NFL 2009 Wildcard Weekend Review

OBSERVATIONS

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

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

So three out of the four games were duds.

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

Weird.

Baltimore Ravens over New England Patriots, 33-14

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

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

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

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

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

MVP: Ray Rice, RB

Dallas Cowboys over Philadelphia Eagles, 34-14

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

MVP: Felix Jones, RB

New York Jets over Cincinnati Bengals, 24-14

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

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

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

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

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

MVP: Darrelle Revis, CB


Arizona Cardinals over Green Bay Packers, 51-45 OT

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

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

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

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

MVP: Kurt Warner, QB


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

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

2009 NFL Season: Week 16

OBSERVATIONS

Other than the multiple playoff implications set up for next week, the biggest story of Week 16 was the Indianapolis Colts eschewing a chance to go undefeated in the regular season by pulling their key starters out in the third quarter against the New York Jets. The Colts ultimately lost the game. The looks on Peyton Manning’s face as he saw the back-ups give up the lead and the game were quite revealing. But of course he was a true solider after the game and said he was fine with the coach’s decision. The Colts fan were not on board with the decision. Coach Jim Caldwell has taken a bit of a whacking the press. All I will say is that going 16-0 means nothing if you don’t win the Super Bowl, as I so painfully know. Without Manning the chances of the Colts winning the Super Bowl would be close to nil, so I have no real problem with playing it safe. It’s the psyche and momentum of a team that has historically choked in the playoffs that is the real question. They really have nothing to play for next week, so they’ll definitely get some rest.

There are so many mediocre teams in the AFC it’s comical. Despite shooting themselves in the foot repeatedly, the Baltimore Ravens have avoided a shot to the head and are still alive! Unbelievable, until you consider all the other teams vying for a playoff spot have done the same. Right now the Ravens and the New York Jets control their fates next week. Wins and they are in. I am not going to worry or care about who wins and how it shapes up. Whoever the Patriots play in the playoffs will be a tough matchup.

The New York Giants are finally out of the playoff hunt. They lay down against the Carolina Panthers. Good riddance to one Manning.

And speaking of the Panthers, what would this team look like going into the playoff race had Matt Moore been starting all season long? John Fox seems to have made a big mistake at the quarterback position early in the year.

You can say the same for Jeff Fischer of the Tennessee Titans. While I don’t fault Kerry Collins for the Titans 0-6 start like some do, clearly Young should have come in sooner to add a spark to the team.

I am ready for the playoffs!

New England Patriots over Jacksonville Jaguars, 35-7

The Patriots seem to be hitting on all cylinders the past few weeks and are poised to make some noise in the playoffs. Brady played an outstanding game against the Jaguars and the defense has shown up and played well the past few weeks. Being the pessimist I am, and looking like a four seed in the playoffs, that means we’ll probably end up facing the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the playoffs (assuming we beat our first playoff opponent, which I think we will). But I guess that might be easier than facing the Chargers in San Diego, who are hitting on all cylinders, and then some, themselves.

This Sunday Patriots fans will basically be praying that we come out of the game healthy and ready to roll into the playoffs.

MVP: Tom Brady, QB


GAMES I WATCHED

San Diego Chargers over Tennessee Titans, 42-17

While I thought the Chargers would win this game I did not expect them to win so easily. Right now I think San Diego is the team to beat in the playoffs. They are playing the best football in the league as of Week 16. I hate to say that because they have to rank as one of my least favorite teams. I expect them to easily get to the AFC Championship game against either the Patriots or the Colts. I’d like to see us dance on their logo again and make LaDanian Tomlinson cry.

MVP: Philip Rivers, QB

Pittsburgh Steelers over Baltimore Ravens, 23-20

How many times can a team shoot themselves in the foot, blow game after game after game, and still control their destiny for making a playoff spot. It’s really unbelievable. Having seen the Ravens squander games so many times this year I want to say they don’t really deserve to be in the playoffs, but neither do any of the of other mediocre teams they are vying against.

Once again big mistakes at the worst moments cost the Ravens the game. Derrick Mason dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter that would have sealed the win, so he has to be the goat of this game. But Flacco didn’t do much to help matters at the end of the game either.

If the Ravens win Sunday they should be a dangerous team in the playoffs. They do have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and really should be looking at a better record than have now. If they had a true number one receiver they could be really dangerous, but they don’t.

Pittsburgh still has a heartbeat left too, and again, if they make the playoffs, despite their recent poor play, who knows what could happen?

MVP: LaMarr Woodley, LB

Philadelphia Eagles over Denver Broncos, 30-27

After the Eagles took a 20-7 lead into halftime I thought the game was basically over but the Broncos gave them a real run for it in the second half. That the Broncos didn’t fold and fought back must be a bit gratifying to Broncos fans. They still have a good chance to make the playoffs. Even though they are listed as a Wild Card team as of today, they need to help to get in. Like many of the other AFC teams vying for playoff spots, if they make it in they will be a scary opponent for whoever they play.

I am not a big believer in the Philadelphia Eagles, frankly, but right now they seem to be playing the best football in the NFC. I still think that the faltering Saints and Vikings are still the teams to beat in the NFC, but Philadelphia right now is looking poised to make a real run.

MVP: Brent Celek, TE

Dallas Cowboys over Washington Redskins, 17-0

I really don’t have a lot to say about this game. I originally was not going to bother watching it, but I did. It was a nondescript game. Everyone knew Dallas would win, and they did so rather easily. As usual the Redskins offense looked awful. Dallas goes to Philadelphia next week for a huge game which will decide the NFC East champion.

MVP: Tony Romo, QB

Chicago over Minnesota, 36-30 OT

What is going on with the Minnesota Vikings? They suddenly have faltered badly on both sides of the ball. This was an exciting game and the Vikings did come back from a 17 point deficit to almost win the game. I have to admit being a bit stunned most of the game. I was waiting for Cutler to throw up some interceptions but he actually played a decent game. Instead of folding under pressure the Bears hung in and barely pulled out a victory.

Adrian Peterson and his fumbles are really a problem and he essentially gave this game away by fumbling after a nice catch and run in overtime. The fumble handed the ball right back to the Bears who scored on a nice pass play to end the game. Peterson, hold on to the ball!

While I still think the Vikings and Saints are the teams to beat despite faltering of late, maybe they have seen their best days and the rising Eagles and Cowboys will eat their lunch. We’ll see.

MVP: Devin Aromashodu, WR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers, 206 yards rushing
Defensive Player: Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans
Offensive Lineman: Kris Dielman, G, San Diego Chargers
Special Teams: Sebastian Janikowski, K, Oakland Raiders (61 yard field goal)
Rookie of the Week: Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans


2009 NFL Season: Week 12

My comments on Thanksgiving Day games can be found here:  https://cdbaker.wordpress.com/2009/11/27/2009-nfl-season-week-12-thanksgiving-day-special/


GAMES I WATCHED

New Orleans Saints over New England Patriots, 38-17

This was the marquee matchup of the weekend and it didn’t live up to its hype. The Saints spanked the Patriots like an unwanted step child.

The shellacking the Patriots took at the hands of the Saints was a nasty reality check for New England Patriots fans. We must face the fact the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, and even the Indianapolis Colts, are the elite teams in the league this year. We are a notch below, along with a handful of other teams, peeking our head over the windowsill wondering how we got left out the party.

I’ll dispense with comments on the Saints in this game by simply saying they are a great team. Drew Brees is absolutely phenomenal and had an unbelievable performance. And defensive coordinator Greg Williams had a brilliant game plan and has really turned this defense around. I’ve been utterly impressed with the Saints all year long and suffering through this game left me even more impressed. I expect to see a Saints versus Vikings matchup in the NFC Championship Game. And if it turns out anything like the wild game they had in the regular season last year, it should be wildly entertaining.

Now on to the Patriots and what to make of the fiasco we witnessed on Monday night.

Let’s start with the offensive, the most fixable problem we face the rest of the season and into the playoffs, which we should reach. The offense has become utterly predictable. The Saints simply dropped numerous players in coverage and took away the short passing game and Wes Welker, and mostly blanketed Randy Moss. They were able to get decent pressure on Brady, especially in the second half, with only a four man rush. This was partially because of injuries on our offensive line, which hopefully will get back in shape by seasons’ end. But the Patriots’ offense appears pretty easy to scheme against these days. We abandon the run way too soon and in the second half, like last week against the Jets, it was bombs away with nobody to throw the ball to. We need to at least mix up our plays a bit throughout the game and come up with less predictable or more creative schemes to get receivers open. That’s not to say the offense is bad. We scored 17 points against the Saints and really should have had more but for a few errant throws and interceptions by Brady. But nevertheless, we need to address this. Charlie Weis anyone?

Our defense right now is in a complete rebuilding mode. Most of our starting defensive backs are young players or recent starters and it shows. They have been frequently out of place and burned all year by most teams we’ve faced. We have just gotten by with it, for the most part, because the offense has been putting up enough points to cover for them. The lousy play by the defensive backs was painfully evident on numerous blown coverages against the Saints. They should be embarrassed. I hope they are.

Adding to our woes on defense we cannot get a pass rush or pressure the quarterback. Drew Brees had enough time in the pocket to eat a steak dinner and down a few drinks, much less throw the ball to his outstanding corps of receivers. What happened to Adalius Thomas? He has completely disappeared as a playmaker on this defense.

Overall the defense played like it was on a 0-16 team, not a championship caliber team. Now people don’t need to wonder why Bill Belichick went for it on fourth and two to try to preserve the game against the Colts two weeks ago, after Manning torched the defense for two long drives in no time. A punt might have been giving the game away.

The defense, as noted earlier, is in a rebuilding phase and I suspect it will take some time for it to come around. Unfortunately, it won’t likely be anytime soon, and not in time for a significant playoff run.

MVP: Drew Brees, QB

Philadelphia Eagles over Washington Redskins, 27-24

I will say this about the Redskins, all these new players finding themselves in starting roles are playing very hard and being competitive. Even though the Redskins are losing some close games, at least they don’t look as pathetic as they did earlier in the season. They actually look like they belong in the NFL these days. The oft maligned Jason Campbell played reasonably well other than his two interceptions to Asante Samuel.

This was a game that the Redskins could have won but the Eagles just simply pulled it out at the end. Despite a talented group of receivers, the Eagles seem to greatly miss Brian Westbrook in the lineup. They just aren’t the same. And putting Michael Vick in to run plays seemed mostly counterproductive. It slowed the momentum of the offense.

Hats off to London Fletcher, the Redskins’ middle linebacker. He has been playing All Pro caliber defense all year long, as has Eagles’ defense end Trent Cole.

Finally, while his statistics don’t pop off the page, my MVP goes to Eagles’ wide receiver Jason Avant, whose two big catches in the fourth quarter jumpstarted the offense and the Eagles to their tying touchdown.

MVP: Jason Avant, WR

Minnesota Vikings over Chicago Bears, 36-10

I really felt this game was over before it really started. It turned out pretty much exactly as I expected it to. The Bears defense has not been great this year and the offense, especially Jay Cutler, has been subpar. But really, it’s the Bears offensive line that has been atrocious. I assume that Orlando Pace was sitting on the sideline in the second half because he was benched for poor play. I feel really badly for Pace in some ways. In his prime he was an outstanding left tackle. But injuries and time spent in the NFL getting pounded on every week has clearly made him past his prime. For his sake I hope to see him retire this year. It’s time.

Meanwhile, Cutler threw his obligatory two interceptions during the game and his receivers did nothing to help him. And what happened to Matt Forte?

The Bears are in big, big trouble going forward. They gave up a boatload of draft picks for Jay Cutler and are in such desperate need of help in so many areas that it may be years before we see this team win again, especially if the Cutler we see now is what we can expect in the future.

Brett Favre had another excellent day, and rookie wide receiver Percy Harvin lit up the field with six catches for 101 yards and touchdown.

MVP: Brett Favre, QB

Baltimore Ravens over Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-17 OT

Baltimore eked out a win against the Steelers and finally won a close game. They keep their slim playoff hopes alive. But Ravens fans shouldn’t get too excited. There is no reason that the Ravens should have had to go into overtime when the Steelers were starting a third string quarterback. They continue to play down to the level of their competition.

That’s not to say that second year quarterback Dennis Dixon from the University of Oregon had a bad game. He actually played quite well. While the Steelers obviously altered their game plan a bit for him, he did throw the ball, and mostly well, throughout the game. He also made a few nice plays with his legs. I think he has some potential. I felt sorry for him when he threw and interception in overtime that set up the Ravens for the win, but that’s how it goes.

The Ravens offense struggled a bit with the Steelers defense, but who doesn’t. I would say that Michael Oher and Jarred Gaither had a tough time against the Steelers linebackers, but who doesn’t? For the most part they played really well, but there were stretches of time where I they were getting beat. And if Michael Oher, both last week and this week sure looks like he is moving before the ball is snapped on almost every play, but I guess he’s not since the officials aren’t calling it.

Overall this was a very interesting game given the circumstances. I’m not surprised the Ravens won, I’m just surprised they found it so difficult to do so.

MVP: Ray Rice, RB

ADDITIONAL OBSERVATIONS

If I did a power ranking, the New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, and Indianapolis Colts would be the top three teams, in that order. There are several teams just below them.

Brett Favre, Drew Brees, and Vince Young had outstanding performances. Vince Young? He’s won five straight games as the starter for the Titans and has looked really good doing it. I wonder if he is going to make me eat my words that he will never be a good starting quarterback in the NFL?

I don’t recall the last highly touted wide receiver out of Florida that wasn’t a bust in the NFL. I’m sure someone will tell me who it is. But Percy Harvin is certainly breaking that streak.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

Defensive Player: Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay Packers

Offensive Lineman: Ryan Clady, T, Denver Broncos

Special Teams: LaRod Stephens-Howling, KR, Arizona Cardinals

Rookie of the Week: Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings

2009 NFL Season: Week 11

OBSERVATIONS

The theme of this week was clearly upsets, with the biggest being the Oakland Raiders knocking off the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs knocking off the Pittsburgh Steelers. Just missed upsets were Washington versus Dallas (go figure, Washington is a lousy offensive team) and the Ravens versus the Colts, as the Ravens just shot themselves in the foot, three times.

Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans has taken over Adrian Peterson’s spot as my top running back in the league and gets serious consideration for league MVP. Without his unbelievable running talent, the Titans are still winless.

Matthew Stafford coming into the game after separating his shoulder and throwing the winning touchdown pass was one of the gutsiest things I have seen in a long time. Wow.

If I were doing an NFL Power Ranking my top team very well may be the Minnesota Vikings, even though the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts are undefeated. The Vikings have a much better defense than either of those two teams and an almost equally potent offense.

Denver continues to fold.

GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over New York Jets, 31-14

This was an extremely important win for the Patriots given we lost last week to the Colts and face the undefeated New Orleans Saints next Monday night. And it certainly helps our chances for a second seed in the playoffs with the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers both losing this week.

Clearly the Patriots are a better team now than they were when they faced the Jets the second week of the season. The first half featured more running and short screens to slow down the blitz, and the offensive line played much better than the last time these teams met.

The Jets, frankly, don’t seem as good as they were earlier in the season. Mark Sanchez is a now playing like the rookie he is, looking confused and befuddled at times. Don’t get that comment wrong, however. I think he will be a solid NFL quarterback with experience. Even Joe Flacco (Ravens) and Matt Ryan (Falcons) who set somewhat of a standard last year for rookie quarterbacks are struggling a bit in their second season. But the Patriots are on the rise and the Jets are falling off the map.

The Patriots dominated this game from start to finish. Other than a blocked punt that netted the Jets an easy touchdown, the Patriots had the Jets’ number all day long. The offense seemed to go into a bombs away mode in the second half and got away from running the ball and the short passing game, which resulted in having a tougher time with the blitz and our offense didn’t do much in second half. But neither did the Jets.

Patriots’ cornerback Leigh Bodden came away with three interceptions, one which he returned for the first touchdown of the game. But Wes Welker had a monster game with 15 catches for 192 yards.

The Patriots better stick with the run and short passing game longer next week against the New Orleans Saints if they hope to win.

MVP: Wes Welker, WR

Miami Dolphins over Carolina Panthers, 24-17

Even without Ronnie Brown running the Wildcat offense I thought the Dolphins could beat the inconsistent Panthers with their solid running game. While they didn’t run the Wildcat nearly as often, they did hand the ball off to Rickey Williams who stepped up with 119 yards rushing and two touchdowns, which included a nifty 46 yard scoring run to put the game away in the fourth quarter.

Both of these teams played decent games but Carolina is a team that befuddles me. They have great running backs, a top flight receiver in Steve Smith, and a rather solid defense, mostly. But they are a mediocre to poor team at best. Oh yeah, they also have Jake Delhomme at quarterback, so never mind. It all makes sense now.

For Miami they are going to be in a real struggle to make the playoffs. It’s late in the season so maybe Ricky Williams can handle the extra workload, but he does not run the Wildcat a well as Ronnie Brown and they have a very pedestrian, non-threatening passing game. Most teams should just stack up against the run and they should be able to mostly hold the Dolphins down. But you have to give Miami credit for playing hard and making their offense work this week. Let’s see if they can keep it up.

MVP: Rickey Williams, RB

Indianapolis Colts over Baltimore Ravens, 17-15

What is wrong with the Baltimore Ravens? They have a very good football team but just cannot close the show. They had three excellent opportunities to win this game, but blew all three of them. Really, the Ravens should be sick about this loss. They could have easily won this game.

They did get rid of their lousy kicker who kept missing easy field goals. Their new kicker Billy Cundiff made some of the field goals he hit a bit heart stopping, but missed one wildly. But his miss appeared to be the fault of the snapper or holder because the ball was clearly held at an odd angle. Missed field goal, lose by two points. Bang!

In the fourth quarter the Ravens had the ball first and goal from the one yard line and could not score a touchdown and had to settle for a field goal. Fourth and one from the one, with an excellent offensive line and three outstanding running backs, against a defense that does not play that well against the run, and you can’t get the touchdown???? Another blown chance to get some points and win the game. BANG BANG!

And then Flacco, again in the fourth quarter, when the Ravens were near field goal range and could have won the game, throws a stupid interception. BANG BANG BANG!

Finally, with 28 seconds left and a Colts punt, the wickedly talented Ed Reed idiotically tries to lateral the ball near midfield and fumbles. Game over. Even with no time outs and 28 seconds left, the offense had a slight chance to get a few plays off and possibly kick a game winning field goal.

The Colts are a good team, obviously, at 10-0, but they escaped once again by the skin of their teeth and the Ravens let another winnable game pass them by. The Ravens are still in the playoff hunt at 5-5 but they should be better.

A final note, where did Tom Santi the tight end for the Colts come from? The second year player from Virginia saw his first action and the poor fellow made the biggest plays in the first half but took a beating for it. Even though he fumbled once, he was jacked up by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed at the same time!! Welcome to the NFL [expletives deleted]! I’ll give him a pass on that one and give him my MVP award.

MVP: Tom Santi, TE

Philadelphia Eagles over Chicago Bears, 24-20

The Eagles had a nicely balanced attack against the Bears, with rookie LeSean McCoy picking up 99 rushing yards, and DeSean Jackson racking up 107 yards receiving, including a 48 yard touchdown. What is up with all these XxSeans? With Dallas and the Giants joining the Eagles in mediocrity, the Eagles are in good position to once again steal the NFC East crown.

Meanwhile Jay Cutler looks just flat out awful. I really don’t like Cutler after all the bad mouthing he did in Denver and his generally sulky attitude. But frankly, I am starting to feel a little sorry for him. His mechanics are just atrocious. He constantly throws off his back foot and really is just arming the ball down the field without stepping into his throws. As a result he is very inaccurate, especially on the deep passes. Plus, he is skittish in the pocket and makes poor decisions. Right now he is a poor, not average, but poor quarterback. And his body language doesn’t look good at all.

The Bears better get Jay Cutler straightened out or they are in for not only a long season but possibly a long period of losing football.

MVP: DeSean Jackson, WR

Tennessee Titans over Houston Texans, 20-17

The Tennessee Titans do not look like the same football team that laid down against the New England Patriots. They have won four straight on the legs of Chris Johnson and with Vince Young leading them at quarterback.

In addition to Chris Johnson running the ball extremely well, I love what the coaching staff is doing with Vince Young. They are calling plays and letting him play to his strength. It has already been much discussed that Young is not a great pocket passer. In this game they rolled him out often and let him make plays with both his arm and his legs. They really are playing to his strengths. While I still don’t think Young will ever be a great NFL quarterback, with a solid running game and the receivers finally stepping up and making plays, Young can be very effective the way the Titans are running their offense. And that extra dimension of Young making big plays running makes the Titans offense that much more dangerous. With four straight wins, this team has new life.

On the flip side, and I know I’ve said this a hundred times about every team that is talented but not playing up to the level of their talent, I don’t know what to make the of the Houston Texans. Solid quarterback, decent running backs, great reciever, a lot of talent on defense, but they just can’t seem to a get everything together to string together some wins.

Finally, I know Chris Johson is the MVP of this team and he ran a league high 151 yards against the Texans. But I am giving my MVP award to Rob Bironas. He hit a 50 yard field goal and a game winning 53 yard field goal, while Texan kicker Kris Brown missed his chance. I have seen too many games where the kicker has missed makeable field goals that cost their team the game. Bironas came through with two very tough, long kicks to win the game.

MVP: Rob Bironas, K

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots

Defensive Player: Leigh Bodden, CB, New England Patriots

Offensive Lineman: Jared Gaither, T, Baltimore Ravens

Special Teams: Rob Bironas, K, Tennessee Titans

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

2009 NFL Football Season: Week 9

Week 9 turned into a disaster for three teams while other teams keep rolling along.

How did Green Bay manage to lose to Tampa Bay, who got their first win on Sunday? The Packer defense has just collapsed and the offensive line simply can’t protect Aaron Rodgers. Maybe the emotional letdown of losing to the Vikings twice and being three games back in the division with no realistic shot at the division title did them in?  Or maybe their defense just blows? But even at 4-4 a Wild Card spot is still a realistic goal.

Congratulations to Tampa Bay and rookie quarterback Josh Freeman on the Bucs’ first win of the season. Freeman may not have looked like the next coming of Tom Brady but he has to get Rookie of the Week honors for leading his team to a win in his first start.

After a big win against Denver last week the Baltimore Ravens have lost to Cincinnati for the second time this year. While stranger things have happened, their shot at the division title is greatly diminished. They are now a struggling team that needs to string some wins together to stay in the hunt.

The New York Giants after a 5-0 start have lost 4 straight. I’ve been saying all along they are an average team and they now look like it. After losing in the last seconds to the Chargers this is a team that needs to find itself.

The Tennessee Titans have won two in a row on the back of running back Chris Johnson. What happened to the 49′ers and their fine start to the season?

New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith has had two big games in a row. He might be making a run for my end of season All Pro Team. I’m sure he’s motivated by being left off my Midseason All Pro Team.

I’ve heard talk that the Patriots might be interested in signing Larry Johnson. I hope we don’t get that desperate. This guy is a punk.

GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Miami Dolphins, 27-17 (NFL Replay)

This was a critically important win for the New England Patriots who face the Colts, Jets, and Saints the next three weeks, a real murderers’ row. They handed Miami their first division loss and are now two games up on the Jets. The next few weeks are critical for the Patriots as they face two of the best teams in the league, and their archrival New York Jets, who shut Brady and his bunch down in their first meeting this season.

The Patriots defense bent a bit but did just enough to keep Miami from rolling all over them and really held them in check in the fourth quarter.

Randy Moss’s two huge plays, a one handed grab at the one yard line and 71 yard catch and run for a touchdown shows he’s still got it.

MVP: Randy Moss, WR

Cincinnati Bengals over Baltimore Ravens, 17-7

In many ways this game was not as close as the score might indicate. Cincinnati dominated both lines of scrimmage throughout the game and Baltimore never really threatened them. This is the second time I have seen the Bengals offensive line absolutely dominate an opponent.

For the Ravens they clearly missed Haloti Ngata who sat out with an ankle injury, as their defensive line was constantly knocked off the ball, rendering Ray Lewis and the rest of the linebackers less effective. These two teams played a few weeks ago with a similar result, although Cincinnati had to pull it out at the very end, so maybe he would not have made that much of a difference.

I hear a lot of people questioning whether Cincinnati is for real. They lost on a fluke play to Denver or they would be 6-1, after a mediocre outing against Houston. Seeing how well their offensive line has been playing and their consistency on defense, I think Cincinnati is definitely an upper echelon team. They will have a big test next week against division foe Pittsburgh.

Cedric Benson should thank his offensive line for another fine outing, rushing for 117 tough yards.

MVP: Cedric Benson, RB

San Diego Chargers over New York Giants, 21-20

The Giants really let one slip away here, allowing the Chargers to put together an 80 yard last minute drive to win the game. They have now lost four games in a row and don’t look very good on offense or defense.

Eli Manning is struggling, but frankly I don’t think it’s entirely his fault. After a good start to the season, Steve Smith nor Mario Manningham are doing much to help him out. Even the offensive line, one of the best in the league, struggled against the Chargers. They allowed Shawn Merriman to look like he was back on steroids and actually a good football player.

The Giants secondary has always been a weak spot but they were often protected by the ferocious pass rush of the Giants’ front seven. But against the Chargers they just simply were not getting it done for the most part.

The Giants are a mediocre team and they lost to another mediocre team. While neither team are bottom feeders, they don’t look like they are going anywhere in this season either.

The star of the day was wider receiver Vincent Jackson and his two touchdown grabs. He is starting to emerge as one of the elite receivers in the league. Now that the Chargers have cut Chris Chambers, Malcolm Floyd needs to step up. He did nothing this game. Meanwhile, Chris Chambers had a good day with his new team, the Kansas City Chiefs.

MVP: Vincent Jackson, WR

Dallas Cowboys over Philadelphia Eagles, 20-16

This game actually turned out more less the way I expected it, the Cowboys winning a close game. Neither team looked like world beaters but the Dallas offensive line, other than Flozell Adams, played a very solid game. They were able to move the ball enough to eek out a win. Leonard Davis played particularly well at left guard, where most of the running attack seemed to be focused.

Donovan McNabb loves to throw the ball in the ground. What is up with that? He seems to be getting less and less accurate with his passes every time I see him play. But of course the Dallas defense mugged him all night long. The entire Dallas defense played well, but my hats are off to SS Gerald Sensabaugh, who was a disruptive force in the game and had an interception. Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff
also had an excellent game with two sacks.

The Eagles were not able to generate many big plays and the offensive line wasn’t much help to Donovan and the backs. One always wonders about how valuable a single player is to a team, but the Eagles certainly do look a lot different without Brian Westbrook in the lineup. Even when he doesn’t get as many touches in a game the team seems to play better with him in there.

Dallas now has a solid grip on the top spot in the NFC East title race. While it’s not a death grip, this win leaves them sitting pretty.

MVP: Gerald Sensabaugh, SS

New Orleans Saints over Carolina Panthers, 30-20 (DVR)

I’m not sure why everyone is making a big deal out of the Saints’ “comeback” against the Panthers. They were never down by more than 14 points. For an offense this explosive that is nothing. The bottom line is the Saints have proven to be a winning team and winning teams find a way to win. The Panthers have proven to be a losing team, and losing teams find a way to lose.

The Panthers got their 14 point lead aided by a couple of turnovers (and a big play). The Saints were down 17-6 in after the first half as a result. But the telling part of the game and the difference between the two teams can be seen in the first two possessions of the second half.

The Saints get the ball in the second half and march to a touchdown to bring the game to 17-13. Carolina gets the ball and marches down to within the five yard line. They should score a touchdown, right? Instead they have confusion at the line of scrimmage and call a timeout. AFTER the time out, they run a horrible play that results in an easy sack for the Saints. Within the five yard line: a sack, results in a field goal instead of touchdown, 20-13, game over as the Saints go on with a few big plays to spank the lesser team.

Saints winners. Carolina losers.

Despite the big three plays by Brees to three different receivers, he had some turnovers so my MVP is DE Will Smith.

MVP: Will Smith, DE

Pittsburgh Steelers over Denver Broncos, 28-10

Is that crash I’m hearing the Denver Broncos coming back down to earth? After a 6-0 start they have back to back losses.

Well, let’s not beat up on Denver too bad. This game, like Denver’s loss last week, was a pretty hard struggle until the fourth quarter. The Denver defense played well, but they, not the Steelers playing in altitude in an away game, are the unit that seemed to fold a bit in the fourth quarter. Of course the Steelers kept pounding the rock at them. And Rashard Mendenhall seems to have established himself as the starting running back in Pittsburgh. With Willie Parker dinged up, Mendenhall ground out 155 yards to win the game.

And okay, Big Ben had a nice game, but I’m sick of hearing “elite” and “Hall of Fame” next to his name. Yes, he’s having a great year and had two Super Bowl wins. Did you know that Big Ben has the lowest QB rating of any Super Bowl winning QB ever? And that the Steelers won their first Super Bowl despite his poor play (and Seattle fans would say plenty of help from the atrocious referees). And that he wasn’t the best player on the field in their second Super Bowl win?

Okay, I really do love Big Ben, but he is no Dan Marino. Or is he?

MVP: Rashard Mendenhall, RB


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Defensive Player: Gerald Sensabaugh, SS, Dallas Cowboys

Offensive Lineman: Leonard Davis, G, Dallas Cowboys

Special Teams: Dustin Colquitt, P, Kansas City Chiefs

Rookie of the Week: Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers