It was sort of an underwhelming week in the NFL, at least my in opinion. There were a few games that were absolute blowouts and some of the more "exciting" games had injuries to starting quarterbacks on one team which dimmed the excitement of the game a bit. Oh, and there was a tie, because that's always fun to see happen.
Indianapolis Colts 27 Jacksonville Jaguars 10
At this point, the Jacksonville Jaguar fans might not have an issue if the team plays more games in London. It will save them money from having to purchase season tickets and they can simply watch the Jaguar games on television. The Colts continued their great season by beating the Jaguars at home. I'm sure Peter King will have a great recap of this game in his MMQB, so I won't bore with details about how Andrew Luck is a god. I'm not going to piss all over the pretty great season the Colts are having, but I will mention the combined record of their opponents this year is 33-41. That's really not that bad, but it isn't great either, and I expected their opponents' record to be worse than that. This record tells me the Colts are having a pretty good season against relatively decent opponents. This weekend they play the Patriots, so that should be interesting. The Colts have played the Browns once and the Jaguars twice (losing once to the Jags), so they have had a couple of fairly easier games on the schedule. It's amazing what a good head coach and a competent quarterback can do for a team's record. We've heard a lot about the Colts, but let's talk about a team that doesn't have a good head coach and a competent quarterback. I held out hope this would be Blaine Gabbert's season to play a little better and establish he could be a quality NFL quarterback. Remember, he is only 22 years old, so giving up on him is ill-advised. Still, at this point he isn't close to being what the Jaguars need at the quarterback position. Chad Henne, Gabbert's backup, isn't a lot better. It's easy to point the figure at coaching, and when the head coach flips the hell out and gets a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, it causes you to wonder how can he say things like this after the game:
"That's not going to be who we are," Mularkey said. "There's no way
we're going to be that way. We will not be that type of team. We will be
a disciplined team, we'll be a smart team and we will be a physical
team. But we will not be that team that's going to have personal fouls.
It will stop."
If Mike Mularkey as a head coach can't stop being undisciplined and having mental mistakes during the game then how can he preach to his players they must be more disciplined and stop making mental mistakes? There is no easier way for a coach to lose the players in a locker room than to demand for them to do what you aren't willing to do yourself. The Jaguars' players are frustrated and it showed in the five 15 yard penalties they received. I don't know if Mike Mularkey is the guy to turn this around in Jacksonville. Jaguars fans may disagree with me, but I can't see Mularkey lasting after this season with a new owner, few improvements seen at the quarterback position and an undisciplined team that isn't winning games. Blaine Gabbert needs a chance to sit the bench for a while as well. He clearly wasn't ready to start from Day 1 in the NFL.
Houston Texans 13 Chicago Bears 6
This was a really good defensive game for the Houston Texans. It helped out that Jay Cutler got injured, it was raining, and the Bears weren't able to do much offensively either. I've always liked Jason Campbell and he is one of those quarterbacks who I think hasn't ever gotten a completely fair shot in the NFL. He didn't have the coaching continuity I believe he needed earlier in his career to be successful. Of course, I also believed the same thing about Tarvaris Jackson, so perhaps take my opinion with a grain of salt. This was a defensive battle, but Matt Schaub was simply not very good in this game. It's unfortunate he is the "winning" quarterback because his 14/26 for 95 yard performance was simply Gabbert-esque. In the end, the four turnovers the Bears committed and the two turnovers the Texans committed probably made a lot of difference in this game (understatement there). I think Jason Campbell can win games for the Bears, but possibly not on a rainy night and not against a really good Texans defense. Those who dislike Jay Cutler hopefully see the Bears are better off with him rather than without him. This was a pretty ugly game all the way through, and even in their win, it reinforced my belief the Texans offense can have trouble throwing the ball against good defenses. They have Andre Johnson and then there is a big dropoff after that. Not that the Bears seemed to be much different in this game, because Brandon Marshall was the Bears only reliable threat. In fact, these are probably two similar teams who should rely on their outstanding running backs and have somewhat limited passing options outside of their best receiver. Losing Cutler and committing two more turnovers is what did the Bears in. If these two teams played again, then I would probably put my money on the Bears, assuming a healthy Cutler is available. Until then, Jason Campbell is a major upgrade over Caleb Hanie.
Cincinnati Bengals 31 New York Giants 13
Every Giants fan should now freak the hell out. Everything that has worked for the Giants over the last couple of years has now immediately gone wrong and nothing is fixable. Everything that could go wrong for the Giants in this game went wrong and the Bengals executed exceptionally well. The Giants gave up a long punt return, didn't start the game well when the Bengals did start the game well, committed four turnovers and generally played bad defense. I'm not saying this performance by the Giants should be excused, but I don't see things going that wrong for them over the next couple of weeks. New York hasn't played well over the last few weeks, but I think this game was more about the Bengals playing well more than it was about the Giants running into a slump which will last for the rest of the season. Andy Dalton got excellent protection and for the first time this season didn't throw an interception. The Bengals took great advantage of good field position that was given to them by the Giants and only had 275 total yards on the day. So it was the big plays, the Giants turnovers and the big plays that got the win for the Bengals. I'm not dismissing their victory or saying the Giants didn't get their ass kicked, but the Giants defense wasn't quite as bad as the final score shows. I have criticized the Bengals for not beating teams who are on or above their level. They beat the Giants, so I give them credit. In the grand scheme of this game, the Giants still ran the ball well and committed few penalties, but just gave the ball up too much. Basically this isn't a game I see as showing us that Cincinnati is for real, after all this is the same team that broke a four game losing streak with this win, but I also don't see new issues for the Giants either. It was a bad game and the offense needs to get back on track. Eli Manning hasn't forgotten how to play quarterback, so I have faith the Giants will get back on track soon.
Tennessee Titans 37 Miami Dolphins 3
Who didn't see this score coming? The Titans were coming off an ugly loss where the owner basically threatened to fire everyone associated with the team and the Dolphins had won their 3 of their last 6 games, with those three losses coming by a combined 9 points. So OF COURSE the Titans are going to beat the shit out of the Dolphins on the road. Ryan Tannehill looked like a rookie and Jake Locker, who is just like Brett Favre except for the whole "having great ability at playing quarterback" part, had a wonderful game where he was 9-21 for 122 yards. All sarcasm aside, he did have several good scrambles. It's almost like football is a team game and a quarterback doesn't have to play great to win games. This is another of those "blah" games that were played early on Sunday. Maybe Bud Adams needs to threaten to fire the entire organization every week of the season since the Titans team seemed to respond so well to that. Not to sound like a broken record, but this is another one of those games were nothing went right for one team and everything went right for the opposing team. All three linebackers for the Titans had an interception in this game, which is pretty cool since the last time I recall my favorite team having one interception from a linebacker might have been in 1995. Richie Incognito, and this may surprise you, acted like an asshole and committed a stupid personal foul penalty. You may now sit back in your chair after falling out of it due to the shock of such an unexpected revelation. Chris Johnson ran for over 100 yards, causing Chuck Klosterman to ask the vital question of, "but what does this say about us as sports fans?," and probably enticing him to write a 2000 word essay on redemption and describing he has been playing fantasy football for over 100 yards and was in a league once with Ulysses S. Grant.
Minnesota Vikings 34 Detroit Lions 24
Even considering the loss for Detroit, this was a pretty good game for both teams. The Vikings got excellent quarterback play out of Christian Ponder, Adrian Peterson ran the ball well, and Jarius Wright stepped up in the absence of Percy Harvin. The Lions had a good game from Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson went bananas for 207 yards receiving, and...okay maybe there isn't a third thing for the Lions, which isn't surprising considering they lost this game. The Lions didn't exactly play stellar defense in this game. Stop me if you have heard that one before. At least they got the offense running effectively again. Speaking of running effectively again, my car had been having trou---okay, I'm just kidding and didn't want to make a cheap segue into Adrian Peterson running for 171 yards. He's a complete monster at running back right now and I am sure his ability to run the ball well has nothing to do with the Vikings selecting Matt Kalil in the first round of this year's NFL Draft. That's just a coincidence. Speaking of Matt Kalil, here is interesting quote from him after the game about Adrian Peterson,
"He hasn't lost a step at all from that knee surgery. He might even be better," left tackle Matt Kalil said.
How does Kalil know Peterson hasn't lost a step and might be better? He spent last year and the year before that playing for USC whistling at coeds trying to beat Matt Leinart's record for most keg stands in one semester. I'm just saying it was a funny quote since Kalil didn't play with Peterson until this year. I am also saying there are a lot of players from USC who are named or "Matt." I'm not suggesting they clone these players, but the fact Matt Leinart, Matt Kalil, Matt Barkley, and Matt Cassel have all come out of USC over the past decade can't just be a coincidence.
New England Patriots 37 Buffalo Bills 31
In the annual, "How the hell do the Bills play the Patriots so close and then get their ass kicked by more inferior teams?" game, this was a game of offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick didn't have a Ryan Fitzpatrick-like day it seems. He did more good than bad good. He threw two touchdowns and one interception. Of course that one interception did come when the Bills were trying to win the game with 23 seconds left in the game, so perhaps that should count for two interceptions. Maybe the Bills and Patriots games aren't always close, but I feel like they are. For some reason it seems the Bills give the Patriots a tough time, though I could be misremembering. The Bills' offense played the way a lot of Bills fans were sort of hoping it would play, while the defense played the exact opposite way Bills fans were hoping the defense would play. I thought for sure going into this season the Bills defensive line would be stronger than it is. That's not the Bills' only issue. I know the Bills were playing Tom Brady, but they also had 14 penalties for 148 yards. That speaks to discipline and a lack of good coaching, at least in my mind. It doesn't matter because Chan Gailey is very confident, he thinks,
"Still a chance," coach Chan Gailey said. "I think we'll get there. I
know I'm in the minority, but thank goodness I've got a group of guys in
that room in there that, I think, think the same thing."
If that rousing speech isn't motivational enough to make you want to go out and play some football then I don't know what is wrong with you.
(Chan Gailey's pregame speech) "We're going to win this game, I think! I'm fairly pretty sure that we could win this game and turn this all around, maybe, I think. I know you think that too, or at least I think you think that also. To be honest it's hard to tell because you are all playing games on your cell phones, I think. I'm not even sure what you are doing. That looks like a phone in your hands, I think, and I think I think you are listening, but I'm not entirely sure. There's a chance we can maybe, possibly, I think do something good or above average today. Now let's go, I think, win this game!"
(runs out of the room and none of the Bills' players follow)
New Orleans Saints 31 Atlanta Falcons 27
I'm shocked, shocked I tell you, to hear the Falcons are no longer undefeated. I am also shocked the Falcons struggled to run the football, well I actually am shocked at this, because the Saints haven't really stopped many teams from running the football this year. The Saints are making their way back now to respectability and could have a .500 record after they play the Raiders next week, which will lead to a ton of annoying stories fawning over Brees and discussing the Saints resiliency. Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez had a duel within this game and the clear winner was both of them with the clear losers being the secondary and linebackers of the Falcons and Saints. Roddy White is not taking this loss lying down and knows the Falcons didn't lose, of course not, they handed the game to the Saints,
"It's not like they came out here and won a game today," White said. "I
think we kind of gave it to them. ... We play them in three weeks and
we'll be ready."
Actually, the Saints did win the game. Of course if any player knows something about having a game handed to another team, it is Roddy White, since he and his Falcons were on the receiving end of a gift game at least once this year (no, I am still not over it). Either way, this is just a blip in the Falcons season. They will go 13-3 or 12-4 and win the NFC South. The question for this team, and the very reason they brought in a new offensive coordinator, is so their circumstances change in the postseason. We will see if they do, but a Saints team that is actually playing defense is a very scary sight to behold.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34 San Diego Chargers 24
Now THIS is the Chargers team we knew they could be. After playing the Chiefs on Thursday night last week, I started to wonder if the Chargers could make a late season run, but never seriously considered it. I'm glad I didn't. Norv Turner's time in San Diego is over. You don't get credit in the NFL for beating the teams you should beat, or at least you shouldn't get credit for this. Both teams came into this game 4-4 and this is a game that Chargers fans and ownership believe the Chargers need to win and they simply lost the game. It's not a matter of effort. It seems the Chargers are still trying and working hard for Turner. They did roll up 426 yards of offense. This was a team loss for the Chargers. They gave up a touchdown on defense, offense and special teams. I don't know if the Buccaneers are on the right path or not, but the strategy of having Josh Freeman take shots down the field to his big receivers and controlling the ground with Doug Martin seems to be working fairly well at this point. I don't think the Buccaneers are by any stretch a playoff team this year, but they seem to be getting an effective plan in place for the future. They still need to work on the defense a little bit more, since they did give up 400 yards offense to the Chargers, but an effective plan beats no plan at all I guess. Philip Rivers also made perhaps the worst throw that led to a pick-six I have ever seen (and don't forget that Jake Delhomme, Jimmy Clausen, and Cam Newton have made some pretty stupid throws that led to pick-sixes). He can be better than that and I am wondering why he isn't.
Denver Broncos 36 Carolina Panthers 14
John Fox got his revenge. Angry that he wasn't offered a new contract by Carolina before the 2010 season (a season that resulted in Fox essentially mailing the entire season in) because he did not have back-to-back winning seasons in Carolina, he assured Ron Rivera would continue not having ever won back-to-back games in Carolina. The Broncos were another team that scored a touchdown on offense, defense and special teams in an easy beat down of their opponent. Carolina couldn't protect Cam Newton and when he did have time to throw the football, the Panthers couldn't get anything going. It seems Peyton "Noodles" Manning is still a great quarterback and the Broncos defense can get to the quarterback, sacking Newton 7 times. This Carolina team is a dumpster fire and Ron Rivera will be fired after this season. I'm ready for the season to be over because at this point being dutifully loyal and watching the Panthers' games is sucking my love for the NFL dry. I don't even want to watch other NFL games after seeing the shitshow Carolina is putting on the field. Fortunately for me I bought tickets to this game and got to see the ass-kicking in person. The Broncos weren't exactly held in check during the first half of the game, but the Carolina defense was holding their own and preventing points from being put on the board. Of course the offense has to score points too, which Denver's pass rush prevented. I was fortunate enough to attend a tailgate/fundraiser hosted and attended by DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart before and after the game with other Panthers players coming and going as they please (all looking like they were incredibly frustrated and exhausted by the direction of the team), so that was my highlight of the day. None of the Panthers offensive line attended, which probably would have only led to awkward silence.
Baltimore Ravens 55 Oakland Raiders 20
You may think I'm going to reconsider my opinion of elite quarterback Joe Flacco, but I am not. Every year it seems the Ravens offense has a game or two where they play incredibly well and look good, only to come back to their normal ways over the next couple of weeks. Sometimes you are the bug and sometimes you are the windshield. The Ravens were the big and the Raiders were the windshield in this game. The Ravens returned a kickoff for a touchdown and Flacco threw for three touchdown passes on the day. The Raiders got beat in every facet of the game and this was another of those early game blowouts that happened this Sunday. If the Ravens could play like this every week they would obviously be unbeatable, but they played a Raiders team without their top two running backs on a day where nothing really went right for Oakland. So I will hold my enthusiasm for the Ravens' performance in check until further notice. I was trying to think of something the Raiders did well. They committed ten penalties, had 3 turnovers...but they did go 8-18 on third down. So that's something. There's not much else to say other than the Ravens played very well behind the leadership of elite quarterback Joe Flacco and Carson Palmer still wasn't worth a 1st and 2nd round pick.
Seattle Seahawks 28 New York Jets 7
The Seahawks are now 5-0 at home. Ex-backup quarterback punt protector Jets did not throw an incomplete pass in this entire game, further solidifying that he is the best quarterback on the Jets' team and is the very future of the team, the NFL, and the world. The Seahawks ran the ball well, Russell Wilson generally avoided making mistakes and the Seahawks defense held the Jets to 185 yards of total offense. That's a pretty good ass-kicking. I don't know the Jets' issues like a fan of the team does, but it seems Mark Sanchez hasn't done much to gain more time at the quarterback position. Of course, it isn't like ex-backup quarterback punt protector Jets is going to come into the game and start throwing the ball all over the field to lead the Jets to victory. He averaged 2.7 yards per pass attempt and ran 4 times for 14 yards. There is no immediate solution available, especially against a defense like the Seahawks have. The Seahawks ran the ball down the Jets' throats in the second half after taking a halftime lead and I don't think we can blame the Jets' defensive struggles in this game solely on not having Darrelle Revis healthy. The Jets were able to keep Russell Wilson on his toes and sack him, but he made good decisions with the football and didn't allow the Jets defense to bait him into throwing an interception. Wilson did lose a fumble, which resulted in a touchdown for the Jets, but the fact the Jets only points came on defense underscores the fact the Jets offense could get nothing going.
Dallas Cowboys 38 Philadelphia Eagles 23
Well, some Eagles fans wanted Nick Foles to get some action and he did. Foles looked okay in this game after Mike Vick went out with a "concussion" sustained when his head hit the turf after being hit by a Cowboys defender. Vick couldn't enter the game after his "concussion" so that meant Nick Foles got a chance to play. If only the Eagles could have figured out a way to prevent the Cowboys from scoring on a punt return or running back for touchdowns both interceptions the Eagles quarterbacks threw. There was even an interception returned for a touchdown by Dallas that was nullified by a holding penalty. Dallas won the game, but they can't count on getting 21 points from their defense and special teams every week of the season. Romo was mistake-free in this game and the Cowboys actually ran the ball fairly well with Felix Jones. This was a very bad game for the Eagles and the Cowboys didn't screw their good fortune up. Jerry Jones wants everyone to know that he is still planning on firing Jason Garrett and chasing a big name coach after this season though.
Owner Jerry Jones refused to call the win a season saver.
"I don't want to do that," he said. "You can, but I don't want to do it. I know how important the game is to us."
I'm confused. Jones know how important the game was to the Cowboys, but it didn't save the season? I get what he is saying, but if he knows how important the game was, didn't it save the season just a little bit? Basically short of making a playoff run, Jason Garrett probably won't be around very long in Dallas. The Cowboys fans can't even enjoy a win without somebody taking a piss in their oatmeal.
St. Louis Rams 24 San Francisco 49ers 24
A tie. I'm not sure how I feel about ties, especially in a sport that has a sudden death playoff like the NFL has. If the NFL were the NHL they would stop after the first or second overtime and then have a field goal kicking competition to determine which team won the game. Another good way to decide the winner would be to see which quarterback could throw the ball the furthest and then award the victory to that quarterback's team. We did get the yearly reminder that NFL players don't understand how overtime works in the NFL, which is always amusing to hear. Danny Amendola heard there was going to be a second overtime. Both kickers for the 49ers and Rams missed field goals that would have won the game for their respective teams. The Rams had 13 penalties in this game and the 49ers had seven penalties, which either shows how long this game lasted or how many penalties each team committed. The good news for the 49ers is that Colin Kaepernick came in and played fairly well when Alex Smith went out with a concussion. The 49ers seemed to get in a better offensive groove once they recommitted to the running game, though it wasn't enough to get a win. Tie games are very weird. Neither team goes home happy or with a sense of accomplishment. This was a fairly sloppy game and the extra period probably makes the statistics for this game look worse than they were. The 49ers gave up 458 yards of offense, which is uncharacteristic for them. I don't think I am a fan of ties in the NFL, but it's not like they happen all that often anyway. Still, it sucks to see both teams making game-ending drives in regulation only to have no winner declared.