9 Things We Learned in Week 9 | November 7, 2012 by

9 Things?!  This seems like rather a lot, pretty soon I’ll have to have learned something from every game each week.  Thankfully, we’re not there yet as I stayed up to watch the Chiefs-Chargers game on Friday and it told me absolutely nothing that we didn’t already know about the 2 teams.  The Chiefs are awful and turnover prone, whilst the Chargers are average at best.  In fact, I could have told you all that about a month ago.  Fortunately, the weekend fixtures proved to be more enlightening, although I’m going to start off with something that we’ve known for a while now, but it’s really worth repeating:

1.  The Bears D is seriously good!

Actually, it’s amazing, and it has been for the whole season. This Sunday in Tennessee may have been it’s finest hour.  Charles Tilman forced 4 fumbles! Most cornerbacks are chuffed if they get to that figure over the course of a season.  Brian Urlacher rumbled in for a 46 yard interception touchdown to give the Bears their 8th defensive touchdown of the season. They’ve equalled the NFL record for defensive touchdowns and we’re only at the halfway point of the regular season.  It’s scary stuff and to round things off, the offence is pretty decent too.  Cutler, Forte and Marshall all had stellar days to compound the Titans misery.  There’s a long way to go, but Chicago look a good bet for a run at the SuperBowl.

2.  Ponder This

Adrian Peterson is on fire, Percy Harvin is having a superb season and the Vikings D has made some big plays.  So how come, the wheels are beginning to come off in Minnesota?  I’m no expert, but when your QB throws for under 100 yards in 2 of his last 3 games, you’ve got a bit of a problem!  Christian Ponder started the season pretty well, but in recent weeks his timing, accuracy and confidence have all taking a nose dive.  You can have the best team in the world, but without an effective QB you’re going nowhere.  Even Rex Grossman managed to play well when the Bears reached the Superbowl!

It’s not yet terminal for the Vikings and Ponder, but in a highly competitive NFC North (and NFC overall), it’s probably going to take at least 10 wins to make the Play Offs.  Ponder certainly doesn’t look like a 10 win QB at present.

3.  Rookie of the Year is Wide Open

a couple of weeks ago, RGIII was firm favourite for this award, but Andrew Luck and Doug Martin have thrown their helmets into the ring in a big way.  Andrew Luck’s performance against the Dolphins this week may have broken the rookie passing record, but it was the manor of his performance that was truly impressive.  It’s hard to believe Luck is a rookie, his clutch play is up their with the best already and his ability to keep a play alive is going to make him a force in this league for years to come.

As for Martin, after a steady start to his career, he has really taken off in the last 2 weeks.  His 4 TD display against the Raiders this week was full of pace, power, cuts and moves that the finest RBs would be proud of.  Who knows, a few more displays like that and the ROTY award may not be a straight fight between the top 2 Draft picks.

4. NFLUK have got some serious work on their hands

As the Jags slipped inevitably to 1-7, the great and good of NFLUK must have had their heads in their hands.  The drawing power of the Jaguars is pretty small at present and it’s hard to see things changing any time soon – yes, Blaine Gabbert has looked a bit better this season, yes MJD will still be a good player and yes Justin Blackmon may have improved upon his lukewarm rookie season, but it’s hardly much to get the pules racing.  with the 49ers looking strong, the game has blow out written all over it.  Of course, us die hard fans will go whoever is playing, but Jacksonville aren’t looking like a team that will encourage new fans to give the NFL a go.

The Jags commitment to the International Series is fantastic, but to keep the fans coming we need close games and exciting contests.  It’ll be interesting to see how NFLUK market the game and try to drum up interest.  A montage of Jags highlights may not get the job done!

5.  It’s a Results Business

Matt Ryan

Once again, the Falcons didn’t set the world on fire, but once again the Falcons churned out a win.  For large chunks of their Sunday victory over the Cowboys, Atlanta were pretty ordinary. They huffed and puffed but were reliant on Matt Bryant Field goals to keep them in the game.  But in the 4th quarter, Michael Turner ran in for a short touchdown and Ryan made some clutch throws to keep the clock running and deny Dallas the chance of a game winning drive.

Nobody seems to be mentioning the Falcons as a SuperBowl contender  - they’ve had a soft schedule and haven’t looked unbeatable, but winning is a habit and this Atlanta team has that habit.

6.  There’s a Time and a Place to Celebrate

One of my pet hates in the NFL is players celebrating when they are losing.  Dez Bryant performed a textbook example of this a few weeks ago when he enthusiastically celebrated a last minute TD in Baltimore, only to drop an very catchable pass on the game tying 2PT conversion.  This week Mario Williams did something similar, when he sacked Matt Schaub and gestured to the Texan sideline as if to say “this is what you’re missing”.  That’s lovely, but it was the only thing Williams did all day and the Bill slumped to another defeat.  I think the Texans are pretty happy with the way things have turned out since losing Williams.

7.  The Usual Suspects are Coming

A few weeks ago the Steelers were coming off defeats to the Titans and Raiders and looking in disarray – No running game, under-performing receivers and an ageing defence, but the Steelers always seem to find a way to overcome adversity and after some impressive wins they are in pole position to make the post season.

It’s a similar story in Green Bay, the Packers were struggling after defeats to the Seahawks (Yes I know!) and the Colts. But Aaron Rodgers has really stepped up and the Pack are looking more like the team that has dominated opponents for the last 2 years.

It’s nice to have new names in the running, but some teams  - I’d also throw the Patriots name in here – always seem to be in the mix.

8.  All the Pieces Matter

Michael Vick isn’t having a great season, but it’s beginning to become clear that the problems in Philly are a lot more widespread. On Monday night, the offensive line were systematically bullied by the Saints, leading to 7 sacks and Vick’s brother suggesting he changes teams!  Demetress Bell was the main culprit, but the whole line looks a mess.  In addition, the Eagles have a number of high profile defensive players who are simply not making big plays.  The likes of Cole, Ryans, DRC, Asomugha and Babin are just not stepping up and changing games.

The Eagles have also been hindered by some questionable play calling in the Red Zone and some unforgivable turnovers.  Conceding 98 yard interception TD isn’t something that happens to good teams.  Unless there’s a dramatic turnaround, this is looking like Andy Reid’s last season with the Eagles.

9.  Drink Lots of Coffee this Sunday!

Did I mention that the Bears D was impressive?  Well, they’ve got a massive test this week against the Texans.  Both teams are 7-1, both have superb Defences and efficient Offences.  Matt Schaub doesn’t turn the ball over very often, but he doesn’t face the likes of Tillman, Jennings and Urlacher every week.  Meanwhile, Jay Cutler will have to contend with human fly swatter JJ Watt.  It promises to be one of the games of the season…although the last time I said that it was before the Giants annihilated San Francisco in a very dull game!

Star of the Week – It’s got to be Luck.  The Colts are having a fairy-tale season and Luck is getting better every week.  In all likelihood they won’t reach the SuperBowl this time, but with Mr Luck at the helm it seems highly likely that the Lombardi Trophy will be in the Colts possession in the next few years.

Flop of the Week – The Cowboys last ditch drive.  The odds were against them, but trying to go the length of the field in 17 seconds needs more than a couple of short passes.  Poor Felix Jones took the final short Romo pass as time expired and had 11 Falcons between him and the goal. Surely a couple of Hail Mary’s would have given them a better chance.  Those final moments in Atlanta seemed to sum up the Cowboys season.

Tony Romo

Highlight of the Week – I never want to be confronted by Brian Urlacher “running” at me, so I have every sympathy for Matt Hasselbeck.  However, Hasselbeck’s attempt at a tackle on No54 was an hilarious sight.  The Titans Qb turned himself into the world’s easiest obstacle course and invited Urlacher to just step over him on the way to the EndZone.  Sometimes you’re better off just not bothering at all!

 

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