NFL Week 8 Recap: Stability in the AFC, Chaos in the NFC

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Some week soon I’ll be diving deep into all of my preseason predictions and bets to see where I’m looking good and where I’ve gone horribly wrong. It’ll be a midseason progress report of sorts. But today is not that day. Today we’re keeping it short and sweet with a quick look into each conference and some quick thoughts on the state of this season.

AFC

  • The playoff seedings if the season ended today: 1) Denver 2) New England 3) Cincinnati 4) Indianapolis 5) San Diego 6) Buffalo
  • The top four seeds are exactly the same as last year’s playoff bracket. We might not get a ton of drama in the second half of the season when it comes to the AFC’s best. The Patriots and Colts are almost certain to win their divisions. The Broncos probably are too, but we’ll wait to see how things go for them and the Chargers over the next few weeks. The division leader that looks the weakest right now is Cincinnati, but we’ll find out soon if the return of A.J. Green gets them back into a semi-dominating groove.
  • But how about the extraordinarily deep middle class of the AFC. Eight teams appear to be vying for a wildcard berth and all of them sit at .500 or better right now. That’s where things will get interesting in the weeks to come in this conference. You’d think San Diego and Baltimore would have the inside track because it just feels like they’ve been the best teams outside of the top four. But would you really bet against Kansas City, Pittsburgh or Miami to reach the playoffs? And while our eyes tell us Buffalo, Cleveland and Houston will fall out of contention soon enough, crazier things have happened.
  • Out of those eight teams, only the Chargers and Ravens¬†lost in week 8, tightening things up even more. Out of the six winners in that group, be careful with Miami in your picks and bets. They got dominated by the Jaguars in every way on Sunday except turnovers, where Blake Bortles gave them the ball three times. They also play four games in 21 days starting Sunday, three of those games are against San Diego, Detroit and Denver.
  • After Denver’s easy win over San Diego on Thursday, I jotted down a note that said if anyone else is going to beat the Broncos this year, it’s going to take a perfect game by that team. My concern for the Patriots this coming Sunday is that they just played their perfect game against Chicago two days ago. If Denver wins in New England this weekend, you’d have to consider them a lock for the #1 seed, especially since they’d have wins over the Patriots, Colts and Chargers already.
  • No matter what happens from now until the end of the season, we will be able to say definitively that both Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden were better quarterbacks in 2014 than any QB who played for the Jets.

NFC

  • The playoff seedings if the season ended today: 1) Arizona 2) Detroit 3) Dallas 4) Carolina 5) Philadelphia 6) Green Bay
  • ANARCHY! The top three seeds as of this moment didn’t even make the playoffs last year.
  • We already know that the NFC South winner probably isn’t getting to 10 wins, but after losses by Dallas and Philadelphia in week 8, would it really shock you to see the NFC East settle back into their expected state of mediocrity? Wouldn’t it be just like the Cowboys to go 3-5 the rest of the way? Won’t we be kicking ourselves for not seeing it coming when Washington runs the table in the final three weeks against its division and sneaks into the playoffs? (@Giants in week 15, vs Eagles in week 16, vs Cowboys in week 17)
  • Did you know the NFC South has exactly one win across its four teams since October 5th? As of this coming Sunday, it will be one win for that division in the past 27 days. Phenomenal.
  • At 9:25 a.m. Pacific Time on Sunday morning, my fiancee was about to call for an ambulance. She saw me convulsing on the living room floor in our apartment and was convinced I was having a seizure (or that demons had taken over my body). Nope. I was legitimately rolling around on the floor in hysterics from the final two minutes of that Detroit/Atlanta game in London. The two pictures at the top of this column give you a pretty good idea of what went down, but it was such an epic ending to a game that I highly suggest you…no…BEG YOU to read the first half of Bill Barnwell’s week 8 recap article on Grantland.com. It’s entirely about this final couple minutes in London, and you won’t be disappointed. If you somehow didn’t catch the end of that game live, or you did but you weren’t fully paying attention, I promise that you missed the most confounding, utterly inexplicable, everyone-who-played-or-coached-in-this-game-should-be-fired sporting event that’s ever taken place. Seriously, spend five minutes reading Barnwell’s detailed recap of it.
  • Even though it cost me some money, I was glad to see Tony Romo do some classic Romo’ing on Monday night. A nearly catastrophic injury, almost getting outplayed by Brandon Weeden, a fumble and an intentional grounding on their last drive of regulation to ruin any chance they had to win the game before overtime. It was all there, and it was good to see. We missed that for the past seven weeks. I’m counting six tough games on Dallas’ schedule for the remainder of the year. Guys, we can still witness 8-8!
  • This is the god’s honest truth: In my week 8 picks column, I had originally taken Washington to cover and was going to write that a dramatic loss at home on national TV against the NFC East rival that seems to be the easiest to beat currently is exactly what the Cowboys were born to do. That this would be the turning point that course corrects them and gets them pointed towards .500¬†once again. But I chickened out and decided week 10 in London against Jacksonville would probably be that turning point instead. I regret chickening out for so many reasons.
  • And last but not least, is this Jeff Fisher going into “Peter from Office Space after he stops caring” mode? Is he daring Rams management to fire him? Did he spill marinara sauce on his polo shirt at halftime and this look was his only option for the 2nd half?

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Week 9 Picks coming on Thursday.

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The NFL’s Dirtiest Team, I Think Some Bad Officiating Took Place…And the Rest of the NFL’s Week 3 in Review

Golly, that was an absurd weekend of football. Isn’t this why the NFL is the greatest sport on earth? Because on a weekend where you probably looked at the schedule, especially the early Sunday slate, and shrugged at the lack of exciting matchups, we got mayhem. Up until the games actually started, this looked like a good weekend to spend the morning away from the TV, if, god forbid, something more important was happening. But just when you think you’ve got football figured out, it delivers perhaps the greatest single day in its glorious history. Three overtime games, four other games that came down to a team’s last possession. Just amazing.

And unfotunately the replacement referree debacle made me wish none of that goodness happened. I don’t think the people running the NFL deserve to have football fans talking about how awesome the games are, distracting us from the real story, the awful officiating.

[Fact: I wrote the above two paragraphs before Monday night’s atrocity—aka the game that might have changed the way we view the the NFL forever. Wow. Now it’ll be easy not to think of the amazing early Sunday games when thinking of Week 3 2012.]

Actually, all my readers can thank the Green Bay/Seattle game for saving them from reading about 1,200 words on the officiating that screwed the Patriots over on Sunday night. Because while the eventual loser of the Pats/Ravens was going to have a case against the officials, that minor screw job pales in comparison to the Royal Screw J that happened in Seattle Monday night.

So that fake TD for Seattle allowed the Seahawks to cover the 3.5-point spread, meaning people like me who bet on Green Bay literally got money ripped out of their hands by incompetent referees. That seems fair. For the Packers, Seahawks and the rest of the NFC, this type of mistake affects the entire season and certainly the playoffs. Big deal. For me it affects my bets and my pick ’em leagues. Imagine if someone had picked the Packers in his suicide pool this week? Brutal.

Speaking of suicide pools, I know it’s lame to tell people how crazy your particular experience was with a pick you made and the result, but this one takes the cake: In my pool six people were left entering this week. Four different teams were picked among the six of us. One guy and I had San Francisco. That game ended first and we had lost, suicide over for us. Except then Tennessee led Detroit by 14 (the Lions were one of the other teams picked). And then even crazier was Kansas City making an epic comeback against New Orleans (the Saints were the third team picked), and we all know how those turned out in OT. But then the other five of us in the pool would have to withstand the final guy’s afternoon pick. He had Pittsburgh. And you may know that they lost too. Six players left and not one of us could pick a winner. Craziness any week, but especially week 3.

Let’s talk about the non-screw job topics from week 3:

-Did you notice Titus Young’s jersey says “Young Sr.” on the back. Does he have a son that plays in the NFL or something? Well, he’s 23 years old, so that would be strange. No, apparently it’s just Young doing typical “diva receiver” things according to this article.

-Spotted a female official in the Jacksonville/Indianapolis game. Couldn’t help but wonder if it would be comical or tragic if she had gotten assigned to one of the controversial games this week and had actually been the ref to make a bad call, or even worse, if she had to break up one of the many fights that seemed to happen in every game…What if she had been the ref that Belichick grabbed for an explanation on Sunday night? Would he have been arrested for assault? Maybe they should give her some vacation time until this whole situation calms down. Doesn’t seem safe out there.

-I’m enjoying the Tim Tebow era in New York because there’s only one thing better than watching a Jets QB fail…watching two Jets QBs fail. Fun little sequence watching Tebow take an unforgivable sack in the red zone followed by Sanchez missing his receiver in the end zone by 36 feet. Just a beautiful platoon situation going on in New York.

-After only three weeks and seeing only parts of their games, I’m ready to proclaim the St. Louis Rams as 2012’s dirtiest football team. I’m wondering if the Cortland Finnegan addition alone made them this dirty or if they were already on their way there. The media loves to praise Jeff Fisher as such a great coach whose team plays the game right, but I see dirty play after dirty play from them. I’m not complaining about it, just pointing it out.

-Tennessee’s allowed to be happy about its first win, but they’re also just one play away from being 0-3 including what would have been a loss at home when they were up by 14 to a team with Shaun Hill playing QB and their placekicker acting as their punter. They still might be the worst team in the league.

-I keep mentioning names like Gabbert and Sanchez when wondering who will be the first QB benched due to ineffectiveness, but I might have to start including names like Michael Vick and Peyton Manning on that list. Vick might be the leading candidate at this point. In the Eagles’ next two games—home against the Giants and at Pittsburgh—if Vick turns the ball over 14 more times, will that be enough to bench him? Can’t wait to find out.

-Jim Nantz had the line of the day if you’re the type of person who roots for Houston to fail: “And TJ Yates is warming up on the sidelines.” A Matt Schaub injury seems to be the only thing that could derail Houston’s bid to grab a top-two seed in the AFC playoffs this year.

-Weird week…we didn’t have a “ridiculous thing Julie tries to discuss with me while the Patriots game is happening” this week. Instead we had a “Julie surprises me midway through the afternoon games with a snack called Pig’s Candy, which is fried bacon covered in brown sugar and cayenne pepper” situation. I wonder if she read my blog last week complaining about her constant distractions during the Pats?

-Did anyone else see John Madden at the Raiders game? Is it me or does he look like he’s the same size as Jabba the Hut at this point? Same shape and everything it seemed. Just saying he looked big, that’s all.

-Cute ref miscue on Sunday: they admittedly gave Jim Harbaugh two extra challenges (essentially giving him two extra timeouts) in the 2nd half of the 49ers/Vikings game. Outrageous for sure, but here’s what I don’t understand: If you’re the coach of the Vikings, you’d have to be a complete moron not to realize your counterpart is getting extra challenges, right? And if you did realize it during the game, wouldn’t you literally sit down on the 50-yard line in the center of the field in protest until the refs fixed their mistake? Apparently this whole series of miscues went off without a hitch.

-Two head coaching decisions that should literally cost two men their jobs: first Jim Schwartz has Detroit go for it on 4th-&-inches instead of kicking a chipshot field goal that would have extended their overtime game against Tennessee. They predictably didn’t convert and the game was over. Then in a tie game with three minutes left in the 4th quarter, on his own 28-yard line, Mike Tomlin has the Pittsburgh offense go for it on 4th-&-1. They actually got the conversion, but isn’t that an indefensible call if you don’t get it? I’m always confused when coaches don’t abide by standard logic.

-Green Bay set the new mark for worst pass defense in NFL history last season by allowing 299.8 passing yards per game. Through three weeks, four teams—Miami, Tennessee, Washington and Tampa Bay—are on pace to shatter that record. When making tough fantasy roster decisions, just look for matchups against these teams and enjoy the results.

-As you all know, there’s nothing I love more than calling out announcers and analysts who say ridiculously vague things about a player or team. It usually happens when an announcer’s trying to give a big compliment. Last night Jon Gruden on the ESPN broadcast said this about Aaron Rodgers: “Oh, he’s just a combination of greatness.” period, end of sentence, onto the next thought. And in case you didn’t watch the whole game, I did, and he never came back to tell us what Rodgers’ greatness is combined with. (Seemed like a funny joke at the time, but now nothing about the Packers/Seahawks game seems funny. Actually, nothing seems funny in general anymore. Last night ruined the fun of incompetent refereeing.)

-I realize my gambling website is not going to refund my money from the Monday night game, even though in real life I rightfully won that bet. But that won’t stop me from counting this game as a win in my picks against the spread. You can’t really argue against me on this one because 100% of the world knows who actually won that game.

Last Week’s Record: 9-6-1

Season Record: 25-20-3

-And finally, here are a couple of my favorite pictures from the weekend:

When your hand is marking the ball short by more than a yard, you’ve gotta wonder if that chain measurement was really necessary or not.

3rd & 37 seemed pretty comical during Monday night’s game. That’s a lot of yards to lose over the first two downs. But then I remembered I took this picture on Sunday…

3rd & 45! That’s like having a 3rd & goal from the 45-yard line. Just an astounding sequence of events has to take place during 1st and 2nd downs to make this magic happen.

Enjoy the rest of InterceptCatchGate.