8 Things We Learned From Week 8 | October 30, 2012
Once again, the NFL International Series was an overwhelming success, it may not have been the closest, most enthralling game, but the NFL continues to grow in the UK and each year the event seems bigger and more impressive. With 2 games on the horizon for next year, this is an important time for the development of the NFL in the UK.
Can we sell out 2 games? Will more teams want to come? Could the UK ever have it’s own franchise? And is Rob Gronkowski the worst dancer in the entire league? Here’s what I learned from my day at the 2012 International Series plus some other Week 8 lessons:
1. Tom Brady Live is worth the admission price
Admittedly I was in the cheap seats up with the Gods but even from there you could appreciate the skill and ability of the Pats QB. Thanks to an impressive showing form the O Line, Brady was able to show off his full range of passes. We had the rocket down the middle to Gronkowski, the delicately flighted corner ball to Lloyd and an array of immaculate throws to Welker for short gains. It was a masterclass of Quarterback play and the Rams didn’t have a clue how to stop him. Seeing elite players at the top of their game is a joy to behold and we can only hope that the likes of Adrian Peterson, MJD and Big Ben provide the same type of skill next year.
2. NFL Blowouts are rubbish!
For all the skill shown by Brady and co, it led to a very one sided spectacle and by the mid point of the fourth quarter, the stadium was half empty. That’s no reflection of the UK fans, exactly the same happens in the States. It’s just that when one team is 30+ points up and just running the ball with back ups, it’s not a great watch. When the Rams took the lead, the atmosphere was electric and everyone was out of their seats, but by the time the Pats moved the score to 35-7 the stadium was significantly quieter. The fear is that next year the Niners could well inflict similar punishment on the Jags. Most NFL fans will keep coming back regardless, but for the “floating” fans and newcomers, close, exciting games are the best way to sell the product.
3. The Rams had a Mare
OK, they met the Pats on a good day, but even so, this wasn’t the promising Rams team we’d witnessed in the early part of the season. This was the 2011 Rams in a time machine. The Defence were particularly poor and failed to apply any pressure to Brady and receivers were finding plenty of space. In fairness Bradford had a solid first quarter, but the Pats defence quickly got on tip and flushed him out of the pocket far too often. The Rams display was epitomized by a field goal attempt late in the first half that saw a botched hold and ended with Johnny Hekker getting squashed by some Patriot blockers. A few plays later it was 28-7, the game was up and we never did get to see Greg the Leg do his thing.
4. UK NFL Fans are Fantastic
Whether you were at the Fan Rally, the Tailgate or the Great British Tailgate Party, you were guaranteed a fantastic atmosphere and inevitably met some great people. Everyone will have thier own stories from the weekend. Personally, it was great to meet some of the British Eagles, although I was more that a tad jealous that one of them (Matt) had a sideline pass as a photographer and another (Ali) had a Club Wembley ticket. Guessing they had a slightly better view than me..yes I am bitter.
5. Tony Romo isn’t Elite
Maybe this one should be in the “Things that were Reinforced During Week 8″ section. Tony Romo’s first half display in Dallas ultimately cost his team victory in a must win game. Romo throw 3 picks including a shocker to JPP that was returned for a touchdown. Admittedly Romo turned things around in the second half and was a stray Dez Bryant fingertip away from victory, but Romo was the min reason they were in a hole to start with. The season isn’t over for the Cowboys but they need to turn things around pretty quickly and the familiar questions surrounding Romo are surfacing already.
6. We Know Who’s Going to Win Most of the Divisions.
Ok, maybe “know” is a bit strong, but let’s face it the Texans, Niners, Falcons, Giants, Patriots and Bears are virtual locks to win their Divisions. In addition the Broncos lok to be moving ahead of the field in the weak AFC West. The AFC North may prove to be the most interesting Division as the 5-2 Ravens look vulnerable, the 4-3 Steelers are improving and the Bengals and Browns are capable of causing some upsets.
Luckily, the Wild Card race is a lot more competitive and it’s going to be a complete free for all in the second half of the season. For what it’s worth (ie nothing) my tips for the Wild Card spots are the Seahawks and Packers from the NFC. Whilst the AFc is a finger in the air job as 8-8 could be enough to secure one of the spots. I think the runners up in the North will secure a spot and then it’s anyone from the Colts, Dolphins, Bills, Chargers or even raiders for the final spot. I think it’s fair to say that none of those teams will be making a long post season run!
7. Matt Ryan is the MVP Front Runner
This is by no means cut and dry and the likes of Manning (both!), Rodgers and even JJ Watt are in the running, but you can’t argue with the 7-0 record of the Falcons. Ryan hasn’t been perfect by any means, but he is keeping the offence ticking over and turning in some excellent displays. This week against the Eagles he lead the Falcons with 262 yards and 3 touchdown passes. The TD passes were on the Falcons first 3 drives and knocked the stuff out of the Eagles, it was until the 54th minute of the game that Atlanta were forced to punt. That sort of production is going to lead to lots of victories and Ryan is one of the prime catalysts for that.
8. It’s Almost Time!
We all knew it was going to happen, it was just a question of when. now after an abject defeat to the Dolphins and another poor performance from Mark Sanchez, the Tim Tebow bandwagon is gathering pace. In fairness to Sanchez, the Jets offence has been decimated by injury and it’s hard to see Tebow getting anything more out of the receivers. But Tebow is one of a kind and with the Jets season on life support Rex Ryan may decided that the team need the unique lift that comes when Number 15 is under centre, just ask the Broncos!
Star of the Week: Rob Gronkowski – No, he can’t dance and his knowledge of monarchy terminology is a bit rusty, but when you’re as good as Gronk who cares?! Television doesn’t properly convey the size and speed of the man, in the flesh he looked unstoppable. There were mismatches all evening and Brady took advantage of them. We’ll never know for sure, but I suspect that if Gronkowski had been fully fit, we’d have been looking at a different outcome to last season’s Superbowl.
Flop of the Week: Robert Meachem – The Internaitonal Series wasn’t a classic game, but it was infinitely better than the Browns Chargers bore fest in Cleveland. The windy conditions didn’t help and made scoring tough, but Philip Rivers managed to find a perfect pass in the second half that found Meachem in the clear with nobody to beat. Except that Meachem dropped the ball, there was nobody near him, the pass was perfect and it was a certain touchdown. It was the only time all afternoon San Diego came close to a touchdown and Meachem messed it up. The Chargers lost the game and slipped to 3-4.
Highlight of the Week – It has to be the International Series. Not a classic game, but a classic day and further evidence that the game is growing in the UK. Now can we have a close game next year please!