Both Dave and I are football fans, however you would not be able to tell from what has shown up here on theguysfrom.com so far, but I thought that before the titanic battle that is this weeks' Thursday night match up between the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars (can't wait), I figured that I would go over the ten things that have stood out to me this season.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Steelers fan, and Dave is all about the Patriots, so take that for whatever it means to you for what our opinions are.
1) The Patriots are pretty darn good again, but so are the Panthers?
Thanks to Andy Dalton remembering he's Andy Dalton in the Week 10 Monday Night Football game with the Texans, the two remaining unbeaten teams left in the league hail from New England and Carolina. Now when you consider the softness of schedule (for a reining SuperBowl Champion), there is very little surprise that the Patriots are still unbeaten, but the Panthers are a surprise. Built around defense, and a clearly 'growing into a leader' Cam Newton, the Panthers have clawed their way to an unbeaten record, including big wins over the Seahawks (in Seattle, a tough task) and the Packers.
Whether or not this continues, remains to be seen, however I for one would be really surprised if both of these teams are able to run the table. The injuries stacking up in New England (especially on offense) make it a tough ask, but their schedule is one that, as a Steelers fan, I would kill for. Carolina? I cannot say...there are some potentially tricky games ahead for them, including one in the second last week of the season in Atlanta, but then again, there are no teams that really scare me for either the Patriots or the Panthers...I think it would be incredible if two undefeated teams met in Super Bowl 50, one of them to finally shut the 1972 Dolphins up.
Then again, I did not expect the Jaguars to have three wins so far this year, so anything can happen.
2) The Jaguars are finally looking better
They cannot be the worst team every year. They have been drafting fairly well the last few years (in my opinion) and it is starting to...slowly...pay off. I mean sure, they have beaten some bad teams, and some magical refereeing has helped them out a fair amount, but it is the NFL: a win is a win is a win. Heck, they might even win tonight and be 4-6!
I do have to say that I hope they continue to improve and start making a little bit of noise in the AFC South...
3) The AFC South is clearly the worst division in the league
Look, I was with everyone else in thinking that the Indianapolis Colts were going to be serious Super Bowl contenders this year (before the season started), now here we are with the Colts leading the division at 4-5 (tied with the Texans, but holding the tiebreak).
As of tonight, the Jaguars could be an half game back of the division lead, and depending on how Sunday goes, they could literally be tied for the lead in the division at 4-6.
Whatever you want to say is the reason for the AFC South being the worst this year is fine: rebuilding teams, a team without an offense, a team without a defense and an injured star, or the Jaguars, they are just sad. However it is nice to know that this always rotates; it was not that long ago that it was the NFC West and look at their recent history.
That's right, I'm suggesting that in a few years, we are going to see back to back Super Bowl trips for the Tennessee Titans.
4) The Cowboys are entirely reliant on one player
The Cowboys were 2-0 to start the year, and looked pretty good all things considered, winning two divisional games.
Tony Romo gets hurt, and the Cowboys lose 7 straight games while he is out; they briefly try Brandon Weeden, and then (like so many other football teams) attempt to pretend that Matt Cassel is a NFL quarterback (is the jury still out here? he was a system guy who had one good year. ONE. And has done nothing since--stop it NFL GM's, there must be another option out there). Sure, you could say that they've had a few other injuries, but without Romo, Dez Bryant is nowhere near as game-changing. Oh and apparently, not paying the NFL's leading rusher and letting him to go (to your divisional rival) so you could run...uh...other dudes, was maybe not the best laid plan
Sorry for another lost year Cowboy fans, I hope that y'all finally start reworking things, so that your really good offensive line and fairly solid defense (at least for the NFC East) are not wasted...or find a backup QB that can throw a football.
5) The Seahawks are not "The Seahawks" anymore
Dominant for two years--in the NFL that is pretty darn impressive, especially in the NFC West, where the competition has been rather fierce for a few years. Built on defense, a running game, and a quarterback who is not spectacular, but makes few mistakes and is good for a few good plays, we watched Seattle dominate their way to a SuperBowl win two years ago, and stupidly throw a second title away last year.
This year...not so much. Perhaps it is a a tired group, perhaps it is a team that has lost key members, just unable to pay to keep everyone together (a reality in the salary cap world of the NFL) and some of their best players are getting a little older, and a little worn down with how tough the Seahawk game is.
It could also be suggested that on top of a combination of all of those things, Seattle is now competing with teams that know how to play them better, a better team in their division in Arizona (you know, a team with an actual NFL style offense), and NFL defenses are now more up on the whole 'read option' thing that worked so well for the Seahawks before. Give NFL offensive coordinators long enough, I do not care how good your D is, they are going to find your weak points and make the plays they need to to beat you.
Now to be fair, they are only hovering around .500, but compared to the past couple of years, that is just not the Seahawks we grew to know, and they are going to have a very tough time qualifying for the playoffs.
6) We may have seen the end of one of the best quarterbacks of all time
I am not one to have definitive 'greatest ________ of all-time conversations"; I find them to be completely pointless as every era and situation is different, but I do whole-heartedly believe that Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.
As someone who is (clearly) not a professional athlete, it is hard for me to understand how hard it is to know the right time to step away, but it is definitely seeming like Manning should have hung the cleats up this past offseason and rode off into the sunset--he has looked a shadow of his former self: ball-speed and distance are off, his accuracy is not there and it just seems like all the injuries, and the wear and tear have caught up with him. Leading the league in interceptions? That's a Matt Cassel stat, not Peyton Manning...
Watching him get benched this past week was a little heart-breaking, as it always sucks to watch a great just not able to play anywhere near their best.
Now, yes, we do know that he is injured, and that is seemingly affecting his passing, but it has to be asked whether or not he can come back from this injury and help the Broncos anymore...
7) The Broncos, with or without Manning, are still scary
If the Broncos defense stays healthy, they are going to easily win the AFC West, and they are going to be difficult to beat in the playoffs--Wade Phillips endlessly proves that he is one of the best, non-Dick Lebeau defensive coaches. Period.
This Broncos defense is big, fast and mean. This is a defense that has been winning games for the team all year despite the offense, so whether Osweiler comes in and manages the games, running more of a Kubiak style offense, or Manning comes back and looks even a little bit like his former self, a healthy Broncos defense will win this team games.
The division is pretty much theirs, barring a massive collapse, and a magical run by an injured Kansas City or super young Oakland, so they have a bit of time to get things ready.
8) The Minnesota Vikings are the surprise of the year (so far)
The Minnesota Vikings are leading the NFC North at 7-2.
I'm just going to let that one sink in for a little bit.
The Vikings are leading the North, and have looked good doing it: a strong defense, good special teams, a rejuvenated Adrian Peterson and a developing Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback (who admittedly still needs time, but he does not make too many mistakes, which is great for a young QB) have made Mike Zimmer's Vikings look like they will be a bit of a force in the NFC this season.
Whether or not this success will translate into anything in the playoffs remains to be seen, but it is good to see the Vikings competitive again.
9) No one wants to win the NFC East
The NFC East continues to be a weird division. There are some people who talk about the East being 'competitive', but those people work for FOX and are trying to convince you to watch the Cowboys and the Eagles "play football".
Every once in a while, a team really establishes themselves as good and wins this division, but more often than not it ends up being a 'fight to the finish', which means that no one is really good enough to win it. But hey, it's exciting right?
Dallas we talked about already, but they could, with a lot of help and a healthy Romo running the table, make the playoffs still (ugh).
Washington, despite just being awful for stretches of this season, are still in contention, despite continuously offending people, and having the "franchise quarterback" they mortgaged their future for on the bench as a third string. I like RG3, I do, but the guy is too small to play the game he made his name on in the NFL--the offense will never be spread enough, and the defenses are not about to get any smaller or slower...so the solution in Washington is...be good enough to never draft high again, but not good enough to do anything other than that.
Chip Kelly's Eagles are strange, they're good, then they're not, they don't click, and then they look the best team in the conference for two drives (before fumbling)...and now they are Mark Sanchez-ing at this point, so let's just nod and move on.
The New York Giants have yet to really nail down how clocks work. I mean sure, they're leading the division with one of the worst defenses in the league (because reasons), but they could have...somehow...won more games and had a pretty comfortable lead. But again, time is hard man.
AW BUT ROMO IS BACK; MOAR CHANNELS OF COWBOY GAMES!!!!$@!!!1
10) Despite all the turmoil and upsets, we have our standbys
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won more games this year than the Dallas Cowboys
I cannot stop giggling about how bad the Baltimore Ravens look, something that, Steelers fan I am, gives me unending joy in an injury filled season.
The Green Bay Packers have looked pedestrian since teams have switched to MtM defenses against them, and are now trailing those aforementioned Vikings.
The Bears are competitive (not great, but competitive) and now Jay Cutler is their record-holding touchdown passer.
There have been crazy upsets, weird games, crazy calls and everything one would expect from a NFL season, but just like that favourite blanket, your old sweater you've had forever, two of the oldest standbys are still true:
The Cleveland Browns and the Detroit Lions are awful.
Mmmmmm...things are still OK.
Let me know what you think I've missed from the first 10 weeks of the NFL season in the comments below, and enjoy....tonight's....game...