Jonathan – The way the each division is shaping up, we could have some fresh faces in the playoffs this year. With the Colts and Jaguars struggling, the Texans could finally get in after falling short the past few seasons. The 49ers look like the clear favorite in the usually cloudy NFC West. The Raiders are one game behind the Chargers and could challenge them for the division title or sneak in with a Wild Card berth. The two surprise teams of the season, the Bills and Lions, might see their first playoff action in over a decade if they can win enough games in the competitive AFC East and NFC North. The Bucs knocked on the playoff door loud and clear last year with a 10-6 record and again will challenge the Saints and Falcons for the NFC South crown. Even the Bengals have a chance!
Paul – A few times this season, watching one of the league’s pass happy offenses, I’ve lamented how rare it is now for we spectators to spend Sunday afternoon with a workhorse running back. Offenses that rely on running committees and so many short passes have pecked away at the prevalence of players who for three hours, pound, juke, grind, cut and burst their way to stat lines of 26-124, (2). So what a treat it was for my old eyes to watch Adrian Peterson attack the Packers. Had Minnesota not been playing catch up, Green Bay and I likely would have gotten an even bigger dose of the back with the initials AP but the nickname “AD,” an homage to his “All Day” intensity. Peterson’s 24 rushes for 175 yards and a touchdown came in defeat yesterday, but his display of relentless power and speed was a win for anyone who loves watching what could now be considered an “old school” running game.
Tiffany — I don’t think there’s much argument to be had about the degree of difficulty of the AFC North schedules this year. On paper, it looks pretty easy, and so far it’s played out that way. After this weekend, the AFC North is the only division to NOT have a team with a losing record. Not only that, but the top 4 defenses in the NFL, in order, are the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and Cleveland Browns.
Dave – Over the weekend, we looked at Chris Johnson’s steadily declining productivity, and wow did it play out again on Sunday. The Texans limited him to 18 yards on 10 carries. Productivity can be a fickle thing for running backs, but at 26 years old, Johnson should be at his peak. And after his holdout, he’s getting paid like it. Yet he’s averaging just 2.9 yards per carry. It makes you wonder if he’s still psychologically beaten up from all those 25+ carry efforts in 2009 and early 2010. Some seem to think so. Did finally getting his big payday make a difference? Who knows. But to see a 26 year old back (who ran for 2000 yards just 2 years ago) look like a 32 year old on his last legs is pretty mystifying.