This week we were reminded that Russell Wilson is the clutchiest of the clutch quarterbacks, that is unless you count Andrew Luck, who is the clutchiest of clutch Hall of Fame quarterbacks. By the way, in reading Peter King's story on Luck in this week's "Sports Illustrated" he referred to Luck twice as "precocious." Keep that man away from playgrounds. He has a fascination with grown men who are like children.
Atlanta Falcons 23 New Orleans Saints 13
"Franchise defining" is how ESPN described this win. Hyperbolic much? Yes, this was a great win for the Atlanta Falcons, but "franchise defining?" Let's not oversell the story. So if Atlanta goes 14-2 this year and then gets beaten in the first round of the playoffs are we going to look back at this Saints game and say, "That's where the Falcons defined themselves in that game against the Saints." Of course not, a franchise defining win would be a playoff win for the Falcons at this point. This win over the Saints doesn't define the Falcons as anything greater than what we already knew they were. They are a very good team, but the question for them is whether they can make a playoff run or win a playoff game. So any playoff win will be "franchise defining" because that will define where the Falcons are as a franchise. The Falcons have won plenty of regular season games over the last four years, so another regular season game win doesn't define them. The playoffs define them. The Saints just kept turning the ball over and what was worse than losing the game for them is that Drew Brees' streak of games having thrown a touchdown pass has ended. Take away the Super Bowl from the Saints and that's fine, but just leave them with their valuable personal achievements. Sean Payton is probably very upset this morning that the Saints lost, but more importantly he is probably calling Drew Brees telling him that win or lose this game, he would have found a way to extend that streak of games with a touchdown thrown. In reality, the Falcons weren't great on offense. They were 1-11 on third down and had 283 total yards, but they created five turnovers and that's good enough to win the game.
Kansas City Chiefs 24 Carolina Shit-the-Bedders 21
Is Ron Rivera fired yet? I think this is rock-bottom in my opinion. Allowing Brady Quinn to shred your defense and losing to the Chiefs. Newton was pretty inaccurate as he tends to be and the defense couldn't produce a turnover when they needed to...or at all. The Chiefs had a great game plan going against the Panthers. The Panthers can't stop the run, so just run the ball. This game should not have even been played really. I don't know when this game should have been played, but I believe it should have been postponed due to the tragedy of a murdered woman and an orphaned three month old child. Sadly, the biggest abomination of the aftermath of this whole incident was either Dwayne Bowe's idiotic Tweet about how this win was for Jovan Belcher or Bob Costas' naive editorializing at halftime about how if there weren't guns then Belcher and his girlfriend wouldn't be dead. Apparently he doesn't think Belcher's murderous rage caused their deaths. Stupid. Stick to football and moralizing about sports, little guy. So I've quit really caring about this Carolina season and now I am just waiting for Rivera to be fired and to see if another coach can figure out how to teach Cam Newton to fix his mechanics or dump a pass off to a running back instead of constantly looking for the big play. The Chiefs can savor this win and hopefully for their fans this doesn't do anything to stop the eventual firing of Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel.
Dallas Cowboys 38 Philadelphia Eagles 33
Tony Romo, winner. That's the story this week after the Cowboys beat the Eagles and then next week when he throws two interceptions he will go back to being the worst quarterback in Cowboys history who also just happens to have the most touchdown passes in Cowboys history. The perception of Romo changes as the win blows. Bryce Brown had another really good game running the ball, proving that perhaps his excellent Monday night performance against the sieve-like Panthers defense wasn't a fluke. He did fumble the ball again, further frustrating Eagles fans who at this point just want a dynamic playmaker on the roster who doesn't fumble constantly. I don't know what I think yet about Nick Foles, but I think a great running game is helping him to be a better quarterback and get used to the speed of the NFL game. It's also no coincidence that Tony Romo looked exceptionally sharp and DeMarco Murray happened to be back from injury. A quarterback's best friend is a really good running game and without the running game the Cowboys were asking Romo to be something he probably didn't have a good chance of being. The Cowboys were fully in control of this game, even to the end, until the Eagles returned a 98 yard punt for a touchdown but failed to get the two point conversion. I'm sure Gregg Easterbrook would argue the Cowboys should have gone for it on fourth down rather than punt, seeing as how he knew the punt would be returned for a touchdown and all.
Buffalo Bills 34 Jacksonville Jaguars 18
Look at the Bills on a roll now, just winning games. Remember in last week's MMQB Peter King made a comment about how Chad Henne needs to be the Jaguars 2013 starting quarterback? Yes, I believe that was written by Peter. I said the Jaguars would have screwed up if Henne was the 2013 starter. This week Henne was 18-41 for 208 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He's not the answer. He is AN answer, but not THE answer. If Henne is the unequivocal starter for the Jaguars in 2013 then they are destined for bad things. I'm not anti-Henne, but he isn't the Jaguars franchise quarterback. Granted, there may not be a franchise quarterback in the upcoming draft so maybe the Jaguars should draft a quarterback and sit him while Henne proves he isn't the answer. For the Bills, I'm not understanding why C.J. Spiller is only getting 14 carries in this game when he has a 5.5 ypc average and is the Bills' best game breaking running back, but I'm also not a coaching genius like Chan Gailey. Maybe Gailey just likes Fred Jackson because he is undrafted. The Bills rushed the ball 46 times on this day, so it is clear they had a game plan that worked. Don't look now, but the Bills are 5-7 and Ryan Fitzpatrick played pretty well, even though he only threw the ball 17 times. It appears the Bills are going to play well enough this year to make some believe Gailey should stick around for another year. I'm not sure that's a good or a bad thing for Bills fans.
Seattle Seahawks 23 Chicago Bears 17
Maybe it is just me, but I feel like the Bears and the Seahawks play each other a lot for two teams that are in completely different divisions in the NFC. Anyway, Russell Wilson has added his name to the great QB class of 2012. What a year for rookie quarterbacks. This year's class is like last year's crop of quarterbacks, just a whole lot better and seemingly less flukier. Really, the best part of this game was when Sidney Rice got knocked the fuck out when catching the game-winning touchdown pass. I take that back, Rice claims he was alert the whole time and did not get knocked out. Surrrrrrrrrre, he's probably just afraid Jim Harbaugh would find a way to hand his starting position over to another player. Richard Sherman had an interesting perspective on the season:
"The ball didn't fall our way in some of the games this year,"
Well, that is true...unless you want to count the couple of times the ball did fall the Seahawks way this year. The Seahawks defense did a pretty good job of shutting down Matt Forte and Jay Cutler was efficient but not exactly stellar. More importantly, the turnover-creating Bears defense gave up 459 yards to the Seahawks. I'm not sure this is just a result of the game going to overtime or not, but I am surprised the Bears defense gave up that much yardage. It just shows the power of Russell Wilson, he can even make the Bears defense not play well. I'm sure this loss isn't the fault of the Bears defense and is Cutler's fault somehow. Tom Jackson probably chalks it up to Cutler not saying "hey" to the security guard prior to the game or something.
Indianapolis Colts 35 Detroit Lions 33
Andrew Luck is the definition of clutch. Actually, clutch is the definition of Andrew Luck. Either way, once his neck-bearded bust makes its way into the Intergalactic Pro Football Hall of Fame in the year 2123, this is going to be the one game we remember as what defined him...until the next game when he throws a comeback on a team. Then that game will be what defined him...until the next time he throws a comeback on a team. You get the point. We should get used to this stuff from Luck. Many of the decisions Luck is making this year seems to be working out well. He dumped a pass off to Donnie Avery with the last chance to win the game and Avery ran into the end zone untouched. It was a risk to throw the pass short of the end zone, fortune favors the bold (when a team ends up winning the game), right? I'm impressed by Luck as well, but he has no running game, which makes how well he played at the end even more impressive to me, but also tells me how he puts up so many passing yards. He threw the ball 54 times and only completed 24 of those passes. All of that is forgotten because the Colts won the game, but looking behind those numbers 54 passes and only completing 24 of those (along with three interceptions) against a not-very-good defense isn't going to win most games. I know the football world is all over Luck right now, but there are signs of his struggles that lie below the result of this game. As for the Lions, if they weren't out of the NFC playoff hunt last week, then they are for sure now. If I am them, then I probably invest in some defensive players this offseason, whether through the draft or in free agency. Putting up 33 points should be enough to win a game.
Green Bay Packers 23 Minnesota Vikings 14
So how bad has Christian Ponder been lately? He was 12-25 for 119 yards in this game. I know he doesn't have Percy Harvin, but 12-25 for 119 yards speaks more to his struggles than it does a lack of receivers. The Vikings had an interesting perspective on this game in which they gained 240 yards on the ground and the defense gave up 435 total yards, including allowing the Packers to go 9-16 on third down:
"As we walked into the tunnel, Everson Griffen
was behind me talking. He was like, `Why does it feel like we won? But
we're leaving here with a loss," Peterson said. "That's the type of
feeling it was. We know that it's things that we did that cost us the
If this game feels like a win to the Vikings players then they have bigger problems than their performance on the field. The Vikings threw two interceptions and couldn't move the ball through the air, while Aaron Rodgers only threw 8 incompletions in 35 attempts. This certainly didn't look like a win for the Vikings. Since the Packers won this week it is time for sportswriters to jump back on the Packers bandwagon after jumping off immediately following their tough loss to the Giants last week. The Packers are back in the Super Bowl hunt, at least until they lose again, in which case the media will overreact and count them out again.
Houston Texans 24 Tennessee Titans 10
Well, it seems the Texans are already in the playoffs. 11-1 and 6-0 on the road will do that for you. The Titans turned the ball over six times in this game. They didn't play favorites with the turnovers, committing three fumbles and three interceptions. The Texans sacked Jake Locker six times, including one sack by J.J. Watt, most likely causing orgasmic convulsions by Peter King in the NBC viewing room, where he sits with Tony Dungy, Rodney Harrison and several other famous people he is too busy to name-drop right now. I was concerned by the Texans defense prior to this game, but they came out and looked strong. Maybe the Jaguars and Lions games were just a mid-season lull. For the Titans, they need to take care of the ball better, as well as help their receivers catch passes and not drop balls. The Titans had chances to win this game, including once when Locker was sacked and then fumbled the ball as the Titans were on the Texans seven yard line. The Titans lost two offensive linemen in this game, Steve Hutchinson and David Stewart, so maybe we can chalk some of the sacks up to those injuries. If I'm being critical, I would say the Texans had a +6 advantage in turnovers and only won the game by two touchdowns...but I wouldn't be that critical.
St. Louis Rams 16 San Francisco 49ers 13
8-8 Rams fans (well actually 7-8-1). Can't you feel it coming? A couple of weeks ago the Rams almost beat the 49ers in San Francisco and Peter King announced the Rams as a contender in the NFC West. This week they did beat the Rams in St. Louis. Heck, this game almost ended up tied if Zuerlein had missed with 26 seconds left in overtime. Perhaps it is just the Rams play the 49ers tough for some reason. Neither team ran the ball well and David Akers missed a field goal in overtime that would have won the game for the 49ers. Colin Kaepernick, who is the best quarterback on the roster in the opinion of Jim Harbaugh even though Jim Harbaugh didn't have this opinion three weeks ago, had just an okay day. This quarterback controversy in San Francisco wasn't going to be an issue unless either quarterback made it an issue and Alex Smith seems a bit miffed that he wasn't handed the starting quarterback job back after recovering from his concussion. Even though I don't love Alex Smith, I am sort of on his side on this one. I know the argument for Kaepernick is that he can do things Alex Smith can't, but Smith earned the starting job and shouldn't lose it because he banged his head too hard. On a day when the Rams struggled to run the ball, Sam Bradford played pretty well and the one turnover by the 49ers that turned into a fumble return for a touchdown for that crazy man about town, Janoris Jenkins, was the real difference in this game. Gregg Easterbrook would probably call this a "hidden play," but Gregg Easterbrook is an idiot.
New England Patriots 23 Miami Dolphins 16
I'm sort of surprised the Patriots didn't score 40 points in this game. I've taken it for granted they would score 40 points in almost every game from here to the end of the season. The Patriots didn't exactly have an aggressive game plan going into this game anyway. The Patriots ran the ball 32 times in the game and took the short passes the Dolphins were giving them, while the defense made life hard for Ryan Tannehill. It wasn't the sexiest of victories, but the Dolphins have a pretty good defense, though the Patriots defense played better on the day holding the Dolphins to 277 total yards and 3-13 on third down. The Patriots made it back in the playoffs and even went conservative enough to allow Stephen Gostkowski a field goal try on fourth down after Tom Brady fell the turf on third down to line up the attempt. That's ultra-conservative and probably not something we will see from the Patriots again. T.J. Simers imagines they were saving all their really creative plays for the Texans game that is coming up.
New York Jets 7 Arizona Cardinals 6
Avert your gaze and do not look directly at this game. These two teams combined for 426 total yards, 5 third down conversions (all by the Jets), five turnovers, and 34 incomplete passes in 59 attempts. It wasn't a sight to behold. As fun as it is to defend Mark Sanchez, he doesn't do much for himself by throwing three interceptions and requiring the services of Greg McElroy to relieve him from throwing more interceptions. I guess we could say McElroy led the Jets to victory. More than anything, he didn't screw anything up. I don't know if he is the solution to the Jets offensive issues or not. The Jets know what they are going to get from Mark Sanchez...in that they aren't sure from game-to-game what they will get from him. As far as the Cardinals quarterback situation goes, it is unfair to Ryan Lindley to put him out there when he clearly isn't ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. I don't know if he ever would have turned into anything in the NFL, but they are ruining him before they could find out. It's a shame he has to be in the game in his rookie year. Again, Jimmy Clausen is available through trade (okay, the deadline is passed). Carolina will take a 7th round pick or even an 8th round pick/box of powered Gatorade if the Cardinals would like Clausen's "services" as quarterback.
Denver Broncos 31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23
It was 10-7 at halftime with the Buccaneers winning. By the end of the third quarter it was 28-10 with the Broncos winning. Going against Peyton Manning will do that to you I guess. The Broncos really struggled in the first half with penalties and could not seem to get down the field on offense. Von Miller returned an interception for a touchdown which put the Broncos up for good 28-10. I personally thought for sure Manning's arm and neck would be tested (and at times fail the test) in this season once the grind of the NFL schedule had caught up to him. He looks pretty good to me. Manning definitely isn't performing at the highest level that he has performed in his career, but he's making completions and seems to have a pretty good arm to throw the ball downfield. It helps Manning's neck and arm that he wasn't sacked once. I wonder when Bill Simmons will stop calling him "Noodles"? Probably never. Josh Freeman, another quarterback that Peter King was enamored with a few weeks ago, had another pretty sub-par game. As happens to quarterbacks, the pressure the Broncos were putting on him didn't allow him to get comfortable in the pocket. I wonder when the day will come that an opposing team will be able to get pressure on Manning and force him into mistakes? At this rate, it's looking like the playoffs are the first time we will see this.
Cleveland Browns 20 Oakland Raiders 17
Really there is no stopping the Cleveland Browns. This is two straight wins for the Cleveland Browns. Break them up! Brandon Weeden had two interceptions but played well overall and had 364 yards passing. Carson Palmer threw the ball 54 times because the Raiders apparently weren't pleased enough with the 5.0 ypc average their run game was averaging to actually make an effort in running the ball more than 17 times. Palmer underthrew a deep ball on a pass, that if accurate, would have led to a touchdown when the Raiders were already in field position. That 1st and 2nd round pick trade for Palmer isn't exactly looking better as the weeks and months go on. The Raiders had ten penalties in this game and couldn't stop the Browns from passing the ball.
"We can't stop the run, we can't stop the pass," Raiders cornerback Michael Huff said. "Things just aren't going well on defense.
Even though the Raiders can't stop the run or stop the pass, they are doing an excellent job of receiving the defensive plays from the coaches on the sidelines. This is happening an efficiently, timely manner so everything isn't lost for the Raiders defense. If the Browns don't watch out they may win 6 or 7 games and be considered a sleeper playoff team for next year. Of course it is hard to make the playoffs in a division with the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals, but at least there is some sense of optimism. I wasn't high on Brandon Weeden (I wrote that sentence and then realized what I wrote), but he's showing me that he could be a pretty good quarterback for a few years, even if he does qualify for his AARP card by the end of those few years.
Cincinnati Bengals 20 San Diego Chargers 13
Here's the first couple sentences of the game story,
Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals didn't flinch.
No, all they had to do was bide their time and wait for the San Diego Chargers to cough up another fourth-quarter lead.
I'll be shocked if Norv Turner is the head coach of the Chargers next year. What's interesting is Norv Turner and the Chargers have given up a lot of fourth quarter leads and the Panthers and Ron Rivera (who coached under Turner) have given up a lot of fourth quarter leads. It's probably best if General Managers when searching for a qualified head coaching candidate this offseason skip over any candidates who have an affiliation with the Chargers. They are just guys who will blow late leads. What's disappointing is the Chargers didn't even make a halfway attempt to run the ball and give the offense balance in this game. They ran the ball 11 times in the game, even though they were leading for most of the game. I'm not going to defend Rivers, but the play-calling is going to have to at least give some lip service to running the football. 11 rushing attempts in a game is pathetic. The Bengals defense again played a very good game and were able to sack Rivers four times. Of course when the defense knows the ball is being thrown it allows them to pin their ears back and rush the passer with force. Of course I'm not an offensive genius like Norv Turner, so I bet he already knows this.
Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Baltimore Ravens 20
Peter King doesn't understand how the Steelers can get away with having Charlie Batch as their third quarterback. He said this in MMQB after a terrible loss by the Steelers to the Browns last week, but this week Batch looked a lot better. I wonder what Peter has to say now? Batch went 25-36 for 276 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He is the third quarterback for the Steelers. How many third quarterbacks can put up numbers like that? How many backup quarterbacks can put up numbers like that? Now the reactionary media can jump right back on the Steelers bandwagon and say the Steelers will win enough games until Roethlisberger comes back to make the playoffs and then once in the playoffs anything can happen. The Steelers defense also did their part in sacking Joe Flacco three times and only gave up touchdowns on two of the three turnovers by the Steelers offense. So credit should go to them as well as Charlie Batch. It's another inconsistent offensive effort from the Ravens and Joe Flacco. I hate talking about consistency because it makes me feel like Joe Morgan, and some of the Ravens' struggles were based on what the Steelers defense was doing, but this was a disappointing effort from Flacco and the Ravens offense. Maybe my expectations for the Ravens are too high. At least they didn't lose to Brady Quinn or Ryan Lindley. Now THAT would be cause for embarrassment and a lot of soul searching.