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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

NFL Week 6 Recap 2015 (October 21st)

It was another important week in the NFL which saw some big Divisional wins and has just settled the season the path it is likely to go.

There are always a couple of surprise teams that can put together a run at this point when it looks like they are seemingly staring into the abyss, but most records will tell us teams 'are what we think they are'.

You can put a fork into some teams around the NFL, while Coaches might begin to feel their seats getting warmer and warmer before Black Monday in January when a number of changes are usually made.

So what did I make of Week 6 of the 2015 NFL season?

Peyton Manning is Finished as an 'Elite' Quarter Back
That may seem an understatement considering many have been ready to leave Peyton Manning on the scrapheap for weeks already, but I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt until this week.

There is little doubt now that Denver are beginning to win games in spite of their Quarter Back and not because of Peyton Manning which has been the case through his career. Manning hasn't been helped by some poor drops from normally reliable Receivers, but the Interceptions thrown have almost been telegraphed to the Defenders and it's almost like Manning is second guessing himself.

If teams had taken advantage of his sloppy play or if the Broncos Defense had been about the level of last year, I think Denver are looking at a 3-3 record AT BEST, rather than at 6-0 where they currently stand. Baltimore, Kansas City, Minnesota, Oakland and now Cleveland all had their shots to win those games against Denver and it is only the Defensive unit that has helped them overcome Manning mistakes.

That is hard to write considering how good Manning has been in his career, but Father Time remains undefeated and his skills look completely eroded now.

To me it would be a huge surprise if Manning was to return to the NFL next season, especially in Denver, while this team might make the Play Offs but I wouldn't back them to win more than a single Play Off game even with home advantage.

Manning has no running game to aid him and it has to be pointed out that Denver are 6-0 because they have played teams with a combined 10-24 record to this point. Even then they have barely squeaked by and I think we will know exactly what Denver are once they come out of their bye into their next five games.

Why? Well they only face the Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears and the New England Patriots in that run (17-12 combined record to this point and two undefeated teams).

Can Someone Tell Me What is a Catch in the NFL?
I am done.

Absolutely done.

Just what is a catch in the NFL these days?

Anyone who saw the Detroit Lions-Chicago Bears game might have been as stunned as the commentators when they saw the Golden Tate 'catch' which was turned into an Interception ruled a Touchdown because he had taken 'three steps' before breaking the plane.

As Tate was crossing the line, the ball was ripped out of his hands and caught by a Bears Defender and almost everyone was waiting to hear from the referees that the call on the field stands after it had been ruled an Interception. The commentators couldn't believe it had been overturned into a Touchdown and the question was how is that a catch and a Touchdown when this below wasn't?

Devonta Freeman caught a pass the week earlier, and stretched over the plane before being turned around and the ball coming loose... But that was an incomplete pass according to the referees?

Why do the NFL make it so difficult to determine a catch? Bang-bang plays are different but surely the second you make a 'football move' or blatantly cradle the ball should be a catch right?

To me the Golden Tate 'catch' should have been ruled the same as Freeman's and it was then an Interception. If it wasn't and he had broken the plane as announced by Dean Blandino and the referee on the field, then Freeman's is a Touchdown too as is Dez Bryant's from the Dallas Cowboys Play Off loss to Green Bay last season.

Why is it so convoluted though? Millions watch these games and you don't want to make a rule so grey that people don't know which way the referees will rule. It needs to be cleared up once and for all because it looked ridiculous on Sunday and I am sure there is going to be at least one more really big moment later in the season just like it. One that will likely be ruled the other way too!

The Carolina Panthers Have a Statement Win to Underline 5-0
When Kelvin Benjamin was lost for the season, I wasn't sure the Carolina Panthers would be anything more than perhaps the best team in a pretty poor Division. That was the best case scenario in my mind and even their 4-0 start to the season could be ignored because of the teams they had beaten.

Ignore the Panthers no longer though.

Cam Newton showed his ever improving maturity by helping Carolina come back from 13 points down to not only beat the Seattle Seahawks, but to beat them on the road.

Some have suggested Newton as a potential MVP candidate and that performance on Sunday has me firmly believing that the Quarter Back is now looking to move to the next echelon of players in his position.

The fact Newton won the game with his arm will have left a beaming smile on all who have backed him to flourish into a top Quarter Back and I do think the Panthers are for real as a Super Bowl contender.

Carolina's Defense is always going to keep them in games, but Newton being able to sustain drives in hostile environments under immense pressure while standing in the pocket makes them a threat to win it all.

My concern? I think outside of Greg Olsen the Panthers don't have reliable Receivers and that might haunt them later in the season when teams take away their Tight End. Carolina do look a little short at the moment to win it all, but this is a young team and I love what their Quarter Back is doing at the moment.

Any team that can win in Seattle deserves my respect, although Seahawks fans might begin to worry about their own chances of reaching another Super Bowl with a Defense that has consistently blown coverages and big leads in Fourth Quarters this season.

Sam Bradford Still Doesn't Look the Answer for Chip Kelly
When the trade was made between the Philadelphia Eagles and the St Louis Rams that sent Nick Foles to Missouri and brought Sam Bradford to Phili, I think a lot of people were excited to see what the former Number 1 Overall Draft Pick was going to be able to do in this Offense.

He was coming off a second big knee injury, but Bradford showed enough in pre-season to start the season for the Eagles and was a popular choice for Comeback Player of the Year.

It hasn't gone to plan for Bradford despite the fact the Philadelphia Eagles are back on top of the NFC East, but that was because the Defense helped them overcome Bradford's mistakes in the Monday Night Football win over the New York Giants.

Mistakes have been a big problem for Bradford and he has shown little sign that he is learning from them. He hasn't looked happy behind this Offensive Line, but his deep throws have been inconsistent and the fans continue to urge Chip Kelly to perhaps make the change to Mark Sanchez.

Now Sanchez is far from the answer, but he played OK in relief for Foles last season although Kelly was far from sold. The only fortune for the Head Coach is the fact that the Dallas Cowboys have been hurt so badly by Offensive injuries through the season and the Eagles can take control of the Division.

However, they won't go far if Bradford can't find a way to run the Offense without making critical turnovers as has been the case all season for him. At least the running game has begun to show some life, but there is still a long way for Philadelphia to go to be considered a Super Bowl contender with Bradford running this Offense.

Top Ten
1) Green Bay Packers (6-0): They go into their bye week undefeated and hoping it gives them time to allow some of their banged up Receivers restore their health.

2) New England Patriots (5-0): Easily looking the team to beat in the AFC, although helped by a ridiculous 'Fake Punt' attempt from the Indianapolis Colts.

3) Cincinnati Bengals (6-0): I expected a flat Cincinnati Bengals team to perhaps struggle at the Buffalo Bills, but I couldn't be more wrong and this looks a Super Bowl contender more and more each passing week.

4) Carolina Panthers (5-0): How could I not have Carolina make a big move upwards after their statement win on the road in Seattle?

5) Denver Broncos (5-0): The record deserves respect, but don't be surprised if Denver start moving down after their bye week and with a run of very difficult opponents.

6) Arizona Cardinals (4-2): A sloppy loss from Arizona against a third string Quarter Back, especially as Pittsburgh barely moved the ball in the first half.

7) Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2): For the first time since Ben Roethlisberger was injured, I have to put Pittsburgh back into the top ten. Could easily be 3-0 without their starting Quarter Back if Josh Scobee could kick a Field Goal and look very good on both sides of the ball.

8) Atlanta Falcons (5-1): The loss was coming as Atlanta's luck ran out in the SuperDome on Thursday Night Football.

9) Minnesota Vikings (3-2): This is a better team than the record will show and I think they are a genuine Wild Card contender.

10) New York Jets (4-1): The Jets have been earning my grudging respect over the last few weeks and have to bring them into the top ten with a big game with New England next on deck to prove they deserve their place.

Bottom Five
32) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5): Gus Bradley has to be on the Hot Seat in Jacksonville after another terrible blow out loss at home against an opponent they were favoured to beat.

31) Tennessee Titans (1-4): Marcos Mariota has been banged up and Tennessee were embarrassed by the Miami Dolphins in a game they were favoured to win. Long road to go for the Titans to get back to being a competitive team on a regular basis.

30) Detroit Lions (1-5): A good win for the Lions, but there is still something not quite right there and Jim Caldwell has to be under pressure as Head Coach.

29) Kansas City Chiefs (1-5): Their best player is injured and the Chiefs look like they need to make the change at Quarter Back and see what they have for the future. Alex Smith has never been the answer despite what the Sky analysts will tell you.

28) Baltimore Ravens (1-5): I wouldn't be surprised if the Baltimore Ravens begin moving on some of their older pieces like Steve Smith because this season is done.

Week 6 Picks Recap
Back to back losing weeks has to be considered a disappointment although it could have been a lot worse if not for Philadelphia blowing out the New York Giants on Monday Night Football.

There were some misfortunate moments- Green Bay had the chance to move up by 11 points at the end of their game with San Diego, enough for the cover, but Aaron Rodgers missed two wide open Receivers in the End Zone.

The New England Patriots were up by thirteen points before allowing a Touchdown inside the last minute of that game which prevented that one being a cover too and both of those games going the other way would have changed the whole week.

My worst pick of the week by miles was picking the Baltimore Ravens to win in San Francisco as I put too much stock in the 49ers focusing on the Seattle Seahawks which is their next game on Thursday Night Football. All in all it was a poor week, but the season totals remain intact thanks to the first four weeks of the season.

However, I will be looking to end the poor run of the last two weeks by getting back to winning ways in Week 7 which features the second London game of three to be played this season.

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