Week 8 turned out to be a very interesting week even though the New England Patriots were on a bye. Before delving into the games I watched, I will throw out some random thoughts on this week’s NFL action.
The Arizona Cardinals remain an enigma. They had a nice win over the struggling New York Giants but laid an egg against the lousy Carolina Panthers. It looks like Arizona fans are in for another topsy-turvy season from a mostly inconsistent team. I would be shocked if they repeat their great playoff run of last year.
The New Orleans Saints are for real, for real! They have the most dynamic offense in the league and their defense is much improved. New Orleans and the Minnesota Vikings are clearly the class of the NFC and if the season ended today, you would have to put those two teams in the NFC championship game. Frankly, I’m not sure who would win.
Speaking of the Vikings, poor Aaron Rodgers. I think he is clearly one of the best quarterbacks in the league on a mediocre team. The injuries to his offensive line have him running for his life but he still performs well. If he played for the Vikings, he’d be doing the same thing Brett Favre is doing.
The AFC East is shaping up to be extremely interesting. The Jets, after a hot start, have fallen back to reality and the middle of the pack. The Miami Dolphins run the ball down everyone’s throat but their defense gives up enough big plays so it doesn’t matter. And the Patriots, while leading the division, are still not the beast they have been in the past with a young defense and an offense that only gets truly in sync against bottom feeders like the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This race is going to the wire, and I hope we (Patriots) come out on top.
Ted Ginn, Jr. is a bust. I don’t care if he had two kickoff returns for touchdowns, as a top ten pick in the NFL draft he will probably be relegated mostly to special teams for much of his career. He and Desmond Howard can share the honor.
I have called the New York Giants mediocre since the beginning of the season when everyone had them ranked as the best team in the NFL. I guess I was right.
The Dallas Cowboys are hot right now thanks to Miles Austin and Tony Romo playing better. I wonder when they will revert back to their choking ways? I don’t think the Philadelphia Eagles are as good as people think they are after the last two weeks but Sunday’s matchup between these two teams will be telling.
The Tennessee Titans finally got a win against another sorry team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the St. Louis Rams finally got a win over the sorry Detroit Lions. Both Chris Johnson and Steven Jackson are having solid seasons despite playing on awful teams. I wonder win Tampa Bay will win one?
The San Diego Chargers are HOT! NOT! Just because they won big two weeks in a row against pathetic teams, Chargers fans shouldn’t get their hopes up. When they play someone their own size they will fold again, as usual.
Now on the games!
GAMES I WATCHED
Baltimore Ravens over Denver Broncos, 30-7
The Ravens were desperate for a win after three straight losses to very good teams (including the surprising Bengals) and they played like it. This was mostly a defensive struggle until the fourth quarter when it appeared to me the Denver defense became fatigued and gave up two drives for touchdowns. Ladarius Webb’s kickoff return for a touchdown on the first play of the second half really pumped up the Ravens and their home crowd. Playing with a 13-0 lead really helped the Ravens, who are still primarily a running team with a great defense.
One thing that really baffles me t is why pundits and talking heads were playing up the lopsided score as if this were some type of comeuppance for Denver. It wasn’t as if Denver didn’t look competitive in this game. In fact, through three quarters, Denver played hard and well. It’s just that the Ravens defense made Kyle Orton look like, well, Kyle Orton. The Ravens set the tone for the game early on defense with a huge sack and turnover on Orton and some hard hitting, bone rattling tackles. Denver just ran into a hyped up defense playing at home and got shut down.
Has anyone noticed how good the Ravens really are? They lost to New England in a very close game. Then they lost to one of the top five teams in the league, the Minnesota Vikings, in a game they could have won on a makeable missed field goal. And then lost to a much improved Cincinnati Bengal team in the last minutes of the game.
With their balanced running attack, good quarterback, and still very excellent defense, the Ravens could make another deep run in the playoffs. The only thing they lack is a big time, big play making receiver. Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton are decent receivers but they don’t scare anybody. Mark Clayton should have developed into that big time receiver the Ravens need to get over the hump, but he hasn’t.
I think Denver will very likely lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers this week and really come down to earth with two losses in a row. But I think they are for real and will be a team to be reckoned with come playoff time.
Overall, I thought the defense was the key to the Ravens win and the leader Ray Lewis deserves the MVP.
MVP: Ray Lewis, LB
Minnesota Vikings over Green Bay Packers, 38-26
Frankly, this game did not look much different than the last game a few weeks ago where Minnesota beat Green Bay. The bottom line is Minnesota simply has a more all around talented team. They have Adrian Peterson, across the board they have better receivers, they have a better offensive line, and a much better defense. They don’t necessarily have a better quarterback. But they do now at least have a quarterback.
All the hype, of course, was around Brett Favre returning to Lambeau Field where his legend was made and beating his old team on their (and his old) home turf. But when the game started, it simply looked like the last game. Aaron Rodgers played well but the Packers simply don’t have the overall talent level of the Vikings. Until they do, or the Vikings are back to a Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels type quarterback, the Packers will be one step back pack in the NFC North.
MVP: Brett Favre, QB
New Orleans Saints over Atlanta Falcons, 35-27
This was a wildly entertaining Monday Night game with big running plays, big passing plays, turnovers, and scores on turnovers. The New Orleans Saints built a big 28-14 halftime lead, but the Falcons showed a lot of poise and class in coming back in the second half and making a game of it. Matt Ryan chunked up two big interceptions (three if you include the desperation heave at the end of the game), one which was returned for a touchdown, but he showed plenty of meddle in leading his team back and making a game of it. All around this was two very talented offensive teams duking it out. The key difference was the Saints just have a wee bit more talent on offense. Well, maybe a lot more talent when you consider they have four solid receivers plus Jeremy Shockey and the Falcons have only one in Roddy White plus the still outstanding Tony Gonzalez.
For Atlanta this is not a game to hang their head over. Their defense is still solid and Roddy White has really come into his own, truly becoming the big time receiver everybody has been waiting to see (which started last year). Michael Turner also finally turned in a huge performance with is 151 rushing yards.
Michael Jenkins, on the other hand, is a joke. When are the Falcons going to part ways with this talented but ineffective receiver? He has become more a liability than any kind of receiving threat. He should be on the practice squad not the starting lineup.
While there are plenty of accolades to go around for both teams, I am giving my MVP to Saints defensive end Will Smith who schooled second year tackle Sam Baker, making him look like a punk who doesn’t belong on the field with the big boys.
MVP: Will Smith, DE
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offensive Player: Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans, 228 yards rushing
Defensive Player: Jairus Byrd, FS, Buffalo Bills
Offensive Lineman: Steve Hutchinson, G, Minnesota Vikings
Special Teams: Ted Ginn, Jr., KR, Miami Dolphins
Rookie of the Week: Jairus Byrd, FS, Buffalo Bills