The Nickel: Week 9

Editor’s note: It’s Monday, which means it’s go time around these parts. We rounded up the best of the best from our roster (Brandon Scott, Nubyjas Wilborn, J.C. Gamble, Maurice Bobb and editor Khalid Salaam) to talk about Sunday’s NFL games.  You ready? Good.


Question 1: Counting Urlacher's pick six on Sunday, the Chicago Bears defense has 7 defensive TDs. The NFL record is 9. Not to mention this D does a little bit of everything. So, is this hands down the best defensive team in the League? Why/Why not?

NUBYJAS:  Bears are the best defense in the league. Charles Tillman punches the ball away with the ferocity of Sugar Ray Leonard making Roberto Duran say “No Mas.’’  And if that isn’t enough for you Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, Tim Jennings and crew will make opposing offenses struggle to move the ball. 

J.R.: Its hands up for Chicago as a top defense. And thumbs down, as far as them being the clear-cut best. The Bear's 19th-ranked pass defense only test this season was Green Bay, and the Packers gave them a 23-10 drumming. The next two games bring the Big Dawgs -Texans and the formidable 49ers. We’ll find out if the Bears D is ’85 live.

BRANDON: The 49ers and Texans defense's might have something to say about the “hands-down” part of the argument, since those are more complete units statistically. But the Bears are still in a class of their own, since the defense is basically an offense. Normally you want the D to get off the field as quickly as possible. Not here.

MAURICE: Looks like we’re being prisoners of the moment.  Jay-Z’s rule about men lying, women lying and numbers keeping it 100, has been used more than a security wand at the BET Hip Hop Awards – but it holds true here: Pittsburgh only allows 263 yards of offense a game, so they’re still the best defense.  But the Bears are right there.  The D is why they’re a surprising 7-1 so far this season and who knew the old man BU could still bust a move like that?

KHALID: I’m still partial to what the 49ers do (even though that shellacking they took against the Giants really bothers me), but I’m willing to concede that the Bears defense absolutely looks championship worthy. The fact that they cause so many turnovers is cause for loads of optimism if you’re a Bears fan.


QUESTION 2: Speaking of the Bears, who is the best team in the NFC North? Green Bay or Chicago?

J.R.: The 7-1 record is pretty. The QB is a head case with a rifle arm. And the defense looks playoff ready. Life in Chi-Town is silky smooth, but the mandatory NFL rough patch is coming. The Packers have already weathered their storm and survived the devastating “Intercepted Touch Down” loss at Seattle. I’ll take Rocket Rodgers over Catty Cutler down the stretch.

NUBYJAS: I love the Bear's defense. But, I can’t take a team lead by Jay Cutler over one led by Aaron Rodgers.  Never forget that Cutler left his team hanging on the sideline during the NFC title game in a loss to the Packers.

BRANDON: If you’re asking whom I’d rather ride with, it’s the Packers. No one wants to have to explain picking Cutler over Rodgers. Remember this, though: We’re not talking about a Cutler-Rodgers cage fight. If the Bears’ touchdown lovin’ defense matches up well with a banged up Packers O, and the Packers’ D is still what it is, advantage Chi-City.

MAURICE: It’s hard to ignore what Chicago is doing right now with a 7-1 record but I'm like Nubyjas, when the Bears have Jay Cutler at the helm, it’s hard to trust what they’ll do come playoff time.  Green Bay has been doin' it and doin' well, plus they have the best QB in the league.  Once G-Money comes back, they’ll be the team to beat in the NFC North.  Book it.

KHALID: I don’t think there is a single player in the NFL as good as Aaron Rodgers, but man, Chicago is so balanced. Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Lance Briggs, etc.  I mean, they have difference makers all over the field. I’ll say Green Bay, but it's close.


QUESTION 3: That Giants/Steelers game was one of the more anticipated match-ups of the season. It lived up to the hype too. The Steelers window is not closed yet. Steelers have great skill players on offense and grizzled dudes on defense. What is their ceiling? Don't you trust them more than anyone else in the AFC?

J.R.: The Steelers are the NFL’s Eveready franchise:  The name you know. The quality you trust.  A loss could have sent Pittsburgh reeling. Tomlinson did what generals do. He stomped into the Giants kitchen, punched them in the gut and ate their vomit. Talk about a signature win. Comebacks like that propel teams to playoff greatness.

NUBYJAS: I trust Big Ben over Matt Shaub of the Texans. Steelers’ defense is playing better than the depleted Ravens bunch. The Patriot’s wide receivers don’t hold a candle to the “young money crew” of Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and Antonio Brown. With distinct advantages over every team in the AFC, I would have to say they are the favorites right now. 

MAURICE: What’s not to trust?  The Steelers are getting back to that old school Steelers football – running the ball and then unleashing that punishing D that holds opponents like the G-Men to less than 200 yards of offense.  You can never count out a storied franchise that has been to the big dance multiple times, but they’re still not the best in AFC this year.  No homers, but that title goes to the Texans.

BRANDON: Man, this is good because when the Steelers started out just winning every other game and the Texans were still undefeated, the AFC was looking like a one-team conference. Now we have somebody to challenge Houston and I trust the Black & Yellow to at least do that much.

KHALID: I’d put my own money up and bet on Pittsburgh if I had to. I don’t know how I can be more clear. I love everything the Steelers franchise is about.


QUESTION 4: The season is half over. Tell me who you think has been the single most impressive player you’ve seen.

MAURICE: If you thought JJ Watt would be this good before the season began, put your hands where my eyes can see.  Nobody?  Didn’t think so.  This kid was good last year, but this year, he’s in the convo for MVP.  He’s changing the game from his position in a way we haven’t seen since LT.  There are a lot of honorable mentions for great players this year—AP, Matt Ryan, Charles Tillman, but this Watt kid is game changer.

NUBYJAS:  Matt Ryan came into the season with owner Arthur Blank, the city, and media calling his team out after their playoff humiliation. So in the offseason he adds muscle to his frame, and became a more vocal leader. In the 4th quarter Ryan is golden. He’s lead comeback drives and shut the door on teams. Matty Ice is an MVP candidate. 

BRANDON: Check out the rookie Doug Martin in Tampa, though. The Bucs don’t even sell enough tickets to get their games televised locally, so a lot of us haven’t heard from them since Schiano pulled this punk move. But Martin came in kickin a– and takin’ jobs. Then there was that 251-yard, four-touchdown breakout game against the Raiders on Sunday.

J.R.: It was Eli Manning before Sunday. He has the big wins, big comebacks and robust stats. Today, I’ll move one seat over at the dinner table and say Peyton. Since joining a mediocre Broncos team, Peyton’s made “Tebow Time” seem like Prehistoric Times.  He has Broncos fans talking Super Bowl again. He’s even telling Papa John how many free pizzas to break off.

KHALID: I’m stuck between Eli and AP. Both guys have been killing all year but the thing about Adrian Petersen is that we all thought he would be slowed by this injury. He had a great game again yesterday. This dude is amazing. He might also be a cyborg. He’s been that good.


QUESTION 5:  There were several double-check stat numbers put up on Sunday. All impressive of course, but I need you guys to pick one. So basically, who won the weekend? Bear CB Charles Tillman with four forced fumbles (impressive because he's known for this and so you assume people are holding the ball tight), Bucs RB Doug Martin ran for 251 yards and four TDs (the second best rushing yardage number all-time) or Colts QB Andrew Luck (threw for 433 yards, the all-time rookie passing record)?

MAURICE: We expect greatness from Tillman and Martin is having a helluva rookie season for a virtual unknown, but Luck has more pressure on his back and let's be honest, no one thought the Colts would be 5-3 at this point.  We praised Cam last year, we gotta do the same for Luck.

NUBYJAS: Salute to Tillman who might have the most effective punch since Mike Tyson’s right hook to the body and left hook to the head. With all due respect after seeing Chuck Pagano’s emotional speech, there is no way I’m not taking Andrew Luck and his impressive rookie record.

BRANDON: The Tillman thing just makes you wonder if the Titans were paying attention after the first or second forced fumble. Not a good look in Tennessee. I can’t get excited about Luck’s record performance because I remember Cam having TWO 400-yard games by Week 3 last season (four interceptions, too). Martin had the gem.

J.R.: As mentioned, Tillman is known for making cats cough up the lettuce. No surprise there.  And all we heard leading up to the draft was Andrew Luck is John Elway, so he’s supposed to rip off 400 plus yards in the air.  “The Human Powerball,” Doug Martin, gets top honors. The bad back from Boise St. had a hellacious Cali homecoming, gashing Oaktown’s D in Emmitt Smith-like fashion.

KHALID: Just because we’re supposed to expect Luck to play at this level, doesn’t mean he has to. Last night was a dope performance and it was his fourth 300-yard passing game already this season. That’s the second best rookie mark of all-time. Guess who’s first?

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