Gabe's Gridiron Week 8 edition
It’s hard to believe we are going into the last week of October. The snow is going to start flying in those cold weather cities very soon. Let’s look back at Week 7 and see what we learned.
5 Things We Learned in Week 7
1. Denver is vulnerable. We mentioned last week that one of Denver’s weaknesses was their pass defense, ranked dead last in the league. The Broncos proceeded to give up 121 rushing yards against the Colts, even with the return of Von Miller. Despite Sunday’s game, the Broncos rushing defense is still ranked number one overall. And despite their great start to the 2013 season, the Broncos find themselves in 2nd place in the AFC West behind the undefeated Chiefs. This leads us to…
2. The Chiefs are the remaining undefeated team in the NFL. The Chiefs have benefitted from a fairly easy schedule. Six of their seven games have been against teams with losing records; their lone victory against a team with a winning record is against the 4-3 Dallas Cowboys. The Chiefs have been extremely successful on offense as they are only 19th overall with 330.7 yards a game. Defensively, however, they rank much higher: 5th overall in the NFL with 304.6 yards a game allowed. Running back Jamaal Charles is having a career year so far as he leads the AFC in rushing (561 yards).The Chiefs’ bread and butter have been turnovers. They have forced more turnovers (19) than any other team and rank first overall in takeaway/giveaway differential (11). The second half of the schedule will feature two matchups against the Broncos, two matchups against the Chargers, and a matchup against the Colts. We shall see what this team is made of. Andy Reid definitely has this team in better shape than it has been.
3. The AFC East is a logjam. The Patriots (5-2) have had their chance to run away with this division but have lost 2 out of their last 3 including last week’s key loss against divisional foe New York Jets. The Jets now sit only a game back (4-3) while the Dolphins, who have cooled off, still sit in reach (3-3). Despite Gronkowski returning and contributing (8 catches 114 yards), Tom Brady still struggled (22/48, 228 yards, 0 TD’s, 1 INT). The Patriots may still end up winning the division but these struggles may cost the team home field and a bye in the playoffs.
4. The Green Bay Packers are in the driver’s seat in the NFC North. With the Bears losing Jay Cutler for possibly up to a month, the Packers’ main competition is the Detroit Lions whom the Packers have already beaten once. The Lions have lost 2 out of 3 while the Packers have won 3 straight since starting 1-2. The Packers’ offense ranks only behind the Denver Broncos in yards a game. The Packers’ defense has improved compared to how it has been in year’s past, especially against the run (ranked 1st in the NFC). As the weather gets colder, Lambeau Field will continue to get more dangerous. Home field advantage in the playoffs would be special especially with many top NFC teams struggling on the road.
5. The Cincinnati Bengals hold the keys to the AFC North. Cinci has already beaten tough opponents such as Green Bay, New England, and Detroit. They still have 4 divisional games left but have put the pressure on the other teams in the division by winning while the other AFC North teams lose. Neither their offense (ranked 12th overall in yards/game) nor their defense (ranked 9th overall) are elite. The Bengals will also have to play the rest of the year without their best corner Leon Hall who went on injured reserve. Yet the Bengals have won their last three games. Their most important stat has been wins, as they have a two game lead on both Baltimore and Cleveland.
Meaningless Power Rankings
1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Indianapolis Colts
3. Denver Broncos
4. Seattle Seahawks
5. New Orleans Saints
6. San Francisco 49ers
7. Cincinnati Bengals
8. New England Patriots
9. Green Bay Packers
10. Dallas Cowboys
5 games to watch in Week 8
Last week’s record (3-2) Season record (17-17)
Sunday, October 27th: Dallas Cowboys (4-3) at Detroit Lions (4-3)
Oddly, this is perhaps the best matchup of the day. The first place Cowboys will travel to the Motor City in an NFC showdown between two teams battling for playoff spots. Matthew Stafford leads the NFC in passing with 2129 yards and hopes to find holes in a weak Dallas Cowboys pass defense (ranks 30th in NFL in yards allowed per game). Tony Romo, 2nd in the NFC in passing with 2010 yards, hopes to do the same as Detroit’s pass defense isn’t much better (28th). Yes, there’s a reason the over/under for this game is around 51. I will go with the home team.
My pick: Detroit Lions
Sunday, October 27th: Cleveland Browns (3-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-0)
This looks like a mismatch on paper especially after the Browns have lost their last 2 games. Kansas City’s strength has not only been turnovers but also has been pressuring the quarterback (leads the league with 35 sacks). It also doesn’t help that the game is in Kansas City. So why did I pick this game to watch? Because I have honestly not watched the Chiefs yet this year and I want to see how legitimate this team is (plus there is a lack of good matchups this week). The key to this game will be the Browns protecting the quarterback and limiting turnovers. Ultimately, I believe the Chiefs will win.
My pick: Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, October 27th: Buffalo Bills (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (5-1)
This looks like another mismatch. The Saints are coming off a bye after their first loss of the season in New England and are playing in the Superdome. The Bills haven’t been great but have shown flashes (wins against Baltimore and at Miami; and also playing tough against New England and Cinci where they lost by a combined 5 points). One weakness the Bills will look to take advantage of is the Saints run defense (ranked 22nd overall in yards per game). The Bills, not strong in many areas of the game, lead the AFC in rushing yards per game (140.4). The Bills have also been successful at forcing turnovers, ranking 2nd in the AFC (15). Still, it will be hard to stop Drew Brees with a pass defense that is in the bottom third of the league (26th overall).
My pick: New Orleans Saints
Sunday, October 27th: Miami Dolphins (3-3) at New England Patriots (5-2)
This game will be a pivotal point for both teams. The Dolphins can remain in the AFC East hunt with a win. The Patriots can get back on the winning track after losing 2 out of 3. Neither offenses are great (New England 16th overall, Miami 27th) nor is either team’s defenses (New England 18th overall, Miami 21st). Tom Brady has had a down year but will look to build continuity with Rob Gronkowski in the offense for the second week. Tom Brady and the Patriots usually win these kinds of games at home and this one will probably be no different.
My pick: New England Patriots
Sunday, October 27th: New York Jets (4-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-2)
The Jets have new life after beating the Patriots last week and find themselves in good position in the AFC East. The Bengals have won 3 in a row and look to maintain the 2 game cushion in the AFC North. Both teams are known for how they pressure the quarterback. Defensively the Jets are ranked 2nd in the AFC while the Bengals are ranked 6th. Despite having a rookie quarterback, the Jets are still ranked 6th in the AFC in offense while the Bengals rank 4th. The Jets’ strength offensively is their run game (5th in AFC), while the Bengals strength is their passing game (3rd in AFC). The Bengals’ defensive front 7 has given elite quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford) problems all season and will be a test for rookie Geno Smith. I’m leaning towards the home team.
My pick: Cincinnati Bengals
Honestly, a pretty pathetic weekend of games awaits us. 9 out of the 13 games feature a team in last place so there are many mismatches. Having said that, the teams that are favored had better win or they may look back to this week as the reason they are watching the playoffs at home. Have a good weekend!