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NFL Week Ten: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

The following Sports Agent Blog contribution is courtesy of Brandon Thorn.

The Good:

New Orleans – What had been a highly-anticipated game between two dynamic offenses – or so we thought – quickly became a beat down of epic proportions.

Entering Sunday’s matchup, the juiciest storyline was former Dallas Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan facing off against the team who fired him despite larger problems that needed to be addressed at the time. The move has backfired dramatically in owner Jerry Jones’ face, as the team’s defense now ranks dead last in total yardage so far this year.

Not only did Ryan get his revenge in a 49-17 drubbing, but the Saints’ offense steamrolled Dallas’ defense, surely increasing their NFL odds and the odds that Jerry Jones is contemplating his off-season finger-pointing.

Drew Brees was once again masterful – 34 of 41, 392 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT, 91.8 QBR, and an outstanding 139.0 QB rating – in connecting with nine different receivers. Brees and company showcased to the rest of the NFL how unstoppable this offense can be when they play indoors.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the game was former first-round pick RB Mark Ingram having his first career 100 yard game – 14 carries, 145 yards, 1 TD – in an otherwise disappointing three seasons in the league. Ingram contributing to the running game with fellow running back Pierre Thomas gives Head Coach Sean Payton another weapon for his already dangerous arsenal.

The Saints are 5-0 at home this season and will host the San Francisco 49ers in a must-see matchup of week 11.

Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly racked up 11 tackles and a sack this past week.

Carolina’s huge win – In what many viewed as the game of the week, Carolina was looking to prove their merit on the road against the reigning NFC Champions. This was the team’s first opportunity to show the rest of the league they are for real and they did just that, winning a slugfest, 10-9.

Head Coach Ron Rivera – a former linebacker for the vaunted 1985 Chicago Bears defense – has cultivated a team led by a punishing defense. Carolina headed into Sunday’s game mirroring the 49ers’ style in the sense of both being a run-first offense, led by young, dynamic quarterbacks and a ferocious defense. The difference was experience; the 49ers were battle-tested, while Carolina was not.

The defense that was on display in this game was impressive from both sides, but Carolina’s was special. The 49ers managed a mere 151 total yards and gave up six sacks. Sophomore sensation linebacker Luke Kuechly tallied 11 solo tackles and 1 sack, making his presence noticed all over the field Sunday.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick put up pedestrian numbers, echoing Rivera’s statement after the game, “This one really did come down to the way the defense played.”

Tavon Austin – Austin was St. Louis’ first-round pick in 2013 and was brought in to be their version of Reggie Bush/Percy Harvin. Through the first nine games of the year, Austin failed to record 50 yards of offense in a single game and scoring just two total touchdowns.

Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, Austin provided the Rams with a return on their investment, tallying 314 total yards with 3 TDs. Austin became just the third player in NFL history to score at least 3 TDs of 55 or more yards in a single game.

With Sunday’s shocking 38-8 dismantling of Indianapolis, the Rams (4-6) host the Bears (5-4) after their bye week in what will be a pivotal game as the Wild Care race heats up.

Jacksonville’s first win – They say that the first win is the toughest. The Jaguars didn’t expect to have to wait nine weeks for it to come, but they can now avoid the dreaded 0-16 mark. Sunday’s 29-27 win came on the road against a banged-up Tennessee team likely looking ahead to their week 11 show down against Indianapolis.

Jacksonville was outgained in total yards 214-362 but capitalized on four Tennessee turnovers to nab their first win.

Tampa Bay’s first win – On the same night the Bucs honored Hall of Famer Warren Sapp by retiring his #99 jersey, the team tallied their first win of the season. After beating the reeling Miami Dolphins last night on Monday Night Football, Tampa Bay avoided becoming just the third winless team in league history and joining the ranks of the 1976 Buccaneers and the 2008 Detroit Lions.

Tampa Bay held the Dolphins to a franchise low 2 yards rushing and sealed the win in dramatic fashion, coming from behind in the fourth quarter for a 22-19 victory. Rookie QB Mike Glennon has played admirably since taking over for Josh Freeman by passing for 9 touchdowns, just 4 interceptions, and a 60.3 completion percentage.

After blowing a 21 point lead last week against Seattle, this Buccaneers team has proven that while they are 1-8, they have the capability of hanging with the elite teams in the league. The Bucs have a solid defense led by safeties Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson, cornerback Darrelle Revis, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, and linebacker Lavonte David. All of these players are among the best at their respective positions and should provide hope for the future in Tampa Bay.

The Bad:

Indianapolis Colts ugly loss – After two straight wins against the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans, the Colts appeared to be on among the elite teams in football. This week’s home game against the Rams seemed like an opportunity to let off the gas pedal a little bit.

Sunday’s 38-8 loss proved that in the NFL, no matter who you are playing, you should never look ahead.

The Rams have been waiting on a breakout game from wide receiver Tavon Austin and he delivered (see above). Led by Austin’s three touchdowns, St. Louis jumped out to a 35-0 lead before Indianapolis knew what hit them. The commanding lead allowed stalwart defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn to tee off on Colts QB Andrew Luck, forcing him into four turnovers.

This was the worst game of Luck’s young career with three interceptions in the red zone, and the game highlighted what a devastating loss receiver Reggie Wayne’s season-ending injury was in week eight.

Despite missing starting quarterback Sam Bradford, the Rams proved to be a dangerous team when leading. Forcing opposing teams to throw allows defensive ends to pin their ears back and attack the quarterback. This is exactly what happened on Sunday, as evident by Robert Quinn (2 sacks, 1 FF, 4 QB hits) and Chris Long (1 sack, 1 FR, 1 TD) being in Luck’s face constantly.

Fortunately for the Colts, they face the reeling Tennessee Titans in two of their next three games and look like a lock to make it to the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

Green Bay Packers – Green Bay was 5-2 before Rodgers went down with an injury early in last week’s loss against Chicago. This week they faced a high-scoring offense in the Philadelphia Eagles. Without All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers simply could not keep pace with such a dynamic offense, losing the game 27-13. Green Bay has lost back-to-back home games for the first time since 2008, and the loss drops them to 5-4.

It is one thing to lose your starting quarterback; it is another when he (Rodgers) is widely viewed as the best in the game. Green Bay looked out of sync offensively, especially when backup Seneca Wallace left the game in the first-quarter, forcing practice-squad QB Scott Tolzien into the lineup. Next week, they go on the road to New York to face the Giants, who are on a three game winning streak. This matchup has the makings of detrimental loss, especially if backup QB Seneca Wallace’s injury keeps him from playing.

The Ugly:

Atlanta Falcons disastrous season – Atlanta lost to the visiting Seahawks 33-10, propelling Seattle to their first 9-1 start in team history. This game never was competitive and showed just how far apart these two teams are.

Seattle is among the deepest teams in the league, able to sustain multiple injuries and keep winning. Atlanta’s roster is not nearly as deep, and their lack of depth has stuck out like a sore-thumb so far this season. Quarterback Matt Ryan is still amazingly playing mistake-free football despite losing superstar receiver Julio Jones and not having much of a running-game.

Wide receiver Roddy White returned for this game and was shut down by cornerback Richard Sherman, catching only one pass for 20 yards. Free-agent acquisition Steven Jackson has been either unproductive or hurt this season, carrying the ball nine times for 11 yards on Sunday. The overall lack of playmakers on the offense without the aforementioned Jones is disheartening and speaks to the team’s need to get younger on this side of the ball.

The defense isn’t faring much better, giving up 490 total yards to Seattle and looking helpless at times. Last year’s playoff win against Seattle seems like an aberration now. Atlanta is aging quickly on both sides of the ball and needs a roster overhaul this off-season.

QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones are the focal points for the future of the offense. Atlanta’s defense is murky at best. Lacking any real leadership on defense, the focus this off-season should be on attaining aggressive, high-character leaders (e.g. Keith Brooking) to avoid the repeated collapses Atlanta’s defense seems to constantly face as the season wears on. Head Coach Mike Smith is known as a defensive specialist and has yet to utilize his expertise to elevate the defense consistently. Perhaps his job needs to be re-evaluated as well.

Dallas Cowboys’ blowout loss – The last three weeks in Dallas have been revealing. In week eight, the team lost to Detroit in a heart-breaking 31-30 loss. In week nine, they barely squeaked by the feeble Minnesota Vikings. This week it all came to a head in a 49-17 annihilation against the Saints.

Giving up 630 total yards and a league record 40 first downs to the New Orleans offense further solidifies what we already knew – Dallas’ defensive woes are legitimate. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin heads into the bye week with a ton of work to do to try and right the ship. Not only are Dallas’ playoff hopes riding on it, but his job could be too.

With only one playoff win in the last 17 years, the perpetual losing further enhances the inability of owner Jerry Jones ability to be the general manager plus the owner. The best owners in football are the ones who stay out of the personnel decisions. Jones, on the other hand, doesn’t have anybody to answer to and doesn’t appear to be having a change of heart anytime soon.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.