The sixth Sunday of the NFL regular season came to a close last night, and it left fans with more questions than answers around the league. What if the Miami Dolphins had made a move in the offseason to hire Dan Campbell instead of starting the year with Joe Philbin? Should Jarvis Landry be named the Pittsburgh quarterback this next week if Ben Roethlisberger is unable to go? What were the Indianapolis Colts thinking on that trick play? Will the New England Patriots go 16-0 this season? Are the Cincinnati Bengals to be taken seriously this year? Let’s jump right in to this week’s rapid response.
The Miami Dolphins were the first team to make a coaching change this year, replacing Joe Philbin with interim head coach Dan Campbell. The franchise made the move after a lackluster showing in a London game against the Jets two weeks ago and utilized their bye week to let Campbell get familiar with the role of being head coach. The club responded well, with their best defensive outing of the year against the Tennessee Titans. If Miami plays this well for the remainder of the season, Campbell could very well be patrolling the sidelines for the Fins next season and beyond. Be careful though Miami fans, you often see a short term boost from coaching changes, it happens in baseball many times when a manager is replaced only to see the team return to their lackluster ways.
The New England Patriots played in the long awaited rematch of last years AFC Championship Game last evening and easily dispatched with the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots are playing exceptionally well currently, averaging 36.6 points per game and have a +80 point differential. Some pundits are comparing this year’s team to the 2007 version which posted a perfect 16-0 record. It is far too early to speculate of that possibility though. If the Patriots start 12-0, then it’s time for that discussion. It is far too early in the season and there is always the injury risk to key players.
The Denver Broncos have to be considered the worst 6-0 team in the NFL right now. Their wins have come at an average of 6 points per game. Their defense and special teams have scored more points than the team’s offense and Denver has now gone two complete games without scoring an offensive touchdown. QB Peyton Manning is struggling but these issues are not directly a result of his play. The offensive line is playing poorly and the running game is non-existent. Denver heads into it’s bye this week and it couldn’t have come at a better time as the team tries to sort out it’s offensive woes with a very difficult schedule looming in the second half of the season.
After 40 years of watching football, seemingly every week there is some play which happens that makes me even more confused about the game than I was the week before. This whole issue of what is a catch and what isn’t a catch is very confusing. This week, it was the “touchdown/interception” by Lions WR Golden Tate. What looked to be a clear interception was ruled a touchdown. Okay. It seems as if the officials on the field thought it was an interception as well because three zebras surrounding the play all ruled touchback. I don’t envy the job the officials have to do. And why do all these strange plays seem to happen to the Detroit Lions?
The Cincinnati Bengals have started the season 6-0 for just the third time in franchise history (1977, 1988). Since realignment in 2002, the Bengals are the first AFC North team to start the season 6-0. Skeptics want to dismiss the Bengals because of their recent history of playing well in the regular season and then falling flat in the playoffs. Do that at your own peril this year. Cincinnati is one of the most complete teams in the NFL and while naysayers want to continue to criticize QB Andy Dalton, but his play has been stellar so far this season. Dalton is surrounded by an offensive juggernaut of weapons. Heading into the bye week, Cincinnati could easily finish the season with a 14-2 overall record at the end of the year.
The Carolina Panthers certainly look for real. They finally exorcized the demon known as the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, winning in a late 4th quarter comeback in dramatic fashion. Carolina could have easily played conservatively and set up for a field goal to head into overtime on the road but instead opted to push up the field with a touchdown pass to TE Greg Olsen with 32 seconds remaining. Despite a dismal first three quarters, QB Cam Newton led a dramatic comeback with a fantastic fourth quarter of play. The Panthers play a smash mouth style of offense and features a smothering defense. The only downside to this team is the lack of a play making wide receiver. If TE Greg Olsen goes down to injury, this team will be crippled.
Some random thoughts from the weekend-
The Cleveland Browns have not beaten a 5-0 team since the mid-1960’s.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers reached 30,000 passing yards on Sunday. He hit the milestone in just 3,652 attempts, faster than any quarterback in NFL history.
The Kansas City Chiefs are now owners of the longest losing streak in the NFL, 5 games.
The New York Jets are now 4-1, all wins coming by double digits.
Chargers QB Philip Rivers threw for 503 yards and no interceptions on Sunday in a losing effort becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to do so.
Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins became the first receiver in NFL history with at least nine receptions and 145 yards in three straight games.
Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning became the first quarterback in league history to start 6-0 for a sixth time.
The Seattle Seahawks allowed four touchdown drives of 80 yards to the Carolina Panthers Sunday, a feat the Seahawks haven’t allowed in 15 years at home.
The Washington Redskins have been outscored 46-3 in the third quarter this year.
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