The Wednesday Stew: Ray Lewis Return, The NFL Playoffs, Adderall and More
Welcome football fans to a weekly column served hot and fresh every week, NFL Soup’s Tuesday Stew, brought to you this week by Wednesday. Here, I will recap the top headlines and stories from this past week’s games, go over some absurdly awesome stats and anything else in between. So sit back, relax and fill up on everything NFL.
Week 12 is in the books, and it’s time to dish out all the action. So without further ado, here’s what I’m serving up in this week’s stew:
Touchdown: Six Points On Week 12
1. Texans, Falcons Keep Winning
I mentioned this in last week’s Stew, but it needs mention again: the good teams always find a way to win. And here we are, once again, where the Texans and Falcons are atop their respective conference with a record of 10-1.
The Texans battled the Lions in a Thanksgiving thriller in Detroit, and for the second time in four days, walked away with a comeback win in overtime. The Lions dynamic duo of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson went off, connecting eight times off a game-high 17 targets, for 140 yards and a touchdown. The Lions held a ten-point lead midway through the third quarter and a seven-point lead early in the fourth, before the Texans rallied late and won off a Shayne Graham 32-yard field goal late in overtime. Though the Texans got some help from Lions head coach Jim Schwartz’s challenge-flag-on-a-scoring-play-that-is-automatically-reviewed penalty (a dumb rule, but rules are rules and Schwartz knows he messed up), the Lions had their chances and couldn’t stop the Texans when the game was on the line. With remaining games against the Titans, Patriots, Colts, Vikings, then Colts again, the Texans are in control of their own destiny when it comes to playoff seeding.
For the Falcons, with an offense that is as high-octane as theirs, it’s the defense that continues to win games for them (which was my main point on this team last week). Quarterback Matt Ryan went off, completing 26-of-32 passes for 353 yards and a touchdown. Wideout Julio Jones also had a big game, hauling in six catches for 147 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown, while Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White each had five catches for 62 and 57 yards, respectively. But the defense once again put them in a position to win, and after giving up a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, they buckled down, forcing the Buccaneers to attempt two field goals from there on out (one made, one missed), and a hail mary that fell incomplete. Additionally, they held breakout running back Doug Martin to just 50 yards on 21 carries (and one of those rushes went for ten yards, his longest run of the game).
2. Patriots Feast On Jets
Finishing off Thanksgiving in primetime, the Patriots embarrassed the Jets 49-19. After a scoreless first quarter, the Patriots lit up the scoreboard, scoring five touchdowns in the second quarter, including three in under a minute, to form an insurmountable 35-0 lead. The Jets turned the ball over five times, while Tom Brady and the Patriots offense made everybody forget that tight end Rob Gronkowski was injured. And at 8-3, with all three losses coming by a combined four points, the Patriots are once again one of the best teams in the league. But that’s a given, as long as Brady is under center, but like the Falcons, it’s the defense that will determine if they are worthy to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. With back-to-back primetime games against the Texans and 49ers in Week 14 and 15, we’ll see just how good this team can be.
3. 49ers, Giants Poised For Playoff Matchup
These two teams continue today’s theme so far of “defense wins championships” and the 49ers and Giants could very well meet again in the NFC Championship Game (that 26-3 Giants victory over the 49ers earlier this season doesn’t seem to be a factor anymore).
The 49ers, led again by the superb play of quarterback Colin Kaepernick and ball hawking defense, defeated the red hot Saints 31-21. That defense intercepted Brew Brees twice, both returned for touchdowns, and kept him under constant pressure, sacking him five times as well. With one of the best running games and defenses in the NFL, he 49ers have been a quarterback away from a championship. Though Alex Smith has played impressively over the past season and a half, head coach Jim Harbaugh must see something in Kaepernick that makes him believe that he’s the answer to take them to the Super Bowl. Only time will tell if he’s right.
Speaking of the Super Bowl, the defending champion Giants once again look like the champs, returning from their bye week to blow out the Packers, winners of five straight, 38-10. Quarterback Eli Manning showed everyone his arm wasn’t tired as he threw for three touchdowns, no interceptions and was only sacked once. On the other side of the ball, the Giants front four harassed Aaron Rodgers all night, sacking him five times, and allowing the secondary to shut down the Packers speedy receivers while also intercepting Rodgers once. Like both Super Bowl victories over the Patriots, the Giants defensive line will be the deciding factor for the Giants in the playoffs, and as long as they continue to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, having seven men back in coverage will make it near impossible for anyone to beat them. Oh, and Eli Manning’s mistake-free play never hurts either.
4. So Are The Broncos And Colts
This offseason, Colts owner Jim Irsay said goodbye to quarterback and four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning, the face of the franchise for 14 seasons. Roughly a month and a half later, with Manning now on the Broncos, the Colts drafted Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, the most heralded college signal caller since Manning, first overall in the draft. Fast forward to today, with Manning closing in on a potential fifth MVP award, and Luck leading the Colts to a playoff date against Manning and his Broncos.
Currently, the Broncos are the projected fourth-seed in the playoffs at 8-3, and the Colts are the fifth-seed at 7-4. Unless either team, or the Texans, Ravens and Patriots slip up, the Colts would meet the Broncos in Denver in the first round of the playoffs. This matchup would surely bring a lot of press, with Manning facing his former team and replacement in Indianapolis. Though I personally think Manning and the Broncos would have the edge, what Luck and the Colts have done so far in his rookie season is impressive, and the sky is the limit for what this team can do in seasons to come.
5. Wake Up: Bengals AFC’s Sleeper
The team flying under the radar right now is the Cincinnati Bengals, with a record of 6-5 and currently on the outside looking in for the AFC’s last wild card slot. However, the Bengals are truly in control of their destiny, especially since the Steelers, without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, are losing control of that sixth seed. After losing four straight games, all within ten points, the Bengals have won three in a row in dominating fashion, outscoring opponents 93-29 in that span. Also during that three game win streak, quarterback Andy Dalton has thrown nine touchdowns to no interceptions, with wide receivers A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu combining for six of those touchdowns.
The Bengals next three games are all winnable against the Chargers, Cowboys and Eagles, before ending the season against the Steelers and Ravens, who they have already lost to once each so far this season. Those last two games should determine whether or not the Bengals make the playoffs, which was the same case in 2011. Last year, the Bengals went 9-7 and just missed the playoffs because they went 0-4 against the Steelers and Ravens. If the Bengals want to take the next step, they are going to have to win against those two teams, especially the Steelers, if they hope to earn a berth to the playoffs.
6. Ray Lewis Return?
Staying in the AFC North with the Ravens, Edward Lee of The Baltimore Sun reports that head coach John Harbaugh announced that linebacker Ray Lewis, who has been sidelined the past five games with a torn triceps muscle, is on pace to be activated from the injured reserve-designated to return list sooner than previously anticipated.
Lewis, a future Hall of Famer, 13-time Pro Bowler and undisputed emotional leader of the Ravens, would not be able to play right away if he does return. According to Lee, if Lewis returns to practice this week, he would be eligible to play against the Broncos in Week 15.
The Ravens have a tough remaining schedule, with games against the Steelers, Redskins, Broncos, Giants and Bengals, before starting another playoff run. And at 9-2, they are in the driver’s seat for a first-round bye. If this is truly going to be Lewis’ last chance at a Super Bowl title, then making sure he is healthy and rested will be beneficial to both him and the Ravens defense.
Extra Point: Adderall In The NFL
Recently, yet another news story broke this season about NFL players facing four-game suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy by taking Adderall, a medication commonly used to treat symptoms of attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The NFL classifies Adderall, an amphetamine, as a performance-enhancing substance.
Seahawks starting cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, Buccaneers cornerback Eric Wright, as well as Patriots defensive lineman Jermaine Cunningham, are just the latest players to face suspensions for taking Adderall. Earlier this season, Browns cornerback Joe Haden and Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib (who was traded from the Buccaneers) already served four-game suspensions this season for failed drug tests that involved Adderall.
As I said before, Adderall is classified as an amphetamine, so when a player tests positive on a drug test, they test positive for amphetamines, then they themselves reveal that it was Adderall that they took. Tom Curran of Comcast SportsNet New England seconds that, citing a recent phone conversation with June’ Rogers, the NFL’s Director of Drug Program and Policies.
Curran goes on to talk about the benefits of taking Adderall, or why a player not prescribed to it for ADD or ADHD would take it. “Rogers said it enhances focus,” writes Curran. “And it gives a player a little zip (my word, not hers) after he takes it. It’s an upper.”
But that’s not the only source he speaks to. “Speaking to another source in the medical field, I was told Adderall has limited benefits for NFL players aside from meeting room focus and staying awake (it’s also used to combat narcolepsy),” adds Curran.
Now, most of these potential suspensions arise months after the player takes the drug test. So, if they did in fact take Adderall, it would make sense for them to take it in order to stay awake and stay focused during training camp meetings and film sessions (I’m not saying I agree with it, I’m only saying it makes sense why they would do that). It does not make sense though, for a player to take Adderall for a game, because as an amphetamine, it increases their heart rate, among other side effects, and during the course of a game, would increase the potential of something serious (such as dizziness, fainting, coma, etc.) to occur.
Due to a high number of players failing drug tests and admitting it was because of Adderall, the NFL and NFLPA have a serious problem on their hands that they have to deal with, especially if the rate of players failing drug tests for it increases even more. Additionally, players need to know that they shouldn’t be taking medication they are not prescribed to, as it can greatly affect their careers and health. For the record, players who are prescribed to the medication can receive permission from the league to take it, according to Marc Sessler of NFL.com.
Three Absurdly Awesome Stats
1. Seahawks running back/return specialist Leon Washington returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown against the Dolphins on Sunday. That was Washington’s eighth kickoff return touchdown, tying him with Browns wide receiver/return specialist Josh Cribbs for the NFL record.
2. With two rushing touchdowns against the Eagles on Monday Night Football, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has now become the first quarterback in NFL history to record 20 rushing touchdowns in his first two seasons.
3. Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill surpassed Hall of Famer Dan Marino for most passing yards by a rookie in franchise history. Tannehill has thrown for 2,373 yards on the season, besting the previous mark of 2,210 yards that Marino held.
Most Mind-Blowing Play
This week’s most mind-blowing play comes courtesy of Ravens running back Ray Rice, who converted a 4th-and-29 on a check down pass he caught one yard beyond the line of scrimmage. This play is mind-blowing since Rice had to run 28 yards and avoid eight different Chargers defenders in converting such a long fourth down, as well as for how the Chargers could allow it.
The play, which he refers to as “Hey Diddle Diddle Ray Rice Up The Middle,” can be seen right here.