Out of any team in the league, the Cardinals could be the hardest to figure out. After losing by 13 points at home to the Panthers, they come out and beat the Bears by 20 on the road. Even with this inconsistent play at 5-3 the Cardinals should be looking at another division title as nobody else in the division is above .500.
Much to the dismay of defenses around the league, Michael Turner is finally starting to pick up where he left off last year. In his past two games, Turner has run for over 300 yards to go with three touchdowns. This is a huge boost for the Falcons as Matt Ryan has had trouble taking care of the ball the past few weeks and the running game will open up the offense for Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.
While it was only one game, it looks like the Buccaneers have found their quarterback of the future and will be starting Josh Freeman the rest of the year. Even though he completed less than 50 percent of his passes, Freeman was calm in pressure situations and threw for over 200 yards and three touchdowns without his top receiver Antonio Bryant. The Bucs aren’t going to be making a playoff push this year considering this was their first win, but with Freeman and a few more solid draft classes they could be headed in the right direction.
Considering how many they have drafted over the years, it’s hard to believe it but the Lions need another receiver. Calvin Johnson was double teamed constantly throughout the game and Matthew Stafford forced a lot of his throws which resulted in him throwing five interceptions. While the Lions have bigger priorities particularly on the offensive and defensive lines, they need to try and add another receiver whether it’s through free agency or the draft.
It seems that once a team gets a certain reputation, it is hard for them to lose it. Recent examples of this include the Steelers as a run oriented team and the Jaguars being built around stopping the run. The most recent example: The Ravens winning games on defense. While this unit has showed flashes at times this season, it is a shadow of what it was two to three years ago. There are still young players such as Haloti Ngata with Pro Bowl talent, but with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed both in their 30’s, it may be time to start reloading.
Some of the most well known players in all of football are receivers but it is quite possible that one who is on pace for a career year is underrated. Vincent Jackson not Antonio Gates is quietly becoming Philip Rivers’ favorite target in San Diego. Like Gates, he is a big threat in the red zone as he already has seven touchdowns. Jackson is emerging as one of the league’s best deep threats as well with his 6’5 frame and 17.2 yards per catch. As the Chargers seem to be improving each week, look for Jackson to finally start getting the attention he deserves.
This offseason, the Chiefs gave up quite the haul to acquire Matt Cassel from the Patriots who the year before did an excellent job replacing Tom Brady after his season ending knee injury. The way things have played out so far, it looks as if he may be a one year wonder. Cassel was constantly running for his life against an at best mediocre Jaguars pass rush. Up until the last few minutes of the game, Cassel was only throwing dink and dunk passes and got the ball to Dwayne Bowe only once. Cassel’s numbers say he had a good day with 262 yards and two touchdowns but all of that came when the game’s outcome was already decided. Chiefs fans I have talked to and myself are wondering if Cassel with that supporting cast and his large contract are that much better than Tyler Thigpen who the team traded to the Dolphins earlier this year.
One of the most improved players in the league this year could be Vernon Davis. Entering this year, he was labeled by some as a huge bust who was the definition of a “workout warrior”. Now through eight games he already has a career high with seven touchdowns and is building a very nice rapport with Alex Smith. With his unique build and freakish speed, if Davis appears as committed as he looks, he could be one of the league’s top tight ends for years to come.