Week 8: Thursday and the Early Games
Outside of the blowout in the Big Smoke, there was a variety of other games in the good ol’ US of A so let’s take a look at the ones that took place before my bed time.
Carolina Panthers 31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13
I feel like all we learnt from this game was pretty much what we were beginning to realize. The Panthers are getting hot and the Bucs are a ridiculous waste of some serious talent.
For Carolina it seems that Cam Newton might finally be becoming a closer and as a result they could be pushing for the Play-offs this year. Cam looked great getting the ball into the end zone, which is a huge deal when you look at this team at the start of the season. Cam could also be a surprise candidate for the pro bowl this year, he seems to be able to spread the ball about amongst Smith, Lafell and Olsen and I don’t think anyone saw the resurgence of Ted Ginn Jr as a pure Receiver coming. The run game looks dangerous too with Cam making plays when the pocket collapses and DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert making plays at Running Back. On Defence it’s more of what we already knew. The front 7 is amazing and looks even more so against a Rookie QB. As a result of this improvement in form they might very well pick up a Wild Card, especially with the Falcons in a bad way and the Bucs looking awful. More importantly they might just have done enough to keep Ron Rivera in a job, which means you can only assume the players are fully behind him.
The Bucs are truly a mess, but generally have been unlucky when meeting teams that have played bad previously as it always seems to be the Bucs they get good against. On Offence they have an excuse. The Running game is on the shoulders of Mike James who has not excelled after Doug Martin went down for the season. As a result Glennon threw over 50 times in this game and completed just over half. Credit where credit is due, he didn’t throw any interceptions. But he also didn’t make any dynamic plays. This Offence is struggling from a serious lack of star power with only Vincent Jackson making plays. Whilst Glennon could have a future with this team (and I stress the word ‘could’), I think it would be fair to say he’s been brought in far too early and looks like a rabbit in the headlights. He looks under prepared to take the starting job and it could affect what they get from him in the future. Whilst there are excuses for the Offence, the Defence really has none. There is some serious star power on this side of the ball but they really can’t stop anyone. The continued stubborn attitude to play Revis in a scheme he doesn’t fit is really showing, making me think they should have never picked him up in the first place. The Secondary as a whole should be lighting fires, but they’re not and the dream team Eagles of a few years back actually look better than this team. I don’t think they go winless but I would be hard pressed to find where a win could come from. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Schiano cannot be in a job by the end of the season.
Dallas Cowboys 30 Detroit Lions 31
I figured this might be a statement game, but thought it would be for the Cowboys. Anyway let’s take a look at the best game from yesterday and the battle between Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson.
A lot of people will make a big deal of this game and rightly so, but for the wrong reasons. Bryant’s side-line outburst was no different to that of Tom Brady’s a few weeks ago. He’s just obviously got a lot passion and was put in a pretty frustrating situation. Was it right? No, but it really wasn’t that bad. People will be blaming Romo for not closing out the game. He handed the ball of and was unable to get the first down to be able to wind the clock down. The only argument you could have for this is he should have known how little they’d achieved on the ground and maybe gone for a few passes. That being said, not a totally awful day for the Offence against a powerful Defence. I will say however it does give me pause for thought with my prediction that this team was built for the play-offs, now I’m concerned it’s the same old Cowboys. Despite 2 interceptions it was another rough day for a Defence that should be playing a lot better and certainly shouldn’t have let the Lions score at the last minute. This Defence could seriously be the difference between a Super bowl and an early playoff exit.
The Lions have been continually flying under the radar and are probably about to get some credit they deserve. Whilst Dez Bryant is probably my favourite player in the league at the moment and made a catch that only he could make, I think it would be fair to say Calvin Johnson won this round, although I think the 2 are a lot closer than people think. What we did learn is that despite him throwing 2 Interceptions Matt Stafford is a clutch QB and led the Lions on the game winning drive, with just over a minute to go and threw for a total of 488 yards. The Defence stepped up in a big way too. Stopping the Cowboys get a first down, keeping the Lions in the game. Make no mistake about it, this team is now on the radar and could very well be heading for the Play-offs.
Cleveland Browns 17 Kansas City Chiefs 23
I think it is fair to say that Weeden probably won’t be starting for this Browns team again as Campbell puts in a decent performance against one of the best Defences in the league. Once again Josh Gordon was the stand out Receiver for this team and Willis Mcgahee continues to be decidedly average at Running Back. The real issue seemed to be with the Pass Defence which is unusual for this Browns team, particularly for the Defence that features Joe Haden who is in the form of his life. What I take away from this game is that this team is a Running Back and maybe a QB away from being a really very good team. That being said, Jason Campbell vastly improves this team and will definitely get a few wins for them.
Despite a few scares the Chiefs are 8-0. I don’t think anyone could say they saw this coming. There really isn’t much more I can say about this team. The Offence is consistently good, Smith makes the plays he needs to and always seems to do enough to get the win. Jamaal Charles continues his campaign for MVP candidacy with another good game. But it is still the Defence who continue to look as good as any in the league and have shut down pretty much every team they’ve played. The special teams continued to be opportunistic and took advantage of a huge mistake when Bess dropped a punt. There is really no doubting the impressive nature of what this team have done, but it does remain to be seen if they can carry on through the play-offs.
Miami Dolphins 17 New England Patriots 27
2 teams that made big mistakes in the previous weeks look to stop the slump in this one. It feels like the Dolphins are close to becoming a good team but just can’t stop themselves from making mistakes. It would be unfair to include the Defence in this criticism, who have looked solid all season and seem to have no problem getting pressure. However the Offence just doesn’t click. It feels like Wallace is being misused, Tannehill can’t help but throw stupid mistakes and the O-line is not what we were promised. I hate to say it Dolphins fans but it might be a 7-9 season ahead and most probably a play-off miss.
The Patriots I still think have a lot going for them despite having a couple of stupid losses. But I do think they are relatively unchallenged for a play-off spot and if that happens then you can never rule them out of the Super bowl. They do however have some huge gaps on Defence in Mayo, Wilfork and Talib, who should be back soon. These are all huge, being the top players in each of their positions but still the Defence took advantage of some silly turnovers from Tannehill. On Offence they appear to be clicking. Brady had another mistake riddled game but had the excuse of a massively swollen hand in this game and still managed to do what needed to be done, despite only having 116 yards. Dobson and Thompkins have really picked up their play and are gradually become difference makers for this team. Ridley seems to have returned to form and Gronk seems to get better with every game. This team will make the play-offs; it is just a case of seeing how far into it they get. I still have to back them…yup I’m that stubborn.
Buffalo Bills 17 New Orleans Saints 35
The Bills actually briefly had control of this game in the 2nd Quarter. Briefly. Thad Lewis got hit way too much as he threw an interception and got stripped for a couple. Despite him having a lack-lustre season, this team has a different dynamic without CJ Spiller. Fred Jackson had a distinctly average game as he rushed for just 45 yards. The Bills did make some decent plays through the air as Johnson and Chandler had good games, but not good enough to keep up with the Saints. After heaping praise on this team’s Defensive backs they looked decidedly beatable against this high powered Saints Offence. Despite the record not being great I still think this Bills team has over-performed and fans should be excited about the future.
So apparently Drew Brees is pretty good. Not only did he throw 5 Touchdown passes, but he threw 5 epic Touchdown passes, with 2 of them going to his favourite new deep threat Kenny Stills. While watching this game I couldn’t help but think of the team that won the Super bowl, who this team was reminiscent of. Jimmy Graham found his form again in this one and scored 2 TD’s and Pierre Thomas kept up his current form of actually giving the Saints a run game. On Defence they seemed to force mistakes from the Buffalo Offence and kept Drew Brees on the field. This team could very well be heading to the Super bowl, but there is a lot of NFC competition.
New York Giants 15 Philadelphia Eagles 7
Remember the phrase ‘you can’t win on Field Goals’, yeah well you can if you are up against an Eagles team with Matt Barkley at QB. What’s worth pointing out however is a win is a win, so the Giants should feel good about their 2 game win streak. That being said, the Offence still looks pretty awful. Importantly though Eli curbed the Interceptions and relied heavily on new addition at Running Back, Peyton Hillis. It was on Defence that the team looked good as they limited a below par Eagles team to a single score. The Giants can now take this and hopefully build on this.
After a fast start (no pun intended), the Eagles are now faltering. Vick went out injured early on and was replaced by Matt Barkley, who clearly isn’t ready for the NFL yet as the Giants forced him to fumble 3 times. Without a passing game it was impossible to get the run game going meaning McCoy was quiet all day. In fact the only points scored were from a fumble, meaning the Offence didn’t score a point. The Defence did a decent job of forcing the Giants into making Field Goals rather than TD’s but in the end it wasn’t enough. This Eagles team is now in free-fall and I honestly don’t know how they can stop the rot.
So that’s the Early Games. Next the Late ones.