And after a 4-month vacation… we’re back! (or at least I am). Every Tuesday for the rest of the regular season I am going to bring you my five takeaways from the weekend of pro football. Let’s get started!
1) The Patriots are the best team in the AFC.
For much of the year, people had been saying the guard had been changed and it was the Texans and Ravens time to rule the AFC with their elite defenses and star running backs. Well, the Texans didn’t just lose on Monday night; Tom Brady schooled them in a 42 to 14 rout in Foxboro. The Ravens fell this week to the Redskins in overtime, even after rookie QB Robert Griffin III sprained his LCL. The Patriots now have 10 consecutive seasons of 10 wins or more, and look to be the team to beat this post-season. Though they are still a game behind the Texans, the Pats control their path to a first round bye and have shown they can beat the best (wins over the Texans (11-2), Broncos (10-3), and Colts (9-4)) and have lost their three games by a combined total of four points. No one wants to see the Patriots on their dance card this January.
2) Adrian Peterson is head and shoulder above any other running back.
Brace yourself for this statistic. Adrian Peterson is getting more yards per carry (6.0), than Christian Ponder is getting per pass attempt (5.98). Through 13 games he has reached 1,600 yards, which puts him on the list of 50 most rushing yards in a single season, with three games to go. Of course, the big mark for running backs has been 2,000 yards and that has only been breached six times (most recently by Chris Johnson in 2009). Of course, Peterson has a shot at that since he is averaging over 157 yard in his last 7 games, but regardless this guy is a historic running back. He has reached 1,000 yards rushing in five of his first six seasons in the NFL (he was 30 yards short before tearing his ACL last year) and has scored double digit touchdowns in all six years. He is already 36th all-time in rushing yards (8,352) and tied for 23rd in rushing touchdowns (74). Let’s say he is like a typical running back (which is a poor thing to assume) and begins a major decline at the age of 30. If his numbers keep on relatively the same pace he’ll end up as one of 9 guys with 100+ rushing touchdowns and will rush for more than 13,000 yards, which would put him in a fraternity with 7 other running backs.
3) The Bears are mediocre.
At one point many NFL analysts were saying this was the best team in the NFC with their spectacular defense and decent play from Jay Cutler. But they have lost 4 of their last 5. I understand that if you look at their schedule, those losses have been to a combine record of 35-16-1, but that’s not an acceptable excuse. The Bears marquee win on the season? The Colts in week 1. Not only are their questions about how good the Colts actually are, but it was the first game of Andrew Luck’s NFL career. They are now 8-5 and are holding on to the six seed with the Redskins, Cowboys, and Vikings hot on their tail. Their next game is their final home game of the season versus division rival Green Bay. If they lose that game and the Redskins win out, they will be out of the playoffs. It is do or die time, and they certainly cannot slip up twice.
4) There is no favorite in the NFC.
The Falcons (11-2) fell this week to the Panthers (4-9) proving many doubts about this Falcons team who has slid by poor competition all year. Despite their record no one really believes in them. The 49ers (9-3-1) got back on track with a win against Miami (5-8) after falling to division for the Rams (6-6-1) the week before. Personally, these guys are my best team… but they got man handled by the Giants earlier this year. The Packers (9-4) who should be 10-3 have also lost to the Giants, as well as the 49ers in the first game of the season, but a fully healthy Green Bay team may be the most talented team in the conference. Finally, the Giants (8-5) have beaten the two aforementioned teams with better records, but the Giants have lose a game to each of their NFC East foes as well as disappointing losses to the Steelers (7-6) and Bengals (7-6). Of course if you ask a Giants fan, they are just positioning themselves for a playoff run. This is actually a great thing, there should be no favorites and it will make the playoffs on the NFC side far more exciting.
5) John Harbaugh finally realized he has Ray Rice.
Cam Cameron is out as offensive coordinator in Baltimore. All year they have seemingly neglected arguably the second best running back in the NFL and John Harbaugh finally said enough is enough. The team for most of the year has put the emphasis on Joe Flacco and at times, like in the second half again the Redskins, the offense has stalled out. Flacco is an outstanding young quarterback but he’s still not elite and cannot carry an offense by himself. Now, I’m not sure if I have faith in Jim Caldwell (former Colts head coach) who has never called plays, but there is one thing to remember… GIVE RAY RICE THE BALL.
I hope you enjoyed, please feel free to comment and follow me on twitter @Alex_Rosenbaum.