In CBCSports.ca's weekly chatter, our guys weigh in on the inspired Indianapolis Colts, the Steelers' big win against the Giants, Green Bay's chances of catching Chicago, and the best rookie not named Andrew Luck or RG3.
The surprising Indianapolis Colts (5-3) won their third straight game with an inspired victory over the Miami Dolphins. Can the Colts actually make the playoffs this year?
Jason Davidson: If your quarterback can break a record for passing yards in a game by a rookie (433) then why not. And this team could very well build off Chuck Pagano's emotional post-game locker room speech. What should be of concern for the Colts, though, is that they're third lowest in points scored (159) in the entire AFC. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs are worse in that category. Indy will be in tough down the stretch with a pair of games against the Houston Texans but they have a good chance to make it four wins in a row Thursday night when they face the Jags in North Florida. A wild-card spot is a definite possibility if they win the games they should.
Jesse Campigotto: I'm not sure the Colts are a good team. Yeah, they're 5-3, but their minus-32 point differential suggests sub-.500 quality, and their schedule has been soft in terms of both opponents and proportion of home to road games (5 to 3). But "not quite good" might be good enough this year in the AFC. Right now Indy and Pittsburgh (5-3) occupy the two wild card spots, with San Diego and Miami (both flawed 4-4 teams) next, followed by a slew of 3-5 teams. If the Colts can just go 4-4 the rest of the way, they've got a good shot at the playoffs. Can they? Well, two of their remaining three home games are against the lowly Bills and Titans, and a pair of road games (at Jacksonville and Kansas City) also look winnable.
Tony Care: You know I'm coming around. The Colts play their next five of seven games on the road but if you look at the remaining eight contests five are winnable: Jacksonville, Buffalo, Detroit, Tennessee and Kansas City. Even a 9-7 mark might be enough. I can't say enough about the play of phenom Andrew Luck, the maestro who commandeered the Colt's 23-20 win over the Dolphins. He broke Cam Newton's single-game passing record with 433 yards. On third down, he converted - get this - 13 of 19 attempts! The kid is on pace to smash Newton's rookie passing record of 4,051. Greatness isn't on the way, it's arrived.
The Steelers (5-3) won a big road game against the Giants to remain one game behind the Ravens in the AFC North. How was Pittsburgh able to pull off the victory while facing a surging New York squad?
Jason Davidson: Pittsburgh's fourth quarter effort was clutch. Well, with the exception of the botched field goal attempt, that is. Isaac Redman had a pretty solid game at running back, too, rushing for a career-high 147 yards and scoring the game-winning touchdown. What is surprising though is that the Steelers were penalized a staggering 119 yards in this game but conversely, they limited the New York offence to 182 yards. Great job by the defence. Interesting to note, since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach in 2007, their 5-3 record at the midway point is their worst since the coaching change five years ago. This team's moving in the right direction.
Jesse Campigotto: Leading up to the game, a lot of people said the Steelers would be thrown off by having to travel to New Jersey on game day due to the lack of available hotel rooms after the storm. "Football players are creatures of habit," is the line I heard a few times. I agree, and you know what might throw a wrench into your game-week routine? Having to move in with a teammate because you've lost power in your house for days. Seeing the lobby of your waterfront condo flooded. Being forced to move your wife and young kids to a hotel for the week. Those are all things that happened to Giants players. The Steelers are a good team, but they were not facing a fully focused opponent this week.
Tony Care: The defence won this game, no doubt about it. Giants quarterback Eli Manning was held to an astounding 10-of-24 passing for 125 yards and 1 INT. The Steelers corners did a great job on Giants receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nick. In the fourth quarter - when the Giants come alive - Pittsburgh's front finally got to Manning.
The Chicago Bears (7-1) continued their roll through the first half of the season by blowing out lowly Tennessee. Still, the Green Bay Packers (6-3) are keeping pace. Despite their early season struggles, can the Packers overtake the Bears for the NFC North title?
Jason Davidson: Perfect time for the Pack (who should be 7-2 by the way) to go into the bye considering the injuries they're dealing with. But this team is good at dealing with adversity. That said, catching the Bears is going to be tough but a possibility considering Chicago hosts Houston this Sunday evening followed by a trip to San Francisco to face the 49ers the following Monday night. If the Packers come out of the bye and their injuries aren't too severe, they can win the division. They should have Greg Jennings and Charles Woodson back for the last month of the season too.
Jesse Campigotto: A game and a half can be a lot to overcome when more than half your schedule is complete, but the Packers have played the tougher slate so far (suggesting an easier schedule going forward) and they also have a Week 2 win over the Bears (at Lambeau) in their pocket. Still, the Bears are on one of those serious defensive rolls they seem to hit every couple years or so, and I think they hold on - something they'll probably be in position to ensure by beating Green Bay at Soldier Field in Week 15.
Tony Care: I'm finally off the Packers' bandwagon. It's not that I think the Bears are the superior team, it's that I don't believe the Packers can overcome key injuries. Lingering injuries to receivers Greg Jennings (groin) and Jordy Nelson (hamstring, ankle) have affected Aaron Rodgers and the vaunted passing game. LB Clay Matthews suffered a hamstring injury against the Cardinals on Sunday, adding to a list of hobbled defenders to go with Charles Woodson's broken collarbone. I'm also officially writing off Green Bay as a possible Super Bowl contender. Sorry, Jason.
Putting outstanding seasons by Andrew Luck and RG3 aside, which rookie has caught your eye to this point?
Jason Davidson: Well if the answer to this question is anything but Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin, what have you been watching? He rushed for 251 yards rushing and four touchdowns against the Bucs, which is almost unheard of. Even better, he's an Oakland native and he put on quite the epic performance in his hometown, at the Raiders' expense.
Jesse Campigotto: Gotta go with Tampa's Doug Martin after his massive day in Oakland: 25 carries, 251 yards rushing, four touchdowns. If the Boise State product hadn't come into the league the same year as two of the best quarterback prospects in years, Martin may have sewed up the Rookie of the Year award with that performance alone, which raised his season average to 5.2 yards per carry - trailing only Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore among running backs with at least 100 rushing attempts.
Tony Care: I'll go with Doug Martin. He's a good example of why you don't pick running backs - I don't care how good they are coming out of college - in the top 15 of a draft. Martin, selected 31st overall last April, has easily been the best rookie runner. His dismantling of the Oakland Raiders on Sunday alone should warrant Rookie of the Year honours. Martin rushed for 251 yards on 25 carries and four touchdowns. He's the first RB in NFL history to reel off TDs runs of 45+ yards, 65+ yards and 70+ yards. Barry Sanders never did that. Neither did Gale Sayers, O.J. Simpson or Walter Payton.
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