Feb. 26, 2019
Who Fed It And Who Ate It: Week 8
As we near the middle of the 2018 season, the division leaders are becoming more entrenched as favorites to qualify for a postseason berth. However, where some teams have captured the fancy of the football world, our subjects today are teams who are leading their respective divisions, and taking these squads lightly could prove perilous. Without further adieu...
This week's Ass Kicking of the Week occurred (once again) on Thursday, as the resurgent Houston Texans had an offensive outpouring in a 42-23 victory over the Miami Dolphins. When it comes to the Dolphins, their Achilles heel is an overreliance on takeaways. If the defense doesn't steal away opposing possessions, Miami lacks the offense to counter drive to drive. But the team harder to counter are the Texans. Last year, injuries gutted the roster, with general manager Rick Smith working overtime to field a competitive team late in the lost season. The return of so many star players have played a factor in their turnaround campaign. Defensive lineman J.J. Watt and linebacker Whitney Mercilus have come back to remind everyone Houston's defense is back. But the biggest comeback was QB DeShaun Watson, a candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year and someone who quickly became a must see attraction. Watson struggled in September to find his way, but he has come back in a major way, leading the Texans through a current 5 game win streak to put the team at the top of the AFC South. And the Texans are in prime shape with the struggles of their divisional rivals. The Jacksonville Jaguars are in a free fall due to injuries, lackluster play, and locker room turmoil. The Tennessee Titans are fighting just to score points. And the Indianapolis Colts are adjusting to a new head coach in Frank Reich, all the while still rebuilding the roster. While a division title is not set in stone for the Texans, they certainly control their destiny at the moment. Let's see if it stays that way.
The NFC East leaders are the.. . Washington Redskins? That is no misprint. The team regarded as badly outgunned entering this season is now holding close to a two game lead over the rest of the division. How are they doing it? Offensively, the Skins have taken very good care of the ball, among the league leaders in minimizing giveaways. Also, running back Adrian Peterson has turned back the hands of time, running in some games close to his prime. Not bad for a guy who had the appearance of being out of gas & sporting bald tires. Quarterback Alex Smith is chided for being the dreaded "game manager" under center, but what is forgotten is the benefits to that: very few unforced errors in competitive games (hence the lack of turnovers lost) and solid overall play against many teams whose own strengths and weaknesses aren't clearly evident. Like Houston, Washington is also the beneficiary of compromising flaws to their competition in the NFC East. Philadelphia have cooled down since last year's Super Bowl title run, Dallas is still inconsistent, and the Giants are both rebuilding and dealing with internal strife. Because the Redskins are not dynamic on both sides of the ball, they are more susceptible to a drop-off back into the divisional pack. But they are in the best spot; as the team to beat.
The New Orleans Saints defeated the Minnesota Vikings 30-20 in a rematch of last year's Divisional Playoff classic. The Saints are now riding a six game win streak to lead the NFC South. The Saints last year were a really good team. They had offensive balance, between future Hall of Famer Drew Brees still throwing darts and a strong run game with the tandem of Mark Ingram & Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara. And the defense, long regarded an eyesore, was significantly improved with an infusion of young talent. It took a Minneapolis Miracle to end the Saints' march to a second Super Bowl trip. Now, in 2018, New Orleans have picked up where they left off. After getting their doors blown off by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 (which is looking more like an aberration with each passing week), the Saints stand at the top of their division. But they cannot rest on their laurels, as the Carolina Panthers are right behind them at 5-2. As it stands, this looks like the heavyweight fight to decide the champion of the NFC South, and more than likely, a first round playoff bye. With all the attention going to the Los Angeles Rams (and rightly so), don't sleep on the Saints. They are just as likely to represent the senior conference in February.