Week 8 in the NFL may as well have been called Brett Favre week. With league sweetheart teams like the Steelers and Patriots off, all the bright lights were on Brett Favre as he was set to make his return to Lambeau as a member of the rival Vikings. However, much to the surprise of many, it ended up being just another football game. The Green Bay fans rode Favre all game long, showering him with hearty helping of boos from whistle to whistle. Beyond that, however, it took the form of a typical division showdown. The Vikings were out to prove their supremacy in the NFC North, and Packers had their sights on knocking off the team with the lead. In the end, the Vikings won the game and took a huge step forward in the division race. Here are some other things I learned this week….
The Eagles are better than we all think. They’ve flown under the radar thanks to a mediocre record against a very weak schedule. Their only good opponent, New Orleans, beat them handily, and their other loss came at the hands of the Raiders. If the NFL had a BCS-style ranking system, that loss alone would’ve dropped the Eagles out of the top 25 altogether. BUT, if you take away those two games, they’ve handled their competition, albeit weaker competition, to the tune of double digit margins of victory. They got their first true test today, and dominated the Giants 40-17. Philadelphia’s remaining schedule is anything but easy, so we’ll see if their for real soon.
Alex Smith is better than Shaun Hill. Of course, Joey Harrington is better than Ryan Leaf, fender benders are better than 16 car pileups, and HIV is better than AIDS… so that’s not saying much. However, it was debated going into this week. Today, Alex Smith proved he belongs as the 49ers starter moving forward. He wasn’t great, but he played mostly mistake free – his one interception was a tipped pass – and had a presence in the pocket that Hill did not. The 49ers still have other issues to address, though, namely holding on to leads in the 4th quarter.
Steve Slaton just crushed a lot of fantasy dreams. Coming off a strong year, Steve Slaton had worked his way into the late first / early second round of fantasy draft boards. He has struggled thus far, but has had a few bright spots. Well, today all that came crashing down, as Slaton had one “carry” for a yard before coughing it up, getting benched, and watching his replacement run for 126 yds and 3 TDs.
Jamarcus Russell is who we thought he was. Pardon the overused cliché, but it’s true. Each week, critics are intrigued by how Jamarcus Russell will respond from one week to the next. It’s finally clear that he doesn’t. He plays the SAME GAME week in and week out. He completes one of every three checkdown passes, he otherthrows his receivers wildly on the few long balls he attempts, and most of the time, he holds the ball too long, dances around in the pocket, and gets sacked, fumbles, or forces a throw which results in a pick. Watching Jamarcus Russell is like watching the Bill Murray classic, “Groundhog Day.” Only problem is, I know what happens in “Groundhog Day” so I at least don’t watch it anymore. Hopefully next weekend when the Raiders are on I’ll remember that I’ve seen this already.
There won’t be any 0-16 teams this year……. OR WILL THERE??? St. Louis and Tennessee both got off the hook today with wins. The Rams benefited from playing last year’s big winner’s, the Lions, who, in a great show of sportsmanship, elected to lay down for their opponents since they already had their win for the season. The Titans, on the other hand, opted for a little strategy called “shut down everyone on the Jaguars except Maurice Jones-Drew,” and it worked. Chris Johnson ran for 224 yds and 2 TDs to lead the old Oilers to victory. That leaves idle Tampa Bay (0-7) as the only remaining team without a win. Their remaining schedule is no cake walk either, but they two winnable games on the docket. The Bucs should be able to manage a win against either Carolina or Seattle. If they don’t, their best hope would be to play a New Orleans or Atlanta team that has clinched a playoff spot and thus resting their starters in either of the last two weeks of the season.