It wasn’t pretty, but I guess a win is a win. The Patriots nearly squandered a 21 point 4th quarter lead to the worst team in football, hanging on for a one score victory. Not sure what you can take away from this victory other than the fact that they close more like Papelbon than Rivera. The important thing is that they’re two games up on the Jets and own the tiebreaker with four left to play. This week is another “nothing to win” type games against the Redskins, but I want to see if they handle Washington any better than the Jets did. Speaking of the Jets, they beat the Skins behind three Shonn Greene scores, or one more than he totaled in his 11 previous games this year. This one was close until late, and while I expect them to win this week against the Chiefs, they could easily lose their last three (@PHI, v.NYG, @MIA). I still think they don’t make the playoffs. Miami stomped Oakland, giving them 4 wins in their last 5 games. It’s a shame they didn’t start churning out the Ws until halfway through the season. Tony Sparano just might have saved his job. Buffalo’s downward spiral continues. Their home loss to Tennessee was their 5th in a row, and they could easily make that a 9 game stretch to close out the year.
Yea! The Ravens didn’t do the post-big-game collapse this time, taking care of the bumbling Browns. Cam Cameron got with the program as Ray Rice carried the ball 29 times for a career high 204 yards. With the win, Baltimore still controls its own fate and will look to drop the Colts to 0-13 this week. For Cleveland, Colt McCoy continues to demonstrate that he could be a damn decent #2 QB. Pittsburgh had it clicking big time against the Bengals, dominating them 21-0 at one point and not allowing a second half score. Ben Roethlisberger had another two TDs, both to Mike Wallace, but Rashard Mendenhall pounded the goal line twice as well. The Steelers also blocked a Mike Nugent FG attempt and got an Antonio Brown punt return TD. Cincinnati needs to get back on track against Houston if they want to get that last playoff spot ahead of the Jets. They’re both sitting at 7-5, and I see Cincinnati has having the easier schedule the rest of the way. AJ Green might be the offensive rookie of the year if it were not for Cam Newton.
Who needs Matt Schaub when you’ve got TJ Yates? Maybe Gary Kubiak wasn’t spouting coach speak when he said that they were very pleased with Yates’ progress as a rookie and were fine with him as their #1. Sure Arian Foster had 31 carries on the day, but Yates was able to consistently command the offense without turning it over. Matt Ryan looked more like a rookie than Yates. It wasn’t all good as the Texans lost Andre Johnson again, this time with another hamstring injury. Will they run their win streak to seven without him at Cincinnati? Tennessee won at Buffalo, giving them back to back victories for the first time since in two months. Sure it was the fading Bills, but Chris Johnson made it a second straight studly game with 153 yards and 2 TDs. Will he run that streak to three against the Saints? Yep, the Jags are still bad, and Blaine Gabbert is so soft he makes Mark Sanchez look tough. Indy is now an 0-12 heaping pile of manure.
Don’t look now, but the most uncompetitively competitive division in the league just got a little tighter. Denver moved their streak to five at Minnesota behind an opportunistic defense and, brace yourselves, a passing QB. Timmy stroked the genie’s lamp at halftime again, connecting with Demaryius Thomas for two 3rd quarter scores and eclipsing the ever so elusive 200 yard passing mark for the first time this year. All the media attention goes to Timmy, but that defense and Willis McGahee (20-111-1) were the difference in this one. That and two late Matt Prater FGs. The momentum express continues as they get the reeling Bears at home this Sunday. Oakland faceplanted in Miami, fallilng behind 34-0 before getting two garbage 4th quarter scores to avoid the (deserved) shutout. Michael Bush (10 carries, 18 yards) had his worst game of the year, and Richard Seymour was kicked out of the contest for throwing a punch at a Dolphin. Bully. The biggest story might be the off field troubles Rolando McClain got himself into. You know your basic assault and weapons charges. San Diego found the cure to their 6 game losing streak in Jacksonville, but I’m not chasing that bandwagon yet. Yes, they’re getting healthy, but this is a 5-7 team that still has Baltimore and Detroit on the schedule and will have a tough time reaching .500 let alone the playoffs; and .500 ain’t cutting in this the West this year. Kansas City continues to live the Tyler Palko dream as Kyle Orton dislocated his finger on his one pass attempt as a Chief. Party on Kansas City!
Ok, does anyone want to win the NFC East? All four of them flopped last week, starting with Philadelphia’s enjoyable, now weekly, no show; this time in Seattle. Vince Young threw another 4 TDs, oops I mean disgustingly awful INTs, giving him 8 in 3 games. Way to go Vince! DeSean Jackson continues to show his ass and do very little football playing on the field. Write it down – whoever signs this guy is going to regret it. He’s exactly the kind of guy you don’t give a long term deal. He’s shown his softness and selfishness repeatedly and is a one trick pony, if that. I bet the end result in Philly is that Jackson and defensive coordinator Juan Castillo are out and Andy Reid and Michael Vick return. As for the rest of this year, they just need to try and not get embarrassed weekly. Dallas did the fade in Arizona, thanks in large part to the boneheadedness that was Jason Garrett’s decision to ice his own kicker, leading to an ensuing miss and eventual loss. Ok, so Garrett claimed to be trying to beat a delay of game, but I call “oops I screwed up” for 1000 Alex. They’ll take their one game lead into Sunday night’s game against the Gaints, a team that almost became THAT team in a thrilling loss to the milk country marvels. Instead of a historic victory, the Giants lost their 4th straight and will try to avoid falling two behind Dallas with three to play by beating them Sunday. In their defense, three of those four losses came to three of football’s best teams (GB, NO, SF). A tough call, but I might take the road team in this one, especially with Ahmad Bradshaw getting healthy. Washington got back into the loss column, dropping to 4-8 and doing nothing but chasing the Eagles for last place in the division.
Here you’ve got the good, the bad, and the ugly. After going back and forth with the Giants in the first half, the Packers were unable to pull away and needed a ho hum 58 second game winning drive from the robot that is Aaron Rodgers to keep their undefeated season alive. It wasn’t all good though. Rodgers threw an ugly INT that the Giants turned into a TD two plays later, Jermichael Finley continues to drop passes, and Charles Woodson suffered late in the game putting his status for this week in check. I don’t see how they don’t get to 12-0 against the Raiders. Anyone catch the time of death? It came with about 6 minutes left in the first quarter as Matt Forte went out with an MCL sprain. There’s no telling how long he’ll be out, and every week counts when you’re scratching and clawing for a wild card spot this late in the season with Caleb Hanie as your QB. Now for the ugly; make that disgustingly undisciplined. Brandon Pettigrew shoving an official. Titus Young pushing Malcolm Jenkins in the face when they were on the Saints’ doorstep. Stefan Logan throwing the ball at a Saints player like a dumbass. Someone teach Nate Burleson how to get separation without drawing a flag. Three offensive PIs??? If they can get their heads out of their asses, they should jump ahead of the Bears for a wild card spot. Minnesota suffered a crushing loss to the Broncos. Christian Ponder and Percy Harvin are establishing quite the chemistry, connecting for two huge TDs. Ponder has made some rookie throws, but I love how he’s working out there; big things ahead for him. Sure they’re a big disappointment at 2-10, but only 2 of those 10 losses were by more than 10 points. Matt Kalil would be a great pick in April to give them the best LT play they’ve had in years.
When the Lions weren’t shooting themselves in the foot, they were getting burnt by Drew Brees. Well on his way to breaking Dan Marino’s single season yardage record, the Saints’ slinger added another 342 to his season total. He threw 3 TDs, but the think that stands out most to me is that he’s gone three straight games without an INT. Now they head to Tennessee in a game that smells a bit like a trap. Of course they’re a better team at home, but I think they’ve learned their lesson with road letdowns (TB, STL). I think this one’s pretty simple at least strategy/success-wise – slow down Chris Johnson and the Saints win. While the Saints are running away with the division, the Falcons are another team doing the fade. After struggling to beat two mediocre teams (TEN, MIN), the Falcons fell on the road to a team with a QB named TJ. They don’t have that oomph this year; don’t seem to scare or even frighten anyone. I’d say 2-2 is a fair guesstimate the rest of the way (CAR, JAX, NO, TB), and that should be good enough to back into a wild card spot given what’s going on with the Bears, Giants, and Lions. Cam Newton set the rookie rushing TD record with three of them against the Succaneers who continue to find new ways to disappoint their fans. Awesome job by the Bucs letting Newton complete a desperate deep ball late in the first half to set up an Olindo Mare FG. Crap teams make crap plays.
After a draining loss at Baltimore the 49ers got back on track by shutting out the Rams 26-0. David Akers owned the first half with 3 FGs, but Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree took over in the second half. The no hangover effect resembles a veteran team that can refocus quickly which will come in very handy come playoff time. Patrick Willis went down with a hamstring injury, so his health will be worth monitoring as the postseason draws closer. Like the Saints, the Niners hit the road this week in a game that sniffs a bit of a looming loss, but I’m buying into their focus. Their recipe is simple and doesn’t require their QB to be on point every week. I don’t like Pete Carroll, but I like the effort the Seahawks have shown over the last month. Speaking of effort, Marshawn Lynch did it again. Somewhat reminiscent of last year’s mega highlight playoff run, Lynch ran through a wall of Eagle defenders and a Jamar Chaney arm tackle to score an impressive TD at set the tone early. He’s now scored in 8 straight games. Their schedule the rest of the way minus San Fran (STL, CHI, ARI) sets up for a run at a .500 record and a middle of the road draft pick. Pete will have to deal up in order to get Matt Barkley. Arizona is playing better ball of late as well, getting another run-off win, this time on the jukes and jives of LaRod Stephens-Howling. The Rams have pretty much locked up last place and will have only the Colts separating them from the top of the draft board.
Best and Worst
Best Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Green Bay (1)
Scare survived. Now back home for 3 of their last 4.
2 – New Orleans (2)
133 points in their last 4 games. Don’t let me down with a road letdown.
3 – Baltimore (3)
The focus was their against the Browns. One week at a time, and the #1 seed is theirs.
4 – San Francisco (4)
I’m all in with these guys against any team in the NFC except the top two on this list. That said, I think they can hit the Saints with a surprise given the right situation.
5 – Pittsburgh (6)
Solid showing against a playoff caliber team. Can’t wait to see them against the Niners next week.
6 – New England (5)
Chinks in the armor. I really believe their lack of formidable tests late in the season will be their undoing come playoff time.
7 – Houston (NR)
TJ is OK. If they can win on the road at Cincinnati this Sunday, the could end the year on a 10-0 run.
8 – Denver (NR)
As the only team to go from one list to the other this season, the Broncos close out this week’s rankings. When finishing this list, I asked myself a simple question. Of the Broncos, Falcons, Cowboys, Jets, and Lions, who do I feel most confident in going out and getting a win right now? M-O-J-O!
OUT – Dallas (7), Oakland (8)
Worst Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Indianapolis (1)
Now Archie’s trying to get Peyton out of town.
Draft pick – Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
2 – St. Louis (2)
The only light at the end of this tunnel is the final week 17 whistle. I like the pairing of Sam Bradford and Brandon Lloyd and think adding another weapon would go a long way.
Draft pick – Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
3 – Jacksonville (3)
Wow, what a bad team being led by a QB wearing a kick me sign.
Draft pick – Quinton Coples (DE, UNC)
4 – Cleveland (4)
Colt McCoy hasn’t shown himself as the team’s future at QB. Will Mike Holmgren find his next QB out west?
Draft pick – Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
5 – Minnesota (6)
Forget the record, the product on the field has improved post-McNabb.
Draft pick – Matt Kalil (T, USC)
6 – Washington (NR)
The slide continues with the Patriots and Giants on deck.
Draft pick – Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama) – I’m being serious with this. I really think Shanahan would love to pair Richardson with Helu.
7 – Kansas City (7)
Their recent point totals – 3, 10, 3, 9, 10. 10 points won win them any of their remaining 4 games.
Draft pick – Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
8 – Tampa Bay (NR)
I tried to be nice with these guys, but they are certainly among the worst eight teams in the NFL at the moment. A 5-11 finish might be optimistic at this point and would give Morris an 18-30 record over three years. Do I really need to see another year of this?
Draft pick – Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
This Week’s Predictions
Strongest wins (by more than 14)
Steelers v. Browns
Ravens v. Colts
Packers v. Raiders
Dolphins v. Eagles
Double digit dominance (at least 10)
Jets v. Chiefs
Patriots @ Redskins
49ers @ Cardinals
Seahawks v. Rams
Just win baby
Broncos v. Bears
Chargers v. Bills
Saints @ Titans
Lions v. Vikings
Jaguars v. Bucs
Upsetville – Population: 3
Texans @ Bengals
Panthers v. Falcons
Giants @ Cowboys