Wow what a week. There is so much to recap, but before I reflect on the week I want to talk about something very serious. So if everyone could put on their thinking hats on that would be great. There was one play from this week that will stick with me, can you guess which one? If you guessed the one that is at the beginning of this then you are correct.

I think that us as football fans, and us as a society in general, need to have a serious talk about football and safety. This topic is something that is not talked about as much as it probably should have. For all of the things that we get upset over when it comes to football, it feels like safety does not come up as often as it should. It is less of an elephant in the room, but more of a shadowy figure that sits in the corner largely unnoticed each fall and winter.

I am not here to tell you that anyone that they should not watch football, I probably will not stop, or that they should not let their kids play it because that is not going to happen anyway. But I think we should have a more open discussion about it(yes things like the concussion trailer spark interest, but that buzz fades after a week).

There is a reason why it has been reported that Roger Goodell’s biggest fear is to have a player die on the field. I wonder if his heart stopped for a moment when Lockette was motionless on the ground. Across Twitter, there were plenty of tweets that said something along the lines of: I thought he died for a moment there. The possibility of a player dying on the field never really seems real until you watch a play like that one which seems to happen about once a season. It is almost this ugly darkness that hangs unnoticed over a football game.

It is plays like that one that make me wonder about the future of football. The NFL will insist that the future is bright, and will be. From a profit standpoint, they are completely right. There is a good reason why the NFL has been talking about making $20 billion in one single season. It is the most popular league in the United States, and is trying to get an international presence, but the success of this initiative is TBD. However, as more information gets out about just how dangerous football can potentially be, I can not help but wonder where football will be in 10, 20, or even 50 years.

Part of the issue that makes me wonder this is the fact that the NFL has attempted to cover up, deny, and diminish the idea that playing football can lead to head/brain injuries. It almost reminds me of how big tobacco companies handled the facts that smoking could cause cancer. The league knows how dangerous the game is, in fact they probably have known just how dangerous it is long before the public became aware. If you have to make an effort to cover up just how dangerous football could be, then it is probably pretty dangerous. Goodell himself testified in front of congress as late as 2009 that there was no link between playing football and CTE. Science said he was dead wrong. A frontline survey found that not only did about 90% of players brains they examined have CTE in their brain tissue, but that 40% of those brains were form lineman. the survey says that the repeated smaller hits that these players get from just playing their position puts them at a greater risk for CTE than simply taking a huge hit.

But here is the incredible thing: No one wants to talk about this. One of the leading scientists that headed up research on these topics is quoted in the article saying the following: “People think that we’re blowing this out of proportion”. It is here that the problem lies. We can’t have a discussion about this problem if people think that it is not a serious issue. For those who don’t think this is not a serious issue, medical science says that you are dead wrong, and hundreds and possibly thousands of retired players would like you to walk a mile in their shoes. I’d like you to look the families of the retired players who could not handle it anymore and killed themselves and tell them that this is not a serious issue. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed, and yet some people don’t want to talk about it.

And for those who doubt that this is the most serious issue for football today, I ask you what else could be more serious? The domestic violence issue is bad, and deserves it’s own attention. However, in 10 years players like Greg Hardy will no longer be in the league and most football fans will have forgotten all about him and what he did. Is that a shame, especially since he is an awful human? Of course, but this will be an issue that will always be present in football, and will be an issue that can continue to kill some of the game’s retired players, and affect thousands more.

Again,  I still don’t want anyone to boycott football, but I just want people to remember that this is a threat that is always present, and is a threat that should be taken very seriously. This is something that we should all be generally aware of.

Phew, that was a lot. Let’s get onto a review of week 8.

Oh my gosh week 8 was ugly. I went 6-8 in pigskin pickem, my second worst week of the year to date. I went with the Jets in eliminator, mostly because I have already used most of the elite teams in the league already. I did alright in fantasy, but with 6 teams on bye and all the injuries that happened Sunday it will be tough for plenty of owners. This week features a shake-up in the power rankings, with a few of the top five teams from last week moving around.

1. New England Patriots(previous: 1)

Was there really another choice here? If you said yes, you are wrong. The Pats demolished the Dolphins, and they continue to be the best team in the league. The defense is getting better, and Tom Brady and company are still rolling. I’m not wasting words here, the Patriots are the best team in the league right now.

2. Denver Broncos(previous: 5)

This team finally proved what I have been saying all season: If Peyton can just be average, this team will go far. Sunday night, the defense excelled, the running game had life, and the OL seemed to be able to block Green Bay’s pass rush well. Sure Manning did not throw a touchdown, but he really did not need to as the Broncos were in control of this game from the start. Even if the team does not trade for an offensive lineman, this could be a positive sign for the Broncos offense, and the team, going forward. This is probably the only AFC team that can challenge the Patriots come playoff time.

3. Green Bay Packers(previous: 3)

Yes, Aaron Rodgers did not even manage 80 yards passing in this game, but I think that was a fluke. The Broncos defense is extremely good, in fact they have the 9th highest defensive DVOA rating of any defense through seven weeks since 1991. This could be one of the best defenses in recent memory. Rodgers is still one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in the game currently(he’s my top qb). This week will be key for the Packers. Rodgers, and the team of course, struggled this year against both the Broncos and the Rams, who both have top defenses this year. Up next is Carolina, which also has a great defense this year. If the team can go out and thoroughly beat the Panthers, they will put themselves in the drivers seat for best team in the NFC. If they flop, the NFC becomes chaos.

4. Cincinnati Bengals(previous: 4)

I really thought that Andy Dalton was going to make my prediction come true and do something boneheaded. Alas, the Bengals did not lose to the Steelers on Sunday, all but assuring that they will be the AFC North champ this year(even going 3-6 to finish the year will probably be just good enough to do that). Cincy’s defense has been one of the better ones in the league this year. One stat that has flown under the radar is just how good the Bengals offense has been. Through seven weeks, they had the league’s top offense according to DVOA, owning the best passing attack in the league. This exemplifies the jump that Dalton has taken this season, and offers promise for Bengals fans going forward into this Thursday’s clash with Cleveland.

5. Arizona Cardinals(previous: 2)

The last five games for the Cardinals have not been very good, and that is exactly why they slid down to five in my power rankings. Their last five games look like this: a loss to the Rams, beating the Lions, a loss to Landry Jones and the Steelers, a victory over the Ravens that came down to the wire even though it should not have, and finally a victory over the Browns this Sunday despite being down 20-7 at one point in the game. Those last five are inexcusable from a team some considered to be the NFC’s best, myself included, after the first month of the season. Carson Palmer has been playing very well, so Cardinals fans can be pleased with that. This is still a team that is among the top 10 in terms of offensive and defensive DVOA, so no one in Arizona should panic. However, I need to see more consistency before I can raise the Cardinals back up in my rankings.

6. Carolina Panthers(previous: 6)

Man was that a sloppy Monday night game. For a large chunk of that game, it looked like the Panthers dominated, but they did allow the Colts to score 17 point in the fourth quarter. The Panthers are one of four undefeated teams in the NFL and the only one left in the NFC. However, an interesting stat from football outsiders says that the Panthers were one of the five worst teams to start 6-0 in terms of DVOA. The Panthers defense should keep this team winning games, but this Sunday’s game against the Packers will show just where the Panthers stand in the NFC.

7. St. Louis Rams(previous: 8)

After those seven teams, there is a drop off that is steeper than many thought to begin the season. I think that the Rams could be pretty good. They currently sit at 4-3, and play the Vikings, Bears, and Ravens the next three weeks. There is a good chance that they could sit at 7-3, which would put them within a game of the Cardinals for first place in the NFC West(the cardinals are off this week, and if they win the next two would sit at 8-2, so one game back). Led by a strong defense and running game, the Rams can grind out wins pretty well.

8. New York Jets(previous: 7)

The Jets are in that group of teams that should contend for an AFC wild card spot. Fun fact about the Jets: they are one of four teams that are in the top ten of both offensive and defensive DVOA through 7 weeks this year. The Jets have an intimidating defense, even though the Raiders made them look a little foolish on Sunday by scoring 34 points. Ryan Fitzpatrick tore some ligaments in his thumb, but there is a small precedent of players playing through that injury. If Geno Smith has to start, it’s against the Jaguars so I would  hope the Jets could pull it out.

 

 

9. Atlanta Falcons(previous: 9)

Like the Cardinals, the last four weeks have not featured strong performances by the Falcons. At 6-2, it is hard to call them bad, but they are definitely not in the top tier of teams in the NFC. However, I will continue to say that they should get to the playoffs behind Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, and an average defense(which they currently have). Are the Falcons as good as we thought they were at the beginning of the season? No, but they are not a bad team either.

10. Oakland Raiders(previous: NR)

There might be something to this Oakland team. Their close loss to the Broncos, and victory over the Jets suggests that they are a talented team. Through week 7 they ranked 14th in both offensive and defensive DVOA. They have a fascinating trio of top offensive playmakers that lead the offense. It is hard to believe that Johnny Manziel was drafted ahead of Carr, and yet he we are. The Raiders are another team in that aforementioned group of AFC teams contending for a wild card.

Next up, in no particular order: Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Seattle, Giants, Buffalo, and Indy.

final football thoughts for the week:

  1. Get well soon Le’Veon Bell. You were arguably the best running back in football, lets hope that you can come back strong!
  2. I hope that Sunday was not the last time that we get to see Steve Smith on a football field, but if it is he will be missed in the league. That dude was a tough S.O.B
  3. I don’t know if it is just me, but this just seems like a weird year in the NFL. I have no idea who the best team in the NFC is. Also none of the wild card teams as of right now really excite me minus the Rams. Yet each of the 5 seeds will get to play a weak opponent I the wild card round. But after my top 6 in the power rankings, I really don’t love any team.
  4. Todd Gurley is really good at football and might already be the best running back in the league.

 

 

Non-football thoughts for the week:

  1. Good for the Royals. Next year should be a fascinating MLB season(I feel like we say that after every world series)
  2. So the first CFP rankings went: Clemson, LSU, OSU< and Alabama. Not a huge fan of putting LSU and Bama in there, especially if they are playing each other this weekend, but I’m not on the committee. Something tells me that after this weekend Baylor will be take over the loser’s spot if they dominate. If Alabama loses their season is done.
  3. Um, what the hell are the Nationals doing with their manager search? A one year offer to an experienced manager? that is never going to cut it.

This week should be back to regular schedule, last week was jammed with midterms.

Ted Van Green(@TVG_5)

Spark Sports NFL Analyst

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