Apologies for the lack of posts from myself recently, it’s a busy time so far as my degree is concerned but I will try and put material up on here where possible. This week, rather than offering a prediction for each game being played on the week nine slate I’ll attempt to target four story lines that bear watching as the action unfolds. I’ll stay away from the Philadelphia Eagles game on purpose, as I fear once I get started on a rant about Andy Reid I won’t be able to stop.
Gimme’ Some Respect
Many Atlanta Falcons, including future hall of fame Tight End Tony Gonzalez, have voiced their displeasure this week about what they see as a perceived lack of respect from the national media regarding their perfect 7-0 record thus far this season. However, the Falcons have yet to play a team with a winning record and that doesn’t change this week when they host the Dallas Cowboys in the Georgia Dome. Last week, Matt Ryan and co. dismantled the Eagles in Philly with perhaps their most complete performance of the season, but Philadelphia is in disarray and in their previous game before that Ryan threw three interceptions against a poor Oakland defense. Dallas should test the Falcons despite their modest record on Sunday Night Football, and one senses that this nationally televised match up is the kind of stage on which the Falcons will need to prove that they are genuinely the best team in the NFL at the mid-point of the 2012 season.
RG III v Cam
This battle pits two highly drafted, highly athletic quarterbacks against each other as the Carolina Panthers travel to Washington to tackle the Redskins. Of course, Robert Griffin III has enjoyed a far more successful season than Cam Newton has to this point and has in most peoples eyes surpassed last years rookie of the year as the most exciting young quarterback in the NFL. Whilst Newton has struggled with interceptions this year, he has eight, RG III has thrown just three whilst throwing eight touchdown passes and rushing for another six scores. Griffin is the Redskins offense, and it speaks volumes that he’s been able to succeed in the same offense that Donovan McNabb failed in two years ago despite the laters experience and exceptional statistical track record. Both teams possess poor defense’s, so this match up offers the mouth watering possibility of an offensive explosion with two of the games brightest talents orchestrating proceedings.
Luck v Tannehill
Another duel between two quarterbacks who share similarities; if RG III and Newton are the two most athletic young QB’s in the league, then Luck and Tannehill are certainly each on course to become elite gun slingers themselves, albeit of the ‘pocket passer’ variety. Luck went #1 overall in April to the Colts whilst Tannehill was drafted by the Dolphins with the eighth selection, and both have led their respective teams to 4-3 records seven games into the season. I read a statistic the other day that said it’s the first ever match up between two rookie quarterbacks who’ve got winning records so far into their first NFL seasons, which should establish the calibre of player we’re talking about here. One factor in Tannehill and the Dolphins favour is that their defense has played exceptionally well so far, particularly the pass rush led by Cameron Wake (7.5 sacks), but it would be folly to rule Luck out before a pass has been thrown in anger as he has nearly 4,000 passing yards already without the help of a running game and a defense that forces the former Stanford man to play catch up in the majority of games he plays in.
G-men look to run W streak to five
In one of tonights afternoon kick offs the New York Giants will hope to extend their winning streak to five games and improve to 7-2, whilst the Pittsburgh Steelers attempt to remain above .500 (they’re currently 4-3). In some quarters the fact that the game is going ahead after the devastation Hurricane Sandy caused in New York this week has caused some uproar, and whilst it’s open to debate whether or not the right decision has been made one positive aspect of the game being played is that it should help take some local residents minds off their troubles for at least a couple of hours. As is often the case after a disaster of any kind sport can be used as a means of uniting a community and Tom Coughlin will hope his team are motivated by that sentiment. Eli Manning will be looking forward to facing an ageing Steelers defense, who are struggling to adapt to key players losing effectiveness (James Harrison) or being unavailable through injury (Troy Polomalu). Ben Roethlisberger has managed to lead the Pittsburgh offense to four wins so far this season, so Steelers fans will be hoping he can connect with Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace on the outside and possibly lead their team to an upset in the big apple.
So there you have four games to keep your eye on as the games unfold this evening, along with plenty of other intriguing encounters as the NFL season heads in to “must win” territory for a number of teams (I’m looking at you, Saints and Eagles). Enjoy your NFL Sunday!