Tuesday, November 13, 2012

JC's Take: Stars, Goats and Notes From Week 10 of the NFL

Team of the Week: New Orleans Saints
-The Saints struggled mightily for the first month of the season. The offense put up points, but the defense had problems shutting teams down. But in the last two weeks, the Saints defense stepped up and helped them win games. Last week, the Saints defense held the Philadelphia Eagles to 13 points. This week against the Saints they came up with a huge 4th down stop inside their own 10 yard line with under 2 minutes left. Then they stopped the Falcons at the end of the game and handed the Falcons their first loss of the season. The Saints are now 4-5 and are in no way out of the NFC Playoff picture yet. If the Saints defense can show up and have a consistently strong performance every week, then they will be right back in the thick of things. Drew Brees and the offense can put up 30+ points like its nothing. If the Saints can hold teams to under 30 points every week, then they can win just about any game.

Game of the Week: New England 37  Buffalo 31
-As a Bills fan, it pains me to even write about this game. But the Bills gave New England everything they could handle on Sunday. And when the Bills got the ball back late in the 4th quarter, it looked like they were on the verge of winning their first game on the road against New England since 2000. But with the game on the line, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw an interception in the end zone, giving the Patriots the victory. Rookie T.J. Graham said he ran the wrong route, but Fitz still shouldn't have thrown the ball. He had two other WRs open. It was yet another painful loss for the Bills at New England. I could write a whole article on just those games alone. The win gave New England a comfortable two game lead in the AFC East. But Bill Bellicheck has to be concerned about his defense's performance yet again. They haven't shown the improvement you would like them to show as the year goes on.

The Shane Falco 3 Stars of the Week
3. Adrian Peterson
-As long as AP keeps performing like he has been, he will get included in my three stars of the week. This week's performance? Just 27 carries for 171 yards and a touchdown. He's already over 1,000 yards for the season and has gone over 100 yards in his last four games. I continue to be amazed by his recovery from ACL surgery. The Vikings season rests on the legs of Peterson and if he continues to come up with performances like this, they may sneak into the Playoffs.

2. Peyton Manning
-Speaking of comebacks from injury, how about Peyton Manning? Peyton went for over 300 yards again in the Broncos victory over the Panthers. Manning continues to look impressive after missing all of last year due to neck problems. Manning has thrown for over 300 yards in 6 of his last 7 games. He's also helped the Broncos win four in a row and five out of their last six. Peyton has helped the Broncos take control of the AFC West, and they could all but officially wrap up the division with a win against the Chargers this week.

1. Arian Foster
-That Sunday night game was quite the sloppy affair. The rain caused multiple turnovers and made for one ugly football game all around. While both defenses came up with takeaways, the game came down to the team that had the best playmaker step up and make plays for them. Foster ran for over 100 yards and scored the games only touchdown on a nice dive into the end zone. Houston is now 8-1 and appears to be on their way to the #1 overall seed in the AFC.

The John Calipari (Angry Maryland Fan Here) 3 Goats of the Week
3. Brandon Spikes
-This may be a personal bias, but I hate Spikes with a passion. He took a cheap shot at Bills TE Scott Chandler the last time these teams played with a launching hit to the head on him behind the play. This time he delivered a helmet to helmet hit on Ryan Fitzpatrick. And then after that, he hit Fred Jackson who suffered a concussion on the play. The cameras then showed him flexing his muscles while Jackson was being tended to. Classless act by Spikes. Maybe he should be more concerned about his defense's poor performance.

2. Philip Rivers
-As much as Norv Turner is to blame for the Chargers poor performance, Philip Rivers hasn't played too well this season either. He made a couple of awful throws this past week against Tampa Bay. One of those throws lead to an interception returned for a touchdown. Rivers has not looked impressive this year and he seems to be forcing throws way more than normal.

1. NY Giants Offense
-Teams as good as the New York Giants are not suppose to put up bad performances like they did this past Sunday against the Bengals. Eli Manning only threw for 215 yards and added two interceptions to the mix. The Giants offense turned the ball over four times. New York has lost two in a row and did not look good in the second half of their win against the Dallas Cowboys. For the Giants, it is a good thing the rest of the NFC East is having a down year. The Giants normally go through a lull during the season, and this appears to be it.

Other Week 10 Notes
-Multiple quarterbacks this week suffered concussions/injuries. Alex Smith, Jay Cutler, and Mike Vick all went down with concussions. Ben Roethlisberger suffered a sprained shoulder, the severity of which is not known. So which QBs injury hurts their team the most? If Big Ben is out for an extended period of time, my answer would be Pittsburgh. Byron Leftwich cannot make the same plays Ben can with his feet. I know Leftwich played well during the early part of his career in Jacksonville, but he just isn't the same QB he was then. Pittsburgh struggled with the Chiefs Monday night. They still have the Ravens twice. They might still be good enough to be a Playoff team in the muddled AFC, but not good enough to make a deep run. Without Cutler, the Bears have to rely almost entirely on their defense. Campbell, similar to Leftwich, is an average QB. Again, they are still a Playoff team, but that can't make a deep run with Leftwich. The Eagles season is done anyways, so losing Vick isn't terrible. The 49ers using Colin Kapernick opens up their playbook, but I wouldn't trust him to lead the team the Playoffs. They may be over taken by Seattle in the end.

-I wanted to look at both conference's Playoff pictures this week as well. Lets start with the AFC. I fully expect every division leader to keep their lead until the end of the season. I expect the Texans to remain the #1 overall seed, and Baltimore to grab the #2 spot. New England gets #3 and Denver #4. The AFC Wild Card picture gets more interesting. The Colts and Steelers are both 6-3. But the Colts schedule gets very difficult. They go to New England next week. They still have to play Houston twice and go to Detroit. The also play the Bills, a team you know won't quit. The Steelers still play the Ravens twice. But they also still play the Browns twice and the Bengals at home. As far as teams on the outside looking in: The Bills have the easiest schedule of the bunch. If they can beat Miami and win at Indianapolis, they have two home games in a row against St. Louis and Jacksonville. Cincinnati has games left against Kansas City and Oakland, but also against Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Tennessee's toughest game is against Green Bay. I think when it is all set and done, Pittsburgh gets in with the Colts. My homerism in me would love to pick Buffalo, but I just can't do that.

-Over in the NFC, things look a bit more complicated. I think the Giants still win the NFC East in the end. But the Giants schedule gets VERY difficult in the coming weeks. They still play the Falcons, Saints, Packers and Ravens. But the Giants are a more talented and better coached team than the Cowboys. I think the Falcons have a big enough lead in the NFC South that the Bucs or Saints won't be able to catch them. Atlanta's most difficult games left are both at home against the Giants and Saints. Seattle and San Francisco both have difficult schedules coming up. That division may come down to their Week 16 game in Seattle, which automatically gives the Seahawks the advantage. The same could be said for the NFC North between the Bears and Packers. They play in Week 15. The Wild Card picture is even more clouded. I think whoever doesn't win the NFC North between the Bears and Packers will get one of the Wild Card spots. I feel confident saying that. After that? Its a crapshoot. Tampa Bay still plays the Saints and Atlanta twice. The Saints have a difficult three game stretch coming up (vs San Francisco, at Atlanta, at NY Giants). Minnesota has the most difficult schedule, playing Green Bay and Chicago twice and going to Houston. Seattle still plays San Francisco and goes to Chicago. My picks, in projected order of finish: Atlanta, Green Bay, San Francisco, NY Giants, Chicago, Seattle. The Seahawks have the easiest schedule remaining of all Wild Card teams.

Random One Liners
-If Mike Tomlin gets flagged for swearing at an official, how come there aren't flags on every play in the NFL?

-A tie? A TIE? I'd almost rather lose than suffer a tie.

-Maybe more owners need to threaten their team to play better.

-Will Philly fans be chanting for Mike Vick to come back after they get a glimpse of Nick Foles?

-A fake field goal already up on the Raiders late? Really Coach Harbaugh?

1. Houston Texans
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. Chicago Bears
4. Baltimore Ravens
5. New England Patriots

The Bottom of the Barrel Five
28. Oakland Raiders
29. Carolina Panthers
30. Cleveland Browns
31. Kansas City Chiefs
32. Jacksonville Jaguars

Three Games I'd Like To See Next Week
Baltimore at Pittsburgh: Always fun when these two teams play.
Indianapolis at New England: Time for Indy to show how good they are.
Chicago at San Francisco: Game could have Playoff implications later in the year.

Until Next Time,
Justin C
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka

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