6 Things We Learned in Week 6 | October 18, 2012
One of the problems in writing a column such as this is that I’m setting myself up for a fall. In recent weeks I’ve proclaimed the ability of Alex Smith, Greg Zuerlein and the Houston Texans, whilst also questioning the wisdom of picking Russell Wilson as an NFL starter. In my defence I’ve also predicted the development of Alfred Morris and Ryan Tannehill, but the bottom line is that the NFL is wildly unpredictable and changed on a week by week basis. I guess that’s one of the reasons why we all love it. So here are some more proclamations that will largely be proved wrong in week 7:
1. Don’t go to Bed Early on a Sunday Night!
At 11:30 on Sunday evening, NFL fans in the UK would have been forgiven for going to bed. After all, the Giants were stomping all over the Niners, the Pats were outclassing the Seahawks, the Redskins had their game with the Vikings wrapped up and the Bills v the Cardinals was…well it was the Bills v the Cardinals!
Half an hour later and Jay Feely was missing a 40 yard FG to win the game for Arizona, Sydney Rice was catching a late Russell Wilson bomb TD pass to win the game for Seattle and RGIII was running 76 yards to thwart a brave Minnesota comeback. All 3 moments happened virtually simultaneously, creating a wonderful moment on Red Zone.
As for Monday night? Well I just hope that no Broncos fans gave up the ghost at Half Time!
2. Don’t Forget the Champs
Weird as it seems, the current SuperBowl champions have flown under the radar a bit this season. A Week one hammering by the Cowboys seemed to dampen talk of a repeat, but since then the Giants have clicked into gear and are playing some of the best football in the League.
The roster is packed with elite talent – Cruz, Nicks, Manning, JPP etc and given the flimsy nature of the other NFC East teams, a return trip to the Play Offs looks highly likely for New York. And you can bet that no team will relish a January match up with them!
3. The AFC East is turning into a Lottery
Prior to Week 6 the Patriots were easing into top gear, the Jets were in crisis due to injuries and lack of offensive talent, the Bills were 3-97 down over their last 2 games and the Dolphins were showing some potential but were clearly a work in progress.
One game later and somehow or other all 4 teams are at 3-3! The smart money is still on the Patriots, but I won’t be running down the bookies anytime soon. The Bills defensive showed signs of clicking on Sunday, admittedly against the dire Cardinals O Line and if they can cut down on the turnovers they could have a say. The Dolphins have exceeded all expectations by reaching 3 wins this season and with an on form kicker they would be doing even better. The Jets are a complete enigma, one week dire, the next week competent.
As for the Patriots? I honestly can’t see this secondary making a SuperBowl, they give up far too many big plays and as good as Brady is, they can’t put the game on his shoulders each week.
4. Rodgers is Back!
Finally, this was the Aaron Rodgers we know and admire. The 2011 MVP has had a relatively slow start to the season, but that all changed in one explosive night in Houston. 6 touchdown passes brought an end to the Texans 100% record and move the Pack back into play off contention. It was also a rebirth for the previously quiet Jordy Nelson, and further evidence that James Jones is turning into a top level Wide Receiver.
There are still issues in Title Town – namely, a leaky defence – but is Rodgers can carry on like this then a trip to the Play Offs could be on the cards.
5. 0-16 Watch is Over
I never seriously thought the Browns would go 0-16. They showed plenty of potential in the early weeks of the season and had run a few good teams close. Therefore, it was no surprise when they picked up their first win against the decidedly average Bengals.
In Trent Richardson they have a running back for life, Brandon Weedon has shown signs he can become an NFL QB, Josh Gordon looks a great home run hitting receiver and the young Defence has started making a few big plays. Clearly, it’s a work in progress, but Pat Shurmur is making the right noises and deserves some more time to get it right.
The Ravens and Steelers are aging teams, so the AFC North could be a wide open Division in the near future. Maybe the Browns can be part of the shake up in 2013.
6. There’s a Knack to Losing
Norv Turner and Andy Reid have an uncanny ability to make even the most comfortable lead look insecure.
For most teams a 10 point lead late in the 4th Quarter, against a below par Lions side, is a good thing. In Philadelphia it’s time to panic! The Eagles inexplicable changed to zonal coverage, thus allowing the previously quiet Calvin Johnson to run amok. To compound matters, the offence ground to a halt and gave the Lions plenty of time to get back into the game. The Eagles game plan was neatly summed up in Overtime. Having won the toss, they proceeded to gain a grand total of -21 yards on their first and only possession. Thus handing the Lions a short field and a chance for Jason Hanson to win the game. Last season was blighted by 4th Quarter capitulations and this will not have gone down well with Eagles Head Office. I’d imagine any seat that has Andy Reid on it will be hot, but it’s currently getting a whole lot hotter.
Not to be outdone, Norv Turner and the Chargers managed to turn a 24 point lead into an 11 point defeat on Monday Night Football. When San Diego scored their 3rd TD just before Half Time, there was as much chance of a Broncos victory as there was of the BBC showing a Jim’ll Fix It re run during the Second Half. What happened next was partly a Peyton Manning masterclass, but also an implosion of epic proportions from the home side. Philip Rivers threw 4 interceptions as well as losing 2 fumbles, the offence committed a number of silly fouls and Uncle Norv was at a complete lose to change anything. During Turner’s reign the Chargers have found to mess up on a regular basis – sometimes it’s Special Teams, sometimes it’s interceptions and sometimes it’s absurd penalties. Maybe the Chargers need more discipline and better play calling. Maybe it’s time for Norv to move on?
Of course, the biggest thing we’ve learned in the UK this week, is that there will be a second game at Wembley next season. What’s more, the Vikings-Steelers match up could be a classic and is very difficult to call. It’s truly remarkable to think about how much the NFL has grown in the UK over the last few years.
Yet still, my Twitter feed is full of people moaning about the expense of going to 2 games, how far away London is and how the Jags are not a great draw. The fact that any NFL game gets played in the UK is remarkable and should be celebrated. Having 2 here next year is a wonderful result for us fans. Yes, not everybody will get to go to both games, it will be expensive and you probably don’t support any of the teams playing. But the NFL is in this country…twice! It’s great to be an NFL fan and I, for one, will be trying to get to both games next season.
That’s it for Week 6. Based on previous columns, you can expect heavy defeats for the Packers and Giants, whilst Andy Reid and Norv Turner both sign lucrative contract extensions!