We’re more than a third of the way through the season and there has been a few shocks and surprises in the league. So, we at 5thDownUK have decided to dish out an early season report card to the top three achievers and under achievers in the two conferences.
Boys done good
DeMarco Murray – the Cowboys Running Back has been the driving force behind Dallas’s 4&1 start. He’s rushed for 552 yards and scored 4 touchdowns along the way. Receiving has been a strength this season with 99 yards so far. He’s been a revelation and UK fans are excited about seeing him pounding the Wembley turf. His fitness is questionable. There are still doubts as to whether he can sustain the full 16 week schedule, possibly more. His three fumbles have been an issue; his first one proving costly in that opening day defeat to San Francisco.
A- If Murray can maintain this form until December he’ll be running for an A* season.
Russell Wilson – this young signal-caller is heading for a bumper pay rise in the spring. There’s one word for Wilson, outstanding. Was last season a fluke? No chance. Monday night’s game was one of the stand-out performances of the season so far. This modern day QB has rushed for 180 yards and thrown 661 yards, 6 TDs and just 1 interception. The biggest uncertainty around him is in his arm. He’s thrown half the distance Luck, Rivers and Brees have. He’s looking calmer inside the pocket though.
A Almost a flawless season to date. Acid tests are to come for Wilson and his O-line.
Aaron Rodgers – The Packers got off to a sticky start, but the full blame can’t be given to the Number 12. Ahead of their Week 4 game at The Bears Rodgers called for calm and assured fans that everything was going to be okay. He didn’t break his promise as he threw for 302 yards and 4 touchdowns. He picked The Bears apart. This guy is calmness personified. His passing was down in Week 5 but he still threw 3 touchdowns in beating The Vikings and he’s helped Green Bay take control of the NFC North.
A- Rodgers has still got some work to do to get back to his vintage best, but he’s proven yet again that he’s amongst the Top 3 signal-callers in the league. He’s looked average at times this season, but if his offense can stay healthy then his numbers are only going to get better.
Must Try Harder
Drew Brees – you can include the whole Saints team in this. They were picked by many to win the Super Bowl this year, but Brees has struggled to stretch the field. He’s thrown for 1241 yards and 8 touchdowns. It’s the 5 interceptions that have been concerning.
C+ The comeback he led against The Buccs on Sunday showed signs that Drew is getting back to his best. Are there trust issues with his Offensive Line? If he can bring his commanding presence back to the field then he and The Saints will be on course for another play-off push. Their schedule is quite a daunting one, so he needs to start stepping up.
LeSean McCoy – has anyone seen him? The Eagles are 4&1, but he’s only averaged 2.9 yards per carry. Who’s to blame? The O-line? There’s no disputing this guy’s talent, but he needs to start turning up. Philly’s wins are mainly thanks to touchdowns from their D and special teams. If they’re going to make a play-off charge then McCoy and Foles need to make some plays. The 49ers shut him down in Week 4 and The Eagles have got even stiffer opposition coming their way between now and late December.
E He’s failing and needs to start living up to his potential. The only reason he’s not been given an F is because his Offensive Line is so weak.
Detroit’s kicking department – how can you defend a kicking record of 1 of 9 from more than 30 yards? They play in a dome as well! Detroit lost to The Bills because of their ineptness at field goal kicking. What would their record be if they’d have managed to kick points? It might be The Lions in the NFC North hot seat. If you’re going to win championships you’ve got to grab points when the opportunities present themself.
F They’ve fired their kickers and added some quality to their corps. Matt Prater is a Pro Bowler, let’s hope he can clean up his off-field issues and reverse this appalling trend for Detroit.
San Diego Chargers A few years ago, people had written off Philip Rivers as a declining talent, whom the Chargers may look to trade off the roster. A bounceback year last year saw Rivers and the Bolts offence toughen up, with a gruelling ground game and they even found an electric wide receiver in Keenan Allen.. Rivers now looks like a man unleashed, and he hasn’t allowed injuries to Mathews, Woodhead and Allen slow the Chargers down. With the evergreen Antonio Gates rolling back the years, the Bolts are looking good atop the AFC West. Two showdowns with Peyton Manning are likely to determine their future, but with a win over the defending champions already in their back pocket, keep an eye on these frisky Chargers. A
Steve Smith Snr The best trash talker in the game said he would steal the Panthers’ lunch. Not only did he steal their lunch, he has stolen the lunch of nearly every side the shaky looking Ravens have faced. The Ravens picked up Smith following a controversial separation from the Panthers, but during a drama-filled off season for the Ravens, Smith has seemingly rolled 10 years off the clock, and is looking for a career year in all categories. B+
Oakland Raiders Fans
The undisputed champions of the pre-match Fan rally at Wembley Stadium – the Black Hole posed, growled and grimaced to the delight of the British public. The air was full of excitement, anticipation, and rap and rock music. The Raiders fans put on a show, and they seemingly outnumbered Dolphins fans 10-1. Its a shame that rumours persist of a potential move back to LA. A+
Oakland Raiders If the Raiders had a tenth of the spirit of their fans they might have put up a better show than what was out on the pitch. The Dolphins recievers were left so open they could’ve caught the ball while supping a cup of tea. The performance was the final embarrassment that nailed the coffin on Denis Allen’s Raiders career – I’d love to see the Raiders back in London, but hopefully with a more competitive side. F
Andrew Luck Luck continues his ascendency towards the “elite quarterback” label with weekly show reels of incredible plays and breathtaking comebacks. While the Colts roster looks unimpressive, his form so far this season means he’s been pretty unplayable – whether he can lift this side to a championship is yet to be seen, but this kid is doing all he can to re-ignite the house that Peyton build. A
New England Patriots Brady and Co. stepped up big time to answer the critism levelled at them following the embarrassing defeat against The Chiefs, but they are still very much in the “must do better” category. The offensive roster looks a bit of a mess, with Julian Edelman and a banged up Gronkowski the only real danger threats – Bradon LeFell was an uninspiring acquisition and last year’s targets Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins have been respectively ignored and released. Danny Amendola is predectibly cashing his cheques whilst resting on the physio’s table. Add to this, they trade Bradys O-Line rock Logan Mankins in a cost-cutting measure, bringing in a raw, but promising Tim Wright.