Free agency began
on March 9th and there have been a number of impressive moves.
Let's go shopping - The Raiders took steps to
protect their star quarterback Derek Carr and have now assembled what could be
the best offensive line in football. They signed tackle Kelechi Osemele to a
five-year contract and T Donald Penn on a two-year contract. Those two will
help to keep the Raider’s Carr to Cooper connection alive and well.
With a large
amount of cap space available the Raiders were also able to make some key
signings on defence, adding cornerback Sean Smith and priced rush linebacker Bruce
Irvin. A former Seahawk, Irvin brings a proven ability to get to the quarterback
(with 22.5 sacks in his first 4 years). Meanwhile Sean Smith was one of the
reasons why the Chiefs made the playoffs
Taking the next
step - The Jaguars took some steps towards the playoffs in 2015 and look to
continue to improve. To that end they T Kelvin Beachum, G Mackenzy Bernadeau,
injury prone first round pick, CB Prince
Amukamara, DL Malik Jackson, RB Chris Ivory and S Tashaun Gipson. Ivory will provide
a solid ground game to compliment last year’s rookie TJ Yeldon whilst former
first round pick Amukamara, if he can stay healthy, could be a steal.
Add the impending return of last
year’s first round pick Dante Fowler and Jacksonville are a team on the rise.
Addition by subtraction – The Philadelphia Eagles fired
Chip Kelly after a disastrous 2015 season. New head coach Doug Pederson and executive vice president of football operations Howie
Roseman began free agency not by making big splash
signings, but by undoing some of last year’s mistakes. Under Chip the Eagles
signed DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell to huge deals and traded away star
running back LeSean McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alonso. All three players were
disappointing to say the least. Now, all three are gone. Maxwell and Alonso were
traded to the Dolphins along with the Eagles first round pick, in return for
the Dolphins first round pick, the eighth overall. Murray was traded to the
Titans in exchange for a swap of fourth round picks. The Eagles will now pick
second in the fourth round.
Whilst these moves bring nothing to the team
they did release the Eagles from significant cap numbers an allowed the Eagles
to resign Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, Lane Johnson, Pro Bowl safety Malcom Jenkins
and Vinnie Curry and sign exciting safety Rodney McCleod, guard Brandon Brooks,
veteran cornerback Leodis McKelvin backup quarterback Chase Daniel and linebacker Nigel
Bradham. The team also added CB Ron Brooks, T Donald Stephenson and wide
receivers Chris Givens and Reuben Randall.
Whilst there have
been some great moves and some solid resigning there have also been some teams
that have had off seasons that are questionable at best, and disastrous at worst.
Same old Browns - The
Cleveland Browns were a team in disarray last year. With free agency coming they had the ideal opportunity to spend
big and sign several free agents right? Wrong. Like rats leaving a drowning
ship centre Alex Mack, tackle Mitchell Schwartz, receiver Travis Benjamin,
linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Tashaun Gipson have all moved to pastures
new. The Browns one addition of note to date has been quarterback Robert
Griffin III. Griffin was the poster child for success a few years ago with
Washington but has seen his stock fall as a result of injury, poor play and an
inability to slide! Still, the move makes sense for both parties. The Browns
get a quarterback that has the ability to play at a Pro Bowl level whilst
Griffin gets a shot to repair his legacy as quarterback of the Browns.
Dynasties are hard
to come by - The Broncos may have won the Super Bowl but since that day they
have seen the sheriff, Peyton Manning, ride off into the sunset of retirement
and then several of their key players leave in free agency, including Peyton’s
presumed successor Brock Osweiler. Linebacker Danny Trevathan, rising defence
lineman Malik Jackson, S David Brutonand Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis have all
left. All were key players in the Super Bowl run.
loss of Osweiler may turn out to be a long term blessing. He was the starting
quarterback for only 7 games last year, playing in eight. During that time he
passed for only 10 touchdowns and threw 6 interceptions. He was also sacked 23
times, or an average of 2.875 times a game. Not exactly star player material,
and certainly not worth the $18 million the Texans gave him. However the
signings of Mark Sanchez and former Seahawks tackle Russell Okung are not going
to see the Broncos return to the Super Bowl.
Send help! - The
San Francisco 49ers haven't lost a huge haul of players to free agency like the
Broncos, but then again they didn't have the players to lose in the first
place. Now under the control of Chip Kelly they are in a state where the
cupboard is bare and appear to be rebuilding as they look to get whatever they
can for Colin Kaepernick, a player who has endured a fall from grace similar to
RG III’s in Washington.
The Playoffs are done and we
know that the Broncos and the Panthers will be playing in Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara for Super Bowl 50. Their final matches before
the greatest show on earth couldn't have been more different.
The Broncos were generally
considered as everyone's underdog and were expected to roll over as they faced the
Patriots. It didn't happen like
that. The Broncos were ruthless in their attack of Tom Brady, it seemed like every other play he was getting knocked
down. If he wasn't getting hit he was being forced into releasing the ball a
second earlier than he wanted. This resulted in several errant throws by Brady.
27 of 56 for 310 yards with 2 interceptions and a touchdown. The complete lack
of a running game was staggeringly evident. Brady’s 13 yards rushing was good
enough to lead the team! The Broncos were able to tee-off on the pass blocking
Patriots and collected four sacks as Von
Miller and co. took control.
Although Brady and Gronkowski came within a failed two
point conversion of taking the game to overtime, losing 20-18, the real
question was “have the Patriots finally realised that they do need some offensive
weapons aside from Brady and Gronk?”. Belichick’s offensive scheme has made stars of players like Julian Edelman and before him Wes Welker but they can't do so against
a top flight defence. Threats on the life of Stephen Gostkowski for a missed extra point show a shocking side of
what is actually a game. No-one was threatening Brady over his two
and the Carolina Panthers offence did little wrong, but it wouldn't have
mattered if they had. The Panthers defence looked in complete control against
the vaunted Arizona Cardinals, and
they made play after play.
Newton passed for two
touchdowns and ran for two others. Greg
Olsen and Corey Brown combined
for over 220 yards as the Panthers scored six touchdowns, including a
nail-in-the-coffin interception return by star linebacker Luke Kuechly. The result never looked in doubt and seems a lifetime
away from the pre-season predictions of a disaster season following the
pre-season injury to Kelvin Benjamin.
Super Bowl 50 will feature
two strong defences that will limit the offences and present matchup issues
across the field. Each team also has its
own superstar quarterback. The style of the two players, however, couldn't be
more different. The old guard, Peyton
Manning, is a classic pocket passer with an unparalleled understanding of
the game and fading arm strength. For Carolina the latest mobile quarterback to
make the leap from offensive weapon to team superstar, Cam Newton aka Superman, will line up under centre.
Newton has a cannon for an arm and is always a threat on the ground. Based on
their Conference game performances the Panthers look to be favourites but I'd
never bet against Peyton.
The 2016 Pro Bowl saw the annual farce of a game post its lowest ever
TV ratings but there was some real football action. College football’s Senior Bowl highlighted a selection of
draft hopefuls being coached by Gus
Bradley and the Jaguars coaching
staff. Most of the hype from the week long practices was around North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, who
certainly passes the eyeball test at 6’5, 233 lbs. Wentz took the next step in
his move from small school quarterback to first round pick in the NFL draft
last night, although his time under centre was nothing spectacular (6 of 10 for
50 yards). Although many draftniks are already cementing Wentz to the Cowboys with their first pick I
personally think he looked a bit raw to be a top 5 pick!
On the other side of the ball
a couple of pass rushers really stood out. The first, Eastern Kentucky Colonels star defensive end Noah Spence, was a disruptive force all week in practice, he continued
to be nigh on blockable in the game and picked up two tackles and a sack. The
other, Baylor Bears defensive end Shawn Oakman, also had a good showing
as he picked up 2 sacks and improved his draft stock.
The Texans might
finally be thinking that it's time to pick a quarterback in the draft. Brian Hoyer showed once and for all that
he isn't a franchise QB as he imploded, completing only 15/34 passes and
tossing 4 interceptions. Credit to a very good Texans defence, they kept the
game close throughout the first half even after Knile Davis returned the opening kick-off for a 106 yard touchdown.
repeatedly made plays both in the passing game and with his legs. The Chiefs took control in the second half
on their way to a 30-0 shutout of the Texans and their first playoff win since
when a certain Joe Montana was at
quarterback. Travis Kelce showed why
he’s one of Smith’s favourite weapons. The tight end exploded for 128 yards on
just 8 catches.
Think special teams aren't important? Ask the Vikings. After keeping his team in the
game, Blair Walsh gets labelled as
the goat for missing the 27 yard field goal that could have won the game for
the Minnesota Vikings. But it was the whole threesome of long snapper, holder
and kicker that failed to produce in the tightest of moments. Walsh didn't hide
for the miss, "You're confident, but you never think that you have it or take it
for granted," he said, subdued with glassy eyes in the locker room
afterward. "I just didn't put a swing on it that would be acceptable by
anybody's standards." But for my money it was holder Jeff Locke leaving the laces facing the
kicker that led to the miss
It was a bitter pill
to swallow for the Viking faithful as they had kept the Seahawks offence struggling for the majority of the game and only a
broken play kept the Seahawks in the game. On a wild snap that Russell Wilson wasn't ready for, the
athletic quarterback managed to avoid getting tackled for a huge loss and hit Tyler Lockett for a 35 yard catch and
run that led to the go ahead score. Whilst the kick took centre stage little
was made of the fact that the Vikings repeatedly failed to get touchdowns and
settled for field goals, despite all their pressure.
Resilience is a key trait in the truly great quarterbacks
and on Sunday Aaron Rodgers showed
it in spades when he bounced back from four drives that had less than
impressive results; punt, safety, punt, punt. Rodgers and the Packers offence
started to warm up in the second quarter and several times Rodgers caught the opposition
with too many players on the field as he moved to a hurry up offence that
proved too much for the Redskins.
All the talk prior to the match had been of up and coming Redskin’s
quarterback Kirk Cousins and the
poor play of the Packers, the lack
of a Packers running game and the number of times Aaron Rogers had been hit. Throughout
the game though it was Cousins who was getting hit. He finished the game being
sacked six times for 59 yards. And that much maligned Packers run game? Against
the Redskins they showed signs of life as Eddie
Lacy and James Starks combined
for over 100 yards (63 for Lacy and 53 for Starks).
The one Redskin the Packers had no answer for was Jordan Reed, who at times seemed unstoppable,
as he accounted for 120 yards of the Redskins 329 passing yards. With a few
more pieces the Redskins will again be in the hunt for that most elusive of
things back-to-back NFC East crowns. They'll do so without RGIII as the player cleared out his locker following the loss and
completed a Darth Vader-esq fall from
In one of the weirdest games in recent playoff history the Steelers were completely in control for
the first three quarters of the game, as they took a commanding 15 point lead.
fought back hard and scored 16 unanswered points and had the ball and the lead
with 1:30 to go. But these are the same Cincinnati
Bungles we expect and they continue their 25 year search for a playoff
First, Jeremy Hill
fumbled the ball. Then the defence gave
away two 15-yard penalties, the first on Vontaze
Burfict after a hit on defenceless Steeler’s wide receiver Antonio Brown and another on Adam Jones. Chris Boswell promptly
kicked a field goal to give the Steelers their first playoff win since the 2010
AFC championship game. In a game in which both Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio
Brown played through significant injuries the Steelers were just thankful to
finish with the win.
Finally, many of the available head coach vacancies have
been filled. Tampa Bay and the New York Giants kept
things in house as Dirk Koetter was promoted by the Buccaneers
from offensive coordinator to head coach and the Giants did likewise
with Ben McAdoo.
The Philadelphia Eagles go back
to the Andy Reid coaching tree, hiring Kansas City Chiefs
offensive coordinator Doug Pederson.
Pederson is no stranger to the Eagles; he was their quarterback for one
season, before Donovan McNabb took over, and was also their quarterbacks
coach under Andy Reid.
The Dolphins turn to their ninth
successive first year coach as they attempt to recapture the winning culture
that has been missing since the Don Shula era. They tagged Adam Gase,
the Bears offensive coordinator and the man behind Jay Cutler’s
resurgence. Gase will tellingly also have control over the Dolphins roster.
Expect plenty of changes here.
Will Hue Jackson will become
the next casualty of the Browns ownership after the 2016 season? He’s
just been hired by Jimmy Haslam to be next year’s head coach – the fifth
in only eight seasons! Jackson has already said that Johnny Football’s time with the team is over. The Browns also made
changes in the front office, promoting Sashi
Brown to Vice President of Football Operations. They also win the Outside the
Box thinking award for hiring Paul
DePodesta, former executive of baseball’s New York Mets, as their Chief Strategy Officer.
the most intriguing hiring, and certainly the one that gained the most media
attention, is the San Francisco 49ers
hiring of former Eagle’s head coach Chip
Kelly. Kelly inherits a team that was decimated by retirements last off
season but may have a quarterback that can run his offensive in Colin Kaepernick. He just has very
little else. Maybe he’ll trade for DeMarco
In a league that is trying to
improve player safety, Odel Beckham,
for whatever reason, was thrown completely off his game by Carolina Panther’s cornerback Josh
Norman. Uncharacteristically Beckham had several drops, but it was his
helmet to helmet hit on Norman that should have seen him ejected. It was a hit
that was both dangerous and completely unnecessary.
There's no doubt that the NFL
MVP this year should be Cam Newton.
He's playing some impressive football and led the Panthers to a 38-35 win over
the Giants, including 5 touchdown passes. Newton creates plays both running and
passing and is a big man to have running at you. He's in control of his team
and is the unquestioned leader demonstrated when he was calming down Norman
after his run in with Odel.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the
NFC East, the Redskins ended the Bill’s playoff hopes, and the Eagles were soundly beaten by an Arizona Cardinals team that is setting
the tone for the NFC. Sloppy play from several Eagles (dropped passes and
fumbles on back to back drives), interesting calls (not using bigger back DeMarco Murray on short yardage plays) and
injuries to their secondary saw the Eagles limited. But it was the strength of
the Cardinal’s receiving corp that
impressed me. Larry Fitzgerald, Malcolm
Floyd and John Brown are as
formidable as any receivers in the league and rookie running back David Johnson also flashed potential.
Tennessee Titan’s fans haven't had much to cheer about other than the potential of Marcus Mariotta this year, and they are
again in the running for the first overall pick. The one bright spot on the
team has been Delanie Walker and it
is ridiculous that he was not voted to the Pro
Bowl. As well as being a great blocker for a TE Walker will break the 1000
yard barrier again (he currently has 935) and has six touchdowns. On a bad
Titans team he is doing all he can and it’s a shame he doesn't get the
recognition he deserves.
When I interviewed the Chief’s players for their Wembley appearance they were
struggling. Since then they have seen a considerable change of fortunes on
their way to winning seven straight games. Part of the credit must go to head
coach Andy Reid. Reid kept the
Chiefs hungry and believing through their early struggles and they are now
playing some impressive football. The signing of Jeremy Maclin looks like a master stroke as he has quickly become
the weapon of choice for Alex Smith
down the stretch. The Chief’s defence can be dominating and they made plenty of
plays this week as they walked away 34-14 victors over Baltimore.
The Packers showed what they can do again with a win over the Raiders, and fans are hoping that they
can round into form. Watching this game my one takeaway was how quiet Kalil Mack was. A week after having a 5
sack performance that took over the game against the Denver Broncos, Mack barely saw his name called. He registered one
sack, one solo tackle and tackle assist. He has 15 sacks so far in 2015 and is becoming
one of the league’s young superstars.
The Steelers got a win
against a very good Broncos team but it was a game of two halves. The Steelers
were in complete disarray in the first half and were down by 17 points but
bounced back on the back of another huge day from Antonio Brown. Denver on the other hand failed to score in the
second half for the third week in a row. Denver have named quarterback Brock Osweiler as the starter for their
Monday night game against the Cincinnati
Bengals. Peyton Manning is expected to be inactive. Going into the
offseason Denver will have a
decision to make about who they want at QB in 2016 as Osweiler will be coming
to the end of his contract and Manning has a huge cap figure.
The Cowboys quarterback carousel saw yet another player under centre.
Former Boise State star Kellen Moore became the latest player
to step up and kept the Fitzpatrick
led Jets team close, eventually losing 19-16. Since the ups and downs of Sanchez and Geno Smith, Fitzpatrick has steadied the Jet’s ship. He may not be
the most athletically gifted player or put up showy numbers but Fitzpatrick is
consistent and with a player like Brandon Marshall to catch the ball and an
imposing defence he will keep them in the hunt.
The Jaguars continue to show promise and Gus Bradley has them heading in the right direction thanks to the
consistent play of receiver Allen
Robinson (1141 yards and 13 touchdowns). The Jaguars could finish the
season with two 1000 yard receivers with Allen
Hurns needing only 93 yards in the last two games. Their defence is the
real issue. They are the NFL’s 30th ranked team, giving up an
average of 27.1 points and 361.5 yards.
The Pro Bowl teams have been announced and once again there is much outrage
as players that have had amazing seasons have again been ignored in favour of
those that are big names or happen to play for large market teams that have
prime time games.
Neither LeSean McCoy nor Jason
Peters were the best at their positions this year yet both made the Pro
Bowl. McCoy has been injured often this year and has only played his best in
patches whilst Peters has played reasonably well but has not been at his
dominating best. Continuing the theme of Pro Bowl snubs a minor surprise for me
is the omission of Denver cornerback Bradley
Roby. He's been consistently impressive in coverage and while he hasn't
made as many flashy plays and pick sixes as Kansas City’s Marcus Peters he has been far more consistent.
It's a broken system but is a
lot better than the AFC vs NFC games
before them. If you have a player that you don't think deserved their Pro Bowl
place or think another player was snubbed why not tweet me and let me know @Cumbleton
gives the Bills a weapon both running and throwing the ball and he kept the
ball alive time and time again against the Texans.
Meanwhile Sammy Watkins had several
long plays as the Bills kept their playoff hopes alive.
was making plays all day long against the Jets
as he made their vaunted defence look ordinary on his way to his fifth straight
100 yard game. Revis is no longer
the elite player that he once was.
to Allen Robinson looks quite the combination.
Bortles set the Jaguars single
season record and Robinson became the first Jaguars receiver to reach 1000
yards since 2005. They did this without injured WR Allen Hurns on the other side. The Jags are really assembling some
good pieces to the puzzle.
The Blaine Train continues to
roll! Blaine Gabbert continues on
his road to redemption with two huge plays to lead the 49ers to an overtime win against the Chicago Bears. He pulled the game level with his 44 yard TD run and
won the game with a 71 yard touchdown pass to Antonio Smith.
The Giants blew a 10 point lead and saw their game go to overtime
before eventually losing to a Brandon
Marshall led Jets team. Marshall became the first ever player to have 1,000
yard seasons for four different teams. For all his personality issues Marshall,
like TO before him, is an outstanding playmaker.
Regardless of how the rest of
the season turns out and whether Chip
Kelly stays or goes, the Eagles
need to be more disciplined. They had 4 penalties on one drive in the first
quarter! Although they went on to defeat the Patriots they relied heavily on special teams and defence. The
defence was hugely improved from the unit that has allowed 90 points over two
games. The main reason for this, I believe, was the fact they were able to consistently
put pressure on Brady. Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox is having an amazing season and should make the Pro Bowl.
After another embarrassing
loss the Browns have named Johnny Manziel as their starting
quarterback, something they should have done weeks ago (and technically did
before Manziel made the front office think twice with his off-field hijinks).
The Browns look like favourites for the first overall pick and so essentially
get four games to see if they have their QB of the future in place or need to
look to Paxton Lynch or Jared Goff.
The early playoff picture is starting to take shape and
there are still two unbeaten teams, the New
England Patriots and the Carolina
Panthers. It's quite a feat when you consider that the Panthers had been
written off at the start of the season and the Patriots have an ever increasing
The Cardinals and
the Bengals showed that they're for
real in an impressive head to head. It was Carson
Palmer who made his case for player of the week with an impressive second
half showing through the air. Thanks to Palmer the Cardinals pulled off the win,
continue their free fall with a loss to the Colts who started Matt
Hasselback at quarterback. The Eagles
continue to have an inconsistent season as they were demolished 45-17 by first
overall pick Jameis Winston. Winston
looked ridiculously good for a rookie as he threw five different touchdowns to
five different players!
to Chicago with untested QB Brock Osweller. He had a strong showing
and may be the successor to future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. Osweller did a pretty good job against Chicago and
will get at least two more games to show that he is for real.
London has proved
to be somewhat of a talisman for the Chiefs.
They have carried on their good form and move into playoff contention with a
win against the terrible San Diego
Chargers, who look like they are firmly in the hunt for the number one
overall pick. This week Dontari Poe
became the heaviest player to score a touchdown as he rumbled in from a yard out.
The Blaine train
came off the rails against the Seahawks
but the 49ers will continue to see
what they have in Blaine Gabbert,
especially now that they have put Colin
Kaepernick on IR. If Gabbert plays well he's likely to secure a job for
next year at the very least. At worst he becomes the short term answer to their
In the NFL, as in life,
things often seem to come back into fashion given time. On Sunday Blaine Gabbert, a former first round
pick once laughed out of Jacksonville
for repeated failure with meagre resources, took over from the ultimate shooting
star, Colin Kaepernick. With
relatively little help from the ground game Gabbert mostly made good decisions
and was able to do enough through the air with 185 yards and 2 TDs, but also 2
interceptions. Gabbert made several nice throws and the win was enough to inspire
coach Jim Tomsula to name Gabbert as
the starter next week - his second start
of the year.
It was a rough week for
franchise quarterbacks with injuries to both Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger and Colts’ Andrew Luck. Despite Roethlisberger’s injury the Steelers,
led by Antonio Brown’s 284 yards receiving, were too much for the Raiders as Penn
State tight end Jesse James collected both his first deflection and his first touchdown.
Meanwhile after an impressive day going 21 of 36 for 252 yards and beating the
man he replaced in Indianapolis, Peyton
Manning, and Andrew Luck later
revealed that he’s suffering a kidney laceration and will be out for 4-6 weeks.
A week after being demolished
by the Patriots, the Dolphins were
taken to pieces by the Bills, losing 33 – 17. LeSean McCoy and promising rookie Karlos Williams rushed for over 100 yards each and Sammy Watkins caught 8 passes for 168 yards
and a touchdown. It was a promising look at what the Bills offence can achieve
with all of its weapons in place.
Whilst the Buccaneers lost, their young players
gave reason for hope. Second year man Mike
Evans is a star, accounting for 152 yards receiving. Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston continues to improve
week on week with guard Ali Marpet doing
a good job of protecting him.
After suffering a loss last
week against the Denver Broncos,
which saw a miserable 77 yards, Aaron
Rodgers and the Packers were
largely ineffective for the first two quarters against the Panthers. Despite a valiant fight back by Rodgers and his largely
unknown receivers it was not enough. Have
injuries finally caught up with the Packers? It sure looks like it. Conversely
the Panthers remain unbeaten and are playing some impressive football behind Cam Newton.
The Eagles running game showed up once again and proved how much damage
they can do once they get going. With DeMarco
Murray gaining 161 total yards and a touchdown, Ryan Mathews gained 67 yards and a touchdown and Jordan Matthews had an impressive 133
yards. But the dropped passes continued. The Cowboys lost in overtime 27-33. Brittle
running back Darren McFadden showed
that he still has the talent (117 yards on 27 carries) if he can only stay
healthy. This game saw Eagles promising rookie middle linebacker Hicks lost for
the year with a torn pectoral muscle.
seems to be trying to win in New Orleans
despite them having no defence. Case in point, that awful bobbled pass by a
Saints defender that Delanie Walker
grabbed and ran all the way to the end zone. Drew Brees cannot constantly be
expected to throw for 5 touchdowns week in, week out.
The NFL may have a pretty impressive redemption story in the
case of the 49ers. It says something about the state of the San Francisco offence that they've
benched starter Colin Kaepernick in
favour of Blaine Gabbert, the former
first round pick who flamed out of Jacksonville.
The Chiefs game
at Wembley was impressively one
sided as the Chiefs dominated every phase of the game. It was an impressive performance
by the Chiefs, especially on defence. But the difference in the teams may start
with the quarterbacks. Alex Smith
was more than happy to run the ball as he helped his team and he made every
effort to get first down after first down, only sliding once he'd passed the
marker. Stafford, however, was sliding
way before the distance needed for a first down. This is not behaviour that is
going to win over the locker room and unite the team.
It would be a great boost to the team if their win on Sunday
was the start of a winning streak as they make a push for the playoff. By
contrast things in Detroit became
more unsettled with the firing of the Lions GM. Andy Reid later said that he is behind the move to an NFL franchise
in London once logistic problems are worked out.
continues to make plays every week and is already looking like one of the best
backs in the NFL. He has the power to
run over people and the speed to take the ball to the house and outrun
defenders. The Rams draft pick looks
like a steal!
demolition of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers was worth noting for two
reasons. The Broncos defence was around Aaron Rodgers all game and gave him no
opportunity to make plays and when he did his receivers were generally covered.
Secondly Peyton Manning looked much
happier throwing the ball and got the ball out with a lot more power than in
Week 7 got underway in London
as the Jaguars and Bills squared off at Wembley Stadium in what was probably the
most exciting of all the International
Series matches. The match was notable for more than the action on the
field. It was the first time that the Jaguars seemed to have a ‘home field advantage’ from the fans.
Perhaps this was helped by an impressive second quarter which saw them score
two defensive touchdowns in quick succession. The Bills must be praying for the
return of Tyrod Taylor after EJ Manuel turned the ball over three
times in 8 plays. But it wasn't all bad for Manuel. With a Bills team that was
missing Sammy Watkins the second
year player generated several scoring drives and at times made some impressive
touch passes. In fact Manuel and the Bills looked to have done enough to
complete an impressive comeback before Blake
Bortles took over and hit Allen
Hurns for the winning touchdown. Finally the Jags won in London.
The Patriots are 6-0 and Super
Bowl bound right? Not so fast. Tom
Brady and the Patriots narrowly defeated the Jets on Sunday. But look at who they've beaten; the Bills, an
improving Jaguars, the downtrodden Colts,
an impressive but stalling Steelers, Romo-less
Cowboys and the Jets. Not exactly the
Power Ranking top 10!
The Eagles continue to improve despite losing to a Carolina team that has an extremely aggressive defence. The Panther’s
linebackers looked quicker than everyone on the field and their defensive line
gave the Eagles fits. On offence the
combination of Mike Tolbert and Jonathan Stewart frequently ran through
the Eagles defence (Byron Maxwell
I'm looking at you) like it wasn't there. The Eagles defence did keep them in
the game with turnovers but in the end the dropped passes and stupid penalties
were too much. Last year’s first round pick Marcus Smith has still yet to contribute in any meaningful way and
seems destined for bust label.
Two first round picks who
definitely weren't busts are Oakland’s
Amari Cooper and St Louis’ Todd
Gurley. Amari seems to catch everything thrown his way and already has 519
yards and 3 touchdowns. Gurley, seemingly fully recovered from his ACL injury
in college, added 128 yards to his rushing total for the year which now stands
at 442 yards. He also scored the first two touchdowns of his NFL career.
The Lions prepared for their trip to Wembley with a loss to the Vikings. Teddy Bridgewater had a fantastic
game and made several plays that suggest he could be an NFL star. Whilst the Chiefs looked impressive at times in
their win over the Steelers was even
more impressive when you consider they were without Jamaal Charles (torn ACL) and Jeremy
Maclin (still recovering from a concussion). It was good to see Eric Berry playing at such a high level
after battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
is in the hot seat, and if he's not he certainly should be. The Texans lost yet again and were not
helped by the fact that their supposed starting quarterback this week Ryan Mallett, missed his flight (seriously,
how does that happen to a supposed professional football player?!) and had to
fly commercially. It's not the first time that Mallett has been late. He overslept
and missed a pre-season practice earlier in the season. Personally that's not
the sort of player I want leading my team, and it appears the Texans agree with
me – Mallett was released on Tuesday. Tebow
for the Texans anyone?
The Dolphins won their second straight match and the game was over by
half time! Lamar Miller finally gets
a significant number of carries and how does he respond? He rushed for 175 and
chipped in with 83 receiving yards before being taken out of the game at half
time. Ryan Tannehill passed for four
touchdowns and the much maligned defence chipped in with a touchdown and 4
sacks. Dan Campbell certainly has Miami playing with some intensity.
A year ago running back Chris Johnson was a New York Jet and
only managed to rush for 663 yards in 16 games. Everyone was predicting the end
of his career. A year later and after a drive-by shooting in which he nearly
died, Johnson is looking rejuvenated in the desert. Now with the Arizona Cardinals, he's started the
season with 567 yards rushing in seven games, including 122 yards on Monday night
against the Ravens. Johnson looks to have found his speed and vision after looking
lost at times for the Jets.
looks a little bit like Brian Dawkins.
He's got a chance to be a really special player if he can stay healthy. The
guy’s 5’9 but tackles like he's been shot out of a cannon and has instincts in
spades. Arizona say he studies hard too. He's a fun player to watch.
really need T.J. Yeldon to return from
injury ahead of their match against the Bills
in London next week. Dernard
Robinson can do a lot of things but simply isn't as good when running the
ball. This game saw the Jaguars take a backward step offensively as Bortles
made some bad decisions behind an offensive line that can be described as
inconsistent at best!
Hopkins was breaking out for the Texans.
He made all kinds of acrobatic catches, against what was often good coverage,
on his way to 10 catches, 148 yards and 2 touchdowns. Hopkins is rapidly
becoming one of the better receivers in the league. He was no doubt aided by Arian Foster who looked much faster
than earlier in the year, suggesting that he is returning to full health.
change of coaching staff seemed to make a difference as they ran the ball right
down the Titans throats. Lamar Millar ran for over 100 yards and
the Dolphins really got after Marcus
Mariota, sacking him 5 times. Cameron
Wake was a force and accounted for 4 sacks and two forced fumbles. The
Dolphins scored 38 points having averaged 16 for the year. With just under two
minutes left and the game effectively over Zach
Mettenberger took over and looked pretty good even though Bishop Sankey had two drops on the
drive. If I'm the Texans I'm at least inquiring about Mettenberger.
The Jets Cory Ivory
ran the ball exceptionally well against the Redskins on Sunday as he rushed for 146 yards. Brandon Marshall had over 100 yards receiving and Ryan Fitzpatrick rushed for a touchdown
as they were simply too strong for the Redskins. It looks like it could be another
long year in America’s capital!
Neither quarterback looked impressive in the Cleveland vs Denver game as both had
two interceptions. Each team’s defence scored and the ground games took over.
Broncos eventually scraped another win, making enough plays
to secure the victory in overtime and are now 6-0. Should Manning work through his poor form then Denver will really be a
team to watch out for.
Two games went to overtime this week.
The Arizona Cardinals
fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers despite
Carson Palmer passing for over 400
yards. The Steelers started second string quarterback Mike Vick in place of injured starter Ben Roethlisberger, but when Vick went down it was Landry Jones who sparked the offence to
an upset win. Mattavious Bryant had
167 yards and 2 TDs and it was enough to see the Steelers go to 4-2.
Andy Dalton has been phenomenal all
year and continued to play at a high level, adding another 3 touchdowns. The Bengals were far too much for the
Bills, lead for the first time this season by EJ Manuel. A healthy LeSean
McCoy produced 90 yards and a touchdown but there was little competition. The
worst loss for the Bills was the injury to second year receiver Sammy Watkins. Watkins, perhaps the
lone bright spot on Buffalo’s
offence last year, was returning from injury and will be a huge loss if he
can't play when the Bills arrive in Wembley
Ok, so it was against the Bears but a week after I dropped him in my fantasy league Calvin Johnson returned to fantasy
relevance as he saw his Lions to
their first win of the season. Johnson had 166 yards and a touchdown and Matthew Stafford rallied after getting benched
last week, throwing for 4 touchdowns and over 400 yards.
Every year there’s a team that shows how difficult it is in the
NFL to pass the ball if you don't have a legitimate running threat. Last week
the Chiefs lost Jamal Charles for the year to a torn ACL. The result? They
struggled to replace Charles’ elite skill set. This allowed the Vikings to focus on the pass and stop
the Chief’s offence. Meanwhile the Vikings managed to make enough plays to win 16-10
despite two interceptions from Teddy
As an Eagles fan
it was great to see the Eagles start to make some offensive progress. The
defence is continuing to play at a high level but the Monday night game was
just ugly for both teams. Neither offence could put together a sustained drive
on a regular basis nor the pass protection of both teams failed frequently as
attested by several sacks and pass deflections. Riley
Cooper is the Eagles leading wide receiver in yards per catch with 19.8 and
he seems to have little or no connection with quarterback Sam Bradford who frequently made horrible plays. Could it be time
to bring out Mark ‘The Sanchise’ Sanchez in Philly?