Week 9: The Early Games

So once again the NFL steps in to make my predictions look foolish with another one of those weeks that turns the league upside down.


Cincinnati Bengals 20 Miami Dolphins 22

This momentum shifting game seems like an age ago now. Since then a number of things have happened that could alter the Dolphins season in a very negative way. But there will be plenty of time to talk about the Richie Incognito situation; we should concentrate on this game.

I believe on the podcast I stated “it won’t even be close”. I was wrong. What I didn’t see coming was a number of things. Firstly the injury to Geno Atkins is huge. Any Hard knocks fans will know exactly what they gave up for him and how valuable they think he is. Whilst they can fill in his roster spot, they will never be able to replace one of the best Defensive Tackles in the league. Last week I spoke about how they seem to have cover in every position, well this is one player that will be impossible to replicate and is a huge blow for the season. That being said, that’s not what lost them this game. After praising Andy Dalton for his recent performances, Dalton returned form we have come to see on a regular basis from the young QB. For me it felt like he tried to do too much in the face of a Defensive line that was on fire. He made 53 passing attempts and managed to have none connect for a touchdown, which is a stark contrast to the previous week where he was throwing them for fun. But 53 passing attempts shows a lack of balance, which is ridiculous when you see how well Bernard played. But if Dalton was to successfully put the team on his back, he would need to not make the vast amount of mistakes that he made, regularly throwing interceptions and taking totally unnecessary sacks. The biggest mistake came in overtime however, taking a Safety whilst looking for an open Receiver and taking one step back too many in front of a ridiculous play by Cameron Wake. There are some serious positives for this Bengals team however. There is still a ridiculous amount of talent on both sides, none less than at Wide Receiver with the emergence of Marvin Jones and whilst Atkins is a huge blow, there is enough talent on this Defence to make them still a playoff candidate, especially in an AFC North that no-one seems to want to win.

As stated above, I will cover what is looking like some truly deplorable actions of Richie Incognito, but for the purpose of this post I want you to cast your mind back to Thursday night and what was a great performance by an inconsistent Dolphins team. I feel like I should start with the superstar of this matchup. Cameron Wake played out of his skin. He was on the field for over 40 mins thanks to an Offence that struggles keeping drives going and led a Defence against some of the most talented starters in the league. Wake himself was responsible for 5 tackles, a strip sack and the game winning Safety in overtime, in which he breezed through the Offensive line like they were dummies on the practice field. After several weeks of limited action thanks to a foot injury, it finally seems like Wake is returning to form and in a big bad way. Special mention as well to Safety Chris Clemons, who hasn’t received a huge amount of praise this season, but is playing like one of the top Safeties in the league. On Offence seemed they might have tried to tone it down a bit and get the mistakes under control. Which they did. Wallace had a decent game, but still looks a little like a spare part, Miller might be on the verge of looking like a serviceable back and the O-line looked reasonably decent, which will obviously be a huge issue in the coming months now that 1 starter has been suspended indefinitely and another is on leave of absence. When I see this result, I possibly see the stand out result of the season for this team, with a huge dark cloud heading their way.

Kansas City Chiefs 23 Buffalo Bills 13

In a continual effort to embarrass me the NFL god through this up. A game where the team I said “could never come from behind to win”, came from behind to win the game. But to my credit I still don’t think the Chiefs could come back from a 20 point deficit, which is what I said on the Pod. Regardless, from this game it became apparent that the theme of the week is strong Defences and the Chiefs made sure we knew theirs was the best in the game. When the Chiefs Offence fails to score a TD, you would be right in thinking that there is no way the Chiefs can win this game, but a Fumble return from Hali and a ridiculous Interception return from the Corner Smith, who took it from his own endzone to the other proved that strong Defences are still very much relevant. What we are witnessing is a Super bowl calibre Defence and they have been consistently incredible. The problems however rest on an Offence that seriously lacks some dynamic pieces and what you realize is Smith probably can’t lead this team to a Super bowl. Jamaal Charles however still looks like an MVP and as long as he stays healthy, they’ll look like a threat. What I have said in the past is what is looking increasingly more like the case. This team is remarkably reminiscent of the 2011 Niners team that Smith had decent success with, but couldn’t failed to cause a splash in the post season. I think it is worth pointing out that a managed this whole write-up without saying ‘9-0’.

The Bills got off to a decent start in this one, with rookie 3rd stringer Tuel putting the team 10-0 up in a short period of time. But after the fast start turnovers became the difference. Tuel used all the weapons he had at his disposal and out-gained the Chiefs on Offence by an incredible 260 yards. Spiller looks like he might be edging back to his best as the Bills put forward a balanced attack with Spiller, Jackson and Goodwin leading the charge. I guess what Bills fans can gain from this is, Tuel can put yards up, much like Lewis and also Manuel. At some point you have to think it might be down to coaching and an incredible supporting cast. The Defence had another solid performance with Kiko Alonso continuing to look like a superstar amongst names like Mario Williams and Marcel Darius. The Defence performed admirably and can be happy that this wasn’t down to them. As previously stated the difference in this game was Offensive errors, or more accurately pressure from a very opportunistic Defence, which won the game for the Chiefs. The Bills can feel pretty confident that they stand a decent chance against the Steelers this week, but can’t hope for much more than a 7-9 season.

Atlanta Falcons 10 Carolina Panthers 34

Falcon’s fans have to be hoping this is a nightmare as their team gets handed its 6th loss of the season. It is fair to say they have suffered more than a few injuries, most prominent of which being White and Jones, the 2 elite Receivers that is considered to be up there as the best Wide Receiver duo in the league which has left the Falcons toothless and predictable. To highly rated QB Matt Ryan the season has been one to forget as he continues this match-up with his severe case of “throw to the other team-itis”, and racked up 3 interceptions, one of which got returned for a TD. Steven Jackson’s return has proved a touch of balance, leaving Ryan throwing about half the amount he has in the previous 2 games, which should help. But this Offence is in serious trouble and has to be thankful to be in a Division with the Buccaneers, who may make them look good. The Defence struggled too, as Cam Newton successfully managed to carry on what I suppose could be called a comeback after a lack lustre year in 2012. This Falcons team will probably struggle the rest of the season. Whilst White and Jones are out, which is a massive blow, I am now more concerned about the Confidence of the QB who is ironically (well it is now), nicknamed Matty Ice. This team luckily won’t hit the floor of the NFC South, but it is a forgettable season and next year they have to invest in some depth.

I’m always talking about teams getting hot at the right time are the ones that go on to win a Super bowl. The Panthers are that team. Ok so I don’t think they’ll go win a Super bowl, but they are definitely getting hot. Cam is doing something that Cam has never been able to do. Convert in the Redzone. His supporting cast is stepping up too; with LaFell looking like the Receiver we had been promised. “The Human Bowling Ball”, Mike Tolbert continues to get touchdowns for short yardage and Cam himself is once again is looking like the go to Goal line back. On Defence the team look as good as we were promised in pre-season. Keuchly is obviously the stand out talent but his supporting cast is keeping up with him. Standout play of the game has to go to who ran in an interception for a TD. Ok so this might be the hot team, but I don’t think they can win the Super bowl. A playoff spot however, wouldn’t surprise me.

Minnesota Vikings 23 Dallas Cowboys 27

A close game here as I finally begin to question my trust in the Cowboys. The Vikings showed similar form to that from London and that’s when you realise the formula is simple. When Peterson plays well. The whole Offence plays well. Did Ponder look amazing? No but he didn’t lose it for them and provided a welcome change of pace to Adrian Peterson and would on occasion use his wheels to make some plays. If the Vikings want to take anything away from this game aside from disappointment, then they can look to Peterson’s touchdown run where he had the whole Cowboys Defence, Offence, Coaches, Fans and Jerry Jones on his back (literally), as he scurried over the line, the kind of play only the best back in the league could make. After the Packers last week scored on every drive against the Vikings D, the Cowboys continued to make the Vikings D look very beatable, albeit not to the same extent. One shining light was the interception late in the game from Romo when they had the lead. However when Romo got the ball back the Vikings were drastically ineffective slowing down the Cowboys driving down field and eventually into the endzone. This Vikings team will struggle for the remainder of the season unless they can stop their Defence allowing points. Come the off-season they have some big moves to make.

The Cowboys always seem desperate to lose games at the end at the moment, which doesn’t bode well for my Super bowl prediction I have for them. On Offence Romo looked decent, despite throwing over 50 times and despite the late in the game interception, which he made up for by coming back and scoring the game winning drive. The Run game was barely used and you get the feeling they are trying to ease Murray back into his role. Dez (first name terms), continued to run his mouth on the side-lines, you know what, who cares. If he can keep playing the way he’s been playing then I’m pretty certain the Cowboys can put up with a bit over-confidence. The Defence looks like it might be a mess and with some of the pieces I struggle to believe it is down to the players, but more to do with Kiffin who I was excited to see get the job and be married up with Marinelli, but he just hasn’t done it. He always seems to miss the obvious (Megatron last week and Peterson this week), and should possibly be considered for the first out the door. All this being said, I haven’t lost faith. I see no reason why this team doesn’t make the playoffs and at that point it is a different ball game.

New Orleans Saints 20 New York Jets 26

The NFL proving once again how massively predictable it is. Ok so that was a lie. What this game was however was another game where our word of the day comes into play. Defence. The whole game seemed uncharacteristic for what the Saints have been doing of late. Brees made a number of mistakes, giving away silly penalties and also made mistakes through the air throwing 2 picks against a strong Jets Defence. The run game was neutered when Sproles went down early with a concussion and Brees was forced to throw more than 50 times against a Secondary that was having a very good day. Jimmy Graham managed his usual 100+yards and 2 TDs game and Meachem stepped up in the absence of Colston. On Defence the Saints successfully stopped the pass, but could do nothing against ex-Saint Chris Ivory running the ball down their throat. What has to be a worry for this Saints team is the Jets may have exposed a weakness as they go into a tough run of games that include the Cowboys, Niners, Seahawks and Panthers. It could be a rough ending for this Saints team.

The Jets game planned the heck out of this one and it worked masterfully. Geno had a good day as a game manager and pretty much just did what was asked of him. Which was not turn the ball over. As mentioned Chris Ivory had an amazing game and took advantage of what could be a big weakness of the Saints. But the true story is on Defence as the Jets Defensive line looked more like the 85 Bears, which you would have thought would make Buddy Ryan raise a smile. What the Jets did was unreal. They slowed down one of the best Offences in the league and left them with no answer to what the Jets were doing. The Secondary always seemed to breaking up passes and the D-line managed to break the O-line with regularity leaving a not so mobile QB with little choice but to take a sack. In the grand scheme of things I think this makes little difference to this team. The AFC seems to be pretty full for Wild Card contenders. But it does look like there is a spark for a young team that could improve massively next year.

Tennessee Titans 28 St Louis Rams 21

Despite a win here for the Tennessee Titans there has to be some concerns. This was pretty much a full strength team, so how could they struggle this much to beat a less than brilliant Rams team? What’s happened to the passing game? And where has Chris Johnson been hiding? That being said it was a win and a win that comes close to making this team relevant again. The star of the show as previously mentioned was Chris Johnson who ran for 150 yards and never looked in danger of being brought down. Locker seemed to return to last season’s form as passer, but played a pretty big part in the run game, scoring an important touchdown. The Defence looked solid; I’m still in love with this Secondary and love how hard they hit. In general though this team needs work. They are in desperate need of a no. 1 Receiver and Locker needs to return to the form of the early season. This team are remarkably close and could be as good as the Chiefs next year.

The Rams seem to be doing what a number of teams are doing, which is looking decent with a back-up QB. Clemens had another good game and managed to not throw an interception. The real star of this Offence however is Zac Stacy, who is the clear no. 1 in St Louis. I don’t know how they do it, but the Rams always seem to make average Receivers look decent, with the standout in this game being Chris Givens. This however leads me to my next point. Is Tavon Austin the biggest Rookie disappointment this year? We were promised so much by the St Louis coaching staff, then in Pre-Season he did nothing and the coaches said he was being saved for the regular Season. Now we’re over half way and he’s done nothing. How long will it be before they admit he was a bust. Don’t get me wrong I think there is a home for him in the NFL, but I don’t think it’s with the Rams. Personally I think he would make an outstanding Patriot. Anyway back to the game. The Defence managed to d0 a decent job stopping Locker and even managed to pick him off twice. But much like the Saints, The Rams let their opposition run all over them and give us a rare glimpse of what Chris Johnson can do. This team are more than likely out of the play-off picture, but with a young team they are in a decent position to see what it is they’ve got and look at how to improve next year. There is a genuinely good team here, but it might take some time.

San Diego Chargers 24 Washington 30

One of several surprises this week, as Washington win a close game in Overtime against an in form San Diego team. For the Chargers, Rivers played pretty well with the exception of a couple of Interceptions which helped tip the balance in the time of position balance massively in favour of the Redskins. Kennan Allen was the no. 1 target for Rivers as he gained over 100 yards receiving. The major problems the Chargers had however was an inability to run the ball and only attempted it less than 20 times, with Ryan Matthews looking more like the player he was a couple of years ago rather than what has been this year. The Defence looked beatable with RGIII throwing on them at will and Morris finding last season’s form to get him over 100 yards. An honourable mention to Liuget, who had an insanely good game and managed to get his hand on the ball in some very important situations. Despite playing some really good football this team has to be worrying now that they are 4-4 in a Division with 2 of the best teams in the league. What they might have done is let a team like the Dolphins who looked out of the playoff picture, in. If they don’t make the playoffs, you have to wonder where they improve in the off-season. Is it time for a change at QB?

The Redskins seem to be slowly finding their mojo with both RGIII and Morris gradually returning to the form they enjoyed last season. Garcon will be convinced that his team can throw the ball as RGIII got him the ball for 172 yards. Jordan Reed was quiet in this one, but the more this team plays, the more you realize there is some serious fire power in them. On Defence they seemed to struggle a little but did manage to pick off Rivers a couple of times. Brandon Merriweather still can’t tackle and London Fletcher continues to play at a ridiculous level despite being 150 years old. But I think what’s important is the leaps and bounds the Offence has made and how they look very capable of winning a shootout, which is important when playing teams like Dallas. There is still a very good chance this team wins the NFC East.

So that is the Early Games, see you for the Lates and the Monday game.