Sunday, November 23, 2014

Week 12 NFL notes

This week, on “any given Sunday” anything can happen in the NFL, and this week the Green Bay Packers failed to reach 50 points—or 40, or even 30—against the Minnesota Vikings, after wracking up 42 points against them in Week 7. After blowing out Chicago and Philadelphia by a combined score of 108-34 the past two weeks, the Packers returned to Earth with a bare 24-21 victory over a Minnesota team that still hasn’t found reliable quarterback play since 2009. Aaron Rodgers didn’t have an awe-inspiring performance—only 209 yards passing—but Eddie Lacy had a performance worthy of his rookie season, rushing for 125 yards in his first game of the season with at least 20 carries; last season, he had at least 22 carries in six straight games. 

The Packer victory, however unimpressive, does give them sole possession of first place in the NFC North, after Detroit was blown out by New England, 34-9. Matthew Stafford had another none-too-impressive performance, completing only 18 of 46 passes, falling below a 60 percent completion percentage for the season. The inconsistent Stafford is beginning to remind me more and more of Eli Manning (minus the two Super Bowl wins; the Lions have never been to one). Stafford is capable of throwing a lot of passes and yardage, but for less than expected results. Although he isn’t quite the interception machine that Manning is, Stafford has a surprisingly low touchdown pass rate despite having a relatively good receiving corps. Take out a 41-TD year in 2011, he has only 81 touchdown passes in 2249 career attempts. 

Elsewhere, the Philadelphia Eagles “recovered” after its embarrassing loss to Green Bay by easily defeating the deprived Tennessee Titans, 43-24. It could have been greater, except that the Eagles settled for three field goals on three straight possessions in the second half after failing to convert within easy touchdown distance. Mark Sanchez did complete almost 70 percent of his passes, and tied a team record with his third consecutive 300-yard game; however, he continues to have to have a habit of throwing interceptions, although this has been a problem for the Eagles all season (Nick Foles had three multi-interception games before his injury). 

Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Arizona Cardinals at home, 19-3, closing to within 2 games of the NFC West leader. Arizona’s Drew Stanton certainly looks like a back-up quarterback; the Cardinals are clearly a team that is going to have to rely on its defense if it expects to win the division, let alone make the playoffs. As for Russell Wilson—after enduring a week of criticism for his unimpressive passing numbers the past month—was clearly affected by it and it showed in his play in this game. I have to say, however, that I was put-off by his efforts to pad his passing stats in the last minute of the game against a clearly winded Arizona defense, and the game long since over—and still just barely passed the 200-yard mark after 4 consecutive games with under 200 yards passing. I was, shall we say, “unimpressed.” One cautionary observation is the fact that Wilson was sacked seven times in this game; despite averaging 9.6 yards per pass attempt, he averaged only 5.8 yards on every pass play.

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