B/R's NFL FC Showdown For Week 5: Goin' South

Lou DiPietroAnalyst IOctober 11, 2010

B/R's NFL FC Showdown For Week 5: Goin' South

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    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    NFL Week 5 saw the Kansas City Chiefs (the last remaining unbeaten team in the NFL) take their first loss, the Green Bay Packers nearly see their season flash before their eyes, and, of course, a lovely cell phone photo of what is allegedly Brett Favre’s “Little Gunslinger.”

    The less said about that last one the better, but for the other two topics, there’s the FC Showdown!

    Hello again everyone, I’m your party host, NFL & Philadelphia Eagles FC Lou DiPietro.

    This week, I’m joined by Packers FC Ian Hanley, and we’ll play a game of versus…Pretender vs. Contender, Baseball vs. Football, and Brett Favre vs. Taste!

Topic No. 1: Pretender Or Contender?

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Before the season, there were a handful of teams bandied about as potential Super Bowl representatives. Some have lived up to the hype, some haven’t.

    We won’t discuss Minnesota or Indianapolis here, as they’re up in later topics, nor will we mention the inconsistent Dallas Cowboys.

    However, there are three teams—the Packers, Chargers and Saints—who were expected to be much better, but have been seemingly decimated by injuries or disappearances.

    Without their full rosters, can any of those teams actually be contenders, or are they doomed for a setback and a Top 20 draft pick?

Ian Hanley Says...

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    Win McNamee/Getty Images

    Of those three, there are two contenders and one pretender.

    The Packers have yet to put together a complete game this season, but are still 3-2. At times, they have looked like the team with the potent offense and formidable defense that most thought we would see this season. At other times, they have looked closer to their 2008 incarnation, a team that gives up too many big plays, takes too many penalties and does not know how to win close games.
    The Packers have also had more than their fair share of injuries, but as of yet, none of them should be too big to overcome. The Packers were early Super Bowl favorites for a reason:  they have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. The challenge for them will be to put it all together and play complete games from here on out. So, the Packers are still Contenders.
    The Saints' explosive offense has struggled a bit this season, averaging less than 20 points a game, and the injuries to running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas have been a big factor. Their returns should help get the offense back on track.
    On the other side of the ball, Darren Sharper's return from the PUP list should give the defense a much needed lift. The Saints were one of the leaders in takeaway margin last season, and Sharper’s nine interceptions were a big factor. This year, the Saints’ takeaway margin is -1.

    Still, in the NFC, where no team seems to be head and shoulders above any other, the Saints are still Contenders. 
    The Chargers, then, are the Pretenders.

    They have losses to the Chiefs (who to their credit are much better than most people thought they would be), Seattle (who has been widely inconsistent), and the Raiders, who they had not lost to in the last 13 meetings. What makes the Charges so frustrating is that they always have a ton of talent, but are notorious for getting off to slow starts.
    The good news for the Chargers is that they are in a relatively weak division. The bad news, however, is that they are in the better conference, the AFC. I think the Chargers can go on a run and make the playoffs, but I think they stand little chance against more talented and consistent teams like the Steelers, Jets, Ravens and Patriots.

Lou’s View

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    I actually only agree on one count, as I think all three are Pretenders.

    San Diego’s division is better than it’s given credit for, and they direly miss LT and Vincent Jackson. Ryan Matthews has been hurt and inconsistent, and while Mike Tolbert and Darren Sproles are nice compliments, they’re not going to scare anyone into playing eight in the box.

    That puts the onus on the passing game. Sure, Antonio Gates is elite and Malcom Floyd has been a nice No. 1, but they have no one to be a solid No. 2 WR while Floyd plays Jackson’s role. Again, losing a great receiving back like LT hurts even here.

    The other stat of note: San Diego is 0-3 on the road, and two of those losses were in the Pacific Time Zone to underachieving teams, so you can’t blame jet lag. This is going to be a 9-7 or maybe 10-6 season in San Diego, and that won’t be enough to win a Wild Card spot if KC stays solid or the Broncos get hot.

    Now, onto Green Bay and New Orleans.

    The Packers are Pretenders simply because they’re too beat up. Ryan Grant and Nick Barnett are done for the year, Jermichael Finley is going to miss a few weeks and Aaron Rodgers has a concussion.

    Sorry dudes, but the trio of Matt Flynn, Donald Lee and Brandon Jackson doesn’t scare anyone.

    They could’ve (should’ve) won both of the games they lost, but their three wins are against 3-2 Philly and a Buffalo/Detroit pair that is 1-9. Again, they can probably sneak out 10 wins, but that’ll get them a six seed at best.

    As for New Orleans…yeah, they’re banged up now, but Thomas, Bush and Sharper will be back.

    However, while the first two injuries can explain why they’re 31st in rushing, Sharper’s loss can’t explain why they’re in the bottom third of the league in rush defense—and none of the losses can explain why they can’t hang on to the football or force turnovers.

    They haven’t looked like the invincible Saints of 2009 at all this year, and considering two of their wins are against San Francisco and Carolina, that’s sad. This could be a 10-win season in New Orleans, but that won’t win the South.

Topic No. 2: Who Wants To Win The AFC South?

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Through five weeks, all four teams in the AFC South are 3-2—and they’re all a surprise.

    The Colts, who seemingly start at least 10-0 every year, lost on opening day but have won three of four since. The Texans, who beat Indy in Week 1, started 3-0 but have been clobbered in each of the last two weeks by NFC East teams. Tennessee wins when they should and doesn’t when they shouldn’t, while Jacksonville has ridden two upsets and a game against Buffalo to the top of the division.

    So now that we know who we’re dealing with, who is going to survive?

Ian Hanley Says...

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    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    Parity is the word of the moment in the NFL, and nowhere is that more evident than in the AFC South.
    I don't believe the Jaguars are as good as their 3-2 record would lead you to believe, and they would be the first team I would eliminate from contention in this division.
    Both the Titans and the Texans have looked liked they could be the team to beat in the AFC at times, but a week or two later have lost to inferior opponents. The Texans defense has been suspect and I still have doubts that Vince Young can play at a consistently high level against top tier competition. I think one of these teams will end up claiming one of the wild-card spots in the AFC, but I don't think they are ready to take the division title.
    The Colts defense needs to step up their play, but with Peyton Manning at quarterback, I cannot bet against the Colts, at least in the regular season. Manning takes a lot of heat for his failures in the postseason, but to his credit, the reason the Colts are in the playoffs every year is largely due to Manning's play.

Lou's View

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    I’m going to say Tennessee.

    Odd stat here: all three teams are 3-2, but they’re all 24th or worse in total yards allowed, which means those divisional games are going to be real interesting.

    Jacksonville is 3-2, and they’ll only go as far as Maurice Jones-Drew takes them. That’s how they beat Denver and Indy—neither team can play run defense. They’re 26th in pass offense and 29th in pass defense, and that’s a bad combo. They might sneak out a 9-7 season if they steal another upset or two, but that won’t win it.

    Houston was a fraud at 3-0. They’re dead last in pass defense, 28th in points allowed, and again, beat Indy because the Colts couldn’t stop Arian Foster. They still have to play Baltimore, Denver, KC, San Diego and the Jets, and that could be a 1-4 stretch. Like the Jags, I think they’ll finish 9-7.

    That leaves the Colts and Titans, and I give the latter the edge because Chris Johnson is better than both Jones-Drew and Foster.

    Sure, Indy can rebound, but they’re already 0-2 in the division. One more loss (especially to Tennessee) kills their tiebreaker chances, and since Tennessee plays five of their six divisional games in the final six weeks of the season, they’ll know what they need to do by then to come out on top.

    I will agree, however, and say the South gets both Tennessee and Indy into the playoffs.

Topic No. 3: A Punishable Pee-Pee?

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    You’ve all heard the news by now that former Jets employee Jenn Sterger is making a big deal of some alleged cell phone shots of the contents of Brett Favre’s Wranglers.

    Favre won’t answer questions about it and says it won’t be a distraction. However, the league is looking into it (so they'll likely have questions) and the Vikings looked anything but focused against the Jets—at least in the first half, where Favre was 3-for-7 for 31 yards and the Vikes had a big zero on the scoreboard at halftime.

    So…will it be a distraction, and should the NFL discipline Favre if everything checks out?

Ian Hanley Says...

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    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    If the allegations are true, then yes, I believe Favre deserves a suspension.  Jenn Sterger was an employee of the Jets at the time of the alleged incident, and if true, what Favre did would seem to constitute sexual harassment. I know that if I did what Favre is alleged to have done I would no longer be employed.
    Since replacing Paul Tagliabue as NFL Commissioner in 2006, Roger Goodell has earned a reputation as someone who will not tolerate behavior that shines a negative light on the NFL. Goodell has handed out stiff suspensions to Tank Johnson, Pacman Jones, Michael Vick and Ben Rothlisberger among others, and if the allegations against Favre are proven true, I do not see how Goodell could not suspend Favre. I think there will be way too much pressure on the NFL to take a stand against this type of behavior for it just to be swept under the rug, even with a player of Favre's stature.
    There have been reports that Brett Favre had addressed his teammates before the Monday night game against the Jets to apologize for the distraction this situation has caused. How long this situation is a distraction will depend on how long the NFL drags out the investigation. I think Favre and the rest of the team are going to continue to have to answer questions about the incident until the NFL completes its investigation and hands down a ruling.

Lou’s View

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    Before I go on, let me say I don’t condone the alleged behavior in any non-relational situation. Let me also say that while I don't know who the dude in the middle is, Ryan Grant sure looks scared of Jenn Sterger in that photo.

    I understand and applaud Roger Goodell’s zero tolerance policy…but where was Jenn Sterger in 2008 when this actually happened? Oh, right, it was only minor news then because no one knew who she was (at least as anything other than "that hot chick who goes to Florida State games").

    It’s awful convenient that she no longer works for the Jets. It’s also convenient that this randomly came out when the Vikings were actually playing the Jets, a team who has had one PR nightmare after another.

    Even if this did happen, unless Favre is arrested or charged, I don’t think there’s anything Goodell can do. Every other major “personal conduct” violation Goodell has ruled on happened shortly before the discipline came out, and it would be hypocritical of him to take a two-year-old issue and make it relevant (again, unless Favre is charged in some way).  

    Even a one or two-game slap on the wrist sets the precedent that anything you’ve ever done can get you in trouble, and that’s just not somewhere the NFL needs to go. Honestly, it would be like B/R suspending me for something I did when I worked for WWE.

    As for the distraction, I agree—it’s going to be there until the NFL does something, and will affect the team through the end of any disciplinary action that is meted out.

Bonus Topic: Baseball Vs. Football

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    October is NFL season, but for fans in at least eight markets, it means playoff baseball as well.

    This past Sunday, all three MLB Division Series games were up against the NFL team in one of their home markets—the Rangers/Rays game coincided with the Bucs game, the Giants were on at the same time as the Raiders, and the latter innings of the Phillies/Reds game was in direct competition with the Eagles on Sunday Night Football.

    Sunday was the final game of the Reds’ season and could’ve been curtains for the Rays had the Rangers won, so fans in Cincy and Tampa were likely glued to that.

    But the question remains for everyone: Do the MLB Playoffs cut into your NFL experience?

Ian Hanley Says...

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    I am a huge baseball fan. I have been going to games since I was a little kid, I play fantasy baseball and I follow the game throughout the season.

    However, my allegiance to the NFL overshadows the MLB playoffs, and I think that's true with most Americans. Baseball is "America's pastime," but the NFL is America's league.
    With each NFL team only playing 16 games, it makes every single NFL game count; each game is an event. Baseball, meanwhile, is a six-month marathon, and games seem almost meaningless for a lot of teams and their fans in August and September. By the time the playoffs roll around, three-quarters of the league is out.

    My feelings may have been different if my favorite team made the MLB playoffs…but as a Milwaukee Brewers fan, the MLB postseason conflicting with the football schedule is not something I have to concern myself with very often.

Lou’s View

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    I agree about 95 percent, with the exception being if the Sunday game in question could be the final Yankees game of the year.

    Yes, I’m a New York kid, so despite being an Eagles fan and FC, I root for mostly New York teams (with the Bombers being my baseball team).

    I love baseball and will watch almost any game too, but football takes precedent. Besides, the MLB playoffs are on seven days a week for a month, while (like you said) the NFL is a two day per week event. Unless they’re down to their final loss, I know the Yanks will live to fight another day and I can watch them tomorrow.

    Looking at the MLB Playoff schedule, the remaining Sunday games are Game 2 of the NLCS and Game 4 of the World Series. I couldn’t care less about the former, and my viewing of the latter will depend on whether or not the Yankees are in it and/or if one of the teams is up 3-0.

    Otherwise, there’s always Game 5 the next night.

    Sorry baseball, but you get almost 200 days a year from me; the NFL gets maybe 40, so I cherish that time.