The following Sports Agent Blog contribution is courtesy of Brandon Thorn.
New England Patriots – The (5-1) Patriots went into this season with every reason in the world to not have a typical winning season that so many in Foxboro are accustomed to. From Aaron Hernandez’s murder charge, the perplexity of Rob Gronkowski’s health (Gronk is slated to return sometime in the next two weeks), to the walking papers given to fan-favorite Wes Welker, adversity was something that was sure to hinder the Patriots 2013 season. Many wondered how the Patriots were going to fare, given that Tom Brady had nobody to throw the ball to.
How quickly can we forget that in Brady’s Super Bowl winning seasons (01,03,04), his top targets were Troy Brown, David Givens, and Deion Branch. These three players were virtually unheard of before or after their years with Brady throwing them the ball. This season, Brady’s top targets are Julian Edelman and rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. The 2013 Patriots are eerily similar to the Super Bowl winning teams of the past – same ball coach, same quarterback, and a solid defense that continues to do what it takes to win close games. With one of the easiest schedules in the NFL, New England has an easy road to yet another home playoff game in Foxboro come January.
Chip Kelly – Chip Kelly has come a long way from coaching football at the University of New Hampshire. Kelly has an offensive playbook and philosophy that demands attention with it’s incredible pace, something the NFL hasn’t seen before. Kelly’s version of the spread wasn’t supposed to work in the NFL, despite leading Oregon University to four straight BCS bowl games before taking the job this season in Philadelphia. To quote NFL Network’s Heath Evans after the hire, “What he’s (Kelly) about to bring to the NFL simply won’t work.”
After Sunday’s win against the Buccaneers, the Eagles have joined the 2007 Patriots and the 1983 Chargers as one of only three teams to gain at least 400 yards of total offense through their first six games. The Eagles have rushed for more yards than any team in the NFL. Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers had quarterback Nick Foles start in place of the injured Michael Vick and Foles did not disappoint. Kelly recruited Foles out of high-school and has always loved the way he fit into his system.
Next week the Eagles square off against the rival Dallas Cowboys for the right to first place in the division, and If Foles leads the team to a win, Michael Vick’s job won’t be waiting for him once he’s healthy.
Justin Blackmon – Lost in the demise of the Jacksonville Jaguars is the lone bright spot on their offense. Second year wide receiver Justin Blackmon has a 7 catch 236 yard 1 touchdown game in his career to go along with Sunday’s game, a 14 catch 190 yard performance. While the off the field issues have been a major problem for Blackmon, he has 1,191 yards in 18 starts with no viable quarterback on the roster. It is worth noting that Blackmon going 5th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft may not have been a waste after all.
Kansas City Chiefs defense – The (6-0) Chiefs defense continues to make life miserable for opposing offenses after a 24-7 victory over the Oakland Raiders, in which the defense tallied ten sacks. Linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali rank #1 and #2 in sacks this season, each with 10.5. Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton comes from Rex Ryan’s coaching tree and has brought his own version of Ryan’s attacking defense to Kansas City. The results have been staggering as Kansas City’s defense appears to be the best in football. At the beginning of the season, nobody would have guessed that the last undefeated teams in the league would both be in the AFC West. Week 11’s matchup with the Broncos may wind up being one of the best games of the year.
Washington Redskins – Redskins fans had high hopes after winning their division last year. Quarterback Robert Griffin III won rookie of the year and was supposed to be ready to go by week 1 after a devastating knee injury. What has transpired has been a rusty RGIII and a 1-4 start. Redskins’ fans may have jumped the gun a little bit after last year’s team barely made the playoffs with a 10-6 record. While they have a solid defense, their secondary is much too undeveloped to compete in today’s pass-happy NFL. RGIII is slowly shaking the rust off, but he is still out of sync with his receivers, revealing how important the off-season mini-camps and practices really are.
The Redskins next two games are a home game against the Bears and a road-trip to Denver. A 1-6 start is a real possibility for this team.
Tennessee Titans – The Titans were off to a surprisingly good 3-1 start before quarterback Jake Locker went down with a 6-8 week long hip injury. It couldn’t have come at a worse time as their next three opponents were the Chiefs, Seahawks, and 49ers. I felt as though Tennessee could have won at least one of these games with Locker and made some real noise. Now, the team has lost back-to-back games and hosts the red-hot 49ers next Sunday, a game that simply looks out of reach with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick starting.
Despite the circumstances of not having their starting quarterback, the schedule gets a little easier after the 49ers game. It also helps that besides the Indianapolis Colts, the AFC South is in a decline, which gives Tennessee a shot at a wildcard playoff birth.
Matt Elam’s hit on Randall Cobb – Rookie safety Matt Elam took what many are calling a cheap shot at receiver Randall Cobb legs on Sunday which caused Cobb to leave the game with an injury. Cobb caught a pass across the middle and it appeared Elam targeted his legs. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers got in Elam’s face and let him know his displeasure with the hit. The hit’s malice should be questioned. The NFL has to accept that these types of hits will be the norm due to their inflexible policy on hits to the head. When players get fined for virtually any hit across the middle that is above the midsection, naturally the hits will go lower and lower, until leg and knee injuries are at an all-time high. A vast majority of players say they would rather be hit high then low, due to their knees being the least protected parts of their bodies. This will be a reoccurring problem for the NFL and hits like Elam’s will eventually not be viewed as cheap, but logical.
Houston Texans and their fans – Quarterback Matt Schaub went down with an injury on Sunday and had to leave the game. Schaub has had a disastrous season, so his exit was almost a relief for the fans. There is a line that you simply don’t cross when it comes to a player’s well-being and the Texans fans crossed it. There was an obvious majority of the crowd cheering for the injury, while still unsure if Schaub was even alright. Schaub’s teammates were disgusted and shocked by the lack of class. It was an unfortunate move on behalf of the Houston fans, putting them in the same class as Philadelphia fans, who regularly cheer when players are injured.
The Texans had huge expectations this season and are now sitting at 2-4, putting Head Coach Gary Kubiak’s future in doubt. There is still plenty of time to turn things around and compete for a wildcard spot, but with a trip to Arrowhead Stadium next week, followed by the Colts coming to town, it will not be easy.
New York Giants – Quarterback Eli Manning has absolutely no protection and zero help from his running-game. Manning is off to the worst start of his career and has already matched the amount of interceptions he threw last season with 15. New York is 0-6 for the first time since 1976 and there doesn’t appear to be any countermeasure in sight. The only break in sight is next weekend when they host the (1-4) Minnesota Vikings, which the team will desperately need to beat to have something positive to build upon for the rest of the year.