Tag:Tim Tebow
Posted on: December 20, 2011 12:45 pm

In The Trenches: Week 15 Thoughts

Primetime Thoughts

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Change in the script.

Undefeated No More-I think I speak for everyone in saying that Kansas City was the team most likely to give Green Bay its first loss on the season.  Just kidding, now in all serious, where did that come from?  The Packers offense has torched every defense they’ve faced, it seemed close to impossible that a decimated Chiefs team, a vastly depleted unit with an offense working around no-name quarterbacks and third-stringers across the board on both sides of the ball, could even put a scare into the Packers.  This was pegged as a race to 17 points, one that the Packers could win in their sleep.  At least that’s what everyone thought.  Whether it was Romeo Crennel providing a spark, or everyone taking the Packers game as their Super Bowl, Kansas City stepped up in a major way.  The Chiefs had scored 10 points or less in their previous 6 games, or a total of 45.  That’s an average of 7.5 points a game, or roughly how many points Aaron Rodgers will lead Green Bay to on his first few drives, if not more.  The rest is history, Mercury Morris pops some champagne and Green Bay got a serious wake-up call.  This may not be the worst thing for the Packers.  Not that it has become evident, but when you haven’t lost a football game in over a calendar year, it’s quite possible to become a tad complacent in thinking you can’t be touched.  The concern and media frenzy around the undefeated season is over, which will benefit Green Bay.  Any player from the 2008 New England Patriots Super Bowl team can tell you that much.

Up Goes Colts-It was a day of firsts, as Indianapolis ended any possibility of becoming winless team No.3 in NFL history with a 27-13 win over the Titans.  The only news here is that the Colts allowed the St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings to pick up a game, as both are one back of the top pick in the draft at 2-12 with two weeks left.  This race for the cellar may come down to the final week after all.  On the other hand, I’ve been skeptical of Tennessee being a playoff contender all season.  I don’t think anything speaks to that more than losing to a winless team by two touchdowns.  The Titans are only 1 game out of the playoffs, but I’m ready to send them on their merry way.

Down Goes Tebow-Who was suprised to see SportsCenter lead Monday’s showing with questions about Tebow being the long-term answer in Denver?  That would be nobody.  The Broncos magical run took a screeching halt after Tom Brady and Bill Belichick handed it to them, 41-23.  It was highly unlikely Tebow would be able to keep up with Brady as the two styles of offense are not anything close to each other; Tebow with a run-heavy approach, Brady with the aerial assault.  This comes as no shock, but it’s a shame to see all the backlash Tebow is receiving, none of which is his own doing.  While I don’t feel he is ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, I can still respect the dedication and effort he puts in to the game.  It’s not his fault that ESPN is so inclined to lead with Tebow every day, whether it’s the day after a game or the middle of the week.

Oh When The Saints Go Marching In-One of the best passing attacks in the NFL vs one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.  The over/under for the Saints Vikings game was 53.5.  The only question was whether the Saints alone would surpass that margin.  They fell up just short in their blowout win, 42-20, over the Vikings.  Drew Brees was okay, going 30-for-42 with 412 yards passing and 5 touchdowns.  The game itself didn’t give us any lessons we didn’t know already; the Saints are a threat to the Packers in the NFC while the Vikings are not.  But with the Packers loss, Drew Brees becomes a threat to Rodgers for the MVP award.  His numbers are comparable to Rodgers, if not better. 

TD’s: Rodgers- 40 TD’s, Brees- 37. 
Yards: Rodgers- 4,360 yards, Brees- 4,780. 
Completion %- Rodgers- 68.1, Brees- 71.5. 

Big Rotten Apple-The New York Jets and New York Giants were both in position to strengthen their playoff aspirations.  Both decided not to show up.  As bad as both are, one of them will probably win next week.  No, not because I’m that confident in either, but because they faceoff next week.  The Giants lost miserably, 23-10, to the Redskins in a game believed to be theirs for the taking.  Hakeem Nicks dropping a touchdown pass early had to be an omen for the GMen.  Santonio Holmes gets the dunce cap this week, not only for his two turnovers, the interception goes to Mark Sanchez, but Holmes dropped a catchable ball, but for his excessive celebration penalty.  Santonio, if you’re going to celebrate, not only should you be winning, or not losing by three scores, but you should probably learn the dirty bird first.  That was ghastly.  Presumably, one of these teams leaves MetLife Stadium with a win next Saturday. But we can’t put a tie past these two bumbling, stumbling teams.

Bears? More Like Cubs-This 4-game losing streak has all but ended the Chicago Bears playoff hopes at 7-7.  But one things for certain: Jay Cutler and Matt Forte are the heart and soul of the Chicago Bears offense.  Without them, Chicago is, well, inept.  That much was clear after the Seattle Seahawks stomped all over them, 37-14.

Texans Trip Up-Cam Newton knows how to put points on the board, so you figured Houston would allow a few scores, but the Texans offense was expected to score on the Panthers offense-friendly defense.  Except they didn’t, at least not enough, as Houston lost, 28-13.  The Texans are a game back of New England for the top seed in the AFC, but are still in contention for a bye week.

Buffalo No Soldiers-That 5-2 start is a distant memory, right besides those Jim Kelly days.  Head Coach Chan Gailey continues to stick by Ryan Fitzpatrick despite his struggles since signing the contract extension.  That makes him one of, a few supporters remaining?

Lions Pull it Out-The Lions are one win away from clinching the playoffs after yet another comeback win.  Where this one ranks, I’m not sure, but a 98-yard drive in 1:35 has to go pretty high on the list.  The Lions passing attack is no joke as Calvin Johnson is a man among boys while Stafford looks to be on his way to becoming an elite quarterback.  Johnson had a madden-esque 9 catches for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 28-27 win.  As for the Oakland Raiders, you remain one game out of the playoffs, but when you blow a two touchdown lead with less than 8 minutes left in the game, do you really deserve to make it?

Ravens, Roadless Warriors-Talk about being homesick, the Baltimore Ravens have a bad case of just that.  All four losses by Baltimore have been on the road, the latest a 34-14 drubbing by the San Diego Chargers.  The Ravens got a treat from Head Coach John Harbaugh’s brother Jim as San Francisco beat Pittsburgh.  Baltimore has the tiebreaker from sweeping the season series.  It’s a lucky break because the Ravens don’t look to be much of a threat in the playoffs if they have to do it on the road.

Posted on: December 14, 2011 12:48 pm

In The Trenches: Week 14 Thoughts

Primetime Thoughts

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Now trending: Young Quarterbacks on the rise.

Yates Leads Comeback-Houston isn’t supposed to pull off late-game comebacks, let alone win games with T.J. Yates at quarterback.  But Yates did just that on Sunday as Houston clinched its first-ever playoff appearance with a, 20-19, victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.  The Texans won their first AFC South title, thanks to Yates’ efforts on their final possession, a 13-play, 80-yard drive, including a 17-yard scramble by Yates on 3rd and 15 at Cincinnati’s 40.  Yates will not be asked to do much with a two-headed monster in the backfield in Arian Foster and Ben Tate along with a top-tier defense.  If Yates can provide Houston with even a smidge of balance on offense, Houston’s once-promising Super Bowl aspirations will seem more feasible. 

Tebow’s World-By now you are all likely familiar with the weekly script the Denver Broncos have fed us during Tim Tebow’s tenure as starting quarterback.  You know, the one where Tebow and Denver does little to nothing on offense all day, only to storm back late in the game when it seems like nothing more than a last-ditch effort.  Except Tebow leads the unlikely comeback and Mile High rejoices after an unlikely Broncos win.  Yet again, Denver had the ball down 10-0 with 4:34 left in the game.  Tebow led the Broncos to their first score with 2:08 left in the game, trailing, 10-7.  Even then, Chicago recovers the onside kick with no timeouts left on the Denver sideline.  Best case scenario, Denver gets the ball deep in their territory with less than 20 seconds left.  Marion Barber decides to run out of bounds and preserve an additional 40 seconds.  Again, Tebow leads Denver down the field for the, wait for it, game-tying 59-yard field goal.  Yes, 59 yards, albeit in Denver, but 59 yards is 59 yards.  Once again, Chicago won the coin toss and had been closing in on field-goal range, only to give Denver the ball back as Barber fumbled on a run in which he looked headed for the end zone.  We’ve yet to find an explanation for this seemingly divine intervention.

Eli, Romo, Save Giants Season-Losers of four straight, the New York Giants season hung in the balance as a loss to the Cowboys would’ve all but eliminated them.  Eli Manning, a fourth-quarter specialist with 5 game-winning drives this season, was given life after Tony Romo was unable to seal the deal.  With 2:25 remaining, Dallas was faced with a 3rd and 5 at their own 25.  The Giants sent an all-out blitz, leaving single coverage on Dallas’ wide receivers.  Miles Austin beat his man and had a clear path for a touchdown and the game-clincher, the dagger to New York’s season.  Only thing was, Romo overthrew him, giving the Giants life.  Manning did what he’s done all season, lead the Giants down the field in crunch time, giving New York the lead for good on a 6-play, 58-yard drive capped off by a Brandon Jacobs touchdown.  Dallas lost in grand fashion, a failed field goal attempt for a second straight week as Dan Bailey’s attempt was blocked by Jason Pierre-Paul.  Dallas’ late-game collapses are hard to explain, as this has become a trouble pattern for the Cowboys.  One possible explanation: Dallas seeks LeBron for change of a dollar, leaving them with no fourth quarter. 

Packers 13-0-The game became out of reach rather quickly, as Green Bay led, 31-0, midway through the second quarter.  The offense remained its usual, productive self, but the defense was impressive, containing an Oakland Raiders unit that had become more proficient, albeit without several stars on offense.  Green Bay avoided a major scare when Greg Jennings left the game with a knee injury.  What was feared to be a torn MCL was only a sprain as Jennings will likely sit as Green Bay will have Jennings rest until their Divisional Round game.  Since Green Bay clinches the top seed in the NFC with one more win, the only thing in question is the Packers pursuit of an undefeated season.  Do they continue to pursue history while keeping everyone in rhythm, or do they rest players down the stretch to avoid potential injury scares?  Stay tuned.

49ers Slip Against Cardinals-Up 19-7 midway through the third quarter, San Francisco seemed headed towards another victory while keeping pace with the Packers for the top seed in the NFC.  Then San Francisco slipped up and got caught as Arizona stormed back for a, 21-19, upset win.  A troubling game for the 49ers as they sat on a comfortable lead for most of the game and their defense failed to maintain it, against the Cardinals?  When San Francisco fell behind and needed a score late in the game, Alex Smith and the 49ers offense stalled in the fourth quarter.  It’s a troubling sign for San Francisco because with the potential to face teams like the Packers, Saints, or Giants, teams who can light up scoreboards, the defense is given little to no room for error with an offense that seems incapable of rallying late in games.

Jets Make It Look Easy-Granted, it was against the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Jets look like they’re hitting their stride after a 37-10 romp.  The blowout has to be taken with a grain of salt as Kansas City is 5-8 and not much of a challenge at this point of the season.  On one Jets touchdown drive, the Chiefs were penalized five times for 81 yards.  That being said, New York is rounding into form and may sneak into the playoffs after Oakland, Tennessee, and Cincinnati all lost Sunday, giving the Jets a one game lead for the final Wild Card spot with three weeks left.

Patriots Survive Redskins-More of the same from the Patriots, Tom Brady was Tom Terrific and Rob Gronkowski was impossible to bring down once more; on a 49-yard reception, DeAngelo Hall didn’t even try to tackle Gronkowski, he knew it was of no use.  The defense, too, was more of the same, as they made Rex Grossman look like a viable starting quarterback.  New England was bailed out by Santana Moss, as Washington was inside New England’s 10 with less than 2 minutes to go.  Grossman hit Moss cutting across the field with a touch pass.  Moss tried to haul it in, but inadvertently shoveled the pass to a New England defender who held on for the interception.  Next up, the Denver Tebows.

Lions Hold On-A win is a win, but this one wasn’t Detroit’s most inspiring.  Detroit kept pace with the rest of the NFC teams fighting for a Wild Card spot, with a 34-28 victory over the Vikings.  The Lions actually led this game by 21 points, but allowed Minnesota to claw back into this game, as the Vikings were actually in position to pull off the comeback win.  Minnesota had a 1st-and-Goal at Detroit’s 1 yard line, but Detroit held on, or got away with a no-call by the officials, depending on how you look at it.  Joe Webb, who replaced Christian Ponder in the third quarter, fumbled after DeAndre Levy all but ripped off Webb’s facemask.  How the officials missed that call, nobody knows, but the Lions will take it. 

Chargers Rounding Into Form-Either the talk of losing his job sparked the team, or San Diego is up to its old tricks, turning up their play in December like they always do.  Head Coach Norv Turner is looking to save his job, but it might be too little, too late.  San Diego blew past Buffalo, 37-10, as Philip Rivers and the offense gave everyone what was to be expected on a weekly basis.  The Chargers stand at 6-7, two games behind the Wild Card and the Denver Broncos in the AFC West.  Had the Bears held on against Denver, San Diego would’ve been one game back.  Unless Tebow and the Broncos fall flat on their face the final three games, San Diego will miss the playoffs and Turner will likely be gone.

Colts Lose, Again-There’s not much to say here, asides from Indianapolis ruining many bets with a backdoor cover, losing, 24-10.  As for the Peyton Manning-Andrew Luck situation, good luck to having your cake and eating it too.  If Manning is healthy and able to provide several more years of Hall-of-Fame ability, Indianapolis can’t trade him to see him possibly win a Super Bowl(s) elsewhere.  Luck would definitely benefit from learning under one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.  But how long is he willing to sit and wait for his turn?  We’re months away from this playing out, but what else is there to talk about regarding the Colts?  They, are, atrocious.

Posted on: December 5, 2011 12:03 am

In The Trenches: Week 13 Thoughts

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

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San Francisco 49ers: NFC West champions after Week 13?

49ers Break Dry Spell-After a steady 26-0 shutout victory over the St. Louis Rams, the San Francisco 49ers clinched the NFC West, despite having 4 games remaining.  San Francisco returns to the postseason for the first time since 2002.  A secured playoff spot at this point in the season can be a double-edged sword, as there’s potential for complacency to settle in.  They’re still chasing the Packers for the top seed in the NFC, but Green Bay doesn’t look like they’re losing anytime soon, with games against Oakland, Kansas City, and Chicago.  We’ve seen a tendency where the teams that go into the postseason on fire carry that momentum throughout January.  We’ve also seen teams lock up positioning with a week or two remaining, become rusty after their bye week during the Wild Card round, only to lose to the hotter team in the Divisional round.  Potentially projecting a bit on my part, but as far as the present goes, Alex Smith looks to be developing a rapport with Michael Crabtree, which will greatly help balance the offensive attack.  Frank Gore would probably appreciate having fewer defenders in the box.

Packers Strike Again-The Giants played them down to the wire, as Eli Manning led a game-tying drive with under a minute to go.  Aaron Rodgers proved to be too much once again, throwing for 369 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Arguably their toughest test remaining on their regular season schedule, Rodgers and Co. seem headed for a 16-0 regular season, barring some unforseen circumstances.  The MVP award also looks to be all but locked up.  In other news, Brett Favre is surprised that Rodgers and Green Bay didn’t reach 12-0 faster.

Texans Carry On-Apparently it doesn’t matter who plays quarterback for the Houston Texans.  When you have a workhorse running back and a top defense, your quarterback has the luxury of playing the role of game manager.  T.J. Yates, the third-stringer for Houston, was serviceable in his first start as the Texans held off the Atlanta Falcons, 17-10.  Yates was helped by Arian Foster, who ran for 111 yards and a touchdown, along with the defense who held the Falcons offense to 70 yards rushing.  Andre Johnson went down with an injury to his other hamstring, though this injury doesn’t appear to be as serious.  Despite the injury-bug, Houston is tied for the top seed in the AFC.  With their four remaining games against Carolina, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Tennessee, Houston has the potential to finish 13-3, their best regular season mark in franchise history.  If Houston has Super Bowl plans, they’ll have to do so going against the grain.  In a league dominated by aerial assaults, Houston’s winning formula will be reliant on a defense to go with a heavy rushing attack.

Jets Keep Pace-The Jets are in a tight spot right now, fighting for the last Wild Card spot with Tennessee, Denver (how we’ll never know), and Cincinnati.  The one thing New York has going for them is their schedule, the weakest amongst the teams mentioned.  That being said, the Jets have been known to not show up on game day every so often.  Midway through the fourth quarter, it looked to be just that as the Jets trailed the Redskins, 16-13.  Then, shocking us all, the offense showed signs of life, after appearing to be half asleep for most of the game.  The final score, 34-19, indicates a wallop, but the Jets were messing around for the first 55 minutes, and nearly gave this game away.  When you’re facing Rex Grossman, you’re never out of a game. 

Bears In Trouble-Jay Cutler breaks the thumb on his throwing hand, so the Bears just resort to an even heavier workload for Matt Forte.  Forte then leaves the game with a sprained MCL, which leaves the Bears with either Caleb Hanie to air it out or Marion Barber to flash back to his Dallas Cowboy days when he could muster more than 3.7 yards per carry.  The result was to be anticipated, as a field goal was all the Bears could put on the scoreboard.  Then take into account that it was against the Chiefs and you thought maybe that would be enough for Chicago to win the game.  Except Kansas City snapped their touchdown drought, which had been 3 games, on a hail mary pass before halftime, to win, 10-3.  The Bears are tied with the Falcons at 7-5 for the last playoff spot and only a game up on the Giants.

Tebowing Again-I wish I could offer you some explanation for Tim Tebow being 6-1 since being inserted into the starting lineup.  A 35-32 victory over the Minnesota Vikings was Tebow’s latest display of being a winner.  I  can’t take that away from him, but it’s hard to see that translating at the quarterback position where so much lies in the hands of that player.  If Tebow were a skill player who had his number called a handful of times for a particular role, I could make sense of that.  I could focus on the fact that Minnesota’s defense is atrocious while their run defense is much better, explaining Tebow’s 13 yards rushing, but 202 yards and 2 touchdowns on 10 completions.  Not yet sold on what is going on in Denver despite being tied for first in the AFC West, I look at Denver’s 6-1 run like I would the guy at the blackjack table who keeps hitting on 19 and scoring that 2.  Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Ravens Break Trend-A Cleveland Browns victory today would’ve been fitting given the Ravens pattern this season.  Take down a big-time opponent one week, lose to a doormat the following week.  Coming off a big win over the 49ers, a let down against the Browns had to be a concern for Head Coach John Harbaugh.  Whatever he told them before the game, he should probably stick with that routine, as the Ravens took care of business, 24-10.  Another troubling trend we’ve seen with the Ravens was avoided as Ray Rice had 29 carries for 204 yards and a touchdown.

Lights, Cam, Action-The Carolina Panthers aren’t going anywhere this season.  But they won’t have to look hard to find optimism about the direction their franchise is headed.  After an offseason with many doubts and questions about his ability to be a franchise quarterback, Newton has squashed that talk as Newton led a blowout win over Tampa Bay, 38-19.  Newton ran for 3 more touchdowns, giving him 13 rushing touchdowns, a new record for quarterbacks.  Surround this man with a young receiver to grow with him and a defense that won’t rank near the bottom of the pack, it won’t be long before Carolina returns to the postseason.

Cowboys Fade Late-Nothing feels worse than calling a timeout to freeze a kicker who misses the first kick, only to make the second kick because of your strategy.  Except when you call a timeout when your kicker makes the first kick, only to miss the second.  Head Coach Jason Garrett pulled off just that as Dallas lost, 13-19, in overtime to the Arizona Cardinals.  Garrett said he was concerned about a potential bad snap as players were still settling into their position when he called timeout, but this is a game he’d like to have against a weak Cardinals team.

Colts Lose, But Win-A three-touchdown underdog, the Colts stood no chance to win this game.  Unless of course, Peyton Manning put a helmet and pads on.  That didn’t happen, but Indianapolis covered that spread and scored many garbage-time points to make the final score seem competitive in defeat, 31-24.  It wasn’t that competitive, but credit the Colts for trying and padding fantasy stats along the way.

Posted on: December 1, 2011 8:12 pm

In The Trenches: Week 12 Thoughts

Primetime 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 14, 2011 12:25 am

In The Trenches: Week 10 Thoughts

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

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