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Ten Thoughts on the NFL

Check out my latest slew of Thoughts on the National Football League!

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

1) Just when we're all ready to write off 39 year old Peyton Manning, he goes out and puts up 340 yards through the air against a pretty good Green Bay Packers defense.

But the biggest shocker from that game was Denver's defense holding Aaron Rodgers to just 77 yards on 14 for 22 passing. Awesome pass rushers, plus a great secondary spells trouble for opposing quarterbacks. Denver's D is holding QBs to a passer rating of 69.6, with 5 TDs to 9 Ints and 29 sacks.

1a) Did you realize that Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith rushed for more yards (78) in their win against the Lions, than Rodgers passed for (77) against Denver?

1b) I really like Denver's acquisition of tight end Vernon Davis.

2) Just because the Miami Dolphins were blown out by the undefeated New England Patriots on Thursday night, that doesn't change the fact that interim head coach Dan Campbell gave them the needed shot on the arm to get their season back on track after the Joe Philbin era ended.

NFL "experts" were all over social media with their 'see the Dolphins still suck' stuff, but this is a team that was middling under Philbin, who had over 3 years to right the ship. He never led the team to a winning record so ownership thought a change was needed.

2a) Speaking of the Pats, this is great.

3) With Drew Brees and Eli Manning going absolutely nuts, combining for 13 passing TDs and 855 yards, you may have missed the awesome game from Oakland's Derek Carr. Carr passed for 4 TDs and 333 yards against the 2nd ranked New York Jets defense, which is led by one of the best corners ion the game, Darrelle Revis.

The Raiders may not sneak into the playoffs this year, but this team is young, hungry and improving.

4) Speaking of the playoffs, the Indianapolis Colts lost again, but are still atop the AFC South at 3-5, tied with the even more inept Houston Texans. The Texans took out the even worse Tennessee Titans, which led to them firing their head coach, Ken Wisenhunt.

Wisenhunt, who coached the Cardinals to a Super Bowl appearance just 6 years ago, was 3-20 over his two seasons in Tennessee and 4-31 over his last 35 games as a head coach. That's a lot of bad. I don't see him ever getting another head coaching gig in the NFL.

5) The Dallas Cowboys have now lost 5 straight since losing QB Tony Romo, but at 2-5, they are still in the hunt for the NFC East title. The New York Giants lead the division at 4-4, but none of the teams in that division look like they want to take control of it.

6) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won 2 of their last 3 games behind solid play from rookie QB Jameis Winston. Remember the week 1 hot takes when everyone was saying #2 draft pick Marcus Mariota was better than Winston, who went #1 overall?

Since throwing 7 interceptions in his first 4 games, Winston hasn't thrown any in his last three. In those three games, Winston is completing 65% of his passes, he's averaging 227 yards per game, he has 4 TD passes with a 110.5 passer rating.

On the season he has a passer rating of 85.6 while fellow rookie Mariota, who has missed the last 2 games with an injury, has a passer rating of 93.2. But in his last three games, Mariota has thrown 5 interceptions to 3 TDs, with a 74.4 passer rating.

7) We talked about it last week, but after rushing for 133 yards on 20 carries, and going over 100 yards for the fourth straight start to begin his career, Todd Gurley looks really, really good.

The St. Louis Rams, with a good running game and awesome defense, may finally flirt with their first winning record since 2003.

8) The Cleveland Browns are in fire sale mode by putting the best left tackle in the game on the market. If I were running a contending or emerging team, I'd have to seriously consider meeting the Browns demands for more than a 1st rounder for 30 year old Joe Thomas. The Patriots and Broncos are both reported to be interested.

8a) I wonder if those two left tackle needy teams would have any interest in a former Pro Bowler who is getting healthier while riding the Chicago Bears bench?

I'd bet Bears' GM Ryan Pace is trying to snag a 6th round pick for Jermon Bushrod as you read this.

EDIT: The Trade Deadline has passed with nothing more than a whimper...

9) The San Francisco 49ers are benching Colin Kaepernik, who isn't having a very good season, for Blaine Gabbert, who has never been a good NFL quarterback.

Chicago Bears fans, this scenario may remind you of last year when then head coach Marc Trestman benched Jay Cutler for Jimmy Clausen. The 2014 Cutler, much like 2015 Kaepernick, is clearly the more talented player, but there is a disconnect between player and coach/scheme that is causing problems.

To further illustrate the Gabbert - Clausen comparison, I dug into their stats and shared them via Twitter last night.

10) I know that one play in a football game isn't the reason between a win or a loss, but this no-call really chaps my ass.

There was no acting by Chicago Bears punter Pat O'Donnell, he was just hit while in a vulnerable position. It wasn't a devastating collision, and the Viking tried to brace his fall, but that doesn't matter. The referee just decided to keep the flag in his pocket when the rule clearly states he shouldn't have.

Here's the beginning of the rule from the 2015 NFL Rulebook.

No defensive player may run into or rough a kicker who kicks from behind the line unless such contact:

a) is incidental to and occurs after the defender has touched the kick in flight
b) is caused by the kicker's own motions
c) occurs during a quick kick or a rugby-style kick
d) occurs during or after a run behind the line
e) occurs after the kicker recovers a loose ball on the ground
f) occurs because a defender is pushed or blocked (causing a change of direction) into the kicker
g) is the result of a foul by an opponent

And here's the pertinent part of the rule that applies in this case.

Note: When in doubt, it is a foul for roughing the kicker.

Item 2. Running into the Kicker. It is a foul for running into the kicker if a defensive player:

a) contacts the kicking foot of the kicker, even if the kicker is airborne when the contact occurs
b) slides under the kicker, preventing him from returning both feet to the ground

And here's the penalty that should have been called.

For running into the kicker: Loss of five yards from the previous spot (not a personal foul). There is not an automatic first down.

The Bears were facing a 4th and 5 on the play in question, so the 5 yards should have been enough for a 1st down. In a 20 -20 game with 1:10 on the clock, I like Jay Cutler's chances to get the Bears in field goal range.

A conservative first half game plan hurt the Bears. Antrel Rolle not making a better play on the ball hurt the Bears. Their inability to slow down rookie wide out Stefon Diggs hurt the Bears. The drop by Jeremy Langford on the play prior to the punt hurt the Bears. But the no-call on this 4th down play hurt the Bears too.

What were some of your thoughts on the last week in the NFL?