We’re back! Hope everyone’s had a great week! Exams are finally f***ing over, and Will and I couldn’t be happier. Enough of the useless crap, though; onto the football!
With Week 9 having started on Thursday with the San Diego Chargers dismantling of the worst team in the league in the Kansas City Chiefs (that’s not even close to impressive). Russell Wilson is making huge strides in an expanded offense, RGIII is facing off against his media-appointed brother Cam Newton of the woeful Carolina Panthers, the teasing Cowboys will try to knock off the 7-0 Falcons, and The Eagles are facing a huge test against another bottom feeder in the N’Awlins Saints.
In the other half of the league, Peyton Manning has returned to his MVP-caliber play, the Steelers are making themselves relevant for the first time this season, and the Texans are looking more and more like the Super Bowl contender that everyone was expecting this year.
We’re about to see some serious football from this week on. Playoff spots are now on the table and up for grabs. The league has so much parity this year and it’s only going to help the cause of a larger amount of competitive games.
Welcome to the madness.
Ten Things To Look Out For
1) Mario Williams is frustrated with the Texans success without him, and he’s out for blood.
Wade Phillips is a defensive mastermind, and living without one of your best pass rushers from last year would be a fancy plate of crap in anyone else’s hands. What Phillips did last year in turning that defense around so drastically was massive, and what he’s done without Williams and Cushing to keep his unit competitive deserves a lot of recognition. But Williams isn’t going to let something like jealousy simply be a limiting factor for him. He’s not happy that his year has been so lackluster after the blockbuster move that the Bills made to grab him. They’re one of the worst run defenses in the league, and it’s like occasional guest appearances when they get to the quarterback. Williams is going to be firing on all cylinders when he faces his old team on Sunday, and it ain’t gon’ be pretty.
2) Mike Vick has his head in Philadelphia’s guillotine. It’s go time.
Against an underwhelming Saints’ defense, Vick will have to be electric to spark anything for his offense. He’s a smart player who knows that the offense will start with him on every play. LeSean McCoy will be seeing a lot of carries against an historically horrible run defense, but Vick will have to step up on the big passing plays that can exploit the Saints. With the talent that the Eagles have on both sides of the ball, it’s incredible that Andy Reid hasn’t made more of it. But if Vick can collect some confidence with a few big plays to his faster-than-fast receivers, my money is on Mike’s V/FPH (Vick Fails Per Hour) to be lower than even Matt Cassel’s. And that’s cutting Vick a break.
3) The Cowboys are in their make or break game of the year.
This is it. It’s either the start of a resurgence or the end of the road for Jerry Jones’ wonder team. It’s so horrible to think that if Dallas can’t defeat Atlanta, the season will be out of their grasp for good. Forget window of Super Bowl opportunity, how about actually showing some cajones and saving any kind of positive energy around them? If the ‘Boys lose, they’ll be 3-5 on the season, and the New York Giants will effectively run away with the division in the palm of their hands. Jerry Jones has not done a good enough job as an owner to effectively up the talent of this team to the point of balance. Sure, you have DeMarcus Ware as one of the best pass rushers in the history of the league, but you don’t have a secondary that can come up big in the biggest moments of games. You have Romo, Murray, Austin, Bryant, and Witten on the offense, but how lucky are you to have such talent when that talent has won a humongous, intimidating total of ONE playoff win in Romo’s time behind center? It’s now or next year for this team. They’ve shown they can stay in games. But if they can’t win, they aren’t good. Period.
4) How ’bout DEM Dolphins? How ’bout DEM Colts? How ’bout…playoff implications? Seriously?
They’ve surpassed minuscule expectations from pundits around the league and both teams are doing it with rookie quarterbacks. Andrew Luck is on pace for 4,000+ yards, and Ryan Tannehill is a full on master of the no-huddle, things that are going to keep both quarterbacks relevant for years forward. Both have kept their teams in a weak playoff race in the AFC and both face off in Indianapolis. This game will be crucial in scaling both quarterbacks against each other. Granted, Tannehill is nursing a bruised thigh, but it’ll be a test to see how far along both teams have gotten to as well, since the Dolphins went 6-10 and the Colts went 2-14 last year. And the craziest part about it is that whoever loses will still be in a good position to grab a playoff spot. Even crazier? How hot RT1’s wife is. <– That'll be my highlight reel.
5) “My waaaaalls are falling, they’re crumbling dowwwwn…” is the song the Cardinals are singing.
Say hello to one of the biggest collapses of the season. After going undefeated at 4-0, Arizona has lost four straight. Look, it’s not like we didn’t expect the Cardinals to fall at some point. And you’re bullshitting me if you’re going to say that you even expected them to have won four games by now. They’ll be looking to salvage their season against a rejuvenated Green Bay team, so it doesn’t quite look like a vase of roses. The Cards’ defense has been overachieving this season, playing some good, hard-nosed football, but the offense has been…well, they’ve been like a unicorn: possible in theory, yet imaginary and unreal. With Aaron Rodgers playing like last year’s MVP again, and Clay Matthews terrorizing quarterbacks (and considering all the sacks Arizona’s O-line has given up, ‘Getcha Popcorn Ready’), the Cards are looking at a game that could define everything they are. They’re either 9-7 and possible playoff contenders, or they’re 6-10 and plummeting back to the cellar that everyone predicted they would inhabit at the beginning of the season.
6) There is no number six. Six never existed. It’s a figment of your imagination, like Sasquatch. You’ve heard of the number six, but your only proof is your kindergarten teacher telling you so. What the hell did they know? All they did was send you into timeout when you misbehaved and made you count to 20 as a timer. They taught you the number six to add one imaginary second to prolong your pain and suffering in that corner. Using six is a cruel practice. Using six is the reason for the recession. Using six causes catastrophe. Let’s not invite more insanity into our lives. Accept it, and move on.
7) Peyton Manning returns with the ferocity of a real Bronco, so let’s watch him shred defenses with dull scissors.
It’s the awakening. The re-realization that Peyton is still Peyton. That he drinks WD-40 like soda to keep his gears clean and devoid of rust. The guy is ageless. Brett Favre is rolling in his grave at this thought. Wait…right, he’s just in Mississippi…well, I mean that’s pretty much death already…ANYWAYS, Manning is showing that he still hasn’t lost his skills in playing the game. He’s in the thick of the MVP race, a Comeback Player of the Year candidate along with Adrian Peterson, and showing his Sheriff mentality on the sidelines with the offense, taking control of a young team ready to listen to one of the wisest football players in the game. With a winnable date in Cincinnati looming ahead, Manning could be set to have one of his most explosive games of the year. If Manning can get the offense moving fast, Andy Dalton and the Bengals have no shot in this game at all. Manning is here, and he’s almost assuredly going to be here in late-January.
8) If Baltimore can show some talented depth on their defense, watch them destroy the league.
For any team, it’s hard losing one of your best players on either side of the ball. It’s even harder when you lose two. But when it’s your Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback and the 17-year leader of your defense, things can turn to shit quickly. That’s the problem that the Ravens are facing from here-on-out. They were destroyed in Houston, and now they’re up against a Cleveland Browns team who have shown serious nut sack against the Chargers, Colts, Bengals, and the Ravens themselves this season. If the Ravens are good enough to be in the Super Bowl, it will because they have depth at important positions. Without players who can step up in the spotlight, Baltimore can either settle for a low seed as a division winner (barely), or just as easily say goodbye to hope this season.
Side Note: If Flacco sucks as much as we think he does, there won’t even be a discussion about whether he’s elite, whether Baltimore is a Super Bowl contender, or whether the Ravens should start looking to draft someone for him to compete with next season. I’m that serious now.
9) If they can’t win in Jacksonville, count the Detroit Lions out of any sort of playoff contention.
I reckon the Jaguars are like the unofficial measurement of sucking in the NFL. You score 20 and hold them to 15, your defense did its job, your offense sucks. You score 40 and you allow 28, vice-versa. And, you lose, you suck in general and it’s time to consider firing your GM. Matt Stafford is a great quarterback, and it doesn’t get mentioned enough. With Megatron under the Madden Curse (not being injured, just not being productive), he’s found Titus Young as a solid target to trust in clutch situations. Stafford will be the start, middle, and finish of this team’s games for the rest of the season. The defense is alright, not great. They have a match-up against a horrible team with an unimpressed fan base and that should play in the Lions’ favor, regardless of the Jags’ effectiveness. If the Lions can’t win this floozy of a game, then they’re doomed to fall into the garbage of the NFL.
10) This is the Houston Texans moment.
If there’s one game that will define the the dominance of Houston as the best all-around team in the league, it’s this one. At first glance, it looks like a one-sided affair. You’re goddamn right it is. But just how one-sided it is will be dependent on Gary Kubiak’s ability to completely dismantle and exploit every facet of Buffalo’s “defense” and Wade Phillip’s unit stuffing the Bills in every way possibly. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a pretty average quarterback with the ability to win games on occasion, which means that keeping him under 200 yards and a TD with maybe one or two INT’s will still be a massive accomplishment. Should be pretty easy with J.J. Watt leading that formidable defensive line in batting down anything resembling a football. It’s the moment that the Texans are looking at as a backyard football game with really unfair teams.
Houston, meet 7-1 and prime candidacy for Super Bowl favorite.