Game of the Week:
You know it’s a great week in the NFL when you’ve got three solid contenders to choose from for the Game of the Week. The ranking of these games is somewhat arbitrary as they’ve all got a little something special to offer the football fan in all of us.
Let’s start off with the second runner-up. Cincinnati shocked Baltimore with the successful completion of everyone’s favorite play, the Hail Mary, on the final play of regulation.
Andy Dalton chucked a 51-yard prayer that ended up in the paws of A.J. Green for the game tying TD. But with their playoff hopes clinging in the balance, the Ravens knuckled down in OT and won the game 20-17 on a 46-yard Justin Tucker field goal. Baltimore hadn’t won a game since October 6th, but now, at (4-5) they’re nipping at the heels of the (6-4) Bengals, who could have really started to separate themselves in the AFC North with the win.
The first runner up goes to the defensive battle between the Carolina Panthers and the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners had a five-game win streak snapped after two late fourth quarter drives stalled amidst the Panthers’ swarming defense.
San Francisco had gone up 9-0 on three Phil Dawson field goals, but DeAngelo Williams was able to keep it close at the half after busting through the defensive line for a 27-yard score. Williams’ run was the only touchdown of the game and after Graham Gano added a FG in the 2nd half, the Panthers had the only lead they’d need at 10-9.
Holding out for the win with stout defense, the win was a statement for Carolina. They’re not only threatening the Saints in the NFC South, but staking a claim as a legitimate threat to go deep into the playoffs.
Finally, with the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers handled easily by the Philadelphia Eagles, the match-up between the Lions and the Bears was for sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
The game was a huge milestone for Detroit as they came away with a victory 21-19 at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Lions haven’t been in first place this late in the season since Slash was still with Guns ‘n Roses.
Megatron hauled in 2 Matthew Stafford passes for touchdowns, first tying, and the eclipsing Lions great Herman Moore for the most touchdowns in franchise history.
But the game came down to not one, but two defensive stops on a 2-point conversion try by the Bears with only 40 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Josh McCown, who had subbed in for the injured Jay Cutler, threw an 11-yard TD pass to Brandon Marshall to pull Chicago within 2. The Bears’ first 2-point try failed, but they were given new life after a roughing the passer penalty on the Lions moved the ball half the distance to the goal and left Chicago with one last shot. With the ball spotted on the 1-yard line, the Bears attempted to bust it in with Matt Forte. Defensive lineman Nick Fairley made a great read on the play, making a spinning tackle on Forte short of the goal line.
The Lions will now look to hold first place next week at Pittsburgh. The Steelers are looking better, but this should be a very winnable game for Detroit.
Performance of the Week:
The Performance of the Week goes to Tavon Austin of the St. Louis Rams, who had the break-out game of his career against the Indianapolis Colts.
Austin returned a punt 98 yards for a touchdown and then added two more electrifying scores on touchdown catches of 57 and 81 yards. Ironically these were Austin’s only two receptions for the game, but it was this big-play potential that led the Rams to draft him early in the first round of this year’s draft. While it would be a bit of a stretch to call Austin’s performance to date “disappointing”, this was the first week that he was a game changer.
The Rams manhandled the Colts, beating them up with a final of 38-8. The Andrew Luck led Colts are turning into quite the enigma this season as they gave beaten the Seahawks, Broncos, and 49ers, but have also lost now to the Rams, Dolphins, and Chargers.
Biggest Upset of the Week:
Two teams were able to pull out their first victory of the season as Jacksonville shocked Tennessee 29-27 and Tampa Bay toppled Miami 22-19.
Congratulations to both squads for finally breaking into the win column, but the Biggest Upset goes to the Jags, who are unquestionably the worst team in the NFL right now.
Gus Bradley’s Jaguars put up the most points (29) they have this season after forcing 4 turnovers, with one of their fumble recoveries returned for a defensive touchdown. The turnovers turned out to be the difference in this one as Jacksonville’s offense was mostly unimpressive. Chad Henne threw for a mere 180 yards with no TDs and 2 INTs, and Maurice Jones-Drew led the team with 41 yards rushing.
Jacksonville was able to punch it in twice, however, when they had a short field, with one rushing TD for Jones-Drew and another for rookie Jordan Todman. After taking an early lead the Jags never looked back.
Injuries from the Week:
A few big name injuries this week that are sure to affect some teams’ impending playoff runs:
- Cowboys LB Sean Lee, one of their top defensive players, left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury and recent reports suggest that he could miss up to four games.
- TE Vernon Davis left the 49ers game versus the Panthers with a concussion. He should be OK, but without Davis in the line-up the 49ers offense loses much of its explosive element.
- Titan’s third year signal caller, Jake Locker, just can’t seem to stay healthy. He most likely will miss the rest of the season with a Lisfranc injury. For those of you too lazy to Google that, it’s a foot injury.
- Chicago QB Jay Cutler came back from his groin injury this week but left the game with ankle trouble. McCown played well in his stead and led the Bears to what would have been the game tying TD if they’d been able to convert the 2-point try. That being said, without Cutler the Bears will have a tough time getting into the post-season.
- Eagles Tackle Jason Peters left the game against the Packers with a quad injury. While dominate on the field, Peters has had an injury plagued career to date.
- Rookie RB Mike James broke his ankle and it is not yet known when he might return. James had run well replacing the injured Doug Martin. Not a good sign for a team that just got their first win of the season.
What to Look Forward to Next Week:
Week 11 is finally here, and that means that the Kansas City Chiefs will finally get their chance to prove that they belong in first place in the AFC West as they travel to Denver to take on the Broncos at Mile High Stadium. This game is without question one that you won’t want to miss out on.
The deeper you get into the season the more great games there are to watch week in and week out, and here are a couple more that you’ll want to squeeze into your weekend schedule:
- Patriots at Panthers: After a statement win against San Francisco, Carolina is staking their claim as one of the top teams in the NFL. A win against New England would add more credence to those who believe Carolina could go deep into the playoffs behind one of the league’s most stingy defenses.
- The 49ers will look for a rebound victory as they travel to take on Drew Brees and the Saints at the Superdome. Seahawks fans will be sure to have their eyes on this clash of NFC powerhouses as a loss by San Francisco would all but cement in the NFC West crown for Seattle, and a loss by New Orleans would aid in their quest for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Week 10 prediction results: A week after going 0-2, this time around I was 2-0 as the Lions topped the Bears and Tampa Bay held off Miami. It seems as though a professional sports better might not be the best option should I opt for a career change.
Will week 11 showcase my predicting powers? We’ll have to wait and see.
Pick of the week: Broncos 27 – 24 Chiefs (OT)
Any sports commentator who doesn’t pick a winner in this match-up has got no balls. I’d love to see Kansas City sneak out of this one with a victory, but most likely they’ll have to wait until Denver comes to Arrowhead. The Chiefs defense will keep this one close with 2 INTs of Peyton Manning deep in Broncos territory.
Upset of the week: Browns 20 – Bengals 17
A week after losing to the “old” Browns by the same score, Cleveland will come into Cincinnati and squeak out the victory to keep the division race tight.
This week I’d like to take a peek at all five (4-5) teams and their chances of making a late season push and diving into the playoffs in the AFC.
With either Denver or KC taking one of the Wild Card slots, there is only one up for grabs. If the Jets can win 10 games I think they’ll take it, but if not, plenty of teams are still in the hunt.
San Diego Chargers: After two straight losses the Chargers’ post-season hopes took a big hit. They played the Broncos tough at home, but lost 28-20. They still will have to face the Chiefs twice and the Broncos again at Mile High, so their chances don’t look good.
Cleveland Browns: If I could simply “pick” one of these teams to make it, it would be Cleveland. With some of the most loyal fans in the NFL, the Dawg Pound deserves a little love from their beloved Browns. This week will be key, as a win at Cincinnati would pull them to .500 and keep the division close. The Browns have a lot of winnable games left on their schedule, except for a trip to Foxborough to take on the Patriots.
Baltimore Ravens: At times this season the Super Bowl champs look ready to roll over and die. Joe Flacco is hardly playing up to his monster salary and with the final three games of the season against the division leading Lions, Patriots, and Bengals, I think that it is safe to assume that we won’t be seeing any post-season heroics this time around from Baltimore.
Miami Dolphins: No, won’t make the playoffs. Moving on.
Tennessee Titans: The loss of Jake Locker was a big blow for the Titans, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is one of those QBs that has the ability to surprise. Remember, it was only a few seasons ago in Buffalo when Fitz was awarded a big contract after putting up big numbers behind center. Don’t read too much into the loss to the Jaguars, Tennessee is still in the race. But with 2 games against the Colts and another against the Broncos, they’ll need an upset (or two) of their own to make it happen.