It has been a strange week here in Leicester. Dan has already captured it from the vantage of Leicester City season ticket holder who can explain it much better than I can so the first thing I’m going to do is point you to his post here.
For those of you who want to stick to the NFL I shall try to resume normal service.
The games of week eight saw the Rams continue their unbeaten start to the season with little a help from Ty Montgomery who has been traded from the Packers but I’ll get to the trades shortly as the deadline passed yesterday. It was a week where the cream of the league continue to rise. Going back to my league tiers I would say that the LA Rams and Kansas City Chiefs have been joined by the New Orleans Saints who have been a little lucky with a couple of wins (you can’t predict Justin Tucker missing his first ever extra point at any level) but have only one loss. The New England Patriots have also turned a corner and are now 6-2 and top of their division.
The Cincinnati Bengals remain competitive but have slipped to second in their division thanks to a three game losing streak and barely managed to beat the Tampa Bay Bucaneers who staged a remarkable fourth quarter comeback off the back of Ryan Fitzpatrick coming into the game. The Bengals defence is now ranked twenty-fifth in the league and there are real problems in the secondary so losing edge rusher Carl Lawson to a torn ACL really hurts, although at least the Bengals have some depth at pass rusher. Still it feels like they are slipping back, as are the Baltimore Ravens who fell back to 4-4 despite being more balanced this season so suddenly the Pittsburgh Steelers are top of the division. The Carolina Panthers are almost quietly grinding out wins as are the LA Chargers who both have joined the Bengals with five wins but I fancy both teams are in better situations than mine. The Houston Texans have now won five straight and have a two game lead on the Tennessee Titans who have been competitive but struggled and the Jacksonville Jaguars who seem to be imploding. Finally, they may be doing it with strength in the lines and running the ball, which you wouldn’t think would work these days but Washington have five wins and what looks to be a favourable schedule going forward. I’m not sure if I trust them, but they stand atop of the NFC East.
The NFC North is currently split between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears show promise but it is hard to trust Mitch Trubisky and no defence is good enough with the current rules to really dominated as they could in the past. The Vikings are putting up points with Kirk Cousins but the defence has regressed, although there is no shame in losing to the Saints at the moment. The Seattle Seahawks have also now picked up four wins with an improvement on the offensive line and the second ranked defence by DVOA. The Philadelphia Eagles are struggling, but got the win in London and I like the trade for Golden Tate in terms of trying to help this team win now by giving Carson Wentz a proven receiving options. Meanwhile the Miami Dolphins have regressed back to 4-4 as injuries look to have hampered them and whilst Adam Gase can manufacture some offence, you are always going to struggle with Brock Osweiler starting multiple games and I’m just not sure what the long term plan is in Miami.
Lurking with three wins the Green Bay Packers looked good on Sunday, and you wouldn’t have bet against Aaron Rodgers getting the win against the Rams if he’d got on the field with two minutes left but for the aforementioned Ty Montgomery fumble on a kick-off return that put pay to that. I still don’t know what to expect out of the Detroit Lions who run the ball well finally, and do not much else well. They do have a couple of big wins but every time I think they’re turning the corner they lose.
The Indianapolis Colts do seem to be turning a corner despite only having three wins with Andrew Luck looking more like himself. The defence also seems to have improved with rookie linebacker Darius Leonard catching my eye wen I looked at the coaching tape of him last week
However, it’s these next teams where we get into the run of the mill bad teams. The Denver Broncos have some good early wins but the defence just isn’t the same and Case Keenum has not been the answer they hoped for at quarterback. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could well have improved on defence since firing Mike Smith as their defensive coordinator and at least made the last couple of games competitive. But, when Ryan Fitzpatrick is outplaying your franchise quarterback you have a serious issues on offence and it could well mean a complete reset of the franchise in the off-season. The Atlanta Falcons have been so riven by injury that they fall into this tier despite Matt Ryan ranking fifth by Football Outsiders’ DYAR stat, which represents a quarterback’s total value. The Dallas Cowboys have just traded a first round pick for Amari Cooper but it seems like this is a desperate move and despite improvements on defence this team have struggled and who knows what could happen, but I’m not expecting a big turnaround this season although they are only two games back on Washington despite only having three wins.
The final tier gives us the truly awful. The Buffalo Bills at least play hard on defence, even ranking fourth by DVOA but their offence has struggled all year and with Josh Allen’s injury are not even losing productively as Derek Anderson is helping no one develop. This is not quite the same for the Arizona Cardinals who have been equally awful on offence but at least Josh Rosen is showing some moments, I just feel sorry for Larry Fitzgerald who frankly deserves better at the end of a tremendous career. The Cleveland Browns were the first team to fire their head coach, finally letting Hue Jackson go and firing Todd Haley as offensive coordinator as well. The Browns don’t have any history of doing things right in this iteration of the franchise and so it is hard to see things really working out for them in the long term as they need to persuade a really good coach to take over. I just don’t know who that would be given the owner’s history. The San Francisco 49ers at least have an excuse with losing Jerick McKinnon and Jimmy Garoppolo early in the season, but it has to be worrying that more of their young players are not playing better. There could be concerns over the direction the franchise is heading in now the excitement of the takeover by Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch is beginning to fade. The other one win team who at least have some talent are the New York Giants who bet on being able to turn around Eli Manning and were just wrong. They seem to have realised this as they have been trading away players from the defence but this is a lost season and they need to find a new quarterback for next season and shoring up the offensive line would be good idea too.
Finally, and in a world of their own are the Oakland Raiders who have shown flashes of competitiveness, but having traded away both Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, and are clearly tearing things down in Jon Gruden’s first season. It’s one thing to amass all these picks, but they’ll need to hit if they are to make a success of their move to Las Vegas and as the Cleveland Browns showed, you can have all the picks and even amass the talent but without good coaching it won’t win games. I don’t know where this is going as I can’t see into the future, but it doesn’t feel well managed so far, although the Cooper trade at least looks like a good deal.
So there we go, all the teams rushed through and you will have notice a lot more trade talk as this has definitely increased in recent years. The Eagles demonstrated last year what you could do to build a roster with the right trades and have tried it again. The Rams and Saints are both clearly in win now mode with them both making moves before the deadline despite having quarterbacks at very different stages of their career. The Packers traded away several players for picks that might help in the long run but makes things more difficult for Aaron Rodgers, and whilst I wouldn’t bet against him still dragging this team to the playoffs, the trades didn’t exactly help. I think this is a new world that we will get used to and I will be curious to see how much effect the new players will have on the teams they have joined. It’s hard not to be a fan of teams trying more things to win though.