1. Reality Check
Green Bay Packer fans this week would have told you that they were hopeful for Brett Hundley’s NFL debut as a starter in relief of Aaron Rodgers. They would have looked pretty smart through the first half of the game against the Saints, but then reality came calling. Without the best player in the NFL, the Packers are just meh. Hundley only managed to complete 48% of his pass attempts while throwing for 89 yards and an interception, for a total QB-rating of 39.8. His first half rushing touchdown couldn’t cover up for the fact that he just isn’t good enough yet. I expect Hundley to improve over time, but Packer fans and fantasy owners should bring down their expectations of playoffs or stellar performances from anyone on this team (besides Aaron Jones) for the foreseeable future.
2. No Cutler, No Problem
Jay Cutler suffered two cracked ribs against the New York Jets this past week and was forced to leave the game. Cutler had delivered probably his best performance of the year before his injury, with over 130-yards and two touchdowns. However, it was the veteran Matt Moore who became the hero of the game, leading a fourth quarter comeback that featured two touchdowns and a game-winning field goal. The Dolphins move to 4-2 in dramatic fashion to make a little more noise in what many thought to be a throw-away season for Miami only seven weeks ago. Now we wait and see if the Dolphins can continue this success without Cutler until he returns and just how far they can go this year.
3. Broncos Stumble, Chargers Find their Stride
The Denver Broncos were at one point considered a favorite in the AFC to threaten for the top of the heap, but now, not so much. A shocking loss to he previously-winless Giants was followed this week by an even more surprising shutout loss to the LA Chargers. The Broncos offense was absolutely horrendous this week and that concern has shown to be more of a consistent issue for this unit than many would have guessed. Meanwhile, the Chargers move to 3-4 after a third-straight win to regain some of their lost pride. The Broncos are falling into dangerous territory now with seemingly every other team in their division figuring things out while they begin to scramble for composure.
4. An Ugly Win is Still a Win
The Seahawks beat a New York Giants team who just can’t make things work without Odell Beckham Jr. and seemingly are destined to struggle this season. The Seahawks didn’t exactly look amazing in this match-up either, however, as they dropped passes early and player-coach altercations off the field drew the spotlight back to chemistry issues that have been discussed all season. But, a win’s a win, and Russell Wilson had his best performance of the season by the end of the day, with 334 yards and three touchdowns to put the Giants out of their misery and salvaged a day that leads many to wonder if Seattle will figure things out and start to string some wins together the way they have in years past.
5. Derek Carr Returns
And the Raiders win! Coincidence? Not at all. The Kansas City Chiefs are now starting to face the big names in the AFC that were of major concern at the beginning of the season, and the Carr-led offense of Oakland proved too much for the Chiefs, one week after the Steelers also overpowered Kansas City. The Chiefs didn’t look bad at all on the offensive side in this contest, as Alex Smith threw for three touchdowns and 342 yards. However, Derek Carr couldn’t be stopped, as he led a fourth quarter comeback on top of 3 touchdowns and 400 yards to bring the Raiders to a 3-4 record. The real silver lining after this game is the fact that with Carr, the Raiders could be Super Bowl contenders, and without him they aren’t even close to a playoff team.
6. Cardinals Fall Back to Earth
One week ago the Arizona Cardinals were on top of the world, as Adrian Peterson seemed to answer all of their problems. This week, however, new problems arose with Carson Palmer suffering a broken arm, which could bring an end to his career. Adrian Peterson rushed for a sad 21 yards showing that there is no cure all for the issues that plague Arizona. It was a rude awakening in a 33-0 loss to the LA Rams that showed just how far the Cardinals are from being competitive.
7. Jacksonville = Sacktown, USA
The offense of the Jaguars itself was impressive against the Colts, scoring two rushing touchdowns and one thrown by Blake Bortles in a shutout 27-0 win. However, he real story of the game was the ten team sacks produced by the defense. This was their second double-digit sack outing, proving that while the Jags aren’t consistent, their defense is perhaps the most dangerous unit in football.
8. Bears Rising
It wasn’t Mitch Trubisky, but the defense of the Bears that proved too much for the Carolina Panthers in an upset this week. Two touchdowns by DB Eddie Jackson were the nails in the coffin of a Carolina team that just could not overcome the defensive pressure of Chicago. With a banged up Vikings team currently on top of the depleted NFC North, it’s John Fox and the Chicago Bears who suddenly see a slight glimpse of hope.
9. New Year, New Teams Leading NFC
The NFC is not the NFC of yester-year. The Cowboys are struggling to find their mojo after losing some of their once-dominant offensive line in the offseason, the Packers have lost Aaron Rodgers, the Falcons seem to have taken a huge step back on offense without Kyle Shannahan calling the shots, and the Seahawks are trailing to the Rams of all teams in their division. It may shock some to see the Rams, Vikings, Saints, and Eagles as the current cream of the crop, but in the NFC, young stars and new faces dominate the landscape.
10. New Year, Same Old AFC
Meanwhile, the AFC has not changed at all. The best team is the Patriots, and the rest are just trying to catch up. The Steelers have shown they can match New England, but consistency due to injuries or other factors always seem to make the difference. Speaking of health, injuries are once again the hurdle stopping Oakland or Houston from seeming like a legitimate threat to New England’s dominance. And then there’s Kansas City. The unarguable best team in the league just a few weeks ago that actually beat New England already. However, no one thinks they can actually get over the hump. People still see Andy Reid and Alex Smith as good, but not good enough because they always seem just a step behind the Patriots and even Pittsburgh. So what do we know? Do not bet against the Brady Bunch, because we all know how this AFC story will end.