Here we are, my fellow NFL fans, at the hallway point of the 2015-16 NFL regular season. At this point, I am seeing some teams that are on the fast track to the playoffs, and some teams who are surprisingly terrible. There are some coaches and general managers who are on the hot seat, and may even be fired during the season, like Joe Philbin, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, earlier this year. There have been some surprisingly decent teams. However, there has been teams hit by the injury bug as well.
In this blog, I plan to discuss all the NFL drama during the first eight weeks. Not only will the play on the field will be covered today, but some off the field issues will be covered as well. I will be using the same literary device of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, like I used in the last blog about the first quarter of this season. So, without further ado, here is my analysis of the first half of the 2015-16 NFL regular season.
FOUR UNDEFEATED TEAMS :
The NFL has just completed Week 8, and there are still 4 teams with no losses. They are the Carolina Panthers, the Cincinnati Bengals,, the Denver Broncos, and the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. This is the first time in NFL history that four teams are undefeated. What a great accomplishment. How far can each team go undefeated? From looking at their remaining schedules, it looks like the Panthers face the Green Bay Packers this upcoming week. I have a suspicion that a very determined Aaron Rodgers might be the one who will put the first loss of the year on the Panthers. I realize that Rodgers doesn’t have a great road record, but I think that he might lead the Packers to victory.
Now, I will discuss the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. This is a team on a mission, led by arguably the greatest quarterback ever in Tom Brady. The Patriots are focusing on “one game at a time,” as that is their philosophy. The team takes every team seriously. The Patriots face their arch-nemesis , the New York Giants in Week 10. They have the aforementioned Broncos on November 29th. In my view, it will be a battle between the Patriots and the Broncos as to who will go undefeated. However, there is the saying, “Any given Sunday,” and every team is playing for the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the day.
PANTHERS COACH RON RIVERA
If there was a leading candidate for Coach of the Year, and I had a vote, I would vote for Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera. I realize that in his first years, he was on the hot seat. However, with the recent success last year, going to the playoffs and winning a playoff game, and now this season, coaching the team to a 7-0 record, NFL fans are seeing why the Panthers organization were patient with Rivera. Rivera has had a hand in developing QB Cam Newton into a much more mature and dynamic player. Newton only has TE Greg Olsen, WR Jerricho Cotchery, and WR Ted Ginn as passing targets, when WR Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL in training camp. Cam Newton is an offensive weapon himself, and is even in the NFL MVP discussion. Panthers defense centers around LB Luke Kuechly, and is the 9th ranked defense in the NFL. Ron Rivera will even “go for it” on 4th and short situations, hence the nickname, “Riverboat Ron.” For Rivera to have this team at 7-0, is amazing. I definitely think he should be considered a candidate for Coach of the Year.
THE NFL PRODUCT:
I don’t know if it is just my perception of this season, but the only the field NFL product doesn’t appear to be all that great, at least not in comparison to last year. I’m noticing a ton of mediocre teams, and a ton of players making sloppy plays, and making dumb penalties. Don’t get me wrong, the four remaining undefeated teams haven’t been immune to sloppy playing in all three phases of the game either. The games also seem to be dragging. I don’t know if it’s because of the CBA’s rules limiting how much the teams can practice, but the only field product is just mediocre.
There have been quite a few mid-season firings this year. I know the NFL is a “win now” league, but I think that one person who was fired was a scapegoat. Before I get to that person, let’s discuss the recent person who got fired. The Tennessee Titans fired their head coach Ken Whisenhunt. I did not see that coming. I know the team had rookie QB Marcus Mariota, and were 1-6 this year. They were 2-14 last year under Whisenhunt. In the season and a half with Ken Whisenhunt, the Titans were 3-20. Perhaps a change was needed. Michael Mularkey takes over as head coach.
The aforementioned person who also got fired, whom I think was a scapegoat, is former Colts Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton, who was also Colts QB Andrew Luck’s offensive coordinator at Stanford. He was fired after the Week 8 Monday Night Football loss to the Carolina Panthers. I am guessing that Colts Owner Jim Irsay and Colts GM Ryan Grigson felt that Hamilton was to blame for the Colts’ pitiful offensive struggles. My readers, this is the SAME Pep Hamilton, mind you, who was the offensive coordinator last year, when Andrew Luck threw over 4700 yards.
Now, why do I think Pep Hamilton is the scapegoat in all this? From the first week of the season, Andrew Luck has been struggling. He has been crowned the new Golden Boy. He has been hailed as the replacement for Brady, Peyton Manning, etc. The Colts were crowned the AFC representatives in the pre-season by the so-called experts. Well, as I said, Luck and the Colts are struggling. Luck has been dealing with shoulder and ribs injuries. However, he’s somehow regressed. He’s having games, where he throws multiple interceptions. I guess that’s on Pep Hamilton. The team has Luck playing behind a turnstile for an offensive line. The team got WR Andre Johnson, and RB Frank Gore, both ways out of their prime. The Colts defense is still mediocre, and GM Grigson is more worried about starting nonsensical scandals over ball inflation that putting a team together. However, Pep Hamilton is the blame, and has to be the fall guy. Good luck against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Indianapolis Colts. I hope Mr. Hamilton’s firing will be the cure all.
I know that these athletes risk their bodies for our entertainment. These men realize that when they put on that helmet that they’re “one play away” from a serious injury. However, the injury has really bitten this year. The San Diego Chargers saw 12 different players go down to various injuries against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8. I am not fan of the Ravens, but part of the reason they have a 2-6 record is because of the nasty injuries. I know all teams have injuries, see the Patriots’ offensive line. I’m not trying to excuse the Ravens, but DE Terrell Suggs went down to an Achilles rupture. They have almost no wife receivers. WR Steve Smith,Sr is out for the year due to an Achilles rupture. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost QB Ben Roethlisberger 4 weeks due to a knee injury, and just lost RB Le’Veon Bell for the rest of the season to a knee injury. RB Reggie Bush of the San Francisco 49ers is also gone for the year with a knee injury. This year is crazy.
THE NFL HEADQUARTERS
I have quite a bit to say about the NFL headquarters, which is located on Park Avenue in New York City. I am going to begin with the officials, and the officiating. I think part of the reason why the games appear to drag is because of the officials. Some of the crews stop the game at every little thing. Many times, those calls were bogus calls. Let them play! There were also several mistakes in televised games, such as the Monday Night Football game between the Detroit Lions and the Seattle Seahawks, where Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson was trying to score, and Seahawks DB Kam Chancellor knocked out the ball, which fell in the end zone, and then another Seahawks defender clearly hit the ball out of the end zone in front of the ref. The ref should have thrown the flag, giving the Lions another opportunity to attempt to score. The NFL can’t have this. The NFL and it’s referees still can’t figure out what a catch is. There were a few games where no one was sure whether it was a catch or not. I don’t know why this is becoming so complicated. In that Chicago Bears vs Detroit Lions match up, where the Lions won their first game of the season, I still don’t think that WR Golden Tate had a catch, thus, it wasn’t a touchdown.
NFL Commissioner Goodell claims it’s about “integrity” and “enforcing the rules,” and “not about one player.” If that were the case, Commissioner Goodell, why was Le’Veon Bell’s 3 game suspension reduced, but not Brady’s? Why was Greg Hardy’s 10 game suspension, reduced but not Brady’s? Bell had a drug related suspension, and Greg Hardy nearly killed his fiancee, yet THEIR suspensions, were reduced, but not Tom Brady’s. It could not be because Dan Rooney and Jerry Jones are two of the owners who are on board with others who are supporting you in trying to sit Brady over some air, could it, Commissioner Goodell? After all, Bell plays for Rooney’s Steelers, and Hardy plays for the Cowboys. Bell even said he had no idea why his suspension was reduced.
Robert Kraft “takes one for the Owners,” so to speak, and you couldn’t knock down the suspension to 1 game, or wipe it out like you should have done. The thing is that Goodell is still persecuting Brady. The fact is that Judge Berman’s decision is 8% likely to be overturned. If Goodell and the NFL lose again, I could see this being appealed again. Roger Goodell should let this drop, as I have said in previous blogs, Goodell botched this from the beginning. It is time to take a knee, and accept the loss, for the good of the game.