Tuesday, November 25, 2014

NFL 2014 Week 12 Snap Judgments

The NFC South continues to be the most pathetic group of teams in recent memory.  The Falcons, Saints, Panthers, and Bucs all collectively look far worse than the 2010 NFC West, when the Seahawks won the division at 7-9.  With five weeks to go, it's actually mathematically possible for a team to finish 5-11 and win the division.  Simultaneously, an NFC team could go 12-4 and be eliminated from playoff contention.  Unlikely as that outcome may be, it still casts a huge black eye on the league's efforts to maintain parity.  If a Wild Card team with 11 or 12 wins had to travel to Atlanta or New Orleans and lost that opening round game, there would be a great many fans and players who would be perfectly justified in being upset over that kind of draw.  However, as last night's game established, even the Saints are very beatable at home now, but more on that later.

1. Sio Moore had the Goat of the Week Award all sewn up for about 3 seconds Thursday night.  The previously-winless Raiders were up 24-20 with less than a minute to play and the Chiefs had the ball.  Moore sacked Alex Smith, and proceeded to run about 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage to dance and celebrate.  He clearly thought the game was over, even though the Chiefs still had 4th down to play.  Had Moore's teammate Justin Tuck not called time out, Moore would have been flagged for a penalty, giving the Chiefs another shot at winning the game.  Tuck wound up being the hero for the Raiders that night, and hopefully Moore bought him a beer or two to thank him.

2. Josh Gordon could tip the balance of power in the AFC North.  As overly dramatic as that sounds, Gordon is the wide receiver playmaker the Browns need for their passing game.  He quickly made his presence know, catching 8 passes on the day for 120 yards.  He hasn't missed a beat since coming off his 10-game suspension, and the Browns look prepared to make a push for January football for the first time since 2002.  They have two divisional games left, one at home against Cincinnati, and the other is a Week 17 game in Baltimore.  Either (or perhaps both) of those games could wind up deciding which team in the AFC North takes the divisional crown.

3. The Goat of the Week Award goes to Dominic Raiola.  Raiola is the center on the Lions' offensive line, and he didn't like the fact that the Patriots had run the ball in for another touchdown with under 2 minutes left to go in the game Sunday.  The Patriots were already up 27-9 at that point, so the game was clearly won, but they wanted another score (which is what they always do anyway).  In retaliation, Raiola made a cut block on Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore, going right at his knee. Raiola didn't even try to hide that fact, and the irony to his action was that the Lions were taking knees to end the game once they had gotten the ball back.  The NFL is not suspending him, which is surprising since they claim to take player safety so seriously.  Still, it was a cheap shot that was clearly intended to hurt another player on the field.

4. The Seahawks aren't dead yet.  Despite the very real chance that the Seahawks may be the third consecutive defending Super Bowl champion to miss the playoffs the following year, Seattle is currently the 6th seed in the playoff picture.  That could change very quickly starting Thursday night, as the Seahawks play in San Francisco (the two teams play again in Seattle two weeks later).  The Lions are also right on their heels with an identical overall record,  When it's all said and done five weeks from now, I still see the Seahawks being on the outside looking in at the playoffs.  The Lions have 4 very winnable games coming up, followed by wrapping up the regular season in Green Bay.  The Seahawks will also have to worry about the Cowboys, Eagles, and 49ers in fighting for one of the two Wild Card spots.  That's quite a steep hill to climb for them to defend their title.

5. Ryan Mallet is the long-term answer at quarterback for the Texans....just not for the remainder of 2014, since he is done for the year now with a torn pectoral muscle.  However, Houston can take a little bit of comfort knowing that Mallet should be the franchise quarterback the team needs going forward.  He is a free agent after this season, but the Texans should pursue signing him long term instead of looking to the draft for a young prospect.  Since the most important position on the field has been filled for them, Houston is further ahead into their rebuilding process than where they were expected to be at this point.  They can look more towards adding to their group of receivers or offensive line instead come April when the draft rolls around.

6. The Ravens got a steal in Will Hill.  Hill made a crucial pick-6 interception on Drew Brees last night.  He was a low-risk player, signing a one-year deal with the team for the season while he had to serve a six-game suspension for marijuana use.  He nearly took Jimmy Graham completely out of the game, and the Ravens will need him the rest of the way playing at that kind of level since Jimmy Smith is done for the year.  The issue is what does the team do with him after this season.  Torrey Smith and Justin Tucker are both free agents after this year, and Haloti Ngata, Marshal Yanda, and Jimmy Smith all will be free agents after 2015.  The Ravens can't keep all six of those guys, so that will be some serious picking and choosing they'll have to do.  It'd be great to see Ngata and Yanda finish their careers in Baltimore, but I wouldn't be that surprised to see the Ravens let Yanda go since they have some young depth on their offensive line.  Tucker has become a fan favorite and incredibly clutch, so hopefully the Ravens can keep him long term with a well-deserved raise.  There is a clear need for both wide receiver and free safety, so Ozzie Newsome would be smart to lock up Torrey Smith and Hill.

7. Drew Brees is not his normal self this year.  Brees's stats don't seem to indicate much at face value.  His completion percentage is just over 70%, which is right about where it normally is.  His average yards completed per pass is also right around the norm.  He isn't being sacked more than usual.  About the only stats that do look a bit off the norm are his touchdowns and interceptions.  He's thrown 22 touchdowns and 11 picks through 11 games.  Compare those numbers against 2013, when he threw 39 touchdown passes against 12 picks for the season.  He is clearly off his 2013 pace by a significant margin, possibly in part to how poorly the Saints' defense is this year compared to last.  

The Saints' defense gave up a total of 33 touchdowns last year, and they've already given up 32 this season.  Opponents are keeping the ball for nearly 2:30 more per game than they did last year.  Opponents are also 4-of-5 going for it on 4th down this year versus 4-of-12 last year.

The bottom line is this is a "chicken and the egg" kind of discussion.  There's more pressure on Brees to make plays because the Saints aren't playing defense the same way they did last year with largely the same personnel.  On the other hand, a very good argument could be made that the defense faces more pressure because Brees is also not making the kind of plays he is expected to,

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NFL 2014 Week 11 Snap Judgments

The theme of the week is teams who have exceeded expectations thus far through the season.  The first three talking points are all about teams who I didn't think would have many positive things to say about through Week 11, but Houston, Arizona, and Green Bay all have a lot to be excited about today.  Incidentally, I didn't expect any of these teams to make the playoffs this season (more on that later), but at least two of them are bound to be playing in January.  Green Bay in particular looks like an offensive machine, putting up 50 points in each of their past two games.  There aren't many teams in the league who can be expected to put that many points on the board week to week.

Of course, not everyone had a great Week 11....

1. Houston is much better than I had expected them to be.  The Texans put a beating on the Browns, and once again J.J. Watt was the star on Sunday.  While I had expected Houston to be better than they were last year, I did not expect them to be 5-5 after 10 games.  I thought they'd finish around 5 wins for the season, but they actually have a chance - albeit a very outside one - to grab one of the Wild Card spots in the AFC.  Ryan Mallet might even be their long-term answer at quarterback, which would put them at least a year ahead of schedule in rebuilding their team after last season's disaster.  They still need help at wide receiver, but their fast turnaround has been very impressive.

2. Bruce Arians made me eat my words.  Considering Arizona's tough defense, the Cardinals could actually still win the Super Bowl with Drew Stanton subbing for the injured Carson Palmer.  Stanton made just enough plays against Detroit on Sunday to put the Cardinals two games ahead of everyone else in the NFC.  Until someone really punches the Cardinals in the mouth, I will go on believing in the team.  They have a real shot at not only the #1 seed in the conference, but they could be a true home team in the Super Bowl since Super Bowl 49 will be played in University of Phoenix Stadium in February.

3. Green Bay is also making me look very, very stupid.  I have the nerve at the beginning of the season to predict that the Packers would fail to make the playoffs this season.  I'll keep eating crow on that one since not only are the Packers going to make the playoffs somehow, they are one of the top teams in the NFC.  They do have a huge game coming up in two weeks when New England comes to play in Lambeau; if there's one secondary in the league who can possibly contain Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, it's the combo of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.  On paper, the only team who looks like they could slow down the Cardinals would be the Packers, but they'd only go head to head in the playoffs.  The Packers have now won 5 of their last 6 games with 4 of those wins by at least 21 points.

4. In fact, none of my preseason predictions look likely to come true.  Look at this and laugh.  Of all my preseason predictions, the only one that looks like it has any chance at this point - aside from the Super Bowl matchup, which is always a crapshoot - is Andrew Luck winning MVP.  Everything else ranges from "meh," to downright pathetic.  I normally don't correctly predict more than three or four things in a season, but this round looks like the worst batch of predictions I've made by a wide margin.

5. The Goat of the Week Award goes to Eli Manning.  Eli threw a whopping 5 interceptions on Sunday, but arguably the worst of the bunch was in the third quarter.  The Giants kicked a field goal to narrow the score to 16-10 and attempted an onside kick.  They managed to maintain possession (despite a Jim Harbaugh challenge that the San Francisco had recovered the ball), so the offense took the field again.  Shortly thereafter, Eli threw a pass towards the Giants sideline that was picked off by Eric Reid.

What's most amazing about Eli and his career as a whole is that he still has two Super Bowls and two Super Bowl MVPs.  Normally, any quarterback who has even one championship ring and Super Bowl MVP on his resume can at least hope to one day be enshrined in Canton.  Eli's career to date just isn't Hall of Fame-worthy, and he likely could be the one of the only players in history to win multiple championships to not be voted in.  Mind-blowing.

6. Getting back to teams on a roll, the Patriots are once again plowing through their opponents.  Their Week 4 thumping in Kansas City feels like a distant memory now that the Patriots have won 6 straight games with only one margin of victory by fewer than 15 points.  Their next three games look fairly tough, including the aforementioned Week 13 contest in Green Bay.  If there's any slowing down for them, it will likely come during that stretch.  They do have a Week 15 game at home against Miami which could wind up being very important because.....

7. The Raiders somehow look worse than the 2008 Lions.  The Lions were the only team to go 0-16 in a single season, They lost 5 games that year by 7 or fewer points, which is the same amount of games the Raiders have lost thus far this season by the same margin.  They've already gone a full calendar year since their most recent victory, so there is a real chance they could lose 22 consecutive games by season's end.  On paper, they only appear to have two winnable games left on their schedule: at St. Louis in Week 13 and home against Buffalo in Week 16.  The days of the Raiders being relevant in the NFL are so long ago, it's hard to picture them in my head.  The worst part is they lack talent at so many positions they won't be able to compete for at least several more years either.

8. The Redskins are giving the Raiders a run for their money in most dysfunctional franchise too.  After the Redskins looked arguably even more inept than the Raiders against the Bucs on Sunday, Robert Griffin III took himself to task while also calling out his teammates.  Then yesterday head coach Jay Gruden responded by essentially telling RGIII he needed to shut up.  Upper management, namely owner Dan Snyder, still clearly wants to stick with Griffin, despite all the negative publicity and controversy surrounding him since the Redskins had drafted him three years ago.  The worst turmoil is still to come, however, since the front office has to decide whether they will exercise the fifth-year option on his contract, which will pay Griffin roughly $18.4 million.  This is the same franchise that gave Albert Haynesworth a $100 million contract, so they have a history of spending money foolishly (yet another reason why they rival the Raiders for worst franchise in the NFL).

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

NFL 2014 Week 10 Snap Judgments

On Sunday morning, my best friend from college text me, asking who he should go with in his Survivor league.  I'm in the same league but I was eliminated weeks ago, so I wanted to make the best pick possible for him.  His options were either the Ravens at home against the Titans, or the Steelers on the road against the Jets.  I thought either one would be have been a solid pick, but I had recommended the Steelers.  He stirred on it for a bit, but ultimately he had picked the Ravens.

By halftime on Sunday, the Jets were up 17-3, and the Ravens were tied 7-7.  I text him to say I was happy he did not listen to me because of how inept the Steelers had looked on Sunday.  What on earth happened to them?  They had steamrolled through their previous two games, largely because of Ben Roethlisberger's performances.  Ben's line on the day was still respectable, although he did throw 2 interceptions on the day (it's worth pointing out that one of those picks was not Ben's fault).  The Steelers turned the ball over a total of 4 times on the day, but they still managed to put up nearly 100 more yards of total offense than the Jets.  It's possible that the entire team had fallen into a classic trap game against an inferior opponent, but they can't afford many other collapses like that the rest of the way if they're going to make the playoffs.  They have to play New Orleans and face Cincinnati twice over the final five weeks of the season, which will make or break them.  They just can't afford dropping another ugly loss along the way like they did on Sunday.

1. The AFC North is a complete cluster.  The Browns beat the Bengals Thursday night, the Steelers blew one on the road in New York, and the Ravens won a much-needed game over the Titans.  Any one of these four teams could make a compelling argument as to why they could win the division, but it's the Ravens who stand a chance to gain a lot of ground in the division because they have only one divisional game left to play this season, a Week 17 home game against Cleveland.  The Browns and Steelers each have two divisional games left, and the Bengals have three remaining.  The rest of the division will beat each other up, giving the Ravens the opportunity to climb in the standings if they can handle their own business.  It's very likely each week the entire division's standings will reset itself right up until the very end of the season.

2. Carson Palmer's knee could doom the Cardinals.  Talk about bad luck for the Cardinals.  On Friday, they signed Carson Palmer to a three-year extension worth $50 million.  Then in the third quarter against the Rams, St. Louis safety Mark Barron tugged at Palmer's jersey, forcing him to twist his knee at what looked like just the wrong kind of way.  Palmer fell to the ground and had to be carted off the field.  The Cardinals confirmed yesterday Palmer tore his ACL in his knee, leaving Drew Stanton in charge of the offense.  Palmer's injury and Stanton replacing him the rest of the way could narrow the gap between the Cardinals and the rest of the NFC (and perhaps even their own division with the 49ers and Seahawks behind them).  Bruce Arians seems to think the Cardinals can still win it all, so the final 7 weeks of the season will gauge just how effective Stanton will be as the starting QB.

3. Who was the MVP of the weekend?  Over the course of the day, there were at least four players who could have made the case for the MVP of Week 10.  Dez Bryant had a career day in London against the Jaguars and essentially single-handedly took over that game.  He had the title locked up for about an hour before Marshawn Lynch rushed for 150 yards and 4 touchdowns against the hapless Giants.  Meanwhile, Peyton Manning had another typical day for himself, throwing another 5 touchdown passes against the Raiders.  All of those guys made compelling arguments for themselves.

Then came Sunday night.  Aaron Rodgers put himself on center stage and threw 6 touchdown passes in the first half against the Bears (more on the Bears in a moment).  Much like Ben Roethlisberger the last two weeks, Rodgers put up video game numbers as the Packers rolled over the Bears.  It's still hard to pick a single player of those four guys because picking one essentially ignores the other three performances.

4. To paraphrase Tom Petty, the Bears are free fallin'.  The Bears had their bye in Week 9 after being clobbered by New England two weeks ago.  Marc Trestman is essentially coaching for his job, but for the second consecutive big game for the Bears, they did not show up on the field.  The Packers didn't even really need to try scoring since the Bears' secondary played Jordy Nelson so softly.

The Bears are 0-2 in the division and 2-3 in the NFC right now. It's impossible to estimate what games are truly winnable on their schedule the rest of the way, but if they lose at home to Tampa in two weeks, I don't think it's crazy to think Trestman could be fired.

5. Parrish Cox must have taken notes from George Iloka.  Cox and Iloka both are nominees for Best Supporting Actor this year in the NFL after their individual flopping efforts.  Jimmy Graham put his hands on Cox as he jumped up to grab a potentially game-winning touchdown against San Francisco, and Cox sold the play just as Iloka sold his flop two weeks ago against the Ravens.  If there is a silver lining to both plays, it's that the refs called them the same way.  Had Steve Smith, Sr, been flagged and not Jimmy Graham (or vice versa), the league office would have some serious egg on its face this morning.

6. The Goat of the Week Award goes to Andy Dalton.  Here's a fairly telling stat about Andy Dalton and the Bengals: Since 2012, when the Bengals are in prime time and/or have a nationally broadcast game (e.g. playoffs), they are 0-6.  Dalton had his single worst performance Thursday night against the Browns, that being the latest example in this trend.  This is why I refuse to believe in Dalton or the Bengals as a whole.  They do nothing but choke in big spots.

7. Odell Beckham, Jr, has the ability to be something special.  Beckham has only played in 5 games thus far this season, and of those 5, he played opposite Victor Cruz in only one game (Beckham's first in the league) before Cruz tore his patellar tendon and was done for the year.  Playing essentially on his own, Beckham has all the makings of a home-run hitter of a wide receiver, and when Cruz returns next year healthy, the two of them together have the ability to be one of the best one-two combos at receiver in the entire NFL.  The Giants aren't playing for anything this season, and there's a real chance they will have some major coaching changes after this season.  Long term, Eli Manning will have two excellent targets to throw to in Beckham and Cruz.

8. Maybe all that Mark Sanchez really needed was a competent offensive line and playmakers after all.  In his two games so far as Eagles quarterback, Mark Sanchez looks like a completely different player than who he was during his days with the Jets.  I don't think it's any coincidence that the talent surrounding him in Philly far exceeds what he had in New York, either.  When the Eagles had signed Sanchez to be their backup in the off-season, he was the butt of many jokes (poor choice of words intended).  The joke is on the rest of us because Sanchez looks like he can really play, and perhaps even keep Nick Foles on the sideline when he's ready to return from his injury.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Apparently We Aren't Done With Sexually Abusive Comments or Actions Yet

Every now and then, I've talked about social topics and current events on here, though I haven't done that in quite a while.  I had wanted to talk about the election and how truly excited I am about the results, but I came across something online that I needed to weigh in on.

Artie Lange - for those unfamiliar with him - is a former regular on The Howard Stern Show on radio.  He's a stand-up comedian and has been on shows like MADtv, and even been in a few movies during his career.  He's also battled substance abuse and has talked openly about his sad history.  He even attempted suicide once, so he clearly has battled depression and other mental issues over the course of his life.

I don't find Lange's schtick funny.  I know some people who do, but I think he's annoying, obnoxious, and degrading, which is precisely where I'm going with this.  He took to Twitter on Tuesday to express his thoughts about ESPN's Cari Champion, who regularly appears on First Take on the network.

The link contains some pretty graphic stuff, so be warned before you click on it.

Twitter has led to many celebrities looking foolish and stupid over the years, which sometimes has left me wondering if the collective embarrassing and negative outcomes have outweighed the actual good that has come from it; Charlie Sheen is a great example of someone who really looked like an idiot once he hit the "send" button on his phone to tweet all kinds of awful things about his former boss on Two and a Half Men after he was fired from the show.  Artie Lange is merely the latest famous person who felt the need to hit "send" without considering the possibility that there just might be consequences to his actions.

Like I said, I don't find Lange funny at all.  His tweets were disgusting, abhorrent, and not amusing in the slightest.  What bothers me is that he did think they were funny at the moment he tweeted them; in fact, he thought they were so funny he was sure that other people would be equally amused.  He expected his fans would all get the joke since they all appreciated his crass sense of humor.

Domestic and sexual abuse is very much in the public's eye following cases such as Ray Rice, Ray McDonald, and Adrian Peterson.  The NFL aired a "No more" campaign during its televised games in October, urging its fans - particularly its female fans - to no longer tolerate anyone who abuses them physically, sexually, or otherwise.  Lange clearly didn't get that memo because he thought the fantasy of sexually abusing Cari Champion was hilarious to him.

The hard truth to swallow here is that there will always be people like Artie Lange who find racial jokes and sexually explicit topics to be funny.  He did delete the tweets, but it didn't change the fact that he thought they were initially okay.  Why does it take negative reaction or blowback for someone to realize they should never have pressed "send"?

There are likely other fans of his who found his tweets funny; they may have even been shocked that he "caved" and deleted them once anyone was offended.  They're just as disgusting a group of people as Lange is himself.  They perpetuate his behavior, and I don't think it would be that shocking to presume they condone that behavior in their day to day lives.

How does any rational human being find Lange's words funny in light of Ray Rice?  Go further back and think about Mel Gibson with his drunken rants.  He used all kinds of horrible words on his then-girlfriend, abusing her not with his fist but with words.  What makes Lange think this kind of talk is appropriate or acceptable?

I don't purport to be much smarter than the average adult, but I'm clearly smarter than people like Artie Lange.  When I went through a roller coaster of emotions last year following my break up with my last girlfriend, I wrote several posts that were only for my own two eyes.  There were some pretty strong words of anger and hurt in them, but I wasn't about to share them with all of the internet to see.  Still, I needed to express those thoughts somehow; I just didn't hit the proverbial "send" button.

Lange is a disgusting man for plenty of reasons aside from his tweets on Tuesday, and I'm not entirely sure that there's any chance for him to change his ways at this stage of his life.  He won't face much more than a brief slap on the wrist in the court of public opinion, which is a shame because of how awful his words were.  He won't lose any job, and his fans won't desert him in light of these events.  There simply won't be any real repercussions for his actions.

At least ESPN chose not to dignify Lange's tweets with any response.  They knew an immature and arrogant idiot when they saw one.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

NFL 2014 Week 9 Snap Judgments

A number of teams vying for playoff spots shot themselves in the foot this weekend.  The Ravens, Chargers, Panthers, Cowboys, and 49ers all either lost heartbreakers or flat out didn't show up to play in their respective game this weekend.  It's only Week 9, so even though there's still nearly half the season to play, in the game of "If the playoffs started now," the Chargers are 10th in the AFC and the Ravens are further back.  Obviously, both teams would be packing up their lockers for the offseason, and both teams had expectations to be playing in January.  In the NFC, the 49ers are in 8th place and out of the playoffs as well, a far cry from having played in the last 3 NFC Championship Games and playing in Super Bowl 47.  Even the defending champion Seahawks would be the 6th seed, barely ahead of the Packers.

Right now, none of this talk means much except to say that turnover is still a constant in the NFL  Four teams currently holding playoff spots weren't in the playoffs last year, which is just under the average turnover from year to year.  If you can believe it, the teams with the top two playoff spots in the NFC right now are the Cardinals and Lions - the big question there is which team is more surprising to be in that position.

Enough flashing forward.  Now, back to Week 9....

1. The Brady/Manning rivalry is the perfect example of too much of a good thing.  No one is really at fault in Tom Brady and Peyton Manning facing off at least once every year.  Except when at least one of them was hurt (Brady in 2008 and Manning in 2011), they've played against each other every year, and I think that actually takes away something from watching them play.  If they went head to head once every three or four years, that would give us something to look forward to.  Instead, we get the same talking heads on TV talk about how special their rivalry has been over the years.  A match up like Brady vs. Manning would be a whole lot more special and unique if we only had, say, 4 regular season match ups in the regular season instead of 10 (the playoffs are a separate beast).

I realize this entire concept sounds spoiled and unappreciative, and perhaps I will only appreciate their rivalry more when at least one of them retires.  Their history is one for the books, and arguably the best rivalry in any sport since Magic vs. Bird in the NBA.

2. Ben Roethlisberger is not human.  I don't know what he's been having for breakfast the past couple weeks, but in his past two games, Ben has thrown for 862 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 0 picks.  For the entire season so far, he's thrown for 2720 yards, 22 touchdowns, and only 3 interceptions.  Those are MVP-caliber numbers, and he's never finished at the top of the league in any of those categories.  Peyton Manning will actually have some serious competition this year for MVP between Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, and DeMarco Murray.

3. The Goat of the Week Award goes to Philip Rivers.  On the other end of the quarterback spectrum this weekend was Rivers.  He went 12-of-23 on the day for 138 yards and 3 interceptions, easily one of his worst performances in his career.  Rivers injured his hand after being hit by Olivier Vernon in the third quarter, which mercifully ended his day early.  By then, the game was already lost, so it was pointless for him to return.  The Chargers have their bye next week, giving them some time to rest up and recover after three straight losses.

4. In fact, the road only gets tougher for the Chargers from here on out.  The much-needed bye week will give the Chargers the opportunity to recoup from a grueling stretch.  Their next two games are both at home and very winnable, versus Oakland and St. Louis.  Then their final five games of the season is a virtual murderer's row: at Baltimore, versus New England, versus Denver, at San Francisco, and finish at Kansas City.  If they are 7-4 going into those final five games, they'd need to win at least three of them to give themselves a decent chance at making the playoffs.

5. The Eagles' season is hanging in the balance.  Nick Foles broke his collarbone at the end of the first quarter in Sunday's game against Houston, and there's no word as to whether he'll be able to return before the end of the season.  However long he's out, Mark Sanchez will be starting for the Eagles in the meantime.  Sunday was his first time getting in-game action at quarterback in nearly two years, but he did throw a touchdown to Jeremy Maclin with about 4 minutes left in the game to seal the win.  Sanchez never had many quality offensive playmakers around him in his time with the Jets, so his true talents as a quarterback will show now that he has some real talent around him in Philadelphia.  

6. Bruce Arians is a virtual lock for the Coach of the Year again.  Arians won it in 2012 when Colts coach Chuck Pagano had to battle leukemia, and it was well-deserved.  Now he's turned around the Arizona Cardinals into the single best team in the NFL in a remarkably short period of time.  He'd become the sixth coach in league history to win the award after coaching multiple teams, joining names like Dan Reeves, Bill Parcells, Chuck Knox, Don Shula, and George Allen.  That's some impressive company.

7. St. Louis has a chance to play a spoiler in the second half.  After both literally and figuratively upsetting the 49ers on Sunday, the Rams have a shot at ruining several teams' playoff chances in the final 7 weeks of the season.  They have to play Arizona twice (including this coming Sunday in Arizona), Denver, San Diego, and finish the season at home against Seattle, who they already beat once this season.  They won't likely win all those games, but it's not inconceivable that they could ruin at least one team's hopes for the playoffs.

8. The court of public opinion has quickly turned on Jadaveon Clowney.  Back in May when the Texans made Clowney the #1 overall pick taken in the NFL draft, most talking heads were quick to anoint him as Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2014, myself included, and for good reason: He'd be playing alongside J.J. Watt, arguably the best defensive player in the NFL right now.  In Week 1, Clowney tore a meniscus in his knee, knocking him out for several weeks.  He missed Sunday's game due to the flu, and now there are reports that the Texans organization is already annoyed with Clowney.  It amazes me as to how quickly people are labeling him a bust of a draft pick when he's barely played a down in an NFL game.  Even if his work ethic is as questionable as Steve Spurrier made it out to be, it doesn't mean he can't straighten out his act.  Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith was a headcase in college, but his first couple years in the league were under Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.  Not only has Smith not had any legal issues in his entire career to date, but he's become one of the best shutdown corners in the NFL.  There's no reason why Clowney can't get his head straight eventually either.