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Eight Items of Interest from Week 8

Ed Wyatt

Ed Wyatt

Written on Wednesday, 02 November 2011 11:28

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We're almost at the halfway point of the season and normally by now, we've got things figured out. We know who the pretenders and the contenders are. The NFL this year, however, is as crazy as it's ever been, with most divisions still up for grabs between two or three teams. 

The only sure thing at the moment is that Green Bay is still undefeated and Miami and Indianapolis are still winless. After that, who knows how things are going to end up. Are the Buffalo Bills (5-2) still for real? Is Cincinnati (5-2) really a contender in the tough AFC North? And can the Detroit Lions (6-2) hang on and make the playoffs? 

Here are eight things to contemplate after Week Eight: 

1. The 49ers as a playoff force: Ok, I know this is ridiculous, particularly since we're only heading into Week Nine, but San Francisco is 6-1 and has a four-game lead on Seattle, its nearest NFC West competitor. If the Niners continue to win, they'll not only get home field advantage, they'll get a first-round bye. 

2. Have we seen a better rookie quarterback quartet? Obviously Carolina's exciting Cam Newton is hogging all the headlines - and with good reason - but Cincinnati's Andy Dalton has quietly led the Bengals to a 5-2 record. And although not as successful, Blaine Gabbert has been starting all year for Jacksonville, while Christian Ponder has looked good since taking over as the starter in Minnesota. 

3. Norv Turner and the Chargers continue to underachieve: Not much Norv can do about veteran QB Phillip Rivers fumbling a snap from center, but the overtime loss to San Diego was a typical Chargers' disaster. San Diego was hampered by 12 penalties and four turnovers, and generally sloppy play forced them to settle for four field goals. The Chargers are now in a dogfight in the AFC West with the Chiefs and Raiders. 

4. None of this Tim Tebow stuff should be a surprise: Both sides are culpable in this one. The anti-Tebow types need to understand that the Denver franchise is in such dreadful shape that it makes perfect sense for fans - and the organisation - to look for a saviour (no pun intended). The pro-Tebow crew needs to realise their hero is a flawed NFL quarterback playing for a bad football team. The odds of him putting together a great season and/or becoming a starter in the league are pretty poor. 

5. Mike Shanahan is shut out: In 24 years of coaching, Mike Shanahan had never been shut out until this weekend's 23-0 whitewash at the hands of Buffalo. The Redskins' season is going downhill quickly and Shanahan may regret stubbornly insisting that Rex Grossman and John Beck make an effective quarterbacking combo. 

6. How can New Orleans go from a 62-7 win to a 31-21 loss? For one thing, Indianapolis is far worse than St. Louis at the moment. The Rams have plenty of talent but they've been stymied by injuries and a tough schedule. That said, you would have expected the Saints to move the ball better than they did. The New Orleans defense is still a worry and it was exploited by Steven Jackson and - believe it or not - journeyman QB A.J. Feeley. 

7. Giants' fans, enjoy the moment, because the next few weeks are brutal: After a narrow 20-17 win over Miami, the New York Giants are 5-2 and in control of the AFC East. But take a look at their next six weeks: @New England, @San Francisco, Philadelphia at home, @New Orleans, Green Bay at home, @Dallas. That is one tough schedule. 

8. Betting is fun...isn't it? Houston was giving 9.5 points to Jacksonville and leading comfortably 21-7. But with five minutes left, the Jaguars scored to cut the margin to seven points at 21-14. The Texans, however, drove inside Jacksonville territory and with 18 seconds to play, Neil Rackers kicked a field goal for a 24-14 final margin. Houston covered the spread by half a point.

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