NFL Week 9 Top Surprises of the Week
The Top Ten Surprises From Week Nine:
Week Nine of the 2012 NFL season has come to a close, and this week proves that the NFL is America’s favorite pastime. Fans never know what will happen next. Upsets can happen at any time. An unheralded player could step up and lead his team to victory. A star player may have a bad game, costing his team a victory.
November is the time of the NFL season where teams step up in an effort to make a playoff push. As of this writing, no team has been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. There is a team that has uncharacteristically solidified its playoff contention, while there is another team that may have done some damage to its playoff aspirations.
Of course, there’s the 2012 NFL rookie class. Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck showed why he was selected first overall in the 2012 NFL draft against the Miami Dolphins. Cleveland Browns’ running back Trent Richardson led the Browns’ rushing attack in a losing effort against the Baltimore Ravens. However, there’s another rookie back who had an afternoon for the ages in Week Nine. And he did it in front of his hometown fans.
Week Nine saw a gentleman that should get access to the locker room being denied that access, leaving him fuming. There was also a moment of candor that left some people raising their eyebrows. And who do I think is the NFL's Coach of the Year? The answer might surprise you. With that said, here are the NFL Week Nine top ten surprises:
10. The Arizona Cardinals are collapsing.
After the Arizona Cardinals’ 4-0 start, many believed that they could recapture the magic of the team’s 2008 season. That year, Arizona went to the Super Bowl, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers. With a tremendous defense featuring defensive lineman Darnell Dockett and burgeoning star cornerback Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals were feeling good about themselves.
That joy didn’t last long. Arizona lost starting quarterback Kevin Kolb to injury in the Cardinals’ Week Six loss to the Buffalo Bills. John Skelton replaced Kolb at quarterback, and didn’t fare much better, as the Cardinals are currently mired in a five game losing streak. Having the 32nd ranked rushing offense doesn’t help, either. After looking like one of the most dominant teams in the NFL, fans in the desert better hope the Arizona Cardinals’ season isn’t a mirage.
9. Washington Redskins’ Mike Shanahan sends his team a message.
After losing to the Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan showed a little candor. He stated that players would be evaluated in an effort to determine their future with the Washington Redskins. In other words, underperforming players better shape up, or they’ll be shipped out.
While that is a true assessment of any NFL team, what kind of message is Shanahan sending to his roster? As bad as the Carolina loss was, Washington is not out of the NFC playoff hunt. Five of their last seven games are divisional games. The Redskins gave the New York Giants all they could handle before losing in Week Seven. Plus, the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles are wildly inconsistent. Catching these teams when they are the most vulnerable would be advantageous for Washington.
While Washington is the least talented team in the NFC East, they still have a chance to make the playoffs. However, Shanahan’s assertions are divisive and ill-timed, and could divide the team when they really need to come together. Why Shanahan would espouse his evaluation efforts now is a mystery. But it is an interesting motivational method that Redskins’ fans hope will help the team get back on the winning track.
8. The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the New York Giants.
Make no mistake: the Pittsburgh Steelers are a good team. Led by Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers are in the playoff hunt every year. However, they were playing the Super Bowl champion New York Giants on the road. It was an emotional game in the aftermath of the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy in the New York metropolitan area.
When Giants’ linebacker Michael Boley returned a Roethlisberger fumble 70 yards for a touchdown, the crowd went wild in anticipation of a Giants' victory. But Roethlisberger drove Pittsburgh's offense down the field. The drive culminated with Steelers' running back Isaac Redman scoring the winning touchdown to give Pittsburgh a 24-20 victory. This was a much needed victory for the injury depleted Steelers in their efforts to make a playoff push.
7. Andrew Luck has the Indianapolis Colts in playoff contention.
After a disastrous 2011 season that saw franchise quarterback Peyton Manning miss the entire season with a neck injury, the Indianapolis Colts selected Andrew Luck with the first pick of the 2012 NFL draft. As the season progressed, many accolades were given to Robert Griffin III, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback selected 2nd overall by the Washington Redskins. It could also be argued that Griffin III will become the 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year.
However, it was Luck’s rookie record 433 passing yards against the Miami Dolphins that paced the Colts to a 23-20 victory. The Dolphins are a vastly improved team from 2011, while the Colts were expected to struggle in 2012. Indianapolis is playing inspired football, considering head coach Chuck Pagano has taken a leave of absence from coaching due to treatment for leukemia. Luck’s breakout game could be the turning point for a Colts’ return to the playoffs.
6. Andy Reid’s offensive genius status is in jeopardy.
The Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to be a Super Bowl contender in 2012. Unfortunately for the Eagles, turnovers and poor offensive line play sent them to their doom after their 28-13 road loss to the New Orleans Saints. Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick was sacked seven times. He also threw a pick that was returned 99 yards for a touchdown by Saints’ cornerback Patrick Robinson.
Considering that Eagles’ head coach Andy Reid build his resume as a great offensive mind, it’s surprising that he isn’t getting as much blame as he should for his team’s poor performance. There’s a mandate from Eagles’ management that the team must have a deep playoff run. With so much on the line, it’s surprising to see the Eagles look as bad as they did against a struggling Saints’ team. Any more performance like that from Philadelphia, and Reid could be gone sooner than later.
5. The Atlanta Falcons’ quietly dispose of the Dallas Cowboys.
It’s hard for an undefeated team to fly under the radar. That’s exactly what the Atlanta Falcons are doing. Most of the attention was given towards Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones being denied access to his team’s locker room after the Cowboys’ 19-13 road loss to the Falcons.
Meanwhile, Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan is solidifying his own case for the 2012 NFL Most Valuable Player award. While he is not as decorated as his counterpart, Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo, Ryan did pass for 342 yards. Falcons’ running back Michael Turner anchored the ground game, helping stake Atlanta to its best start in franchise history at 8-0.
Many experts predicted that Dallas would give the Falcons their first loss. But Ryan and the Falcons quietly go about their business of winning football games. If they continue on this pace, they could go undefeated, as well as accomplish what the 2007 New England Patriots couldn’t: a perfect season ending in a Super Bowl victory.
4. Miami Dolphins’ Joe Philbin Solidifies Coach of the Year Candidacy.
No one could have envisioned first year Miami Dolphins’ head coach Joe Philbin as a Coach of the Year candidate. The man looks more like a college professor than a head football coach. Philbin made a name for himself on the HBO series “Hard Knocks” when he released wide receiver Chad Johnson during training camp. The team also traded talented but mercurial wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears, leaving Miami with running back Reggie Bush as the team’s only offensive threat.
But Philbin persevered. Despite losing to the Indianapolis Colts, he has guided the Dolphins to a 4-4 record. Miami is only a game out of first place in the AFC East with four divisional games to play. Two of those divisional games are against the AFC East leading New England Patriots. Few outside of the Dolphins’ locker room thought this was possible. If Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill continues to improve, as well as limit turnovers, the Dolphins could even win the division.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Doug Martin runs wild on the Oakland Raiders.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ rookie running back Doug Martin had a game for the ages against the Oakland Raiders. Martin, an Oakland native, rushed for 251 yards on 25 carries and four touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ 42-32 Week Nine road victory. While it was believed that running back LeGarrette Blount would be the featured back for Tampa Bay, it's Martin who has stepped up and become Tampa Bay's featured back.
Martin’s big day placed him third in the NFL in rushing yards with 794. The victory places Tampa Bay on the brink of playoff contention with a record of 4-4. The Buccaneers’ remaining schedule contains only two teams (the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos) with winning records. If Martin continues to run with efficiency, the Buccaneers could find themselves on the verge of a playoff berth.
2. Jerry Jones gets locked out of the Dallas Cowboys’ locker room.
It’s understandable that emotions would be running high after the Dallas Cowboys’ 19-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Many NFL experts expected great things from the Cowboys for the 2012 season. While quarterback Tony Romo didn’t make the key mistake that has plagued him this season, he didn’t make enough plays to lead Dallas to victory in a critical midseason matchup.
After the game, Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones went to the locker room, only to suffer the indignity of being locked out. Apparently, whoever was in charge of the Cowboys’ locker room security didn’t realize that it was his boss at the door. Jones is only the most recognizable NFL owner in the league. When he knocks on the door, he had better get immediate entry, or someone’s head is going to roll.
1. Indianapolis Colts’ Chuck Pagano should be the NFL's Coach of the Year.
On October 1st, Indianapolis Colts team owner Robert Irsay announced that first year head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. After the announcement, the Colts upset the Green Bay Packers 30-27 after Indianapolis erased an eighteen point deficit. Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck threw a late touchdown pass to wide receiver Reggie Wayne to provide the margin of victory.
After the Colts’ victory over the Miami Dolphins, Pagano came down to his team’s locker room to deliver a post-game speech. For him to be there to speak to his team despite a weakened immune system is nothing short of inspirational. To honor Pagano, many of the Indianapolis’ players, including quarterback Andrew Luck, have shaved their heads.
The 2012 season was supposed to be a time of growing pains and rebuilding in Indianapolis. After all, the Colts were entering the season with a first year head coach and a rookie quarterback. But things have changed. Currently, the Colts hold one of the AFC wild card spots. If they were able to qualify for post season play, even though Pagano has missed most of the season, he should gain consideration for the NFL's Coach of the Year