Just when we thought the AFC picture was getting clearer, week 8 came along and shook things up once again. Going into Sunday, both the Bills and Steelers were sitting pretty atop their respective divisions at 5-1, but neither team could improve on their win total.
Slow starters Houston and Cleveland both won, and are really starting to live up to their preseason hype. The Jets continued to look overrated, as it took a late touchdown pass to Laverneus Coles to get passed a Chiefs team that is only building for next year, and the Patriots squeaked by the Rams, as only the Patriots can do.
Finally, the Chargers and Colts continue their struggles, and are looking less and less like the sure division winners that everyone had them penciled in as at the beginning of the season. The only thing that we do know is that the Titans are for real, and are the best team in the AFC, at least for this week anyways.
It looked like the Bills were starting to run away with the division, but they laid an egg on Sunday against the Dolphins, and they are now tied for the lead with the Brady-less Patriots. Chad Pennington picked apart the Bills secondary for 314 yards on 22 of 30 completions, and second year wideout Ted Ginn Jr. broke out for 175 yards receiving.
Ginn just kept running simple slant routes, and seemed to be wide open most of the time, picking up huge yards in the open field after the catch. The Bills were also derailed by turnovers as three of their last four possessions ended in turnovers. Joey Porter was once again outstanding, as he had two sacks, forced a fumble that led to a safety, and recovered a fumble on a third and short play.
In Pittsburgh, the Steelers were in a little tougher against a Giants team that many believe to be the best team in football right now. Ben Roethlisberger had his worst day as a Steeler, throwing three picks, and holding on to the ball for way too long, as he was sacked five times. The turning point of the game was when back up long snapper, James Harrison, snapped the ball over punter, Mitch Berger’s head, resulting in a safety that tied the game at 14.
Eli Manning then took the Giants on a drive that resulted in a Kevin Boss touchdown catch, putting the Giants up 21-14. The Steelers could not answer in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, as Roethlisberger was under tremendous pressure, and eventually threw an interception that sealed the deal.
Both the Houston Texans and the Cleveland Browns had high expectations going into this season, but it has taken both teams awhile to get settled. The Browns had to deal with a tough opening schedule, while the Texans had complications with their stadium as a result of the Hurricane. The Texans have been playing very well of late, and should be 4-3, if not for their late game collapse against Indianapolis in week 5.
Matt Schaub has been playing fantastic of late, while his number one target, wide receiver Andre Johnson, continues to pile on the numbers as well. The defense has also been impressive, as defensive end Mario Williams has picked up right where he left off last season, with 8 sacks already this year, and the secondary is starting to get healthy, with the return of cornerback Dunta Robinson, who had an interception in this week’s thrashing of the Detroit Lions.
The Browns got off to a rough start, but have rebounded nicely with impressive wins over the New York Giants, and Jacksonville Jaguars, as well as a narrow defeat to the Washington Redskins. Although Derek Anderson’s completion percentage is atrocious, he has been managing to get it done of late, and his job seems to be safe for now, or at least until the Browns are out of postseason contention.
What has been the spark plug for this Browns team, though, is the play of the defense. Offseason acquisition Shaun Rogers has been playing out of his mind this season, and has lifted the play of the defense overall as a result. Rogers made 9 tackles this week, had a sack, and also blocked a field goal attempt in the Brown’s win over the Jaguars. Not only that, but he helped hold the Jags explosive duo of Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor in check.
The Jets sit at 4-3 for the season, but that is really not a true assessment of how they have played this season. Brett Favre, for the most part, has looked bad, making stupid decisions even when he has time, which has not been very often due to the Jets’ porous offensive line. Favre threw three picks this week, against a Chiefs’ defense that starts two rookie corners. Two of the picks were to Brandon Flowers, one of which was taken 92 yards to the house.
On the bright side, the Jets won the game, but they really didn’t deserve to. It seemed as though their game plan was to throw the ball as much as possible, even though the Chiefs had given up over 300 yards to the Titans only a week before, and Thomas Jones had just come off a 160 yard performance against the Raiders. The Jets, as it stands, are most certainly not a playoff team.
Another mystery this season is the San Diego Chargers. They were picked by many as Super Bowl Champions, but sit at 3-5, and bottom of the league in many defensive categories. Who would have thought that the loss of Shawn Merriman would hurt the Chargers’ defense as much as it has this season.
The Bolts’ pass rush has been simply non-existent, and has led to the secondary being gashed for huge yards through the air. What must be so upsetting for the rest of the team, is that the offense looks as good, if not better than they were last season. Sure Ladanian Tomlinson is not 100 percent, but he is still better than a lot of running backs in the league, and Philip Rivers is having a career year, leading all QBs in touchdowns and passer rating.
This week, the Chargers travelled to London to face the league’s top passing attack in Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. The Chargers’ didn’t register a sack, and were torched for 339 yards and 3 touchdowns threw the air in a 37-32 loss.
After week 8 one thing remains clear, the AFC is wide open, and it should come down to who is playing the best football down the stretch. Now here is my all-week 8 team:
QB: Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens – 12/24 140yds TD
-Although his passing statistics weren’t great, he ran for a TD, and also
caught a 43 yard pass from Troy Smith, in a big win for the Ravens.
RB: Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles – 22 att. 167 yards 2 TD; 6 rec. 42 yards
WR1: Donnie Avery, St. Louis Rams – 6 rec. 163 yards TD
-first WR picked in this year’s draft finally makes his impact felt.
WR2: Ted Ginn Jr., Miami Dolphins – 7 rec. 175 yards
-Ginn has a career day in a big Dolphins win
TE: Tony Gonzalez, KC Chiefs – 6 rec. 79 yards TD
-nice day for Gonzo as the Chiefs almost upset the Jets at home
DE1: Mathias Kiwanuka, New York Giants – 3 sacks 5 tack. FF
-was all over Roethlisberger in this one
DE2: Chris Long, St. Louis Rams – 2 sacks 4 tack.
-second overall pick showing why he was picked there
DT1: Shaun Rogers, Cleveland Browns – 9 tack. 1 sack; blocked FG
-his great play continues as the Browns defense continues to step up
DT2: Rocky Bernard, Seattle Seahawks – 2 sacks FF
-big win for Seattle in Singletary’s debut
OLB: Joey Porter, Miami Dolphins – 2 sacks 4 tack. FF Fumb. Rec.
-Porter continues the dream season for Miami and is now league sack leader
MLB: Jonathan Vilma, New Orleans Saints – 9 tack. INT
-interception ended the Chargers’ hopes of a comeback.
OLB: Karlos Dansby, Arizona Cardinals – 9 tack. 1 sack FF Fumb. Rec.
-made a big play with the fumble recovery in a tough loss for the Cards on the
CB1: Brandon Flowers, KC Chiefs – 2 INTs 8 tack. TD
-picked Favre twice, and took second one 92 yards to the house
CB2: Dunta Robinson, Houston Texans – INT 9 tack.
-good to see him healthy and making plays for a secondary that really missed him
S1: Chris Hope, Tennessee Titans – 2 INTs 5 tack
-not many players can say they picked off Peyton Manning twice in one game
S2: Kenny Phillips, New York Giants – INT 3 tack
-rookie made the game ending interception
Special Teamer: Santana Moss, Washington Redskins – 80 yard punt ret. TD
-filling in for injured starter, not a bad effort by the back-up!