PFF Week: Up North, Week 9
It’s your last chance to get caught up on the happenings at PFF before the next slate of games is upon us, and our new ‘PFF Week’ posts provide quick access to the week that was. The ‘Up North’ edition covers all things pertaining to the AFC and NFC North divisions for a one-stop Saturday shop built to keep you in the loop and on top of your football-watching game.
By the end of the Monday night’s clash between the Bears and Packers, the NFC North teams will have each played eight games — and there could be a three-way tie for the division lead. In the AFC North there’s a little more clarity, with the Bengals, despite their loss to the Dolphins, guaranteed a two-game break over the winner of the Browns/Ravens Week 9 contest. However, those same Bengals may have lost star Geno Atkins for the season, so it’s far too early to declare them division champs.
The second half of the season ‘up north’ could be a thriller. Here’s a look at how Week 8 helped get us to this point.
Week 8 Wrap
While the Bears and Ravens enjoyed a week off their division rivals went 3-3 on the round. The Lions beat Dallas by a point, the Browns and Steelers each fell one score short, the Bengals smashed the Jets, while the Packers seemingly had the Vikings in check all game long. As always, our PFF analysts highlighted the keys to victory in each Week 8 matchup with their Re-Focused articles.
All that action led to an AFC North and NFC North domination of the PFF Team of the Week, with 11 players earning a spot among the league’s Week 8 elite. After such a strong showing it’s understandable that just two players made the ‘Had a Bad Day’ Team of Week 8, with Green Bay’s Morgan Burnett and Minnesota’s Jerome Felton ending up on the naughty list.
The Northerners continue to feature prominently in the rookie stakes as well, with Larry Warford and Giovanni Bernard entrenched in the Top 5 of the Race for Rookie of the Year, while Eddie Lacy now has a spot in the Top 10. That trio has largely outshone their more heralded rookie counterparts on the season, as reflected in both Khaled Elsayed’s Week 8 features First-Rounders in Focus and Second-Rounders in Focus.
Continuing the strong Week 8 showing, three NFC and AFC North players featured in this week’s Secret Superstars article, which regularly highlights players whose performances need more applause than the mainstream media has granted them. This week it was Detroit’s LaAdrian Waddle, the Bengals’ Brandon Thompson, and Green Bay’s Jamari Lattimore who enjoyed a little time in the PFF spotlight.
Switching from individual accolades to a team-oriented focus, this week’s 32 Observations highlighted one key stat from each team’s defense. Tidbits include the Ravens having the highest sack percentage on non-blitz plays, the Browns allowing the lowest completion percentage on deep passes, and the Vikings allowing the lowest per carry average on QB runs.
Our PFF Signature Stats returned to prominence this week, with Khaled Elsayed offering an insight on who has the best, and worst, hands among the league’s wide receivers as judged by our Drop Rate statistic. PFF’s Signature Stats offer a unique perspective on football and, when used in conjunction with our famous player grades, give you the best understanding of how the game is actually played each week — and you only have to visit our Premium Section to access it all.
After all that, our analysts took in a half-season of play and produced a Week 8 Power Ranking that sees Denver turn for the second half as the best team in football. Green Bay sits in fourth spot, and the Lions and Bengals are within the Top 10, while the Ravens and Bears remain in the top half of the league despite sitting idle in Week 8.
Looking Ahead to Week 9
The Lions’ bye, the Bengals’ Thursday night encounter, and a couple of divisional clashes mean the AFC and NFC North teams will feature in just four games Sunday and Monday. If that’s not enough football for you, take a look at PFF’s Three To Focus On series to see what our analysts are expecting from the weekend.
Of course, Week 9 began with what could be a very significant loss for the Bengals on the road in Miami. Not only did they give the Browns and Ravens the chance to close within two games of the division lead, the team may also be without key defender Geno Atkins the rest of the way. Ben Stockwell explains just how things went wrong for Cincy in his Re-focused article, while Sam Monson’s Analysis Notebook investigates how Andy Dalton’s fine run of form came to a dramatic halt during his three-interception turn in Miami.
And to fully prepare you for the weekend ahead, our analysts have put their reputations on the line once more in our weekly PFF Pick’em.
Each week Neil Hornsby highlights the best performers on special teams with his Third Phase feature. This week Neil has changed course a little this week and instead produced an all-star team of the best kick-off coverage players.
And to finish off the week, Rick Drummond weighed in on the debate about dual-threat QBs, in his feature Dual Threats. Are players such as Terrelle Pryor really a threat by both land and air, or are they just one-trick ponies who offer a different challenge to the traditional pocket-passing set?
So there it is, by week’s end every team will be at least halfway through their season, and we’ll be just eight weeks away from playoff action – who’s going to be there?