Forsett has played for four different teams in the last four seasons after spending his first four NFL years in Seattle. Prior to 2014, he'd started just seven games and his best season was in 2009 when he rushed and received for a combined 969 yards and five touchdowns. This season he was supposed to be another utility/third down back, but in the wake of Ray Rice's indefinite suspension he has become the backbone of the Ravens run game. Forsett earned his first start in Week 3 but has played in every game this season, already amassing 720 yards rushing for five touchdowns and 31 receptions for 202 yards. He's 4th in the league in total rushing yards and has 24 rushes of 10+ yards, which is second only to DeMarco Murray's outrageous 35. He's also fumbled the ball just once this season, and it did not result in a turnover.
Not only is it great to see a player take the most of their opportunity to have a breakout year, but it's extra satisfying to know that the Ravens have managed to reinvigorate their running game without Ray Rice; which serves to further prove just how replaceable he is.
The Miami Dolphins
The 6-4 Dolphins are currently 2nd in the AFC East behind the 7-2 Pats, but with their win over Brady and Co. in Week 1 of the season, they have set themselves up nicely to stay on their heels and at least give them a run for their money. The AFC East may not seem as competitive as some of the other divisions this year, but right behind them are the 5-5 Buffalo Bills being lead by the reinvented Kyle Orton 2.0 who is having a sneakily good season. The Dolphins are keeping things exciting, and with the way this season is shaking out across the league, there is no counting anyone out.
Ryan Tannehill certainly doesn't look like he's winning a Super Bowl this year, but he has a fantastic arm, he's surprisingly mobile and he has fearlessness that is not marred by the type of overeager, injury-inducing decision making that has haunted other young quarterbacks with the same moxie. Elite pass rusher Cameron Wake has 10.5 sacks on the season so far, and is a leader for a talented but inexperienced defense. With the current state of the AFC, the Dolphins are right in the mix of wild card contention with the Kansas City Chiefs and whatever team happens to be second at any given time in the AFC North. For the few diehard sports fans in Miami, hopefully this is a consolation in the post-Lebron era.
The AFC North
Week 11, 2014 Season
Cleveland Browns 6-3
Cincinnati Bengals 5-3-1
Pittsburgh Steelers 6-4
Baltimore Ravens 6-4
PRAISE THE LORD the Cleveland Browns are leading the AFC North!
I think it's safe to say that the AFC North is the least likable division in the NFL. The Ravens and their fans and their completely unwarranted persecution complex are getting worse as time goes by. The Bengals have perfected the art of choking in a way that would be admirable if it weren't so pathetic, and no one has ever felt bad for the Steelers. Ever. The Browns and their fans, in their all of their historically sucktastic glory, have lamented less across their entire existence than the Ravens do on one average NFL Sunday.
Browns fans have been so beaten down by the top-to-bottom mess that is their franchise that they aren't even mad that they wasted their time with Johnny Manziel only to start winning with Brian "the dude who backed up Tom Brady for a few years" Hoyer. They just don't even care. Throw whoever you got out there, and if it sticks, they're good. They've been let down enough to know how to ride a god wave while it lasts and that is all the more reason to be psyched about the Browns right now.
Not only are they theoretically the team to root for, they are actually earning their stripes on the field; especially defensively. Cornerbacks Tashaun Gipson and Buster Skrine are 1st and 3rd respectively in interceptions this season for a total of ten. Five different players on their defense have at least 2.0 sacks, lead by Paul Kruger who has 6.0. The pickup of longtime Cardinal Karlos Dansby proved to be a huge improvement to their linebacking core, as his 69 total tackles leads the team and is tied for 18th best in the league.
The Cardinals Defense
Their offense has been good, not great. Carson Palmer tore his ACL last week to end his season, so Drew Stanton is once again their starter. I'm of the mind that anything Palmer could do, Stanton can too; which means that offensively they should be able to stay on track, if not improve.
Either way the heart of the Cardinals is their defense, and they are quietly the most impressive unit in the NFL because they are doing it without almost all of their best defensive players from their fantastic 2013 defense. Leading tackler Karlos Dansby now plays for the Browns. They're missing both of their best defensive ends; Daryl Washington was suspended for the year and Darnell Dockett suffered a season-ending ACL tear in training camp. They also lost their best pass rusher in John Abraham, who had 11.5 sacks last season, when he suffered a concussion in Week 1 and was ruled out for the rest of the season. Those four players would be missed individually on any team in the league, but to lose all of them in the span of a few months would have decimated most defensive units.
That's not the case in Arizona. They have the 3rd best run defense in the league and are tied with the Patriots for the best turnover differential at +12. If you've read enough of my work you know that I am obsessed with the correlation between turnover differential and late season/postseason success. (The Patriots and Cardinals are currently the two number 1 seeds in the NFL).
The Cardinals have only turned the ball over seven times as a team, which is the second fewest behind the Patriots' six turnovers. Their defense has nineteen takeaways including two interceptions returned for touchdowns. The best thing a defense can do when they have lost significant talent is create turnovers and capitalize on them. There is nothing more devastating to another team than to be terrified to make a mistake, and that's what the Cardinals are doing to their opposition.
Perhaps it's his style of play and the fact that he's never possessed the finesse of many of his Champion contemporaries. Just look at that picture above. No, that's not Ben holding the ball over his head in celebration. That's a picture of him IN THE MIDDLE OF THROWING A PASS. What professional athlete throws like that? The ball is still firmly in his grasp, so when is his release point? How does that ball not just fly firmly into the dirt in front of him, or fly backwards out of that weird, loose excuse for a grip? I can't think of another athlete that could create enough range of motion from that position to complete a pass. You can't not be impressed by that.
Not only has he managed to be massively successful despite throwing the football like a neanderthal, he's currently on pace to have the best statistical season of his career at the age of 34. Plus he just became the only quarterback in the history of the NFL to throw six touchdown passes in two consecutive games. Check this out:
Comp Pct 63.3
Passer Rating 92.6
Through Week 10, 2014
Comp Pct 68.5
Passer Rating 107.3
FIrst of all, that's a great reminder of how good Roethlisberger's career statistics really are. His numbers this year have not only been even better than his career averages, but he's on pace to throw for a personal record 4,896 yards and 37 touchdowns. Those numbers at his age are only achieved by Hall of Fame quarterbacks, and his 2014 performance so far is a big step towards cementing a future spot in Canton.