Sunday, October 19, 2014

Week 7 NFL notes

Before the Green Bay Packers routed the Carolina Panthers 38-17 at Lambeau Field, Fox Sports Radio’s Tomm Looney quite seriously predicted that the Panthers would win the game 34-27. Besides being “looney,” he is the “liberal” sort who has a sensitive spot for the new breed of quarterback, as represented by the likes of Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. He went on to deride Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, with the now common refrain “be careful for what you wish for” to fans and commentators who wanted to see Robert Griffin III benched. He noted with relish that Cousins was replaced by Colt McCoy in the second half of the game against Tennessee, who immediately threw a 70-yard touchdown pass and eventually leading Washington to a 19-17 victory. 

How Redskins fans will respond to that development is an open question, but there is no doubt that many people have chosen to overlook Cousins’ ability to move the team up and down the field at will; in fact, in the five games he has played prior to Sunday, the Redskins averaged slightly over 400 yards of offense a game, mostly through the air. His primary fault seems to be an overabundance of interceptions. But it is also a fair question to ask if Cousins is still a better quarterback long-term than the injury-plagued RGIII. Just in case people have already forgotten, RGIII has won just three of his last 15 starts (including the playoff game against Seattle), and his play has seriously degraded due to his knee injuries. 

Fans are not stupid; this is why many pined for his backup. Is it really an “acceptable” situation to have a starter who is no better than the second-stringer—or third-string quarterback, for that matter? I know that many commentators want to see RGIII—limited pocket skills and all—back on the field if only for personal political reasons. But I would ask them “Do you want him on your team as your ‘franchise’ starting quarterback?” I suspect that most (unless they are Redskins fans) would rather see him stay right where he is at. I also think it is fair question to ask if the Redskins have any intention of resigning RGIII when his contract is up; he certainly has not demonstrated a “franchise” capacity to date.

Elsewhere, the Detroit Lions’ defense for the sixth straight game kept a lifeline open for the offense to pull itself together just enough to win if it so desired. The Lions have been scoring an average of less than 20 points per game over the past six, yet the defense has helpfully outperformed it. It would seem surprising that a quarterback as capable of putting up big numbers like Matthew Stafford has only sporadically done so this season (even with an only occasionally available Calvin Johnson). It will be that inconsistency that will place enough “doubt” in the team to allow the expectation that Green Bay will eventually win the NFC North. 

In another game of note this week, the Indianapolis Colts routed the supposed best “overall” team in the NFL, the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-0; turnovers prevented the Colts from fully exploiting their 506 to 135 dominance in total offense. The Bengals are now 0-2-1 in their last three starts. What I find particularly of interest is that while Andrew Luck continues on pace for a 5,000+ yards passing season, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton continues to be a mystery. The inconsistency of his play would seem to condemn the Bengals to competitive play (as long as their defense is capable) during the regular season, but continued failure in the playoffs.

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