The theme of this week was clearly upsets, with the biggest being the Oakland Raiders knocking off the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs knocking off the Pittsburgh Steelers. Just missed upsets were Washington versus Dallas (go figure, Washington is a lousy offensive team) and the Ravens versus the Colts, as the Ravens just shot themselves in the foot, three times.
Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans has taken over Adrian Peterson’s spot as my top running back in the league and gets serious consideration for league MVP. Without his unbelievable running talent, the Titans are still winless.
Matthew Stafford coming into the game after separating his shoulder and throwing the winning touchdown pass was one of the gutsiest things I have seen in a long time. Wow.
If I were doing an NFL Power Ranking my top team very well may be the Minnesota Vikings, even though the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts are undefeated. The Vikings have a much better defense than either of those two teams and an almost equally potent offense.
Denver continues to fold.
GAMES I WATCHED
This was an extremely important win for the Patriots given we lost last week to the Colts and face the undefeated New Orleans Saints next Monday night. And it certainly helps our chances for a second seed in the playoffs with the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers both losing this week.
Clearly the Patriots are a better team now than they were when they faced the Jets the second week of the season. The first half featured more running and short screens to slow down the blitz, and the offensive line played much better than the last time these teams met.
The Jets, frankly, don’t seem as good as they were earlier in the season. Mark Sanchez is a now playing like the rookie he is, looking confused and befuddled at times. Don’t get that comment wrong, however. I think he will be a solid NFL quarterback with experience. Even Joe Flacco (Ravens) and Matt Ryan (Falcons) who set somewhat of a standard last year for rookie quarterbacks are struggling a bit in their second season. But the Patriots are on the rise and the Jets are falling off the map.
The Patriots dominated this game from start to finish. Other than a blocked punt that netted the Jets an easy touchdown, the Patriots had the Jets’ number all day long. The offense seemed to go into a bombs away mode in the second half and got away from running the ball and the short passing game, which resulted in having a tougher time with the blitz and our offense didn’t do much in second half. But neither did the Jets.
Patriots’ cornerback Leigh Bodden came away with three interceptions, one which he returned for the first touchdown of the game. But Wes Welker had a monster game with 15 catches for 192 yards.
The Patriots better stick with the run and short passing game longer next week against the New Orleans Saints if they hope to win.
MVP: Wes Welker, WR
Miami Dolphins over Carolina Panthers, 24-17
Even without Ronnie Brown running the Wildcat offense I thought the Dolphins could beat the inconsistent Panthers with their solid running game. While they didn’t run the Wildcat nearly as often, they did hand the ball off to Rickey Williams who stepped up with 119 yards rushing and two touchdowns, which included a nifty 46 yard scoring run to put the game away in the fourth quarter.
Both of these teams played decent games but Carolina is a team that befuddles me. They have great running backs, a top flight receiver in Steve Smith, and a rather solid defense, mostly. But they are a mediocre to poor team at best. Oh yeah, they also have Jake Delhomme at quarterback, so never mind. It all makes sense now.
For Miami they are going to be in a real struggle to make the playoffs. It’s late in the season so maybe Ricky Williams can handle the extra workload, but he does not run the Wildcat a well as Ronnie Brown and they have a very pedestrian, non-threatening passing game. Most teams should just stack up against the run and they should be able to mostly hold the Dolphins down. But you have to give Miami credit for playing hard and making their offense work this week. Let’s see if they can keep it up.
MVP: Rickey Williams, RB
Indianapolis Colts over Baltimore Ravens, 17-15
What is wrong with the Baltimore Ravens? They have a very good football team but just cannot close the show. They had three excellent opportunities to win this game, but blew all three of them. Really, the Ravens should be sick about this loss. They could have easily won this game.
They did get rid of their lousy kicker who kept missing easy field goals. Their new kicker Billy Cundiff made some of the field goals he hit a bit heart stopping, but missed one wildly. But his miss appeared to be the fault of the snapper or holder because the ball was clearly held at an odd angle. Missed field goal, lose by two points. Bang!
In the fourth quarter the Ravens had the ball first and goal from the one yard line and could not score a touchdown and had to settle for a field goal. Fourth and one from the one, with an excellent offensive line and three outstanding running backs, against a defense that does not play that well against the run, and you can’t get the touchdown???? Another blown chance to get some points and win the game. BANG BANG!
And then Flacco, again in the fourth quarter, when the Ravens were near field goal range and could have won the game, throws a stupid interception. BANG BANG BANG!
Finally, with 28 seconds left and a Colts punt, the wickedly talented Ed Reed idiotically tries to lateral the ball near midfield and fumbles. Game over. Even with no time outs and 28 seconds left, the offense had a slight chance to get a few plays off and possibly kick a game winning field goal.
The Colts are a good team, obviously, at 10-0, but they escaped once again by the skin of their teeth and the Ravens let another winnable game pass them by. The Ravens are still in the playoff hunt at 5-5 but they should be better.
A final note, where did Tom Santi the tight end for the Colts come from? The second year player from Virginia saw his first action and the poor fellow made the biggest plays in the first half but took a beating for it. Even though he fumbled once, he was jacked up by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed at the same time!! Welcome to the NFL [expletives deleted]! I’ll give him a pass on that one and give him my MVP award.
MVP: Tom Santi, TE
Philadelphia Eagles over Chicago Bears, 24-20
The Eagles had a nicely balanced attack against the Bears, with rookie LeSean McCoy picking up 99 rushing yards, and DeSean Jackson racking up 107 yards receiving, including a 48 yard touchdown. What is up with all these XxSeans? With Dallas and the Giants joining the Eagles in mediocrity, the Eagles are in good position to once again steal the NFC East crown.
Meanwhile Jay Cutler looks just flat out awful. I really don’t like Cutler after all the bad mouthing he did in Denver and his generally sulky attitude. But frankly, I am starting to feel a little sorry for him. His mechanics are just atrocious. He constantly throws off his back foot and really is just arming the ball down the field without stepping into his throws. As a result he is very inaccurate, especially on the deep passes. Plus, he is skittish in the pocket and makes poor decisions. Right now he is a poor, not average, but poor quarterback. And his body language doesn’t look good at all.
The Bears better get Jay Cutler straightened out or they are in for not only a long season but possibly a long period of losing football.
MVP: DeSean Jackson, WR
Tennessee Titans over Houston Texans, 20-17
The Tennessee Titans do not look like the same football team that laid down against the New England Patriots. They have won four straight on the legs of Chris Johnson and with Vince Young leading them at quarterback.
In addition to Chris Johnson running the ball extremely well, I love what the coaching staff is doing with Vince Young. They are calling plays and letting him play to his strength. It has already been much discussed that Young is not a great pocket passer. In this game they rolled him out often and let him make plays with both his arm and his legs. They really are playing to his strengths. While I still don’t think Young will ever be a great NFL quarterback, with a solid running game and the receivers finally stepping up and making plays, Young can be very effective the way the Titans are running their offense. And that extra dimension of Young making big plays running makes the Titans offense that much more dangerous. With four straight wins, this team has new life.
On the flip side, and I know I’ve said this a hundred times about every team that is talented but not playing up to the level of their talent, I don’t know what to make the of the Houston Texans. Solid quarterback, decent running backs, great reciever, a lot of talent on defense, but they just can’t seem to a get everything together to string together some wins.
Finally, I know Chris Johson is the MVP of this team and he ran a league high 151 yards against the Texans. But I am giving my MVP award to Rob Bironas. He hit a 50 yard field goal and a game winning 53 yard field goal, while Texan kicker Kris Brown missed his chance. I have seen too many games where the kicker has missed makeable field goals that cost their team the game. Bironas came through with two very tough, long kicks to win the game.
MVP: Rob Bironas, K
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offensive Player: Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots
Defensive Player: Leigh Bodden, CB, New England Patriots
Offensive Lineman: Jared Gaither, T, Baltimore Ravens
Special Teams: Rob Bironas, K, Tennessee Titans
Rookie of the Week: Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions