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.