The Steelers are a better team than the Ravens AND the refs. Not only did the Steelers with Big Ben overcome the Ravens IN Ravens stadium, they overcame horrible officiating. Not only because of the newly illegal hits that weren’t called on the Ravens, but because of several penalties or non-penalties that the Steelers had no recourse on. The biggest of these was a call that should have been a safety against Ray Rice when he used Troy Polomalu’s facemask to hold him while blocking in the end zone. Instant safety and Steelers get the ball. Instead, on that play, Flacco threw for a 60 yard completion to Anquan Bolden. And of course the PI call that wasn’t. These were game changing calls that the Steelers overcame anyway.
Dallas is a dangerous team. For whatever reason, it’s becoming obvious that conventional wisdom was right. The Cowboys are a talented team (even without Romo). Now with more discipline from the Head Coach, the Cowboys are a tough team and can play spoiler, especially to the Eagles who have to play them twice in the next four weeks. The luck of this draw could cost the Eagle the NFC East at the hands of the Cowboys two seasons in a row. Except the Giants will get the benefit of this schedule draw. They were lucky to play them earlier when Wade Phillips was driving the team into the ground.
Rookie QBs playing well is starting to become routine. It used to be that rookie QBs never played well when started early. Lately, we’re seeing rookie QBs playing well in year 1. Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez, and more. Heck Josh Freeman looked decent with just 10 games to develop last year. This year Sam Bradford has been stellar for the Rams. They have a lot of holes to fill all over that team, yet Bradford has been pulling some games out in St Louis. And who does he have at WR to throw to? Keep thinking, you won’t come up with much.
Things I think I know.
Peyton Manning has lost his mojo. I think the mojo Peyton had for so many seasons of 11 or 12 wins every year is not there this time. Maybe it’s the injuries; maybe it’s the offense being out of sync. Maybe it’s a failing offensive line. Maybe losing his line and position coaching did matter despite what most thought. Maybe it’s all of these combined. The bottom line is that Peyton is throwing bad balls and the glimmer and fear of the Colts is fading.
The Saints may be the first Super Bowl champs to sneak up on people. No one has been really talking about the Saints. Drew Brees is on pace to throw for 4800 yards and 33 TDs. His early season struggles have inflated his INTs and the perception that he’s not having a good year. The Saints have found that teams are playing them a lot tougher this year, but are still 9-3. If not for a missed 28 yd FG in overtime, they would be 10-2, in front of the NFC South and tied for the best record in the NFL. The main problem the Saints had early were injuries. They are getting healthy and if they can stay healthy may well be tough down the stretch.
The new rules are affecting officiating efficiency. That’s about the only logical reason for the decline in officiating this year. Maybe Mike Pereira leaving has something to do with it. Whatever the reason, the confusion about rules among players and continuous flow of bad calls in primetime games seem to be eroding the confidence in officiating. It’s no doubt all are honest mistakes, but at some point it has to be addressed. Teams and fans are getting frustrated. Ask the Lions.
Things I know I don’t know.
Has anyone locked up their division? I guess the AFC North for the Steelers and the AFC East for the Pats looks solid, but there are still four games left and anything can happen. The Chiefs have the biggest lead over the competition with 2 games ahead of the Chargers and Raiders. However, they play both SD and Oak in the next four weeks and anything could happen there too. In a stroke of genius the NFL has the division leaders playing each other in the last five weeks. Last week it was Steeler-Ravens and Pats-Jets. There are six more games left that pit division leaders against each other. It’s that time!
Is drafting a RB in the first round really necessary any more? Yes, Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson are great, but other teams are doing pretty well with RB rotations and no star. Pierre Thomas was undrafted in 2007 and was a major part of the Saints SuperBowl winning 2009 season. His injury this year has opened the door for Chris Ivory. Undrafted out of Tiffin University (yea, go look that up), Ivory has racked up 636 yds at 5.2 yds/carry. LeGarrette Blount, another undrafted player, is second to Ivory in rookie rushing and is averaging 4.5 yds/carry. That’s right, the three first round RBs (Best, Matthews and Spiller) are behind undrafted guys in both yards AND yds/carry. Then there are Arian Foster and Danny Woodhead. Not rookies, but undrafted players making a difference. If you include 7th rounders, you can add Ahmad Bradshaw and Peyton Hillis. This position is a short term position. Most “single back” systems wear out their RBs in a few years. The rotational scheme with non-super-star players, seems to be working pretty well, without costing draft picks.
Is it time for the detractors to finally give Bill Belichick his due? Wow that was a shellacking of the Jets. The Pats have been improving on defense every week as their young guys learn Belichick’s complex schemes. The Pats swapped Randy Moss for Deion Branch. It’s working. Coach Belichick is known as a scheming genius and if he’s finally convincing these young guys to “just do your job”, maybe we’re finding out just how good he is. Over the last several years, the Pats loaded up on draft picks, trading back for more picks and trading away mid-life players for draft currency. Everyone has been astonished at how many picks in the first 3 rounds the Pats have every year. But it takes a great coach to mold that young talent into something. Jets head coach Rex Ryan was repeatedly saying that the Patriots had better coaching than the Jets (self-deprecating) and the best QB in the NFL. On Monday night, the Pats approved of that statement.