The following Sports Agent Blog contribution is courtesy of Brandon Thorn.
Tom Brady – The football nerds around the country in forums and message boards have been talking about how Brady’s numbers this season have been down and that his career is on the downslope.
While Brady’s numbers have indeed been below his usual standards, it can’t be overlooked how much more he has had to do for his team this season with all of the new parts in their offense. The Patriots have had to start two rookie receivers multiple times this season and have overcome injuries to two major contributors on offense – Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola – to remain relevant.
Brady has led the Patriots to a 7-2 record, including Sunday’s win against Pittsburgh 55-31. With his top two targets back on Sunday, Brady played like his old self – 23 of 33 (69%), 432 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT – while proving to the doubters once again that his skill and ability never left.
Case Keenum – Sunday’s performance in front of a home crowd – 20 of 34 (58%), 350 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT – didn’t resemble the type of game you would expect an undrafted rookie to have in just his second career start. It looked more like the way Houston is paying Matt Schaub (Schaub received a four-year, $62 million extension in 2012) to play.
Combine this game with Keenum’s first NFL start against the vaunted Kansas City Chiefs’ defense in week seven, a game where Keenum completed 60% of his passes with 1 TD and 0 INT, and you are looking at the new starter in Houston for the forseeable future.
Nick Foles – There is a familiar story unfolding in Philadelphia this season with their quarterback situation. As with Keenum all but guaranteeing the end of the Schaub era in Houston, Foles is likewise ending Michael Vick’s tenure in the city of Brotherly Love.
On Sunday, Foles did something no other quarterback has done in the history of the league – pass for seven touchdowns in three quarters – while leading his team to a 49-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders in the Black Hole. It is worth noting that the Raiders, according to ESPN.com, ranked No.5 in total defense entering Sunday’s shellacking.
Through nine games, the Eagles offense is averaging 413 yards per game (4th overall). So much for the speculation that Chip Kelly’s offense couldn’t thrive at the pro level.
Jason Campbell – Since Campbell took over the starting job in week eight against the Chiefs, his numbers – 45 of 71 (63%), 554 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT – have given his team a newfound hope for the playoffs. The Browns (4-5) were pegged as giving up on the season after trading RB Trent Richardson to the Colts for a first-round pick in week three. Since then the team has won four of seven games (including two division wins) and is firmly entrenched in the playoff race heading into a week ten showdown with Cincinnati.
J.J. Watt – The reigning defensive player of the year continues to stake his claim as the most disruptive force in the league today. Heading into week nine’s matchup with Indianapolis, Watt was already the league leader in “pressure points,” which is a revolutionary new stat brought to you by MMQB.com. It takes into account drawn holds, hurries, and hits on the quarterback while also distinguishing the important differences between a “solo sack”, “assisted sack”, and an “easy sack.” The numbers go into a formula to determine the total amount of “pressure points” a player receives. Watt’s monster game against the Colts – 4 tackles, 1 sack, 5 QB hits, and a blocked field goal – distances himself even further from his competition.
Houston has a lot of issues to deal with on their team right now. Fortunately for them, they don’t have to worry about finding a centerpiece for their defense for oh, the next decade or so.
Nick Folk – The Jets (5-4) are the “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” team of the NFL. Last week they lost 49-9 to the Cincinnati Bengals. Then, they turn around and beat the New Orleans Saints 26-20.
This victory and their winning record overall are due in large part to their kicker – Nick Folk – who has been perfect this season going 23 for 23 on field goals. Sunday against the Saints, Folk was a perfect 4 for 4 connecting from 39, 21, 47, and 45 yards. The value of the kicker is eminently more important to a defensive team like the Jets, who usually find themselves in nail-biting, close games.
Baltimore Ravens – Normally teams who come off a bye week are rejuvenated, well-prepared, and ready to face off on their opponent, especially if it’s a division game. The Ravens were in this situation on Sunday. However, despite an extra week to rest and prepare for the Cleveland Browns, they still laid an egg. Baltimore lost 24-18, dropping their record to 3-5, which is a steep drop-off from last season which they were Super Bowl Champions.
The Ravens came out flat, which is a testament to their glaring lack of leadership since losing Ed Reed and Ray Lewis this off-season to free agency and retirement. Losing two future first-ballot hall of famers in the same off-season is a tremendous obstacle to overcome, especially when they meant as much to Baltimore as these two did. The after effect of their loss is permeating throughout the team this season and likely will keep them on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Drew Brees outdoors – Drew Brees at home in the comforts of a dome is perhaps the most efficient quarterback in the entire league. On the road, outdoors, particularly later in the year when it is cold is another story.
Prior to week nine’s loss at New York, Brees had a passer rating of 126.1 at home and 84.6 on the road this season. This has been the case for much of his career due to his arm strength being above average but not great, which is a concern outside in windy conditions.
If the Saints make it to the Super Bowl this season – which will be outdoors in New York – they had better improve upon their run offense, which ranks No. 26 and averages just 3.3 YPC.
Trent Richardson – Since being blindsided in a trade to the Indianapolis Colts, Richardson was expected to provide a boost to the rushing attack that the Colts wanted to employ. Since the trade, Richardson – 83 rushes, 248 yards, 2.9 YPC – has been the opposite. Indianapolis General Manager Ryan Grigson gave up the teams only first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, expecting much more production out of Richardson. So far, the leap of faith has led to many more questions than answers.
Atlanta Falcons – Atlanta is in the lead for an unsavory award: Most disappointing team of 2013. Atlanta (2-6) lost to Carolina on Sunday 34-10 and has dug themselves into a deep hole in the division. Quarterback Matt Ryan has produced his normally excellent numbers – 225 for 332 (67.8%), 2,442 yards, 15 TD, 10 INT, 91.7 QB rating – despite missing his top two targets for the majority of the season. Wide receiver Roddy White needs to get healthy quickly to take some of the pressure off Ryan from having to carry the entire team.
Carolina (5-3) and New Orleans (6-2) both have comfortable enough leads over Atlanta that is appears likely the Falcons will miss the playoffs for just the second time in the Matt Ryan era (2008-present). Next week, Atlanta hosts the Seattle Seahawks in a game that could potentially be another lopsided defeat.
Houston Texans second half play – Houston (2-6) was up 21-3 over their division-rival Indianapolis Colts at halftime. Rookie quarterback Case Keenum threw three touchdowns in the first half, all three to receiver Andre Johnson.
As the team was heading into the locker room at halftime, Head Coach Gary Kubiak collapsed and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher, where he was later transferred to a local hospital. The team found out that he was in stable condition soon after, but it didn’t prevent them from giving the game away.
Houston managed just one field goal in the second half, giving way to quarterback Andrew Luck leading yet another fourth quarter comeback. Luck notched his tenth game-winning drive, the most for a quarterback in his first two seasons since 1970.
With their sixth loss in a row, the Houston Texans are among the most disappointing teams in the NFL. It won’t get much easier next week when the team has to play against a tough defensive team in Arizona. Running back Arian Foster didn’t play on Sunday, and if he cannot go next week, QB Case Keenum will once again have to be brilliant on the road in order to save Houston’s season.