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Halfway point: nfl week 8 round-up

Here’s my take on some of this past weekend’s games, including the annual Wembley game between the Patriots and Rams and a nail-biting finish in Dallas between two NFC East rivals.

Atlanta Falcons 30-17 Philadelphia Eagles:

The Falcons still stand alone as the NFL’s only remaining undefeated side by comfortably defeating the Philadelphia Eagles. Atlanta Quarterback Matt Ryan has been in great form all season long and took advantage of an Eagles defence that was playing its first game under new defensive co-ordinator Todd Bowles. Ryan threw touchdown passes on the Falcons’ first three offensive possessions and star Wide Receiver Julio Jones had another great outing, catching five passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.

Sunday’s game marked the second occasion that Michael Vick lined up against his former team after being re-instated in the league in 2009. Vick has struggled hugely all year long in terms of turnovers but managed to hold on to the ball pretty well against the Falcons. However Vick and the passing attack posed little threat to Atlanta’s defence and Running Back Lesean McCoy struggled to gain significant yards on the ground, averaging a pedestrian 2.8 yards per carry. The Falcons currently sit at the top of the NFC South standings miles ahead of the rest of their division that consists of the struggling Saints, Buccaneers and Panthers. Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid on the other hand sits firmly on the hot seat. His Eagles team has lost their last three games after opening the season 3-1. Up next for the Eagles is a trip to the Superdome to face the New Orleans Saints, while Atlanta hosts another NFC East side in the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.

New England Patriots 45-7 St Louis Rams:

For the second time in four seasons, the New England Patriots made the long trip across the pond to London to play in the annual Wembley game. Ever since its inception back in 2007, the Wembley game has been a big success as the NFL attempts to branch out and increase its already massive worldwide fanbase. The Patriots had no problems keeping their winning record in London alive, easily disposing of the St Louis Rams. New England’s high octane offense looked as though it was on a mission as Quarterback Tom Brady led his unit to touchdowns on the Patriots’ first five possessions of the game. It looked as though the London crowd was going to be treated to a close affair early on, as Rams Quarterback Sam Bradford hooked up with rookie Wide Receiver Chris Givens on a 50 yard touchdown pass on the first drive of the game. However, the Patriots began to pull away and ended up with a 28-7 lead going into the half.

All-Pro Tight End Rob Gronkowski had arguably his best game of the season so far with eight catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Two time league MVP Tom Brady had yet another great game, throwing for over 300 yards and four touchdowns. However, the overall balance of the Patriots offense was very impressive with second year Running back Stevan Ridley gaining 127 yards and a score on the ground. New England now have the league’s leading passer in terms of yards and the league’s fourth ranked rusher. The offensive line also did a great job of containing two of the league’s best pass rushers, as both Robert Quinn and Chris Long were held without any sacks. Both teams will head back from London with a deserved rest as they are both on bye weeks.

New York Giants 29-24 Dallas Cowboys:

After getting out to a dominating 23-0 lead early in the second quarter, the New York Giants struggled to put away the Dallas Cowboys but inevitably came out of Texas Stadium with the win. The Cowboys rallied in the second half, scoring 24 unanswered points before New Yorks’ clutch kicker Lawrence Tynes kicked two field goals to build up a five point lead. Wide Receiver Dez Bryant thought he had changed his image from villain (he fumbled twice in the first half) to hero after he caught a hail-mary pass from Tony Romo with four seconds remaining.

However, the play was overturned after officials decided that Bryant’s fingertips were out of bounds while making the catch, proving right all those who utter the cliché “it’s a game of inches.” In reality the game should have been dead and buried before the final quarter even began. The Cowboys were responsible for an abysmal 6 turnovers, including four interceptions by Romo, one of which was returned for six by outstanding Defensive End Jason Pierre-Paul.

The victory marked the 20th fourth Quarter comeback in Eli Manning’s career. Despite the loss, Cowboys Tight-End Jason Witten broke the franchise record for most receptions in a game with 18. Witten is now on the verge of becoming the Cowboys’ all-time leader in catches and can surpass Hall of Famer Michael Irvin’s mark of 750. Next up for the Giants is a home game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers while Dallas makes the trip to the Georgia Dome to take on the undefeated Atlanta Falcons.

Denver Broncos 34-14 New Orleans Saints:

Peyton Manning threw for over 300 yards for the fifth consecutive time this season, matching his personal best streak, and also threw for three scores as the Broncos defeated the beleaguered Saints and took top spot in the AFC West. Despite the return of Linebacker Jonathan Vilma the Saints defence had no chance of stopping the Broncos who gained a season-high 530 yards of total offense.

Quarterback Drew Brees kept his streak of consecutive games with at least on touchdown throw alive, but the Saints offense struggled all game and only converted on one of twelve third down attempts. Manning led the Broncos down the field on two 90-plus yard scoring drives that were capped by receivers Eric Decker and Demaryious Thomas. The Broncos have reached their bye week with a record of 4-3 and only have one team with a winning record on their remaining schedule. The Saints will host fellow strugglers Philadelphia to New Orleans for Monday Night Football.

Offensive Player of the Week:

Doug Martin, Running Back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Doug Martin, the rookie from Boise State officially broke out on the scene last Thursday night in a road contest against the Minnesota Vikings. Martin had 214 total yards of offense and two touchdowns against a fairly stout Vikings defensive front.

Defensive Player of the Week:

Jason Pierre-Paul, Defensive End, New York Giants:

Pierre-Paul has been back to his dominant self the last two weeks after a relatively slow start by his standards. JPP had a sack and a crucial interception return for a touchdown in the Giants’ road victory against Dallas.

Top Ten Power Rankings:

1.     New York Giants (6-2)

2.     Atlanta Falcons (7-0)

3.     Houston Texans (6-1)

4.     San Francisco 49ers (6-2)

5.     New England Patriots (5-3)

6.     Chicago Bears (6-1)

7.     Green Bay Packers (5-3)

8.     Baltimore Ravens (5-2)

9.     Denver Broncos (4-3)

10.  Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)