50 Most Important Things We Learned from the NFL's Week 8

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIOctober 31, 2011

50 Most Important Things We Learned from the NFL's Week 8

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    With Week 8 of the NFL season in the books, there was plenty that we learned during another exciting NFL week. It wasn't the greatest slate of games, but each game brought a little excitement for the football fan.

    From rookie quarterbacks dueling it out in Carolina to the St. Louis Rams beating the New Orleans Saints (seriously, that happened), here are the top 50 things we learned from NFL's Week 8.

The Giants Are the Team to Beat in the NFC East

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    There is reason to dance and celebrate in New York after the New York Giants had a fourth-quarter comeback against the Miami Dolphins to improve their record to 5-2 on the season.

    With both the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins all currently sitting at 3-4, the NFC East is the Giants' division to lose.

    I can't see that happening as they look way better than any other team in their division.

The Miami Dolphins Could Go 0-16

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    Even when the Detroit Lions went 0-16 a few years back, no one really thought they wouldn't win a game this early in the season.

    However, after the Miami Dolphins lost to the New York Giants, it is safe to say a winless season is a giant possibility for this team. It all starts with the quarterback, and as long as Matt Moore is under center, this team will be the underdog in every game for the rest of the season.

    "And with the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins select Andrew Luck..."

Eli Manning Is Proving His Critics Wrong

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    Not only is Eli Manning on pace to have the best statistical season of his career, but he is also proving he is a winner along the way.

    With back-to-back games where Manning has needed to either get his team in scoring position or provide his team with points, he has done just that. His clutch play this season has gone a long way to silencing his numerous critics.

    The New York Giants appear to be the team to beat in the NFC East and that is in large part due to the stellar play of Manning.

Reggie Bush Is a Viable Fantasy Option

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    Before the season started, every "expect" seemed to predict Reggie Bush was going to have his best fantasy season ever for the Miami Dolphins.

    We all know that never happened, but after his impressive performance in Week 8, it is safe to say Bush is back as a viable fantasy option.

    Should rookie Daniel Thomas not be 100 percent next week, look for Bush to have another big week while carrying the load for the Dolphins.

Matt Schaub Can't Wait to Get Andre Johnson Back

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    Even though the Houston Texans won, Matt Schaub continued to struggle without Andre Johnson.

    While he had 225 passing yards and a touchdown, it wasn't nearly as much as he should have had against a very poor Jacksonville defense. Schaub barely completed 50 percent of his passes and is missing a true top target in his receiving corps.

    When Johnson finally comes back from a hamstring injury, look for a giant smile on Schaub's face.

Blaine Gabbert May Not Be Better Than Luke McCown

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    It was another rough day for Blaine Gabbert, who posted a 26.7 quarterback rating and failed to throw for 100 yards on 30 attempts.

    Sure, Luke McCown had a worse game earlier in the season, but Gabbert didn't look much better on Sunday than McCown did six weeks ago. I know he is just a rookie, but with so many rookie quarterbacks playing so well, Gabbert absolutely looks like the worst of the bunch.

    It could be a very long season for the Jacksonville Jaguars if Gabbert and McCown are the only options at quarterback.

Arian Foster Is the Best Running Back in the AFC

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    Yep, that's right. Arian Foster is the best running back in the AFC.

    The only players that come close to Foster right now are Fred Jackson and Darren McFadden, but even they are a step behind him in overall talent. Foster is completely healthy now and is absolutely shredding defenses.

    If he continues on his current pace, he could very well be the league leader in rushing yards by the end of the season.

Dropping David Garrard Was the Dumbest Decision of the Offseason

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    When the Jacksonville Jaguars let David Garrard go, every jaw in the city of Jacksonville dropped to the floor.

    Not only was it the most surprising move of the offseason, it has also turned out to be the dumbest decision of the offseason. While the Jaguars may not have been fighting for the division lead with Garrard, they absolutely wouldn't be as bad off as they are.

    I can't help but think Garrard is sitting at home laughing every single time Blaine Gabbert or Luke McCown throw the football.

AFC South Is the Texans' Division to Lose

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    This may finally be the year for the Houston Texans to get to the playoffs. The past two weeks have been very impressive performances from this team.

    The only real threat in the AFC South is the Tennessee Titans, whom Houston absolutely destroyed two weeks ago. This offense is as explosive as ever and the defense is improving with each week.

    A first-round bye isn't likely, but Houston should be hosting its first every playoff game come January.

Baltimore Is Overrated

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    The fact the Baltimore Ravens needed a last-second field goal and a late comeback to beat the 1-6 Arizona Cardinals shows this team is overrated. When you look at this week and the pitiful loss last week to the Jacksonville Jaguars, it isn't looking good for Baltimore.

    On the surface, it's hard to find a problem with this team. While the defense is old, it's still fundamentally sound, which leads me to believe the problem is on offense.

    If Baltimore can't string together a few impressive performances, it might miss out on this year's playoffs.

Arizona Is the Second-Worst Team in the NFL

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    With the St. Louis Rams winning today, the Arizona Cardinals have taken their place as the second-worst team in football. Yes, I know the Indianapolis Colts are still winless, but I would personally take them over Arizona at this point.

    This whole team is a mess, and with its sixth straight loss, I can't see it getting any better.

Joe Flacco Is Far from Elite

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    Not only is Joe Flacco having his worst statistical season, but his play is a huge reason why the Baltimore Ravens have been so hot and cold this season.

    At this point in his career, Flacco has a long way to go before being considered one of the elite quarterbacks. I don't care how many games his team wins because he isn't really the one winning the games, it is the defense.

    Right now it is hard to distinguish who is a worse young quarterback, Mark Sanchez or Flacco. That is bad news for the Ravens.

Beanie Wells Is a Franchise Running Back

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    Look, the biggest knock on Beanie Wells has always been his durability. Now that he has been able to stay relatively healthy, he is showing everyone the type of franchise running back he can become.

    Wells is on pace to shatter his career best in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns. He also looks like one of the better young running backs in the NFC.

    There haven't been many bright spots for the Arizona Cardinals this year, but Wells is one of them.

Steven Jackson Is More Crucial Than Sam Bradford

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    There haven't been many players that are more underrated than Steven Jackson in recent years. Yes, he struggles with injuries, but so would you if you were carrying the entire franchise on your back.

    However, now that he is healthy, he is proving just how valuable he is to this franchise and he is absolutely more valuable than Sam Bradford.

    Even with A.J. Feeley leading the St. Louis Rams into battle Sunday, they were able to beat the heavily favored New Orleans Saints. I think we all know the reason they won, and it wasn't Feeley's outstanding play.

    It was because Jackson dominated from start to finish.

This Loss Shouldn't Be Taken Lightly for New Orleans

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    Some losses by good teams to bad teams can be called a fluke and completely written off. I don't believe that this was that kind of loss by the New Orleans Saints.

    Losing to an 0-6 team after dropping more than 60 points the week before is a major red flag. Hopefully this isn't the beginning of a major landslide.

Christian Ponder and Cam Newton Are Future Stars

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    You can throw Andy Dalton in the mix with Christian Ponder and Cam Newton, but during the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings game, it was clear to see that these two quarterbacks are going to be absolute stars.

    Newton had one of his best overall games, and Ponder was very impressive in only his second career start. With these two quarterbacks, the NFL is in good hands.

Neither of These Teams Are as Bad as Their Records Might Suggest

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    Both the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers are sitting with a 2-6 record. However, neither team looks like a 2-6 team.

    Each team has tons of talent, but they are struggling with getting that talent to perform for a full 60 minutes. While the playoffs won't happen for either of these teams this year, I still wouldn't want to have them on my schedule late in the year.

Jared Allen Should Be Frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year

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    Simply put, there just hasn't been a more dominating defensive player this year than Jared Allen.

    It's crazy to think he is constantly overlooked by other pass-rushers like DeMarcus Ware and Clay Matthews. Allen is playing like the best pass-rusher in the league, and after adding another sack on Sunday, he has the all-time single-season sack record in his sights.

Minnesota Needs an Elite Receiver

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    I love Percy Harvin's athleticism and ability, but the truth is that he isn't an elite receiver. He also shouldn't be the top receiver for any team.

    Harvin is better suited as the No. 2 receiver where he isn't under so much pressure to perform each game. With Christian Ponder looking every bit the franchise quarterback Minnesota hoped he would be, he needs a true elite target to get the ball to.

    Look for the Vikings to make a major splash in free agency as they go after a big-name wide receiver like Vincent Jackson or Dwayne Bowe.

This Was Cam Newton's Best Professional Game

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    Forget the fact the Carolina Panthers lost for a moment and look at Cam Newton's statistics from Sunday's game.

    Newton completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns. While those are great, the nicest statistic from Sunday was his zero interceptions. It's hard to watch Newton play and not think how high of a ceiling he has.

    If he continues to improve like he has in his first year, a Pro Bowl bid is a guarantee next year.

Indianapolis Will Win a Game This Year

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    The Indianapolis Colts will win a game this year. In fact, I guarantee they will win at least three games this year.

    Living in Tennessee I was unfortunate enough to have to watch this game on my local CBS channel. The one thing I noticed is that Curtis Painter is improving. He's no Peyton Manning, but he isn't as bad as everyone thinks he is, either.

    Painter will lead the Colts to a win this year and get them out of the "Luck Sweepstakes."

Tennessee Isn't as Good as Its Record

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    While 4-3 isn't an overly impressive record, the Tennessee Titans are still worse than you would think with that type of record.

    I'm sorry, but when Matt Hasselbeck is your best offensive player, your offense isn't that good. And the defense isn't that good, in case you were wondering.

    I expect the Titans to finish the year with a 6-10 record, and even that is gracious.

Chris Johnson Is Awful

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    This might make people angry, but it's the truth: Chris Johnson is awful.

    On Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, Johnson was only able to muster 34 yards on the ground. If you take away his longest carry of the day for 11 yards, he had 13 carries for 23 yards, which would make his yards per carry average 1.8.

    Expect to see more Javon Ringer in upcoming weeks because of the poor, poor play of Johnson.

The Colts Need to Draft a Running Back, Not a Quarterback

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    Neither Joseph Addai, Donald Brown or Delone Carter are the future running backs for the Indianapolis Colts.

    All three players have major flaws and haven't come close to proving they can handle a full load and produce in this offense. While Andrew Luck is a very good prospect, a running back is what this team really needs.

    If I were in Indianapolis, I would be hoping my team drafts a player like Trent Richardson instead of Luck.

Tim Tebow Isn't Better Than Kyle Orton

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    Hey, Denver Broncos' fans, how are you liking Tim Tebow now?

    Anyone who thinks Tebow is a franchise quarterback should be forced to sit in front of a TV for 24 hours and watch his game on repeat. He looked overmatched constantly while having two turnovers that were turned instantly into six points.

    I guarantee that if Kyle Orton were quarterbacking this game, the Broncos wouldn't have lost 45-10.

We Should Have Never Doubted the Detroit Lions

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    After losing two straight games, people were starting to doubt how good the Detroit Lions really were.

    However, after a massive victory over the Denver Broncos, those people are now realizing they should have never doubted this team. Matthew Stafford is really good and Calvin Johnson is otherworldly. This defense is also much better than people give them credit for.

    The Lions probably won't catch the Green Bay Packers, but they are well on their way to a playoff berth.

Running the Football Isn't the Problem in Denver

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    Against the Detroit Lions, the Denver Broncos had three different players rush for at least 60 yards. Tim Tebow, Knowshon Moreno and Lance Ball combined for a total of 195 yards on the ground.

    Running the ball clearly isn't the problem for the Broncos. They have done a good job all year moving the sticks on the ground.

    Instead of letting Tebow throw 39 times in a game, they should have let Ball and Moreno run the ball a little more. Sure, they still wouldn't have won, but they wouldn't have lost as badly either.

Detroit Can't Wait for Jahvid Best to Return

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    Jahvid Best takes this Detroit Lions offense to another level with his playmaking ability.

    As good as Detroit was Sunday, it would have been even better with Best in the lineup. In order for this team to make a deep playoff run, the Lions are going to need to be able to run the football.

    Without Best, I don't see that happening.

Washington Fooled Us All

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    After starting the season 3-1 and being a popular sleeper pick in the NFC East, the Washington Redskins have dropped their last three games.

    I'm not even sure if this team is as good as a 3-4 record would suggest. The Redskins looked completely overmatched against the Buffalo Bills and couldn't get anything going on offense or defense.

    This team once looked like it would challenge for a playoff spot, but now it will be struggling to stay out of the divisional cellar for the rest of the year.

This Was a Must-Win for Buffalo

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    Coming out of the bye week after a tough loss to the New York Giants, the Buffalo Bills needed a victory in the worst way.

    In order to stay right in step with the New England Patriots and the New York Jets, Buffalo couldn't afford coming out and having a poor performance. Well, it proved it belongs atop the NFC East standing with an impressive victory over the Washington Redskins.

    As good as their offense has been this year, the Bills' defense was what was so impressive on Sunday. This team absolutely looks like a playoff-bound team.

The Redskins Should Consider Joining the "Suck for Luck" Campaign

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    First it was Rex Grossman playing horrible football. Now it's John Beck. Is there anyone left in Washington to play quarterback?

    It may to too late for this, but if I were in Washington, I would be rooting for my team to lose every game here on out for a chance at Andrew Luck.

Fred Jackson Is the Best Dual-Threat Running Back in the NFL

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    Through seven games, Fred Jackson has 721 rushing yards and 353 receiving yards. He is easily on pace to surpass 2,000 total yards this season.

    Jackson has been one of the most exciting players to watch this season and he continued to impress on Sunday with another 100-yard rushing effort.

    People often talk about Ray Rice, Darren McFadden and LeSean McCoy as the best dual-threat backs in the league, but Jackson surpasses them all.

We Will Be Hearing About "Dalton to Green" for a Long Time

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    The instant connection between Andy Dalton and A.J. Green is fantastic. These two players have had a great connection all season and it continued Sunday.

    Green caught another long touchdown pass from Dalton in the second quarter against the Seattle Seahawks. This is a combination and connection that we will be hearing about for a very long time in the NFL.

Charlie Whitehurst May Be Better Than Tarvaris Jackson

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    As bad as Charlie Whitehurst is—and he is really bad—Tarvaris Jackson may be a worse quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks.

    With each game that passes, the move to sign Jackson looks worse and worse. If I were in the Seattle front office, I would seriously consider holding open tryouts to find a new quarterback.

    There has to be some common "Joe Schmo" better than these two.

The Bengals Are Legit

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    The AFC North is without a doubt the toughest division in football and the Cincinnati Bengals are legitimately hanging with the big boys.

    With the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers both playing hot-and-cold football this year, Cincinnati has actually been the most consistent team out of the bunch. Its current 5-2 record is no fluke—this team is legit.

Frank Gore Should Never Be Doubted

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    After starting the season with three subpar performances, Frank Gore has been on a rampage in his last four games.

    In each of those games, Gore has easily eclipsed 100 rushing yards and has a touchdown in each game. He is proving all of his early-season doubters wrong while carrying the San Francisco 49ers to the playoffs.

    I'll be the first to admit I wrongly doubted Gore. Now everyone else say the same thing.

Cleveland Is Close to Becoming a Contender

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    The Cleveland Browns were a popular dark horse pick to make the playoffs this year, and in reality, they aren't very far off.

    This is absolutely a team on the rise with plenty of weapons on both the offensive and defensive side of the football. Give this team a few years and it will be fighting for a divisional crown.

San Francisco Is the Second-Best Team in the NFC

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    Standing behind the Green Bay Packers as the second-best team in the NFC is no longer the New Orleans Saints. That honor now belongs to the San Francisco 49ers.

    This team is playing fantastic football on both sides of the ball. It has won five straight games and it's hard to picture this team losing anytime soon.

    Don't be surprised if San Francisco is nipping at the Packers' heels all season long for the top overall seed in the NFC.

Peyton Hillis' Time Is Up in Cleveland

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    This was the second straight game Peyton Hills sat out from, and his third on the season. Even when he has been on the field, he hasn't been very impressive.

    He only has 211 rushing yards on 60 carries and doesn't look anything like the player he was last year that earned him a spot on the Madden 12 cover. With Hillis set to hit free agency in 2012, I can't see the Cleveland Browns wanting to sign him.

Jim Harbaugh Is the Coach of the Year

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    We all knew what to expect from the Green Bay Packers and Mike McCarthy, but who could have honestly predicted Jim Harbaugh would have the San Francisco 49ers sitting with a 6-1 record heading into November?

    His work with Alex Smith has been legendary and he has this team believing it can win every single week. Is it possible to give him the Coach of the Year award right now?

Pittsburgh Is the Team to Beat in the AFC

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    Heading into this game, many thought that this could be an early-season preview of the AFC Championship game.

    Well, the game didn't disappoint in the excitement category and the Pittsburgh Steelers proved they are the team to beat in the AFC. While I still like the New England Patriots in the winter in the playoffs, this was a huge win for Pittsburgh.

Tom Brady Won't Break Dan Marino's Record

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    Not only was Tom Brady on pace to break Dan Marino's record of passing yards in a single season, he was on pace to shatter that record.

    However, it now appears to be a very unlikely for Brady to do so after throwing for only 198 yards Sunday. It's possible that he could have a few monster games to make up for this one, but with cold weather approaching, it probably won't happen.

    While Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees still have an outside shot at breaking the record, Brady lost his chance Sunday.

Pittsburgh's Offense Has Weapons Galore

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    While some of us may have known this before Week 8, the depth and vastness of the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive weapons became very clear on Sunday.

    From Mike Wallace and Heath Miller to Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, this is one of the top receiving groups in the league. Throw in Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore and it must feel like Christmas Day every time Ben Roethlisberger steps on the field.

    For a team that is known for its defense, the Steelers offense has been making the most noise so far this season.

Wes Welker Can Be Stopped

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    After posting only two games so far this season of less than 100 receiving yards, the Pittsburgh Steelers did a fantastic job of shutting down Wes Welker.

    The key to stopping Welker is apparently playing him very physically. He had a season-low 39 receiving yards and looked defeated all game long.

    The best way to beat the Patriots is to slow down Tom Brady and the best way to do that is to take away his top receiving target, Welker.

The Eagles Aren't Done Just Yet

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    The Philadelphia Eagles started the season 1-4, but since then they have won two straight games to pull into a three-way tie for second place in the NFC East.

    Nearly everyone started to write the Eagles off three weeks ago, however after two straight impressive victories, they look poised to make a mid-season run and push for a playoff spot.

    Look out, everyone—Philadelphia appears to be back.

The Cowboys Are Done

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    I just can't see how the Dallas Cowboys recover from a game like this.  It is one thing to get beat by a division rival, but it is another thing entirely to get beat 34-7 by a division rival.

    There weren't many positive things the Cowboys could take away from this game, as they were beat in nearly every facet of the game. The offense looked horrid and the Philadelphia Eagles made this defense look like absolute fools.

    The Cowboys looked ready to battle for the NFC East crown, but that doesn't appear to be the case anymore. Now they will simply be trying to keep pace with the Washington Redskins.

LeSean McCoy Is Really, Really Good

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    If there is one player on the Philadelphia Eagles who doesn't get enough credit for the work he does, it's LeSean McCoy.

    Seriously, he has been the best offensive player for Philadelphia all year long. He can run, he can catch, he scores touchdowns and he does all of this rather consistently.

    Not only is McCoy a lock for a Pro Bowl bid, but he is slowly creeping up on Adrian Peterson as the best running back in the NFC.

DeMarco Murray Was No Fluke

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    After having a record-setting day against the St. Louis Rams, people weren't quite sure whether he was a one-hit wonder or franchise running back.

    Well, he put together another impressive performance Sunday night to show people he is the future for the Dallas Cowboys. Sure, he didn't run for 200 yards, but he had 74 yards on only eight carries for an average of 9.3 yards per carry.

    The problem for Murray was that the Cowboys were down 21-0 early in the second quarter and were forced to play catchup the rest of the game. If Dallas gets Murray more carries, he will reward them with great performances.

Tony Romo's Time in Dallas Is on Thin Ice

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    Tony Romo is generally the mark of consistency at the quarterback situation. Actually, Romo is generally the mark of consistency from the start of the season until mid-December. He then implodes from then until the playoffs.

    However, this year it has been too many up-and-down performances from Romo for the Dallas Cowboys to honestly believe he is still the answer at quarterback. Don't be surprised if Jerry Jones decides to draft a quarterback in the 2012 NFL Draft to replace Romo within the next two years.

The Green Bay Packers Are Still the Best Team in the NFL

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    Even though the Green Bay Packers didn't play this week, they are still the team to beat in the NFL.

    No team played well enough to dethrone them and only a few teams—the San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers—inched closer to their tails.