…And Then There Were Two
With the Cardinals losing on Thursday night, only Atlanta and Houston are left undefeated. Both had to fight hard to keep their perfect record. however. In Washington, the Falcons entered the fourth quarter down by three, but rallied to score the game-winning touchdown with less than three minutes to go.
Meanwhile, Houston escaped MetLife Stadium with a six point victory over the Jets. In a game where the score was much closer than the game itself, the Texans offense overcame a so-so game from Matt Schaub (50% completions and a pick) and a non-existent game from Andre Johnson (one catch on six targets) to pick up the road win.
It’s hard to argue against Houston as the best team in football, but their upcoming schedule won’t do them any favors to stay unbeaten; they’ll see Green Bay Sunday night and follow it up against Baltimore. Both will be home games for the Texans, but tough matchups all the same. Atlanta has Oakland at home next before heading into their bye week. Advantage Falcons.
Clicking At The Right Time
While Houston and Atlanta won close contests, San Francisco, Chicago, and Minnesota continued to impress with blowouts.
San Francisco’s 45-3 win over Buffalo was domination from start to finish. The 49ers owned in time of possession, tripled Buffalo’s offensive yards on the day, and became the first team in NFL history to pass and run for over 300 yards in a single game. Granted it was against a Bills defense that has been lit up in all three of its losses, but it’s incredible nonetheless.
Chicago entered the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game with a 13-3 lead over Jacksonville, but quickly blew the doors off en route to 28 points to finish the game. The Bears defense as a whole has picked right up where they left off last season, forcing turnovers and scoring touchdowns (Seriously, what a great fantasy pickup). As Matt Forte starts putting it back together at running back, this team is well on their way to validating my playoff prediction for them.
Their biggest challenge for the division title at the moment is Minnesota. Yes, Minnesota. Not Green Bay. Not Detroit. Yes, the last team that we expected to contend in the NFC North. The Vikings defense bottled up Chris Johnson in the backfield (which doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to) and the offense overcame two Christian Ponder interceptions while cruising to a 30-7 victory. Minnesota’s record has been underwhelming the past two seasons, but they’ve never been short on talent. This year, they’re finally making full use of it on both sides of the ball.
A look at the standings after another week:
AFC East: New England (3-2), New York Jets (2-3), Buffalo (2-3), Miami (2-3)
New England has taken a one game lead, but it’s still too close. Miami’s surprise win against Cincinnati keeps them a game behind. With all the talk of New York sputtering, Buffalo may be on the verge of imploding if their defense can’t get stops.
AFC North: Baltimore (4-1), Cincinnati (3-2), Pittsburgh (2-2), Cleveland (0-5)
Baltimore got past a tricky Browns team on Thursday night, while Pittsburgh returned from a bye to beat Philadelphia. Cincinnati needed to win last week. With Pittsburgh and Baltimore still the class of the division, the Miami loss could hurt a lot going forward.
AFC South: Houston (5-0), Indianapolis (2-2), Jacksonville (1-4), Tennessee (1-4)
Great comeback win by Andrew Luck against Green Bay this week. The team may not make much noise this season, but their future is bright. In the meantime, Houston owns the South. Jacksonville and Tennessee are among the league’s bottom five.
AFC West: San Diego (3-2), Denver (2-3), Oakland (1-3), Kansas City (1-4)
Oakland and Kansas City can’t expect to win if they continue to turn the ball over, San Diego and Denver are coming off of losses and will meet on Monday night. Denver has faced tough opponents in their three losses, but the schedule gets easier after San Diego.
NFC East: Philadelphia (3-2), New York Giants (3-2), Dallas (2-2), Washington (2-3)
Another tight one. All except New York are hoping to rebound this week and get back into the win column. And yes, the Eagles are still in first place somehow.
NFC North: Minnesota (4-1), Chicago (4-1), Green Bay (2-3), Detroit (1-3)
Detroit is 1-3, but a still-dangerous 1-3. They aren’t an easy out. Green Bay can’t afford to keep losing momentum with the Vikings and Bears playing this well. The whole teak will need to dig down deep to beat Houston on Sunday night.
NFC South: Atlanta (5-0), Tampa Bay (1-3), Carolina (1-4), New Orleans (1-4)
Analysts are buzzing over the Saints win, but let’s come back down to Earth. They’re 1-4 and still last in their division. The perennially strong division has been exceptionally dull this season. Atlanta’s nearly lapping them now.
NFC West: Arizona (4-1), San Francisco (4-1), St. Louis (3-2), Seattle (3-2)
A reversal of fortune with the NFC South this season. The NFC West is the only division with three teams over .500, let alone all of them. Hard to bet against San Francisco after last week’s performance, but it’s really anyone’s division at this point.
All-22 Games of the Week
- So much for Sam Bradford’s safety blanket in St. Louis. Just as Danny Amendola starts to put it together, he goes down with another injury. Have to feel for him and the team.
- No way to sugar coat it – Cam Newton was beyond awful last week.
- And stop running the read option, Carolina. It’s ruining your ground game.
- It’s not the sexiest performance of the rookie QBs, but Ryan Tannehil is clearly improving under center.
- I talked about Andrew Luck’s big game against Green Bay, but how about Reggie Wayne’s? Luck’s favorite target caught 13 balls for 212 yards, including two touchdowns and a spectacular one-handed grab while being held by Charles Woodson.
- Pat Shurmur and the Browns need to find a way to clone their first quarter against the Giants. They’ll need something of the sort to win games this season.
- That Patriots running game is a serious game-changer. And with the players they’re handing the ball off to? That’s why Bill Belichick is such a mastermind.
- Even below average Houston and Atlanta find ways to win.
- Percy Harvin.
- Easy to forget that Michael Crabtree was a top pick for San Francisco. Played like one this week.
- Can’t tell if Cecil Shorts is a good player on a bad team or a victim of Mike-Sims Walker Syndrome.
- …meaning that he’s the best of a really bad receiving situation in Jacksonville.
- …and where’s Justin Blackmon? Isn’t he playing for the Jags?
- Staying on the topic: Jacksonville, Cleveland, and Tennessee should be battling for the first pick next April.
The best games of the week that aren’t in primetime:
New England vs. Seattle: New England has looked like New England the last two weeks, especially with their new found running game. But can they conquer the 12th man?
New York Giants vs. San Francisco: A rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game. With both teams still playing well, we should be in for a treat again.
St. Louis vs. Miami: Would have loved to see Amendola and Hartline combine for 50 targets, but the game should still be a treat with Amendola hurt. The Rams need road wins if they want to contend – what a great time to start.