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NFL: Broncos Reach New Heights While Challengers Fall Away

football

Week seven of the NFL season is now a thing of the past, but what exciting situations it has helped develop. The reigning Super Bowl champions are officially on a losing streak, following the trade of their most explosive playmaker. Their main divisional rivals have also fallen away somewhat, as a combination of free agency, injury, suspension and personal clashes continue to set them back. The Oakland Raiders are officially the last winless team, as the Jacksonville Jaguars won at home against the Cleveland Browns. And, perhaps most shocking of all, the Dallas Cowboys are on a six game winning streak. We’ll review the rest of the action here.

San Francisco Forty-Niners at Denver Broncos (17-42)

The Denver Broncos merely swatted aside their prestigious opposition here. Peyton Manning put on a tremendous display on this, the day he became the NFL’s most prolific touchdown passer. In the process of overtaking Brett Favre’s record, Manning was 22/26 for 318 yards and four touchdowns. Those are astronomical numbers, and they go some way to explaining the unusual blowout of NFC West opposition. Demaryius Thomas has certainly emerged from his early season slump. No doubt Wes Welker’s return, sending Thomas back outside, was a big factor. Thomas added another 171 yards and 2 touchdowns on Sunday Night Football. Can any team contain this guy on the outside? And to think, he was being criticised over drops just a few weeks ago. Denver look awesome.

 

Tough night for the San Francisco Forty-Niners. Going to Mile High is pretty daunting at the best of times, but they have been shorn of so many of their top quality linebackers, which have been the key to making this defense tick. Yet, this is another year with Jim Harbaugh rejigging the secondary, and another year where it doesn’t look to have improved much. The run game was non-existent here, with Frank Gore going for twenty yards on nine attempts. These Niners are in the midst of an identity crisis. They have some serious depth at wide receiver, though.

Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers (23-20)

Huge win in this divisional clash for the Kansas City Chiefs. Away from home, falling behind in the divisional race, they desperately needed to pull one back here. They did so by running the football well, eking time off the clock, and seeing Alex Smith play really efficiently, completing 19/28 for 221 yards and a touchdown. The Chiefs defense mostly kept Philip Rivers at bay, and refused to give up a touchdown on the ground. In the end, Jamaal Charles’ 22 rushes for 95 yards were decisive. That is one great running back they have. It’s just a wonder Andy Reid forgets to give him the ball in some games. The Chiefs are back to 3-3 now, and right in the hunt for a wild card slot.

This loss by the San Diego Chargers may have sucked a lot of air out of their momentous run of late. The Chargers had control of the ball for exactly 21 minutes in this encounter. That is nowhere near enough time for any team outside of Philadelphia to win a game. Even with Philip Rivers playing lights out football, he needs more time with the ball. The defense couldn’t shut down Jamaal Charles on the ground, and ultimately it cost them. That defense gave up a 50% conversion rate on third down. That just won’t get it done in big games like this.

Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts (0-27)

Contrasting fortunes were very much on show in this one. The Indianapolis Colts lost their first two games of the season, but have rebounded to win five on the bounce. They dominated from first ‘til last in this one, even registering a very rare shutout. The offense has rightly received a lot of plaudits, with Andrew Luck enjoying life with his great ensemble of weaponry. Yet it is the much improved defense which is the real difference for the Colts this year. Their heavy pressure philosophy is paying off right now, sacking quarterback Andy Dalton four times. They kept Dalton under a 50% completion rate, putting their team in a great position to win. A big statement win for Indy.

What a fall from grace for the Cincinnati Bengals. Three weeks ago they were unbeaten. A three week winless streak has even seen them bumped off the divisional lead. They were thoroughly beaten in this one, with Andy Dalton under pressure all day. The Bengals have lost both of their starting wide outs, and taking away the yards after catch potential of A.J. Green and Marvin Jones has seriously reduced this team’s explosiveness. The Bengals may well look to pound the ball on the ground in coming weeks. The drop off in production of their defense is startling, too. This unit was once one of the most feared in football. Now they just look like overhyped big name guys. The Bengals need to get out of their slump fast, starting against the Baltimore Ravens next week. What a huge clash that is for the AFC North.

New Orleans Saints at Detroit Lions (23-24)

The Detroit Lions continued their strong start to the season with an impressive come from behind victory here. That they did so without Calvin Johnson suiting up  is a sign of real maturity and progress for this Lions team, who have depended on Megatron so much over the years, often forcing the ball to him in hopeless situations. The play of Matt Stafford continues to be a concern though, as he threw another two interceptions here. Part of the blame has to be attributed to his offensive line, which has seen him sacked an average of 3.5 times per game this year. Constantly running for his life isn’t helping, but Stafford still makes his fair share of questionable decisions. In his defense, that Lions offense scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes to win the game. As long as his defense continues to play to such a high level, the Lions can survive Stafford being Stafford. But when the day comes that mistake-free football is essential, how will Detroit fare?

Heartbreaking loss for the New Orleans Saints in this one. They usually struggle so much on the road, but they had the lead here right until the death. Drew Brees has been a shade off colour this season, and again here as he only completed 28/45 passes. 342 yards and two touchdowns sounds great, but his interception was the vital play in the game. New Orleans scored two field goals in the fourth quarter. Detroit scored two touchdowns. Receivers Marques Colston and Kenny Stills both went for over a hundred yards, but the Saints underperforming defense let Golden Tate go for 154. That unit has to improve dramatically for the Saints to make it to January.

Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers (17-38)

The Green Bay Packers won this game comprehensively. Aaron Rodgers only had three incomplete passes, finishing 19/22 for 255 yards and three touchdowns. As you can see, he had fun up against that revamped secondary. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson continued their fine form, going for two hundred yards between them. They recorded a touchdown apiece to effectively put the game out of sight. Eddie Lacy rushed for a little over five yards per carry, and is getting stronger as the season goes on. Their pass rush deserves a lot of praise though, overwhelming the offensive line to sack Cam Newton three times. The Packers are back on track.

The Carolina Panthers have their fair share of problems. Cam Newton’s offensive line is giving him minimal help, and he doesn’t cope particularly well with pressure in his face. He played ok on Sunday, operating in his dual threat role to some success. The return of Jonathan Stewart to the line up aided him, and Greg Olsen continues to prove a phenomenal threat at tight end. Yet this Panthers defense struggles to stop the run and the pass. Their secondary from lasts season was mostly dismantled, with the replacements failing to live up to the previous mark. Their inability to stop the run, a hallmark of the playoff side, is really troubling. If Carolina doesn’t start winning up front, they won’t stay on top of the NFC South for much longer.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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