Three thoughts on the Week 8 early games, starting with the most shocking final score of the season thus far…
What the hell just happened in St. Louis?
The big joke all week was that the Saints scored more points against the Colts Sunday night than the Rams had scored all season. New Orleans-St. Louis was, like, the mismatch of the year. And then the Rams went out and not only beat the Saints, but dominated them.
This is almost impossible to explain, but we’ll try to do so by stating that the Rams had a darling game plan. They simply ran Steven Jackson down the throat of a defense that had surrendered a putrid 5.4 yards per carry. By building an early lead against a team missing its top back in Mark Ingram, they were able to force the Saints to be one-dimensional. This is what teams did against New Orleans when all of their running backs were hurt last year, and it worked quite often. Then they dialed up the pass rush on Drew Brees, recording a season-high six sacks (didn’t even have to check that stat). The rest is history.
It’s a huge loss for the Saints, who now have to deal with tough division rivals Tampa and Atlanta in back-to-back weeks. They only have two games remaining against teams with losing records, so they can’t afford to lay eggs against terrible opponents.
Updating the Suck for Luck sweepstakes
The St. Louis win hurts the Rams in the race for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Considering that they already play in the NFC West, they might be out of contention before long. That leaves Miami and Indianapolis, both of whom lost during the early slate of games. Both the Dolphins and Colts remain winless, but I’m giving the Suck for Luck edge to the Colts, who have one more loss under their belt and who appear to be getting worse as the season progresses.
In the Dolphins’ defense, they’ve jumped out to early leads in back-to-back games, and they nearly beat a decent Giants team coming off their bye. They’re competing. The Colts aren’t. Indy was outplayed badly by the fairly bad Titans, one week after getting demolished by the Saints. If they can’t beat Jacksonville and/or Carolina in their next two games, they’ll be heavy favorites to land the top pick, which would almost certainly see them land Andrew Luck. And if the Colts don’t win one of those next two games, there’s a decent chance they find themselves in company with the 2008 Detroit Lions.
Sign of trouble in Baltimore
The Ravens once again looked lame against an inferior opponent, but this time they survived. By my subjective measure, Baltimore has played four below-average teams this season: Tennessee, St. Louis, Jacksonville and Arizona. They’re 2-2 in those affairs, and they had to come back from a 17-point deficit to sneak past the Cardinals today.
Here’s the good news for Ravens fans: You won’t have to deal with mediocre teams in January. The question, now, is whether this team can make it to January. While it wouldn’t be surprising to see them win in Pittsburgh next week, they’ll be underdogs. And beyond that, the schedule is very weak. The Ravens “benefit” from playing the AFC South and NFC West this year, which means Seattle and Indianapolis lie ahead, as well as weak division opponents Cincinnati (twice) and Cleveland (twice).
If Baltimore can’t learn to stop taking bad teams lightly, it’ll have a real tough time earning a playoff spot in the AFC.