Review of Bill Polian’s The Game Plan

untitledBill Polian’s The Game Plan is a mixed bag for this reader. Much of what he talks about in the book is either common sense or a bit dry, especially when he goes through the process of hiring a coach or choosing Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf as the number one pick in the draft. Even the talent evaluation sections seem a bit mundane.

Where the book is most interesting and engaging is where he talks about his stints with the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, and his time building the Indianapolis Colts. His chapter on finally convincing Jim Kelly to sign and play in Buffalo and the construction of a team that went to the Super Bowl four times in a row (and lost) was quite interesting and Polian clearly has a soft spot in his heart for his tenure with the Bills and coach Marv Levy.

Equally engaging is when he talks about his time with the Colts and clearly points out the implications of the salary cap on a team’s construction. There is only so much money to go around so once the Colts decided to build a superior offense around Payton Manning, meaning you also had to spend more money on that side of the ball, the salary cap hampered what they were able to do on the defensive side of the ball. Tony Dungy was the right coach for the Colts because his defensive scheme allowed for players who didn’t need to be superstars. But nonetheless, the history of that team shows you that the defense was always we weak link with the exception of a few outstanding players.

Being an avid NFL fan I am glad I read the book but only found parts of it particularly interesting – those parts being the personal stories about the personalities and teams he was involved with.

The Game Plan: The Art of Building a Winning Football Team

2010 NFL Football Season: Week Three Observations

Tom Brady

I realize after the first three weeks of the season that what I thought I knew, I don’t know, but there some things I know that I know, at least I think so this week.

What I Thought I Knew

I was ready to anoint the Green Bay Packers one of the top teams in football going into the week and I thought Mike McCarthy was a good coach. The horribly sloppy play and penalties against the Chicago Bears and questionable decisions by McCarthy lost the game for the Packers.

I thought the Ravens had one of the best defenses in the NFL. Who would have thought they wouldn’t be able to stop the run, against the Cleveland Browns of all teams? Luckily for them the offense woke out of its slumber for a win.

I thought the San Francisco 49’ers were an up and coming team despite their losses, but they proved me wrong Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

I thought the Houston Texans might be the best team in the AFC but they got punked by Dallas’s defense.

And while I knew the St. Louis Rams would be better this year than last, I didn’t expect them to completely handle the Washington Redskins the way they did.

And finally, I have never been a big believer in Michael Vick coming back to be an effective every down quarterback. I guess he has proven me wrong, so far.


What I Think I Know

Pittsburgh has the best defense in the league and they just keep proving it. It is scary that they are 3-0 without Big Ben. Very scary.

The New England Patriots young defense is terrible, mostly in the secondary. I sure hope Bill Belichick gets that squad straightened out, soon.

Clinton Portis has seen his better days.

Philip Rivers is a whiney punk and San Diego has once again started off slowly. I’d love to see them lose the rest of their games. I am tired of Philip Rivers.

Baltimore’s offense could be one of the best in the league once Joe Flacco starts playing well. Even though he played well against the Browns, I still didn’t like his jittery feet and mechanics.

The Super Bowl is totally up for grabs this year. So far, there are no clearly dominant teams in the NFL.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Buffalo Bills 38-30 (On NFL Game Rewind)

What is going on with the New England Patriots defense?! Giving up 23 points to the Buffalo Bills is simply not acceptable (I am not counting the kickoff return for a touchdown by C.J. Spiller). The young rookie defensive backs are struggling mightily. Hopefully they will improve over the course the season. Otherwise we are in big trouble.

Thankfully, the offense looked great. Tom Brady had a terrific game and spread the ball around to a variety of receivers. The one huge concern I have is the lack of commitment to the running game. Even without a marquee running back, it is imperative to have a rushing attack to slow down pass rushers and keep defenses a little more off guard. Otherwise teams will just catch up with our passing attack.

Ryan Fitzpatrick obviously had a great day at quarterback as well and you can understand why the Bills jettisoned Trent Edwards who was just not working out. It will be interesting to see what kind of success the Bills can muster when they face tougher defensive backs.

MVP: Tom Brady, QB

Baltimore Ravens over Cleveland Browns, 24-17

I was absolutely shocked watching the Cleveland Browns and Peyton Hillis run all over the Ravens defense. Hillis ended up with 144 yards against what I thought was one of the toughest run defenses in the league.

Luckily for the Ravens the offense woke up after two disappointing weeks with Flacco hitting Anquan Boldin for three touchdowns. Despite having a better game I still though Flacco sometimes looked sketchy in the pocket. No quarterback has a lot of time to throw in the NFL but when Flacco gets what I consider normal pressure, he seems to get happy feet and throw off his back foot or make mental errors. It was less pronounced this week than last but there are still some issues there.

And what can you say about the acquisition of Anquan Boldin? He has been one of the most consistent offensive performers in the league and the bright spot on offense for the Ravens the past three weeks.

For Cleveland this should be a game to build on. If they can play that well against this defense, they should be able to notch up a few wins this season. And I wonder if Jake Delhomme will get his starting job back? Seneca Wallace looked awfully good in this game. Of course he was getting a lot of support in the running game.

MVP: Anquan Boldin, WR

St. Louis Ram over Washington Redskins, 30-16

Despite some miscues and not taking full advantage of some of their opportunities, the St. Louis Rams looked like a good football team against the Washington Redskins! I was extremely impressed with the team on both sides of the ball.

I was most impressed that after taking a 14-0 lead, the Washington Redskins came back to take the lead 16-14 early in the third quarter but the Rams didn’t falter. This is when bad teams fall apart and get spanked. Instead, the Rams stayed calm and retook the lead with a nice touchdown drive and never looked back. While I think Sam Bradford has a lot of work to do, his calm leadership and solid play showed that he can eventually be top flight starter in the NFL if he stays healthy. And the defense shut the Redskins out the rest of the game thanks to linebacker Bill Laurinaitis being all over the field and the play of free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe before leaving the game with an injury.

On the Redskins side of the ball, they absolutely could not get a running game going. Without a running game they just could not do much in the second half. It would appear Santana Moss is getting too old be a receiver that can carry the load and Joey Galloway is even worse. I am surprised the Redskins didn’t go to tight end Chris Cooley more than they did.

The most bizarre play was when Clinton Portis broke off a long run and then simply fell to the ground himself. Later in the week it was reported he told Coach Shanahan it was because of his wrist injury and concern about ball security. While I think Portis is one of the biggest whiners and malcontents in the league, he has been a tough player so I give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.

This game reminded me a lot of the Detroit Lions game last year in the third game of the season where the Redskins lost in a poorly played game and Portis got into an argument with Jim Zorn on the sideline after taking himself out of the game. To me, that game marked the day the wheels came off for the Redskins in the 2009 season. Again, in the third week, they lost to a team most would think they should beat, and didn’t look great in the process. Will the wheels come off again or will Shanahan keep this team rolling forward and improving? With a weakened offensive line, no running game, and a questionable corps of receivers, it might be tough. Donovan McNabb can’t do it all on his own.

MVP: Bill Laurinaitis, LB

New York Jets over Miami Dolphins, 31-23

Mark Sanchez had a great game against the Dolphins. Is this his breakout game or will he revert back to the poor play we saw in the first game of the season? Time will tell. But I will say, I am not a believer.

I also think if the off field incidents like Braylon Edwards’ DUI continue, it will become a distraction for this team. He did catch a long touchdown pass to help redeem himself. The key to this game, to me though, was the ability of the Jets to run the ball with LaDanian Tomlinson, helping out the passing game.

Miami hung tough and tried to come back but to no avail, even with Brandon Marshall catching 10 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.

MVP: Mark Sanchez, QB

Chicago Bears over Green Bay Packers, 20-17

Green Bay outplayed the Bears but their 18 penalties for 152 yards killed them. Holding penalties thwarting the offense and a stupid roughing the passer penalty negating a Green Bay interception really did the Packers in. Punter Tim Masthay was horrible, having the kind of game that should get him cut. A short low kick allowed an easy punt return for a touchdown by Devin Hester that put the Bears ahead in the fourth quarter and was really the key play in the game.

And then Mike McCarthy challenged a fumble that was clearly a fumble in the fourth quarter costing the team a timeout. That was a really stupid move on his part. There is no way that play was getting overturned.

The Bears are now 3-0, the only undefeated team in the NFC, and have knocked off two good teams in Dallas and Green Bay. Frankly, they just don’t look like a 3-0 team to me.

MVP: Devin Hester, WR/KR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Austin Collie, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Defensive Player: Bill Laurinaitis, LB, St. Louis Rams
Offensive Lineman: Adam Goldberg, G, St. Louis Rams
Special Teams: Leon Washington, RB/KR, Seattle Seahawks
Rookie of the Week: C.J. Spiller, RB/KR, Buffalo Bills

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 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

2009 NFL SEASON: INTRODUCTION AND WEEK 1

INTRODUCTION

One of the more interesting things about Week 1 is that it really seemed like a typical middle of the season week to me.  This, despite the hoopla of it being the opening week of the NFL season and Tom Brady’s return to regular season action.  Week 1 featured a few upsets, a few surprisingly good performances by traditionally not so good teams, and unfortunately some big injuries to key players.

The most disheartening thing about Week 1 was significant injuries to key players, really just like last year.  Out for the season is Brian Urlacher, the Bears’ middle linebacker and one of the best defensive players in the league.  Out for a significant amount time are Troy Polamalu (SS, Steelers) and Patriots’ linebacker Jerrod Mayo, last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.

While a little late to action here are my thoughts on Week 1 action.

GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Buffalo Bills 25-24

The Monday night opener between New England and Buffalo featured the return of Tom Brady after missing the entire last season with an ACL injury and a completely revamped defense.  For the Bills the opening night looked to be the beginning of a potentially long and dreadful season with a very young offensive line, the firing of the offensive coordinator right before the season started, and Marshawn “Hit and Run” Lynch suspended for four games.  I don’t think anybody picked the Bills to be in the game very long, much less lead for most of the game.  But they played very well, but gave the game away on a boneheaded play by kick returner Leodis McKelvin.

The Patriots on both sides of the ball were shaky most of the game.  Brady looked a little rusty in the first half but you could see his confidence and pocket presence grow during the second half, which really paid off when it counted in the fourth quarter.  The biggest problem for the Patriots was both their offensive and defensive lines were beaten physically by the supposedly inferior Bills the entire game.

Defensively the Patriots are much younger, more immature, and sometimes completely out of sync.  No longer on the team from last season’s opener include Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrable, Ellis Hobbs, and shockingly being traded to Oakland right before the season started, Richard Seymour.

The Patriots stayed mostly in a 4-3 alignment most of the game and reportedly plan to do so most of the year.  This is huge change for the Patriots as coach Bill Belichick is one of the gurus of the 3-4 and true believer in the linebacker position.  The defensive line, including Vince Wilfolk, were whipped by a offensive line called poor and young by most pundits.  The Patriots clearly, and dearly seemed to miss Richard Seymour on the defensive line of scrimmage.  He played like a beast and with chip on his shoulder starting for the Raiders in the following game.  The Bills were able to move the ball too easily most of the game.

On the flip side the Patriots offense played reasonably well but not great until late in the second half.  Brady throwing an interception for a touchdown did not help matters as the Bills had an 11 point lead with just over five minutes to play.

But then a little Brady magic and a little luck struck the Patriots.  Brady played brilliantly in the last few minutes of the game moving the team down the field and hitting Watson for a touchdown (two point conversion failed) to bring the Patriots within five with just over two minutes to go.

Then dumbest play of the game happened.  Instead of taking a knee in the end zone for a touchback, Bills kick returner Leodis McKelvin ran the ball out of the end zone, allowing New England to strip the ball away.  A few minutes later Brady hits Watson for another touchdown, game over.

For the Bills this was a heartbreaking loss, but they can take pride and confidence in the way they played.  The Bills certainly seem better than expected.  But it is only the first week of the season.  Hats off to Trent Edwards, Fred Jackson, and Aaron Schobel for excellent games.

Of other note, the referees called one egregiously bad roughing the passer call on the Patriots and one borderline one, which really helped the Bills.

Laurence Maroney still runs like his name should be Lauren.  When the Patriots went for it on fourth and short early in the game I was shocked they gave it to Maroney, who of course didn’t stick his nose in the line of scrimmage and get the few yards needed.

MVP:  Ben Watson, TE


Pittsburgh Steelers over Tennessee Titans, 13-10 (OT)

This was the most well played game all around I saw this weekend.  Both teams on defense looked in midseason form, while the offenses did just enough to stay in the game.  Not surprisingly the game was mostly a defensive struggle.  Both of these teams should see the postseason.  They certainly will if they play as well through the rest of the season.

Of course, it was not such a great game for Rob Bironas who missed a makeable field goal and had one blocked.  These special teams gaffs basically are the reason the Titans lost in the mostly evenly played game.

Troy Polamalu was beast on defense until he got injured.  It is a real shame to see such a great player end up out for several weeks.  And Big Ben came through when it counted, as he did repeatedly last season.  And the star of the show was Santonio Holmes with 131 yards receiving and a touchdown.

For Tennessee, despite the loss, should be heartened that Kerry Collins played a solid game.  And while they did not get much of a running game going against probably the best defense in the league, they look poised for another solid season.

MVP:  Santonio Holmes, WR


Baltimore Raves over Kansas City Chiefs, 38-24

Despite hanging close to the Ravens most of the game, the Kansas City Chiefs looked awful.  A safety, a blocked punt for a touchdown, and an interception by Flacco that the Chiefs somehow turned into a touchdown kept the game close until the fourth quarter.  Otherwise they were mostly dominated on both lines of scrimmage.  And even though Chiefs defensive tackle Glen Dorsey was going up against one of the best centers in the league in Matt Birk, he was dominated and had never looked like the highly touted first round pick he is.

The Chiefs look to be in for a long, miserable season if they continue to play as poorly as they did against the Ravens.

On the flip side, the Ravens defense continues to look solid, but against a questionable opponent, and the offense looks even better than it did last year, although left tackle Jared Gaither struggled at times.  The Ravens are another team that we will likely be seeing in the postseason.

Mark Clayton had a good game with 5 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.  The Ravens really need Clayton to step up this year to take it to the next level.

MVP:  Mark Clayton, WR

New York Giants over Washington Redskins, 23-17

I really was not very impressed by either team in this game, but especially the Redskins.  I am starting to wonder if Jim Zorn is really cut out to be a head coach in the NFL.  The Redskins offense simply looked out of sync in parts of the game.  Granted, wide receiver Santana Moss is getting a little older and has persistent hamstring injuries, and they really don’t have any other top notch receivers, but the play calling and execution on offense was off much of the game.  Both defenses played reasonably well, and the Giants Osi Umenyiora’s fumble return for a touchdown sealed the game.

MVP: Osi Umenyiora, DE


Green Bay Packers over Chicago Bears, 21-15

I have to admit I loved watching Jay Cutler, who I no longer have an ounce of respect for, throw four interceptions.  I wonder if that will shut him up?  I doubt it.  But he looked pretty awful in this game, and maybe a dose of humility will do him some good.  He could end up being a great quarterback in the league because he has the gifts.  But he could also end up being the next coming of Jeff George, a super talented quarterback with a bad attitude who led teams nowhere.

Now to the game.  Both teams’ defense played quite well, until Brian Urlacher suffered a season ending wrist injury, then the Bears looked just a bit off kilter.  The Bears still almost won the game except for a 50 yard touchdown pass by Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings with less than two minutes to play, which sealed the deal for the Packers.

MVP:  Greg Jennings, WR

San Diego over Oakland, 24-20

Monday night featured two underdogs that nobody expected to be in the game by the fourth quarter that could’ve, should’ve, but didn’t win their games.  Oakland’s offensive line played surprisingly well against the Chargers defensive line and really controlled the game.  JaMarcus Russell will never be a great NFL quarterback, but with the use of multiple young running backs, the Raiders’ offense was able to control the game quite well.  And then the fourth quarter came and little Darren Sproles spoiled show with some nifty play in the fourth quarter.

The Raiders defense played well too.  It made me rather sick to the stomach to seem Richard Seymour in an Oakland Raiders jersey.  He played like he had a chip on his shoulder and wreaked havoc on the Chargers most of the game.  The Patriots could have certainly used his presence against the Bills.

Also of note, LaDanian Tomlinson hurt is ankle in the game and is out this week against the Ravens.  Is age catching up with him?

MVP:  Darren Sproles, RB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings (sorry Drew Brees).

Defensive Player: Troy Polamalu, SS, Pittsburgh Steelers (while he was in he was the best defensive player I saw this week)

Offensive Lineman: Matt Birk, C, Baltimore Ravens

Special Teams: Darren Sproles, KR, San Diego

Rookie of the Week: Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets