Ok, so maybe the Patriots do have some life in them. Everything that Tom Brady did wrong in recent weeks, he corrected in a dominant outing against the Jets. He adjusted to pressure, scanned the field, and found the open man. Rob Gronkowski looks like an absolute beast in the secondary against overmatched defenders. Mark Sanchez on the other hand looked like the real Mark Sanchez – overmatched. The Jets are in trouble any time they get behind by multiple scores; virtually no chance to ride Sanchez’s arm for a meaningful stretch of action. Did the Bills lay an egg or what? In, by far, their worst showing of the year they got manhandled by the Cowboys. They’re fading at the wrong time and travel to Miami this week to face the upstart Dolphins, winners of two straight. Granted those two wins were against the Chiefs and Redskins, but this team, specifically Karlos Dansby and the defense, hasn’t quit on Tony Sparano. I don’t think Matt Moore is going to get much better than what we see from him now, but he’s doing the right thing by continuing to feed Brandon Marshall (20 targets in the last two games).
Up – Patriots, Dolphins
Down – Jets, Bills
Yep, they did it again. The Ravens no-showed against a shitty team. I don’t know any way to explain it other than they can’t get back up after a big, emotional game. For the second time this year they lost the week following a win against the Steelers to teams they have no business losing to. Their shitshow against the Jags on MNF was a week after a significant victory against the Texans. David Reed fumbling two kickoffs and giving it to the Seahawks on his team’s doorstep obviously doesn’t help, but the way the Ravens fail to bounce back is troubling to say the least. The Steelers know how to bounce back. They won a much tougher game against the Bengals, scoring a late go-ahead TD and turning over the rookie Andy Dalton in typical championship team fashion. Antonio Brown now has 26 receptions in his last 4 games and is battling Mike Wallace to be Pittsburgh’s most consistent wideout. Cincinnati can’t afford to let this loss linger as they have the Ravens on deck this week. Rookie AJ Green left the game with a hyperextended knee which he suffered after making his one catch (at TD) in the game. He’s expected to play this week, and they’ll definitely need him against Baltimore. One guy they won’t have is Leon Hall who suffered an Achilles injury last week. Huge huge loss. Cleveland lost at home to the 1-7 Rams in a game that I would not call an upset.
Up – Steelers
Down – Browns
Wowwie wow wow! Talk about some bad luck. As if losing Andre Johnson and Mario Williams for a significant stretch wasn’t enough, they’re now likely to be without QB Matt Schaub the rest of the year due to a reported Lisfranc injury suffered in their domination of the Bucs. Where do they go from here? Matt Leinart will get the ball when they come out of their bye, and you know the Jags defense (a unit I’ve underestimated this year) has to be licking their chops. Expect a ton of Arian Foster, Ben Tate, and Derrick Ward going forward. In what I thought was a pretty decent surprise, the Titans went to Carolina and spanked the Panthers 30-3 where there was a rare Chris Johnson showing. Johnson totaled 144 yards from scrimmage (130 on the ground) and a TD. No one has surrendered more rushing TDs than the Panthers this year, so maybe we shouldn’t get excited just yet. They’re 5-4 which means they’ll lose next week. The Jaguars beat the Colts in a pretty ugly display of football. Blaine Gabbert threw for 4 more yards than MJD rushed, but a win is a win right? Curtis Painter was mercifully benched for Dan Orlovsky and might have seen his last snap in the league.
Down – Colts
This just in – The Chargers are not a good football team. I’m also becoming increasingly disappointed in Philip Rivers. Great QBs find a way to win football games regardless of the health of their teammates or, quite frankly, their own at times. The Chargers just lost for the fourth straight time and don’t resemble a playoff team in any phase of the game. A fifth straight loss looks inevitable as they take on the red hot Bears this week. I’ve mentioned before how Michael Bush might be the best backup back in the league, and he showed why in this one. He was flat out dominant, running over and through Charger defenders even though they knew he was getting the ball. Carson Palmer developing some chemistry with the explosive Denarius Moore, so keep an eye on him in the coming weeks. Congratulations Chiefs. You just lost to a team whose QB completed two, yes dos, passes in an entire four quarter NFL game. Matt Cassel suffered a hand injury that might end his season, so Tyler Palko gets the honor of running the offense for the time being and losing to the Patriots on the road next Monday. Timmy Timmy Timmy. Tebow didn’t complete his first pass of the game until there were less than 4 minutes to go in the third quarter. How is that even possible? If I’m a Bronco fan I’m not sure if I laugh or cry over what’s going on under center. I guess a win is a win, but really? 2 for 8 as a professional QB in a game that you start and finish? Thursday night’s game against the Jets should be a treat.
Up – Raiders
Down – Chargers, Chiefs
In one of the week’s more exciting games, the first place Giants lost on a 4th and 2 at the Niners 10 yard line. Mario Manningham couldn’t hold onto a deep pass that would have been good for the go ahead score earlier in that drive. Otherwise, we might be talking about the 7-2 Giants as one of the league’s elite teams. I’m buying in. The Cowboys are the other NFC East team showing signs of giving a damn. Tony Romo was nearly flawless against the Bills missing on only 3 of his 26 pass attempts and throwing for three scores without a turnover. Dez Bryant led the way with 6 targets and scored once, but Laurent Robinson again had a fine showing, catching all 3 of his targets and turning two of them into TDs. They’ll need more of that with Miles Austin sidelined. Terrence Newman led the way defensively with two INTs including one returned for a score. Their schedule sets up nicely the next three weeks before what should be a huge home Sunday night matchup against the Giants. Damn Philly is bad, and Andy Reid is (or at least should be) in trouble. Their week started with DeSean Jackson being suspended for missing a team meeting and ended with yet another new season low in an inexcusable home loss to the Cardinals. Michael Vick reportedly injured/broke a couple of ribs in the game’s first series, but he still looks clueless out there. Their secondary is baffling. They continue to come up short in big situations and allowed 3 TDs to the unheralded John Skelton. That’s two home losses in a row with a daunting road game at the Giants on this week’s slate. Good luck. The Redskins went back to Rex Grossman at QB, but the results were the same – a fifth straight loss. Like everyone else of late, the Cowboys will likely have their way with them Sunday.
Up – Giants (yes, even with the L), Cowboys
Down – Eagles, Redskins
Another week. Another victim. Again, Green Bay was able to do as it pleased offensively, eclipsing the 40 point mark for the fourth time this year. What was more impressive was that their defense finally showed up, holding Minnesota to only 7 points. Aaron Rodgers added 4 TDs to his stat sheet, two of them going to Jordy Nelson. That guy catches everything. Even Matt Flynn found the endzone in mop up duty as the Packers scored 45 points for the second week in a row. You’d have to go back to week 4 of the season against the Colts to add up the Bucs’ last 90 points. Why bring up the Bucs? They’re the next in line to lose to the Packers. Don’t look now, but here come the Chicago Bears. In a contest that was never contested, the Bears flat out dominated the Lions. They picked off Matthew Stafford four times including two pick sixes which happened on back to back possessions. Devin Hester added to his Canton resume with another punt return for a TD and nearly took a second one back as well. These guys are clicking in all phases of the game right now and should wipe the floor with an underperforming, uninspired Chargers team this week. Detroit hosts Carolina this week in a game that should allow them to get back on track while the Vikings have another tough test against the Raiders.
Up – Packers, Bears
Down – Lions
In one of the week’s best games, the Saints beat the Falcons in the Georgia Dome following a controversial call in overtime. With the ball on their own 29, Mike Smith decided to go for it on 4th and 1, but Michael Turner got absolutely stuffed by the Saints. Four plays later John Kasay’s kicking the 26 yard game winner. That decision could come back to haunt Smith and the Falcons as they now sit at 5-4 and are unlikely to control their own destiny at any point the rest of the way. Fortunately, they have what looks like a fairly soft schedule (TEN, MIN, HOU-Schaub, CAR, JAX) before facing New Orleans again. The Saints on the other hand head into their bye on an upswing before hosting the Giants in what is likely to be their toughest game the rest of the regular season. They got Mark Ingram back this week, so he should be fairly fresh for the stretch run. Roman Harper is a beast on defense. He totaled 13 tackles and sacked Matt Ryan once, but he had a chance to end the game in regulation if he could have held onto a potential interception. Granted, I’m a cynical son of a bitch, but I’m done with this year’s Bucs after they were flat out embarrassed at home 37-9 by the Texans in a game that saw Jacoby Jones sprint 80 for a TD before most fans found their seats. They’ve been obviously overmatched in their last three contests, and it’s about to get really ugly in Wisconsin. Josh Freeman is a worse player this year, they don’t run the ball well, have no wide receiver that is capable of standing out as a consistent #1, and they’re among the league’s worst in nearly every defensive category. This team isn’t going anywhere with this staff as Raheem Morris can no longer continue laughing and talking his way through letdown after letdown. All that won’t matter if the Glazers don’t start giving a damn about fielding a serious product. If they want to continue taking the uncompetitive route, Morris and crew will be back again next year. Moving on. Once the Titans were able to take Steve Smith out of the game, Cam Newton and the Panthers offense really struggled. Newton failed to find the endzone for the first time this year, and he might make it a second if the Lions play with some heart after getting manhandled by the Bears.
Up – Saints
Down – Falcons, Bucs
That’s seven in a row. Seven straight victories for an Alex Smith-led offense. I don’t know how he’s doing it, but Jim Harbaugh has got these 49ers playing at such a high level; sure to be higher after that huge win against the Giants. They haven’t overlooked an opponent yet this year, so I expect them to put a pretty good beating on the Cardinals this year before traveling to Baltimore in what might end up being the most hyped regular season game of the year. Brother vs. brother in a potential Super Bowl matchup. Speaking of the Cardinals, they were the latest team to expose Philly for the fraud they really are. John Skelton has won two straight starts, and Ken Whisenhunt isn’t guaranteeing that Kevin Kolb will get his job back as soon as he’s healthy. Larry Fitzgerald had his best game of the year (7-146-2) as the Cardinals torched the Eagles for 370 total yards. Again, I expect the 49ers to beat them this week,b ut if they can finish strong in games against the Rams, Cowboys, Browns, Bengals, and Seattle, this won’t be an entirely lost season. The Rams didn’t look any better this week, but they did get their second win of the season. They need to use the rest of this season to see what receivers are worth keeping. Brandon Lloyd isn’t going anywhere, but this is an opportunity for Austin Pettis to really carve out a steady role for himself. Seattle was the latest team to benefit from a Ravens flop. They did a great job defensively of taking away the vertical game, limiting Joe Flacco to the short and intermediate zones which really hurt the Ravens when they had to start pressing for points. Good news – Marshawn Lynch had his first back to back 100 yard rushing performance as a pro. Bad News – Sidney Rice had his head slammed pretty hard to the turf and may miss this week’s game against the Rams.
Up – 49ers
Best and Worst
Best Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Green Bay (1)
The Bucs aren’t knocking them off this spot.
2 – New Orleans (3)
Look to be starting another mini-run here.
3 – Baltimore (2)
They way they flop to slop amazes me.
4 – Pittsburgh (4)
Speaking of runs, I think the Steelers are set to go on one (@KC, v.CIN, v.CLE).
5 – San Francisco (5)
They’re closer to #4 than #6. They’re becoming a very interesting team to follow.
6 – Chicago (NR)
Maybe I’m overdoing this one, but I get a really strong feeling that they’re about to put together a seriously strong stretch and move up this list.
7 – NY Giants (8)
Even with the loss they move up. Eli Manning has become a consistent offensive operator, and they’re a team that no longer relies on their defense to win games for them.
8 – New England (NR)
Maybe last week’s beatdown of the Jets was a tease, but with the defense making a few stops, their offense suddenly looked a lot better. Coincidence? Not!
OUT – Houston (6, no Schaub = no chance), Detroit (7)
Worst Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Indianapolis (1)
Dan Orlovsky, come on down!
2 – Cleveland (5)
Becoming more and more unimpressed with every part of this team except its secondary. Tremendous chance they don’t win another game. I’d put money on it if I could.
3 – St. Louis (4)
They’re really not going to get any better (or healthier) this year.
4 – Jacksonville (3)
They’ll likely win this week, but losing Rashean Mathis for the year is a huge defensive subtraction.
5 – Washington (NR)
Their defense isn’t bad, but I’m not sure the Ravens or Steelers could win with that offense. They’re only going to get worse too.
6 – Carolina (NR)
Another new entry this week, Carolina quit scoring points last week but continued to surrender them at a near league-high rate.
7 – Miami (2)
That’s two in a row, and I wouldn’t put it past them beating the bumbling Bills to make it a third.
8 – Minnesota (NR)
A ton of talent, but that 2-7 record is hard to ignore.
OUT – Arizona (6), Denver (7), Seattle (8)
This Week’s Predictions
Strongest wins (by more than 14)
Packers over Bucs
Patriots over Chiefs
Bears over Chargers
Giants over Eagles
Double digit dominance (at least 10)
49ers over Cardinals
Cowboys over Redskins
Ravens over Bengals
Just win baby
Jets win at Broncos
Falcons beat Titans
Lions beat Panthers
Rams beat Seahawks
Upsetville – Population 3
Dolphins beat Bills
Raiders win at Vikings
Jaguars win at Browns