2010 NFL Football Season: Week Four Observations

Patrick Chung

The big theme of the last two weeks was the huge days wide receivers have put up, with Terrell Owens of the Cincinnati Bengals snagging ten catches for 122 yards and a touchdown this week.

And Josh Scobee’s 59 yard field goal allowing the Jacksonville Jaguars to put up a big win against the Indianapolis Cots got upstaged on special teams Monday night by Patrick Chung’s heroics.

And of this writing, of course, the New England Patriots trade of Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings is the story of the week. But I will save that for later.

GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Miami Dolphins, 41-14

First, fellow Patriots fans should not get overly excited about our defense after this win. They are still awful. Miami pretty much moved the ball on us at will most of the game and in the second half gave up a long touchdown run to Ricky Williams. Rob Ninkovich’s two interceptions stopped drives, yes, but until Miami got way behind in the second half, our defense still looked vulnerable.

The big story of this game was simple: special teams. Kick off return for a touchdown, block punt setting up good field position for another touchdown, block field goal ran back for a touchdown. Sweet! But we won’t do that every week and our defense is still a work in progress.

Our offense was efficient but didn’t have the greatest first half, especially in the red zone. But when Miami scored in the second half to inch closer, Brady engineered an excellent drive for a touchdown that pretty much sealed the game.

For Miami much of the blame was placed on the Chad Henne. He has seen his better days at a quarterback, and played poorly once his team got behind, but I think he’ll bounce back. I liked his attitude after the game in the press conference, taking some blame and saying he’ll get better. The special teams coach was also fired. And there were a lot of bright spots for Miami. The Patriots took away Brandon Marshall, but Davone Best had a great day. And Patriots left tackle Matt Light had a horrible time against Miami Linebacker/Defensive End Cameron Wake. That kid had an unstoppable motor until late in the game.

To me, Miami seems to be a slightly above mediocre team with a lot of upside. Unfortunately, I would say the Patriots defensive this year has been a slightly below mediocre team, but they do have a huge upside in their youth, speed, and raw talent.

But this was the Patrick Chung show with the blocked punt, blocked field goal, and pick six late in the game. Oh, and let’s not forget Woody, or Woodhead, and no this not a plug for an erectile dysfunction drug. Thank you Jets.

So let’s not spoil this with talking about the Randy Moss trade which I will leave for another time.

MVP: Patrick Chung, SS

Baltimore Ravens over Pittsburgh Steelers, 17-14

This was a brutal, hard hitting, defensive game and the Ravens managed to come out top, mainly because their defense played extremely well. The Steelers squandered two scoring opportunities off of Ravens’ turnovers and Jeff Reed missed two field goals, which were really the difference in the game. While the Ravens still gave up some yards in the running and passing game, they mostly played great when it counted. Two road wins against division opponents, even if one of them was an improving Cleveland Browns team, puts the Ravens where the want to be four games into the season.

And Pittsburgh must be thrilled to have survived four games with a 3-1 record while Ben Rottenberger served his three game suspension for egregiously bad and probably criminal behavior toward a female college student in the off season. It’s rather interesting that both defenses gave up scoring drives late in the fourth quarter, with Baltimore having the ball last and the last laugh as they waltz out of Heinz Field with a victory in hand. But I think the Steelers are still the team to beat in that division. While you can only greatly admire the excellent play of Charlie Batch, this offense should be more explosive with Big Ben at the helm.

It’s hard to choose an MVP for this game because it was a real team effort across the board. But cornerback Lardarius Webb broke up to sure touchdowns to Mike Wallace so that’s my guy.

The AFC Central should come down to the wire and expect both of these two teams to be in the playoffs. And I have to say, the Steelers are scary good with Big Ben coming back and Rashard Mendenhall finally looking like the running back he was drafted to be.

MVP: Lardarius Webb, CB


Washington Redskins over Philadelphia Eagles, 17-12

After seeing about one full game of Kevin Kolb this season I have one word to say – awful. What Andy Reid sees in Kolb I have no idea. He was awful in the first half of the first game of the season before sustaining a concussion and he was awful against the Redskins when he came on in relief of Michael Vick. It’s pretty clear why Andy Reid made the smart move and started Vick. I’ve heard pundits make all kinds of excuses for Kolb’s performance but he clearly does not see the field well and misses wide open receivers he should hit under the type of pressure any quarterback is going to face. And it is also clear the coaches don’t trust him because as soon as he enters the game the offense becomes screens and short dump off passes with a few runs mixed in. The only time they finally opened the offense up a little bit is when they got behind. And for the most part Kolb could not deliver. Going into this season I was a big believer in Kevin Kolb. Not anymore.

I will say this for him though. He does have a good arm and he put the ball right in Jason Avant’s hand on the hail marry at the end of the game. Avant should have caught the ball for a stunning win.

And while we are on the Eagles, linebacker Quintin Mikell should be benched. He was lousy throughout the game and was the worst defensive player I saw this week. And I only had to laugh when I saw Asante Samuel and his half-hearted, make believe attempts to make a tackle. And then getting hurt on one. I remember when he was with the Patriots a few times I even saw him run away from big running backs with a head of steam.

The Redskins played relatively well but the Eagles soft defense made them look a little better than they probably are. They ran the ball well, and once Donovan McNabb settled down a bit in what had to be an emotional day for him, he played well enough to win. But his inaccuracy, which has plagued him throughout his career, was certainly on display for large parts of the day. The running game helped the Redskins offense out a lot. And I do wonder when Ryan Torain will simply be named the starter over Clinton Portis. Portis ran well but he stays hurt, which is unfortunate but not uncommon for an older running back with the kind of mileage he has being a featured back for so many years.

And linebacker Lorenzo Alexander was a beast on special teams! He was jacking people up left and right.

At the end of the day, despite not having off the chart stats, I felt Ryan Torian’s running sealed the deal.

MVP: Ryan Torain, RB


New York Giants over Chicago Bears 17-3

I can not remember a worse performance by an offensive line in my lifetime as the Chicago Bears displayed on Sunday night. That was such a pathetic, embarrassing, and atrocious performance I’d be utterly ashamed were I on that unit. And again I heard pundits making excuses that it’s Mike Martz’s system, blah blah blah. I don’t care what system you are in, or what your offensive scheme is, if you have an offensive line that blocks that badly you are going to lose, badly.

I don’t like Jay Cutler and his petulant attitude but I really felt sorry for him against the Giants. He had no prayer in the backfield. The Giants defensive line was left to basically tee off on him until he was knocked out of the game. And then they knocked Todd Collins out of the game. Had I been third string quarterback Caleb Hanie, after seeing the massacre on the field, I might have turned in my helmet and shoulder pads and quit the NFL for good before trotting on the field and putting my life on the line against a basically unblocked Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.

And that, really, is the story of the game. The Giants were not utterly impressive on offense facing a good Bears defense, but Ahmad Bradshaw did have a solid game. But the Bears defense was pretty much worn out toward the end of the game. I have no idea how good the Giants were in this game, I just know how bad the Bears offensive line was.

MVP: Justin Tuck, DE


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Terrell Owens, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Defensive Player: Justin Tuck, DE, New York Giants
Offensive Lineman: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers
Special Teams: Patrick Chung, SS, New England Patriots
Rookie of the Week: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers

2010 NFL Football Season: Week Two Observations

I know this is coming grievously late this week but I was out of town without Internet access.

What a wild week this was with two things standing out strongly, many starting quarterbacks being pulled or losing their jobs and Super Bowl aspirants Dallas and Minnesota staring off 0-2.

Quarterback Shuffle

I cannot remember seeing this many starting quarterbacks pulled or losing their jobs this early in the season. Most of the quarterbacks benched or losing their jobs are marginal starting quarterbacks or ones we have a lot of questions about. Let’s look at the list.

Vince Young (Tennessee) was pulled against the Pittsburgh Steelers after multiple interceptions but will retain his starting job. While there are a lot of questions about Young, he was facing one of the top three defenses in the league and really had a poor outing. While I am not a big believer in Young, he should bounce back from this one.

Jason Campbell (Oakland) was pulled in favor of Bruce Gradkowski in Oakland’s close win over the St. Louis Rams. To top it off, Campbell has now lost his starting job, after being signed to be the man in Oakland. While I like Jason Campbell a lot as a person, I have never been sold on his abilities as a starting quarterback in the NFL and it looks like this may be his last stand as a viable starter in the league, although I would not be surprised to see him back behind center at some point this year.

David Garrard (Jacksonville) was pulled out of the game against Denver but there really are not great options behind him. He has been a steady, if not stellar, quarterback for the Jaguars.

Trent Edwards (Buffalo) has lost his job to Ryan Fitzpatrick after a rather shaky start to the season. I doubt this will help the Bills woeful offense.

Matt Moore (Carolina) lost his job to rookie Jimmy Clausen out of Notre Dame so we will now have two starting rookies in the league to watch get pummeled.

And of course the change everyone is talking about is Michael Vick replacing Kevin Kolb as the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. Last week I said Vick is not a long term option at quarterback because of his poor decision making and teams being able to scheme against his running. Time will tell if I am right.

Dallas and Minnesota

Dallas and Minnesota both entered the season with high expectations. Now they have both started 0-2 and staring 0-3 in the face. Of the two Dallas seems better positioned to turn things around quickly. While they have problems on the offensive line, they have great talent at skilled positions on offense and an outstanding defense.

Minnesota is in trouble. Brett Favre is clearly not in sync with is injury depleted receiving corps and they could be in for a long, miserable, season.

GAMES I WATCHED

New York Jets over New England Patriots, 28-14 (On NFL Game Rewind)

The loss of Kevin Faulk to a season and possibly career ending ACL injury is a devastating blow to the Patriots offense. This 12 year veteran has been one of the most reliable third down backs in the league for years and is Brady’s go to guy on third down. He is going to be sorely missed.

The Patriots simply looked lost on offense in the second half of this game and did nothing right. With Darrelle Revis out of the game the Jets double teamed Randy Moss and did a good job of covering Wes Welker. And without being able to establish any kind of run, the Patriots simply couldn’t get anything done offense.

Unfortunately, the Patriots’ young defense was exposed in the second half, especially cornerback Darius Butler. They made Mark Sanchez look like the second coming of a young Joe Namath. Hopefully the defense will improve under the tutelage of Bill Belichick. They better.

LaDanian Tomlinson looks to have young legs and his 31 yard run setting up the go ahead score got it all started for the Jets. Of course it didn’t help that linebacker Rob Ninkovich missed the tackle on the play.

MVP: LaDanian Tomlinson


Cincinnati Bengals over Baltimore Ravens, 15-10

Joe Flacco looked awful in this game. He looks uncomfortable in the pocket, even with a “normal” pass rush, misses open receivers, and seems to be rushing his decisions even when he doesn’t have too. Something is going on with Flacco and whatever it is isn’t good. There is no reason an offense with this kind of talent should be struggling to move the ball and in this case a lot of blame has to be placed on Flacco’s poor play.

On the other side of the ball, despite all the talk about this being a down year for the Ravens defense, they are playing at an extremely high level and had an excellent game. The Ravens just could not overcome the four interceptions and poor offensive play.

The Bengals bounced back after last week’s loss to the Patriots but like the Ravens, it’s their defense that is turning in stellar play. The offense with Chad Ochostinko, Terrible Terrell Owens, and Cedric Benson really did not get much done against the Ravens defense. It was an unimpressive performance by both teams on offense.

MVP: Jonathan Joseph, CB

Houston Texans over Washington Redskins, 30-27

The Redskins somehow blew a 17 point third quarter lead to lose to the Houston Texans in overtime. That somehow was Andre Johnson, who right now may be the best receiver in the league. He had a monster game against the Redskins, particularly in the second half when the game was on the line, and on a twisted ankle at that. It was a gutsy performance by the entire offense and proves the Texans may have finally turned the corner and become an elite team. But they need their big name defense to step it up more if they hope to challenge for the AFC crown.

Washington played a surprisingly excellent game on offense. Donovan McNabb looked as good as I have ever seen him. While the Redskins did not do much in the running game, their passing game was clicking but just could not quite get it done. The loss of rookie left tackle Trent Williams really hurt them as backup Stephon Heyer simply is not all that great at pass blocking. Jamaal Brown will likely move to the left side, a position he played at an All Pro level in New Orleans before suffering a knee injury.

The question for the Redskins is was their offensive performance because of a weak defense or do they really have something going?

MVP: Andre Johnson, WR

Indianapolis Colts over New York Giants, 38-14

There really isn’t much to say about this game except that the Manning Bowl turned into the Stupor Bowl. The Colts just smashed the Giants from beginning to end. The Giants defense could do nothing to stop the Colts and the Colts defense was determined to redeem their embarrassing performance last week against the Texans. And as soon as the Colts got a big lead and the Giants were forced to pass it was all over. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis just pinned their ears back like rabid dogs and attacked Eli Manning.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

New Orleans Saints over San Francisco 49’ers 25-22

The 49’ers handed the Saints an early Christmas present. They gave this game away. A snap over Alex Smith’s head for a safety and multiple turnovers doomed the 49’ers to defeat. Otherwise, they played quite well and could have, should have won the game but for the mistakes.

The Saints, like last week, looked amazing on offense on some drives, and totally out of sync in others. You can still see this team slowly coming together on offense and their defense is vulnerable but opportunistic. Having received two early passes in games they could have lost bodes well as they start to coalesce on offense. And while the loss of Reggie Bush for several weeks to injury will hurt, they have a lot of talent on offense.

The 49’ers just need to clean up their mistakes. They looked solid and well rounded on offense and their defense played well for the most part against one of the best offenses in the league. But you can’t win games making stupid mistakes.

MVP: Garrett Hartley, K


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Javid Best, RB, Detroit Lions
Defensive Player: LaRon Landry, SS, Washington Redskins
Offensive Lineman: Duane Brown, T, Houston Texans (now suspended four games)
Special Teams: Mike Nugent, K, Cincinnati Bengals
Rookie of the Week: Javid Best, RB, Detroit Lions

Tom Coughlin’s Memoir of the New York Giants 2006 Super Bowl Season

Tom Coughlin’s memoir of the New York Giants 2006 season and win over the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII could have been a lot more than it is.  Like the public persona of the coach, it lacks a bit of personality and inside information that football fans are looking for.  I did find it worthwhile reading, anyway.

This book functions as a mini autobiography of Coughlin’s coaching career and the high pressure and long hours it requires to be a successful coach in the National Football League.  One of the better features of the book is learning about his coaching pedigree and his discussion of how he had to loosen up a little bit with the New York Giants, who as most recall, were seemingly in near mutiny of Coughlin’s old school rules and discipline.

And while Coughlin does a good job with the above, his recounting of the season and the Giants team is often devoid of personality and inside information about how the team overcame some of the squabbling and questions about leadership to go on their improbable run to a Super Bowl victory.  He certainly plays lip service to the quiet leadership skills of the oft criticized Eli Manning and his rocky but repaired relationship with older players like Michael Strahan, but it more reportorial than emotional engaging.

There also is little about football strategy and X’s and O’s in this book, which is fine as I didn’t expect much.  But for an avid football fan like myself that always adds a great deal to a book about football.

Despite these drawbacks, I am sure New York Giants fans will enjoy this look back at the season from Coughlin’s perspective.  I would not, however, recommend this to the casual football fan.

A Team to Believe In: Our Journey to the Super Bowl Championship

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