So Week 10 in the NFL is in the books, (sort of as we still have a Monday night game to play) and for the second consecutive week we saw some truly whacky and bizarre finishes to ball games throughout the National Football League. As we start to head closer toward Thanksgiving, I can't help but start to reflect on the lingering impact today's game could have as we head down the stretch. Here a few talking points:
1) Peyton Manning is old, and the Broncos are in big Trouble: It doesn't get much worse for Peyton Manning than going 5-of-20 for 35 yards and 4 interceptions. On the same day he passed Brett Favre for the most career yards by a quarterback, Manning had one of the worst days he's ever had in an NFL regular season game. He looked old and beaten. He was so bad, Gary Kubiak pulled Manning for Brock Osweiler in the third quarter with Denver trailing the Chiefs 22-0.
Kubiak took the bullet for Manning, saying that he shouldn't have started Manning because of the rash of injuries he's endured lately. According to reports, two weeks ago Manning was listed with a shoulder injury, and had a foot injury this week. In addition he's felt discomfort with a rib cage injury.
Whether it is fair or not for Kubiak to call himself out here are the cold hard facts: the Broncos are lucky to be 7-2. They are easily the most flawed 7-2 in the League in quite some time, and if the ball bounced differently a few times, they could easily be 2-7 or 3-6 right now. The marriage between Kubiak and Manning has not worked, as both want to run different offenses. It took a bye week three weeks ago for Manning and Kubiak to get on the 'same page' and it looked like things were turning around with a 29-10 win over Green Bay. Now Denver has lost two in a row, and are looking like a team destined for a first round playoff exit.
In addition there are reports early Monday morning that Manning has a torn painter fascia in his right foot, and there is legitimate question whether the quarterback will even finish the season. The Broncos 2015 season is quickly turning into a dumpster fire before our very eyes. While some have been hard on Manning, the guys who really deserve the blame are Kubiak and John Elway who have tried to put a square peg into a round hole all season long.
2) What is up with the Green Bay Packers? The Packers laid an egg at home against Detroit, losing to the Lions at Lambeau Field for the first time since 1991. Aaron Rodgers didn't look fluid at all as he struggled to get the Packers into the end zone against what is typically a bad Lions defense. Green Bay didn't score a TD until there was 5:55 to go in the game. Yet, Green Bay still had a chance to win, but the fact is they didn't and didn't deserve to win. The Lions deserved to win this game. Mike McCarthy has not been calling plays, and he needs to get back to that. Not to mention the Packers offense clearly miss the explosiveness and security of having Jordy Nelson on the field.
The Packers could still turn this season around, they have a bunch of divisional games in front of them, including two with the Vikings. The Pack is still the favorite to win the NFC North, but they gotta clean up their act.
3) Mark Sanchez still sucks at quarterback. Nothing makes this Jet fan more worm inside then seeing Mark Sanchez be Mark Sanchez. Sam Bradford left the Eagles-Dolphins game with an injury, forcing the butt-fumble king into the ball game with Philly down 20-16. Sanchez was awful. He almost got Jordan Matthews decapitated on a terrible throw that led to a field goal, the proceeded to throw a game killing interception in the end zone with Philly driving for the go-ahead score. Sanchez finished his disastrous afternoon guiding the Eagles to a turnover on downs at mid-field, icing it for the Fish. Remember when Philly fans fell in love with Sanchez last year? Yeah, he rewarded them by sinking their playoff hopes last season. If Sam Bradford should miss any time, the Eagles will be stuck with Sanchez down the stretch ... again.
4) The Jaguars are setting themselves up to be everyones trendy pick in 2016. The Jacksonville Jaguars pulled out a win in Baltimore on Sunday to improve to 3-6, and have now won two of their last three. Were it not for a fourth quarter meltdown against the Jets last week, the Jaguars would have a three game winning streak. Jacksonville is extremely young; they show it by the mistakes they make consistently from week to week. Yet the Jags have some talented young players that will make them a trendy pick in 2016 to make some ... wait a minute! The Jaguars are 3-6 and only a game out of the AFC South! They could make some noise now. Yes, I know. The Jaguars play the Titans (2-7) twice, Chargers (2-7) and Colts (4-5) over the next month. They could, dare I say, win some of these games and get themselves deeper in the playoff hunt THIS YEAR! Ok, I'm not going all in on the Jaguars, they probably aren't going any better than 6-10 this year. But the Jaguars are building something promising for the future. If they are smart and this team continues to show improvement, then Gus Bradley might deserve a chance to win with this team next year.
5) The Jets are in big trouble. Earlier this week, New York's green and white MetLife Stadium tenant had a true stinker against the Buffalo Bills and their old coach Rex Ryan. From poor coaching to poor execution, the Jets have regressed from that electric 4-1 start they had. The Jets have lost three of four, and now find themselves on the outside looking in. They already lost a tiebreaker to the Raiders, and trail in their tiebreaker to the Bills. The Jets are also 1-4 against teams who are potentially heading to the playoffs this year.
What is most disturbing is the Jets vaunted defense is missing tackles, and they can't get any push up front to inject a running attack. The Jets live on their front seven, defensively, and, they live on the running of Chris Ivory, offensively. Right now it's not happening. Injuries have not helped, and neither does the case of alligator arms on display by Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker in big spots. The Jets have a tough stretch run on tap with the Giants, Patriots, Bills, and Cowboys upcoming. Plus they play the Texans and Dolphins, both of whom believe they have a shot this year at a playoff spot. It's looking ugly.
6) The NFC East is still muddled. Let's see here, the Cowboys lost in excruciating fashion for the umpteenth time this season to drop to 2-7; the Eagles watched Mark Sanchez stink it up against the Dolphins; the Giants lost a heart-breaker to the Patriots, and the Redskins clobbered the Saints. I guess the Redskins are now the favorites in the NFC East. Only kidding. The fact this division is so poor, goes to show you how bad that loss to the Patriots was for the Giants. A win and New York would be 6-4 right now with a 1-1/2 game lead on everyone in the standings. The Giants enter their bye week at 5-5, and need everyone to lose next week just to remain in first place. By the way the Giants play those red hot Redskins on November 29 in Maryland.
7) The Minnesota Vikings, yes, the Minnesota Vikings are in first place! The Vikings are in first place in the NFC North. What? Yes! The Minnesota Vikings are in first place in the NFC North. The Vikings put a thorough whooping on the Raiders, who were a favorite to win this game on Sunday. The Vikes were led by Adrian Peterson, who dashed for 203-yards, only the sixth time he has ran for 200+ yards in a game in his career. Moreover, Teddy Bridgewater continues to manage the game and not make big mistakes for Minnesota, as he threw for 140 and a touchdown.
However, the biggest statement of the day came from the Vikings defense, which held the Raiders to 84 yards rushing and forced two Derek Carr interceptions. The Vikings have surrendered more than 20 points in a game only once this year (a 23-20 loss to Denver in early October) and have been lights out for much of the season. These guys are scary. They don't have a big time quarterback, but find ways to win the old school way with defense and a ground game. Even if the Vikings don't win the division, they are certainly a serious wild card contender.
8) The Patriots ARE beatable. While the Patriots won their game and improved to 9-0, the Giants once again proved to the world that the Patriots are beatable. The G-men sacked Brady three times, and forced two fumbles from the Super Bowl MVP. In addition, the Giants exposed the Patriots leaky secondary, as Eli Manning torched that Patriots defense for 361 yards and two touchdowns. Had ODB held onto the football in the fourth quarter, Manning would have had three scores. The Giants and Jets are the only two teams this year to come close to beating the Patriots, or at the very least, have exposed their weaknesses. The Patriots will lose at least once in the regular season I predict. They are a great team, will probably win the Super Bowl again this year, but there is a blue-print for success against them.
9) The Arizona Cardinals are the NFC's best team. The Arizona Cardinals are indeed for real. It took me a while to come around to buying into these guys, but now I'm buying. The Cardinals jumped out to a 19-0 lead on Sunday night in Seattle, only to watch the Seahawks storm all the way back to take a 29-25 fourth quarter lead. The Cardinals would not be deterred as Carson Palmer led two huge scoring drives late to blow the game open, as Arizona went on to win 39-32. The Cardinals are in first place at 7-2, comfortably, might I add in a division that everyone thought belonged to Seattle.
They won in Seattle for the second time in three seasons, and have posted 30 or more points in a game for the sixth time this season. Carson Palmer has throw for 2300 yards, 23 touchdowns and just seven picks. Anyone waiting for the Carson Palmer who struggled in Cincinnati and Oakland better keep waiting, because Palmer continues to excel for Bruce Arians. Last season Palmer was 6-0 for the Cardinals before injuries derailed not only him, but the Cardinals as they struggled down the stretch. In the last two seasons combined the Cardinals are 13-2 when Palmer is their quarterback.
Not to mention, the Cardinals have a solid duel running attack with a rejuvenated Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington taking plenty of pressure off the veteran quarterback. While the Carolina Panthers might be 9-0, and the Green Bay Packers are still a sentimental favorite in the NFC, it is the Cardinals who might be the most realistic threat to represent the NFC in San Francisco come February. However they are getting it done, they are getting it done for Arians, who continues to showcase himself as one of the games smartest and innovative head coaches.
If the Playoffs started today?
1) Patriots (9-0)
2) Bengals (8-0)
3) Broncos (7-2)
4) Colts (4-5)
5) Steelers (6-4)
6) Bills (5-4)
1) Panthers (9-0)
2) Cardinals (7-2)
3) Vikings (7-2)
4) Giants (5-5)
5) Packers (6-3)
6) Falcons (6-3)
Super Bowl 50 is trending where? We got a very long way to go until the Super Bowl, anything can happen as we all know, but if the playoffs started today I'd have to say Patriots vs. Cardinals would be the match-up. I've been on the Packers vs. Patriots bandwagon for much of the season. That might still happen, but right now, 'Zona looks real good.