing to call a time out. As good as this team has been, they desperately need to square this away, before it becomes an issue that will see them losing some very important games.
Seattle Seahawks 13 – Dallas Cowboys 12
- Matt Cassel: It must be tough for Dallas fans right now. The defence looks good and have done a decent job at keeping the score low. The offence has done an equally good job at keeping the score low. Cassel was a problem in this one, not even completing for 100 yards and not being the safe reliable hands the Romo has been when the game is on the line. Cassel did manage to move the ball 43 yards on the ground, but not generating a single touchdown is not going to win you a game against the Seahawks.
- Richard Sherman: Sherman played a great game and is definitely benefiting from the slight role change. Sherman kept Bryant very quiet in this one, but sometimes it’s important to remember context. Sherman managed to keep a ‘not-entirely-healthy’ Bryant quiet, with a ‘not-exactly-brilliant’ QB throwing to him. I guess I’m just saying that there will be an awful lot of hype about Sherman, but personally I need to see what happens when he goes up against a better QB, I’m not saying he’s not back to his best, I just don’t think he’s THE best corner in the league.
- Russell Wilson: Time to send some Seahawks love. Wilson is making mistakes, yes, but what he can do under pressure has been nothing short of excellent. I’m not generally his biggest fan, but he’s done a great job of becoming a true passer. There we go, not often I give Wilson some love!
Green Bay Packers 10 – Denver Broncos 29
- Peyton Manning: No one would be happier to see Manning continue this form, but I have my reservations. Before I get into that, let me give Manning some praise. Peyton has struggled with mental errors, which didn’t show themselves in this game. Peyton managed to get the ball to a variety of players. However it was Demaryius Thomas that reaped the benefits of a fully firing Peyton Manning catching 8 passes for 168 yards. There were a number of things that helped Peyton however. For starters the Packers seemed insistent of making big mistakes and gave up a total of 93 yards worth of penalties. The offensive line played their best game in this one too, backed up by multiple tight end sets, which did a great job at slowing down, what has been a solid Packers pass rush. However, I have my reservations that this can be a consistent improvement. Manning played this game, off a bye week in decent conditions, at home on a night where they were honouring Broncos veterans, whilst wearing the Super Bowl throwbacks. This isn’t going to happen every week. I have zero doubt that he’ll slow down when the weather gets cold and that eventually he’ll pick up some injuries that eventually slow him down to what we’ve seen in the previous games. If he can keep this up though, they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Just as a finishing point, this was the 1st game we saw the Broncos just play the way Peyton wants to play and it seemed to work. The optimist in me hopes this was the big difference.
- The Broncos Defence: This unit is insanely talented and might be a truly great defence. What the Broncos did was impressive, taking away Rodgers weapons, whilst stopping him moving around too much. The sacks weren’t necessarily there (though they still racked up 3 against a QB with eyes in the back of his head), they just stopped him making plays. There is no denying that the Packers offence has some fundamental issues (I’m looking in your direction Eddie Lacy), but the Broncos made them look ordinary. Not an easy task.
- Green Bay Packers: There was little chance they’d go undefeated, much like history is against the other teams going undefeated in the league. I would say to Packers fans, it’s not time to worry. I still think this is the best NFC team and they always tend to come good, which I 100% think they will. Games like this happen.
And that was a quick look at week 8. Listen to the podcast for a more in depth look at next week’s games