Goal-Line Stand: Peyton’s Broncos riding high at 7-0

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Updated: November 5, 2015
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Heading into Week 9, we’re right at the halfway point of the NFL season. It feels like yesterday where we were still making preseason predictions. Much has changed from early September, and that’s what we come to expect from the NFL. There are teams who we thought would be Super Bowl contenders, that are hanging on to mediocre records. While teams who we thought didn’t stand a chance this season, are surprisingly in position for a playoff run.

This week on the “Goal-Line Stand,” we focus on Peyton Manning and his undefeated Denver Broncos, the Oakland Raiders‘ youth movement, the dominating New England Patriots and the benching of Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco.

 

First-and-Goal: Peyton Manning and the Broncos can’t be touched 

In a Sunday night contest against arguably the most efficient offense in football — maybe the Patriots would have something to say about this — the Broncos completely dominated the Green Bay Packers 29-10. Manning was on top of his game, as he, at least for one week, silenced his critics with a 21-of-29, 340-yard passing performance. He didn’t throw any touchdowns, and did have one interception on the night, but he also showed plenty of zip on his passes.

The Broncos finally got the run game going the way they’d like to under head coach Gary Kubiak, as Ronnie Hillman scored two rushing touchdowns and C.J. Anderson scored another. And Denver’s defense is playing at an elite level. They limited Aaron Rodgers, who many proclaim to be the best quarterback in the NFL, to just 77 passing yards. SEVENTY SEVEN. That’s unheard of when playing against Rodgers.

This team seems to be ascending upward and Manning is actually progressing as the season goes on, instead of declining the way we’ve seen in the past. They handed the Packers their first loss of the year, as both teams were 6-0 heading into Sunday night, and the team will have superb confidence moving forward. They have the Indianapolis Colts this week, who dominated them in the playoffs last season, but their biggest test will come on Nov. 29 when they face the Patriots.

 

Second-and-Goal: The young Oakland Raiders are learning how to win 

They have a quarterback to build around, in Derek Carr, a running back to lean on, in Latavius Murray, and a future superstar at wide receiver, in Amari Cooper.

Carr, who is 24 years old and just in his second season, has thrown 15 touchdowns to just three interceptions through seven games. He also has a passer rating of 105.7, which is fifth best in the NFL. Murray is in the top 10 in rushing this season, with 534 yards, and has been a threat both out of the backfield and as a receiver. He’s only 25 and in his third season. Cooper, who’s 21, leads all rookie receivers with 38 receptions, 565 yards and three touchdowns. And he hasn’t been Carr’s only weapon on the outside. Michael Crabtree has had a resurgence in Oakland, with 40 receptions for 483 yards and three touchdowns of his own.

Coming off a big victory over the New York Jets, where Carr shredded what’s possibly the best secondary in the NFL, completing 23 of 36 passes for 333 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions, the Raiders just may be for real. They’re a team to watch, as they’ll try to scratch and claw their way to their first winning season and playoff berth since 2002.

 

Third-and-Goal: The New England Patriots are making it look easy 

They’re 7-0, and they’ve dominated all of their opponents so far this season. The only team to give them a serious challenge this year, was the New York Jets in Week 7, as they fought for a 30-23 victory. Then they followed that up by stomping the Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football, 36-7.

Tom Brady is continuing to play out of his mind, as he’s thrown 20 touchdown passes to just one interception this season — which is outrageously good. He has also thrown for more yards (2,410) in the first seven games of a season in his career. Yes, that’s even more yards than what he threw for through seven games in 2007 — a record-breaking year that saw the Patriots go 18-0 before losing in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. Oh, and Brady had Randy Moss as his go-to receiver during that time.

Now, his go-to guy is tight end Rob Gronkowski. Brady’s helped turn Gronkowski into the most complete tight end in all of football. No one can guard him one-on-one, not a cornerback, safety or linebacker. And, he blocks just as well as an offensive lineman. There’s literally nothing you can do to stop him. He has 40 receptions for 646 yards and seven touchdowns on the season — leading all tight ends. Cleveland Browns tight end Gary Barnidge also has 40 receptions.

This team is starting to look unbeatable. They are on pace to win the AFC East for the 12th time in 13 years, and they could very well end up in the Super Bowl for the seventh time since Brady has been under center. They have the Washington Redskins this week, which, in many people’s eyes, should be chalked up as another victory.

 

Fourth-and-Goal: The 49ers bench Colin Kaepernick for Blaine Gabbert

Well, they lost the majority of their players over the offseason, and their head coach. Now they could possibly be starting life without their highly-paid quarterback. The San Francisco 49ers, who are 2-6 through eight games, have decided to bench Colin Kaepernick and allow Blaine Gabbert to run the show.

Kaepernick is having by far the worst season of his career. He doesn’t have the offensive line that was once there; he doesn’t have the stout defense that was once dependable; and he doesn’t have the confidence that was once evident. Kaepernick has thrown for just six touchdown passes on the season, and five interceptions. He would be on pace to have just 12 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions — that’s just disgusting numbers.

The 49ers have the second worst record in the NFC, behind only the 1-7 Detroit Lions, who have decided to fire almost everyone other than head coach Jim Caldwell. This could spell the end of Kaepernick in a 49ers uniform. I think he still has the talent to be successful in the NFL, but this season has just been a wash. One that 49er fans, and players, would like to forget once January comes.

Josiah Turner

Josiah Turner

Josiah is the founder and editor-in-chief at Sideline Sports Report. He is a writer for ESPN, and has written for Rant Sports and FanSided covering the Washington Redskins. He's also covered high school basketball for Virginia Preps (Rivals.com). Josiah is from Chesapeake, VA and a college graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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