Game Of The Week:
Week eleven offered up quite the platter of delicious games for those of us who like to spend Sunday parked in front of the TV with one hand on the remote and the other scratching something we shouldn’t be scratching. Top to bottom, this might have been the most exciting week thus far this NFL season.
Indy staged a comeback two weeks in a row to topple Tennessee 30-27 on Thursday Night Football. The Bears held on over the Ravens 23-20 in overtime after a two-hour weather delay at Soldier Field. Pittsburgh gave up 27 points in the 2nd quarter alone to Detroit, but held the Lions scoreless in the other 3 quarters to take home a 37-27 victory and keep their playoff hopes alive.
Miami nudged San Diego in a close one, 20-16, after breaking up a Philip Rivers pass in the end zone on the final playoff the game. Denver won the battle of the AFC West 27-17. Monday Night Football was epic as Cam Newton threw the go ahead touchdown to Ted Ginn Jr. with under a minute to go and Tom Brady nearly worked his magic before throwing an INT in the end zone as time expired; leaving the Pats to fall (20-24) to Carolina. The Panthers are now (7-3) and only a game behind the Saints.
Washington and Philly played a close one, with the Eagles holding off RGIII’s comeback effort 24-16, and even Oakland and Houston put on a great show. The Raiders beat the Texans 28-23 and are still alive in the wide-open AFC Wild Card race.
All of this, and we haven’t even got to the Game of the Week! I might just have to shave the small of my back and get an NFL logo tramp stamp inked in.
San Francisco headed back to the Superdome this week for the first time since losing the Super Bowl there last February to the Ravens. A pre-season pick by many to make it back to the championship game, the Niners have been good, but not great, in 2013.
Much of the 49ers lack of powerhouse-style success has been the minor regression of Colin Kaepernick. He’s been fine, but not the stunning “how you gonna stop ‘im” threat that he was for the latter half of last season and through the playoffs.
It seems as though NFL defenses all got their “read-option” vaccination shots during training camp, and the disease seems to be mostly eradicated. Two of the four run-and-gun QBs have adjusted (Wilson and Newton), but RGIII and Kaepernick have looked uncomfortable in the pocket and their effectiveness has taken a major hit.
As expected, the game was a physical affair. San Francisco knew that to stop the Saints offense at home they’d have to bring the heat and play true smash-mouth football. In many regards the schema worked – except that their aggressive style of play led to a game-changing penalty.
With around three minutes left to play, Ahmad Brooks forced a Drew Brees fumble on a sack-strip, and linebacker Patrick Willis recovered the ball. Up 20-17, with the ball around mid-field, San Francisco could probably pound the rock with Gore and finish out the game. But Brooks was flagged for a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty that negated the fumble and put the Saints into field goal range. Garrett Hartley kicked a 42 yarder to tie the game and then went on to kick the game winner from 31 yards out as time expired to give New Orleans the win and keep them in the hunt for home field advantage.
The hit was one of those plays that the refs probably wish they could have back. It was a close call, but not a vicious enough hit to warrant changing the outcome of the game. That being said, defensive players know the rules, and they know that marquee QBs sell tickets and are going to be protected, so Brooks’ pseudo-clothesline was close enough to Drew’s neck that you can certainly see why the penalty was called when watching the play at full-speed.
The 49ers dropped to (6-4) and are in danger of missing the playoffs if they can’t rebound from this loss. They’ve still got another tilt against the Hawks, who seemingly have got their number, and the Carson Palmer led Cardinals are getting better and better as the weeks go by.
As much as I preach the overall competitiveness in the NFL, you can count on New Orleans rolling over Atlanta next week at the Georgia Dome to set up the #1 versus #2 NFC clash two weeks from now on MNF in Seattle. You won’t want to miss that one.
Performance Of The Week:
There were plenty of QBs with more passing yards this week, but Cam Newton played a complete game against the AFC East leading Patriots. He threw for 209 yards with 3 TDs and no INTs, while calmly leading a clutch go-ahead drive in the 4th quarter that ended in Ginn’s game winning TD catch.
To go with his stellar passing numbers, Newton once again led the team in rushing with 62 yards (long of 24). The difference between Newton and other running QBs is that many of his yards come on planned runs and not always a broken play or pistol trickery. At 6’-5” 245lb., Cam is a beast, and there’s no reason not to run him up the gut on a 3rd and 2.
Carolina is known for their tough defense, but during this six game win-streak, Cam Newton is slowly making a case for league MVP. Earlier in his career he was a bit whiney, but his maturity is blossoming both on and off the field.
Biggest Upset Of The Week:
While there wasn’t a slew of big-time upsets to gawk at, the parity in the NFL was evident this week as quite a few teams couldn’t get that pull-away win they needed to solidify their slot in the upper-echelon (Lions, Niners, Patriots), and other teams that should have been long since eliminated will keep the light on for at least one more week after getting the victory (Steelers, Raiders, Bills.)
For this week’s Upset of the Week we’ll take a trip to chilly Buffalo.
The Jets aren’t that good, and the Bills aren’t that bad, but it’s the manner in which the Bills completely dismantled the Jets that make this such a big upset.
Buffalo’s swarming defense made Geno Smith look like a floundering rookie and not a 2nd round steal. This seems to be Smith’s modus operandi, to shine one week and stink the next. New York’s streak of winning in odd numbered weeks is over, as the BYE week seems to have flip-flopped their fortunes. Geno tossed 3 interceptions to go with no TDs, a putrid 103 yards through the air, and 2 fumbles (1 lost). His 4 turnovers led to plenty of Bills points and the game wasn’t even nearly as close as the final score of 37-14 indicates.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage EJ Manuel again looked promising. He had a solid outing back under center with 245 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Keeping Manuel healthy will be key as the Bills hope to catch fire and perhaps salvage the season to end up at .500.
The game was pretty much over by halftime as Buffalo jumped out to a 20 to nothing lead on two Dan Carpenter field goals, an EJ Manuel to T.J. Graham 34-yard TD toss, and a bruising 3-yard running score by the 248 pound fullback Frank Summers.
After the break, the Jets fired back on a 1-yard Chris Ivory run, only to quickly give up another Manuel TD pass to Marquise Goodwin. The game was officially over when Da’Norris Searcy took a Geno Smith pass back the distance for a pick-six and a 34-7 lead.
So for those of you expecting kids, consider Da’Norris if it’s a boy. A girl? How about Da’Norrisette?
Next week the Bills get a rest and the Jets try to continue their W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L pattern in Baltimore against the Super Bowl Champion Ravens.
Injuries From The Week:
Football is violent. People will get hurt.
- The Saints may have lost CB Jabari Greer for the season. If this is the case, someone will have to step up off the bench in their secondary if they hope to go deep into the playoffs.
- Wes Welker was knocked out of the game against the Chiefs with a concussion. Tests this week will let us know when he’ll be back on the field.
- SF’s left guard, Mike Iupati left the game with a sore knee and Kaepernick immediately felt the pressure. The casual fan doesn’t realize how devastating O-line injuries can be for a team. Consistency along the offensive front is key to opening up running lanes and giving your QB time to find the open receiver.
What To Look Forward To Next Week:
Denver will be tested two weeks in a row as they head to Foxborough to take on the Patriots on Sunday Night Football. Wes Welker will hope to get his head cleared in time for this one after New England allowed him to be lured away by the Broncos.
Four weeks into the season nobody thought that we’d give a rat’s ass about this Steelers-Browns clash, but the winner of this game will be right in the heart of the playoff race. There’s a good chance that the 2nd AFC Wild Card slot will go to an 8-8 team on a tiebreaker. The loser of this match-up will most likely be down-and-out for good, as neither team has the talent to go (4-1) to close out the season.
Cleveland’s would-be savior Jason Campbell came back to Earth this week in a blowout loss to the Bengals, but he has shown the ability to win games at home. Roethlisberger? Who knows what to expect week-in and week-out from Big Ben.
Finally, let’s take a look at the Colts at the Cardinals. Arizona needs a signature win to prove that they belong in the playoff conversation, and the Colts have looked a bit shaky in the past two weeks. They staged come-from-behind wins twice against inferior teams. The Cardinals are an inferior team, but one that is getting better. It could be a good one in the desert.
Week 11 prediction results: I called the Broncos win (big whoopee) and was embarrassed by Cincy along with the Browns. So it’s another (1-1) performance, just call me Rex Ryan. Wait, no, please don’t.
Speaking of the Ryan brothers, can we get a collection plate going around to buy Rob Ryan a haircut? Halloween’s long since passed, dude.
Week 12, here we go:
Pick of the week: Chargers 20 – 13 Chiefs
OK, now that Kansas City has finally lost, sports commentators across the globe can start to point at their weaknesses. Yes, Alex Smith has A LOT of wins over his past 20-some starts, and Trent Dilfer won the Super Bowl behind Ray Lewis’s unstoppable defense, but the Chiefs are still a lackluster team on offense, and Smith is awful when playing from behind. If Rivers can get behind the Chiefs’ secondary for a couple of first half TD’s, I can see San Diego coming out of Arrowhead with the upset. That’s right, I am calling two upsets this week. After all, it’s not money, but just my reputation on the line here.
Upset of the week: Redskins 20 – 49ers 17
Boo-hoo Harbaugh. The sun is about to shine for once on the 2013 Redskins as they send the Niners home on a three-game skid.
Two weeks ago, enough couldn’t be said about the slumping (8-1) Seahawks. Don’t get me wrong; it’s the nature of the beast. Sportswriters are paid to dissect teams and make often-outlandish suppositions and predictions. After all, thought-provoking and even inflammatory articles are what engages fans and sells newspapers (or banner ads, whatever the case may be).
Now, after convincing wins against the Falcons and Vikings, the headlines read, “crisis averted”. What crisis? Suffering through the best regular season in the history of the franchise?
Ask any NFL player and they’ll tell you that every single win is cherished, and no victory is ever taken for granted in a league where the best line up against the best, and the margin of error between first and worst is razor thin.
Whether you loved him or hated him, the late Al Davis put it best, “Just Win Baby!” So as long as you’re putting notches in the victory column, let the sportswriters say all they want about how you’re not as good as your record indicates.