Each week, the NFL storyline changes. If each play is a verse, each week is a chapter, and each season a book. As with any good story, the trends change and new plots develop. But, it’s important to look beyond the score box when taking a peek at each NFL week. Here are some things that stuck out this past week.
About Last Night: Thoughts on Rivers and Manning
Well, that was a heck of a Monday Night Football. It was almost like a one-inning game of baseball, wasn’t it? Only one team could score in the top and bottom half of the game.
I, for one, was shocked. At 24-0 San Diego, I flipped the game off, watched some other stuff, and caught up on some work. About 45 minutes to an hours later, I checked my fantasy team because my opponent had Matt Prater. It said 28-24. Wow, Denver came back and made a game, I thought. Wait, Prater kicks for Denver. DENVER is WINNING, 28-24?!
I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was, as Stuart Scott said, a bananas game. And, as you might’ve guessed, I have an opinion or two on the quarterback play of last night.
First, Rivers. After he threw his fourth interception, which was returned for an insurance TD, Rivers tossed his mouthpiece in the air, tried to catch it, bobbled it, and ultimately dropped it. In my mind, there is no better metaphor for how this game went for Rivers and the Chargers. San Diego had the game in the bag, and then they defecated on the bed.
Quite frankly, I can’t stand Rivers. He has plenty of talent, but seems to let his own ego and antics get in the way not unlike Jay Cutler. In fact, to me, Rivers is just a slightly more successful Jay Cutler, and his waving off of Norv Turner following his last pick (not unlike Cutler walking away from Mike Tice) is all the proof you need. Rivers, like any quarterback in the NFL, will have his good games and his bad games. But he lacks the fortitude and will to improve that would minimize how many bad games he has. That, quite frankly, is the difference between the “goods” and “greats” in the NFL.
Then there was Manning, who started out defecating on the bed, but cleaned up the mess as the Broncos seemed to catch lightning in a bottle in the second half. It was, quite literally, a tale of two halves for the Hall of Famer-to-be. And really, this is what I sort of expect out of Manning this season: a Jekyll and Hyde-like performance where at times he’s brilliant and at others he struggles. The flame is not extinguished on Manning’s career, but it is flickering. And Peyton’s play in 2012 will, too.
A Retraction on my Previous Opinions on League Parity
It’s time for me to stick my foot in my mouth again. A few weeks ago in one of these articles, I said all the hype about tremendous parity amongst the league’s teams was being played up by the media outlets.
That no longer is true.
Don’t get me wrong, the media is still singing the same tune, but they might be right. We can’t blame sub-par stand-in refereeing for the head-turning box scores anymore and the upsets just keep coming. Tennessee was starting to look like a doormat, and then they stunned Pittsburgh. Seattle was just that team that was GIVEN a major win, then they upset New England. And right as we began to write off Detroit and legitimize Philadelphia, the Lions beat the Eagles.
Now, a lot of this has to do with home field advantage. Certain places like Seattle and Pittsburgh will always be tough to grab a win at when playing on the road, but that doesn’t explain it all. That doesn’t explain how Arizona went IN to New England and came out with a ‘W’, that doesn’t explain how the Chiefs knocked off the Saints in the Superdome, and that certainly doesn’t explain how the Niners made a mockery of one New York team on the road and then got thrashed at home by the other.
The rich no longer get richer and the poor are not necessarily getting poorer. It’s one of the reasons the three teams with the worst records last season are a combined 9-8 as we approach the midpoint of this season. More to that point, the last three Super Bowl champions are a combined 8-9. The age of dynasties is done and, as such, we should be less and less surprised by so-called upsets.
Veteran Defenses Don’t Age Well
What does a wheel of Swiss cheese and an aging defensive corps. have in common? They tend not to get better with age. Also, they have holes in them.
Perhaps more in 2012 than in any other year, labeling Baltimore and Pittsburgh as stout, punishing defenses looks more like fictitious stereotype and less like a fact-based observation. Pittsburgh, for now, is statistically a Top 5 defense, but that’s been thanks in large part to some very impressive numbers in the passing game. But, outside of Denver, how many strong passing offenses have they played? The Jets are ranked 30th, the Raiders 12th, the Eagles 13th, and Tennessee is 15th. Thankfully, the Steelers won’t have to see much in the way of high-octane passing offenses during the regular season, but Pittsburgh’s aspirations go far beyond just making the playoffs.
Then there’s the running game, where early on they are ALREADY giving up nearly a hundred yards a game. This before they’ll have to see Ray Rice (twice), Trent Richardson (twice), Ahmad Bradshaw, Ryan Mathews, and DeMarco Murray. Oh, and don’t forget about budding star Alfred Morris of the Redskins. All the while, Steeler-D mainstays like Polamalu just can’t seem to stay healthy. Moral of the story? This just isn’t your daddy’s Pittsburgh defense anymore.
And if I can make a case for Pittsburgh, Baltimore will be a cinch. Already, the unit is ranked 26th in yards allowed and now they’ve learned Ray Lewis is done for the year. If they’re already giving up almost 400 yards a game on offense, what’s going to happen when they play Houston or Denver or even Washington? RG3 went 76 yards to the house on Minnesota who has a Top 8 defense AFTER getting gashed by the Redskins.
NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryam isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for NFL updates and other shenanigans.