2010 NFL Football Season: Week Ten Observations

General Observations

Michael Vick. I hereby officially and unequivocally eat my words. When Michael Vick took over the starting job for the Philadelphia Eagles I said he would never be more than a running quarterback. I predicted he would look brilliant at times and has a cannon for an arm but would make bad throws and poor decisions just like he did in Atlanta not allowing the Eagles to get over the hump. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When Vick has been healthy he is the best quarterback in the league. He brings an unprecedented threat of the run at the quarterback position but now makes good decisions in the pocket and throws the ball more accurately than I ever saw from him in the past. He has always had an unbelievable arm. The only reason he didn’t make my Midseason All Pro team is because he missed too many games because of injury. Were I picking the team after Philadelphia and Vick embarrassed the Washington Redskins I’d go Vick, Brady, Manning (Peyton). I must say that I have a hard time getting over his abuse of poor dogs, but he has been simply amazing this year when healthy.

Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys showed up against the Giants after being railed on in the press all week about being quitters. I wonder how long it will last?

Brett Favre. Brett Favre stunk, throwing three interceptions in the Vikings loss to the Bears. Now he says he needs an MRI on shoulder. I wonder what excuse he will come up with next. Brad Childress is gutless or Favre would be on the bench. Neither Childress or Favre are likely to be back next year with the Vikings.

Terrell Suggs. Suggs should keep his fat, ugly, slobbery lips closed and quit making a fool of himself. Shut up already.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Pittsburgh Steelers, 39-26

I was really worried last week that the embarrassing loss to the Cleveland Browns exposed our young defense for what it really has been all year, a bit undisciplined, a bit out of place, and at times a bit soft. This game proved otherwise. As in the game with the Minnesota Vikings the Patriots defense played tough, hardnosed, disciplined football, while the offense found some rhythm, built a lead, and never looked back.

The offensive line of the Patriots played a wonderful game. Left tackle Matt Light has struggled more than I am used to seeing this year but he did a great job against James Harrison. Granted he often had a little help from Algae Crumpler and the Steelers attempted to play more coverage than blitz, nevertheless Light handled himself well. And Logan Mankins added that little bit of toughness and meanness to the offensive line that was sorely needed against a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Overall I thought the Patriots game plan on both sides of the ball was excellent and Tom Brady played a great game. Of course you give just about any quarterback the kind of protection Brady had they are going to slice you up.

The only bothersome part of this game was the defense playing so soft in the second half keeping the Steelers in the game and making me nervous until the final seconds ticked off the clock.

MVP: Tom Brady, QB

Atlanta Falcons over Baltimore Ravens, 26-21

The Atlanta Falcons are an impressive team and will be a real threat in the playoffs. Matt Ryan is a calm, cool customer at quarterback and Roddy White is having a career year at receiver. Along with a solid offensive line, a thumper in running back Michael Turner, and a very good, solid defense, other NFC teams better take notice.

After building a 13-7 halftime lead that really should have been more, the Falcons let the Ravens back in it in the second half. Both teams hds very nice drives for touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but Atlanta had the last laugh with the last score and the win. Both teams are upper echelon teams.

Roddy White had a great outing with 12 catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner. He has always been a very good receiver but this year he is having the best of his career.

MVP: Roddy White, WR

Indianapolis Colts over Cincinnati Bengals, 23-17

Cincinnati is fun to watch, mainly because it is so comical watching them beat themselves week after week. The defense and Chad Ochostinko played well enough to win this game. Ocho was making great catch after great catch. But five turnovers, including three interceptions by Carson Palmer, one that was returned for a touchdown, just doomed the Bengals.

The Colts played well enough, especially on defense. Their offense, significantly hampered by so many injuries, was a bit mistake prone. There were a lot more dropped balls and miscues than I am used to seeing from a Colts team on offense, but they were good a lot of the time and excellent at other times.

But this game was very winnable for the Bengals. They gave up five turnovers, one an instant touchdown, and still only lost by six points. Carson Palmer was just simply horrible in the second half. And Terrell Owens, after a great outing last week, didn’t even look like he showed up for the game. He clearly short armed a few balls, one which lead to a Palmer interception.

MVP: Kelvin Hayden, CB

Dallas Cowboys over New York Giants, 33-20

You never know what is going to happen when two bitter division rivals meet. Records don’t matter. With new coach Jason Garrett at the helm and players admitting they didn’t show up last week in an utterly unprofessional, embarrassing outing against the Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys woke up and played football. The Giants, on the other hand, did their best imitation of the Dallas Cowboys this season and were just plain awful in nearly every phase of the game.

Many pundits touted the Giants as the best team in the league before this game but they have had some major clunkers this season.

Dez Bryant, the Cowboys rookie wide receiver is about the only player that has showed up week in and week out and this week as no exception.

MVP: Dez Bryant, WR

Chicago Bears over Minnesota Vikings, 27-13 (DVR)

Brett Favre’s three interceptions plus a couple of nice kick returns by the Bears’ Devin Hester doomed the Vikings to another loss. I really am sick of the Favre soap opera this year. I’ll be glad when he is finally gone.

While the Bears looked pretty decent at times in this game Cutler just doesn’t cut it for me as a quarterback. While he had a decent outing he too threw a few interceptions. While his offensive line is a struggling mightily, he doesn’t help them much as he seems to run right in to trouble. And let’s face it this team just does not have the personnel to run a Mike Martz style offense. They are not fast enough, their offensive line isn’t good enough, and they don’t frankly seem smart enough to get it done.

MVP: Devin Hester, WR/KR

Philadelphia Eagles over Washington Redskins, 59-28

This game was simply mindboggling. I don’t believe I have ever seen an offensive performance as unbelievable as the one the Eagles put up against the Redskins. From the first play from scrimmage, an 88 yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson, through a lighting quick 35-0 lead, the offense just embarrassed the Redskins. I frankly don’t know if the Eagles are this frighteningly good, or the Redskins defense just had a horrible off day.

Vick played as well both passing and running as I have ever seen a quarterback play. It was simply amazing to watch.

I will give this to the Redskins, I never throughout the game got the feeling that the team quit. They fought hard and played hard throughout. This just very clearly was not their night.

And let’s face it, as bad as McNabb has played this year, the offensive line is a disaster, he has what would be a fifth or sixth running back on most teams, he has no good receivers except maybe the aging Santa Moss and the dinged up tight end Chris Cooley. He really is in a no win situation. Now, maybe if he were a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. But he never has been, never will be.

MVP: Michael Vick, QB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Defensive Player: Kelvin Hayden, CB, Indianapolis Colts
Offensive Lineman: Max Jean-Gilles, Philadelphia Eagles
Special Teams: Devin Hester, KR/WR, Chicago Bears
Rookie of the Week: Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys

2009 NFL Season: Week 15

OBSERVATIONS

To me this was one of the weirdest weeks this season. Who would have thought the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers would be a wild, high scoring game? Who would have thought the Dallas Cowboys could overcome their December swoon to knock off the unbeaten New Orleans Saints? Who would have thought the Minnesota Vikings would put up another awful performance and be one of at least three teams that didn’t bother to show up to their games (the others being the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins)? And the Denver Broncos losing to the Oakland Raiders, a division rival, might not be quite as surprising, but really? You’re fighting for a playoff birth after going 6-0 and you’re going to lose to the Raiders?

James Harrison of the Cleveland Browns rushed for 286 yards, the third highest total in NFL history and highest total in Cleveland Browns history (held by Jim Brown with 236).

After this week if I were doing a Power Ranking my top five teams would be: Indianapolis, San Diego, Dallas, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. Dallas jumps up based on their play this week. I’m not sure they can keep it up.

Two more weeks left before the playoffs. I hope I am not subjected to any more games like the Ravens-Bears, Giants-Redskins games. They were embarrassing and boring. That is unless it’s the Patriots wiping some team off the map. That I would enjoy seeing very much.

Now on with my comments.

New England Patriots over Buffalo Bills, 17-10

After a week of getting bashed in the media, particularly Randy Moss, the Patriots came out and took care of business against the Buffalo Bills. While it may not have been a pretty, dominating performance, they got the job done. And with so many injuries on the defensive line, with most of the starters out and back-ups in, the Patriots defense should be given credit for an excellent job, even though the weather also helped. We finally generated a pass rush with Tully Banta-Cain recording three sacks. But I am not going to get overly cheerful about a win against the Bills.

The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins both lost, leaving New England with a two game lead for the division title. With two tough games against Jacksonville at home and Houston away, the Patriots really needed this win.

MVP: Tully Banta-Cain, LB

GAMES I WATCHED

Indianapolis Colts over Jacksonville Jaguars, 35-31

Jacksonville did everything they needed to do in this game to control the Colts, except win. They ran the ball well throughout, controlled the clock, picked up first downs, and put points on the board. The only problem was that Peyton Manning was on the other side of the field putting on his own show. And you really have to like the way the Jaguars responded when they would score and the Colts answered. They didn’t get down but came right back at the Colts. But ultimately, they couldn’t get the job done.

The Colts have escaped some very close calls to compile their 14-0 record. Every week they seem to find a way to put nails in the coffin of their opponent and come out on top.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

Dallas Cowboys over New Orleans Saints, 24-17Dallas played their best game of the season to give the Saints their first loss. Seriously, this is the best I have seen Dallas play all year long, particularly Tony Romo and DeMarcus Ware. Unlike most Decembers, where the Cowboys come out and gag in big games, here they put together a very impressive performance on both sides of the ball.

Dallas’ offense line dominated the Saints defense. Guard Leonard Davis was an absolute beast clearing the path on runs and screen plays and in pass protection. On the other side of the ball this was the best game I have seen DeMarcus Ware play this year. He was in Drew Brees’ face all night and picked up a couple of sacks along the way. The pressure on Brees was pivotal in slowing down the Saints’ potent offensive attack.

Tony Romo also played an outstanding game. He was a much better decision maker in the pocket than he has been in most games this year and his calm demeanor in the face of a raucous crowd and a tough opponent was impressive.

While the Saints notched their first loss of the season, I am not buying into the punditry that there is something wrong with the Saints. They are still the team to beat in the playoffs in the NFC, and that won’t be an easy task for any team. They just lost a game against a good opponent playing their best football of the year.

MVP: DeMarcus Ware, LB


Atlanta Falcons over New York Jets, 10-7

Mark Sanchez’s three interceptions doomed the Jets to defeat in a game they mostly dominated. The Jets inability to put points on the board despite moving the ball well and the turnovers doomed them. The Jets really blew an opportunity to stay apace in the hunt for a playoff birth with Denver losing to Oakland and Miami losing to Tennessee.

Mark Sanchez is really playing like the rookie quarterback he is. His interceptions were bad ones and he, along with not having a true number one receiver, is really slowing this offense down. But Jets fans should not get too down on Sanchez. So far he’s handled this season and his mistakes with class. While he may be struggling, most rookie quarterbacks do, and I see enough in Sanchez to believe he will be a solid starter for this team for years to come if he avoids injury.

MVP: Brent Grimes, CB (two interceptions)

Baltimore Ravens over Chicago Bears, 31-7

This was one of three horrible games in a row I was subjected to this weekend. The Bears and Jay Cutler played so badly it was never even a contest. Cutler threw three more interceptions and his backup, Caleb Haine, pitched up another one.

The Bears must really be scratching their heads and lamenting all the draft picks and big contract they gave up for Jay Cutler who has had a miserable year. Yes, part of the problem is his receivers and a porous offensive line, but a lot of it is Cutler does not look like a good quarterback. He makes really poor decisions and is just simply awful. I seriously wonder if the disaster of this year doesn’t lead to a coaching and maybe front office changes for the Bears this year. It’s about time they went in a new direction.

There is not much to say about the Ravens. The Bears handed them this game on a silver platter and their playoff hopes are still alive.

MVP: Domonique Foxworth, CB (two interceptions)

Carolina Panthers over Minnesota Vikings, 26-7

The Vikings put up another very bad performance in the last month and one has to wonder what this team’s chances are in the playoffs based on their play of late. It’s as if they didn’t even show up for the game, especially the offensive line. Overall it was just a sorry performance all the way around for the Vikings. One of my favorite players, cornerback Antoine Winfield got chewed up by Steve Smith and the Vikings could do nothing on offense.

And the reported rift between Brett Favre and coach Brad Childress, if it’s as deep as reports indicated, bode very badly for this team.

Carolina, on the other hand, played an excellent game on both sides of the ball. They completely shut down the Vikings running game, and at the same time put pressure on Favre, sacking him four times, and pounding him frequently.

For Carolina, hasn’t it become very clear that quarterback Matt Moore should have been starting a long time ago? I wonder how badly Jake Delhomme is really hurt. I can’t imagine him being put back in, even when healthy. Matt Moore played a solid game, along with running back James Stewart and Steve Smith. To me, this was Smith’s most electric performance of the season, going against a solid Vikings defense. I wonder what the Panthers would look like today had Moore been starting all year instead of Delhomme?

MVP: Steve Smith, WR

New York Giants over Washington Redskins, 45-12

With the announcement this week of a new General Manager, Bruce Allen, and an even more clearly lame duck coach, the Washington Redskins simply did not show up for this game. It was an ugly, embarrassing performance. I really don’t have much more to say about the game. It was mostly a despicable, unprofessional display by the Redskins.

But I have to give some major props to two players that did show up: Jason Campbell and London Fletcher. Jason Campbell has earned my utmost respect this past season. He was getting pounded on by the Giants defensive line and his offensive linemen should be ashamed of themselves. When Zorn tried to take him out of the game in the second half after being a bit injured, he showed his true grit and manhood and insisted on going back in the game. London Fletcher, on defense, seemed to be the only person who showed up, but he didn’t have much help. As usual, the $100 million man, Albert Haynesworth, had some good plays, but spent most of his time on the sideline with a little tummy ache.

I hated watching this debacle. The Giants played well but the Redskins really didn’t put up a fight. It was sad to watch.

While plenty of Giants could get the most valuable player of the game award, the game started with Ahmad Bradshaw featured on offense and moving the chains. He was the key force to building up an early lead that ballooned when most of the Redskins’ players quit.

MVP: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: James Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns, (286 yards rushing, third highest in NFL history)
Defensive Player: DeMarcus Ware, LB, Dallas Cowboys
Offensive Lineman: Leonard Davis, G, Dallas Cowboys
Specials Teams: Joshua Cribbs, KR/WR, Cleveland Browns
Rookie of the Week: Louis Delmas, S, Detroit Lions

2009 NFL Football Season: Week 8

Week 8 turned out to be a very interesting week even though the New England Patriots were on a bye.  Before delving into the games I watched, I will throw out some random thoughts on this week’s NFL action.

The Arizona Cardinals remain an enigma.  They had a nice win over the struggling New York Giants but laid an egg against the lousy Carolina Panthers.  It looks like Arizona fans are in for another topsy-turvy season from a mostly inconsistent team.  I would be shocked if they repeat their great playoff run of last year.

The New Orleans Saints are for real, for real!  They have the most dynamic offense in the league and their defense is much improved.  New Orleans and the Minnesota Vikings are clearly the class of the NFC and if the season ended today, you would have to put those two teams in the NFC championship game.  Frankly, I’m not sure who would win.

Speaking of the Vikings, poor Aaron Rodgers.  I think he is clearly one of the best quarterbacks in the league on a mediocre team.  The injuries to his offensive line have him running for his life but he still performs well.  If he played for the Vikings, he’d be doing the same thing Brett Favre is doing.

The AFC East is shaping up to be extremely interesting.  The Jets, after a hot start, have fallen back to reality and the middle of the pack.  The Miami Dolphins run the ball down everyone’s throat but their defense gives up enough big plays so it doesn’t matter.  And the Patriots, while leading the division, are still not the beast they have been in the past with a young defense and an offense that only gets truly in sync against bottom feeders like the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  This race is going to the wire, and I hope we (Patriots) come out on top.

Ted Ginn, Jr. is a bust.  I don’t care if he had two kickoff returns for touchdowns, as a top ten pick in the NFL draft he will probably be relegated mostly to special teams for much of his career.  He and Desmond Howard can share the honor.

I have called the New York Giants mediocre since the beginning of the season when everyone had them ranked as the best team in the NFL.  I guess I was right.

The Dallas Cowboys are hot right now thanks to Miles Austin and Tony Romo playing better.  I wonder when they will revert back to their choking ways?  I don’t think the Philadelphia Eagles are as good as people think they are after the last two weeks but Sunday’s matchup between these two teams will be telling.

The Tennessee Titans finally got a win against another sorry team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the St. Louis Rams finally got a win over the sorry Detroit Lions.  Both Chris Johnson and Steven Jackson are having solid seasons despite playing on awful teams.  I wonder win Tampa Bay will win one?

The San Diego Chargers are HOT! NOT!  Just because they won big two weeks in a row against pathetic teams, Chargers fans shouldn’t get their hopes up.  When they play someone their own size they will fold again, as usual.

Now on the games!

GAMES I WATCHED

Baltimore Ravens over Denver Broncos, 30-7

The Ravens were desperate for a win after three straight losses to very good teams (including the surprising Bengals) and they played like it.  This was mostly a defensive struggle until the fourth quarter when it appeared to me the Denver defense became fatigued and gave up two drives for touchdowns.  Ladarius Webb’s kickoff return for a touchdown on the first play of the second half really pumped up the Ravens and their home crowd.  Playing with a 13-0 lead really helped the Ravens, who are still primarily a running team with a great defense.

One thing that really baffles me t is why pundits and talking heads were playing up the lopsided score as if this were some type of comeuppance for Denver.  It wasn’t as if Denver didn’t look competitive in this game.  In fact, through three quarters, Denver played hard and well.  It’s just that the Ravens defense made Kyle Orton look like, well, Kyle Orton.  The Ravens set the tone for the game early on defense with a huge sack and turnover on Orton and some hard hitting, bone rattling tackles.  Denver just ran into a hyped up defense playing at home and got shut down.

Has anyone noticed how good the Ravens really are?  They lost to New England in a very close game.  Then they lost to one of the top five teams in the league, the Minnesota Vikings, in a game they could have won on a makeable missed field goal.  And then lost to a much improved Cincinnati Bengal team in the last minutes of the game.

With their balanced running attack, good quarterback, and still very excellent defense, the Ravens could make another deep run in the playoffs.  The only thing they lack is a big time, big play making receiver.  Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton are decent receivers but they don’t scare anybody.  Mark Clayton should have developed into that big time receiver the Ravens need to get over the hump, but he hasn’t.

I think Denver will very likely lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers this week and really come down to earth with two losses in a row.  But I think they are for real and will be a team to be reckoned with come playoff time.

Overall, I thought the defense was the key to the Ravens win and the leader Ray Lewis deserves the MVP.

MVP:  Ray Lewis, LB

Minnesota Vikings over Green Bay Packers, 38-26

Frankly, this game did not look much different than the last game a few weeks ago where Minnesota beat Green Bay.  The bottom line is Minnesota simply has a more all around talented team.  They have Adrian Peterson, across the board they have better receivers, they have a better offensive line, and a much better defense.  They don’t necessarily have a better quarterback.  But they do now at least have a quarterback.

All the hype, of course, was around Brett Favre returning to Lambeau Field where his legend was made and beating his old team on their (and his old) home turf.  But when the game started, it simply looked like the last game.  Aaron Rodgers played well but the Packers simply don’t have the overall talent level of the Vikings.  Until they do, or the Vikings are back to a Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels type quarterback, the Packers will be one step back pack in the NFC North.

MVP:  Brett Favre, QB

New Orleans Saints over Atlanta Falcons, 35-27

This was a wildly entertaining Monday Night game with big running plays, big passing plays, turnovers, and scores on turnovers.  The New Orleans Saints built a big 28-14 halftime lead, but the Falcons showed a lot of poise and class in coming back in the second half and making a game of it.  Matt Ryan chunked up two big interceptions (three if you include the desperation heave at the end of the game), one which was returned for a touchdown, but he showed plenty of meddle in leading his team back and making a game of it.  All around this was two very talented offensive teams duking it out.  The key difference was the Saints just have a wee bit more talent on offense.  Well, maybe a lot more talent when you consider they have four solid receivers plus Jeremy Shockey and the Falcons have only one in Roddy White plus the still outstanding Tony Gonzalez.

For Atlanta this is not a game to hang their head over.  Their defense is still solid and Roddy White has really come into his own, truly becoming the big time receiver everybody has been waiting to see (which started last year).  Michael Turner also finally turned in a huge performance with is 151 rushing yards.

Michael Jenkins, on the other hand, is a joke.  When are the Falcons going to part ways with this talented but ineffective receiver?  He has become more a liability than any kind of receiving threat.  He should be on the practice squad not the starting lineup.

While there are plenty of accolades to go around for both teams, I am giving my MVP to Saints defensive end Will Smith who schooled second year tackle Sam Baker, making him look like a punk who doesn’t belong on the field with the big boys.

MVP:  Will Smith, DE


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans, 228 yards rushing

Defensive Player: Jairus Byrd, FS, Buffalo Bills

Offensive Lineman: Steve Hutchinson, G, Minnesota Vikings

Special Teams: Ted Ginn, Jr., KR, Miami Dolphins

Rookie of the Week: Jairus Byrd, FS, Buffalo Bills

Chris Johnson

Titans running back Chris Johnson runs roughshod over the Jaguars

2009 NFL Football Season: Week 6

This is coming really late this week because I was on vacation in Miami and Key West without a computer, but I am posting it anyway.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Tennessee Titans, 59-0

“This probably doesn’t mean anything in the long run but I will take the easy win.” – fellow Patriots fan.

Before getting too excited about the great performance the Patriots put on against Tennessee let me say that Tennessee was so bad that it was not really a true test for the Patriots. Brady looked like the Brady of old and maybe this is the kind of game he needed to get his football legs under him. But Tennessee just simply seemed to fold. This was a great win for the Patriots and with the Jets losing puts New England on top in the tough AFC East. I hope we can keep it going.

What has happened to the Tennessee Titans is really beyond me. Even with injuries and weak defensive backs, especially with Courtland Finnegan out, the team on the field just simply seemed to quit, again. I thought they quit against the Colts last week, and I definitely think they quit this week. I thought Tennessee played an excellent game against Pittsburgh in the opening game of the season but lost in overtime. Since then they have regressed to an absolute mess. And it’s not Kerry Collins’ fault. He played reasonably well in the first half. His woeful statistics were a result of numerous dropped balls by his receivers. On the defensive side they simply didn’t compete. I am shocked by how far this team has fallen. A few losses at the start of the season and the team has simply folded. What is really shocking is that it is a Jeff Fisher coached team.

MVP: Tom Brady, QB

Minnesota Vikings over Baltimore Ravens, 33-31

This turned out to be a wildly entertaining game between two excellent teams. Baltimore got behind early but came storming back in the second half to almost win the game, but for a missed 44-yard field goal at the end of the game.

Minnesota played excellent on both sides of the ball for most of the game, especially Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, and Sydney Rice. Defensive end Jared Allen harassed Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco all day, but Joe stayed cooled and brought his team back in the second half.

The telling part of this game was the Minnesota defense collapsed a bit in the second half giving up big plays and scoring drives letting the Ravens back in the game. I don’t know if they got tired or the Ravens’ offense just started clicking, but it never should have been this close, as Baltimore was down 30-17 in the third quarter.

The Ravens have lost some real heartbreakers the last three weeks but they are an excellent team that should be around for the postseason. They competed hard throughout the game and came within a makeable field goal of pulling off the upset. Kudos to Flacco for being cool in the pocket and the entire team for competing hard for 60 minutes.

Adrian Peterson had 143 yards rushing but Favre was the key to the offensive attack in the passing game.

MVP: Brett Favre, QB

Atlanta Falcons over Chicago Bears, 21-14

To me the Falcons and the Bears look like to top tier teams but not teams in the very top tier. This was a reasonably well played game by both teams but the Bears blew their chance at a win with a fumble on the goal line in the third quarter that the Falcons recovered.

Matt Ryan continues to play very well and Roddy White seems to be coming on, although he has been very inconsistent in the past. Tight end Tony Gonzalez has really added a new dimension to this team and it is great to see a mostly receiving tight end who can actually block as well. This is a team I expect to improve as the year goes on.

Meanwhile, I am not sure what to make of Jay Cutler. Talent wise he should be one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but he’s not. He talks a big game about being a leader, but frankly I don’t always see that on the field. And what happened to running back Matt Forte? The Bears have gotten little out of the running game this year and Cutler really needs the treat of the run to be more effective. The Bears are a puzzling team.

Atlanta defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux forced the fumble that held the Bears out of the end zone so I am going with him as MVP.

MVP: Jonathan Babineaux, DT

Denver Broncos over San Diego Chargers, 34-23

Denver is for real. They went in and handed their archrival San Diego Chargers a home loss in the division and are in the driver’s seat to win the AFC West. Kyle Orton may not be the flashiest quarterback in the league but he’s proven he is a winner. He is an accurate short to intermediate passer and the down field blocking for the receivers opens up nice holes. The running game is also starting to make progress.

The real star of the game though was Eddie Royal, who had a punt return and kickoff return for touchdowns that basically broke the back San Diego’s back, even though Darren Sproles also had a punt return for a touchdown. I believe that is the first time I have ever seen three kick returns for a touchdown in the same quarter.

Denver is on top, I am not sure where San Diego is going to net out. Their defense is not that good and will likely cost them the playoffs if they don’t turn things around.

MVP: Eddie Royal, WR/KR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

Defensive Player: Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings

Offensive Lineman: Logan Mankins, G, New England Patriots

Special Teams: Eddie Royal, WR/KR, Denver Broncos

Rookie of the Week: Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans

2008 NFL Wildcard Weekend Review

Arizona Cardinals over Atlanta Falcons, 30-24

The matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons was one I looked forward too since these teams have not been in the playoffs recently and both have rather interesting storylines this season. Both teams looked like they belonged in the playoffs and played a hard fought, entertaining game.

Arizona played poorly the last month of the season but they have been good at home this year so going into the game I gave them the edge against a young team with a rookie quarterback. The Cardinals did exactly what I thought they needed to do to win the game. They established at least a semblance of a running game, which helped keep the pressure off Kurt Warner so the offense could move the ball. They abandoned the run in the middle of the game, but as soon as they went back to it in the fourth quarter they once again had better production on offense.

This game, however, came down to what most playoff games come down to – turnovers. Matt Ryan threw two interceptions, which hurt. But the biggest play of the game was when DT Darnell Dockett burst into the backfield causing a fumble on the handoff between Matt Ryan and Michael Turner, which Antrel Rolle returned for a touchdown. Add to that two big offensive plays on passes to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin in the first half, and a safety late in the fourth quarter, and that it was it for the Falcons.

Despite the prolific offense the Cardinals won this game on defense. The defensive line did a great job of bottling up Michael Turner and constantly seemed to be playing in the Falcons backfield. As the commentator noted at one point, it was almost as if the Cardinals defense knew the snap count. But the Falcons offensive line really let them down.

For the Cardinals the key to the game offensively, as noted earlier, was running the ball just enough to keep the defense honest. And a round of applause for Cardinal left tackle Mike Gandy for controlling Pro Bowl defensive end John Abraham for much of the game.

Despite this nice win in the playoffs, I fear the Cardinals are in for a rude awakening when they travel to Carolina. They have played awful on the road this year and they are facing one of the four best teams in football.

MVP: Darnell Dockett, DT, Arizona Cardinals

 

San Diego Chargers over Indianapolis Colts, 23-17 OT

I had a feeling the Chargers would come out of this game with a win, even though I picked the Colts after hearing LaDanian Tomlinson and possibly Antonio Gates would be unable to play. The Chargers proved they belong in the playoffs despite their 8-8 record with a gutsy performance against the Colts. They mostly outplayed the Colts but two costly turnovers almost cost them the game: one when Darren Sproles fumbled the ball out of the end zone at the one yard line taking away an almost definite touchdown, and an interception in the end zone by Philip Rivers.

Despite his fumble, Sproles had an outstanding game replacing LaDanian Tomlinson. In fact, he recorded the third highest total yardage (rushing, receiving, and returns) in NFL postseason history with 328 all-purpose yards. Frankly, though, it was the phenomenal punting by Mike Scifres that was the difference in the game. He continually boomed punts and pinned the Colts back near their goal line, leaving them a very long field to traverse for a score.

I would not call this game a choke by the Colts, even though they tend to do so in the postseason. I didn’t think Manning played a great game, especially when he was out of the pocket. But the Colts inability to establish a running game and very solid coverage of the Colts’ receivers put Manning in very tough spots. And this may be one of the least effective games I’ve seen Colts center Jeff Saturday play. He struggled against DT Jamal Williams. The Colts eventually started double teaming Williams to get the ground game going.

As well as the Chargers played against the Colts, Pittsburgh’s defense is not the Colts defense. I see the Chargers limping out of Pittsburgh licking their wounds worse than they did last time they played.

MVP: Darren Sproles, RB/KR, San Diego Chargers

 

Baltimore Ravens over Miami Dolphins, 27-9

Five turnovers, including an Ed Reed interception return for a touchdown. I really could end the game summary right there because that is it.

Going into this game I thought the Ravens defense would ravage the Dolphins and they did. Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis, and Ed Reed had their way with the Dolphins and Chad Pennington played a terrible game.

On the flip side, while they played reasonably well, the Ravens offense didn’t do much to help the cause. But they did enough to come out with a win.

Next up are the Tennessee Titans who the Ravens played very well in Baltimore earlier this year, and could have won the game but for a bad face mask call against Terrell Suggs. This time the matchup is in Tennessee and it should be quite interesting.

MVP: Ed Reed, FS, Baltimore Ravens

 

Philadelphia Eagles over Minnesota Vikings, 26-14

Of the Wildcard games this one was the least satisfying. I felt like I was watching a regular season game between two mediocre teams — at least on the offensive side of the ball.

The key difference in this game is Tarvaris Jackson just is not a good quarterback. His interception in the second quarter that Asante Samuel ran back for a touchdown really proved to be the difference in a close game.

Despite his 300 yards passing, I wasn’t too impressed with Donovan McNabb either. He did just enough to get the win, with a lot of help from his defense.

Both the defenses actually played fairly well, but they gave up big plays as well. The Eagles bottled up Adrian Peterson except for a 40 yard run in the second quarter for a touchdown and a 7-6 lead. But otherwise “All Day” was just “One Play” against the Eagles. Of course it didn’t take long for Tarvaris Jackson to chunk up his pick six to Samuels to squander the lead.

The Vikings also bottled up the Eagles Brian Westbrook most of the day. But he is not a player you bottle up for long. He broke off a 71-yard run after catch for a touchdown to make a slim 16-14 lead early in the fourth quarter a 23-14 lead. And that was the game.

I was actually rooting for the Vikings for no particular reason and thought, just maybe, they could pull it out. But with Jackson at quarterback, playing from behind, the Vikings were all but doomed.

No, I don’t think the Eagles will beat the Giants next week. But I hope they do. One Manning down, one to go.

MVP: Brian Westbrook, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Darren Sproles, RB/KR, San Diego Chargers
Defensive Player of the Week: Ed Reed, FS, Baltimore Ravens
Offensive Lineman of the Week: Mike Gandy, LT, Arizona Cardinals
Special Teams Player of the Week: Mike Scifres, P, San Diego Chargers