Week 9 Preview: Trade Deadline… So?
Hurricane Sandy forced the trade deadline to Thursday, but the truth is, not many people care. The trade deadline in the NFL does not get a lot of coverage because there are not many noteworthy moves. In a league that revolves around playbooks and schemes, can you blame them? Imagine the Jets sell their souls for Peyton Manning or Drew Brees: how is he going to learn the playbook in a week, or even three? Unlike baseball where pitches are pitches, or basketball where the playbook isn’t the size of a phonebook, the NFL just does not favor the mid-season trade. There are benefits to the trade-less system. For one, it allows teams to grow their own talent. As any fan knows, it’s one thing to pick up a talented player on your team through trade or free agency, but there is nothing better than watching a player grow into their own before your eyes (I think this works for a lot of things in life, businesses like Spogo… your own children…). As a Giants fan, watching Victor Cruz grow into his game has been brilliant to watch. I guess having Eli Manning doesn’t hurt. With the dullish deadline ticking closer, it’s time to trade your loose knowledge of Week 9 for some cold hard facts.
Players to Watch
Demaryius Thomas (WR, Denver Broncos, @ Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 PM EST)
Thomas has been feast or famine this year, but he’s been full more than hungry. Playing in seven games this year, twice Thomas has failed to gain 40 yards. Those two games aside, he’s had four 100-yard games, and four total TDs. Coming off an explosive 137-yard, 1 TD game, Thomas follows Peyton to Cincinnati, where he faces the 13th ranked pass defense. It will be interesting to see what sort of attention they give Thomas. So far he’s drawn some double teams, but Peyton has never played favorites, which forces defenses to make sure they cover everyone. With Peyton as hot as he is, Cincinnati’s defense better bunker down for Hurricane Peyton.
Tony Romo (QB, Dallas Cowboys, @ Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, 8:20 PM EST)
Coming off a 4-interception performance at home against the Giants last Sunday, Romo will have to take care of the ball better this week. The Cowboys travel to Atlanta this week to try and knock off the league’s only remaining undefeated team. Atlanta is tied for 3rd in the league with 10 interceptions. I still believe Romo & Co. have a shot. This Dallas team has been one step away from winning the games they’ve lost, and when Romo is good, he’s good. The problem has been not making that big mistake, or bad interception. Putting together a full 60 minutes has been the challenge for Romo. If he can find a way to keep it together for four quarters, we could be looking at the end of the undefeated.
Matt Cassel (QB, Kansas City Chiefs, @ San Diego Chargers, Thursday 8:20 PM EST)
Amid losing four games in a row, the Chiefs benched Cassel in favor of Brady Quinn. After throwing four passes, Quinn got
knocked out of the game against the Raiders after getting hit in the head. In all honesty, he had 4 pass attempts for 1 yard and an interception, so maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. Cassel had a lackluster game filling in for Quinn last week, and has thrown at least one pick in every game this year. It seems like the games when Cassel has low or no rushing attempts, his QBR is much lower and he tends to throw more interceptions. I’m not suggesting he runs the wildcat all night on Thursday, but this means he’s had some success getting out of the pocket to make reads down field. If he can do this better, maybe he’ll keep his starting job. If not, Cassel and head coach Romeo Crennel could lose theirs. Again.
Games to Watch
Miami Dolphins (4-3) @ Indianapolis Colts (4-3), 1:00 PM EST
If you had told me I would be writing a segment on the Colts and Dolphins in Week 9 at the beginning of the year, I would have thought you were partying with Lindsey Lohan all summer. Alas, both teams are 4-3. Turning rookie seasons into winning seasons is never easily done, especially when all sign point towards rebuilding. With all the flash of RG III gaining national headlines, these two rookies have steered their respective ships in the right direction. Tannehill, if he plays (split snaps with Moore in Wednesday’s practice, signs point toward starting), will have the tougher sledding. Indy’s pass defense has allowed the 5th least yards in the league. With a core of pedestrian receivers, it could be a long day. Miami will have to lean on their running backs against a squishy rushing defense. Since Miami’s own rushing defense is stellar, Indy will have to air it out against a weak pass defense. Andrew Luck will be feeling the pressure more than any player in Indy on Sunday.
Minnesota Vikings (5-3) @ Seattle Seahawks, (4-4) 4:05 PM EST
Both teams have played a full half of their schedules heading into Week 9, with bye weeks in the future. Neither team finished Week 8 as planned. The Seahawks lost to the struggling Lions, finishing off a wildly inconsistent half-season (it feels like they alternate win or loss every week). The Vikings took an unforeseen beating on Thursday night at the hands of the Buccaneers. With the long week to prepare, the Vikings will have plenty of time to game plan for the Hawks. While Percy Harvin has fallen out of MVP chatter, he’s still the 5th leading receiver in the league, coming off a 7 Rec, 90 Yrd, 1 TD day. He’ll need to be active early and often. The surprise of the team has been Adrian Peterson, coming off a quick ACL recovery, powering through defenses with speed, power and agility. It looks like he lost no time at all. The Seahawks have been great on defense, ranking top ten in the league. What has led to their shaky start has been the inconsistent QB play. In their four wins, Russell Wilson has thrown two interceptions. In their four losses, six. With Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, Russell needs to take care of the ball and manage the game. While he was exciting this preseason, his talent clearly has its limits.
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) @ New York Giants (6-2), 4:25 PM EST
Pittsburgh has created a patchwork defense while their stars have been injured, but something is working. The Steelers have allowed the league’s lowest pass yards and 5th lowest rushing yards this season. So what’s the issue in West PA? The run game. The Steelers rank 21st in yards per game on the ground, which puts added pressure on Ben Roethlisberger to make plays. Aside from the defense, the ability of Big Ben has kept them above .500. Jonathan Dwyer is starting to get the reps in Pittsburgh, and the past two weeks he’s gone for over 100 yards. If this team can add a consistent run game, they’re dangerous. Coming off a nail biting victory over the Cowboys, the Giants look to reestablish their dominance as the league’s best team. There is no doubt they have all the tools, on offense and defense. This week’s premiere battle will happen in the trenches. Will the Giants get pressure on Big Ben? Can the Steelers run the ball against a tough Giants defense? Will the Giants be able to move the ball against a great Steelers defense? Tune in Sunday to find out.
Enjoy the week’s games, sports fans.