Unlike an episode of Two and a Half Men, every week matters in the NFL. Fates of men, of players, coaches, fans, hang in the balance. Those that backed themselves into a corner early must fight and claw desperately to survive.
So why do we see teams taking weeks off? Why do we have a team like the Philadelphia Eagles spending the whole game making the equivalent of a hundred Austin Kutcher penis jokes, rather than play acceptable offense or defense? Or, you know, if you’re punter Chas Henry, how about completing the wide open pass on a fake punt that you’ve been practicing all week?
It’s inexplicable to me, but people seem to love that show, or so CBS tells me. Maybe Andy Reid has given up the idea of trying for a Super Bowl victory that never comes, and is going for comedy instead.
Giants & Cowboys win, Eagles & Redskins lose.
New York’s blue team dug deep into itself and showed us something on Sunday. Or rather, two things. 1) They are a legitimate playoff threat as long as Eli Manning continues his higher level of play, and 2) the New England Patriots really aren’t as powerful as we all thought they were.
Sitting two games behind New York, Tony Romo et al are now the closest thing there is to a “challenger” in this division. Dallas didn’t earn any honors for beating Seattle at home, they simply did what they were supposed to do. And in a sense, Washington also did what they were supposed to do, putting up a decent defensive fight against San Francisco but still losing quite easily.
Philadelphia, though, continues its sorry season. If this bad joke of a team had been a TV show, it would have been cancelled by now, or at least heavily reformatted. Whoever this actor is playing the “shutdown corner Nnamdi Asomugha” role, they need to recast him in a hurry. And the second season of the Michael Vick reality show has completely lost its urgency. You feel bad for folks doing good work, like LeSean McCoy, but they’re trapped in this hell for now.
Packers & Bears win.
This division is the NFL’s steamroller, with all four teams (yes, even the Vikings) riding winning streaks. The only reprieve the rest of the league gets is when one of these teams is on a bye, as the Lions and Viking were.
Both Green Bay and Chicago beat flawed but dangerous opponents this weekend, each team showing an offensive resilience that overcame some late defensive breakdowns. It’s what you expect from Aaron Rodgers, but Jay Cutler surprised us by playing the hero role Monday night and playing it well. It’s easy to forget that he has a legitimate talent for throwing the ball.
Meanwhile, the Packers have a two-game lead in the best division in football. They are so strong that simply ranking them #1 in the Power Rankings does them a disservice, as though that #2 team was only one rung below them. Green Bay is playing games in a different realm, facing off against legends like the 1972 Miami Dolphins. These earthly conflicts are little but necessary tasks along the way.
Saints & Falcons win, Bucs lose.
New Orleans should have rebounded with a vengeance from Week 8’s profound embarrassment at the hands of the St Louis Rams, and they more or less did, handing division foe Tampa Bay a 27-16 loss. But the game never felt completely in their grasp until very late. If Tampa had been more than a collection of goofy dudes half-assing their way up and down the field, the Saints could have been in real trouble here.
I want to like the seemingly carefree Bucs, the youngest (but far from the youngriest) team in the league. And I do like them, I suppose. But at this point, I’m sure not counting on them for anything.
At least one of my NFC divisional predictions seems to be bearing fruit, though, as Atlanta is reasserting itself as a noteworthy challenger in this race. Go back and watch Julio Jones’ ridiculous first touchdown grab, hovering and adjusting his body a foot off the ground to reel in a misfired 50-yard bomb from Matt Ryan, and you’ll begin to understand why GM Thomas Dimitroff gave up his team’s draft future to get him.
49ers win, and the rest kinda dicked around.
The 7-1 Niners have a five game lead in their division with eight games to play. Let that sink in. They could clinch this division by Thanksgiving. And they have the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL, after playing one of the easiest starting schedules in the league. We don’t know anything about this team except that they are better than bad.
And the rest of the division is ba-a-a-a-ad. You could Frankenstein together the best players from the Rams, Cardinals, and Seahawks and be left with something approximating a contender, as long as you didn’t need an offensive line. (Note to the Rams, Cardinals and Seahawks: You do. You really do.)
Actually, I’m kind of excited by this idea. Put Sam Bradford on a team with Larry Fitzgerald and Sidney Rice, with Brandon Lloyd out of the slot. Give him old friend Steven Jackson to make fiery sideline speeches and 8-yard runs. Line up the defense with Calais Campbell and Red Bryant in between Chris Long and Robert Quinn, slide Daryl Washington to the strongside next to James Laurinaitis, and build yourself a decent secondary out of Patrick Peterson, Kam Chancellor, Quintin Mikell, safety/LB hybrid Darius Butler, and Brandon Browner.
Let them play behind Arizona’s relatively penalty-free offensive line (subbing in Russell Okung) and maybe you’ve got something like a football team here. Because as it is, they’re pretty pathetic.