It was an exciting week in the NFL with several overtime games and the NFL's new overtime rules got tested. I don't know who the best team in the NFL is right now. Not that it is a huge deal, but I can only narrow it down to 3-4 teams and usually I feel like there is a team that is "the best" team at this point in the season.
Buffalo Bills 19 Miami Dolphins 14
Bills fans seemingly went into this game excited that the rest of the country could finally see their pain on a nationally televised Thursday night game. Then the Bills go and screw it all up by winning the game and holding the Miami Dolphins to 184 yards of total offense in the process. This brings to mind two questions. First, can the Bills really be this dominating on defense, and second, what the hell has happened to the Miami Dolphins? I think the answer to both questions are intertwined. Yes, the Bills can be dominating on defense when they are facing an offense that is clearly struggling. I think the Bills have the defensive line to be able to dominate an opposing offense at the line of scrimmage, but for some reason they have not done so this year. The Dolphins just got their ass kicked by the Tennessee Titans and then put up 184 yards of total offense against a team was 3-6 and struggling on defense going into this matchup. Leodis McKelvin (a highly drafted member of the Bills secondary that Gregg Easterbrook has maligned in the past) got the scoring off with a 79 yard punt return for a touchdown and the Bills ran the ball well with C.J. Spiller, which always helps. Ryan Fitzpatrick put up another "Fitzpatrick performance" where he didn't do much to hurt the Bills, but also didn't throw a touchdown pass. Ryan Tannehill, who I didn't really like coming out of Texas A&M (time will only tell if I am right or wrong), has played reasonably well this season, but in the past two games has looked like a wide receiver who ended up only playing quarterback for a short-ish time in college...which he is. In all honesty, Tannehill has done a good job this year with not very many offensive weapons around him, so I find it hard to blame him for the Dolphins' offensive woes when Davone Bess is his second best receiver. An excellent receiver like Brandon Marshall (whoops) would be nice for the Dolphins and give Tannehill a better chance to succeed. Either way, this was an impressive performance for the Bills' defense. Even though Bills fans weren't expecting to see a victory on national television, that's what they got. I wonder how many Bills fans are upset this further ruined a chance at a high draft pick?
Baltimore Ravens 13 Pittsburgh Steelers 10
Not that Ben Roethisberger is important to the Steelers or anything of course. This was a pretty defensive-minded game and the difference in the game was from a guy, who if he isn't the Ravens MVP this year, at least has been 100 times better than either Texans or Ravens fans probably could have expected. That person is Jacoby Jones, who returned a punt for a touchdown. The Steelers defense did a really good job of holding the Ravens to 200 total yards in the game, but the story of this game will be how the Ravens shut down the Steelers offensively (though they did give up 311 total yards) with Byron Leftwich at quarterback. The Ravens have found a good way to pick up their defense during a game and that is to hope the other team has their backup quarterback in the game. I know Steelers fans know this, but Ben Roethlisberger is pretty much the MVP of the Steelers team every year. Leftwich was under constant pressure when he dropped back to pass behind a beat up Steelers offensive line and Roethlisberger's mobility and ability to evade the pass rush is incredibly important to the Steelers offense. The Pittsburgh offense may not have changed too much, but the guy running the offense did. The Steelers turned the ball over three times and Joe Flacco did a good job of protecting the football and playing within the game. What I mean by that is he knew this was a defensive battle and didn't do anything that would give the Steelers good field position or a turnover. I don't always love Joe Flacco, but he is smart. He knows you make the opposing team's backup quarterback beat you and to be sure not to beat yourself.
Atlanta Falcons 23 Arizona Cardinals 19
There is a statistic used by announcers and "experts" a lot that I absolutely despise. It is some variation of saying, "When Quarterback X has an interception his team's record is 1-9." I hate this statistic because many times I think it takes the burden of a team and puts it on the quarterback. Within reason, a quarterback should be able to throw an interception and his team still win the game. Every great quarterback has thrown an interception and won a game. So this statistic is often misleading and puts the burden of a team on the quarterback. If a team can't win a game when their quarterback throws an interception that tells me just as much about the team around that quarterback as it does the quarterback. This leads me to the Falcons. I am running out of passive-aggressive things to say about the Falcons. Matt Ryan threw 5 interceptions and still won the game. He's a winner, that's what he is (okay fine, that was probably passive-aggressive). The Falcons should have lost this game based solely on that, but because the defense held the Cardinals to 178 total yards (which it helps the Cardinals ran their third string QB out there, but that's beside the point) the Falcons won the game. Matt Ryan had very little to do with this win and by all rights he should have thrown the Falcons out of the game. He didn't though and because the Falcons defense didn't give up a lot of points off the turnovers, the Falcons offense was in a position to win the game and they did. The Falcons defense even chipped in a somewhat controversial touchdown on an incomplete pass/fumble, it was heads up for Jordan Babineaux to run the ball into the end zone just in case the whistle ruling the pass incomplete didn't happen. I have no idea how the Falcons keep winning games they should be losing, but they do. Kudos to them.
Dallas Cowboys 23 Cleveland Browns 20
Prior to this game, I fully expected the Cowboys to lose this game. This just seemed like the kind of back-breaking loss masterminded by Jason Garrett, combined with a false hope victory for the Browns. I was close, but still wrong. Tony Romo tried to lose the game with a key fumble after the Cowboys defense had caused a fumble. It's all very confusing, but Romo was under pressure all day, getting sacked seven times. I am sure this had nothing to do with his fumble and this almost-loss should firmly be placed on his shoulders. Naturally, in quotes after the game the Browns defense put the blame where it should have been on the last two drives (led by Romo for those who love to bash him) that helped win the game for the Cowboys,
...the subsequent drive to Bryant's touchdown included two of seven
penalties on Cleveland's secondary. There were also two defensive
penalties on Dallas' tying drive in regulation, and the Browns had 12
penalties for 129 yards overall.
"What are you supposed to do when a receiver is pushing you?" said Browns safety T.J. Ward. "I felt like we were playing one-handed out there."
I am sure Cleveland Browns fans think that the defense has been playing one-handed out there for quite a few years now, so they barely noticed. Though I am bashing the Browns, they seem to be doing some things right. They drafted a rookie quarterback (a rookie I am not a fan of, but if I were an NFL scout I wouldn't be writing on this blog), they drafted a running back to give him a running game, and then they have drafted a tackle and put that quarterback behind a solid-ish offensive line. At least Weeden has a chance to succeed. One thing Dallas is going to need is to find a running game. They threw the ball 50 times with Romo and ran for 63 yards for a 3.0 yards per attempt average. Cowboys fans may not love how their team won this game, but at least they won.
Green Bay 24 Detroit Lions 20
Rodgers acknowledged he wasn't at his best, but the fifth-year starter was good enough.
He was 19 of 27 for 236 yards with two TDs and an interception.
That's the standard that Aaron Rodgers has set for himself. He wasn't at HIS best, but he threw 8 incomplete passes and had 236 yards with more touchdowns than interceptions. Man, it must be nice to have a quarterback who has set that kind of standard for himself. Nobody still has a clue what is wrong with Matthew Stafford though. He was 17-39 for 266 yards, one touchdown pass and an interception. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact he was sacked five times. I felt like Stafford had gotten back on track after last week's performance, but he took another step back this week. At lot of it may have had something to do with no receiver besides Calvin Johnson contributing more than 35 yards receiving. Nah, let's blame Stafford entirely for the loss. The Lions wide receiver coach was yelling at the offensive coordinator for the Lions during the game and the defense was not happy with how they gave up the lead late in the game. It was not a very happy game for the Lions. It sounds obvious to say, and it probably is fairly obvious, but good teams find ways to win games. The Packers weren't at their best offensively, but the defense scored a touchdown and Rodgers' offense found a way to score touchdowns when they needed to score touchdowns. I don't think this Packers team should be considered a front runner in the NFC, but if this is a bad game for Aaron Rodgers and the defense is able to create turnovers then the Packers are going to be very hard to beat come January.
Cincinnati Bengals 28 Kansas City Chiefs 6
Do you think Romeo Crennel knows that he is going to be fired? I am sure he does. There are two things that can make an owner (or an owner that cares about his team) fire the head coach. When the team isn't successful and the team's performance is taking money from that owner's pocket. The Chiefs are terrible and the stands were only half-full for a home game. So that doesn't bode well for Romeo Crennel. Earlier in the year Crennel was talking about finding a way to win, but now it seems he isn't even aware of his surroundings,
"I focus on the game. I don't get into the crowd," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said.
I understand that is what Crennel is supposed to say, but how can he not notice Chiefs fans dressed in black and the stadium half-full? Obviously he is lying in making this statement, but in not acknowledging Chiefs fans want him fired it doesn't mean he won't be fired. At least seem slightly in touch with reality. There should at least be some Bengals fans at the game, right? So those fans should take up some of the stadium and the Chiefs fans can't take up 75% of the other seats. That's not good. Speaking of the Bengals, they are about to go on a four game stretch where they could conceivably go 3-1. Including the random blowout of the Giants last week and this game against the Chiefs, it seems the Bengals are all set up to get an AFC Wild Card spot and then lay an egg on the road in the playoffs. I'm excited personally because it makes picking this playoff game very easy. Back to the Chiefs, good quarterbacking is what makes a bad team average or an average team great. The Chiefs don't have good quarterbacking. They have two quarterbacks who play the position, but they don't have good quarterbacking. Mady Quassel combined to go 1-11 on third down and threw for a combined 188 yards. The Chiefs ran the ball well, but overall it seems the life has been sucked out of this team, and nothing sucks the life out of a team quicker than bad coaching and bad quarterbacking. The Chiefs don't have that bad of a defense and they appear to be able to run the ball, yet they keep losing games. It's not hard to see why. What is hard to see is why Chiefs ownership wouldn't make quite a few personnel and front office changes after this season.
New York Jets 27 St. Louis Rams 13
Well of course the Jets came into St. Louis and beat the Rams behind Mark Sanchez playing a very good game. Remember last week when Peter King did his drooling "The Rams are a team to watch in the NFC West" bit based upon one good game they played against the 49ers? I wonder what he thinks this week? A "team to watch" doesn't lose at home to a Jets team that seemed to be imploding and exploding at the same time. We all love Jeff "8-8" Fisher as a coach, but I guess this is part of the growing process for his team. The Rams just aren't a consistent team at this point and for Peter to act like they are is silly to me. Ex-backup quarterback punt protector Jets was supposed to get more playing time in this game, but the Rams gave the Jets "different looks" which necessitated Mark Sanchez play nearly the entire game. Translation: Mark Sanchez was playing well and Rex Ryan wanted the New York media to get off his jock about replacing Sanchez with ex-backup quarterback punt protector Jets, so he kept Sanchez in the game when he was playing well in order to show Sanchez should be the starter for the Jets. Of course, after the game Bart Scott led a Jets mutiny to not speak to the media, which (a) didn't work, (b) would never work given how much professional athletes tend to chase camera time rather than run away from it, and (c) seemed very immature. He was unhappy how anonymous sources were used to bash ex-backup quarterback punt protector Jets earlier last week, so he was going to get the media back by not talking to them. Funny he does that, since if you asked me to name the top Jets players who probably stated those anonymous quotes about ex-backup quarterback punt protector Jets, Bart Scott's name would probably appear somewhere on that short list. So it was a great game for the Jets and a bad game for the Rams. I very much expect both teams to reverse roles when they play in their next week's game.
Washington Redskins 31 Philadelphia Eagles 6
Well, some Eagles fans wanted Nick Foles and they got him. He went 21-46 for 204 yards with two interceptions. Everyone can go back to blaming Andy Reid for everything. Boy, next week's Monday Night Football Game between the Panthers and Eagles is going to be a real dumpster fire. I can't decide if both teams are going to be outrageously aggressive with their game plan in an effort to win the game and save the job of their coach or if both teams are going to be very conservative in an effort to make sure they don't lose the game in an effort to save the job of their coach. Robert Griffin was fantastic in only throwing one incomplete pass and having more total yards than the entire Eagles team had. I would make a snide comment about the Eagles firing their defensive coordinator, but most people knew that was a joke when it happened. The Eagles had three turnovers in this game, which is a problem that seems to plague them no matter who their starting quarterback ends up being. Andy Reid may know what the problem is though,
"I don't sense a lack of focus," said Reid, who declined to directly
answer a question about his job security. "That's not what I sense. I
see them playing hard. I see them focusing in at practice. At times,
maybe we're trying too hard."
Yes, yes, yes. That could be the problem. The Eagles are trying too hard. Whether Andy Reid was ever a good head coach or not, which I lean towards the "yes, he was" answer to that question, it is pretty clear his time in Philadelphia is now up. I don't see how he sticks around after this year. Mike Shanahan, on the other hand, pretty much gave up on the season two weeks ago and now his team is talking about the playoffs and winning the NFC East. Football is a cruel sport. One coach seemingly gives up on the season (and possibly saves his freaking job like lucky Mike Shanahan does) and his team keeps winning, while another coach seems to believe his team is trying too hard and hasn't given up, except his team can't win a game. Football is not fair.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 Carolina Panthers 21
The Buccaneers offense was shut down pretty well by the Panthers defense for 56 minutes of this game. Then the Bucs came back to score a touchdown to bring it within two points and the Panthers laid down and just gave them the game. I don't see how Ron Rivera sticks around after this year. There is no point in firing him now though. One would think considering Cam Newton threw one incomplete pass in the second half and committed no turnovers the Panthers could win the game. Guess not.
A few numbers for you. 11 penalties for 91 yards. That's coaching. 0-12 this year on coin flips. The Panthers haven't even won a fucking coin flip this year. What are the odds they haven't won a coin flip? The Panthers kicker has missed his last three kicks, including one in this game that would have won the game in regulation. They have held the lead in the fourth quarter, the lead I tell you, in five of the last six defeats. They have been uncompetitive in the two nationally televised games they played this year, granted, but they keep giving games away. It's bad luck, it's bad coaching, and it's just bad. Even when they get a break, like they did on a Doug Martin fumble that was probably a touchdown, they can't capitalize. The sooner this season is over, the better. Tampa Bay showed a lot of resolve in this game and Josh Freeman didn't play well for the majority of the game, but he really came up big when it counted towards the end. The cynic in me says it probably helped Carolina showed nothing differently on defense (as always happens) once the Bucs went into their hurry-up offense, but Freeman made some really good passes and ran the offense well. Doug Martin had another great game against Carolina and they are a really hard team to match up with when Freeman is throwing the ball well. If the Buccaneers can make the playoffs, I'm not sure they can win a playoff game, but they are going to give some defenses fits trying to match up with Jackson/Williams on the outside, while stopping Martin in the run game.
Houston Texans 43 Jacksonville Jaguars 37
I'm not sure what to take from this game. The Texans defense gave up a lot of points to a very bad Jaguars defense. I will give them a mulligan for this performance though and just chalk it up to a very bad day. I also am surprised at how many yards Matt Schaub threw for in this game. 527 yards is crazy. I don't have complete faith in the Texans to throw the ball effectively if the opposing team covers Andre Johnson, though the Jags gave up 273 yards to Johnson, so it isn't like the Jags ever covered him. Chad Henne came in the game and became a touchdown throwing machine for the Jaguars. While he clearly outdid nearly anything Blaine Gabbert could have done, I'm not sure this is the answer to the question of, "Who is the Jaguars starting quarterback that gives them the best chance to win?" Just like I am giving the Texans a pass for giving up 300 yards passing and four touchdowns to Chad Henne, I'm not now believing that Chad Henne is the long-term answer at quarterback. If this were music he would be a one-hit wonder and this was his hit. By the way, great call by Matt Schaub to audible to a screen pass for the game-winning touchdown. It really helps sometimes for your quarterback to have play-changing ability at the line of scrimmage (paging Rob Chudzinski) and it was the perfect play call in that situation. Despite giving up 458 yards of offense (though gaining 640 yards of offense), the Texans won the game. They just can't make this poor tackling (especially on the 81 yard Blackmon touchdown) and giving up 30+ points a habit.
New Orleans Saints 38 Oakland Raiders 17
The Saints must really be kicking themselves for losing early games to the Redskins, Panthers, and Chiefs. If they had won those games they would be 8-2 right now. Of course if a frog had wings it wouldn't bump it's ass on the ground. The Saints ran the ball effectively and didn't play the best defense they could play, but still didn't up points, which is all that matters. I guess I can stop gloating over the Saints issues and get back to being really scared of them now. The owner of the Raiders, Mark Davis but not the Mark Davis who magically won the Cy Young Award for being a great closer got paid by the Royals and then went back to sucking at pitching, isn't happy with what he saw,
"I'm patient. But I want to see progress," he said. "I don't want to see
regression. Nobody does. And that's why I'm unhappy today."
If you don't want to see regression then you may not want to own the Raiders then. I am kidding. The Raiders have allowed 135 points in the last three games. I'm not going to completely defend them, but I sort of will defend them. They aren't a very good team, so keep that in mind, but they also played the Ravens, Saints, and Buccaneers in the last three games. Two of those teams are offensively powerful and the Ravens always tend to have random point outbursts. So it's not like they are giving up all these points to really bad teams. Still, the Raiders have to do better than this. If I am Mark Davis, I am more concerned the offense didn't score at least 30 points. The Saints had held only one team to below 20 points this year, so the Raiders need to put up more points than that against the Saints defense...or perhaps I should give the Saints defense credit. Nah, I can't do that. So the Buccaneers are playing well, the Saints are getting hot and the Falcons have every major spiritual deity helping them win games. The NFC South looks tough right now.
Denver Broncos 30 San Diego Chargers 23
This was touched on last year when ex-backup quarterback punt protector Jets was performing his non-miracles in Denver last year, but the Broncos have a really good defense. I know the focus is on Peyton Manning, just like it was on ex-BQBPP Jets last year, but the Broncos defense knows how to get after the ball. That's the one thing John Fox always really understood, which was how to build a defense. Granted, I didn't always like how he ran the defense, but he put talent on that side of the ball. Von Miller is a beast. That is all I have to say about that. The Denver defense had not given up a third down conversion in the last 26 attempts by the opposing team at one point in this game. Ridiculous. Manning runs an efficient offense and the Broncos defense can hold their own. I can't wait to see a Broncos-Patriots AFC Championship Game. As far as the Chargers go, this is one of those games Norv Turner really needed to win in order to help keep his job. Maybe I am crazy, but I feel like this Chargers team is running on fumes. It is a combination of the Chargers knowing changes are coming and not being entirely sure the current situation can be improved. Don't get me wrong, the Chargers are still trying, but there is a certain inevitability to changes being made. Norv Turner is a great offensive coordinator, but he's just an average head coach. The good news is some new head coach hired after this season can pick up Norv Turner as the offensive coordinator, get Romeo Crennel as the defensive coordinator, and get Ron Rivera to coach the linebackers after the season is over. It's like the coaching staff of misfit toys.
New England Patriots 59 Indianapolis Colts 24
Andrew Luck certainly learned playing the Jaguars, Dolphins, Titans and Browns is not the same as playing the New England Patriots. This was an incredible offensive display by the Patriots, running up 446 yards of offense and scoring two touchdowns on defense and one on special teams. The Colts had more yardage than the Patriots, but mostly because they were playing catch-up over the entire game. Naturally, the Patriots trade for Aqib Talib and then he returns a touchdown for an interception. The Patriots are annoyingly effective like that. Obviously this game wasn't entirely Andrew Luck's fault, though his three interceptions certainly didn't help. What is being overlooked, especially by Peter King, when fawning over the Colts is that they are a very young team. On offense they are young and they are also pretty young on defense. These types of games will happen and I guarantee 35 points is the largest gap in points between the Patriots and Colts in any future Tom Brady-Andrew Luck matchups. This was pretty much a meltdown for the Colts in that every interception they threw seemed to go for a touchdown, they gave up a special teams touchdown and the Patriots marched down the field and scored on them on offense. Bad news for the Patriots is that Rob Gronkowski has broken his left arm when blocking on an extra point. I have no problem with Belichick having Gronkowski out there on the extra point and freak accidents happen. It probably would have made more sense to sit vital starters like Gronkowski once the game was out of hand, but it isn't like his injury was foreseeable and if any player can come back earlier than expected it is Gronkowski. He's young, dumb, and athletic. I mean that as a compliment too.