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