As a longtime fan of sports media, it’s always nice when its members humble themselves and admit when they are wrong when they boast about when they are right. To stray from being a hypocrite, here are some of the times I’ve been wrong — and right . . .
- Andrew Luck: The Colts’ quarterback was poised for a comeback after spending two years on the bench with a shoulder injury. After his preseason start, many doubted Luck would be able to return to peak form, but he has certainly proven them wrong. He is second in touchdown passes behind Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes. It took Luck the entire preseason and a few regular-season games to return to form. At the end of one game, the Colts had to bring in backup Jacoby Brissett to throw a Hail Mary pass. That being said, Indianapolis has surrounded Luck with a solid offensive line, drafting Quenton Nelson, the only rookie in history to win offensive Rookie of the Month as a guard. The offense is rolling, and the Colts could find themselves sneaking into the playoffs as a wildcard.
- University of Oregon play calling: After the Stanford game, it was apparent the Oregon coaching staff needed to put more faith in star quarterback Justin Herbert. They stuck to conservative play-calling in the second half, keeping the ball on the ground, and allowing Stanford to come back and win. Outside of receiver Dillon Mitchell, the receivers are not able to create space. Oregon has one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, and it seemed as though they were conserving him for something. They need to loosen the reins on Herbert and let him make plays because he can certainly do so.
- L.A. Rams, New Orleans Saints: Earlier this year when the NFL put out its preseason rankings, I compiled a list of my own. At the top, I had the Saints and Rams, and it’s looking like they deserve it headed into Week 11. Outside of the Chiefs, the Rams and Saints are looking like the league’s most dominant teams. In Week 9, we got to see the two teams collide, and it was everything we hoped for and more. Each teams’ defense struggled to stop the high-powered offenses in a high-scoring game the Saints came won at home, 45-35.
In the new age of the NFL, where offense reigns, these two teams are equipped with the league’s top offenses. Defense plays second fiddle, but don’t count defense short because it still plays an important role. With offenses scoring so often, it becomes more crucial to score on every drive.
In the Saints vs. Rams matchup, the Saints were able to get more stops, which eventually gave them the win. If the game were not in New Orleans, the score could have easily been flipped, but it seems now the term “defense wins championships” has run its course.
- Cam Newton: The Carolina QB seems to have had one of the more inconsistent careers, from one year winning MVP and throwing 35 touchdowns, and the next unable to throw 20. This year, things have started to look up for Newton, and it all started with the hiring of offensive coordinator Norv Turner. He has helped Newton become much more consistent, completing 68.3 percent of his passes, nearly 10 percent above his career average of 59.3. Also, at the rate he is going, Newton is on pace to throw fewer than 10 interceptions for the first time in his career. Despite becoming an elite passer, his ability to hurt you on his feet remains the same, as he is on pace for another 500-yard rushing season. Not all the credit can go to Turner because Newton has put in the work to become what he is, and he has also gotten help from second-year running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey has given Newton a great option to throw to out of the backfield. If Newton can keep things up, and the defense can keep other offenses from putting up 50, the Panthers could find themselves in the playoffs.
- Patrick Mahomes: Some people were quick to write off the Chiefs and their young QB after they let go of veteran starter Alex Smith. Out the gate, they were quick to hop on the Mahomes bandwagon. Mahomes has taken over the league this year in his first year as a starter and often looks like the best quarterback in the NFL. He is leading the league in touchdowns with 37 and has broken several records. Not only is he leading the league in TDs, but in is second in total yards, with 3,362. Mahomes has led the Chiefs to a 9-2 start, but not all the credit goes to him. Behind Mahomes, is offensive genius and head coach Andy Reid. If you were to ask Mahomes, he would give all the credit to Reid. His ability to scheme players to get open and find weaknesses in defenses is an anomaly. Not only is Reid equipped with Mahomes but perhaps the fastest player in the league in Tyreek Hill, who has been taking the top off defenses all year. It would seem as though the list of weapons would end there, but at tight end they have arguably the league’s most talented guy in Travis Kelce. At running back, they have the defending rushing titleholder in Kareem Hunt. This offense is arguably the best in football and is only getting better as Mahomes gains more experience.
Defense is where this team is getting the most criticism. Defense is all about getting teams off the field and allowing your offense more possessions to score (especially when your offense is as good as the Chiefs) and the Chiefs are doing just that. They rank fifth in getting teams off the field on third down, with opposing teams only converting on 36.3 percent of third downs. To put how good that is into perspective, here are the teams above the Chiefs in this category: Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens. If the offense can keep forcing other teams to punt, giving the ball back to Mahomes and that offense, you could see them in the AFC Championship Game, perhaps even the Super Bowl.
- NFC East: The NFC East features the returning champion Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, and the New York Giants. So far into this season the Cowboy’s are atop of the conference at 6-5. If you were to ask anyone outside of Washington they would not have had them leading the conference. The Eagles have struggled all season to get back to the same team they were last year. Their defense has been banged up all year and just took a huge loss at corner when corner Ronald Darby went down this week in their loss against Dallas.
The Cowboys have had their lulls as well. They looked unstoppable against Jacksonville, putting up 40 points behind a solid ground game from quarterback Dak Prescott. Outside of their game against the Jags and the win against the Eagles, the Cowboys have struggled to put points on the board. If running back Ezekiel Elliott isn’t able to get things going on the ground, the Cowboys will be in for a long day.
The Giants have been hard been hard to watch this year. Outside of rookie Saquan Barkley there hasn’t been a lot positive things coming from the Giants, other than that they’re in the running for a top-five pick in the draft. Quarterback Eli Manning has had struggle behind a line that has given up 32 sacks on the season. Wide receiver Odell Beckham is being Odell — throwing tantrums, leaving for the locker room early and doing interviews with rapper Lil’ Wayne. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins has said he wants to get traded. Not many things are going well for the Giants.
The Redskins have been a bright light in the dark tunnel that is the NFC East. Running back Adrian Peterson has put the haters to shame and has put a hold on Father Time. Alex Smith is winning games like he always does, and their defense, which doesn’t get talked about, has played solid this year. With Smith gone with the leg injury last week, Colt McCoy has stepped into the starting role. The road ahead for the Redskins is much tougher with a back-up quarterback, but in a weak division like the East, no one should be counted out just yet.
- Le’Veon Bell: There were many fantasy owners out there on Tuesday afternoon staring at their lineups, regretting drafting Bell in the first round (including myself). On Tuesday, Bell failed to report to the Steelers, forfeiting his franchise tag, and his time with Pittsburgh is likely over. Bell will be on the market next year, looking to sign a blockbuster deal. If and when Bell returns, look for him to come back to full form and be ready to pick in the first round — again.
- Atlanta Falcons: If you were to look at the roster on defense and compare it from the beginning of the season to now, it would not look the same, especially in the secondary. Going into Week 11, the Falcons playoffs hopes look dismal. They have lacked the ability to stop opposing offenses, as well as converting in the red zone. Things started to look up, with rookie receiver Calvin Ridley, going for three touchdowns against the Saints, but injuries have depleted the Falcons, who were ranked sixth in my preseason power rankings.
- Matt Ryan: Despite Atlanta’s struggles, the blame should not be put on Ryan, who is having another MVP-like season. He is No. 1 overall in the league in passing yards, with 3,683 and leads in yards per game with 334.8, completing just over 71 percent of his passes with only five interceptions, Ryan is certainly putting on a show. The addition of Calvin Ridley certainly helps, and having arguably the best receiver in the game in Julio Jones is always a plus. If Ryan can keep things up, and this team can come back next year healthy, look for the Falcons to be hungry for another shot at the Super Bowl.
- Houston Rockets: We are only 15 percent of the way into the NBA season and things are not looking good for the Rockets. They signed future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony in the offseason and things have quickly begun to erupt. It has already been reported that Melo will most likely not return to play for the Rockets. If the playoffs were to start today, Houston would not make it barely above .500. Their defense which, was a high point in their series against the Golden State Warriors, has looked abysmal. You can contribute some of that to losing Trevor Ariza in the offseason the Phoenix Suns. James Harden and Chris Paul have missed games early, but that’s no excuse for the team’s poor start. If the Rockets don’t pull things together soon, it would be tough to even contend for a playoff spot in a very tough Western Conference.