By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer
Three things we knew, three things we thought we knew that were proven true, and three things we learned â Tim Tebow Edition.
THREE THINGS WE KNEW
1. Tim Tebow can run the ball and win games. People in Gainesville, Florida already knew this. So did people in Columbus, Ohio; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Athens, Georgia; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Norman, Oklahoma. Now people across the league know the same thing. That doesn’t make him a tremendous quarterback. It makes him a guy who can run well and win games. That’s what it makes him. But we already knew that.
2. Quarterback play is the single biggest factor in the NFL. Look what happens when one teams still has their elite QB (Drew Brees) and the other team doesn’t (Peyton Manning). Saints 62, Colts 7. Meanwhile Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez, Matt Schaub, Cam Newton, and Aaron Rodgers all played well, and their teams all won. Joe Flacco, John Beck, Matt Moore, Kevin Kolb, Matt Stafford, and the duo of Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer all struggled or were just downright bad, and not surprisingly all six of those teams â Ravens, Redskins, Dolphins, Cardinals, Lions, and Raiders â lost. Sometimes a QB plays well and loses (Christian Ponder) and sometimes a QB plays poorly and wins (Blaine Gabbert), but in most cases the team who’s QB plays better, wins.
3. Three teams still have a chance in the “Suck-for-Luck” sweepstakes. Fans in Miami cheered when the Broncos game-winning field goal split the uprights. Sure, some of that was for Tebow’s team coming from behind and winning the game, but Dolphins fans were also excited that their team remained winless, and thus moved one step closer to getting the top overall pick. The problem is that both the Rams and Colts are also still without a win. The Rams won’t take the Stanford QB (though they should shop the number one pick and stockpile draft picks if they do wind up in the top spot) but the Colts would provide an interesting situation if they beat out the Dolphins. Either way, it’s almost more compelling television to watch these three teams find ways to lose than it is to watch games like Steelers-Cardinals or Browns-Seahawks.
THREE THINGS WE THOUGHT WE KNEW THAT WERE PROVEN TRUE
1. The Broncos aren’t convinced Tebow is the long-term answer. If they were, they would have done something other than run-run-run on their three players after the turnover in overtime. Sure, that field goal would have been good from Fort Lauderdale, but that doesn’t mean it was a high percentage play. If John Fox and his coaching staff were convinced that Tebow could win them the game, they would have been throwing the ball on at least one of those three plays in an attempt to pick up a first down. Instead, they used a watered-down version of their playbook for nearly the entire game, until they were down 15-0 late in the fourth quarter and Tebow did what he does best. But he wasn’t allowed to win the game prior to that moment, proof that Denver isn’t sold on this kid’s ability to succeed over the course of 60 minutes.
2. The bye week is no longer a good thing. I speculated on this point last week, and now I’m moving it here. In last week’s games involving a team off a bye, those teams were 2-4. That follows up a 1-5 week. In two virtual toss-up games, the Jets rallied against the off-a-bye Chargers, and the Texans absolutely destroyed the off-a-bye Titans. One of the two wins was Denver, and they could have had five weeks off and still beaten the hapless Dolphins. With the forced days off as a result of the new CBA, the bye simply isn’t the same as it used to be, which doesn’t bode well for the Eagles, Patriots, Giants, 49’ers, Bills, and Bengals this week.
3. Even if the NFL is a passing league, teams that run the ball will still have great success. This note comes after the Jets, Cowboys, and Jaguars did a fantastic job of running the ball this past week, highlighted by DeMarco Murray’s huge week against St. Louis. The Jags used Maurice Jones-Drew and a stifling defense to hold Baltimore down, while the Jets ran for over 150 yards for the first time all season in their comeback win over San Diego. All three teams won by using the old school formula of running the ball and playing stout defense. The Saints, Packers, and Patriots get all the accolades for their prolific passing offenses, but sometimes it takes a grind-it-out effort to win, and fans in New York, Dallas, and Jacksonville have to be happy with their victories this week.
THREE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. Denver is a better team with Tebow than with Orton. My points above still hold, but the Broncos needed to make this move for this season, let alone for the future. As mentioned, Tebow is a winner â he proved that in college, he nearly rallied Denver against the Chargers, and then did rally the Broncos last Sunday. He gives Denver the best chance to win now, he satisfies the fan base, and as a bonus, he gives upper management the ability to evaluate his talents over the span of 11 games and decide whether or not he’s their quarterback for the foreseeable future. He’s not there yet â that much is clear â and I’m not going to say if he’ll ever get there, because that’s above my pay grade. But for the people who do get paid to make that decision, they’ll be much further along in that process come January.
2. Pittsburgh is one big win away from reclaiming a hold of the AFC North. With due respect to the Bengals and Ravens, the Steelers are the one team that no one else in the AFC wants to see make the playoffs. They have a great coach, and playoff-proven QB, and a tremendous home field advantage. That’s why, even as a Jets fan, I will root for the Patriots in Pittsburgh this weekend. I have confidence that the Jets can beat the Bills, Patriots, Texans, Bengals, Raiders, Titans, and Chargers, and I believe that in the right situation they can beat the Ravens as well. The team I don’t want to see is the Steelers, especially in Pittsburgh. And I think everyone else that roots for another AFC contender is starting to feel the exact same way.
3. The Carolina Panthers may have found their future QB. I wasn’t high on Cam Newton in the offseason. I wasn’t high on him in the preseason â especially after most of the offseason and preseason was lost in the lockout, a usually formative period for rookie quarterbacks. But much like, Tebow, Newton wins games, and unlike Tebow, Newton does it through the air and looks extremely good in doing so. Add to that the fact that he has very little around him outside of Steve Smith, and maybe, just maybe, the Panthers will be right there with the Saints, Falcons, and Bucs by the start of next season.