Rob Gronkowski is a robot. In a game where he set the NFL record for TDs in a season by a TE, Gronkowski dragged a helpless Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes in his wake while DeAngelo Hall earned that money by playing the role of helpless voyeur. Hearing Greg Gumbel say “Rob Gronkowski shedding tacklers like they’re bad habits” was hilarious. They’ve scored at least 30 points in their last 5 games, but they’re allowing bad teams (Colts and Skins) to hang around dangerously long. Good lord they can’t let that happen this week because the Timmy Tebows handle the 4th quarter like Rain Man counts cards. New York played a second solid game in a row in what was probably their best overall performance since week 2. The much maligned around these parts Mark Sanchez had a career game, both throwing and running for two scores. They’re in the driver’s seat for the 6th seed and can probably go 2-1 and still clinch it. Where did you go Bills from Buffalo? They lost their 6th straight in a rout at San Diego and now face the Dolphins in their last winnable game. Speaking of those Dolphins, after falling to Philly, Miami fired Tony Sparano and got a jumpstart on finding their next head coach.
Baltimore avoided the monumental embarrassment of losing to the winless Colts by shutting them down 24-3 until a meaningless TD on the last play of the game. Cam Cameron seems to have figured out that Ray Rice can run with the football as the Rutgers rusher was front and center, again exceeding triple digits on the ground. That same game plan should work again this week against the Chargers, a team that has given up its share of yards on the ground (Peterson-98; Greene-112; Bush-157; McGahee-117; MJD-97). Their last three games aren’t gimmies, and Pittsburgh is matching them win for win. This last was may have been terribly costly, as Ben Roethlisberger heroically played the second half of Thursday’s game against the Browns with a really messed up ankle, limping around the pocket and pulling out a game they couldn’t afford to lose. His status is up in the air for this week’s game at San Francisco, but do you really see that guy NOT playing? If he plays, I like the Steelers in this one. They’re a bad matchup for the Niners in my opinion and are catching them at the right time. They’ll be without James Harrison though after he was suspended for his helmet to helmet on Colt McCoy. Speaking of McCoy, he apparently did suffer a concussion in that game and was permitted/put back on the field by the Browns. His dad’s pissed, and you can’t blame him. As much as I’m sure the Browns would like to see this story go away, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this one. Man the Bengals are struggling against good teams. They’ve lost 4 of their last 5 to the likes of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and the Schaub-less Texans. They SHOULD beat the Rams on the road, but they’ll get the red hot Cardinals and Ravens after that. Maybe the Jets will get in the playoffs after all.
Way to go TJ Yates! Not only did the rookie notch his first game winning drive, connecting with Kevin Walter for the clinching score with only 2 seconds left as part of a 300 yard performance, he helped lead the Texans to their first ever division title and playoff birth. That was huge when you consider that Arian Foster wasn’t much of a factor on the ground. To have the rookie step up against a pretty stout defense had to give the whole team a big shot of confidence heading into the playoffs. They’ve three pretty winnable games left (CAR, IND, TEN) and should be fighting each week for one of the top seeds. Tennessee nearly completed their rally against the Saints but fell short when Jake Locker fell to the ground on 4th down. Stepping in for the injured Matt Hasselbeck, the rookie threw for 282 yards in just under 3 quarters of play. It looks like he’s going to get the start this week in Indy, and I’m really anxious to see how that goes. I’ve got a feeling Locker has a HUGE Sunday in Indy. I’ve also got to mention how nuts it is that Tennessee had three straight games finish with a score of 23-17 followed by a 22-17 game. Weird. How ‘bout those Jags! Trailing 14 -0 to the Succaneers, Jacksonville went on what seemed like a 276-0 run to earn their 4th win of the year. Blaine Gabbert had what might have been the best game of his short career. That doesn’t reflect terribly well on Tampa Bay since Gabbert shits himself whenever a defender invades his personal space. The Colts suck.
My my my. Well if Sunday’s miraculous comeback, the Timmy Tebows’ 6th straight victory, told us anything it’s this – god absolutely hates Marion Barber. Holy cow how does this keep happening to Denver’s opponents? Every one of these victories is a made for tv Lifetime special. As much as the media loves promoting these weekly 1 on 11 matchups, they’re not winning 6 straight without the leg and gut of Matt Prater. Well done kicker. Ok, so this time Baby Jesus started 3 of 16 for the first three quarters but ended the game 21 for 40 with 236 yards. I understand that it’s not where you start but where you finish that counts, but can someone get this guy to resemble a professional for at least half of a football game? My goodness. This has got to be some kind of 2012 end of world prelude. Go Von Miller! After missing one week with his hand injury, Miller got back in the game, took down Caleb Hanie, and now has 11.5 sacks in 12 games. Defensive ROY. Oakland’s a game back but looks to have ran face first into the proverbial wall. Having been dominated on the road two weeks in a row at Miami and Green Bay to the tune of a 80-30 scoreboard showing, they now return home to hold the fort down against the Lions, a team that has put up point totals of 48, 34, 45, 49, and 34 this year. Yeah, not good timing. They’re also without Darren McFadden again, as it was revealed this week that his foot injury may be more of the Lisfranc variety than a simple sprain as has been advertised so far. I don’t see them catching the Tebows. San Diego’s making a run. They handled a second straight subpar opponent, whipping the Bills in a game that saw Buffalo’s only TD come from the defensive side of the ball when Bryan Scott owned Philip Rivers in the endzone. They’re starting to click, but it’s probably too late. San Diego is 2 down to Denver and has Baltimore coming into town this week. Kansas City lost their 8th game of the season, and then Todd Haley lost his job. That was only a matter of time. That place is a mess right now, and he just never seemed a fit for that team/roster.
That was really an enjoyable game to watch Sunday night. The Giants won at Dallas and took the division lead. This game had everything. Eli Manning throwing for 400 yards; Brandon Jacobs running over Gerald Sensabaugh what seemed like 95 times; DeMarco Murray’s impressive rookie year crashing to a halt with a broken ankle; Tony Romo throwing 4 TDs; Jerry Jones looking like he ate 10 taco supremes; and Jason Pierre-Paul dominating on defense and ending the game by blocking the potential game tying kick. New York got a true must-win and has to be feeling great about going 1-5 and sitting in first place. They’ve got to stay focused against a pesky Redskins team coming into town this week. Dallas on the other hand has to be reeling. They’ve lost their last two games in crazy fashion and must now beat the schizophrenic Eagles and then travel to New York and return the favor in order to win the division. If the Cowboys lose at Tampa this Saturday, they’re done. If the Giants beat the Skins, they can lose to the Jets and still win the division by closing out the regular season by beating the Cowboys at home. Philly beat Miami on the road, but their hole is far too deep for me to give a damn about how they’re doing. Washington gave New England much more of a fight than I thought they would and have played tough teams tough recently. I don’t see them beating the Giants this week, but maybe they get one more win against Minnesota next week.
13-0. The biggest story to emerge from the 30 point stomping of the Raiders was the third quarter loss of Greg Jennings to a knee injury. The Packers are hoping to have their #1 receiver back by the playoffs, which gives him a full month to heal up before the Divisional Round. You don’t just simply replace a Greg Jennings, but having Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, Randall Cobb, and Jermichael Finley certainly helps. Phil Simms says the problem with the Packers on defense is that the corners have been gambling too much. I’ll have to pay attention to that when they play a team that is really challenging them; not something I expect to happen this week at the Chiefs, their last road game. If Green Bay is to lose one of these last three, I’m guessing it’s the Lions who are likely to be fighting for a playoff spot through week 17. You can’t fight fate, at least not with Caleb Hanie as your QB. The Bears became just another victim of the holy hype train, losing in heartbreaking fashion. They generated zero offense for the second week in a row and now have to host the upstart Seahawks. Without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte this teams isn’t making the playoffs and might not win another game this season. After getting out to a 21-0 lead in what looked like the beginnings of a laugher, the Lions had to count their blessings that a blatant facemask penalty wasn’t called or else they probably end up losing that game. They couldn’t stop the Vikings once Joe Webb got on the field, and I’m convinced he would have scored given another chance from inside the 1. They get Ndamukong Suh back this week and will need him against the Raiders and Michael Bush. If they win this week at Oakland and next week at home against the Chargers, they can become victim #16 at Green Bay and still make the playoffs. Minnesota nearly pulled out that game at Detroit. Christian Ponder was benched after his fourth turnover, and Joe Webb took over the offense and the game. Webb’s not their answer at QB, but like last year’s game at Philly, he’s fun to watch in spurts. They get Adrian Peterson back this week, and he’s their best hope of hanging with the Saints. Minnesota is 2-11, but an insane 8 of those losses are by 7 points or less.
It looked like the Saints were going to lose their 4th road game of the season, but Jake Locker couldn’t get off a pass on the last play of the game, giving New Orleans their 10th win. After going up 22-10 with 4 minutes to play, the Saints looked to have wrapped it up. The defense choked though, giving up a 40 yard TD to Nate Washington on the third play of the series. So in just over a minute, the Titans were within a TD of winning the game. New Orleans went on to have two more offensive series but gained only 1 total first down. They’re going to have to close out a game on the road eventually (Green Bay) if they want to make it back to the Super Bowl. Atlanta overcame a 16 point halftime deficit to beat the Panthers on the road in another pretty underwhelming performance. Yes, they did outscore Carolina 24-0 over the last two quarters, but a good bit of credit has to go to Olindo Mare. After Mare missed a 36 yard FG, Julio Jones raced 75 yards for the put away TD. They’re likely to make the playoffs, but they’re probably the least threatening team in the pool. I still may not be sold on the person that is Cam Newton, but Cam Newton the player is having one hell of a year. He’s exceeded all expectations and is playing at a level that I never thought he could approach in year one. I did not think he was near this pro-ready, especially as a passer. I’m sick of the smile, but he’s saying and doing all the right things in Carolina and looks to be well on the road to professional success. What an embarrassment. The Bucs are absolutely awful. The players have quit, the team is clearly regressing, and not even the frugal Glazers can sell Morris as the Bucs head coach going forward. If that overpaid cheerleader is retained for next season, I will boycott any and everything Buccaneers until the situation is properly resolved. The cliché “youngry” shit has to go. Let’s get some players who can play and coaches who can coach. I was pissed when they hired Morris and allowed him to learn on the job. How’s that worked out? Learn a lot did ya? I’m predicting an 0-10 run to close the season, so obviously I don’t think the Bucs will win any of their remaining games.
Hiccup. The 49ers were unable to avoid the road letdown, losing to the improved Cardinals and John Skelton. The second year passer stepped in for an injured Kevin Kolb and ended the day with three TDs and nearly 300 yards passing. Alex Smith had a really ugly game, his second in three tries. Arizona sacked him 5 times, so you’ve got to like Pittsburgh’s chances of taking him down a time or two this coming Monday night. As I mentioned earlier, I think Pittsburgh is a bad matchup for San Francisco, and the Niners aren’t exactly heading into this one with the best momentum. Seattle handled the Rams in the league’s last game and cling onto their very faint playoff hopes. Marshawn Lynch eclipsed 100 yards for the 3rd straight game and looks to have earned himself quite a few dollars this coming offseason. Tarvaris Jackson doesn’t look nearly as bad as he did for the Vikings, but I’ve got to think Pete Carroll looks elsewhere for a QB this offseason. I still think that guy is Matt Flynn.
Best and Worst
Best Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Green Bay (1)
Knock on wood, but a Rodgers injury is all that keeps them from 16-0, and that may not even do it.
2 – New Orleans (2)
They clinch the #2 see by winning out and getting on more 49er loss.
3 – Baltimore (3)
The #1 seed is three wins away.
4 – Pittsburgh (5)
Is there a more valuable player in the league (not named Aaron Rodgers) than Ben Roethlisberger?
5 – San Francisco (4)
Their next two games (PIT, SEA) will be playoff-like contests.
6 – New England (6)
Do they end the madness or become just another victim?
7 – Houston (7)
TJ Yates is playing for a #2 seed.
8 – Denver (8)
Given what’s been happening I can’t see these guys not winning the West.
OUT – None
Worst Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Indianapolis (1)
It's almost Christmas, but these guys mailed it in before Thanksgiving.
2 – St. Louis (2)
They’re really bad in multiple spots.
3 – Tampa Bay (8)
Right now, this crapfest is no better than the 3rd worst team in pro football.
4 – Jacksonville (3)
Beating the Succaneers doesn’t earn you much.
5 – Cleveland (4)
Despite hanging with the Steelers and gimpy Ben, they’re a bad team.
6 – Minnesota (5)
Again, not as bad as the record but 2-11 is 2-11.
7 – Kansas City (7)
Barring a miracle they’ll be on this list again next week.
8 – Washington (6)
Because Rex Grossman is your quarterback.
OUT – None
This Week’s Predictions
Strongest wins (by more than 14)
Cowboys @ Bucs
Packers @ Chiefs
Double digit dominance (at least 10)
Saints @ Vikings
Titans @ Colts
Cardinals v. Browns
Texans v. Panthers
Just win baby
Falcons v. Jaguars
Giants v. Redskins
Bengals @ Rams
Lions @ Raiders
Patriots @ Broncos
Ravens @ Chargers
Bills v. Dolphins
Upsetville – Population: 3
Seahawks @ Bears
Jets @ Eagles
Steelers @ 49ers