The NFL reached the midway point on Sunday, and I think the only appropriate feeling to have is confusion. And not just because there was a game on at 9:30 a.m.
Sure, most expected the Broncos to be dominant, but who really thought the Cardinals and Cowboys would be vying for NFC supremacy? At the beginning of the season, would you have believed that the mighty Seahawks and 49ers would be a pedestrian 8-6, or that the Saints, Bears, Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers would be on the outside of the playoff picture?
It's all starting to feel a little strange. Let's take a look at all the weirdness with Week 8's Winners and Losers.
Winner: The Arizona Cardinals
It's time we give Arizona their props. No matter how banged up or behind the 8-ball this team seems to be, they keep finding ways to win football games.
And Sunday was no different. Arizona knocked off the Eagles 24-20 thanks to a pair of Carson Palmer touchdown passes, the first an 80-yard strike to Larry Fitzgerald – the longest of Fitz's career – and the second, a game winning 75-yarder to John Brown with less than two minutes remaining. Their defense bent (to the tune of 521 total yards) but never broke, and believe it or not, the Cards are 6-1, sitting atop the NFC West. They head to Dallas next week, and if they manage to win in Jerry World, perhaps we'll really have to start believing in them.
Loser: NFL Fans
The NFL will never understand us. Not only do we have to endure the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' uniforms and Roger Goodell's presence, but the league is determined to make the NFL in London a real thing.
Yesterday's Lions/Falcons game kicked off from Wembley Stadium at 9:30 a.m. ET. What the hell did we do to deserve football at 9:30 a.m.?!? Football is supposed to be an escape. Football at 9:30 isn't football, it's work. Don't try to lure us in with your Bill Murray videos.
To make matters worse, the London Daily Mail is now reporting that there are five NFL games slated for next season. We understand the NFL is looking to plant a permanent team in London, and, for whatever reason, football fans here in the U.S. didn't seem to mind the early starting time on Sunday. But, come on, does anyone really want this to keep happening?
Winners: Tom and Gronk
Remember the panic that occurred after the Pats were smoked by the Chiefs just a few weeks ago? Questions started becoming narrative; carrying from "Does Tom still have it?" to "Where the hell is Gronk?"
Well those days are long gone now. The Pats are sitting pretty at 6-2 and after yesterday's crushing of the Bears, Tom and Gronk look as good as ever. Brady got hooked up to the rejuvenation machine, going 30-of-35 for 354 yards and 5 touchdowns. Gronkowski went back to destroying worlds as he caught 9 passes for 149 yards and 3 touchdowns. I think it's officially time to disengage the panic mode, everyone: the Pats are still the Pats.
Loser: Lamarr Houston
Pro tip: Don't celebrate when your team is down by 25 in the fourth. I have it on good authority that the football gods frown upon this sort of hubris.
Just ask Chicago defensive end Lamarr Houston. With his team losing 48-23 with 3:20 left, Houston collected a sack against the Patriots back-up QB – you know, because the starter was already on the sidelines after kicking your ass. Anyway, while celebrating, Houston suffered a knee injury and was carted off the field. My face can't hit my palm hard enough.
Winner: J.J. Watt (of course)
This spot was reserved for Arian Foster, I swear. Foster ran for 151 yards and accounted for three touchdowns in the Texans' win, going over the 100-yard mark for the fourth straight game.
But who am I kidding? This is J.J. Watt's world and we're all just waiting to be sacked. Watt tortured rookie quarter Zach Mettenberger by sacking him twice, forcing a fumble and batting down a pass. Following one of those sacks, Watt mocked Mettenberger by posing for a selfie, something the young QB is prone to do. After the game Watt said, "It's just kind of a reminder, this is the National Football League, not high school. Welcome to the show."
Love you Arian, but with quotes like that, J.J. wins every time.
Loser: Geno Smith (of course)
You've got to hand it to Jets sorta-QB Geno Smith. His ability to make Mark Sanchez look good is truly something to behold.
Smith put up a career clunker on Sunday (which is saying something), going 2-of-8 for 5 of the saddest yards you've ever seen in your entire life. Smith also threw 3 interceptions – IN THE FIRST QUARTER. This level of suck is remarkable and I can't help but assume it's intentional. Nobody sucks that bad, right?
Winner: Big Ben, the Quarterback
Never judge a book by its cover, and as Ben Roethlisberger taught us Sunday, never judge a quarterback by his criminally atrocious football uniform.
Roethlisberger was in a record-breaking mood yesterday, going 40-of-49 for 522 yards and 6 touchdowns, setting Steelers single-game marks for passing yards and touchdown tosses. He also won his 100th game in his 150th career star. He did all of this while out-dueling the charging Colts. If for some reason you're still not impressed, Roethlisberger became the first player in NFL history with multiple 500-yard games. Mike Tomlin knows what's up.
Loser: Big Ben, the Punter
As great as Roethlisberger is as a QB, he's every bit as bad as a punter. Even though that GIF is already in slo-mo, Big Ben is still moving slower than everyone else. This is no go, Mike Tomlin. Retire this play forever.
Winner: Matt Prater
It wouldn't be Sunday without a good ol' tale of redemption. This week's story is from the book of Matthew (Prater), who carried the weight of the Lions/Falcons game on his right foot. Down by two, Prater lined up for the 43-yard game winning field goal attempt and of course, missed wide right.
But wait… a flag? Yup, turns out the Lions were called for a delay of game, which isn't declinable by the Falcons. So Detroit lined up five yards back and Prater – released by Denver after violating the league's substance abuse policy and signed by Detroit earlier this month – nailed the 48-yarder for the win.
Loser: Jeremy Maclin
He caught 12 passes for 187 yards and two scores, but Jeremy Maclin's Sunday will probably best be remembered for this Gatorade-spilling, table-tipping Superman in the third quarter. Hey, if he would've stuck the landing, I would have made him a winner for sure.