Monday, October 17, 2016

NFL 2016-17 Week 6 Review

What a week of upsets and big wins for numerous teams throughout the league. Yes, right off the bat, starting with the big upset on Thursday night by the San Diego Chargers, who managed to upend the first place Denver Broncos, and then culminating with several upsets this past Sunday.

Let us take a look at some of these fantastic games and results:

(Thursday Night) San Diego 21, Denver 13 - It could be said that this game was not as close as the score would indicate, because really, the Chargers dominated most of the contest. They had built a 21-3 lead into the fourth quarter, and everything was going their way. But remember, the Chargers had also made an art form of dropping game in the final quarter in almost unspeakable ways, finding new and interesting ways to grab defeat from the jaws of victory. Indeed, when the Broncos started to come back a bit, it was all too easy to imagine still another San Diego fourth quarter collapse. And then, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, the Chargers defense held, and preserved the unexpected win against the first place, defending champion Broncos, who have now themselves dropped two straight after an impressive 4-0 start. Philip Rivers looked very happy to finally be able to win again and get that monkey off of his back, although it is still a question whether or not San Diego will be able to overcome the horrendous start. They still are only 2-4 on the year, after all. Still, all in all, a solid and much needed, overdue win for a struggling franchise, and this could only help.

NY Giants 27, Baltimore 23 - It started off as a low-scoring affair, with the Ravens essentially dominating early on, getting a 10-0 lead, and quieting the often raucous Meadowlands crowd. However, the Giants scored a touchdown to close the margin to 10-7 by halftime, and it became a real game. It was a back and forth contest, with the G-Men assuming control for a while, only to see the Ravens take over. The Ravens kicked a field goal to make it a one-point game at 17-16, but the Giants responded with a field goal of their own. Then, deep in the fourth quarter, the Ravens rode the momentum of a controversial interference call to complete a touchdown drive that put them in the lead just before the two minute warning. However, Eli Manning found Odell Beckham Jr., who caught the ball midfield, and the outraced several defenders for what proved to be the winning touchdown. Still, the Ravens were able to make it very interesting and suspenseful, as their drive kept stalling, but would seemingly always be resuscitated by mistakes and silly penalties committed by New York defenders. Baltimore was approaching scoring position and, indeed, if they had more time, they very well may have come up with the goods and earned themselves a big road victory. Instead, time ran out, allowing New York to preserve the victory, ending their three-game losing streak. For Baltimore, this was their third straight loss following a promising 3-0 start to the season.

Miami 30, Pittsburgh 15 - One of the upsets that surprised numerous people, as the struggling Dolphins suddenly found life and contained the normally explosive Pittsburgh offense. Normally, it is Miami that seems to struggle to find the points, and the Steelers who prove too much for opponents, but this game was a role reversal for both teams. The Dolphins took an early lead with two field goals, but Pittsburgh was able to get a touchdown to take the lead. However, Miami kept it together, and were able to retake the lead with a field goal, and then kept Pittsburgh's dangerous offense in check while slowly but surely building their lead. Before you knew it, the Dolphins had built a 23-7 lead, but the Steelers came back with a touchdown of their own to make this contest interesting late in the game. In the end, however, Miami was not to be denied, as the suddenly prolific offense managed to score yet again to put the game out of reach, securing only their second win of the season, and assuring the Steelers of only their second loss on the year.

New England 35, Cincinnati 17 - Yes, Brady is back, and so are the Patriots. Back at full strength, as evidenced now by victories in two consecutive weeks against the two struggling franchises from Ohio. The Bengals are quite a bit better than the Browns, but even they were no match for New England on this day, basically getting overwhelmed, unable to really slow the Patriots offense down, and unable to keep up with their own offense. For a while, Cincy did their job, and was holding their own. They played the first half extremely well, and were even leading into the second half, flirting with a huge upset. But then, reality set in, as Brady and Gronk and the rest of New England got in gear and, for all intents and purposes, blew the Bengals away once and for all. The Patriots are looking close to invincible, particularly since Brady's return, as they once again, rather predictably, own the AFC's best record. However, they now have a serious challenge within their own division, as the red hot Buffalo Bills are also poised to make a serious run to the playoffs, and possibly even to win the AFC East, having already knocked off the Pats in New England.

Tennessee 28, Cleveland 26 - This may have looked like an uninteresting game between two relative lightweights of the league, but remember, the last time that these two teams met in Tennessee like this, the Browns pulled off a shocking, come from behind victory which proved to be the greatest margin that any road team ever overcame to win a game. Indeed, after falling behind big here, Cleveland was pressing again, and made a serious run at repeating that particular chapter in history. However, the Titans tightened up when they had to, and managed to secure the win. It was not easy, and maybe part of the luster is taken away, considering that their opponents remain the only winless team in the NFL right now. Still, a win is a win, and the Titans are suddenly 3-3, and looking quite solid, compared to where many expected them to be at this point. As for Cleveland, their misery continues, as they fall to 0-6, and are growing desperate to find their first win somewhere, somehow. Yet another bitter disappointment for Cleveland.

Jacksonville 17, Chicago 16 - The Bears have been playing a lot better these last few weeks than they had the first few weeks. Yet, still, they managed to fall just short. The Jaguars could not get anything going offensively, but they remained composed and patient, down 16-10 in hostile Soldier Field. The defense remained tough, and prevented Chicago from opening up a wider lead, while the offense did just enough of what they had to do to din their way to a win. It was a narrow win, and you got the feeling that Jax escaped with one here a bit. But a win is a win, and the Jaguars are now 3-3, and starting to be in the position where they wanted to be all along.

Buffalo 45, San Francisco 16 - Speaking of the Bills, here they were again, on the right side of a lopsided affair, as they hosted the struggling 49ers, who started Colin Kapernick at quarterback. Indeed, this game looked surprisingly tight early on, and remained so throughout the first half, with San Francisco looking like it was in position to possibly pull off a major upset. But in the second half, the Bills defense finally started to rattle the 49ers, while Buffalo's offense suddenly caught fire, overwhelming a shaky San Francisco defense that simply was not able to keep the Bills in check. Before long, the game had gotten out of hand, as Buffalo secured a fourth straight win, and are looking like very serious contenders. For the 49ers, a halfway decent game, at least at time, for Kapernick, but the Bills in Buffalo are going to be a tough game for anybody. San Francisco has now dropped five straight following a 28-0 victory on opening night, and are already pretty well out of playoff contention. Not so in Buffalo, where Rex Ryan's defense seems to have gotten the edge, and the offense also appears to be finding themselves, as everything is clicking right now for the Bills.

Washington 27, Philadelphia 20 - A big NFC East showdown, and both teams played tough. The Eagles had surprised many by racing out to a 3-0 start, while after dropping their first two games, Washington had caught fire, winning three straight going into this. The Eagles had lost the week before, and wanted to avoid following their great start with a losing streak, but Washington now is a tough place to play. 

Detroit 31, Los Angeles 28 - A tight shootout between two fairly tough, emerging teams, although Detroit used it's home field advantage. The Motor City is starting to look more and more like a tough place for opponents to play, and that proved to be the case again on Sunday, with the Rams coming close, but ultimately, not finding the proverbial cigar. Detroit seems to be having an up an down season thus far, but after losing an enormous amount of talent just a couple of seasons ago, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, they appear to be back into serious contention once again. The Rams, also, appear to be better than they have been in recent seasons, as Jeff Fischer has the team going in the right direction, despite two losses in a row now. But this day belonged to the Lions, as they pull out a thriller against Los Angeles!

New Orleans 41, Carolina 38 - Now, here was another rather shocking result. Given how dominant the Panthers were last year, you just keep expecting them to snap out of their funk, and start getting back on a role. Or, was I the only one who had already basically penciled them in for a date on Siper Bowl Sunday? In any case, this team, far from dominating the league, is now flirting with being out of the playoff race altogether come mid-season, which was an unthinkable scenario not very long ago. They played hard, and Cam Newton showed some of the style of play that made him last year's MVP. However, in the end, despite giving up a big lead and allowing Carolina back in it, the Saints were able to nail a field goal late to secure the win, moving up to 2-4, and dropping Carolina to a shocking 1-5 mark on the year. The Panthers have already lost at least once to each of their divisional opponents, and things just seem to continue to get worse for them!

Dallas 30, Green Bay 16 - Wow! Not only was this another of the surprise results from this past weekend, but it also shows just how strong the Cowboys appear to be. Indeed, despite not having Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray, Dallas appears to be closing in on the level of play that they were at just two seasons ago, when they finished 12-4 and made it to the divisional playoff round, and almost pulled off a huge away win at Lambeau. This victory at Lambeau now signals, once and for all, that this year's 'Boys are for real, having pulled off five straight wins now. For the Packers, this loss, coupled with their struggles on offense and in closing out games so far this season, should be a source of concern. Aaron Rodgers has not been his usual, elite self, and Green Bay now needs to guard against a letdown season, which seems to be a distinct possibility. As for Dallas, they are simply looking amazing, and with a new quarterback, new running back, and new results, they are positioning themselves to be a serious contender come January.

Kansas City 26, Oakland 10 - Yet another result that surprised me, personally. The Chiefs have looked on and off again throughout the season. At some points, you can see a glimpse of the team that finished last season by winning their final ten regular season games, and then shut the Texans out in Houston. Then, they come out entirely flat, and look miserable. That seems particularly true on the road, although that was not the case at all yesterday, and the Chiefs obviously came to play in Oakland. The Raiders have been surprisingly solid and prolific on offense all season, but they sure were not yesterday, as the Chiefs pounded the Raiders into submission, dominating and earning a huge divisional road win against the first place Raiders, placing themselves just a game and a half outside of the first place tie that Denver and Oakland currently share. Big win for KC, and an obviously disappointing loss for Oakland.

Seattle 26, Atlanta 24 - This seemed like the biggest match of the week. Two red hot teams who have shown the capacity to make deep playoff runs should they stay healthy and focused went up against one another, and fought tooth and nail. Earlier this season, I would admittedly have dismissed Atlanta's chances here, and assumed this would be an easy Seahawks victory. Well, Atlanta did not get blown out. In fact, they were fighting hard, tooth and nail, and seemed to have Seattle on the ropes at times, even a narrow 24-23 lead very deep into the fourth quarter. Yet, we have grown used to Seattle finding ways to win improbably, and even though this did not quite have the euphoric, magical feel of two big wins against Green Bay in 2012 and 2014, it still was a come from behind victory against a powerful opponent. The Seahawks barely eked out the victory, and should consider themselves fortunate for having managed to win this one. As for Atlanta, their brutal stretch of games is over, and they did more than survive: they thrived. Now, they are in serious position to run away with the division, and need to capitalize on the opportunity to do so. In the NFC West, the Seahawks also have a serious leg up on everyone else, and need to close out the division with this golden opportunity.

Sunday Night Football - Houston 26, Indianapolis 23 (OT) - Wow! The Colts seemed to have this game in the bag, seemed to have dominated from early on, when the Texans suddenly rallied and came alive in the final quarter. Despite Indy's dominance throughout the majority of the contest, Houston came storming back to overcome a 23-9 deficit to force overtime. Then, once they stopped Luck and the Colts on offense, the Texans methodically put themselves into field goal position and secured the come from behind win, putting themselves in the driver's seat in the AFC South, as they appear once again to be the best team in it. As for the Colts, this is probably the most devastating of a growing pile of losses this season, as the talent level for this team seems somehow incapable of putting together the kind of season that most people believed they were capable of. It looks like it will be a second straight disappointing season for the Colts, while the Texans, despite not being particularly great, appear to be heading into position to take this division once again.

Monday Night Football - Arizona 28, NY Jets 3 - Okay, it's pretty safe to say it now: The Jets are in serious trouble. They lost again, and even though this was obviously a tough game at Arizona, they just did not handle themselves too well. It showed during some surprising times, like when they were trying to get some points to close the 14-3 margin that they were down by just before the half, and did not appear to be in a big rush following an incomplete pass that, at first, seemed like it might have been a fumble that they recovered. True, in the end, the call was in favor of the Jets, as it was indeed ruled a forward, and thus incomplete, pass, and the clock was stopped. Yet, it was not absolutely certain that the call would go their way, and the Jets were wasting a lot of time after that playing, killing precious seconds, and I just did not like the overly relaxed way that they approached that. Their should have been some serious urgency to close the margin and try and get back in the game, but that urgency was not there. Not all that surprisingly, the Jets never did get back in the game, as the Cardinals basically, predictably steamrolled New York, earning their second straight win and getting back to an even keel following a surprisingly bad start to the season. As for the Jets, this is yet another loss in a season that basically has already spiraled out of control, and for me, the surprisingly lax approach that they took following that incomplete pass seems to suggest that the Jets have already accepted this as a lost season. New York is already in sole possession of last place, and there is little hope that they will find their way out of that, let alone make something of this season and make anything remotely like a run towards the playoffs. 

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