Any Given Sunday
You want a text book example of how anything can happen in the NFL? Witness the winless Rams beating the Saints this past Sunday. The Saints headed into this matchup fresh off a 62-7 shellacking of the Colts. Those 62 points were more than the Rams had scored in their previous 6 games (56). Veteran Steven Jackson carried the offense, resembling the guy we knew from a couple years ago. What a craptastic letdown by the saints. Pierre Thomas led the way on the ground with 23 yards, and Drew Brees threw more INTs (2) than TDs (1). St. Louis definitely came out readier to play than they had for any other game this season and actually put together four quarters of solid play. Still, New Orleans has no business losing to this team and has shown another chink in their armor. I think they beat the Bucs at home this week, but if they don’t, it’s time to start worrying.
Cam Newton put up the better numbers, but Christian Ponder got the win. Ponder did a great job of running the offense. He threw for one TD and didn’t turn the ball over. He’s also forcing defenses to be more honest than they were for McNabb which has, through no coincidence, helped Adrian Peterson put up his best 2 game stretch of the year so far. Newton continues to impress, throwing for 3 TDs and nearly 300 yards. His two blemishes were two lost fumbles which came up huge in a 3 point loss. Cam threw a beautiful back shoulder fade to Steve Smith on a TD that was overruled. Neither team is going to play a meaningful game in January, but they’ve got to love what they’ve seen from their rookie passers so far.
Don’t Mess With Trends
I think the number is 13-0. That’s Andy Reid’s record coming off a bye. So that’s what the Dream Team was supposed to be like huh? Michael Vick had a quietly impressive game completing 21 of 28 passes for 279 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs, but the star of the game was no doubt LeSean McCoy. The second year back trashed the previously dominant Cowboy rush defense for 185 yards and 2 scores on 30 carries. I’ve said it before that it’s McCoy, not Vick, who’s the most valuable player on this team, and games like this highlight that nicely. With the rest of the division being the definition of beatable, the Eagles can definitely still win this thing despite their 3-4 record.
Will the real Dallas Cowboys please stand up? A week after thrashing the Rams 34-7 at home, they get throttled by that same score by the Eagles. The Eagles jumping out to an early lead really took the ball out of DeMarco Murray’s hands, but how do you explain Dez Bryant not getting one single first half target combined with Miles Austin only getting 3 targets in the whole game? I think they beat Seattle this week, but would a Seahawk win really surprise anyone at this point?
CJ No Way
These Titans look destined for 8-8 or worse. They show up for big wins against the Ravens and Browns but look like garbage against the Steelers and Texans. Of their remaining schedule I think they’ll be lucky to get 4 more wins. When you’re looking for someone to blame, you don’t have to look any further than Chris Johnson and the offensive line. Javon Ringer has been the more productive back this season which is just nuts when you consider Johnson’s talent and accomplishments. With one 100 yard performance surrounded by 24, 53, 21, 51, 18, and 34, I’m not getting the feeling that he’s going to snap out of this any time soon. Did this guy screw a lot of guys out of millions of dollars or what? Think teams aren’t going to hand out even less of the rarely seen long term RB deals? Thanks CJ.
The Colts are horrendous and look to be in the driver’s seat for the Luck lottery.
Wow, That Was Close…
The Giants are one of the more frustrating teams in the league. They get spanked by the Seahawks a few weeks ago and trail the majority of this one to the Dolphins. They’re 5-2, but I don’t take them that seriously. Eli had a huge game (349 yds, 2 TDs), but do you want to count on him every week? Lots of respect for Tom Coughlin, but I still think this team misses the playoffs. Reggie Bush was right. The Dolphins suck. I think they’ve got a better chance of winning a game than do the Colts, but their place in the top 5 of this coming draft is secure.
...But Not As Close As This
Great teams win tough games, but this one shouldn’t have come to that. The Ravens had one hell of a second quarter. Flacco gets sacked and fumbles inside his 5 yard line leading to a Beanie Wells TD. On their next series, they run four plays and punt to Patrick Peterson who takes it 82 yards for another TD. Ravens trail 17-3. Can’t get any worse right? On the first play of the next series, Flacco throws an interception, giving Miami the ball on Baltimore’s 25. Four plays later, Early Doucet scores and gives Arizona a 24-3 lead. Bravo for eventually waking up and winning this one, but if the Ravens pull that against the Steelers this week, this one’s over by halftime.
Who’s In First?
Now this game made sense. After a hot start, the Redskins have begun to fade a bit. The Bills came into this one looking to continue their impressive season, and handed the Redskins a 23-0 shutout. Buffalo hadn’t done much in the sack column heading into this one, but they got to John Beck and eye-popping 10 times. Fred Jackson had 194 all purpose yards and continues to making a name for himself in the league. Love it. Washington hosts San Francisco this week and will likely suffer their fourth straight defeat. First place Buffalo has yet to lose back to back games this season, and we’re entering week 9. You’ve got to take them seriously. Love it. They host the Jets this Sunday, and you’ve got to think they’ll be dialed in. Prediction – the Bills will still be in first place this time next week.
Texans on Top
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Blaine Gabbert throws for under 100 yards and commits multiple turnovers, MJD has no room to run, and the Jags have trouble containing Arian Foster. The Colts might outsuck the Jags in the end, but Jacksonville’s offense is every bit as bad as Indy’s. Perfect in the division, I like Houston’s schedule the rest of the way and still think they finish in first. Indy and Jacksonville are awful, and the luster has worn off the Titans. I know they’d like to get Andre Johnson back asap, but it doesn’t look like they’re too optimistic about him playing this week.
Turns out all the Lions needed to get back on track was to line up across from Tim Tebow. After losing two tough games at home, the Lions headed to Mile High and stomped on the Broncos. Matthew Stafford had 3 TDs to three different receivers, and Calvin Johnson (6-125-1) was his usual dominant self. The real story in this one was how gawd awful Tebow played. He completed a pathetic 46% of his passes for a 4.4 yard average, fumbled thrice, and was sacked seven times. I don’t have much of an opinion on the Lions mocking his “Tebowing” pose, but it does make you think. Guys don’t openly mock other players in this league, but the Lions held nothing back against Tebow. One anonymous Lions defender was quoted as saying “Come on — that’s embarrassing. I mean, it’s a joke. We knew all week that if we brought any kind of defensive pressure, he couldn’t do anything. In the second half it got boring out there. We were like, ‘Come on — that’s your quarterback? Seriously?” He’s not long for the league with more performances like that.
Trick or Treat
It’s one of this week’s biggest stories – the Steelers flipped the script, went man coverage, and befuddled Tom Brady and the Patriots. Welker was held under 40 yards, and the Patriots ran for 43 total yards as a team in a game that wasn’t as close as the scoreboard indicates. Rashard Mendenhall had a productive 70 yards on 13 carries, but the story on offense was Ben Roethlisberger throwing 50 times for 365 yards, completing passes to 9 different receivers. Antonio Brown has stepped up big time as his number two receiver and has pumped life into a waning offense. I think the Patriots get back on track this week against the Giants, and the Steelers have the momentum they need heading into a big one against the Ravens. I still like Baltimore better as a team, but I’m not sure they leave Pittsburgh with a win Sunday night.
Gore Grounds Browns
Run the ball. Stop the run. If you can do both of those well, you’ll go far in this league. This year’s 49ers are that team. They dominated the Browns en route to their fifth straight win and are sitting at a surprising 6-1. No joke, they probably clinch the division with two more wins. Frank Gore looked great, running for 134 yards and a score. The most impressive thing is how unscathed he came out of a game where he toted the rock 31 times. Michael Crabtree finally got into the endzone and is fairly relevant after catching at least 5 passes for the third time in 4 games. Similarly to Buffalo last week, I think the 49ers will take it to the Redskins. 7-1 they’ll be. The Browns are quickly establishing themselves as one of the league’s worst teams. I think Colt McCoy’s days as an NFL starter are extremely limited. Cleveland has to look for a QB (Landry Jones or Matt Barkley) in the draft. McCoy’s a non-threat in the vertical game allowing defenses to stack the box regularly. He’s not awful, but he’s the NFL definition of limited.
Sucking in Seattle
I still don’t think the Bengals are all that good, despite the 5-2 record, but I like what I’m seeing between Andy Dalton and AJ Green. It’s only going to get better. You know you’re bad when you’re clearly the #2 QB on a team where Tarvaris Jackson is the #1. I think the Charlie Whitehurst experiment in Seattle is over, but it doesn’t matter who’s at QB with this team. They’re 2-5 and have Dallas, Baltimore, and St. Louis coming up on the schedule. I’m calling for 2-8 after that stretch.
My intuitions were correct. The Chargers did lose as I proposed, but they only have themselves to blame. Philip Rivers threw an interception on KC’s 26, Ryan Mathews fumbled on KC’s 18, and in the worst of them all, Rivers fumbled with under a minute to go in the fourth when all they had to do was line up and kick a game winning chip shot. Antonio Gates also got hosed on a bs PI call on a TD catch. If the Chargers aren’t worrying yet, they will after Green Bay blows through town Sunday and leaves them at 4-4. Steve Breaston didn’t have the big game I predicted, but he did set up the game winning field goal in overtime. One a 3rd and 14 at the Chargers 47, Breaston went for 17 yards and kept the drive alive. Bravo to the Chiefs. After an 0-3 start, they’ve won four straight, including two on the road, and are making a run at back to back division titles. I was clearly wrong about them being one of the league’s worst teams, and they can shove it in a lot more folks’ faces this Sunday by beating the Dolphins.
Best and Worst
Best Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Green Bay (1)
Their grip on the #1 spot got a lot firmer without even playing.
2 – Baltimore (4)
This is a timid number two. I’m not ready to put Pittsburgh above them, and New Orleans falls because they couldn’t complete the comeback Baltimore did.
3 – New Orleans (2)
I expect a bounce back at home against the Bucs, but a loss could be devastating.
4 – Pittsburgh (5)
5 – San Francisco (NR)
Gotta start listing these guys until they fall on their faces.
6 – New England (4)
I’m seriously worried about this team. Their defense can’t stop anyone, and they lose if Brady has even the slightest off day.
7 – Buffalo (8)
8 – Detroit (NR)
They win a toss up with the Texans by virtue of their Teblowout.
OUT – San Diego (7), Houston (6)
Worst Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Indianapolis (1)
Of the three teams winless heading into last week, they put up (clearly) the weakest fight.\
2 – Miami (3)
If they can’t get a win in the next two weeks (KC, WAS), they’re flirting with 0-16.
3 – Arizona (6)
They play the Rams twice in the next four weeks with Philly and San Fran mixed in. Ouch!
4 – Jacksonville (4)
A sound 24-14 beating. Those are the Jags I know.
5 – Denver (7)
Can it get uglier?
6 – St. Louis (2)
7 – Seattle (8)
They’re not one of the worst five teams in the league, but they’re safely in the bottom ten.
8 – Cleveland (NR)
I only see four winnable games on their schedule, and they’ll likely lose two of them.
OUT – Minnesota (5)
The Vikings look like an entirely different team just by making a change at QB. Go figure.