Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday Morning Thoughts: NFL Week 8

Big Ben Makes History
The second week of "Tuesday Morning Thoughts" brings the second record setting performance
by a quarterback in the NFL. After Manning's touchdown breaking performance last week against the 49ers, Ben Roethlisberger decided it was his time for the spotlight. Completing 40/49 passes, 522 yards and 6 touchdowns in a 51-34 win over the Indianapolis Colts, Roethlisberger set a franchise record for most passing yards in a game and touchdowns thrown in a game as well.

 Wait, don't close the record books just yet. In addition, Big Ben joined Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady and Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to win their first 100 out of 150 games. Also, Roethlisberger's 522 video game-like passing yards are tied for 4th in NFL history. But why stop there? Ben also became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 500 yards in two games. While we may not see another game like this out of the 10 year veteran, Roethlisberger played a game for the ages, and perhaps cemented his status as an elite quarterback.

The Curious Case of Rex Ryan's Job
As Rex Ryan's frame has gotten more slim during his tenure as the New York Jets head coach, so has his chances of keeping his job. Never doubting his team throughout his six year tenure as head coach for New York, Ryan consistently states that he believes his team can be special. After making two straight AFC championship game appearances in his first two seasons, Ryan has yet to lead his team to a winning record since then.

 However the Jets' front office has remained loyal and supportive of Rex through adversity, all up until seemingly now. After being torched by the Buffalo Bills on a Sunday where Geno Smith threw interceptions on three straight drives in the first quarter and Michael Vick replaced Smith with one pick and two lost fumbles, New York looks far from acceptable after starting the 2014 campaign 1-7 after allowing Kyle Orton and a banged up Buffalo backfield to score 43 points. While all not completely Rex's fault, head coach's are typically the first to have their bags sent packing when an organization decides to clean house and move on.

With pressure from fans, media and even GM John Idzik declining to comment on the future, this team will have to have a historic turn-around in order for Ryan to keep his position.

Hey, Chicago, Whaddya Say?
On paper, the Chicago Bears are about as well balanced as an offense a coach could ask for. Yet after dropping 4 out of their last 5 matchups, everyone in Chicago continues to search for answers.

With gun-slinger Jay Cutler, all purpose running back Matt Forte, and one of the best receiving corps in the league with Brandon Marshall/Alshon Jeffery with tight end Martellus Bennett, an offense that ranks in the top ten in total yards does not belong with a 3-5 record. In head coach Marc Trestman's second year with Chicago, expectations have not been met thus far, finishing 8-8 last season and appear to be heading in that same direction in 2014. However, the defense is where the problem truly lies.

 This defense has been bit by the injury bug, fighting unfortunate battles with health all season long. Key parts to the defense including Charles Tillman, Lamarr Houston, Lance Briggs, Jonathan Bostic and others have been sidelined with injuries this season. Fortunately for the Bears, week nine is a bye week, so Trestman and co. will have some opportunity to evaluate their team and right the ship before it's too late.

The New England Revolution
After being embarrassed on Monday Night Football against a then 1-2 Kansas City Chiefs team by a score of 41-14, the New England Patriots were forced to look themselves in the mirror. Four weeks later, the loss on prime time television may have been a blessing in disguise.

Simply put, the Chiefs took a baseball bat to a hornets nest for the rest of the league.

Since then, the Patriots have won all four of their games, scoring 43,37,27 and 51 points in their last four contests, respectively. Tom Brady has been dismantling defenses left and right, with the help of Shane Vareen and Rob Gronkowski of many other efforts. The defense has stepped up as well, allowing a high of 25 points in the four game stretch including 9 fumbles and 8 interceptions on the season.

This team is riding high as of now, but the true colors of New England will bleed with their next three games, facing the Broncos, Colts and Lions, in that order, It's hard to say who sits behind Peyton Manning and the Broncos as second favorites in the AFC, but if the Patriots can pull through the rest of their schedule with 6 or 7 wins, they just might assert themselves as contenders.

The NFL and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad NFC South
Through eight weeks of the NFL season, teams are slowly starting to establish themselves in their division while others position themselves comfortably at the bottom, acting as anchors of their divisions (I'm looking at you, Oakland).

Then, you have the NFC South.

 Not only are 3 out of 4 teams on a 2 game losing streak or more, but no team in the division has a winning record. Currently, you have the Carolina Panthers as the division leaders at 3-4-1. With a surprisingly sub-par defense and little weapons/protection for Cam Newton to work his magic, the Panthers are falling short of expectations after a superb season in 2013.

Next you have the New Orleans Saints, with just a disappointing defense as Carolina, yet they have the explosive offense to win them games. While New Orleans did look impressive in their Sunday Night Football victory over the Green Bay Packers, the Saints have a long ways to go in order for them to achieve what they wish to.

After New Orleans sits the Atlanta Falcons, losing five straight games and wondering what in the world is going on in the ATL. The Falcons offensive line just lost their fourth starting lineman this season, providing little to no time for Matt Ryan to connect with Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas. The defense also must step up and take blame, for their secondary resembles an oven, being burned on a consistent basis. The front seven is no better, applying little to no pass rush to help the Falcons pass defense.

 At the bottom are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with their only win coming off possibly the upset over the year on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Which is more mind boggling, that Tampa Bay has talent all over the field and fails to produce at 1-6? Or the Bucs are only three games back from the division lead?

It will be interesting to see how the division unfolds as the weeks go on, however one thing is for sure: It won't be pretty.

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