NFL debrief, Week 8: When did the NFC East become the AFC West?

Tom Pennington

The New York Giants are in Super Bowl form, leaving troubled peers in the NFC East far behind. It's a situation not unlike the AFC West, where fans are used to it.

The 2012 NFL season is now halfway over, almost. It seems like it just started, which is also strange because in many respects it seems like the NFL season never ends. Tony Romo throws interceptions, the AFC West is a sinkhole and the Eagles are in turmoil ... had I not been beaten over the head with ads from no-name Senate candidates, I might have gone to bed last night thinking it was still 2011.

There were 12 games on Sunday, happening everywhere from London to Denver. We learned some things from those games, important lessons the reveal plenty about where the 2011 2012 season is headed.

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Stop questioning the Falcons

The Falcons are 7-0. There is no asterisk next to that record; Mike Smith's team has earned all of those wins. Sunday's thumping of the Eagles in Philadelphia was the most promising so far. Matt Ryan was 22-for-29 with 262 yards and three touchdowns. On defense, the Falcons limited the Eagles to less than five yards per passing play and less than four yards per carry. Atlanta does not play another opponent with a winning record until Week 15, when they face the Giants. That game will give us all a much better idea about their playoff readiness.

The NFC belongs to the Giants

Speaking of the Giants, they look poised to defend their Super Bowl title after rolling to a fourth straight win. Sunday's win was also the fourth straight victory for the Giants at Cowboys Stadium, a second home for Tom Coughlin's team, which is now 4-0 inside Jerry Jones' billion dollar luxury box.

The Giants now have a solid three-game lead over the other teams in the NFC East. Two of those teams, Dallas and Philadelphia, are in free fall. Strangely enough, the Washington Redskins are without (much) turmoil, headed toward a bright future with RGIII at the helm. The division's not quite as bad as the AFC West, but it's close.


(Photo via Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE)

The Jets really don't like Tim Tebow, except for Woody Johnson

Rex Ryan must dread the Tim Tebow circus as much as the rest of us. What other excuse is there for sticking by Mark Sanchez at this point? The quarterback turned the ball over twice this week, setting up a Dolphins touchdown after a fumble. Sanchez is not the only problem the Jets have. Even the normally reliable special teams surrendered a blocked punt and a blocked kick, the punt recovered by the Dolphins for a touchdown. Even the Dolphins -- the Dolphins! - were trolling the Jets after the 30-9 win.


Antonio Cromartie's shoving match with Reggie Bush was just one visible sign of tensions about to boil for the Jets.

Andrew Luck, sensation

Three. That's how many fourth quarter comebacks the Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback has engineered this season, through seven games. If the playoffs started this week, Andrew Luck's teams would be there, and only because of the quarterback. Last week, Luck did it with his feet, rushing for a pair of touchdowns in a win over Browns. The Colts have won three of the last four games, dating back to the team's upset over the Packers. The schedule gets tougher down the stretch, wrapping up the season with two against the Texans in the final three weeks, but the first overall pick in the draft might just be able to sneak his team into postseason play.

NFL Playoff Picture: AFC | NFC

Broncos ascending

Beating the New Orleans Saints ain't what it used to be. They didn't get to 2-5 on good looks alone. Still, Drew Brees still leads a pretty potent offense, a group that was scoring 66 points and winning two in a row before falling flat in Denver on Sunday night. The Broncos' defense limited the Saints to just 252 total yards of offense, Brees to just 213 yards. That's two impressive wins by John Fox's team, a small but notable streak that started win a big comeback against San Diego last Monday. There's a three-way race emerging between Baltimore, Denver and New England to be the second-best team in the AFC.


(Photo via Byron Hetzler-US PRESSWIRE)

Jimmy Haslam is in charge

Last week, when lame duck head coach Pat Shurmur opted to punt on a critical fourth-and-1, the network cameras panned up to show the Browns' new owner, who disagreed with the call. The Browns lost the first game with Haslam officially the team's owner. This week, the Browns beat the Chargers, 7-6, in a game reminiscent of two truckers fighting it out with tire irons behind one of Haslam's travel stops. There will be no more punts on fourth-and-1 in Cleveland, and the Browns as we know them are very nearly gone.

Eagles meltdown underway

The first game of the Todd Bowles era saw the visiting Falcons hang 30 points on the Eagles. If you're looking for a silver lining, the Eagles got their first sack since Week 3. Juan Castillo wasn't the problem after all, I suppose. And what is the problem in Philly? Leave it to Asante Samuel, a former Eagle for the last four seasons, to explain. "They got a lot of issues over there," was Samuel's expert diagnosis. A quarterback change may be coming, too, but that probably isn't going to stem the bleeding either.


(Photo via Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE)

Lions awake

Guess who showed up Sunday? Matthew Stafford, 'memba him? Seattle had the Lions on the ropes, ready to pack up another win in a surprise season, but Detroit got the ball back with more than five minutes left on the clock. Stafford led a 16-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Titus Young with 20 seconds to burn. All three of the Lions' wins this season have been the result of a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime. Stafford did that four times last season. Detroit moved to 3-4 for the year, and has plenty of time for a late surge into a wildcard spot.

Romeo Crennel is as confused as you are

Each day that the Chiefs still employ Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel is a lost one in the franchise's future. The Brady Quinn era ended just like the Matt Cassel one, with a head injury. There was no cheering this time from the Arrowhead faithful, and there won't be any cheering for a long time until Clark Hunt does some serious reflecting on the state of his team.

The most telling moment came after the game, when the head coach Dubya'd his way through the post-game presser. Asked why he didn't let Jamal Charles carry the ball more than five times Crennel replied, "Now, that I'm not exactly sure either." A red letter day in coaching.


Norv being Norv

Speaking of incompetence, Norv Turner is still employed. Roughly eight percent of working age Americans are not. How's that for cosmic justice. The Chargers have lost three in a row and four of their last five, a stretch that includes losing a 24-point lead over the Broncos and being held to just six points by the Browns. San Diego hosts the Chiefs next week, another titillating AFC West matchup. Somehow, the Chargers will win four or five more games, barely miss the playoffs in the AFC stew of mediocrity and Norv Turner will still be there on the sidelines in San Diego next year. We will be amazed all over again at how the man keeps his job.

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