The phrase “any given Sunday” has never been more true than in this 2014 NFL season. Well, unless you’re an Oakland Raiders fan. In week 3, the Atlanta Falcons beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 56-14 and the following week the Buccaneers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24. Coming off back to back games with 6 touchdown passes against the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens; Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers laid an egg against the then 1-8 New York Jets and lost 20-13. The Cleveland Browns are 6-4 and one of those losses came to the 1-9 Jacksonville Jaguars. The 7-3 Denver Broncos just suffered their third loss this past weekend against the now 4-6 St. Louis Rams. There are several teams playing outstanding football right now in the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, and Green Bay Packers, but well over half the league is still in the playoff picture and it truly is anyone’s chance at glory!
The Cleveland Browns aren’t awful
The Browns have a strong defense and for the first time since Bernie Kosar they have a steady quarterback in Brian Hoyer who doesn’t cost them games with his mistakes. Star wide receiver Josh Gordon is also set to return this week from suspension which only adds to the thought that the Browns could possibly make the playoffs, as crazy as that sounds.
Reid all about it: The Chiefs are tied for 1st in the AFC West
Many pundits and talking heads, including us, thought the Chiefs ceiling would be 9-7 this season with a much tougher schedule and their losses in the off-season. Then the Chiefs lose week 1 to the hapless Tennessee Titans while losing linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive end Mike DeVito for the season. Since then, the Chiefs have been competitive in every game and have gone 7-2 since that tough loss to the Titans. Andy has been a wizard with his play-calling and relied on his defense, run game, and special teams while letting Alex do what he does best, manage the game.
The Dallas Cowboys learned what a hand-off is
The Dallas Cowboys have always been a beautiful offense to watch with Tony Romo throwing the ball all over the field, but that left the defense on the field too long and Romo to make a late game mistake. This season they have finally learned that it’s okay to run the football and they are running it better than anyone in the NFL behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. The Cowboys are giving Tony Romo better looks now that teams are stacking the line of scrimmage to stop DeMarco Murray and the defense can stay fresh with the offensive chewing time off the clock. The Cowboys are a legitimate playoff contender and could do some serious damage with the NFL’s leading run game.
Injuries? The Cardinals don’t care about no stinkin’ injuries!
The Cardinals have the NFL’s best record at 9-1 even with all the losses they’ve had from last years 10-6 team that got left out of the playoffs. Last year they had one of the best tandems of inside linebackers with Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby. Dansby is now in Cleveland while Washington has been suspended for the entire year for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Their defensive line has seen two losses to injuries when John Abraham and Darnell Dockett went down for the year. Carson Palmer has been in and out of the lineup, but was lost two weeks ago to a torn ACL from a non-contact injury, yet the Cardinals carry on with their next man up philosophy that, for now, is working out beautifully.
Something stinks in the windy city. Oh wait, it’s just the Bears.
Brandon Marshall proclaimed that Jay Cutler would win the MVP award this season and it wasn’t the craziest thing to utter with all the talent on the Bears offense. Also, Jay was going into his second year with “quarterback guru” Marc Trestman who was supposed to work his “magic” on Cutler’s game. The Bears offense features a plethora of weapons with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, Martellus Bennett, and Matt Forte, but with shaky quarterback play and an awful defense that just hasn’t been enough this season. Jay Cutler is 2nd in the NFL with 12 interceptions, but he and the Bears aren’t getting any help from their 31st ranked scoring defense.
The Raiders had a good draft and brought in some quality free agents, but are well on their way to 0-16.
The Oakland Raiders drafted arguably the best defensive player in this years draft when they selected Khalil Mack and then went on to draft their quarterback of the future in Derek Carr. In free agency the Raiders made some nice acquisitions with defensive ends Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, corner backs Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, wide receiver James Jones, and running back Maurice Jones-Drew. The Raiders just can’t find a way to win football games, but they aren’t as bad as their 0-10 record would suggest. The Raiders have only lost by 16 or more points in 3 of their 10 losses which shows that they’ve been in most of their games. The Raiders fired head coach Dennis Allen during the season, but interim head coach Tony Sparano hasn’t had any more luck with the team than Allen did. NFL media insider, Ian Rapoport, has reported that it would be a surprise if 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh remained with the team next season and that Harbaugh’s wife doesn’t want to leave the bay area. That would suggest that the Raiders would be key players in the Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes come 2015.
The NFC South: first team to 8 wins takes the division crown!
This division holds two correct predictions we made before the season started with the Carolina Panthers taking a step back and the Buccaneers not living up to their preseason hype with journeyman quarterback Josh McCown at the helm. The Falcons got Julio Jones and Roddy White back from an injury plagued 2013, but that hasn’t resulted in wins although they do find themselves at the top of a disappointing division. The New Orleans Saints have been the shocker as everyone expected them to run away with the division and be one of the best teams in the league. The loss off Darren Sproles to the Eagles and Rob Ryan’s defense falling apart before our very eyes has effected them more than anyone expected. It still appears that the Saints will win the division, but whoever comes out of the NFC North can go ahead and make travel plans with the family for the week after their first playoff game.