Can anyone go undefeated? NFL Week 8 RecapPosted: November 3, 2015
A wild and crazy Week 8 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including some crippling injuries, the trade deadline, the Broncos destroying the Packers, the four undefeated teams, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.
Will: The Seahawks beat the Cowboys in a 13-12 barnburner on the strength of a Steven Hauschka field goal in the closing minutes. Aside from relatively easy wins over the Bears and Niners, is it fair to say they’ve played to the level of their competition this season? Do you feel remotely comfortable projecting this team’s performance?
Derek: Yeah, that’s fair. The Seahawks held fourth quarter leads on the road against the undefeated Bengals and 6-1 Packers, as well as a fourth quarter lead at home against the undefeated Panthers. Yet they also had way-too-close games with the Lions and Cowboys.
The blame has firmly shifted to the offense, though. I’ve mentioned before that the defense deserved just as much of the blame as the offense because of the game-winning drives they kept giving up (and it looked like they were on their way to doing it again in this one after Michael Bennett’s roughing the passer penalty on the final drive) but recently the performance of the offense has been …
When the defense allows 91 net passing yards and no touchdowns, it really shouldn’t come down to the wire. Russell is making some bad decisions, and his offense could muster only three points in the entire second half. And the only reason the Cowboys scored in the fourth quarter is because of Russell’s interception deep in Seattle territory. Similarly, the only reason the Lions game was close is because the offense gave up a touchdown on a fumble return. They need to step up their game.
The good news is there’s a decent chance they will. The Seahawks have been streaky in the Russell Wilson era. They were 6-5 in 2012 before running the table with some dominant wins sprinkled in. They had winning streaks of four and seven in 2013. They started 3-3 last year and finished the year winning nine of their final 10. Now they’re 4-4 going into their bye with three straight home games coming out of it and only three road games for the rest of the season. The game against Arizona on Sunday night of Week 10 should tell us a lot.
Speaking of Arizona, who or what deserves the credit/blame for Cleveland blowing their 20-7 second quarter lead over the Cardinals? Now that the Browns are 2-5, are you surprised that the trade deadline has passed and they didn’t hold a fire sale on guys like Joe Thomas, Paul Kruger, and Barkevious Mingo?
Will: Everyone. Everything. They didn’t trade anyone today, and that somehow made things worse. You see, they tried to trade Joe Thomas. Eight-time Pro Bowler, best left tackle in the league since 2007 Joe Thomas. They tried to trade him to the Denver Broncos, who are run by a buck-toothed demon named John Elway who once beat the Browns in a couple football games. The deal didn’t come to fruition, the reasoning depending on which report you believe. Some said that they couldn’t agree to terms in time for the 4 p.m. deadline, and some said they just couldn’t agree to terms. Either way, I can’t believe — I mean, I can believe; nothing surprises me anymore — that they considered trading Joe Thomas. He’s been a rock for the better part of a decade. Morale is getting lower by the day. Wheeeeeee.
Hey, we have four undefeated teams after eight weeks: the Patriots, Bengals, Broncos, and Panthers. Do you think either of them has a reasonable chance at going undefeated?
Derek: If any of them will do it, it’s New England. Their biggest weakness is their secondary, but they don’t play a team that can really exploit that. Their three toughest tests will be Week 10 at the Giants, Week 12 at Denver, and Week 16 at the Jets. Brady should be able to shred the Giants defense (though we’ve said that before) and it’s tough to say Denver or the Jets will win due to their quarterbacks not inspiring trust this season. That same Denver quarterback could prevent the Broncos from going undefeated if he plays like he has most of the season.
Like Denver, Cincinnati’s quarterback scares me. I could see them getting upset during a Dalton Game. Carolina has some tough games left, including this weekend vs. Green Bay, at Dallas on Thanksgiving with Romo back, at New Orleans, and two games with Atlanta. One way or another, I’m sure Don Shula’s boys will crack open their champagne at some point.
I just spent some time implying that Peyton Manning kind of sucks now, even though the Broncos surprised us both when they beat Green Bay by 19. Has Peyton Manning returned? And what did you think would have to happen for Aaron Rodgers to finish a game with 50 net passing yards?
Will: I have no idea what the hell happened in that game. I get that Denver’s defense is super good, but Rodgers goes for 250 and two touchdowns in his sleep. I’ll chalk some of it up to a bad matchup, though I wonder if Rodgers’ receiving corps will catch up to him down the line. One can only depend on James Jones for so long. I expect Green Bay to rebound and perhaps knock off Carolina next week.
Let’s go downstairs into the basement. Would you pick the Lions over anyone straight up? If they were playing the Titans (the league’s only other one-win team), what would you make the spread on a neutral field?
Derek: The following conversation likely took place this week:
Jim Tomsula: Colin Kaepernick is playing poorly. I think I’ll bench him.
Geep Chryst: Our backup is Blaine Gabbert.
Eric Mangini: I think that would be an upgrade.
Jim Tomsula: As do I.
So, I might take the Lions over the 49ers. And I’ll get my chance! They play each other in Week 16. That should be fun. As for a Lions-Titans spread, it would probably be something dumb like Titans -2. Though the Lions could be better coming out of their bye. They looked horrible on Sunday, but they hired a new offensive coordinator less than a week before a London game. Not too many teams would look good after that.
The Lions took the first beating of the day, but it would not be the last. Le’Veon Bell, Steve Smith, and Keenan Allen are out for the year. Matt Forte, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Josh McCown should miss time. Ricardo Lockette suffered a scary, career-threatening neck injury and Khiry Robinson had a gruesome leg injury. Which team or player lost the most on Sunday? Do you see this as a sign that football will cease to exist during our lifetime?
Will: Bell going down for Pittsburgh feels like the biggest blow, both because the Steelers are still a contender and because they had just gotten Roethlisberger back. But my god, that is a lot of frightening injuries in one week. Like, Keenan Allen lacerated his kidney? Good thing is, I’m sure no one in this fine country lamented the fortunes of their fantasy team more than an actual person’s wellbeing.
I can’t imagine that football goes on forever. I have to imagine that there will be a tipping point one day, but I don’t know what that will look like. Will it be a single, jarring, horrifying on-field incident, or will it be brought about by the ongoing research on brain trauma? I’ve long joked that increasingly awful things will become commonplace (“It looks like — yes, they are going to have to euthanize Anderson on the sidelines…you just hate to see that, Jim…second-and-6.”), but the actual circumstance makes joking about football players being put down on the field, you know, a little less funny.
Let us move on. Is the NFC South good, or at least respectable? It’s been something of a laughingstock division since the Saints stopped being a perennial contender, but as we speak only one team has a sub-.500 record. What the hell?
Derek: I’m not calling it good because all of them except Carolina have been wildly inconsistent. The Bucs have put on some of the worst performances of any team this season, but they beat the Falcons in Atlanta. The Falcons started 5-0 and have looked bad in three straight games. The Saints started 1-4 and looked like one of the worst teams in football, and now they’re scoring at will. I have no idea what to make of any of these teams. They could be a cluster of garbage like last year or the toughest division in football. Anything could happen.
Ken Whisenhunt was just fired as head coach of the Titans after just 23 games. Granted, he only won three of them. Fair or foul?
Will: I mean, it seems pretty fair. It is a bit early to fire the coach, especially with a rookie quarterback, but have a look at this:
What good team (say, two games over .500 or better) do you think is most likely to fall back to Earth? What average team do you see making a push for a division title and/or playoff appearance?
Derek: The 5-2 Vikings are due for a fall. They’ve had an easy schedule so far and have a very tough schedule coming up: vs. St. Louis, at Oakland, vs. Green Bay, at Atlanta, vs Seattle, at Arizona. They opened the season with two Lions games, a Chiefs game, and a 49ers game that they somehow lost. Tough times ahead.
I’ll spare you the homer pick of Seattle pushing for a division title and instead choose the Cowboys. Yes, they’ve lost five in a row, but they were all close except for the New England game. They’ve got Philly at home this week followed by a trip to Tampa Bay. I wouldn’t say they’re favored in either of those games, but both are winnable. Then Tony Romo will come back and they could be the team we saw last year. It helps that no one is taking control of the NFC East. It’s conceivable that the Cowboys could be tied for second place and one game out of first place after next week.
Let’s hand out this week’s hardware.
Gentlemen of the Week
Derek: Let’s give it to Colin Kaepernick, for old time’s sake. Everyone do yourself a favor and watch this video. The Rams decided to bring their corners up in run defense. A safety looked to have the receiver at the top of the screen, but Torrey Smith is completely uncovered at the bottom of the screen. He’s even jumping up and down trying to get Kaepernick’s attention. And that’s just plain rude. The play called for a handoff to Mike Davis, and that’s what was going to happen, damn it! Good for you, Colin. Ignore that attention-seeking wide receiver. No good will come from spoiling him. The 49ers coaching staff surely will not rest easily knowing they’ve benched a true Gentleman.
Will: Joe Thomas, Joe Thomas, bless you, Joe Thomas. Poor Joe has blocked for some of the worst quarterbacks this league has ever seen, and he’s done it well. Now the Browns try to up and trade him. I am severely down on the Cleveland Football Browns right now.
Most Hungover Fan Bases:
Derek: I’m going with the Steelers. I’m not really capable of pitying Steelers fans because their team has won five Super Bowls and one of them is tainted, but their injury luck this year has been brutal. First Roethlisberger misses four games, and now Bell is gone for the year. The Steelers had only 18 plays this season with Roethlisberger, Bell, Antonio Brown, and Martavis Bryant on the field at the same time. Now they’re 4-4 and looking up at the undefeated Bengals. There are definitely worse situations in the league, but this is one of the most disappointing. It’s okay to overindulge on those Yuenglings, Steelers fans.
Will: Yeah, drink up, you bastards. See you in two weeks. We’ll be the ones whose bus breaks down halfway to the stadium.