Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Weekend Football Roundup: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Tavon Austin has caught, rushed and kick returned his way into our hearts the last two weeks.
 By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

The Good

Peyton Manning

Yeah, I went there.

In a game in which he had his lowest yardage total since Week 16 of 2010, his lowest completion percentage since Week 3 of last season, his lowest passer rating since Week 2 of last season, and his lowest yards per attempt since Week 2 of 2005, I say Peyton Manning had a good game.

Manning had a good game because he made the right decisions. On a 20-degree night with 20 mile-per-hour winds, with gusts even higher than that, against a Patriots defense with gaping holes through the middle and a healthy Aqib Talib on the outside, Manning (correctly) recognized that running the ball was the way to win the game. Denver had 48 rushes to 36 passes, 37 of those rushes going to Knowshon Moreno. As a team, the Broncos gained 280 yards on the ground at a clip of 5.8 yards per rush. Yes, Denver's offense in the first half was buoyed by New England turnovers, but Manning still made plays when he had to, including two insanely accurate throws (one to Jacob Tamme, one to Demaryius Thomas) on Denver's late touchdown drive to tie the game and force overtime.

Purely as a passer, Manning wasn't very good. But as a quarterback, responsible for putting his team's offense in the best possible position to gain yards and score points, he was very good.


Tavon Austin

So, it appears the Rams may not be botching the whole "using Tavon Austin properly" thing as badly as we first thought. A week after racking up 138 yards and 2 TDs receiving, plus a 98-yard kickoff return TD against Indianapolis, Austin continued his abuse of Midwestern football teams, breaking loose for a 65-yard TD run against the Bears.

Oh, and FOX' Daryl "Moose" Johnson called him "Tavon Martin" right after. That's kind of a buzzkill, but it doesn't take away from the fact that Austin now has a dozen all purpose TDs to his name, and is quickly making the Rams must-watch TV for any fan with NFL Sunday Ticket.


The NFC West

Seattle had a bye week, but the rest of the group made up for it with three impressive wins.

The Rams won the Long Bowl 42-21, and seem to have figured out how to run the ball. Benny Cunningham and Zac Stacy, two running backs I had never heard of prior to the season, combined to gain 196 yards on 25 carries. Phenom Tavon Austin added a 65-yard touchdown run of his own. The Rams have a dynamite front seven (led by defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn), and their offense is starting to catch up.

Perhaps the most surprising team in the league right now is the Arizona Cardinals - they thumped Indianapolis 40-11 for their fourth consecutive win. Somehow, inexplicably, they're 7-4 and only on the outside of the NFC Playoff race due to tiebreakers. A win over San Francisco in Week 17 could send them to the postseason.

Speaking of San Francisco, they effectively ended Washington's season Monday night, handing them their 8th loss and tumbling them to 1-7 within the conference. After losing two straight to NFC South opponents (Carolina and New Orleans), it was good to see them pick up a win to get back on track before two important division games, especially their Week 14 matchup against Seattle.


The Bad

The AFC Wild-Card

Entering the week, there were six teams at 4-6.

Now there are six teams at 5-6 despite several of those teams (Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Tennessee and Oakland) playing each other, thanks to the 5-5 Jets and 5-5 Dolphins both losing.

The Tennessee Titans are currently the sixth-best team in the AFC. They have lost five of their last seven games and have won two games since September.

Thursday's night game between Baltimore and Pittsburgh won't be the two teams jostling for supremacy in the AFC North. It will be jostling for position for the last AFC Wild Card spot. Whoever wins has a good shot at finishing 8-8, which will likely put a strangle-hold on that last Wild Card spot. A 7-9 Wild Card team is still mathematically possible (and frankly, not that ridiculous - play around with the NFL Playoff Machine and you can see some of the scenarios).


The Florida Gators

Florida clinched its first losing season since 1979 with a loss in The Swamp to Ala… LS… Aub… Wait, actually, it was Georgia freaking Southern! As if losing to the FCS Eagles (Yes, I did just have to Google their mascot) wasn't enough, the game also delivered this gem of two Gators blocking each other on a Florida run play.

And that was one of their better plays of the day.

Not only did GSU beat the Gators, they physically man-handled them up front, rushing for 429 yards and four touchdowns against Florida's highly touted defense. Oh, do you think the Gators were worried about the pass, thus opening up the run? Nope, GSU only attempted three passes, and completed none of them.

That's right, the Gators lost to a mid-level FCS team that can't complete a forward pass. But hey, GSU has got to be tearing it up in the Southern Conference. Not really, with losses to Furman, Wofford, Appalachian State and Samford, the Eagles are looking at 4th place in their league, at best.

So, naturally, the Gators had to fire somebody (Offensive line coach Brent Pease), but the school has given Will Muschamp the dreaded "vote of confidence." Will be interesting to see how this plays out.


The Ugly

Josh Gordon's Big Day

The ugly doesn't have anything to do with Josh Gordon, who is quickly becoming one of the best receivers in the league, and one of the best players you've probably never actually watched. The physical Browns receiver grabbed 14 passes for a franchise record (This counts the old Browns records. Ozzie Newsom used to own it) 237 yards and a touchdown.

What makes this ugly is A. It came in a blowout loss to Pittsburgh, making it the most Cleveland Browns-ey thing ever. And B. the fact that he is averaging over 18 yards per catch, and the combination of Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden can't get him the ball consistently enough for it to matter.

He's a unique talent, and it's a shame he's being wasted on that offense.


The Houston Texans

They averaged 3.8 yards per play.

Against the Jaguars.

They entered the game on an eight-game losing streak.

They were favored by 10 points.

They lost outright.

At home.

Against the Jaguars.

They're now in the No. 1 draft position.


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