The NFL has always loved nicknames and labels.
We grow up learning about The Ice Bowl and the Immaculate Reception, drooling over the silky moves of Sweetness, dreaming of being the guy to heave the perfect Flea Flicker pass into the end zone as time runs out.
Thanks to our friends at ESPN, 2011 was coined the Year of the Quarterback, a clever handle that was not only timely, but extremely marketable – especially the way this season started.
Joe Blow quarterbacks like Rex Grossman, Colt McCoy, Tarvaris Jackson and Chad Henne stepped up to the challenge and posted 300-yard games. Cam Newton spat in the face of his critics with Techmo Bowl numbers, while Tom Brady and Mike Vick lived up to their hype on a weekly basis.
With scorekeepers working overtime, over bettors had cashed in 63 percent of their wagers through the first five weeks of the season. Following the lockout, the league couldn’t have imagined a better start for its Year of the Quarterback.
But as we know all too well, the winds of change blow strong in the NFL.
Five weeks later, it’s quite clear that the Year of the Quarterback (plural) has become the Year of the Quarterback (singular) and that signal caller is undoubtedly Super Bowl champion Aaron Rodgers.
This week, that distinction comes almost by default considering a rash of quarterback injuries that includes Vick, Henne, Jason Campbell, Ben Roethlisberger, Matthew Stafford, Matt Cassel, Matt Schaub, Kevin Kolb, and of course, Peyton Manning.
But while the rest of the league’s quarterbacks fell off the pace or found themselves on the trainer’s table, Rodgers keeps slinging it. He’s a perfect figurehead for Year of the Quarterback too – the reigning champ with just enough swagger to keep him from being a robot and more skill from the position than we’ve seen since Manning and Brady were slugging it out in the stat column.
A bunch of books now have the NFC set as 4-point Super Bowl favorites over the AFC, largely because of what Rodgers has done to lead Green Bay to its perfect start. Rodgers leads the league with 28 touchdowns compared to only three interceptions and with a QB rating of 130.7, is on pace to smash Peyton’s single-season rating of 121.1.
So while it’s probably not the way the league drew it up, it’s nice to see at least one guy holding up to his end of the bargain in the Year of the Quarterback.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers (-14, 48.5)
Right about now, the only thing that can stop Rodgers and the Green Bay offense is some sort of natural disaster. Barring that, you can pencil the cheeseheads in for 35 points a game.
The real question mark in this one is Tampa Bay’s attack. The Buccaneers haven’t managed 20 points during their three-game skid and Josh Freeman is taking a lot of heat. Apparently he’s been playing with a bad thumb, but what he really needs is a little help from his receivers.
Bucs coach Raheem Morris has promised changes after last week’s blowout loss to Houston and they’ll be game for this one.
Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams (-2, 39)
Even after last week’s shocking win over the Ravens, you have to tread carefully with the Seahawks – especially on the road. They’re averaging fewer than 14 points on the highway this year.
Meanwhile, St. Louis has been held to 14 or fewer points in six of its last seven.
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins (-2, 43)
Weeks ago, you wouldn’t have picked the Dolphins to be the team coming into Week 11 with all the momentum.
Buffalo is coming off a terrible showing against Dallas last week and it looks as though clubs are catching up to the Bills’ offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Co. have been held to 18 points over the last four quarters, while Miami has allowed just 12 points over the same span.
The Dolphins’ under train keeps chugging along, having cashed in eight straight. Pick:
UnderLast week’s record: 1-2
Season record to date: 15-15