Cam Newton and Russell Wilson seem to be the lone survivors of the great experiment of the supposed “new wave” of “athletic” quarterbacks, and mainly because they have avoided injury and added passing from the pocket to their repertoire. So many others have simply fallen off the map, a few “surprisingly” so. Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Terrell Pryor, Geno Smith and EJ Manuel are among the names of the fallen. Sure, plenty of other “traditional” college quarterbacks have not lived up to expectations (or rather, hopes), but these players were supposed to take the NFL by storm, blowing up defenses into confusion and frustration.
In their place, Kirk Cousins has been solid if not as “exciting,” while the simple approach has at least allowed Tyrod Taylor to keep the Bills competitive; Derrek Carr has been all over the map, but 30 TDs after 14 games is something of an improvement over Pryor. Blaine Gabbert as an NFL-caliber quarterback might draw laughter, but he has won at least as many games as Kaepernick this season with fewer opportunities. And in the 14 games Ryan Fitzpatrick has started this season, he has thrown 26 TD passes and 12 INTs; in the 30 games Smith started for the Jets, he threw 25 TD passes and 34 INTs. No Jets fan is looking forward to Geno’s “return.”
Scores from around the league this week:
Jets 19 Cowboys 16. This game was perhaps closer than it should have been, but the Jets still won their fourth game in a row to stay in the playoff race, although the Chiefs and Steelers have the edge on them. Nevertheless, Fitzpatrick has put his many detractors to shame, who said that he might play well early in the season, but fizzle-out by mid-season.
Packers 30 Raiders 20. This is what you might call an “ugly” game, even with the excuse of playing in the drizzle of the Bay area. The Packers scored two touchdowns in the first quarter on a combined 17 yards of total offense, both with the help of Derrek Carr interceptions. Otherwise the Packers offense was anemic, with just 97 yards in the first half. At the close of the second quarter it seemed that the offense was finally getting on track before James Starks fumbled at the Raiders 21, and the Packer defense simply melted away, allowing the Raiders to score a touchdown in a minute without the aid of a time out, taking just four double-digit yard plays to score and close within a point. After the Raiders took a 20-17 lead in the third quarter, Aaron Rodgers and company began to reveal a pulse while the Raiders’ offense lost its own. But a Rodgers interception in the end zone and two offensive pass interference calls on James Jones (one negating a TD pass) led to some uneasy moments for Packer fans. Is this team returning to early season form—or just damn lucky to win the past three games?
Rodgers continues to play well below his standards, throwing for only 204 yards on 39 pass attempts (although to be fair Carr wasn’t any better). In fact, over the past eight games his passer rating has been in the bottom quarter of the league (81.2). His 56.6 completion percentage is bad enough, but a 5.40 yards-per-pass average? Are you kidding me?
Panthers 38 Giants 35. I’m only a Panthers “fan” when they play the Seahawks, and it is beyond my feeble comprehension how they can be 14-0. Ironically, the 2007 Patriots barely escaped by the same 38-35 score against the Giants to finish 16-0, only to be upset by those same Giants in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, it appears that with the Redskins victory, the Giant’s hope for a playoff spot are over. The Panthers deserved to lose this game, going up 35-7 before taking it lackadaisical while the Giants improbably scored 28 unanswered points to tie before Cam Newton decided to shake off his lethargy and lead the Panthers to a last play field goal, naturally aided by a helpful defensive penalty to put them in easier range. Oh and by the way, Josh Norman is still a first class a-hole.
Vikings 38 Bears 17. Does one “great” game make Teddy Bridgewater the Vikings undisputed “franchise” quarterback? I said last week I didn’t think he was a better quarterback than Christian Ponder, and I still don’t after his best game of the year against the Bears, and maybe his career, so far. But he only threw 20 passes, and half the Vikings total yardage came on two drives. The Bears are not a good team either, which helps make things look rosier than they really are. Throwing four touchdown passes in one game sure ups the “wow” factor after Bridgewater only threw nine in the previous 13 games. The Vikings are where they are now because of Adrian Peterson.
Texans 16 Colts 10. Did you know that from 1968-1972, super-sub quarterback Earl Morrall was 31-3-1 for the Colts and the Dolphins? During the 1972 unbeaten season, Morrall was the starter in nine of those games, subbing for the injured Bob Griese. With Andrew Luck apparently taking the rest of the year off and the no one in the AFC South seemingly wanting to win the division, Matt Hasselbeck played the super-sub part admirably for four games, all victories. But no more thought of that. After the Colts were blown-out by a combined score of 96-26 in the previous two games, doubts began to creep in. Hasselbeck is just looking creaky and feeble now as the Colts have essentially given away the division to the Texans, who don’t deserve to be in the playoffs.
Patriots 33 Titans 16. The outcome of this game was never in doubt, with or without Marcus Mariota, who left the game early with a knee injury in favor of someone named Zach Mettenberger, who did about what could be expected in the best possible scenario. Both Titans touchdowns, not surprisingly, came on two fantastically head-scratching secondary breakdowns.
Falcons 23 Jaguars 17. The Falcons finally won a game, but a more impressive win against a team like the Jaguars would have allayed concerns about putting in a competitive effort next week against the Panthers—even at home—after the 38-0 drubbing in their previous match-up.
Redskins 35 Bills 25. With losses by the Giants and the Eagles, the Redskins are now in the “driver’s seat” to take the division as the only team with a .500 record (literally). Kirk Cousins had the best game of his career, with four TD passes and a 154 passer rating. It is rumored that Cousins—who is a free agent after the season—is desperately being sought by the team as their “quarterback of the future,” although one wonders if any other team sees Cousins in the same light. Meanwhile, Tyrod Taylor continues to have 100+ passer-rating games and not turning the ball over, while the Bills piled-up 240 yards rushing; yet they still lost. Being “competitive” doesn’t mean much when you lose four of your last five games.
Chiefs 34 Ravens 14. The Chiefs have won eight games in a row, but are they scaring anyone? They beat a Steelers team with Landry Jones at quarterback, and a Broncos team with Peyton Manning dragging his arm on the ground. Otherwise, a lot of bad teams. With games at home against the Browns and the Raiders, it will take the playoffs to reveal if they are fakers.
Seahawks 30 Browns 13. Nothing special here. Johnny Manziel didn’t embarrass himself but didn’t do much after a first possession touchdown drive. The Seahawks found another plug-in-play running back in Christine (huh?) Michael, but naturally it was Russell Wilson who got all the credit, but admittedly it is getting tougher every week to justify any criticism of him.
Steelers 34 Broncos 27. The Steelers were expected to win this game, but when Brock Osweiler put up Manning-like numbers in the first half on the way to a 27-10 lead by the Broncos, there was some brief thought that Osweiler was the “guy” after all. All thought of that went up in a puff of smoke in the second half, as the Broncos were shutout and Osweiler looked like a 6-8 oaf who couldn’t throw straight if he was paid to do it. Even when Ben Roethlisberger gave him an early Christmas interception late in the game with a chance to tie the game, Osweiler couldn’t even complete one pass on four tries.
Bengals 24 49ers 14. Luckily for the Bengals and AJ McCarron, they played the lowly 49ers this week. Next week it will be the Broncos, a game which will decide one of the first-round byes in the playoffs. McCarron was effective in the first half and did little else afterward, while the 49ers helped the cause with four turnovers. If Osweiler is starting for the Broncos next week, that might be the formula for another Dalton-less victory.
Cardinals 40 Eagles 17. Don’t feel so bad, Mark Sanchez; Sam Bradford has a 40+ point game to his credit—by the other team, and he even “helped” run-up the score by throwing a pic-6. And two of Bradford’s wins were complete flukes, like the early season win against the Jets, and against the Patriots when the Eagles scored three touchdowns on defensive and special teams plays. The Cardinals, meanwhile, clinched the NFC West title; will the Packers put up much of a fight next week at Arizona?
In games of no import, the Chargers beat the Dolphins 30-14 in what may be the Chargers last game in San Diego; Philip Rivers has put up some big numbers in his career, but is he a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback? The Buccaneers piled-up 509 yards against the Rams and still lost 31-23. Jameis Winston out-threw Case Keenum 50-17, but somehow Keenum’s passes added-up to a win. One may recall when at Florida State Winston’s allowing his emotions go out-of-control in the loss to Oregon, with his coach admonishing him to calm down. Apparently something similar occurred against the Rams, with Winston yelling in frustration at teammates. There are those who will say that he just wants to win, but his teammates may have a different view of it—especially when he commits two turnovers in the game.