We learned a lot this weekend in the NFL. One thing we learned is that the once vaunted Baltimore Ravens defense is not what they used to be, even on their home turf. We already knew, but were unfortunately reminded, that Jamaal Charles is paper thin. Oh, and we also learned that no matter how much you make fun of Joe Flacco‘s contract, Matthew Stafford is getting benched while making his ludicrous amount of money. The Lions are in bad shape, and Stafford appears to be in a serious decline.
We also learned that there are some really, really good teams in the NFL this season. Six teams remained undefeated after this weekend. Which of the six are going to be there come January when the playoffs start?
Right now, there is not one ounce of doubt in my mind that Super Bowl 50 is going to run through Foxboro and Lambeau. The New England Patriots came out of two close games to start the season unscathed and now Tom Brady is looking like a man possessed. 1,387 yards with 11 touchdowns and ZERO interceptions through four games? Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman are as sure fire receivers as they come, seemingly never making a mistake. Their defense is not the greatest, but just good enough to clamp down when they have to and get the big sack or create the game icing turnover.
I thought Aaron Rodgers would take a baby step backwards when Jordy Nelson went down, but he’s as good as ever. He didn’t throw an interception until yesterday… where he threw two in the same game… AT HOME? Stop the presses. Aa-Rod is human!
He is doing it with a nice receiver corps in Randall Cobb, Ty Montgomery, James Jones and tight end Richard Rodgers, but the running game is non-existent as Eddie Lacy looks like the tires are losing their tread early on. I love that opportunistic defense that the Pack throws out every year. They aren’t fierce, but they shut you down by taking big chances and making big plays every week.
The NFC South has an interesting log jam atop the division. While the bottom two teams have combined for three wins, the top two are a combined 9-0. Can the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers keep it up?
The Panthers opponents thus far have a combined 5-15 record. If the Panthers were bad, they wouldn’t have won them all, but that doesn’t mean they are great. Their offense consists of two players. Cam Newton is their best runner and passer while Greg Olsen is the best offensive weapon they have. Jonathan Stewart is failing miserably to become the feature back with a backfield all to himself for the first time in his career and their wide receiving corps is depleted.
Luke Kuechly seems to be ready to go, and this defense is good enough to win them games, but if the Panthers fall behind, this team isn’t made to comeback. I don’t think it is made to beat quality teams, either. They do have five games left against teams currently with losing records, so a trip to the playoffs isn’t out of the question, but winning a game in January doesn’t look good.
I truly believe this is the best Atlanta Falcons team of the Matt Ryan Era. Dan Quinn has brought a new attitude that every game is winnable, no matter what the situation is, whereas Mike Smith seemed to lay down towards the end of his run. This defense is solid and fun to watch as the secondary is vastly improved.
The offensive line is arguably the best Matty Ice has ever had to work with, and while it is a small sample size, Devonta Freeman may be becoming the best running back he has had behind him. Julio Jones is uncoverable. Which makes it all the more odd that Matt Ryan has looked uncomfortable of late.
When there is pressure on Matt Ryan, he seems to fall apart. This is odd of the man they call Matty Ice, but it is certainly fixable. The Roddy White situation is also peculiar, and it’s almost as if he is being told not to look his way. When the Falcons iron out these two flaws, they will be a force to be reckoned with, as they have proven their intestinal fortitude with four comeback wins already this season.
The Denver Broncos have Peyton Manning and he is old. They also have Gary Kubiak and many of you know my feelings about him. Should Manning get hurt, should he decline even more than he seemingly has, Kubiak has no idea how to adjust. The Broncos could be in trouble. And let’s face it, folks, they should have lost to the Oakland Raiders yesterday.
Their running game is awful, and that says a lot, being that Kubiak is a running game guru, but Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are arguably the best receiving duo in the league. This team goes by their defense though.
It looks like, just as he did in Houston, that Wade Phillips is going to have to bail Kubiak out yet again. Their defense is sick while their offense and Manning struggles. I think Peyton, as always, keeps this team winning, but I don’t think they can go far come January.
And how bout dem Bengals? They showed us something yesterday, coming back and scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter against the two-time defending NFC champions. Andy Dalton proved two things yesterday: the Bengals are for real and the Seahawks, without a healthy Beast Mode, are not.
They are well rounded. That defense is solid. A.J. Green is the superstar on a receiving core that has decent complimentary pieces. Tyler Eifert is becoming the breakout start everyone envisioned. The key is that running game. If they realize what they have, it can be deadly. Remember Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis? How about Thunder and Lightning of Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne? Make Gio Benard do all the dirty work, because he is a well-rounded back, and leave the plowing inside the five yard line to Jeremy Hill. This team will be dangerous, and this could be the year we see Andy Dalton get past that early rounds of the playoffs. Can the beat the Pats most likely in Foxboro? I’m not so sure yet, but they are coming together.