By Aaron Jackson
This past Sunday was the first Sunday PG (Post Gronk) and I found myself a little more interested in the rest of the league. Mostly because that false sense of confidence Patriots fans had, seemed to have evaporated with the news Rob Gronkowski is out the rest of the year again. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of confidence in New England still. Just that most fans no longer think it’s the Pats on top with the rest of the league well below them. Here are some random thoughts I’ve gathered about this past weekend.
Baltimore Ravens may be better than we thought: Most, including myself, assumed the Ravens would be much closer to the 5-11 team from last year than they would the division leading team of the past. This year’s group screams mediocrity on paper, but they’re somehow making it work. Any doubts I had about them being relevant to the playoff picture died when I saw what they did to the then 7-4 Miami Dolphins on Sunday, beating them 38-6. Baltimore has the best run defense in the league, and Joe Flacco is living up to his contract.
We may need to pump the brakes a little bit on the NFC East: Last week, I declared on The Drive that the NFC East might be the best division in football. I’m now eating those words. The 8-3 New York Giants looked downright awful against a good Pittsburgh team, and the Washington Redskins showed why they’re always a bridesmaid never a bride, by finding a way to lose to the league’s most disappointing team, the Arizona Cardinals. Meanwhile, Philadelphia continued their free fall to under .500 by getting smoked by a dilapidated Bengals. The only team that won from this division this week was the Dallas Cowboys, and even they only managed a 2-point win over a mediocre Minnesota Vikings team.
Oakland Raiders are really good when it counts: It seems like every week the Raiders trail through three quarters, but when they get to the fourth they play like a team possessed. It happened again this week against Buffalo. Rex Ryan’s Bills were dominating the game and looked like they may blow it open, leading 24-9 late in the third before Oakland put it into high gear, winning 38-24. In a 6-minute span late, Derek Carr (future MVP?) helped his team put up 21 points. This was the 6th time this season Oakland has come from behind in the 4th to win a game, often convincingly. That to me is the hallmark of a team ready to make some noise in the playoffs. Carr’s QB rating in the 4th quarter and overtime skyrockets into the 120s, at least a 30 point improvement over every other quarter. That is a mind blowing stat.
Patriots still have very little competition for AFC East title: There was some concern that the Patriots post Gronk might have some competition in their own division. Miami had found a running back, Buffalo was over .500 and the Jets…well they still have a team with uniforms and everything. But after another Pats win plus losses by the Dolphins and Bills, New England has a 3 game lead. They could lose out and probably still win the division.
Super Bowl Hangover? Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers continue to make you shake your head and wonder what’s going. This past weekend Newton was benched after a team “dress code violation”. Derek Anderson started and promptly threw an interception in a game that was never really in question against Seattle.
Aaron Jackson (@AaronRJackson) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.