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Week 9 NFL Preview: The Midseason Awards and Peyton vs. Brady

By Lord Castleton | TV | October 31, 2014 | Comments ()

By Lord Castleton | TV | October 31, 2014 |


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It’s that time of year, folks. The Midway point of the season, where we hand out fake awards as kind of a “how’s your father” to the season as it stands. Without further ado:

MVP: J.J. Watt

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He’s single-handedly keeping the Texans relevant, and with the bookend of a healthy Jadeveon Clowney, he might just be the nastiest mamma-jamma in the league. MVP is (historically) an offensive award, but if what this enraged frost giant has done doesn’t merit consideration, then no defensive player has a prayer.

Honorable mention: Aaron Rodgers. When he popped his hammy last week the Packers immediately went from Raisin Bran Crunch to the lousy Wal-Mart knock-off. He is needed.

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Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians

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In fact, I think he’s been the best coach in the league since the very second Chuck Pagano got sick in Indy more than two years ago. Don’t let the fact that he suffers from compulsive Olfactophilia specific to liquified marshmallow fool you. This coach is at the top of his game. Fluff addiction or no.

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Get out of here, David Chokachi, you creep! Bruce Arians is actually great at something. Maybe you should try to achieve something outside of smearing the good name of a smell addict and being phosphorescently hot. Get out, and take your naughty innuendo with you.

Coach of the Year Honorable Mention: Niners Defensive Line coach Jim Tomsula

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Guys like Jimmy T are the heart and soul of the league. Of every league. Of every film crew. Of every home show. Of every pre-owned jewelry convention. Of every Spice Girls memorabilia preservation society. Of everything, everywhere. But they don’t often leap to the front of the coaching line like the Princeton-tongued Jason Garrett or the Clark-Kent-looking Harbaughs…

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…and their daddies didn’t hand them a job they don’t deserve like Kyle Shanahan and Brian Schottenheimer. The Jim Tomsulas of the world rarely seize one of the 32 most coveted coaching jobs on the planet, and when they do, they get second-guessed, derided and cast off. Right “I shoulda been a grocer” Tony Sparano?

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Seriously, though Tony. How do I know when an avocado is fresh? Oh jeez! Sorry! I just became the person I’ve been complaining about. Anyway, it’s high time the Jim Tomsulas of the league got a little credit. And some relief from all the questions about vegetables.

Rookie of the year: Sammy Watkins

Absolutely electrifying.

Rookie of the year: Honorable Mention: Kelvin Benjamin.

8% less electrifying than Sammy Watkins. Maybe 7%.

Mascot of the year:

Jaxson DeVille. This is him stalking a bird. Oh god, I wanted him to get it so badly. You can knock him for his attempts at ebola-based humor, but no mascot comes with the thunder like Jaxson DeVille. When this team moves to London he’s going to impregnate a shitload of English pussycats. Until, of course, they rename the team to the Admirals or something and then instead of a stupid looking Jaguar with godawful mangy teal and golden fur you’ll have a stiff looking Lord Nelson mascot with a cleft chin and a reserved bearing. And I like to think that somewhere inside that plastic mold of regal boringness there’ll still be a little Jaxson DeVille. There’ll still be a little attitude. A little Rock ‘n Roll. And I’m not saying that every single John Cougar Mellencamp song is about this exact scenario, but if you did a series of slow dissolves of Jaxson DeVille over any of his songs, you’d be hard pressed to tell me otherwise.

Now, quickly, before this article descends into another Lord Castleton Fever Dream…

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…we’ll get to the heart of the matter: The three games worth watching this weekend.

Game #3 worth watching:

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Remember Bruce Arians from such great hits as “Scroll up a Little: A David Chokachi Mystery”? He’s got his biggest challenge of the year taking his troops to Big D. I expect Tony Romo to be out or hobbled, but even so, that DeMarco Murray running attack is fierce. If NFL defenses are the gullible, trusting, pre-Vietnam War American populace, DeMarco Murray is a lickin’-his-chops Richard Nixon. Should be a good one.

Game #2 Worth Watching:

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As with every matchup between these two AFC North behemoths, there’s no way to know which way it’ll go. In week two the Ravens devoured the Steelers like a disenfranchised Cyprian boat refugee at a gyro eating contest. But fresh off a drubbing of the league’s #1 passing offense, the Steelers are not likely to let that shit stand this weekend. Imagine shooting John Candy and Chris Farley out of cannons at each other. Now imagine the sound it would make as they collided. That’s the type of meat noise we’re talking about on Sunday night. Prime AFC North meat bludgeoning at Heinz Field, the epicenter of all things Ketchup.

And finally, the #1 game worth watching this weekend:

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I can’t stress this enough. I could write an Italo Calvino novella on this game alone. This isn’t just the best game of the weekend, people. It’s the best game of the year, a possible AFC Championship preview and certainly a huge game in deciding home-field advantage through the playoffs. Cue the groans from fans of the Dolphins and Bills and Raiders and every other piss-poor half-assed franchise that has to watch these perennial contenders dominate every year. These are the NFL elite. It doesn’t matter how much variation there is outside of these franchises. As long as there’s Manning and Brady, they’ll be in the conversation. In a season where power rankings have fluctuated wildly, these superpowers came in at the top and stayed there.

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And people love to play up the Brady vs Peyton thing but it’s not that at all. These guys don’t go head to head.

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These guys go head to head.

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And it’s a complete love fest. I mean full on, bromantic lovemaking. When these men sleep they dream of beating each other. When they wake they kiss their hand and tap it against a picture of the other. Thirty years from now, they’ll talk about these games as some of the highest moments of the sport.

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Here’s what Bill said about Peyton this week, spontaneously, with no pauses:

“He’s very smart. He has a great understanding of concepts, timing, game management, clock management, situation football, third down, red area, great utilization of the field from sideline to sideline, attacking the deep part of the field, accurate, great decision-maker, quick release, has very few negative plays.”

He also reiterated that in 40 years of coaching, Belichick holds Peyton above all else.

“I mean, [Manning is] great, he’s obviously a great quarterback,” Belichick said. “The best quarterback I’ve coached against.”

That’s high praise.

A few weeks ago, this would have been an open and shut win for the Broncos. But you have to give the Patriots credit — and a lot of it. The soul-crushing asskicking they took at the hands of the fair-to-middlin Kansas City Chiefs in Macy’s window on national TV seemed like a bell tolling for the end of an era. That loss might have broken a weaker team. But they bounced back, and with a vengeance. Since that defeat they’ve rattled off four wins in a row, crushing both the Bears and the Bengals, two teams thought to be on the rise. They also put the Bills, the only team in the AFC East with the talent to make a run at New England, solidly back in their place. Last week they scored 51 points. And they made it look easy. Brady has thrown 14 touchdowns and no interceptions since ingesting the Kansas City barbecue of pain.

That being said, this Broncos team is deceptively excellent. I can’t remember the last time I saw Peyton playing in the fourth quarter because they have the game so well in hand by then. This is a team that gets ahead early and stays there. The Broncos defense this season is at least twice as good as the one that took them to the Super Bowl last year. And they know how to put their foot on your throat. This defense has taken a big step forward.

And so had the Patriots defense, before suffering some huge losses. Their middle linebacker and top pass rusher are both out, possibly for the season. Denver has no such woes. They’re healthy and beginning to peak. And both franchises understand how important defense is not just for this matchup, but for deep playoff runs and ultimately for the biggest prize of them all. Both defenses were designed specifically with that in mind. They both upgraded their top corner. They both upgraded their pass rush. Belichick brought in an additional “big nickel” corner to cover the likes of All-Pro tight end Julius Thomas. This chess match started the second the Patriots lost to the Broncos in last year’s AFC Championship game and has been kept warm ever since.

So, what can we expect? It’s tough to say. Will it be a flare duel of Ronnie Hillman vs Shane Vereen? Will it be a tight end duel between league leader Julius Thomas and the seemingly unstoppable Rob Gronkowski? Can the likes of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Alfonso Dennard corall the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker? Will it be a battle of quick little white guys Welker and Julian Edelman? Or will unheralded players like Bubba Caldwell and Cody Latimer or Brandon LaFell and Brian Tyms make the difference? Could a reserve tight end like Jacob Tamme or Tim Wright be the hero of the day? These teams have an embarrassment of riches on both sides of the ball. But none more so than Manning and Brady.

And that’s where the game will ultimately be decided. Belichick is 10-5 at home against Manning with Brady as his quarterback. But then again, this is the player that once forced Belichick into going for it on fourth and two from his own 18 yard line because he knew that Manning (a Colt at the time) couldn’t be stopped. Manning won that day.

The Patriots need this win like Captain Jack Sparrow needs shampoo and a hot shower. But it’ll be tough for them to get there. Though Belichick and Brady have a historical statistical advantage over Peyton, I’m not sure they’ve seen a team like this. And as much as that offensive line has jelled in recent weeks, I’m not sure they know how to stop Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. If there’s a glaring problem for the Patriots on paper, it’s that pass rush. And if the Broncos get up early in a way that allows their defense to pin their ears back, it could be a long day at the office for Tom Terrific.

Whatever the outcome, it will likely be an amazing ride. And you’ll either get to see Tom Brady scream/whining through his nose or Peyton Manning turning red on the sideline and shaking his head as his blood boils. That’s worth the price of admission right there.

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