We’re really into it now. Every team has a big enough body of work behind them to be judged on, and for some, it isn’t good: The New Orleans Saints, Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers should all already be looking towards next season, or wondering how the hell they could’ve messed this season up so badly.
For the teams still in playoff contention, divisional wins are crucial. So this week I’ve taken a look at a couple of interesting NFC situations, as well as Kirk Cousins and the final two undefeated teams. Let’s get into it.
When should the Green Bay Packers start worrying about losing their NFC North crown?
The short – and obvious – answer is when winning the division becomes mathematically impossible. Packers’ fans have an unparalleled level of trust in their QB Aaron Rodgers, and with good reason; when in full flight Rodgers has a pocket presence that few other QB’s can match, and has made a habit of getting his side out of sticky situations, and into the winners circle.
The NFC North has been a cakewalk for the Pack of late, but this year the Minnesota Vikings have emerged as their main challenger. The return of first-choice running back, and 2012 NFL MVP, Adrian Peterson, has worked wonders for the Vikings’ running game, and has allowed second-year Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater to come into his own as a game manager. On paper, Bridgewater isn’t as impressive as some other ‘class of 2014’ QB’s, but at 7-2 I’m not sure Teddy, or coach Mike Zimmer, care all that much about the numbers he’s putting up.
The Vikings will host the Packers at TCF Bank Stadium this week in a game that will go a long way to deciding the winner of the NFC North. Do not miss this game.
Fantasy watch: Adrian “All Day” Peterson ran all over the Oakland Raiders D to prove that he is still the premier running back in this league. Peterson rushed for 216 yards and a TD, good for 27.6 fantasy points.
The Arizona Cardinals flexed their muscles to remain atop the NFC West
This was a crucial divisional game (is their any other kind?) with implications beyond this week. A win for the Cardinals would mean a little breathing space between them and the chasing pack before hosting Andy Dalton’s Cincinnati Bengals; a loss would bring them back within striking distance of a Seattle Seahawks team desperate to make amends for a slow start to the season.
Carson Palmer would be having none of that. A blistering first-half saw the Cards lead 19-0 at one stage, enough to hold off a late surge from the Seahawks to come away with a 39-32 victory.
This win, alongside their six others to start the season, have shown the importance of Palmer to this group. Since an ACL injury cut short his 2014 season, Palmer has been a man on a mission. Wins like this show that with Palmer under centre, the sky is the limit for the Arizona Cardinals.
Fantasy watch: Arizona WR Michael Floyd had a day! Floyd had 113 receiving yards and two TD’s against the Seahawks, providing his owners with a very handy 23.3 fantasy points.
Kirk Cousins keeps making me look like an idiot
…Or maybe I keep making me look like an idiot. Either way, the message is the same: I should stop talking smack on players who are this unpredictable. That said, it wasn’t as though the Redskins were facing a solid D. The New Orleans Saints have been helping pad opposing QB’s stats quite effectively this year, and evidently seeing Cousins light them up was too much – the team fired defensive co-ordinator Rob Ryan not long after.
Opposition aside, Kirk Cousins is starting to show that he does have something. The second-half comeback against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and this week’s perfect passer rating against the Saints prove that. But when he isn’t absolutely balling out, Cousins is tough to watch. Simply, the gap between his best and worst performances needs to be smaller.
He’ll have the perfect opportunity to continue this good form this week, when The Washington Redskins visit the undefeated Carolina Panthers. Is there an upset a brewin’?
Fantasy watch: Kirk “The Jerk” Cousins* had 324 passing yards, four TD’s and 28.96 fantasy points. Impressive.
*Not a real nickname.
The Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots don’t look like losing
Possibly, maybe ever again. Both Cam Newton and Tom Brady have been so clinical in their execution that it’s hard to see them faltering when they’re required to step up.
Sure, it took a last-second FG for the Patriots to defeat the New York Giants, but when they needed it most #Tommy got them down the field, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski made a 54-yarder to steal the win. They don’t just have clutch players – they are a clutch team. The Patriots have been 9-0 before; can they keep it rolling all the way to another Super Bowl? I think so. But I was certain of a Green Bay vs. New England Super Bowl match-up a few weeks ago, now I’m not so sure.
The Carolina Panthers, on the other hand, have never been in this position – but look comfortable being the front-runners in the NFC. The coming together of prodigious talent and maturity from QB Cam Newton has been the catalyst for the Panthers’ successful start to the season. I’m basically out of superlatives that can adequately describe this guy; he’s got speed, size, power and now supreme accuracy. Don’t be surprised if they go all the way this year.
Fantasy watch: Cam “Caaaaaam” Newton*, of course: 240 passing yards, two TD’s and 20.98 fantasy points. He’s money every week.
*Also not a real nickname.
Questions? Insults? Let us know in the comments section.