By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer
Welcome to our overview of everything that happened in week 8 of the NFL season (Bill Belichick’s passive-aggressive Monday morning press conference not included).
Coming into the season, most pundits were predicting the Broncos, Seahawks, and 49’ers as the top three teams, or at least three of the top five. Well, don’t look now but the Colts have victories over all three of those teams just seven games into this season. Yes, they also have losses to San Diego and Miami – the former in which they scored just nine points and the latter that continues to look worse every day – but they’ve proven they can go toe-to-toe with some of the big boys and win. The back-end of the schedule still has some tough games, most notably at Cincinnati and at Kansas City, but also includes what should be plenty of easy wins. After all, the Colts should be favored in both games with Houston and both games with Tennessee, as well as at Arizona and at home to St. Louis and Jacksonville, so barring any major injuries 12-4 should almost be a given at this point. Plus, with Denver and Kansas City still having to play each other twice, it may not be totally out of the question to see Indy possibly sitting as the top overall seed in the AFC when week 17 ends. It may be time to start viewing Andrew Luck as a possible Super Bowl QB.
Last Man Standing
The best part of writing this paragraph is the scowl that I know will be on the face of Eagles fans everywhere as they read this, but Andy Reid and the Chiefs are the last undefeated team in the NFL. Keep in mind, this was the team with the top overall pick in last year’s draft, which marks the first time in modern-NFL history that the team that earned the top pick in the draft was also the last team to lose in the year immediately following that pick. The schedule will get harder over the last seven weeks, though, as KC will face Denver and San Diego twice each, along with the Colts at home and trips to Washington and Oakland. Still, there are two key reasons the Chiefs have had so much success thus far – they are third in the league in passing defense, allowing just 195 yards per game, and they lead the league with a +11 turnover ratio. It sounds like a very simple process – stop the other team’s passing game and don’t turn the ball over – but it’s amazing how many teams haven’t been able to figure that out, starting with Reid’s former team in Philadelphia that’s 31st in pass defense (312 yards per game) and has turned the ball over 11 times. Just that head-to-head comparison says everything about those two teams, and really serves as an indication as to just how valuable a new coach can be to an organization. It’s true that Reid’s tenure in Philly had run its course and it was time for him and the team to part ways, but the Eagles loss is most certainly the Chiefs gain for 2013.
Gambling at Grambling
A quick delve into a college football story worth examining – the Grambling State boycott, which ended Monday as the players returned to practice. It was actually impressive to see that the entire football team stood in solidarity in their boycott of the team’s scheduled game at Jackson State over the weekend, which resulted in a forfeit. The players gambled that their boycott, which received national attention, would help effect change within the program, specifically with regards to their training room and travel schedule. I’m not typically one to side with the “mass” when it comes to things like this – administration at any level usually makes decisions that result in these circumstances because they have to, not because they want to – but this time is different. The new weight room floor is sitting in a closet under lock and key because the funds used to purchase it weren’t “properly raised.” The team had to bus to Indianapolis for a game two weeks ago – a 17-hour trip – but the school president and athletic director flew there on a plane. This story is a little different. I’m a proponent of colleges and universities using money to fund education and research as opposed to sports in just about every instance, even if it means dropping certain athletic programs, but if a school is going to sponsor a particular sport then they need to provide those athletes with the necessary means of competing on an equal playing field, and Grambling’s administration simply isn’t doing that. I’m sure there are reasons for their decisions, but they need to get their act together quickly and provide proper support for the team or just drop football entirely. The players made their stand – and their point – and called the administration’s bluff. Now we’ll see if they’re going against a full house or just five random cards. My bet’s on the latter, because I don’t think the Grambling administration really understands exactly how to resolve this situation, and the only people who will get hurt in the process are the players – and since this is Grambling, we really can use the term, “student-athletes.”
If The Playoffs Started Today…
Not too much of a change this week in the AFC, with only a new entry as the sixth-seed as far as actual teams are concerned. The same is true in the NFC, where only a North shakeup alters the seedings in any way. Still, there are five teams on this list that were not playoff teams last year (KC, SD, Dal, NO, and Det) so the theory that just about half of the playoff teams will change from year to year seems to be holding to form this season.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (7-0)
2. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2)
3. Indianapolis Colts (5-2)
4. New England Patriots (5-2)
5. Denver Broncos (6-1)
6. San Diego Chargers (4-3)
Notes: The Bengals win the second seed over the Colts and Patriots because of conference record (Cin 3-1, Ind 3-2, NE 2-2). The Colts win the third seed over the Patriots because of conference record. The Chargers win the sixth seed over the Jets because of strength of victory (SD .429, NYJ .385)
1. Seattle Seahawks (6-1)
2. New Orleans Saints (5-1)
3. Green Bay Packers (4-2)
4. Dallas Cowboys (4-3)
5. San Francisco 49’ers (5-2)
6. Detroit Lions (4-3)
Notes: The Lions win the sixth seed over the Bears because of head-to-head victory.
Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Thu, 8:30pm, NFLN
Line: Panthers by 6
It’s getting harder and harder to find a win on the Buccaneers schedule, especially after losing to Atlanta last week. Their defense is still performing quite well – 5th against the run, 18th against the pass, 8th in points allowed – but the offense is, pun intended, offensive. Only the Jaguars have scored fewer than Tampa’s 87 points, most of which can be attributed to terrible quarterback play. The same is true for the Panthers, who clearly have a quarterback in Cam Newton but just haven’t been able to get consistent production from him or their surrounding skill players in the passing game. The key here, though, is the Carolina defense, which is actually better than the Bucs D. It ranks second in points allowed to Kansas City, having surrendered just 83 points this year. In fact, the Panthers trail only the Broncos, Chiefs, Seahawks, and Saints in point differential – all of which screams “playoff team.” And that may not be totally out of the question, as this game marks the first time the Panthers will play a fellow NFC South team. If they want to turn that division title dream into a reality, they’re going to have to win on the road against the worst team in the NFC.
Pick: Carolina 28, Tampa Bay 13
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