Reaction: Patriots/Falcons, Bears/Panthers

bears jackson

Panthers Declawed in Chicago, As Predicted

If you’re in that group that doesn’t see John Fox in the same light I do, then you haven’t been paying attention to detail. I call Coach Fox the troubleshooter. He was hired on to help the Windy City rebuild. At first I thought it would take them awhile but their style of play showed me something else. The Bears are gritty and like a boxer, they will throw body punches all day. Once they add on some wide receivers, they’ll be able to knock you out. All part of the process. Big day for safety Eddie Jackson

As for Carolina, I couldn’t be swayed by their memorable 15-1 season and Super Bowl appearance. I recognized their great season, couldn’t ignore the momentum, they simply had it going in 2015. But, I remember the 7-8-1 team that survived just enough in the NFC South to make the postseason. That same team that got blown out by the Packers, Vikings and Eagles. That Eagles game in prime time was abysmal, again, stemming from their weak offensive line play. That was when they started out 3-2, tied with the Bengals, and lost 6 straight before closing the year with 5 wins in a row.

During their Super Bowl run, they pulled off a 7-1 record with one-possession results. They did what they had to do and found a way, but that goes to show they weren’t winning convincingly with only losing one game all season. That’s what I saw and a large part of that was Cam Newton’s need to play hero-ball. He always has to be the guy to make the play with his feet and he can’t help it. When he’s forced to play quarterback, when his scrambling is limited, he’s a below average QB and I’ve stuck with that through and through, even at his peak.

Guys, I can see his teammates choking this season. The mistakes that led to 2 of the 3 turnovers against the Eagles, the pitch that Chicago took the other way, but that whole Cam Newton vibe ain’t happening for the squad now, is it? Newton has thrown 9 TDs to 10 interceptions. Add his 3 rushing TDs and his fumble, that brings his TD to turnover ratio at 12:10. I will give him some credit though, in 5 of his 7 games he’s completed over 60% of his passes. However, another multi-turnover game is in the books for the former MVP and only 3 points on the board in Chicago.

cooks gronk.jpg

Falcons Woes Continue in New England

Just like the Panthers, you fell for the Falcons. It’s hard not to fall for a team that dominates one season and reaches the Super Bowl, I understand. Just understand that the contrarian opinion isn’t to garner attention, at least not here with me die-hards.

Kyle Shanahan was eventually going to move on to bigger and better things, but a lot of people liked the Steve Sarkishian hire and didn’t think it would take the offense back down to earth. Now at 3-3, Atlanta is being called out for their 5 scoreless quarters in the past 2 weeks. That is, before Julio Jones treated a Patriots’ cornerback like a little brother on an under-thrown fade pass in the endzone with 4 minutes remaining for their only points of the game. Thus, saving Matt Ryan from further criticism.

The highlights that tell the story:

  • When the Pats blocked a chip shot field goal, putting an end to a positive drive at the end of the first quarter
  • At the beginning of the 2nd quarter, Brandin Cooks took a shovel pass and followed Rob Gronkowski into the endzone
  • At the goal line when the Falcons called a shotgun-bootleg pass that went incomplete at the beginning of the 4th quarter
  • The Falcons sent a receiver in motion at the goal line and it was sniffed out for a loss

I thought this game meant everything to the Falcons going into it. They’ve bees struggling, so have the Patriots to a different extent, I though Atlanta really needed this game for their fragile mentality and they weren’t even in the game. They got manhandled. The good news is that they are only a game behind the Saints, half game behind the Panthers, and this division is winnable.

The bad news is that they’re only a game ahead of the Buccaneers, I picked the Saints to win the division and they’re rolling with 4 consecutive victories. They may have dodged Aaron Rodgers last week, but they got the better of Newton and Matthew Stafford already. New Orleans still has to play Ryan and the Falcons twice, Newton one more time, and Kirk Cousins next month, but I still like them to make the postseason.

New England turned the outsider’s panic button into tic-tac-toe, 3 in a row. Carolina beat them fair and square by a field goal. This Patriots team has won 5 of 6 games and that field goal is the only reason people weren’t talking about the Patriots as highly as they are now, even if the Jets got ripped off on that called-back touchdown. Their next 3 games come against the AFC West, the best division in football, with 2 of those at home.

So what’s the difference between their early season struggles and their recent success? We don’t even have to dig too far. The first 2 games the defense allowed over 20 points (Chiefs/Saints), the following 2 games they allowed over 30 (Texans/Panthers), and the past 3 they’ve limited opponents to under 20 (Bucs, Jets, Falcons). Defense has really won them championships.

If you just see Tom Brady, let me shed the light on what some other people see, such as the fewest points allowed in all of football a year ago. I see an offense that was shut down in the first half of the Super Bowl and they came out firing as they normally do. I also see a defense that held the highest scoring team in the biggest game to only a touchdown int he 2nd half. This is a team sport where all 3 phases of the game go hand-in-hand.