GAMES I WATCHED
New England Patriots over Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 35-7
First let me talk about the Buccaneers because there really is not a lot I have to say about them. I have seen them twice this year and they are simply not a good team. They are clearly in a rebuilding phase and it will probably take a few years for them to either get a competitive team together or sink into a perennial bottom feeder. In this game Tampa Bay was simply overmatched by a better team. I will say this about Tampa Bay, they played hard to the end, unlike the Titans last week, which is a good sign for this team.
It’s really hard to evaluate where the Patriots are after losing a close game to Denver and then blowing out two bad teams in back to back weeks. The Tennessee Titans just quit and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are just not that good. But the bottom line is the Patriots are good team, but not an elite team like the Saints, Colts, Vikings, Denver, and the Steelers. At the same time they did what they had to do to win against teams they should beat and didn’t play down to the level of the competition.
There were a lot of positives to take away from this game for Patriots fans, but some red flags as well. First, the offense played really well at times but in parts of the game they were really sloppy. Brady threw two interceptions, one in the end zone taking points off the board. And the left side of the offensive line with Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer struggled at times with bad penalties. Vollmer actually played pretty well in place of the injured Matt Light at left tackle. In the third quarter he appeared to be injured and was called for holding a few times after that. Mankins had no excuse and just seemed to lose focus during parts of the second half. On the bright side rookie wide receiver Sam Aiken stepped up to the plate with a nice touchdown and Wes Welker was, well, Wes Welker, salting the game away in the second half with a series of catches that put the game away.
On defense, Brandon Meriweather had two interceptions, including a pick six at to put the first points on the board to open the game. But the Buccaneers, who are no offensive juggernaut, moved the ball very well at times, which is worrisome considering the prolific offenses New England will be facing after the upcoming bye week. I have also noticed that Vince Wilfork is not nearly the dominate force in the new 4-3 alignment as he was in the 3-4. It seems having to take on blockers from the side makes him a bit easier to move around and he simply isn’t the dominator he has been in the past. Don’t get me wrong, he is no slouch and is still a top flight defensive tackle, he just simply appears to be more effective in a 3-4. Solid tackling is also an issue for this team.
To quote another fanatic Patriots fan like myself, who summed up the game exactly the way I did:
Another feel good win. These bad teams make our defense look so good. I have to keep on reminding myself that our defense is defending against horrible offenses. I suspect that in reality, we are pretty good, but we’re not elite. We’re in that group right below the elite teams. If we make the playoffs, which I’m assuming we will somehow, we won’t be favored against Colt type teams, but we’ll be dangerous and if we peak at the right time and with a little luck, anything could happen.
And one last comment, while Brandon Meriweather had a great game with two interceptions and a touchdown, my MVP is going to Wes Welker, whose catches in the second half put the game away. He finished with 10 receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown.
MVP: Wes Welker, WR
Cincinnati Bengals over Chicago Bears, 45-10
The Bengals offensive line absolutely dominated the Bears defensive line. That, along with determined running by Cedric Benson, who netted 189 yards rushing, lead to a blow out win for the Bengals. The Bears, meanwhile, were awful on offensive and the whining Jay Cutler who thinks he’s the next coming of John Elway chunked up three interceptions, leading the Bears to a 3-3 record, mainly on the back of their defense. Kyle Orton anyone?
The Bengals look like a very solid team this year and I have no idea where this new and improved Cedric Benson has come from. In years past he has been an injury prone, contact adverse, bust of a top ten draft pick. He certainly wasn’t avoiding any contact in this game. While he had more than help from his dominate offensive line, he ran like a beast and over the Bears. The entire Bengals team, on both sides of the ball, played a physical, stellar game. The Bengals laid and egg against Houston last week, but they appear to be a team to be reckoned with this year. What a surprise.
Finally, while I know Carson Palmer played an outstanding game, the entire offense did, I am giving my MVP to Benson for his tough, determined running which was really what opened everything up for the Bengals.
MVP: Cedric Benson, RB
Arizona Cardinals over New York Giants, 24-17
I have to admit I am very surprised that the Cardinals came out of the Meadowlands with a win in this game. Last year they played so bad on the road and they have been very inconsistent this year in general. The defense made Eli Manning and the Giants receivers look bad, which isn’t always that hard to do. Eli is not the model of consistency at the quarterback position. Eli threw three interceptions and while I thought he played a poor game, his receivers were not helping him out much, getting pushed around by the Arizona cornerbacks and running poor routes.
Arizona’s defense really stepped up to the plate by stopping the running game and putting it on Eli Manning’s shoulders. Eli was not up to the challenge. As a female friend and fellow Patriots fan said of Eli: “He’s not his brother and never will be. If they ever played in the Super Bowl against each other, God forbid, Peyton will rip his heart out and show that he is, and always will be, the little brother.”
Ouch, tough words, but they ring true. It was the defense and a lucky play that won the playoff games and Super Bowl XLII. And now suddenly the running game even looks suspect.
On the other side of the coin, Kurt Warner managed to play pretty well despite that Wayne Gandy, his left tackle, couldn’t block my 88 year old grandmother. Warner has had ball security issues in the past and he was under a ton of pressure from the Giants defense the entire game. The Cardinals did establish a bit of a running game with Beanie Wells, but it was Warner that made the offense run, despite that he had to be a bit concerned about Gandy not protecting him well on the left side of the line.
At the end of the day, the Giants are the Giants. Some weeks they look great and others not so much. The Cardinals are the same way but more of a mystery to me. I don’t see them making the same kind of run they did last year, but they certainly are a dangerous offensive team when they get going and their defensive has improved. It will be interesting to see what they do the rest of the season.
This was a game ultimately won on the defensive side of the ball for the Cardinals. It’s hard to pick an MVP but I’m going with free safety Antrel Rolle who played a solid game and sealed the win with an intercepton.
MVP: Antrel Rolle, FS
Philadelphia Eagles over Washington Redskins, 27-17
The Redskins have not only proven themselves to be an awful team, they have become the laughingstock of the NFL. Yes, they have won two games against winless teams, but only barely. But other than the Tennessee Titans, they look to me to be the most anemic team in the league. At least the Lions, Rams, and Buccaneers try hard.
Jim Zorn should resign given that Redskins management has stripped him of his duties, humiliated him publically by their actions, and have effectively neutered him as a head coach and a leader of the team. Dan Snyder is the worst owner in the NFL since Victor Kiam.
I am now convinced that Jason Campbell is not an NFL caliber quarterback that can lead a team to a championship. He has always been very spotting in his decision making and mechanics, but if anything he seems to have regressed. Even when he had time to throw the ball he was jittery in the pocket, had poor mechanics, and made poor decisions. The Redskins tried to replace him in the off season. I suspect they will try even hard at the end of this season.
The Eagles won this game more because of the ineptitude of the Redskins and on two big time offensive touchdowns by the speedy, dynamic DeSean Jackson. But the Eagles appear to be a rather mediocre team themselves. I think Donovan McNabb has left his best days behind him. He had some good throws and has a big arm, but he is very inconsistent and even more inaccurate with his throws than he has been in the past. How many times is going to throw the ball into the dirt to an open receiver this year?
And what is the fascination with Michael Vick in the “Wildcat”? This is another joke. It has yet to be effective.
The Eagles defense did play well but it’s hard to say whether that was because of the Redskins offensive line, which truly is offensive to football fans, or talent. I think the Eagles defense actually is for real and with enough big plays from the offensive should keep them in the hunt in the NFC East. But I don’t consider the Eagles a great team, but a mediocre one beating a bad one.
Dallas, Philadelphia, and the New York Giants will be battling it out the rest of the season for the NFC East crown. Dallas looks ascendant at the moment after last week’s game, but they too have been very inconsistent and vulnerable. The Giants have been considered by most the odds on favorite but even when they were undefeated I wasn’t seeing it. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out in the end.
MVP: DeSean Jackson, WR
Leon Washington: Leon Washington suffering a serious injury, breaking his fibula so bad the bone was sticking out, makes me feel really bad. Despite that he plays for the team I dislike the most, the New York Jets, he is a dynamic player on special teams, as a change of pace back alongside Thomas Jones, and he seems to be make excellent plays at the most critical moments. He has killed the Patriots in the past with his return yards and converting third downs to first downs on touch or difficult plays. I admire Leon Washington and regret his injury and hope he is able to come back.
Poor Offensive Tackle Play: And can’t recall seeing more poor performances by offensive tackles than I have seen this year. I’d like to call out some players for really poor play.
Wayne Gandy of the Cardinals has been awful every time I have seen him.
Stephon Heyer of the Washington Redskins, now playing left tackle, has also been a liability to the team. He is a good run blocker but not a good pass blocker. Ironically, he played better against the Eagles this week but Campbell did his offensive line no favors by stepping into coverage or playing poorly when he had plenty of time to throw.
Orlando Pace was just atrocious against the Bengals and has been in the few games I’ve seen the Bears play this year. It is shame because he was, at one time, one of the best tackles in the league. His injuries and age have clearly caught up with him.
Flozell Adams of the Dallas Cowboys is the most irritating tackle. He is not longer a great blocker and gets call for holds and false starts frequently. Of course his tripping of Justin Tuck is just an example of how he survives.
New Orleans Saints: This team is for real! I have them ranked as the number one team in the league right now. Can they go undefeated? I frankly don’t think they can but the moxie they showed in coming back against Miami is impressive and scary for the rest of the league.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offensive Player: Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati
Defensive Player: Antrel Rolle, FS, Arizona Cardinals
Offensive Lineman: Evan Mathis, G, Cincinnati Bengals
Special Teams: Percy Harvin, WR/KR, Minnesota Vikings
Rookie of the Week: Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets