Monday, November 19, 2012

Week 11 Action Gives Out Mixed Signals

I'm not so sure about everyone else, but I have had a hard time deciphering exactly what happened around the league yesterday.

Records being set, feats being accomplished, players being hurt left and right, overtime games every where you look.

Impressive performance after impressive performance, and the Rookie of the Year debate has continued to heat up. Indianapolis' Andrew Luck may have taken a step back after his disappointing debut against Tom Brady and the Pats, but Robert Griffin III, Doug Martin and Trent Richardson continue to impress. Even Justin Blackmon stepped up to the occasion against Houston's defense.

The NFC East just got interesting, with RGIII putting up a head-shaking performance against the struggling Eagles, throwing for 200 yards and 4 TDs on 14/15 passing, in addition to his team-leading 84 rushing yards. Washington improved to 4-6 with a 31-6 victory over Philly's rookie signal caller Nick Foles (filling in for the concussed Michael Vick).
At 4-6, the Skins are just two games behind the regressing New York Giants, who had the week off but have dropped two straight after starting the regular season at 6-2. The Eagles have now dropped six consecutive and are a couple of losses away from a possible Andy Reid firing, and the Cowboys, though they survived a scare against Cleveland with a 23-20 overtime win, have been inconsistent at 5-5 and are not looking like a team that could compete for a playoff spot.

The NFC East is just one of many NFC divisions that are completely up for grabs at this point. In fact all four divisions are wide open with six weeks left in the regular season:

*Chicago (7-2), Green Bay (7-3) and Minnesota (6-4) are all neck and neck up North.

*San Francisco (6-2-1) and Seattle (6-4) are battling it out on the west coast.

*Tampa Bay (6-4) even has a shot at catching the Falcons (9-1) in the South after late-game heroics yesterday in an 11-point comeback and overtime victory to capture its fourth consecutive victory. Don't count out Drew Brees and New Orleans (5-5), either. A 3-game win streak has put them back on the map in the South.
The Niners and Bears face-off tonight on Monday Night Football, a game which features two back-up quarterbacks making their first start of the season. San Fran's second-year QB Colin Kaepernick is making his first career start and Chicago's Jason Campbell is making his first start as a Bear. Both signal callers are filling in for the injured Alex Smith and Jay Cutler, respectively, as they both left last week's games after sustaining concussions.

Speaking of concussions, that's another questionable topic of conversation these days, and it's not just quarterbacks that have been getting them this season. Through last week's action, 77 different players have suffered from at least one concussion and just three teams (Arizona, Cincinnati and Tampa) have yet to have a player sustain one, according to CBS Sports' website.

Also according to the article I read, 19 teams have had multiple players suffer from a concussion. That's basically 60% of teams. This past Friday there were five different defenders fined for illegal hits from the previous two week's of play, by commissioner Roger Goodell.

Clearly player safety has been put into question this season, and for a good reason. Concussions have been aplenty this season and it's been a huge concern for the National Football League. I plan on looking into this issue a little more later on this week, and will hopefully be making a post in further detail.
Until then, however, the AFC issues must be addressed. Denver and New England appear to be on the midst of running away with their respective divisions.

New England put on a clinic against the rookie Luck, putting up 59 points. With a 24-17 halftime score, a classic Indy/NE showdown looked inevitable. But 35 second half points, including an 87-yard interception of Luck that was turned into a pick-6, put the game well out of reach early in the fourth quarter.

Well aware of the offensive explosion that is New England's offensive attack, should 59 points against the Colts really surprise anyone? I still feel Indianapolis are playoff contenders, especially after Chad Henne stepped into the game against Houston and put up 354 yards, 4 TDs and 37 points against a tough and physical Texans' defense. Houston was exposed and showed that maybe they aren't completely invincible within the South? They came away with the win anyways, but it was a hard-fought game from a 1-9 Jaguars' squad.

New England will run away with the East like we've seen for years under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, especially with an ever-improving defense. And Peyton Manning is finally looking comfortable as Denver's starter.

Not only does Manning (2,975 yards, 24 TDs, 7 INT, 106.2 rating) find himself in the MVP race, but the Broncos have won five in a row and are sitting atop the West at 7-3. Not to mention the Chargers, Raiders and Chiefs are currently on 2, 3 and 7-game losing streaks, respectively.
The North and South may be a bit different. As mentioned above, Houston took a step back in a close victory over the Jags. Indy is three games behind and, if Houston falters down the stretch, they could steal one from the Texans. I still believe Houston is a top 3 team in the conference, but considering they have much tougher opponents in the final six weeks, anything is possible. Long story short, those two IND/HOU match-ups in the final 3 weeks of the season could prove vital for both teams.

As for the North, last night was an ugly showing for both Baltimore (8-2) and Pittsburgh (6-4), though the Ravens came away with a tough 13-10 victory and extended its division lead to two games. A couple of key mistakes by Pittsburgh's veteran defenders late in the game cost Mike Tomlin's crew and Ben Roethlisberger's sprained shoulder and dislocated rib (pressing into his aorta) could keep them from keeping up with the Ravens.

Luckily for us, however, the two teams will meet again in just two short weeks.

The final six weeks of the season will become slightly clearer after tonight's showdown in San Francisco, as more Week 11 wrap-up will be coming your way in the next couple of days.

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