Tag:New York Giants
Posted on: January 16, 2012 5:37 am
Edited on: January 16, 2012 1:25 pm
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Eli No Longer Simply Peyton’s Brother

Primetime Thoughts

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I could be one of the gazillion websites and networks to draw comparisons of this Giants team to the one that won the Super Bowl in 2008.  I will spare you all from what you’ve already heard countless times: New York won in Green Bay on its way to the Super Bowl, New York faced the same team in the postseason that had provided late-season momentum albeit in losing fashion, which happened to be the top team in the league both times, etc. 

I’m here to tell you it’s time to give credit where credit is due, and Eli Manning is long overdue. 

For a player that A) has a Super Bowl win and B) needed to lead the offense down the field in the final minute to win that Super Bowl, Eli has taken too many undeserving jabs.  Whether its because he shares Peyton’s last name or his goofy demeanor is not one which lines up nicely with the swagger New York sports tends to call for, Eli’s play is often overshadowed because he isn’t as smooth as big brother or his awe-shucks persona isn’t as charming as Tim Tebow’s. 

The sports world collectively scratched their heads when Eli said he belonged in the same class as guys like Tom Brady on a radio interview.  Not only is it ridiculous for anyone to expect him to lack self-confidence, but any doubts about Eli’s place in the quarterback ranks can’t be questioned.  As of this post, only 5 of 32 starting quarterbacks this season have won a Super Bowl (Peyton Manning excluded), and only Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady have more rings than Eli. 

When you consider the circumstances, it makes this season’s career year all the more impressive.  Manning plays in a system which has been all but forgotten in today’s league, one that heavily emphasizes the run.  Only when the run has failed, which it has more than New York would like, does Eli take the reins and work his magic.  Manning has shown a propensity to deliver in two-minute drills and the no-huddle offense.  However, where Brady and Drew Brees have the ability to call all the shots, Manning is initially saddled with a ball-control offense. 

Also take into account that Manning had lost key receivers in tight end Kevin Boss and Wide Receiver Steve Smith.  Those two were replaced with Jake Ballard and Victor Cruz.  Both have paid off, but with the lockout shortening training camp, Manning had little time to develop a rapport with these two new guys.  Manning went on to throw for a career-high 4.933 yards. 

What adjustment period?

Manning broke the single-season record for fourth-quarter touchdown passes with 15, a record previously held by brother Peyton.

Manning never becomes an emotional roller coaster like we’ve seen with many quarterbacks.  No matter the situation, Manning keeps his composure during extreme highs and lows.  Critics will point to this as a lack of passion, intensity, whichever word tickles your fancy.  While you were thinking of the most fitting word, Manning just led another fourth quarter comeback, a recurring trend as Manning has 6 to his name this season alone.

Aaron Rodgers, America’s Sweetheart nowadays, Tebow aside, was outshined by Manning Sunday afternoon.  Rodgers may be more loved nationwide with his discount double check and all, but Manning won’t mind having to pass on commercial shoots.  He’s still got practice for a big game or two if I’m not mistaken.

Remember Tiki Barber questioned Eli Manning’s leadership skills the summer before the Super Bowl win over New England?  He ate quite a bit of crow for that whole ordeal, among other things.  Barber had his humble pie and it’s now the sports fan’s turn to have a slice.  Manning gets lost in the shuffle, either by the GQ model who shares a stadium with Eli, who in his third season, has done little, if not regress as a quarterback, Peyton’s ongoing saga in Indianapolis, that Brady’s so hot right now, or Tebow Time.  Manning continues to go out and produce results like the rest of the elite quarterback pack, whether the praise is there or not.  The way things are looking right now, Peyton might just be looking up to Eli in the ring department if Eli can lead the Giants to two more wins. 

Peyton supporters, rest assured if Eli does win a second Super Bowl and surpass Peyton.  He will never catch Peyton in the commercials department, which is all that really matters in this media-frenzy society we now live in, right?

Maybe so, but Eli won’t mind.  He stepped up to the plate in August and said he belongs in the big boy discussion, doing just that in supporting his cause.  Like they say, you can’t spell elite without Eli.

Posted on: January 7, 2012 4:38 pm
 

In The Trenches: NFL Playoffs Preview

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The Second Season..

NFC
Green Bay Packers-
It was a storybook season for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, the loss to Kansas City aside, as Rodgers set a team-record with 45 touchdown passses.  Green Bay lit teams up on a weekly basis, scoring 33 points or more in 11 games.  At 15-1, the Packers clinched the top record in the league and home-field advantage.

Why They Win-Green Bay went an entire calendar year without losing a game, that’s serious business.  Rodgers’ aeriaul assault is an impressive one, one that only Drew Brees could truly keep up with.  Points come in bunches with this team and anyone would be hard-pressed to keep up.  Even with a quality defense, if you can hold this team to under 30 points, it would be a major victory. 

Why They Won’t-The defense has been a liability for most of the season.  Their excuse has been that they are an agressive unit, one that is able to take chances thanks to it’s high-powered offense.  There are playmakers in Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk, and Charles Woodson, but too often they have allowed teams to come back in games which were seemingly out of reach.  Rodgers doesn’t have many off days, but a game like they had against the Chiefs would smell trouble if the defense is needed to save the day.

San Francisco 49ers-It was a renaissance season for the 49ers as rookie Head Coach Jim Harbaugh changed the culture in the locker room along with providing a stout defense and a steady offense to complement it.  The likely coach of the year led San Francisco to a 13-3 season and a bye week as the No. 2 seed.

Why They Win-Defense wins championships and this one is one of the better ones, if not the best defense in the playoffs.  Alex Smith has had a career year under Harbaugh.  Not one with the glitz and glamour ala Rodgers and Drew Brees, but completed over 60 percent of his passes and only 5 interceptions.  Smith also has a nice runnning game to work with in Frank Gore and two nice weapons in Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree.

Why They Won’t-The NFC is loaded with high-octane offenses, and the 49ers will likely have to face New Orleans and/or Green Bay to get to the Super Bowl.  The defense may be able to contain them slightly, but as mentioned earlier, holding either under 30 would be a great accomplishment.  That being said, the 49ers offense is not built to win shootouts, so falling behind early won’t bode well for Smith, who would have to step out of his element and go into a heavy passing mode.

New Orleans Saints-After a terrible loss to the then-winless St. Louis Rams, New Orleans reeled off 8 wins to end the season as Drew Brees had a season for the ages, surpassing Dan Marino’s passing yards record with 5,476.  Brees play the last 2 months puts him in what will be a tight race for MVP with Rodgers.  The Saints won the NFC South at 13-3.

Why They Win-The script is no different for the Saints than the Packers.  Their offense can score with the best of them and Brees rarely has an off game.

Why They Won’t-Again, much like the Packers, it will be interesting to see what the defense has to offer.  If they can simply contain opponents, they should have no problem rolling into the Super Bowl.  If they have a letdown circa Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle Seahawks last season, they’ll be doomed.

New York Giants-It was a roller coaster season for the New York Giants.  A 6-2 start while sitting atop the NFC East was followed by a 4 game losing streak, which was then followed by an improbable come-from-behind win against Dallas Week 14 which saved their season, only to fall flat on their face against the Redskins the following week.  The Giants recovered, winning their last two, the final one against the Cowboys, to clinch the division at 9-7.

Why They Win-Momentum has proven to be significant heading into the postseason, often playing a bigger part then seeding in recent memory.  The Giants aren’t a Wild Card team that snuck in, but their backs were against the wall much like one for much of the second half.  Eli Manning is playing arguably his best football right now and has developed a nice rapport with Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, and rising star Victor Cruz.

Why They Won’t-Inconsistencies at defense and in the backfield can hold the Gmen back.  The defense has shown flashes at times, but has gotten lit up by teams like the Packers and Saints, understandably so.  With that, can Manning keep up with either of those two?  They couldn’t in the regular season.

Atlanta Falcons-My Super Bowl pick got off to a rocky start, but rounded into form during the second half on their way to an 11-5 record.  Julio Jones recovered and gave the Matt Ryan a nice toy on offense that he hasn’t had in the NFL. 

Why They Win-The Falcons have transformed into an offense that leans on the pass, but the running game is one of the more formidable ones in the playoffs with Michael Turner.  Head Coach Mike Smith makes the aggressive play, which has cost him in the past, but bold moves will also lead to bold rewards.

Why They Won’t-Their defense is middle of the pack and their offense doesn’t look to be able to compete with the Saints and Packers.  Ryan has elevated the passing game, but it still pales in comparison to the aforementioned ones.

Detroit Lions-A great season for the Lions which ended a long playoff drought was soured by a weak finish to the season.  The Lions finished 10-6, but lost the 5 seed after losing to the Packers sans Rodgers.  Matt Flynn may be a quality quarterback, but Detroit had everything to play for in locking up the 5 seed.  The 5 seed would face the Giants and 49ers assuming the Saints win, a far more desirable path than the Saints and Packers.  Flynn, a backup quarterback, couldn’t be stopped, good luck with Brees.

AFC
New England Patriots-
The defense left plenty to be desired, but Tom Brady was, well, Tom Brady, and would win MVP any other season if not for guys like Rodgers and Brees.  The Patriots snagged the top seed in a conference that was up for grabs until mid-December.

Why They Win-Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have done this before, having won 3 Super Bowls.  Experience is invaluable, which can compensate for a shoddy defense which will likely have to withstand at least one high-powered offense to win a 4th title.  Brady’s offense is no slouch, as he has Rob Gronkowski, arguably the most dynamic weapon in the game.  As far as we know Gronk is human, but it would surprise noone if we found out he was in fact, man-made.

Why They Won’t-The Patriots offense lacks a vertical threat for Brady to expand the field.  Chad Ochocinco never lived up to that role, leaving New England with an intermediate passing game.  The defense may be the worst Belichick has ever had in New England, which has been an issue all season.

Baltimore Ravens-Believed to be the most complete team in the AFC, Baltimore won the AFC North at 12-4.  The Ravens toyed with experts throughout the season, dashing positive momentum time after time with mind-boggling road losses to the Titans, Seahawks, Jaguars, and ChargersJoe Flacco was more of the same this year, consistently inconsistent, showing flashes of being a potential top-10 quarterback only to throw in games with completion percentages hovering around 40.  Ray Rice was ol’ reliable in the backfield, piling up 1,364 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Why They Win-The Ravens are the most complete team in the playoffs, a stiff defense anchored by seasoned veterans Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Ed Reed along with a run-heavy offense behind Flacco.  Rice can carry the load when given carries, controlling the clock and sitting on leads they build.  Although inconsistent, Flacco has shown signs of dominance under center, and can be counted on when playing ahead.

Why They Won’t-A road game is possible down the road, and as we’ve learned with Baltimore, anything goes once they leave home.  Rice at times has been inexplicably forgotten by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.  So it’s not safe to assume Rice will be heavily involved with Cameron calling plays. 

Houston Texans-The team’s best season in their short history took a turn for the worse as players dropped like flies throughout the season.  Matt Schaub was lost for the season in November from a foot injury, Mario Williams has been out since October, and Andre Johnson is returning, albeit in a limited role.  The defense has carried the team since while Arian Foster and Ben Tate have become the team’s main outlet on offense.  T.J. Yates and Jake Delhomme are Houston’s options under center, yikes.

Why They Win-It would oppose what the NFL has become, but it would be all about the defense and the ground game.  Houston boasted an elite defense all season and managed the clock game behind Foster and Tate.  Yates and/or Delhomme would be best suited when not being relied on for more than 15, 20 passes.

Why They Won’t-The defense has little room for error as the run-heavy approach with no quarterback leaves them unable to compete in shootouts.  If a team puts up 21 on the Texans, say goodnight.

Denver Broncos-The most unlikely playoff participant, the Denver Broncos will be hosting a playoff game as the Pittsburgh Steelers come to town.  Tim Tebow is the story here and one of the biggest this past NFL season.  His unconvential style of play at quarterback has been discussed enough to last us a lifetime by now.

Why They Win-Denver’s run to the playoffs ranks among the most improbable as Tebow led the Broncos to one unlikely win after another.  The storybook ending calls for a championship and for Tebow to put all the doubters in their place.  Now in all seriousness, Tebow cannot be relied on to take the Broncos far with his arm, so a heavy dose of the running game along with the defense contuining its solid play is a must.

Why They Won’t-The defense is not capable of shutting teams down entirely, especially elite offenses, and Tebow hasn’t shown that he’s capable of beating teams with his arm.  Until he can solidify the passing aspect to his game, the Broncos won’t go far.

Pittsburgh Steelers-It was a solid campaign for the Boston Celtics of the NFL, a team many deemed aging and on the decline.  Only head-to-head losses to Baltimore prevented the Steelers from winning the division as they finished tied at 12-4.  Pittsburgh comes into postseason play hit by the injury bug.

Why They Win-Experience is present here much like New England, where Ben Roethlisberger has won 2 Super Bowls and played in a third last season.  The defense is among the best remaining and is capable of shutting opponents down.  That leaves Big Ben to work his magic, albeit on a gimpy leg. 

Why They Won’t-Injuries coming at the worst time.  Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL and will miss the playoffs.  Isaac Redman will replace him and looks capable of matching Mendenhall’s production.  Roethlisberger is the biggest concern.  Since the high-ankle sprain against Cleveland, Roethlisberger has been limited to say the least.  It’s especially restrictive considering Big Ben works best while on the run and adjusting to the defense. 

Cincinnati Bengals-The Bengals came out on top in the battle for the final Wild Card spot over the Jets, Titans, and Raiders.  A rookie duo of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green highlighted the team’s unexpected success. 

Why They Win-This team isn’t going to win any shootouts, but they play a style of football much like their AFC North counterparts, strong defense and heavy doses of running.  Sprinkle in some production from Dalton who has proven to be clutch down the stretch in games and there’s potential for a Cinderella story.

Why They Won’t-Inexperience and a lack of firepower to compete with the elite will likely do them in.  They face a depleted Texans team which they may be able to take down, but I don’t like their prospects against the rest of the field.

Prediction-Baltimore over New Orleans
The Ravens are the most complete team in the field and put aside their road woes.  New Orleans gets past Green Bay as the Saints are on the upswing while the Packers have seemingly slowed down.  My original pick of the Falcons, don’t feel so good about them anymore.

Posted on: December 1, 2011 8:12 pm
 

In The Trenches: Week 12 Thoughts

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This week’s publication delayed due to excessive Thanksgiving-related carb goggles.

Jets Escape-New York deserved to win that game as much as LeBron James needs another endorsement deal.  But with the holiday season coming soon, Buffalo wide receiver Stevie Johnson gift-wrapped a Jets victory with several moments which left much to be desired for Bills fans.  Johnson was penalized 15 yards after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter as he mocked Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress by pretending to get shot.  I’m all for the celebrations, unlike the NFL, but this one went a bit far, using someone’s past transgressions as a mocking point.  Character aside, it backed up Buffalo 15 yards on the kickoff and resulted in a Jets touchdown.  Johnson also managed to haul in two passes on the final drive which would’ve resulted in a game-winning score both times.  It’s difficult to look past the shenanigans when it’s costing your team a victory.

G-Men In Trouble-Not that anyone can fault them for getting lit up like a Christmas tree by the Saints, but New York’s once promising season is fading fast.  In first place at 6-2 three weeks ago, the Giants are currently out of the playoffs and one game behind the Cowboys.  The running game has disappeared and with that so has Brandon Jacobs future contract.  The defense faced a tall order in Drew Brees and Co., but at the least the worst is behind them.  Wait, they play the Green Bay Packers Sunday.  They have a guy named Aaron Rodgers, he’s pretty good from what I hear.

Dream Team Done-Facing the Patriots was tough enough, doing it without Michael Vick or Jeremy Maclin is just unfair.  The Eagles stood no chance against Tom Brady and New England as the Patriots raced past Philadelphia 38-20, putting the Eagles towards the back of the NFC at 4-7.  It looks as if Head Coach Andy Reid has lost his locker room, worsened by DeSean Jackson’s maddening inconsistency and coordinators allegedly fighting on the sidelines. 

Packers Onto Week 12-The Packers are just about the only ones who won’t talk about an undefeated season.  Green Bay took down Detroit 27-15 on Thanksgiving, leaving few in doubt that Green Bay will win their final five regular season games.  Green Bay has won their last 17 games, a number of video game proportions.  Aaron Rodgers is playing Madden with opposing defenses, it doesn’t seem like they stand a chance.  On the other side, Lions nose tackle Ndamukong Suh has all but cemented his status as a dirty player after his most recent display.  The previous incidents seemed defendable, but the Albert Haynesworth remix play was straight up malicious.

Tebow Mania-This is getting out of control.  I have no words to describe what is going on in Denver right now.  I do know that there’s no way this keeps up with Tebow unable to complete more than a handful of passes a game.  Let’s also not look past the defense, who has allowed 15 points or less in four games since Tebow replaced Kyle Orton.  That and solid play by Willis McGahee has also aided this run to 6-5.  The best way to describe what’s going on in Denver: see The Sword in the Stone, it matches up nicely.

Life Without Cutler-It wasn’t pretty, and you have to figure the Chicago Bears’ playoff chances are in dire straits.  Say what you will about Jay Cutler, but Caleb Hanie leaves much to be desired at the quarterback position.  A soft schedule may be a saving grace, but the defense can only do so much, and Matt Forte only runs the ball.  A non-existent passing game would make Chicago hard-pressed to hold on to a playoff spot.  Unless you believe in that whole Tebow Mania.

Next In Line For Texans-Matt Leinart was the topic of discussion all week for Houston as he was set to replace Matt Schaub.  The experiment was going fairly well at the outset, until Leinart himself suffered a season-ending broken collarbone.  T.J. Yates, a rookie out of North Carolina, is next in line for the Texans, who signed Jake Delhomme to serve as Yates’ backup.  The Texans Super Bowl aspirations worsen as they go down the quarterback depth chart.  The good news: Brett Favre rumors didn’t flare up once Leinart went down.

Doomed Colts-A second matchup with Jacksonville aside, this was likely the Colts’ best chance to win their first game of the season against Carolina.  Effort was certainly there as the Colts were tied, 10-10, at halftime, and Reggie Wayne made a sighting with 5 catches, 122 yards and a touchdown.  The Colts have all but clinched the rights to Andrew Luck, now the race is on for win no. 1.

Steelers Survive-Faced with a struggling team starting a rookie quarterback, many figured Pittsburgh had a blowout victory in its sights.  Especially since the New England Patriots spotty defense shut them down a week earlier.  Except Pittsburgh needed an interception deep in their territory to hold off the Kansas City Chiefs.  The lesson here: AFC North rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh tend to play up and down to their competition.

Bengals Follow Division Foe-Like the Steelers, Cincinnati looked ready for a lopsided victory over the Cleveland Browns.  Except they trailed by double digits for much of the game, needing a late rally to pull out a 23-20 win.  The two letdowns face off next week in a big AFC North battle.

Posted on: November 21, 2011 5:33 pm
 

In The Trenches; Week 11 Thoughts

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A Giants dud t'was.

G-Men Fall Face First-There was certainly enough motivation for the New York football Giants.  An opportunity to deliver the knockout punch to a division rival who has been underwhelming all season would typically have any team chomping at the bit.  Instead, the Giants struggled against the alleged "Dream Teamm," who looked more like the Replacements with Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin out.  Vince Young came in and looked like, well, Vince Young, throwing 3 interceptions.  Lucky for him, the Giants were even less efficient, highlighted by an impressive 29 yards rushing.  The Giants seemed likely to win handedly, but matched the Eagles' incompetence every step of the way, until Young showed potential suitors in free agency something in an 18-play, 80-yard drive which took almost 9 minutes to give Philadelphia a 17-10 lead with 2:45 left.  The Giants blew a big opportunity to 1) knock the Eagles out for good and 2) keep a 1 game cushion over the Cowboys.  Things don't look promising for New York as their next two games are against the Saints and Packers.  10 points wasn't enough to outlast Young, it definitely won't be against Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.

Tebow Mania At Epic Proportions-If you were to tell me after 5 starts, Tim Tebow would be 4-1 nad the Broncos 5-5, I would've laughed in your face, called you crazy, then smacked you back into reality.  That's how inconceivable it seems, at least it did, before the Jets were the latest to fall over Tebow as Denver won 17-13.  The Jets stellar defense was supposed to absolutely crush the college offense.  It appears the Jets defense isn't playing quite as well as Rex Ryan would like.   It's one thing to get lit up by Tom Brady, it's another to let Tim Tebow lead a 95-yard drive at the end of the fourth quarter to beat you with his legs time and time again. 

Baltimore Rights Ship-Last week Ray Rice rushed five times, the Ravens were underwhelming on offense, and lost to the Seattle-Stinking Seahawks.  Yesterday Rice rushed 20 times, registered over 100 yards on the ground, and Baltimore took down surprising Cincinnati in a battle of 6-3 teams.  What have we learned here?  Rice is a pretty good player and when he gets the ball a lot, the offense fares well.  Why is this troubling?  Well, the Ravens have already been through this two times too many, leaving many concerned of a potential trend.  One that would leave them doomed come playoff time.

Watch Out for Oakland-One reason Tebow and the Broncos won't make the playoffs: the Raiders are a balanced offense with a quarterback who can pass the ball.  Carson Palmer has provided Oakland with its best quarterback since JaMarcus Russell, ahem, Rich Gannon was around.  Palmer hasn't even been able to utilize Darren McFadden who has been out essetially the last four games.  Michael Bush has filled in admirably and proven himself as a starting running back in this league, but he lacks the explosiveness McFadden brings to the table.  When he returns, Oakland will be even more difficult to contain.

Cowboys Sneak Past Redskins-A win is a win, but that one was ugly for the Dallas Cowboys, who pulled out the overtime victory against Washington 27-24.  The Redskins managed 20 points their previous 3 games, including a shutout, but put a scare into Dallas, tying the game with 14 seconds to go on a 12-play, 89-yard drive.  If Rex Grossman can hardly be contained, I can't wait for them to face a team with a quarterback who wasn't benched in favor of John Beck.

Lions Storm Back-It didn't look too promising for the Detroit Lions, allowing 27 quick points to the Carolina Panthers.  Lucky for them, Carolina's defense is as bad as their offense is good.  That and a running game for a change helped spark a massive 42-8 run once they trailed, 27-7.  Kevin Smith, a one-time Lions draft pick, was brought back from the dead and ran for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns along with 61 yards receiving.  Whether this will last is yet to be determined, but Detroit must feel better knowing they have the potential to manage the clock with Smith.  Facing the Packers on Thanksgiving, if the Lions can put points up early, which is likely given the Packers inconsistencies on defense, we may have an upset in the making.

Dolphins Feast On Buffalo-It was reported earlier in the week that LeBron James was quoted, regarding to the Dolphins win streak, as saying, "Not 0, not 1, not 2." Wait a minute, I got that wrong, but the Dolphins have put together a 3-game winning streak, which likely makes the season a success given the state of the franchise a month ago.  Although on the flip side, they have taken themselves out of the running for Andrew Luck, a supposed franchise quarterback/best prospect since John Elway.  Look at those wins as you wish.  On the other side of the field, the Buffalo Bills 5-2 start is a distant memory and the playoffs are becoming less and less likely.  Next up is the Jets, also a 5-5 team that will be fighting to remain relevant in the playoff hunt.

49ers Nearly Clinch NFC West-Another game, another win, the process has become routine for Jim Harbaugh and San Francisco.  A 23-7 victory over Arizona is not representative of the dominance the 49ers displayed over the Cardinals.  If not for 3 David Akers missed field goals or inept play in the red zone, this might have been a 30 or 40 point margin.  At 9-1, San Francisco is 5 up on the Seahawks with 6 to play.  San Francisco could mail in the last 6 games, finish 9-7, and likely win the NFC West.  That would be asking the Seattle Seahawks to win 5 more games, and I'd bet my life that they won't.  Nothing would be sweeter for Harbaugh to clinch the division with a win Thursday night on Thanksgiving against his brother John.

Falcons Steady Against Titans-The Titans 5-4 record coming into yesterday's game is misleading, simpy because it implies that Tennessee is a good football team.  Atlanta cruised throughout, despite only winning, 23-17, as the Falcons jumped out to a 23-3 lead in the 3rd quarter.  For Tennessee, Chris Johnson was once again irrelevant with 13 yards on 12 carries.  However, Jake Locker saw his first real action and left Titans fans feeling good about Locker going forward, as Locker went 9-for-19 with 140 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Bears Win, Lose Cutler-The Chargers season is going up in flames as Philip Rivers continues his worst season in the NFL.  In 10 games, Rivers has 17 interceptions this season, his previous career-high was 15.  The Bears win their fifth in a row, but I'm still not sold.  As you've read from week to week, I don't buy into what Chicago has going on right now.  I certainly won't now as Jay Cutler has a broken thumb on his throwing hand and will be out a while.  The reports conflict, but Cutler won't return earlier than Week 16.  Luckily, the schedule isn't terrible, as the four games Cutler is sure to miss include the Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos, and Seahawks.  But if Caleb Hanie proves to be a steep decline from Cutler, it won't matter who they play.

Posted on: November 14, 2011 12:25 am
 

In The Trenches: Week 10 Thoughts

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A game of inches indeed..

Falcons Lose Ground-It was a call which left many scratching their heads.  On their second drive in overtime, Atlanta believed they had converted a third down only to be short a few inches at their own 29 yard line.  Head Coach Mike Smith played with fire, had Matt Ryan hand it off to Michael Turner, and got burned as Turner was stopped in the backfield.  New Orleans kicked the game-winning field goal moments later and padded their division lead.  Smith put all the heat on himself, not wanting to give Drew Brees and the Saints offense back the ball.  It's a bold call which will make you look like a champ, or a chump as it did Smith.  I won't play armchair quarterback and unequivocally say they should've punted, although it'd be an easy route to take.  Even with a first down, Atlanta had at least 35 yards to go before field goal range and their defense had just forced New Orleans into a three and out.  But it's not a call that I will question Smith making.

Eagles Crash Landing-Never say never, but the Eagles'playoff hopes look as promising as a salad being consumed by Andy Reid.  The latest fourth-quarter meltdown came against the Cardinals in a 21-17 defeat as John Skelton (who?) did what Kevin Kolb has failed to do for most of this season.  Skelton gave the Cardinals offense a pulse and actually found Larry Fitzgerald early and often as Fitzgerald had by far his best game of the season with 7 receptions for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Barring a miracle finish, the Eagles will miss the playoffs, which may signal the end for Head Coach Andy Reid.

Romo Cowboys Up-While the Eagles continue to fade into a top-16 draft pick, the Dallas Cowboys are showing signs of life again, clobbering the Buffalo Bills, another fading team, 44-7.  Tony Romo had as many incompletions as touchdowns, throwing for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns.  DeMarco Murray continued his brilliant display of rushing with 135 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.  Murray's average of 6.7 yards per rush, not too shabby.

49ers Stifle GMen-The game was up for grabs at the start of the 4th quarter as New York led 13-12.  Frank Gore had left the game with a knee injury.  That would presumably leave the Giants in a prime position with Alex Smith forced to do the heavy lifting.  Deemed a "Game Manager," Smith was efficient in San Francisco's 27-20 win in a battle of NFC division leaders.  The 49er defense did their part as well, but let's give credit where credit is due.  Smith has been labeled a bust as long as he's been in the league.  While he is not putting up numbers that make fantasy football players act like schoolgirls, he has been reliable in crucial moments.

Patriots Blow Out Jets-It was a game the Jets had been looking forward to all week.  At least that's what we were led to believe.  Maybe it was the fact that Rex Ryan kept quiet for once, maybe it was the fact that New England's defense finally had a substantial lead to work with.  Whatever the reason, the Jets simply got handled in a 37-16 stomping.  Tom Brady had all the time he needed to dissect the Jets defense while Sanchez couldn't keep up.  The Jets had their chances, but couldn't capitalize.  As terrible as the Patriots defense has been this season, a Bill Belichick-coached team will make you pay.  From Nick Folk missing a 24-yard field goal to Sanchez's pass being tipped and intercepted at New England's 25-yard line, any momentum the Jets appeared to be gaining was soon squashed.

Ravens Hungover Again-It appears the best time to play the Ravens is right after they defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers.  For the second time this season, Baltimore fell flat on its face, this time losing to the Seattle Seahawks, 22-17.  We've seen this before as the Ravens blew out Pittsburgh Week 1 only to lose to the Tennessee Titans.  No one expected Seattle to pose as much of a threat and frankly, they didn't.  It was the Ravens who did themselves in with two fumbles on kickoffs and terrible play calling once again.  Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron is losing credibility by the day, as we've seen a tendency to completely forget about Ray Rice.  Rice only had 5 carries, 5, for 27 yards.  Zero in the fourth quarter and one in the third.  Cameron managed to pull this off before against Jacksonville when Rice only had 8 carries.  Simply maddening.

Broncos Win Again Despite Tebow-When you are told that the Denver Broncos only completed two passes, you're initial thought is probably something along the lines of, "They kept Tebow in the whole game?" or "Wow Tebow was that bad?"  Forget even winning the game, which is exactly what Denver did, 17-10, as Tim Tebow went 2-8 for 69 yards and a touchdown to go with 43 yards rushing and a touchdown.  The Broncos did amass 244 yards on the ground, but still.  Two completions? Two? We know exactly what Tebow supporters are thinking, "Only Tebow could win a game with two completions!"

Texans Gaining Steam-People will likely overlook them given their lack of a competitive division, but the Houston Texans have the components to go deep into January and we're seeing it consistently.  Houston kicked Tampa Bay to the curb, 37-9, as the Texans are now 7-3 on the season.  Houston has what most lack, a balanced offense which can lean on either aspect.  Arian Foster and Ben Tate are by far the best 1-2 punch running attack in the NFL.  Tate managed 63 yards on the ground while Foster totaled 186, 84 on the ground.  Matt Schaub continues to put up decent numbers even with out Andre Johnson.  Imagine how much more potent the offense can be when its Pro Bowl Wide Receiver is healthy.  Johnson has missed the last five games, but Houston has remained patient as its been able to win without Johnson, allowing Johnson's hamstring to fully heal.  With a bye week coming up, Johnson should be ready to go Week 12.  AFC, you've been warned.

Bears Nip Lions-The Lions fade continues as they have lost three of their last four, with the lone win coming against the Broncos.  As for the Bears, still not sold on them, call me stubborn.  As for Matt Forte, he should probably pay the man as he is all but the entire Bears offense.  That and Devin Hester being counted on for a return touchdown here and there.

Colts Remain Winless-Now 0-10 after a 17-3 loss to the Jaguars, it looks as if the Indianapolis Colts have all but clinched the <del>rights to Andrew Luck </del>first pick in the draft.  The Colts have a firm two game lead on the Rams and Dolphins, both with two wins under their belt.  Frankly, I don't see a game on the remaining schedule where the Colts can come out on top.

Posted on: November 7, 2011 12:25 pm
 

In The Trenches: Week 9 Thoughts

<span style="color: #6e8dcf;">Primetime Thoughts

Follow <span style="color: #3b5998;">David S. London on Twitter

The day they stopped calling him Archie’s Boy, and started calling him Eli…wait a minute.

Mr. Clutch-The backlash was hot and heavy after Eli Manning said he’s in the same class as Tom Brady.  It seemed to be a bit of the stretch at the time, all things considered, to put the oaf on the same pedestal as the suave pretty boy.  In what seemed like a flashback to Super Bowl XLII, Manning led the Giants to a 24-20 comeback win over the Patriots.  Manning led the two-minute drill after Brady had just threw a touchdown on fourth down.  The drive also consisted of Manning connecting on a jaw-dropping grab by Jake Ballard, who also happens to wear number 85.  Seahawks game aside, Manning seems to play his best in crunch time, leading New York down the stretch time and time again.  He also played without his top running back and wide receiver, no big deal. Manning will say all the right things, but you know he’s basking in solidifying his status as a top-flight quarterback.

Mr. Clutch Revisited-Like Manning, Joe Flacco has also been subjected to mixed reviews throughout his career.  Some say he doesn’t show the passion, the drive due to his seemingly consistent lack of emotion.  Some question whether Flacco can lead Baltimore to a Super Bowl.  We won’t know that for sure, but Flacco put two notions to rest: that he can lead his team down the stretch and that he does have some fire in his belly as seen by those fist pumps and screams.  Flacco led the Ravens to a 23-20 last-minute victory over the Steelers in one of the NFL’s most intense rivalries.  Flacco was unfazed, leading Baltimore 92 yards on the final drive, overcoming several dropped passes by his receivers.  Many would’ve given those receivers an earful, but Flacco remains calm, using this alleged hinderance to his advantage.  Asides from the glory of taking down a heated rival, Baltimore sweeps the season series against Pittsburgh, giving them the tiebreaker which may come in handy come January.

Jets Rise To Occasion-It was a game that had the potential to put the Jets at the back of the pack if they didn’t come to play.  The defense would have none of that, clamping down on Ryan Fitzpatrick in a 27-11 win.  The first half left much to be desired, only leading 3-0 as the Jets were unable to capitalize on a few opportunities.  The second half saw better results as Mark Sanchez was able to execute a few scoring drives behind a dominant showing by the defense.  The Bills missed on the chance to distance themselves from New York, but the offense looked frazzled from the onset.

Julio Jones’ Coming Out Party-There was a lot of hoopla when the Falcons traded everything but the kitchen sink for Julio Jones, giving up several high draft picks.  Jones was expected to be the final peice to the Falcons offense in hopes of catapulting them to the Super Bowl.  Jones has been dealing with injuries throughout the season, leaving the Falcons offense to be consistently inconsistent.  Jones was healthy yesterday, and Atlanta liked what it saw, with 131 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns.  Matt Ryan has to like the added dimension his new toy brings.  Next up for Atlanta, first place New Orleans.

Saints Hold Off Bucs-You figured New Orleans would bounce back after that terrible loss to the Rams.  You also figured Tampa Bay would be prepared coming off a bye week.  Something had to give, and it was the Buccaneers who lost 27-16.  Tampa Bay’s offense stalled just enough as Drew Brees returned to his efficient form.  Tampa Bay had the chance to be tied for first in the NFC South, now they stand two games back.

49ers Rolling Along-You almost have to wonder if this team will fall asleep by December with how easy they’ve made it look the last two months.  San Francisco had little trouble against a depleted Redskins team, 19-11.  The same recipe applied as Alex Smith went 17-24 for 200 yards and a touchdown, Frank Gore ran for 107 yards on 19 carries, and the defense held firm.  The 49ers have a 5 game lead with 8 games left, making it close to impossible that they miss the playoffs considering the teams in their division.  San Francisco gets a real test next week against the suddenly rising G-Men.

Dolphins Celebrate Good Times-When a second victory comes, nobody knows, but a winless season is now out of the question.  Miami let out their frustrations on a lost season with a 31-3 romp against Kansas City.  Nobody should have to endure a winless season and it’ll be interesting to see if the Dolphins build off this or become content with avoiding the 0-16, but one thought comes to mind.  With the Chiefs getting blown out by the Dolphins, it has to make you wonder how the San Diego Chargers didn’t blow them out last Monday, much less win.

Packers Pile On Points-The defense returned two interceptions for touchdowns, so it’s not as if they didn’t play a part in the 45-38 victory over San Diego.  However, a game in which your offense scores 45 points generally should lead to a solid margin of victory.  The defense continues to get beat while Aaron Rodgers continues to beat other defenses.  If you’re Green Bay, you’d like to shore up the defense even a little bit, but as long as Rodgers continues to play like a robot, it might not matter.

Don’t Forget this Rookie QB-While what Cam Newton has been doing in Carolina is impressive, it appears that Andy Dalton has been forgotten unjustifiably so.  Dalton was instrumental in a 24-17 win over the Tennessee Titans.  Dalton’s numbers aren’t as eye-popping, but they are sound, pacing a Bengals team that wasn’t supposed to be relevant this time of the year, much less already notch 6 victories.  Dalton gets his biggest test yet, a matchup for first place in the AFC North with Pittsburgh.

Raiders Reverting to Old Form-Oakland looked headed towards a blowout win over the Tebows, leading 24-14 against a liability at quarterback.  From 6:30 mark in the third quarter to the the 6:00 mark in the fourth quarter, Oakland fell behind, trailing 31-24 on a punt return touchdown, a 60-yard score by Willis McGahee on the first play of that drive, and a few Raider turnovers sprinkled in.  On the plus side, Carson Palmer showed flashes with 332 yards and 3 touchdowns.  There were 3 interceptions, but Palmer should improve as he continues to work off the rust and Darren McFadden returns.  Oakland, San Diego, and Kansas City are tied for first in the AFC West at 4-4 while Denver is only a game behind.  Don’t buy into Tebow Mania just yet as he didn’t attempt a single pass in the fourth quarter, which speaks volumes.  Next up for Oakland, a battle for first place with San Diego in a battle of the underwhelming.

Posted on: October 31, 2011 9:15 pm
 

In The Trenches: Week 8 Thoughts

<span style="color: #6e8dcf;">Primetime Thoughts

Follow <span style="color: #3b5998;">David S. London on Twitter

This past Sunday, Rob Ryan ate Crow, ahem, Eagle.

Cowboys Massive Flop-Jerry Jones said this was a statement game, one that Dallas circled over the Summer.  Rob Ryan called Philadelphia the, "All-Hype Team."  A 34-7 blowout later, the Eagles are riding high as everyone is all aboard their bandwagon once again while Dallas leaves much to be desired.  Dez Bryant continues to throw tantrums that are only acceptable when you are 7 or Terrell Owens.  If nothing else, Ryan has done well to copy his brother in placing all blame on himself; if he really wanted to copy big bro, he'd put himself out there next time Tony Romo cements lame-duck status since the guy is one of the media's favorite pinatas.

Ravens Escape Rough Start-After asking if this was real life a handful of times, I accepted the fact that the Ravens were, in fact, trailing, 24-6, at halftime to the lowly Arizona Cardinals.  The Cardinals don't typically fare well as a West Coast team traveling East, but were in prime position to pull off the massive upset.  We're not sure what was said in the locker room, but the Ravens got their act together and pulled out a 30-27 win.  Baltimore got their act together, albeit a little late, as Ray Rice totaled 99 yards and 3 touchdowns while Anquan Boldin turned on Beast Mode with 7 receptions for 145 yards. 

Giants Rally Late-Yet another game the Giants were expected to dominate that went down to the wire.  The Dolphins are winless and desperate for a win, but Miami leading 17-13 with under 7 minutes to go is concerning.  Eli Manning has been steady for the Giants more often than not.  However, the 5-2 record is not surprising, but the struggle New York has had in the process of getting there certainly is.  A win is a win, but with a tough 6-game stretch in which they could objectively lose all 6, it's time to rise for the G-Men.

Ponder Bests Newton-The game didn't hold much significance asides from draft positions as neither team will be making the postseason.  That being said, Minnesota and Carolina have to feel good going forward with what appears to be two franchise quarterbacks.  Cam Newton's critics can now hush up until the time comes to ask where the Super Bowl wins are.  Newton looks to be as dynamic as Vick, but more difficult to bring down ala Ben Roethlisberger.  Many wondered if the Vikings offense would ever wake up after Donovan McNabb put it to sleep, but Christian Ponder has resuscitated Minnesota's offense.  Adrian Peterson in the backfield is a nice option as well.

Back to Reality for Tebow-Let's try to focus on the positives for Tim Tebow after Sunday's 45-10 loss to the Lions.  Okay so there weren't many, if any, positives to take from Tebow's performance.  That dreadful showing was definitely a score for the critics.  Tebow looked, well, like a quarterback who was ranked third on the depth chart this Summer.  Now it's only one game, but it was a game that highlighted all the things that are wrong with Tebow's game.  From poor mechanics to inability to read coverage are not issues that will go away nor are they easily fixed.  Although he probably isn't fit to continue starting, Denver wants to see if there's any future with Tebow, a middle-round talent who was picked in the first round.

Saints Offense Disappears-This was a team that had just put up 62 points on the lifeless Colts, so a visit with the seemingly lifeless Rams seemed favorable to say the least.  That was until they played the game.  Sparked by the World Series champion Cardinals, the Rams trounced New Orleans 31-21.  The score doesn't do the Rams justice as Drew Brees and Co. looked frazzled from the start, never able to get into a rhythm.  Colt and Dolphin fans rejoice as now they are the lone winless teams/frontrunners for Andrew Luck.

Big Ben Bests Brady-Sunday's outcome shouldn't come as a huge surprise, but now that New England has lost in this fashion, this is a concern that can't be ignored.  What was once believed to be a high-poewred offense now looks to be a one-dimensional offense.  There is no deep threat; Chad Ochocinco has failed miserably to provide any vertical aspect to the passing game.  That has left Brady to attempt dissecting defenses with short, quick routes which can only go so far.  The running game isn't completely missing, but when your defense can't stop anybody, that will eventually get abandoned.  I will never count out Bill Belichick or Brady, but New England's prospects don't look too promising as of now.

Bills Defense Shines-It's usually Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson that receive most of the attention when Buffalo shines, but it was the defense that shinedx the brightest, shutting out the Redskins on their way to a 23-0 win.  It wasn't the biggest challenge as Washington was minus Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, and Tim Hightower, but a shutout is a shutout.  With New England apparently in crisis mode, a one-trick pony on offense and a swiss cheese defense, Buffalo has to feel pretty good about their chances.  Next up, the New York Jets.

49ers Carry On-One of several surprise teams this season, the San Francisco 49ers were heavily favored against the lowly Cleveland Browns.  While it wasn't a statement game or a victory that proved anything, it was a game that they were expected to win.  It's very easy to overlook games which seem to be a given.  Good teams put away the teams they're supposed to, and San Francisco did just that, taking care of business on their way to a 6-1 start for the first time since 1998.

As Do the Bengals-Another suprise team, Cincinnati faced a dreadful offense in Seattle and also took care of business, clamping down on the Seahawks in a 34-12 win.  The Bengals are tied with the Ravens and Steelers atop the AFC North at 5-2, who would've thought.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com