In the peanut gallery…
Each week sports reporters Matthew Lambert and Sam Thiel will face off on a hot topic in sports. The world of sports is changing quickly and constantly, but we want to slow it down and take a better look at the juiciest gossip, scandal, rumor or issue that is making headlines this week. Lambert and Thiel will take different sides and battle it out, telling you why you they are right.
This week’s topic: Which team will upset the Patriots/Packers?
For the first time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, five teams remain undefeated after Week 7 of the NFL regular season. Two of those teams. the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots, stand as the frontrunners in their respective conference. This week, Matthew Lambert and Sam Thiel voice their opinions about which team is most likely to end their reign at the top. Let’s talk about it…
(Recap by Sam Thiel)
In the NFL, teams can fall apart at any moment. Just ask the Dallas Cowboys. One team that looks like it won’t fall apart anytime soon: the Green Bay Packers. The NFC isn’t competitive this season. But there is one team in the NFC West that will not only win that division, but also threaten the Packers reign as the best team in the NFC. That team: the Arizona Cardinals.
My reasoning isn’t the coaching by Bruce Arians and company or the rebirth of Larry Fitzgerald’s career. That’s too simple.
Instead, I will start with the trio of terrific running backs: Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington, and David Johnson. Chris Johnson is second in the league in rushing with 405 yards. Ellington is impressive with his receiving skills and could be used as a third-down back. Finally, Johnson is more of a special teams running back, but has been used in goal line situations. All of these backs have their roles and play them perfectly. Not to mention it opens up the passing game for Carson Palmer. That’s why Fitzgerald is doing so well this season. He isn’t the only threat on the field.
Next is their defense, which isn’t ranked very high, but is a turnover-creating machine. In four weeks, they’ve had 11 interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Aaron Rodgers isn’t used to a swarming defense and judging by what the Rams did to Rodgers, forcing three turnovers, imagine what the Cardinals can do.
Finally, Palmer is the lynch pin to their success. This Cardinals team could’ve done this last season, but Palmer was hurt for most of the year. In the NFL, you can’t win without a Top 10 quarterback. Palmer is playing like a Top 10 quarterback this season. Palmer is sixth in the league with 1,316 yards with a completion percentage of 64.9 percent. He also 13 touchdowns to only three interceptions.
With the running backs, a turnover forcing defense and a healthy Palmer, the sky’s the limit for this team.
When it comes to the AFC Conference in the NFL, there has clearly been one dominant team: the New England Patriots. The Patriots have made the playoffs in 12 of the last 14 seasons and won four Super Bowl titles in that span.
But if there is one team to stampede the reign of the team from the greater Bah-ston area, they hail from Wild West: the Denver Broncos.
The first reason why the Broncos will upset the Patriots is their defense. Ranked in the top two in defense, Denver is led by outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miler on the defense end with cornerback Aqib Talib anchoring the secondary. Ware and Miller have been sack machines, racking a total of 7.5 sacks combined this season. Talib has recorded three interceptions for the Broncos and Denver is in the top 10 in nearly every defensive category. Two of their six wins this season have come without scoring a touchdown on the offensive end.
Then there’s Peyton Manning. The NFL’s all-time leading touchdown passer, Manning hasn’t been playing like the 2013 MVP version but instead like the “really high voice Peyton Manning” from the DirecTV commercials. Manning has thrown 10 interceptions compared to just seven touchdowns this season. But there is still some life in that 39-year-old body of Manning’s. The quarterback has managed to bounce back time after time, for instance, this past Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. In the fourth quarter, Manning tossed his second pick of the game, a pick-six. What did Manning do? He responded 14 seconds later with a 75-yard strike to wideout Emmanuel Sanders. Not bad coming from a guy who likes to shout “Omaha” at the line of scrimmage and eat chicken Parmesan sandwiches.
A stifling defense plus a timeless quarterback equals a dangerous combination.