7 Things We Learnt in Week 7 | October 25, 2012
The biggest shock in Week 7 of the NFL season was that there were no big shocks! After weeks of upsets and unlikely victors, pretty much all of the usual suspects emerged unscathed this time out. That’s not to say it wasn’t a fascinating week of action; there were plenty of close games, incredible plays and memorable moments. So without further ado, here’s what we learned:
1. 1-5 = Season Over
OK, this may not be an arithmetical fact, but seriously, which of the following teams have a prayer of making the Play Offs: Jacksonville, Kansas City, Carolina, plus the 1-6 Cleveland Browns? Exactly, it’s time to trot out phrases like “building for the future” and “transitional period” to keep the fans at bay, whilst forums will be full of people questioning the direction the team is going in.
In reality, only the Panthers will have gone into the season feeling optimistic. After a phenomenal Draft season, Cam Newton was primed to take the franchise to the next level. Unfortunately for Panthers fans, Newton has suffered a worrying sophomore dip and judging by his recent post game interviews, he’s at a lost as to how to get out of it. The bullet throws and powerful running that epitomized his rookie season are sadly lacking and he is being out thought by Defences. It’s not yet terminal for Newton but he needs to adapt his game now that oppositions have cottoned on to his style and set up their Defences accordingly.
2. NFC > AFC…by quite a wide margin.
This week the 2 teams with the best record in the AFC went head to head, it saw the Houston Texans hand out a thrashing to the Baltimore Ravens. The Texans are the clear favourites to be the AFC’s SuperBowl representative – largely due to every other side struggling for consistency and form.
However in Week 6, when the Texans came up against an NFC powerhouse in the form of the Packers, they were found wanting. When you consider that the NFC is home to powerful teams such as the Giants, Packers, Bears, Niners and the Falcons; it’s easy to see why the NFC is now the powerhouse of the NFL.
3. You need a Strong Backup Quarterback
Blaine Gabbert was having one of the better days of his young career. The Jags were 17-3 up in Oakland and on course for victory. Then Gabbert gets injured, Chad Henne comes in and the game falls apart. Henne completed just 9 of 20 passes and gained just 2 first downs during his time under centre. Most of the time, he looked like he was reading from a different playbook to the rest of the Jags offence. Passes were underthrown, overthrown and sometimes thrown in complete different directions to the receivers.
Quarterbacks get injured, it’s part of the game. Having somebody to come in and manage the offence is of paramount importance. Players like Matt Moore and Shaun Hill have shown over the years that they can come in and take over an offence in the event of injury. Henne doesn’t appear to be cut from that cloth. If Gabbert fails to recover from his shoulder injury this week, Henne needs to get learning the playbook fast!
4. Chase Everything!
In an unlikely turn of events, the game winning play for the New Orleans Saints was a 95 yard play from the Tampa Bay Bucs! At 21-28 down Vincent Jackson was in the clear and on his way to a 97 yard touchdown, he reckoned without Malcolm Jenkins who gave him over ten starting yards but gradually hunted him down before tackling him just shy of the goalline.
The Saints then produced an heroic goaline stand (including another Jenkins tackle) before Drew Brees took them the length of the field so what turned out to be the game winning score. Without Jenkins it could have been a whole different story. In fact, without Jenkins it’s fair to say the the Saints season could be over now.
5. Age is Just a Number
Matt Hasselback must have feared it was the end of his NFL career when Jake Locker got the starting gig in Tennessee, but since Locker got injured 3 weeks ago, the veteran Hasselbeack has rolled back the years and led the Titans to 2 straight victories. What’s more, he’s thrown for 5 touchdowns, including 2 game winning efforts. This week he nailed a 15 yard pass to Nate Washington with jut over a minute remaining to give the Tians a victory and get them to a better-than-expected 3-4. Mike Mularky will have a tough decision to make now that Locker is fit again, but you can bet the fans in Teneessee will be hoping that Hasselback is kept under centre for a few more weeks
6. The Wheels are off in Arizona
It was all going so well – the Cardinals were 4-0, Kevin Kolb was playing well (for Kevin Kolb) and the Defence were making some big plays. 3 weeks and 3 defeats later, the Cards are in free fall. Kolb is injured and his replacement John Skelton is playing like the hit/miss 2011 version of John Skelton…except without the hit bits! In defence of any QB in Arizona, he has to contend with an O line that would struggle to stop my nan making it to the newsagents. Kolb, in particular, was a human punchbag and the team have conceded a whopping 36 sacks and allowed 53 QB hits. The bad news for Skelton is that next up are the physical 49ers. There may be another Quarterback in the injury room come Monday evening.
7. Don’t Leave Wembley Early!
Of course, the big event this week is the International Series at Wembley, and if the last couple of weeks are anything to go by it could well be a very exciting game.
The Patriots will be favourites, but in the last 2 weeks you’ve thrown away 10 point leads in the 4th Quarter. Against the Seahawks, it lead to an inglorious defeat, but against the Jets it ended in an Overtime victory. This isn’t the Patriots we’ve come to know over the years and they are showing plenty of signs of vulnerability this season. Tom Brady isn’t totally on his game and the secondary are giving up far too many big plays.
The Rams are a work in progress, but there are clear sign of progress. Finnegan and Jenkins are an excellent CB tandem, Jackson and Richardson give them a solid ground game and Sam Bradford is showing flashes of developing into a bonafide NFL QB. St Louis needs a signature win to rubber stamp their improvement, and Wembley would be a great place to do it.
Star of the Week: Drew Brees – It’s not exactly been a vintage season for the Saints so far, but on Sunday Brees reminded us all just how good he is. 377 yards and 4 touchdowns led his team to a vital victory over the Bucs. Despite all the problems, the season is still just about alive in New Orleans and if Brees can carry on in this vein it could yet end in success.
Flop of the Week: 2nd Year Quarterbacks – It was a terrible week for the 2011 Draft class, as messrs Newton, Ponder and Dalton had absolute mares. Ponder was particularly poor, throwing for just 58 yards and 2 interceptions, including a school boy effort at the end of the first half. Ponder started the season in great form but has started to struggle in recent weeks and needs to pick up the pace if the Vikings are to reach the post season.
In addition to the above trio, Blaine Gabbert got injured, Jake Locker watched from the side as Matt Hasselback led the Titans to victory, whilst poor Ricky Stanzi finds himself officially behind Brady Quinn in the Kansas City pecking order!
Highlight of the Week: Eli Manning didn’t have the best game of his career on Sunday, but with the game on the line, he did what he does best. Having sat and watched RGIII drive the Redskins to a potentially game winning touchdown, he took the field and withthe second play of the drive, fired a 77 yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz.
Have a great time if you’re going to Wembley this weekend, I’ll be back next week with a special “things we learned” focusing on the International Series.