With a couple of big previews coming out this week on top of homecoming weekend and writing a scientific journal article and preparing from the 1522 NBA Fantasy Draft, a long email chain for Dojo Sparring wasn’t going to happen this week. Instead, we give you 5 things to remember while watching Week 8 of the NFL.
The Resurgence of the New York Jets
Joe – They beat the New England Patriots this past week on a late OT field goal and a mental mistake on the Pats special teams. Now the Jets sit in second place at (4-3), just one game back of the Pats (5-2). Remember the Patriots and Jets have already played twice this season, so remember this game when the season gets into December and the Jets are still right behind or even in front of the Pats. Next up for the Jets, at Cincinnati (5-2), which has huge implications after the Bengals defeated the Pats in Week 5.
The battle between the AFC and the NFC
Joe – Coming into the NFL season, the majority of fans and analysts were preparing for the NFC to showcase the best teams (49ers, Seahawks, Saints, Falcons, Packers) compared to the AFC (Broncos, Patriots, Texans, Ravens). The NFC team’s combined record is 50-55; compared to the AFC’s 57-52 combined record. We’ve seen good and bad surprises in Kansas City (7-0) and Houston (2-5) in the AFC. Similarly, traditionally strong NFC teams like the Atlanta Falcons (2-4) and the New York Giants (1-6) have surprisingly struggled. Three weeks into the season, the AFC was 12-2 against the NFC. Through seven weeks, they’re now 20-15. The NFC gave the edge to start the season but established a variety of competitive teams. Thanks in large part to the NFC North, with two teams at 4-3 (Detroit/Carolina) and one at 4-2 (Green Bay) and the NFC West, contributing Seattle (6-1) and San Francisco (5-2). Don’t forget about New Orleans and Dallas either. I guess it’s safe to say the NFC is wide open. As for the AFC; Denver, Kansas City, and Indianapolis (moment of silence for Reggie Wayne) are all looking dangerous. Sitting closely behind them are Cincinnati, New England, Baltimore, and the Jets. The AFC boasts better individual records thanks in large part to KC and Denver, but I think what wins this conference is defense. The Chiefs have a nasty defense, Denver’s was exposed against Indy this past week (among other things: a shaky O-Line/pass protection). The Pats’ defense is too injured with the absence of Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Aqib Talib. The more and more I think about defense in general, the more I like Baltimore’s D, as weird as it sounds coming from me. They’re currently ranked 15th and 16th in passing and rushing yards allowed per game. I will not be saying that again this season. You’re welcome.
Can Miami contain Gronk?
Greg – The Dolphins have the privilege of going into New England the week after the Pats lost a game because a penalty on a missed field goal in overtime. The Patriots also have Gronk for the second straight game for the first time since Weeks 9 and 10 last year. In Gronk’s first game back, Brady’s trust in (or lack of trust in the rookie receivers) was noticeable as Gronk received 17 targets and all the wide receivers combined go 24 targets. Brady loves Gronk, and what quarterback wouldn’t? He is clearly a top 2 tight end in the league when healthy. You can’t differentiate him from Jimmy Graham; they are 1a and 1b. The big question is how will Miami deal with Gronk? Through 6 games, the Dolphins have giving up 27 receptions for 401 yards and 4 scores to tight ends alone. Those games include the Ravens and Bills, whose passing game (at least this year) does not revolve around the tight ends in any way, shape, or form. Will Dolphins be able to contain Gronk, who will easily get 10 plus targets? I doubt it. Whoever the Dolphins decide to put on Gronk is in for a looooooong day on Sunday.
Is RGIII really on the road to returning to his historic rookie form?
Greg – RGIII has played 6 games this season and has already thrown the ball more than 39 times 4 times. He threw the ball 39 times ONCE last year. Of course, his completion percentage is going to drop! Of course, he is going to throw more interceptions! If he was able to be that efficient throwing the ball as he was his rookie year while throwing the ball as much as Andrew Luck, do you think he would have been drafted behind him? Obviously not. Now, the stats are the stats, but anyone who has watched the Redskins play knows he had been a shell of himself before his bye week in Week 4. He didn’t look good in Week 6 against the Cowboys either, but he finally looked to have regain confidence in his knee by the Bears game. Keep in mind, him regaining confidence could have just been an allusion to us because the Bears defense is not good. It was swiss cheese last week. I think Christian Ponder could shred that defense right now. At this point, it is hard to judge if RGIII is back. This week will be a big test. Can RGIII run away from Von Miller when he is under pressure? Can he scorch the Denver defense much like Andrew Luck did? I don’t know, that’s why it is something to watch for.
New York Jets @ Cincinnati Bengals
Joe – 20-13 Bengals
They’ve played extremely well at home, already defeating the Steelers, Patriots, and Packers. Geno Smith played very well against New England in the second half last week but one of the Patriots’ problems is generating pressure, something that the Bengals defensive line didn’t have a problem doing when they played against the Pats in Week 5. Andy Dalton has led the Bengals pass offense to 9th in the league (averaging 262.3 ypg), whereas the Jets pass defense ranks 21st in pass defense (allowing 219 ypg). If Dalton can get the ball out of his hands quickly to avoid the pass rush, a healthy dose of AJ Green and a two tight end set should immensely help the Bengals out.
Greg – Bengals 21-20
Sheldon Richardson and Geno Smith have, arguably, been the best rookies from the 2013 NFL Draft class, but they won’t be enough to bring down the Bengals on Sunday. The Jets’ fearsome defensive line will most likely be a mute point this week against PFF’s First Quarter Offensive Line Ranking’s number 1 offensive line. The Bengals are a dominant offensive line that will limit the Jets’ defensive line like they’ve limited defensive lines this whole season. They have given just over 2 sacks a game and will continue that trend this week. Dalton has time to throw and takes advantage. 2 of Dalton’s 3 TD passes go to AJ Green, and the last one comes late in the 4th quarter. Geno can’t get it done late this time. Bengals win a close one.
Greg Danchik and Joe Meola