Jimmy G. report
49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was stellar at Chicago in his first start with his new team. In addition to passing the eye test of being very comfortable in the pocket, he made accurate throw after accurate throw in leading San Francisco to its second win of the year. Make no mistake, he was not facing Richard Dent or Dick Butkus, but Garappolo was outstanding in marching his team down the field all afternoon. Obviously, he will have to tighten some things up in the red zone. But, that largely could be a product of a lack of weapons at his disposal. The Niners will make it a priority to surround Garoppolo and their excellent half backs with a stronger offensive line and a solid WR1. Those moves make the Niners a team that could compete for a playoff spot sooner than later.
Teammate Carlos Hyde acknowledged that Garappolo looked like he learned a lot from Tom Brady. If he did, he can look forward to a superb career. As is well documented, however, Brady back ups don’t necessarily become good players. Ryan Mallet comes to mind as an utter flop. But, there is a lot of optimism in the Bay area. The 1986 Bills went 4-12 with Jim Kelly and the 1998 Indianapolis Colts went 3-13 with Peyton Manning. Yet, their fan bases looked to future (rightfully so) that good things were ahead. Such can be the case this season with Garoppolo if he continues to look as good as he did this past Sunday.
Heart Meter – The Broncos & The Jets
One cannot get over the difference between teams that play hard for their coach and teams that do not. Last Sunday, the Denver Broncos and the New York Jets were at the total opposite end of the heart meter. The Broncos were listless, emotionless and pathetic in a loss to the Miami Dolphins. On the other hand, the Jets played with great guts and gusto in a 38-31 victory over Kansas City.
Denver’s season got off to a strong enough start. In fact, when they crushed Dallas in September, Trevor Siemian was being appointed as a real deal starting QB in the NFL. But, he crashed to earth and his demise was as swift as his ascension. He has arguably been the worst passer in the NFL over the past two months. The problem for Denver is Brock Osweiler was only slightly better and Paxton Lynch was injured as soon as he was inserted.
Anyone who watches the Broncos knows the problems are not just at the quarterback position. It was just two years ago that this team with an armless Peyton Manning and the inconsistent Osweiler won the Super Bowl. The huge difference between this Broncos’ team and the great teams in years’ past is they lack passion and exuberance. A very underrated move this past offseason by GM John Elway was letting TJ Ward walk. Ward is an excellent safety; a Rodney Harrison-type. His teammates loved him. And, they were not silent about his departure.
Hence, when things went south and they went real south real fast, the only thing that could get this defense the slightest fired up was Aqib Talib’s obsession with Oakland receiver Michael Crabtree’s neck wear.
It looks like Vance Joseph could be one and done. And it appears his players don’t care. After Miami went up 33-9 and attempted an onside kick, not a single member of the Broncos seemed to worry about being disrespected. Nobody seemed aggravated with Adam Gase’s unsportsmanlike call. The Broncos are obviously just playing out the string.
With the Jets, 5-7 is on par with an AFC championship based on their preseason expectations. With a 38-year old journeyman quarterback and a group of no names playing along the offensive line, it is simply unbelievable what they have accomplished this season. When they fell behind a very determined Kansas City team, 14-0 in the first five minutes, it would have been easy for New York to reckon, “It’s not our day.” But, they fired back swiftly and unaffected.
Todd Bowles, as a player, was cool and quiet. That style fits his young team. Bowles has done an excellent job with this team and unlike the Broncos and the Giants for that matter, his guys play hard for him and each other.
Antonio Brown is Amazing
Speaking of playing with heart and guts, is there anybody in the NFL better than Antonio Brown? This guy brings IT each week. At the pace he is going, he is a surefire Hall of Famer. Indeed, at his pace, he will a first ballot Hall of Famer. One would be hard-pressed to find any wide receiver including the legendary Jerry Rice that has dominated so many games over such a long period time as Brown has done since 2013.
With that being said, Brown truly deserves MVP consideration. Other than Adrian Peterson’s other-worldly 2012 season, the league MVP typically goes to the quarterback with the best stats or on the best team. This is what we are being told again. The national media has fallen in love with Carson Wentz so he will be a favorite. Russell Wilson has been incredible this season and Tom Brady IS Tom Brady so they will be in the conversation as well. But, it is foolhardy to think the NFL has a more valuable player than the Steelers’ wide out. He makes terrific catches, he is an elusive runner in the open field, he is as tough as nails and has as much fun on the field as can be allowed by the league office. Those are the necessary traits to deem someone as valuable.
Can Green Bay Really Make the Playoffs?
The Packers are actually in pretty good shape to make the playoffs if Aaron Rodgers plays as great as he usually does down the stretch this season. He will not be eligible to play at Cleveland. But, Green Bay should be able to win that ball game even with back up Brett Hundley.
Rodgers can play next week at Carolina which conveniently is a team that the Pack will need to catch. After that, Green Bay will host the Vikings on a Sunday night with revenge on their minds. They then close at Detroit. They hold tiebreakers over Dallas and Seattle, but not with Atlanta if it comes down to those things. If they “run the table,” they will likely get in and if they get in, look out!
The NFC has been much more exciting, interesting and competitive this season than the AFC. Their champion will have truly deserved it. Consider this: The teams in the hunt like Carolina, Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas and Green Bay are vastly superior to the AFC teams in the hunt like Tennessee, Baltimore, Buffalo, Oakland, and Kansas City. What is the big deal? Pittsburgh and New England will truly have the easiest route to winning the Super Bowl this season. So, the more that things change, the more they stay the same.
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills