Last week Steve Spurrier, apparently wanting his NFL coaching career to not be remembered as his greatest failure, decided he would fail and give his opinion that Alabama could beat the worst NFL team. This is ridiculous. There is no way an NFL team would get beat by Alabama, just like there is no way the University of Kentucky could have beaten an NBA team last year. It's just a different level of each sport. I'm glad there were many who questioned Spurrier's sanity because there's no way a college team could beat an NFL team.
San Diego Chargers 31 Kansas City Chiefs 13
There is a cure-all for NFL teams who are struggling this year and that is to play the Chiefs. The Chargers lost an embarrassing game to the Browns a week ago by a score of 7-6 and while that could have been the last straw for A.J. Smith and Norv Turner, it is always nice to play the Chiefs next. I don't know if this really should get Norv Turner off the hot seat or not, considering beating a 1-6 team is something the Chargers shouldn't reward him for doing if their goal is to win a Super Bowl. The Chiefs are a team the Chargers need to beat. For the Chiefs it was the same story as usual. They had an excellent first drive only to have Dwayne Bowe fumble and the Chargers recovered. I wouldn't say this took all of the wind out of the Chiefs' sails, but it certainly negated the good feelings from the 17 play drive up until that point. I don't have any statistics to back this up, but I feel like it is a bad idea for an owner to hire as head coach a guy who was the interim coach for his team the year before. I realize the Chiefs played well under Crennel in 2011, but it is still Romeo Crennel. He hasn't suddenly become an excellent head coach since his time in Cleveland. Of course it would help him coach better if the Chiefs would quit turning the ball over and they had a decent quarterback. Right now, they are a team with talent and a coaching staff that seemingly can't get that talent out of the players. As far as the Chargers go, this was a nice win, and Rivers only threw two incomplete passes all night, so perhaps there is hope they can get into the playoffs. The Chargers ran the ball effectively for 4.7 yards per carry and the defense contributed two touchdowns, which I am pretty sure the Chargers can't count on happening every week. For one more week, the Norv Turner has held off those who want his head. Playing the struggling Chiefs will do that, but I'm not sure this game should save his job. I think these are the kind of games teams that want to be good teams are expected to win.
Houston Texans 21 Buffalo Bills 9
The important part of this game is what Mario Williams thought about returning to Reliant Stadium as a member of the Bills organization. Naturally, the Texans fans booed him because Williams stated he didn't feel wanted in Houston this past offseason. Considering the Texans didn't seem to make an effort to re-sign Williams, he made a ton of money signing with Buffalo, and the Texans not only saved money but seem to have easily replaced Williams, I thought he may have gotten a warmer welcome. I don't know, no matter what Williams said this week I didn't completely get why they booed him. It seems like it worked out for all parties. I thought the Texans would run for 250 yards on the Bills, so Buffalo did a good job of holding the Texans to a 3.7 yards per carry average and only about 120 yards rushing. Of course Buffalo still lost, so there isn't a huge moral victory there. Ryan Fitzpatrick did his usual schtick of not doing much to hurt the Bills nor doing much to help them. He threw no interceptions, but no touchdowns either. Sometimes I think if the NFL used a replacement level quarterback measurement, they would call it "the Fitz," as in "Brees was worth 2.8 wins over the Fitz this past year." I feel sort of funny about this game because the Texans are such a great running team and the Bills can't usually stop the run, yet the Texans didn't run all over the Bills. Ok, fine the truth is I started Justin Forsett in two fantasy leagues and I am not happy with the Texans he only ran for 7 yards. He has to do better than that for me. The least the Texans could do is have an excellent running day with their backup running back. Is that too much to ask?
Denver Broncos 31 Cincinnati Bengals 23
So what the hell happened to the Bengals? They have lost four games in a row. Their three wins have come against Cleveland, Jacksonville, and Washington and over the last four games they have had to play Pittsburgh, Denver, and surprisingly scrappy Browns and Dolphins teams. More importantly, how did "Noodles" (that's the name Bill Simmons is calling Peyton Manning this year, since apparently he hasn't watched Peyton play other than the game against the Patriots) play against the Bengals? He threw for 291 yards, though he did have 2 interceptions. I thought Manning's arm strength could start to wear down as the year goes on, but it seems like he hasn't lost a ton of velocity on his passes. He never had a great arm by any measure, but his throws are still getting where they need to be in the time they need to. Neither of Manning's interceptions weren't caused by a lack of arm strength and he didn't seem to have trouble with his arm as he led two straight scoring drives to help the Broncos come back in this game. Andy Dalton was sacked five times by the Broncos defense and I can't help but wonder how Broncos fans feel this year since they aren't having to deal with ex-backup QB punt protector Jets and his drama at the end of games. It was fun to watch the Broncos fight reality when ex-backup quarterback punt protector Jets was their starting quarterback, but they can't regret having a real quarterback playing for their team. I kind of feel like the BenJarvus-Green Ellis experiment at running back isn't working out entirely well. He doesn't seem to be cutting it as the main running back for the Bengals at this point. Perhaps a nice running game would help Andy Dalton throw fewer interceptions and take some pressure off him. Dalton has an interception on every game this season and last week Marvin Lewis challenged Dalton to be more of a leader and Dalton responded by sort of saying, "If I get time to be a leader, perhaps I will look into that. Right now, I'm really busy doing other things." I translate that to, "Give me a running game so I don't lose games to a Hall of Fame quarterback some idiot sports columnist nicknamed 'Noodles.'"
Baltimore Ravens 25 Cleveland Browns 15
A win is a win, right? The Ravens got the road win against the scrappy Browns (that's what I will call the Browns from now on, the scrappy Browns). Elite franchise Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Flacco exploded for 15 completions, 153 yards and 1 touchdown pass and Ray Rice chipped in what he could by running for 98 yards and 1 touchdown. More importantly, the Ravens defense held the Browns to field goals instead of touchdowns throughout the game. If the Ravens' defense doesn't do that, then obviously this is a completely different looking game. After a few weeks of playing well, Brandon Weeden played more like I expected him to in throwing for 176 yards and two interceptions, though he did throw a touchdown pass which was nullified by an illegal formation. Of course he never would have thrown the pass if it had not been for the illegal formation, so I'm just all confused as to whether I should give him credit for the nullified touchdown pass or not. So for those who stated the Ravens were going to struggle on defense without Ray Lewis and Webb, well for one week it seems like they were able to shut down the Browns pretty well, at least when it came to scoring touchdowns. Fortunately for Browns fans, Brandon Weeden has a vast history of failing and knows exactly how to handle it. That's what you get when you draft a mature quarterback. I'm being passive-aggressively hard on Flacco (and Weeden) but he did lead the Ravens back in this game, though the Ravens led the entire first half, third quarter, and were only behind for about five minutes in this game. I think at this point the words "comeback victory" or any variation of those words is starting to lose its meaning if this qualifies as a "comeback victory." I read several game reports saying this was a Ravens comeback, when they weren't losing but for about five minutes of this game and took the lead back the very possession after they started losing. I propose the word "comeback" be saved for times when a team really had to comeback.
Green Bay Packers 31 Arizona Cardinals 17
It's been five weeks since I strongly defended the Cardinals spot in Peter King's Fine Fifteen and it has been five weeks since the Cardinals have won a game. Coincidence? I doubt it. I tend to ruin nearly everything I touch. The Cardinals gave up four touchdown passes to a severely pissed off Aaron Rodgers (I don't know if he is really pissed off, but it certainly seems like he is), including one to Tom Crabtree. More specifically, Tom Crabtree caught a 72 yard touchdown pass. Of course he did, because that's all Tom Crabtree does is run and catch touchdown passes. More annoyingly, it seems like the Packers can score touchdowns with ease. They simply ran a play action fake and then hit Crabtree over the middle where he had beaten the linebacker for the touchdown. It seemed so simple. I think the Packers make plays like this look simple as I watch other NFL teams struggle to get guys open and the Packers are running play fakes and then throwing simple passes that go for touchdowns. Maybe that Aaron Rodgers guy is pretty good. For the Cardinals, I would put this loss on John Skelton and my perception of his overall talent level, but if the Cardinals' defense had stopped Rodgers and the Packers from running and throwing the ball so well, the Cardinals offense could have conceivably done enough to win this game. They were playing from behind the whole time, which is hard to do if you don't have a quarterback who leads comeback victories like Joe Flacco can do. Rodgers only had 14 completions but 4 of them were for touchdowns, so the Cardinals did good things defensively, but they just couldn't win the game. It's pretty much all my fault of course. When I defend a player, then he tends to look like shit (with Aaron Rodgers being an exception from about four years ago) and when I criticize a player then you know he his going to make me look stupid as soon as possible. Speaking of that...
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 42 Oakland Raiders 32
Before I get to the discussion of Doug Martin, I stumbled upon Chris Berman doing his "Three Minute Drill" (or something he was doing with words coming out of his mouth that I generally ignore for the sake of my hearing) and it turns out he still calls the Raiders the "Raid-dahs." Has no one euthanized Berman yet? I make it a point to avoid him at all costs and then when I stumble on him it is like going in a time machine back to 15 years ago and it makes me want to cry for him. He called Joel Dressen something like "Dressen and the fixings" or something irritating to that effect. Burn it, burn it with fire.
So over the first few weeks of the season I said the following about Doug Martin,
Doug Martin again had the "Eddie George special" day of running the
football. He got twenty carries and averaged 3.3 yards per carry.
Josh Freeman looked terrible and Doug Martin had another "Eddie George
special" type of game, where he had 58 yards rushing, but it took him 19
carries to get to that point.
So in this game Doug Martin had a 10.0 per carry average. I can't really say it was a "Player X special" because that's a crazy-good per carry average. He had four touchdowns, 25 carries, and 251 yards. He went bananas. So maybe Doug Martin won't be relying on the "Eddie George special" type running games for the majority of his career. In a related story, LaGarrette Blount got two carries in this game and literally fumbled one of the carries away and figuratively fumbled away any chance he is getting more than two carries in a game again, outside of a Doug Martin injury. At this point, Blount doesn't have a puncher's chance (again, see what I did there?) of taking the job away from Martin. Carson Palmer threw the ball 61 times in this game, which tells us that Darren McFadden either (a) passed away at some point in the game or (b) was injured. Considering Darren McFadden gets injured tying his shoes, it is no shock to know he got injured on his first carry of the game. That's what I like about Darren McFadden. He doesn't waste time getting injured. He's quick and efficient in that way. 61 times passing the ball with Carson Palmer isn't a formula for winning football games. You know what is a formula for winning a football game? Having a running back run the ball for 251 yards. That's usually a pretty good sign your team will win. Oh and these two teams combined for 22 penalties for 196 yards. In other words, they had more yards in penalties than Joe Flacco had passing the ball.
Chicago Bears 51 Tennessee Titans 20
If I was being negative I would say even though the Bears scored 51 points, Cutler still got sacked three times and the Titans ran the ball pretty well on the Bears. The Bears got three turnovers over the first 13 minutes of the game, and naturally, the Brian Urlacher had an interception return for a touchdown. It seems like the Bears defense scores a touchdown nearly every single game. Bears fans took over the Titans field, even to the point Jay Cutler had to quiet them down at one point. Of course Cutler quieted the Bears fans down by flipping them off and angrily shoving any Bears fans who dared to cheer during the game. That Cutler is just an asshole, isn't he? The best news from this game I heard was that Titans' owner Bud Adams is pissed off and he isn't going to take it any more,
"At this time, all aspects of the organization will be closely
evaluated, including front office, coaches and players over the next
seven games. If performance and competitiveness does not improve, I will
look at all alternatives to get back to having the Titans become a
playoff and championship football team."
This is great and all, but shouldn't Bud Adams be doing this anyway? Adams says "at this time," as if he had not been evaluating these members of the Titans' organization prior to this date. One concern for the Bears defense, and I am nitpicking here, is they gave up 159 yards rushing to the Bears, though 80 of that was on one run by Chris Johnson. I don't doubt the Bears' defense can continue to create turnovers, but they are well-known for stopping the other team's running game and giving up 159 yards in a blowout loss isn't a way to show you can stop the run. Yes, I am nitpicking. For the Titans, they simply aren't going to win games if they turn the ball over five times. Jake Locker is probably happy he was injured (again) and didn't have to be on the field to watch the Titans offense continuously turn the ball back over to the Bears. It's good Bud Adams wants to evaluate all aspects of the Titans organization, but he should have been doing that anyway. Maybe he needs to evaluate how the Bears create so many turnovers and then try to replicate that.
Indianapolis Colts 23 Miami Dolphins 20
Future Hall of Famer Andrew Luck took his latest step to canonization this week by throwing for 433 yards against a pretty good Dolphins defense. Of course it wasn't really Andrew Luck who threw for all those yards. See, Chuck Pagano was watching the game and I wouldn't put it past God to have helped direct some of Luck's passes directly where they needed to go. Once again God has taken his wrath out on Joe Philbin. I'm not sure what Joe Philbin did to God, but according to Bill Simmons there is a "Tragedy Effect" that helps out teams who have suffered a tragedy and it must have helped the Colts out in this game. Not only did Joe Philbin not get to benefit from this effect in last year's playoffs, but now God is helping out the Colts even more against Philbin's team. Luck was incredible on the day, though he did throw a few passes up for grabs and got fortunate his receiver is the one that came down with it. I am specifically thinking about the touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton where Luck threw the ball up into double coverage and somehow Hilton came down with the ball. The Colts were 13-19 on third down, which is always helpful when it comes to trying to win a game. Ryan Tannehill wasn't bad, but he is also not a future Hall of Fame quarterback like Andrew Luck is. It was a good day for Chuck Pagano and it is good to see that he seems to be doing well, but at this point I wouldn't put it past other NFL coaches to fake diseases to inspire their team to win games. It's either that or trade for ex-backup quarterback punt protector Jets and get the benefit of inspiration without life-threatening diseases, plus the team gets to permanently ensure God is on their side.
Carolina Panthers 21 Washington Redskins 13
Really weird call in this game. It's a good thing the replacement officials are gone and the real officials are working games. Replacement officials used to make a bad call and then look like they were guilty of making a bad call. The real officials accidentally blow a whistle, effectively ending a play, and then pretend they never blew the whistle. Here is a description of what I am talking about...DeAngelo Williams ran for a touchdown and one of the officials blew the whistle claiming Williams stepped out of bounds, which he very clearly did not. Then the officials huddled and decided there was no whistle, these aren't the droids you are looking for, and the Panthers just scored a touchdown. Actually, they decided the whistle blew after Williams crossed the goal line, which is still a lie. So the eventual call was correct, but the officials had called the play dead and you could even see Redskins defenders give upon hearing the whistle. The best part was how FOX clown/sideline reporter/end zone reporter Tony Siragusa (he has gone another week without being replaced by a monkey working the sidelines wearing a tuxedo...I don't know he keeps fighting off his inevitable firing, he's terrible), Kenny Albert and Moose Johnston explained it. They said all touchdowns are reviewable, so the officials reviewed the touchdown (they "reviewed" this call outside of the replay booth in a huddle, so apparently they have some sort of holographic image that replayed the play for them while they were huddling...they have no need for a stinkin' replay booth), and found Williams didn't step out of bounds and called it a touchdown. What the Siragusa/Johnston/Albert failed to explain is how if there was a whistle ruling the play dead before Williams scored a touchdown (which there clearly was), then how did the officials review a touchdown that was never supposed to occur? Nothing to see here, go about your business. Fortunately, for the officials the call was correct.
On to the game...all things are possible with Robert Griffin, outside of blocking for himself, as he was harassed by the Panthers defensive line that decided it was going to try hard for two straight weeks. Maybe they can make it three straight weeks of a good effort with the Broncos up next. Griffin looked good as usual and as an Appalachian State fan it was good to see Armanti Edwards catch a long pass. Next week when he is released to make room for David Gettis on the roster, at least he will have a fond NFL memory to look back on.
Atlanta Falcons 19 Dallas Cowboys 13
I can't help but wonder if after the Cowboys hire Sean Payton/Jon Gruden if they keep Tony Romo on as the starting quarterback? I ask this because Romo lost another game for the Cowboys Sunday night when he went 25-35 for 321 yards and a touchdown. Everything is his fault, so I figure we can chalk this loss up to him as well. Michael Turner was brought back to life before this game by a bolt of lightning for a one-time only (or until he plays Carolina again) 100 yard rushing bonanza. Roddy White passed Terence Mathis as the Falcons all-time leading receptions leader, which serves to remind us the Falcons have been around since 1966 and their all-time leader in receptions is Terence Mathis. I have a feeling White is going to go pretty far past Mathis' record, at least until Julio Jones starts to creep up on White's record. Both teams played pretty good defense for most of the game, but the Falcons went on a five minute drive to end the game and make me look even more stupid when I claim I am still not sure the Falcons should be the favorites in the NF---I mean, it serves as a reminder that Falcons are clearly the best team in the NFC. Next year when Payton/Gruden get hired as coach of the Cowboys they are going to have to find a way for Dallas to run the ball if DeMarco Murray ever gets hurt again. It doesn't seem like Felix Jones is entirely cutting it. Tough loss for the Cowboys because this is a game they could have and should have won. Just don't fuck with the Falcons this year. It seems they are living their lives right and pulling away in these tight games. This is the third game I can think of where the Falcons scored the game-winning points with no time or less than a minute left on the clock (I got confused when writing this. For some reason I recall the Turner TD coming before the Matt Bryant FG that left the Cowboys with 17 seconds left. This is what happens when I watch the Sunday late night game, I imagine events occurring in a different way than they did).
Detroit Lions 31 Jacksonville Jaguars 14
Blaine Gabbert went back to his usual self for this game. Last week when Gabbert was a gun-slinging maniac I had hope maybe he had found a way to turn his NFL career around. It turns out he and the Jaguars offense went back to their typical short pass offense which looks good on paper, but not so good in action. The Lions ran the ball extraordinarily well. Perhaps they were looking at game film this week and noticed they do indeed have running backs on the roster and it could be a good idea to use those running backs. Considering the "throw it up to Calvin Johnson" play hasn't worked quite as well this year, if the Lions could get a running game developing then they could find a way to get back to their 2011 offensive numbers. The Jags have been outscored 126-34 at home this year, so perhaps the reason the Jags owner wants to have more games in London is to prevent Jags fans from having to pay to watch the team get blown out and he wants to carry the team's home misery overseas. The Jags home misery is like a virus. We can't let it get on a plane and leave the country. We must contain it here. Marcedes Lewis has a challenge to the rest of the Jaguars team,
One of these days we're going to put it all together and get it done and
get it done again and get it done again. That's what keeps us hungry.
And whoever is not with that, go home. Don't come back."
Don't go entirely overboard with this suggestion of players on the Jaguars roster who aren't hungry. The Jaguars do need 22 guys to play a game. If Lewis is suggesting the Jaguars rebuild the team and start over after this season, well, I think Jaguars ownership already has that in mind...or at least possibly should. There is a difference in losing games and getting your ass handed to you in games. I'm afraid the Jaguars are getting their ass handed to them too often. Does Mike Mularky even get a year two as head coach of the Jags?
Seattle Seahawks 30 Minnesota Vikings 20
Man, a lot of people were excited about the Vikings earlier this year weren't they? Christian Ponder had a terrible performance and threw for 63 yards. He threw for 111 yards against the 49ers earlier this year and threw for 58 yards against the Cardinals three weeks ago. Earlier this year Gregg Easterbrook suggested the Vikings were succeeding by running a simple offense. If true, this is why teams don't run a simple offense, because defenses in the NFL know how to adjust and adjust quickly. It's hard to criticize Ponder's throwing yards too much because Adrian Peterson was too busy running all over the Seahawks defense for 182 yards. Marshawn Lynch ran for 124 yards in a matchup of the NFL's two leading rushers. Yesterday I saw a graphic comparing Alfred Morris to Trent Richardson and pointing out how the Redskins found a great running back in the 6th round. Pete Prisco of CBS Sports also thinks drafting a running back early is a waste of time and draft picks. While I do understand this, out of the top five rushers in terms of rushing yards this year, three of the five were drafted in the first round, and 8 of the top 10 rushers were drafted in Rounds 1-3. So good rushers can be found later in the draft, but if you want an elite rusher it may still be better to draft one in Rounds 1-3.
Russell Wilson was very steady at quarterback and didn't make any mistakes, while throwing three touchdowns passes. The Seahawks had the ball for 36 minutes of this contest and for some reason the Vikings only gave the ball to Peterson five times in the second half. This is after entering halftime losing 20-17, so it is not like they had to throw the ball to catch up. That's an interesting strategy. Russell Wilson now has the most touchdown passes by a Seattle Seahawks rookie, passing Rick Mirer who is probably kicking the cat knowing his name has been erased from the record book, as well as the minds of Seahawks fans.
Pittsburgh Steelers 24 New York Giants 20
Oh my God, what's wrong with the Giants? Everybody stay calm and panic. Just days after Hurricane Sandy hit the New York area hard, the Giants lose. Chalk up another instance where Bill Simmons' "Tragedy Effect" is shown as a bunch of bullshit. This is probably the time of the year where the New York media starts freaking out about the Giants offense struggling, only to have Tom Coughlin pull his team together and get them in the playoffs with a 11-5 record. There is nothing wrong with the Giants offense, they have just played the Cowboys, 49ers, and Steelers over the last three weeks. That's a tough schedule. Maybe the Steelers can have Isaac Redman running for 146 yards every week. Actually, if history holds correct, Redman will get injured this week giving way to Rashard Mendenhall, who will get hurt and give way to a committee of Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, and the circle will continue with Redmen eventually running for 100 yards again. The Giants offense did look bad. They had 182 total yards of offense and Manning only threw for 124 yards in this game. It turns out even Manning can't beat great defense. There's really not much else to say, but I will tune into the New York media's coverage of this game for the overreactionary nature of it all. The Steelers controlled the clock, ran the ball, prevented the Giants from hitting on big plays and went 6-13 on third down while holding the Giants to 2-10 on third down. It's a formula that can win them some games. It won this week, but the Giants have Cincinnati, Green Bay, Washington, and New Orleans over the next four games. I think the passing game will turn out to be fine.