Ups and Downs in the NFL

Travis Basciotta

Week 6 in the NFL has come and gone, leaving fans nationwide struggling to make sense of what they have witnessed thus far. Traditionally elite franchises like the Steel-ers, Packers, Patriots and Saints have all fallen victim to perennial doormats like the Titans, Seahawks and Chiefs. Two of the top three highest rated passers didn’t take a single snap last year (Peyton and RG3). A year after the Colts successfully completed their “Suck for Luck” 2-14 campaign, not one team remains winless in 2012. Conversely, the only team left blemish-free is the Matty Ice-led Atlanta Falcons, who narrowly avoided a humiliat-ing home defeat at the hands of the Oakland Raiders last week.

Honestly, I have no idea what to make of all of this. I’m more confused than Mitt Romney at a 2 Chainz concert. Parity in the NFL has reached new heights, and a team’s fortune can change on a week-to-week basis. So before next week begins, let’s draw some conclusions with a 3 up, 3 down column.

3 UP:

1. Aaron Rodgers

Packers fans everywhere had been won-dering through five weeks if they needed to discount-double-check if their franchise QB was injured, depressed or simply show-ing signs of regression. But after Sunday night’s 6-touchdown performance, I think the cheese heads can finally rest easy. Green Bay is currently sitting at 3-3, but consider the fact that one of those losses came against an emotional Colts team, while another was stripped of them by replacement officials. For all the criticism he’s received, Rodgers leads the league in touchdown passes and passer rating. Look for the Packers to remain Super Bowl favorites so long as number 12 is healthy.

2. AFC East Teams Not Named the Patriots

The division went 3-1 this week thanks in large part to Jay Feely’s right leg. The Bills had no right to win that game, so they find them-selves in the “Up” column by default. The Dolphins and Jets, on the other hand, cruised to victories over two admittedly bad teams. As difficult as it was to watch them on Hard Knocks this year, the 2012 Dolphins might be harder to watch on the field. But while everybody else has been paying attention to other teams, Miami has quietly compiled a 3-3 record and are tied for first in the division. The Jets had their best win of the season, and silenced any quarterback controversy for the time being. My problem with New York is that they haven’t shown that they can beat a good team yet. Next week against the Patriots will be a huge test for Mark Sanchez to prove he’s capable of leading Gang Green to the playoffs.

3. RG3

The second quarterback taken in June’s draft is already making waves in the nation’s capital. Many questions remain about his du-rability, but RG3 has already proven he has all the tools to be an elite quarterback. This week, he went 17-22 for 182 yards and one touch-down through the air, while amassing 138 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. His play, and the surprising emergence of Alfred Morris, has the Redskins in competition for the NFC East crown.


1. Ravens Super Bowl Odds

On the bright side, the Ravens improved to 5-1 on Sunday with an improbable victory over the Cowboys. However, the win came at the price of starting cornerback Lardarius Webb and team captain Ray Lewis, who are both out for the season. Baltimore’s defense was weak even with Webb and Lewis, so their loss represents a major blow. Jamaal Charles torched them for 140 yards last week, while Demarco Murray and Felix Jones (yes, Fe-lix Jones!) each went for over 90 yards this week. Without an elite defense behind him, Joe Flacco is going to have to play more like Shane Falco (The Replacements anyone?), if the Ravens have any chance at claiming the Lombardi Trophy.

2. Alex Smith

The NFL’s Cinderella story this season fi-nally revealed himself to be a pumpkin this Sunday with an abysmal performance against the New York Giants. Smith was harassed all day en route to zero touchdowns and three in-terceptions. 49ers fans who have consistently praised Smith’s ability to manage games and avoid interceptions were left speechless after the former number one pick failed in both areas. I’ve never subscribed to the idea that Smith is an elite quarterback, and Sunday’s loss proved that there is little room for error if the 49ers want to contend in the playoffs.

3. Jason Garrett

The soulless Cowboys coach looked like he was possessed by Andy Reid during Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. Communication between Garrett and Romo appeared chaotic through-out the game as the play clock dwindled to zero on nearly every play. Despite the poor clock management, Dallas still had a chance to win the game following an onside kick recovery. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, Garrett man-aged to only run one play in over 30 seconds despite possessing a timeout. That resulted in a Dan Bailey 51-yard missed field goal to end the game. The Cowboys showed they have the tal-ent to compete for a title but consistently fail to do the little things (win turnover battle, avoid penalties, make field goals) that separate wins and losses. For that, the blame goes to Garrett.

Contact Travis Basciotta at [email protected]