Welcome to Week 7 of the Morpheus Report.
And then there were two. The last two teams undefeated are teams widely regarded as the two best teams in the NFL: The New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. Last week the Patriots marched in Texas Stadium and blew out the previously undefeated Dallas Cowboys 48-27. This was the marquee game featuring what was then two teams with 5-0 records. The Patriots jumped out to a 14-0 lead only to find themselves trailing early in the third quarter. The Dallas lead didn't last long as the Patriots turned up the heat and won going away. There were several comments by the Dallas personnel blaming everyone else for the loss. Dallas head coach Wade Phillips mentioned that if a few "questionable" calls that went against Dallas were not made then it could have made a difference. Dallas has had a lot of penalties called against them this year, its not the referees having it out for Dallas, it's poor execution and poor concentration that causes a team to have a lot of penalties.
New England Patriots / Miami Dolphins.
The 6-0 New England Patriots travel to Florida to take on the 0-6 Miami Dolphins. At first glance this would look like a mismatch. History tells us different. From 2003 until now the Patriots and Miami have split their games in Miami. The Dolphins shut out the Patriots last year in Miami 21-0 and beat the Patriots again in 2004 by a score of 29-28. The Patriots were 12-1 coming into the game while Miami came in with a 2-11 record.
The Patriots may be missing a few contributors on offense: such as starting tight end Benjamin Watson may not play and Sammie Morris whom has done excellent in filling in for Laurence Maroney is out. Maroney who is still hobbled with a groin injury is listed as questionable on the injury report. The main two backs will be Kevin Faulk and Heath Evans. That means a heavy dose of Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth. The Patriots are number one in the NFL in overall offense averaging 38.3 points a game while the Dolphins are 23rd in the NFL in overall defense allowing 30.3 points a game.
An added twist to the game could be the attitude of Dolphin players. This week at the NFL trading deadline the Dolphins traded their best wide receiver Chris Chambers to the San Diego Chargers for a 2008 second round draft choice. This could be the one time the Patriots beat the Dolphins by double digits. That's why I am paying attention to how the Dolphins play the Patriots in Miami and saying the Dolphins will cover the 16 ½ point spread. I am picking the Patriots to win the game outright but will fall just shy of the spread.
My reasoning? The problems with the red zone offense. Having Faulk and Evans run the ball in the red zone is helping the defense. After a few tries Tom Brady and the offense will have to pass the ball. Miami will know it is coming, defense it well and limit the Patriots to field goals.
The NFL season is approaching its halfway point and its time to list the winners and losers.
New Orleans Saints. Before the season the hype for the Saints was enormous. Unfortunately, for the Saints, the games are not won on paper, not won in the sports talk shows. Last, but not least, games are not won on hype (otherwise known as exaggerated publicity). Since losing to the Chicago Bears in last seasons NFC Championship game, the Saints expected to follow up on last year's success.
This year it has been the total opposite. The team's play and 1-4 record has their fans remembering the days when New Orleans was called "the Aints". Expected to content for the NFC Championship, New Orleans is in third place in the NFC South only ahead of the Michael Vick-less Atlanta Falcons. From the opening game when the Saints played the Indianapolis Colts they have been getting outplayed on both sides of the ball. New Orleans had the number one overall offense in 2006, averaging 25.8 points a game. So far that vaunted Saints offense has looked repulsive, ranked 22nd overall in the NFL averaging 15.8 points a game. As equally horrendous is the Saint's defense ranked 22nd overall as well and allowing 27.2 points per game. Last year the Saints defense was atrocious but they were able to outscore their opponents.
Averaging 15.8 points a game it is obvious you're not going to outscore many teams. Last week New Orleans won their first game of the season against the Seattle Seahawks on the road beating Seattle 28-17. It was a big game for New Orleans against an NFC contender and offering a glimmer of hope that they can salvage their season.
Chicago Bears. Last year they had a defense that wrought havoc on opposing offenses striking fear, creating turnovers and dominating games. That was 2006 and the 2007 version of the Chicago Bears defense doesn't resemble lasts year's vaunted defense. The Bears are ranked 27th in total defense allowing 24.8 points a game. The offense is as anemic as it was last year coming into this week ranked 28th in the NFL averaging a monstrous 19.7 points a game.
The Bears benched Rex Grossman, then started Brian Griese for the past 2 weeks. Although he is an upgrade over Grossman (and so are most NFL quarterbacks) Griese is not the long-term answer. Last year's NFC Champions face an uphill battle to make the playoffs this year never mind go back to the Super Bowl. The Bears are in last place in the NFC North. Poor quarterback play and poor running back play (are you still wondering why the Bears gave away their best running back to the Jets in the off season?) are just some of the problems that Chicago has.
San Francisco 49ers. They were the sleeper team of choice coming into the year. Their bandwagon was full of people saying they would make the playoffs and challenge for the AFC West division. Although the 49ers have not played well this year, they are the weak NFC West Division. The 49ers have a 2-3 record one game back from the first place Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks record of 3-3. The 49ers could easily have a worse record but it took the Cardinals falling apart in the final 2 minutes for the 49ers to "steal" the victory away. If San Francisco is to challenge for the division and make the playoffs, they will have to do better on the offensive side of the ball. The 49ers are 32nd in the NFL in total offense averaging 12.6 points a game. With a tough slate of games coming up for the 49ers, they cannot afford to fall further below .500.
Dallas Cowboys. They are the team to beat in the NFC right now tied for the best record in the conference with the Green Bay Packers. They have an explosive offense (and Terry Glenn isn't playing yet), a good defense (Tank Johnson will be a plus when he is eligible to play). Whether or not Wade Phillips can get it done in the post season, is the question.
Green Bay Packers. Who would have thought the Packers would be 5-1? They have a good young defense that gets to the ball and that will keep them in games. By the way, DeShawn Winn has 4 touchdowns. There are only four back in the NFL with at least that much.
New York Giants. 4-2 record and second place in the NFC East. The big game against San Francisco this week could possibly have playoff implications further down the line. If both teams make the playoffs, they will most likely do it as a wild card entry. Head to head is the first tie breaker. A must game in my opinion for both teams.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The NFC South seems to have a different division winner each year. This year is the Buccaneers turn again. They are playing good defense and quarterback Jeff Garcia has not thrown an interception this year. That's a formula for success.
Next week I will look at the AFC winners and losers. Happy football everyone.