NFL 2009 Wildcard Weekend Review

OBSERVATIONS

It was a shame three teams didn’t show up for their games, the New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, and Philadelphia Eagles.

And three marquee quarterbacks put up rather poor performances, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, and Donovan McNabb.

So three out of the four games were duds.

And we had one ridiculous game between Arizona and Green Bay, where the defenses didn’t show up to play.

Weird.

Baltimore Ravens over New England Patriots, 33-14

Needless to say, for me, this was a heartbreaking game. It was over before it started and the Ravens exposed everything wrong with the Patriots this season: a predictable offense, no running game, poor play calling, and a young defense that seems to wander around the field aimlessly at times.

I really thought the Patriots would win a close contest here but the offensive game plan was atrocious and the opportunistic Ravens defense took full advantages. The four turnovers, along with Ray Rice’s 80 plus yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage is really the story of the game.

I’m not so sure the Ravens were so great, as much as it was the Patriots were so poor. They ran roughshod over the Patriots and Joe Flacco didn’t have to throw very many passes to win this one.

I find it humorous how all the Patriots haters (and non-haters) are harping over how the dynasty is over. HELLO! The dynasty was over pretty much last year. Few players from the three Super Bowl wins this decade are still there. It’s hard to stay on the top of the heap for very long in this era.

I’ll write a Patriots retrospective later, not here. But suffice it to say, it’s pretty clear we were not a great team this year and has some gaping holes, and the Ravens took full advantage of all of them.

MVP: Ray Rice, RB

Dallas Cowboys over Philadelphia Eagles, 34-14

Just like last week the Eagles didn’t show up for this game. McNabb played a lousy game and the defense gave nearly 200 yards on the ground, which helped Tony Romo have a fine day passing. This was all around a pretty disappointing matchup for a playoff game. The Eagles, who seemed to be on a roll late in the season, fell flat when it counted most, as usual.

MVP: Felix Jones, RB

New York Jets over Cincinnati Bengals, 24-14

This game wasn’t even as close as the score. For the second week in a row the Cincinnati Bengals played like it was preseason. What a woeful and embarrassing end to the season for the Bengals after such a promising start. Despite some of the injuries they suffered, especially on defense, it’s inexcusable to seem so lifeless and pathetic in the playoffs. Ironically, the only Bengal that actually showed up to play was oft maligned, and fairly so, Cedric Benson, who ran the ball like it was a playoff game. Too bad the rest of this teammates kept their game in the locker room.

And Carson Palmer was just flat out horrible in this game, while Chad Ochostinko let himself get punked again by Darrelle Revis, the Jets outstanding cornerback.

As for the Jets, what can you say? They got three passes in a row, and one in the playoffs. Mark Sanchez had a nice game, but didn’t have to do much but hand the ball off and watch his defense take care of business.

You have to take a big hat off to Jay Feely, the Jets placekicker, who had to kick and punt after the Jets punter Steve Weatherford had an accelerated heartbeat and was a scratch.

Jets running back Shonn Greene had a nice day with 135 yards rushing, but my hat is off to Darrelle Revis and the Jets defense.

MVP: Darrelle Revis, CB


Arizona Cardinals over Green Bay Packers, 51-45 OT

I don’t know why people call a game like this, where the defenses are so pathetic it’s embarrassing an unprofessional, an “instant classic.” Yes, it was entertaining and came down to an overtime turnover by the Packers for the Cardinals to pull it off. But a great game? Hardly.

Frankly, I hate seeing games where every time the offense touches the ball it scores. It’s boring. And the second half after the Packers settled down, that is exactly what happened. I seriously, literally, got bored in the second half because I already knew what was going to happen when the offenses took the field.

But of course, the last play of the game with the sack and fumble by Green Bay is why we watch the game right? Who knows what will really happen on any given play.

Kudos to both Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers for their performances in this game. I’ve become a fan of Rodgers the way he has taken over for Brett Favre with all the pressure that entails, and then getting behind in his first playoff game and having the poise to come back.

MVP: Kurt Warner, QB


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Defensive Player: Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets
Offensive Lineman: Alan Faneca, G, New York Jets
Special Teams: Jay Feely, K/P, New York Jets

2009 NFL Season: Week 14

OBSERVATIONS

As of this writing, Chris Henry, wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals has passed away in an accident precipitated by a domestic dispute. He was 26 years old. He has had a history of problems and confrontations, which is unfortunately the only thing I know about him off the football field.

The theme of this week has to be big play by wide receivers. Huge days were turned in by:

Andre Johnson of Houston (11 catches, 193 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Brandon Marshall of Denver in a losing effort who set an NFL record for receptions in a game with 21 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
DeSean Jackson of Philadelphia (6 catches, 178 yards, 1 touchdown), who also had a 72 yard punt return.

Great days were also turned in by Wes Welker (New England), Vincent Jackson (San Diego), Greg Camarillo (Miami), and Hakeem Nicks (New York Giants)

New England Patriots over Carolina Panthers, 20-10

Sloppy play, including two turnovers that resulted in points, kept this game close for the Panthers, but the Patriots ultimately prevailed. There seems to be a lot of turmoil with the Patriots. Randy Moss had a bad game and afterward, Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble called Moss a quitter. Moss sure played like he was sulking and seemed to be completely out of it. Not only did he look like he was quitting on routes (one which resulted in an interception), he fumbled the ball and jumped off sides. I am giving Moss the benefit of the doubt. Everyone has bad games.

Adelius Thomas, on the other hand, needs to shut up and play ball instead of being a punk. Derrick Burgess got sent home last week too and came out and had an excellent game. Of course since Thomas is sitting on a fat contract I guess he is sitting pretty and doesn’t have to play well and can be a malcontent.

As usual, Wes Welker had a monster game and brought it home. Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about Wes being a candidate for NFL MVP?

MVP: Wes Welker, WR

GAMES I WATCHED

Cleveland Browns over Pittsburgh Steelers, 13-6

How the mighty have fallen. Pittsburgh is all but out of the playoff race after losing to a third very bad team in as many weeks. I am shocked, frankly, at how the Steelers have seemed to just fall apart this year. Cleveland did play one of its best games defensively, but still, to see the Steelers not only make the Chiefs, Raiders, and Browns look like legitimate NFL teams, but actually lose to them, is just stunning.

Cleveland’s defensive coordinator Rob Ryan really brought the dogs after Big Ben, who was sacked eight times. And unlike many games, instead of Ben escaping and making a big play, the Browns slammed him to the turf. There was no escaping for Big Ben or the Steelers this night.

Despite the win, and that Cleveland played with some heart, I’m not convinced this will be a good team anytime soon.

MVP: Josh Cribbs, WR

Minnesota Vikings over Cincinnati Bengals, 30-10

I actually thought this would be a tight game given the Bengals running game and stout defense, but it just wasn’t to be. The Vikings played well on both sides of the ball but the defense really stepped it up a notch or two.

And those who say Jared Allen isn’t a defensive player of the year candidate because of his stats don’t watch football too much. This guy is double and triple teamed on many plays and as a result opens up the game for the rest of the defensive line. The only game I’ve seen Allen single handedly shut down was against the Arizona Cardinals.

Antoine Winfield returned after six weeks out and he returned with a vengeance. He was the real difference maker on defense. He is one of my favorite non-Patriots players in the league. This little guy comes up and blasts you. I wonder if wimpy players like Asante Samuel are embarrassed of themselves after watching Winfield lay the wood on people.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati more or less proved in this game they are in the middle of the pack with a group of average teams in the AFC.

MVP: Antoine Winfield, CB

San Diego Chargers over Dallas Cowboys, 20-17

I don’t like Dallas and like to see them lose, but not to San Diego. Dallas continues its December woes and could end up missing the playoffs again if they can’t string together some wins. They have the talent to win but seemingly not the moxie to get it together enough to put away the good teams.

And San Diego, unfortunately, to me is the real team to beat in the AFC. Once the playoffs start, the Colts disappear and San Diego has already proven they can beat the Colts in Indianapolis in the playoffs. They’ve done it before and if it happens this year, they’ll do it again. Philip Rivers is hot, Antonio Gates is rediscovering his form, and even LaDanian Tomlinson is getting into the act. Add to that one of the better receivers in the league in Vincent Jackson and a much improved defense, you have a solid foundation going into the playoffs. They could be scary. In fact, right now, I think they are Super Bowl bound. GAG!

MVP: Vincent Jackson, WR

Philadelphia Eagles over New York Giants, 45-38

This was a wild, crazy game with ups and downs for both teams. While I am a bit of a throwback who loves the lower scoring defensive struggles, this game was quite entertaining. Both defenses kept giving up huge plays, which kept the Giants in the game after getting down 14-0 early.

Philadelphia now looks to be in the driver’s seat in the NFC East with Dallas continuing their losing ways in December.

DeSean Jackson was the star of the day with six catches for a 178 yards and a touchdown, to go along with his 72 yard punt return for a touchdown. And even Michael Vick looked good with a few runs and a nice pass.

I think the Eagles, like the Colts, are likely to give it up in the playoffs. But they are not a team anyone should take lightly.

MVP: DeSean Jackson, WR

San Francisco 49’ers over Arizona Cardinals, 24-9

The Cardinals shit their pants against the 49’ers with seven turnovers. There’s not much more to say about why they lost this game. They started early with a fumble by Tim Hightower in the Red Zone , and the contagion continued the rest of the game. After looking like the Super Bowl team from a year ago against the Minnesota Vikings last week, on the road they just couldn’t hold onto the ball.

I feel sorry for the Arizona defense. Even though they gave up 167 yards to Frank Gore, they didn’t play that badly. They just found themselves constantly, and unexpectedly, back out on the field.

And while Frank Gore had a great game, it was the Cardinals’ turnovers that sealed the deal, so my MVP goes to free safety Dashon Goldson, who was instrumental in three of them. Also hats off to Patrick Willis who is one of the best, and some might argue the best, middle linebacker in the league this year.

MVP: Dashon Goldson, FS


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Brandon Marshall, WR Denver (Who set NFL Record with 21 receptions in a game, (200 yards))
Defensive Player: Brian Orakpo, LB, Washington Redskins
Offensive Lineman: Kris Dielman, G, San Diego Chargers
Special Teams: DeSean Jackson, WR/KR, Philadelphia Eagles
Rookie of the Week: Brian Orakpo, LB, Washington Redskins


Wes Welker!!

2009 NFL Season: Week 13

OBSERVATIONS

At the start of the season most people expected the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, and New England Patriots to be in the thick of the Super Bowl chase along with the Indianapolis Colts. Instead, none of those three teams look like particularly good teams.

There is a reasonably good chance the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts could go 16-0. Amazing.

Miami Dolphins over New England Patriots, 22-21

Since when did the New England Patriots become a team that doesn’t show up for the second half of football games? Since when did Tom Brady become an average quarterback who throws dumb interceptions? Since when did it become a bad idea to kick a field goal on fourth down in the red zone? Since when did New England’s defense look toothless and unable to stop anyone when it counts? Since when did offensive football mean throwing long passes every play? Since when did New England become a mediocre team? I guess I saw it coming and just didn’t want to recognize it.

Furious might be the best way to describe my feelings after losing this game. The offensive play calling is a joke. I’d like to see Charlie Weiss come in and take over his old role as offensive coordinator and play caller. Yes we can hit the bombs and big plays, but not consistently, and it seems never in the second half of games when we need a score. And Tom Brady’s interception to Moss in the end zone when he was double covered was just atrocious.

And the defense? This looks, and really kind of is, the type of defense you would see on a totally rebuilding team or an expansion team. I don’t know what the average age or years of experience is on the defense but it is clearly very young with mostly players with limited experience. I don’t think I have ever seen a Bill Belichick coached team play defense so poorly.

While Miami seems to often have our number in away games even when the Patriots are at the top of their game, the performance of the Patriots the past two weeks has me down and scratching my head. Are we even as good as we were last year?

If the ship isn’t righted soon, it doesn’t matter much who we play, we could miss the playoffs (unlikely) and if we do make it get embarrassed.

Miami did a good job of hanging in the game. Hats off to Davone Bess who might put Ted Ginn, Jr. on the street next year, and Vontae Davis for his interception of Brady in the end zone. And let’s talk a little Chad Henne for a moment. This second year quarterback from Michigan is showing improvement this season and is getting a longer leash. If he keeps developing and improving, this fellow could be a very solid starter for years to come.

MVP: Davone Bess, WR

GAMES I WATCHED

New York Jets over Buffalo Bills, 19-13

This really wasn’t the most interesting game to watch. The Jets played reasonably well on both sides of the ball and came out with a nice win. This keeps them a game behind the Patriots in the AFC East now that the Patriots have lost two in a row. The big story in the game, of course, was quarterback Mark Sanchez injuring his right knee when sliding head first for a first down. He already dinged up his left knee earlier in the year. A banged up starting rookie quarterback is not the best situation to be in at this time of year.

The Jets mostly used a solid running game by Thomas Jones to control the game. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis continues to impress shutting down Terrell Owens.

MVP: Darrelle Revis, CB

New Orleans Saints over Washington Redskins, 33-30 OT

I felt sorry for the Washington Redskins after this game. The Redskins have had an insane season with their coach being punked and basically demoted by the owner, squabbling among players, notably Clinton Portis who has always been a head case, and now really is one now that he is on IR with a concussion, and just horrible offensive production. Now with some backups playing with heart and a defense that has always been solid, they are actually playing very competitively. They just aren’t winning.

I’ve heard the word snake bitten describing the Redskins after this game and I have to say that is exactly what I was thinking as well. They didn’t lose this game by bad play, really, just some unlucky breaks.

Four plays really defined this game. Near the end of the first half the Saints’ punter Thomas Morstead badly shanks the kick and the Redskins gunner is helpless as he can’t see where the ball is and it hits him on the shoulder. The Saints recover the live ball in good field position. Really bad. But eureka! Defensive back Kareem Moore intercepts Drew Brees on third down and is running it back to midfield. Oops! He is stripped by wide receiver Robert Meachem who runs it for a touchdown to tie the game at 17 at halftime.

The Redskins shook off their misfortune and came out to play an excellent second half of football. The offense moved the ball well and built a ten point lead in the third quarter. But alas, you aren’t going to hold the Saints offense down forever and Shaun Suisham missed an easy 22 yard kick that could have won the game for them. He has since been cut. See ya!

After hanging on to a tie going into overtime, the Redskins won the toss. Having moved the ball well all day long, after the kickoff I thought they had a great chance to get into field goal range for a win (if the kicker doesn’t botch it again). Alas, Mike Sellers fumbles the ball again giving the Saints a short field, game over.

At least the Redskins played hard and showed heart. Other than the miscues it may have been their best game of the season. Redskins linebacker London Fletcher should be a shoe in for the Pro Bowl. He has played well all season.

Will the Saints go undefeated?

MVP: Robert Meachem, WR

New York Giants over Dallas Cowboys, 31-24

The Dallas Cowboys simply cannot seem to get their act together, especially in December. There are a lot of Jekyll and Hyde teams this year, but Dallas might be the most odious of them all. They have talent but just can’t perform when it counts most. They had decent play for the most part but missed filed goals by Nick Folk and a punt return for a touchdown by the Giants, which was less the punt returner being great than it was awful tackling by the Cowboys, doomed them.

The Giants had a great day from wide receiver Steve Smith with six catches for 110 yards. They are barely still in the playoff hunt.

MVP: Steve Smith, WR

Arizona Cardinals over Minnesota Vikings, 30-17

This was a very impressive win by the Arizona Cardinals who looked a lot like the team that went to the Super Bowl last year. Even those who thought the Cardinals might win this game had to be surprised by the way they dominated the Vikings on both sides of the ball. The Vikings defensive player of the year candidate, defensive end Jared Allen, was a non-factor, while the Cardinals offense simply rolled all night long on the arm of Kurt Warner and the receiving of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

The Cardinals defense also turned in an excellent performance. They were able to limit Adrian Peterson to 46 yards rushing and harass Brett Favre into two interceptions. This was the way the Cardinals defense played last year when they made their Super Bowl run. I don’t know if the Cardinals will keep this level of play up, but for this week they looked like one of the better teams in the league.

MVP: Larry Fitzgerald, WR

Green Bay Packers over Baltimore Ravens, 27-14

The Baltimore Ravens are just awful on offense. It may be partially the play calling but the only production they get is from Ray Rice. Receivers Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton give them very little in the passing game and Todd Heap seems past his prime a productive receiving tight end. On top of that Joe Flacco threw some stupid interceptions, especially the one in the red zone in the fourth quarter.

Green Bay, on the other hand, looked good on offense and defense. Aaron Rodgers has established himself as a premier NFL quarterback. The entire defense also played well, particularly linebackers A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews, Jr. and cornerback Charles Woodson. The veteran Woodson has played so well this year he should be on the short list of defensive player of the year candidates.

And of course anyone who watched this game knows how crazy it was. There were flags every few moments, mostly for pass interference. This game featured 310 yards in penalties, tied for second most in NFL history. Crazy.

Overall, despite all the penalties, the Packers simply outplayed the Ravens on both sides of the ball from start to finish.

MVP: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Robert Meachem, WR, New Orleans Saints
Defensive Player: Clay Matthews, Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers
Offensive Lineman: Levi Brown, RT, Arizona Cardinals
Special Teams: Domenik Hixon, WR/KR, New York Giants
Rookie of the Week: Clay Matthews Jr., LB, Green Bay Packers

2009 NFL Football Season: Week 7

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


OTHER OBSERVATIONS

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

 

2009 NFL Football Season: Week 3

OBSERVATIONS

Chad Pennington: Chad Pennington is one of the classiest players in the NFL and I hated to hear that he has yet another shoulder injury. I strongly suspect we’ve seen the last of Pennington as a viable starter in the NFL, which is a shame because he is a real winner.

The Wildcat: So far I have only seen the Miami Dolphins run the Wildcat offense successfully. I think the Wildcat is a passing fancy, although we continue to see it in certain situations. We’ve already had versions of this in the past with players like Kordell Stewart, so I limited situations this will continue. As a viable, oft used offensive set, I just don’t see it having legs in the long run.

Felix Jones: The Cowboys exciting, fast, play making running back, who injured his ACL last year, has yet another knee injury. This makes me wonder if he will ever stay healthy enough to have a consistent impact for the Cowboys.

New England Patriots over Atlanta Falcons, 26-10

New England’s offense is still a work in progress. Brady is clearly still rusty with his timing, rhythm, and accuracy, but I am confident this will improve throughout the year. We finally got our running game going. As I mentioned last week, we really need to utilize the backs on our roster and establish a successful running game to keep defenses from pinning their ears back and going after Brady. Look what happened to the Cardinals against the Colts!

The young defense is playing surprisingly well so far. It will be interesting to see how this unit progresses as the season unfolds.

We really, really needed this win given we have the Baltimore Ravens coming to town.

MVP: Fred Taylor, RB

GAMES I WATCHED

Detroit Lions over Washington Redskins, 19-14

I have to admit I loved watching the Redskins lose and the Lions finally win a game. Matthew Stafford did a great job in the pocket and appears to be a player, with improvements in accuracy and touch, who will be around for a long time. What was most impressive to me about the Lions is that they did not fold late in the game when the Redskins hit a big play to Santana Moss for a touchdown. Last year the team would have probably folded up the tent and lost but they did not panic and closed the show. This was a very impressive showing for the Lions.

The Redskins, on the other hand, continue to look lost on offense and are not generating big plays on defense. And even though Albert Haynesworth is not playing like a $100 million man, his loss to injury in first half hurt the defense.

Congratulations Detroit.

MVP: Matthew Stafford, QB

New Orleans Saints over Buffalo Bills, 27-7

The Saints may be the best team in the NFC but I was not quite as impressed with them in this game. As with most teams this year, it’s really the teams that run the ball effectively that have had the most success on offense, even if its’ a team that still ends up passing far more than running. It was really Pierre Thomas’s second half 126 yards rushing that salted away the game for the Saints.

The Bills are an enigma to me. On the offensive side of the ball they have the personnel to score more than they are. The Saints may have an improved defense but they are not stalwarts on that side of the ball. Their two best receivers, Terrell Owens and Lee Evans, were not even factors in the game. They have an effective running game but they have to get points. I think the Bills need new leadership and Dick Jauron should be out after this season if they don’t show some improvement.

MVP: Pierre Thomas, RB

Indianapolis Colts over Arizona Cardinals, 31-10

I know Arizona is a passing team but they did just the opposite of what you need to do to beat the Indianapolis Colts – run the ball. Granted, Tim Hightower and Chris Wells have fumbleitis but going into a shot gun formation and passing every down plays right into the hands of the Colts’ defense. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are not that great against the run (and therefore I do not consider either a premier defensive end) but they are outstanding pass rushers. By getting behind and not running the ball, they allowed Freeney to run free, and harass Kurt Warner. It was ugly. Wayne Gandy, the left tackle assigned to Freeney, is the goat of the game and was schooled. Why the Cardinals didn’t give him help when they realized Gandy was not going to be able to block Freeney is a real head scratcher. And to top it off the Cardinals turned the ball over twice in the red zone that the Colts turned into points for huge swings in momentum.

Peyton Manning was his usual brilliant self. He appears to be playing about as well as I have ever seen him play. The Colts offense took advantage of the Arizona turnovers and the defense took advantage of the Cardinal game plan with their excellent pass rushing ends. The Colts offense looks to be the best in the league at this juncture.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

Dallas Cowboys over Carolina Panthers, 21-7

This was really kind of sloppy looking game for the most part. The Panthers are not impressive on offense and gave up huge running plays on defense. The Cowboys won the game, but they too don’t look like the offensive juggernaut some expected them to be. Both Tony Romo and Jake Delhomme have had rough starts to their season. I don’t think we will see Romo benched but I won’t be surprised to see Delhomme benched in favor of Matt Moore, or even A.J. Feeley, before the season is out.

MVP: Tashard Choice, RB

 

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis

Defensive Player: Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis

Offensive Lineman: Carl Nicks, G, New Orleans Saints

Special Teams: Darren Sproles, KR, San Diego Chargers

Rookie of the Week: Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions