By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
The playoff picture is starting to come in clearer as the second half of the NFL season begins. Let’s look back at the top stories from last week.
Come On Back!
As soon as I finished writing my story on whether or not New Orleans and Indianapolis would go undefeated, both teams required fourth quarter comebacks to keep their perfect streaks alive.
Facing off against the red-hot Houston Texans, the Indianapolis Colts, behind QB Peyton Manning’s seventh 300-yard game, took down the Texans 20-17.
A fourth quarter touchdown with seven minutes left and a Kris Brown missed field goal at the end of regulation sealed coach Jim Caldwell’s 8-0 start, the best rookie coach start since 1930. Manning also became the first QB in a decade to throw for 40,000 yards.
Indianapolis’ streak is on the line in a tough showdown with New England next week.
Heading down South, the New Orleans Saints have taken the last few weeks to practice their fourth quarter theatrics. For the third straight week, the Saints came back from a double-digit deficit to remain perfect.
QB Drew Brees threw for over 300 yards, overcoming two early turnovers, as he kept the Saints with a great chance to run the table. They have two winnable matchups on the table, but they need to start playing four quarters of football.
Draft Day Revenge
In 2004, QB Eli Manning was drafted by the San Diego Chargers. Thirty minutes later, Eli Manning was a New York Giant, and Philip Rivers, and eventually Nate Kaeding and Shawne Merriman, were Chargers with the draft picks they grabbed in the trade.
Since then, Manning has a ring, but in 2009, it looks like Rivers could be marching toward the title.
The two met on different sides, San Diego winning two in a row and the Giants losers of the past three. Those streaks continued as San Diego used an 80-yard drive to cap a 21-20 victory. Rivers exploiting the weak Giants secondary and New York penalties were just two reasons the Giants go into the bye week at a pedestrian 5-4.
It’s still too early to say whether Manning or Rivers is better, but the two will be battling for that title for a while.
The Final Frontier
The hardest win for a rookie coach and a rookie QB is the first one. For Tampa Bay’s new leading men Raheem Morris and QB Josh Freeman, they both earned their first one last week, taking out Green Bay 38-28.
It may have taken eight weeks, but in Freeman’s first start, he managed the Buccaneers well, throwing for three touchdowns, and a complete effort helped the Buccaneers snap an 11-game losing streak dating back to last season.
Ronde Barber’s blocked punt return for a touchdown helped tie the game early in the second quarter, and Tanard Jackson’s interception for a touchdown sealed the game in the fourth.
While it is still too early to anoint Morris and Freeman saviors in Tampa Bay, the first win is always the biggest hump to get over.
Contenders and Pretenders
The playoffs are knocking—who is going to answer the door?
What does a 4-0 record in the AFC North get you? For the Cincinnati Bengals, it’s a 6-2 record and sole possession of first place right now, thanks to their season sweep over the Baltimore Ravens.
The Dallas Cowboys have won their fourth straight game and now sit with a one-game lead over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.
While some teams are perfect, others are perfectly inept.
With a shot at gaining some ground in the NFC North, both Chicago and Green Bay lost, pushing them a full three games behind the Minnesota Vikings.
Another game, another loss for the Washington Redskins, who have now lost four in a row. The Redskins have yet to win a game on the road in 2009.