I was all set ready to post this article after the MNF game as soon as I plugged in some thoughts on the Seahawks and Bills. But a simple “plug in” isn’t going to suffice here. For anyone that saw that game Monday night — in particular, the scenario that unfolded as the first half was ending — please explain to me how the NFL continues to get by without employing their officials full time. Please, I beg of you. How can one single play set in motion a string of missed calls, utter confusion, and chaos in such a short amount of time? We’re talking three seconds!! Three seconds left in the half — how can a play (that doesn’t even get off by the way because the penalty) wreak this much havoc??!! And then, as if the play wasn’t mind-blowing enough, the multiple explanations afterwards by the NFL’s Head of Officiating Dean Blandino, referee Walt Anderson, and countless experts commenting on TV and on Twitter were enough to send onlookers into a state of “huh?”. Maybe this is exactly what the league needed in order to push commissioner Roger Goodell into fixing the officiating problem that the NFL clearly has right now. Then, again, haven’t we been through something like this before? On a Monday night? In Seattle?…..
1. Setting aside the buffoonery that ensued as the first half came to a close, the game was actually pretty entertaining. Fantasy owners of Jimmy Graham and Russell Wilson, finally, cashed in. If Seattle continues this play on the offensive-side, they will be just as dangerous as they’ve been for the last few seasons. On the other hand, while they were in the game the whole time, Buffalo suffered another loss and more poor play defensively. After four straight wins, the Bills have come back to earth and are looking more like the team that started out 0-2 and was firing offensive coordinators.
2. Is it possible the Packers team and Colts team that we’re seeing now, are the true versions of each? Both started out in quite the opposite fashion. And now after Indy dominated most of the game in Lambeau, the Colts are poised to move on the first-place Texans in the AFC South while the Pack are free-falling in the NFC North.
3. Are we seeing some separation in the AFC West? Kansas City , Denver, and Oakland all have made cases thru week 9 to be the divisional power. KC seems to be able to rotate anyone they want out of the backfield and be productive. The Broncos D is bar-none, the scariest in the NFL. But the Raiders may have staked the loudest claim to the division with their start-to-finish throttling of the defending champs in primetime on Sunday night. What’s most impressive is that the Raiders did their damage on the ground, out-rushing Denver 218 yards to 33. And let’s not totally dismiss the Chargers. The defense was phenomenally opportunistic against the Titans on Sunday and the offense doesn’t seem to be impacted by all their injuries. But it looks like Oakland has a leg up on the competition out west for the first time in over a decade.
4. Minnesota was, just 3 short weeks ago, thought to be the best in the NFC. Now they’re on the verge of a complete collapse. Sunday’s overtime loss at home to the Lions puts the Vikings’ divisional lead in a great amount of jeopardy. And puts the Lions a half game back after winning 4 of their last 5 — not always pretty but wins are wins in the NFL.
5. The AFC North is in such disarray, even the Browns are alive to win the division! Okay, seriously, they’re not. The Browns are terrible in every sense of the word. But, c’mon, no one else can separate themselves?? The Steelers have regressed and have looked more like the team that Philadelphia dominated earlier in the season; the Ravens are up and down and not consistent; and the Bengals are the same. Parity is fine, but this is a little much.
6. The Titans are a fun team to watch. Marcus Mariota still has to work on limiting the mistakes. But for all the mistakes, he makes the big plays and has Tennessee playing better football than most thought at the onset of the season.
7. Dallas is proving each week that they have staying power. They have it all — the poised QB, the elusive running back, the star WR, the veteran tight end, the best o-line in football, and a defense that bends but doesn’t break and plays it’s best in the final quarter. It’s been a long time since we could talk about the Cowboys like this.
8. The Eagles have fallen off after their fast 3-0 start, but that’s to be expected. Five or six wins is really what Philly expected and should still be happy with. Carson Wentz is good and head coach Doug Pederson is learning more and more about his team each week. He’s going to have them contending soon. Just not this year.
9. The Giants offense finally looks like what we all thought it would be when the year began. Eli Manning spreads it around nicely — running game or not, they don’t care. The weapons Eli has at receiver are lethal.
10. Speaking of offensive weapons, Atlanta has them and has utilized them, nicely, all season. Dan Quinn’s defense still isn’t playing at the consistent level that he’d like. But when Matt Ryan has the offense rolling like it is, it doesn’t much matter what the defense is doing.
11. The Rams and Panthers met up Sunday in a matchup that, oddly enough, showed just how close teams in the NFL are this year. Neither has been at all consistent this season and neither has played defense the way many expected both units to play. But Sunday, we saw how two teams, who in our minds, are completely different — Carolina has all the offensive weapons and the reigning MVP and L.A. has a strong defense led by tackle Aaron Donald — can actually be pretty equal. Neither team really proved it’s better than the other — a 13-10 score only proved why, perhaps, TV ratings are down and audiences don’t really care to watch these games.
12. Jay Ajayi went for over 100 yards on the ground for the third straight week. The Dolphins look like a different team after winning their last three.
13. The Jags and the Jets should be thankful that the Browns are around this season. If not, both those teams would be dominating the headlines, nationally, as the two biggest disappointments of the year.
14. When New Orleans locked up with San Francisco on Sunday, an offensive explosion that Levi Stadium might not be able to endure was expected. Neither of these two teams is known for a stout defense — or even having ones that try all that hard. Drew Brees is going to have some outrageous numbers when this year ends, but it won’t reflect in wins. And San Francisco hopes that it finds their own Drew Brees in this Spring’s NFL Draft — because if that offense cannot generate more than a field goal in the second half against the Saints defense, there’s little hope for them.
15. The offense is not the problem in Tampa Bay. If the Bucs can figure out a way to stop teams from marching right through them, they might be able to get competitive fairly quickly in a division that no one is running away with. Until then, the offenses in the NFC South are way too dynamic for Tampa to get by with a less-than-mediocre defense.
Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.