As the NFL Turns: Observations on NFL 2010 Season Week 8

Nearly every NFL season has its soap operas, usually revolving around diva wide receivers (Terrible Terrell Owens, Chad Ochostinko, Keyshawn Johnson, and Randy Moss have provided good fodder for years). But frankly, I cannot remember a season with so many teams falling apart and in disarray.

The real center of the soap opera of the 2010 season has been two teams, the Minnesota Vikings and Brett Favre and the Washington Redskins with Albert Haynesworth and now the benching of Donovan McNabb in the last two minutes of a winnable game.

Let’s start with the Vikings. It’s been fun watching them implode this year.

The Minnesota Favres, Brad Childress, and Randy Moss.

Brad Childress does not run the Minnesota Vikings, Brett Favre does. I used to have a lot of respect for Favre but now I simply find him despicable. It has become clear over the last several years that Favre wants the universe to revolve around him and craves attention. The Green Bay Packers finally got fed up with his will he retire, won’t he retire annual soap opera and jettisoned him. Luckily for the Packers they did it before he could destroy the team. He has now succeeded in doing just that to the Minnesota Vikings. I am so sick of Favre I can hardly stand to see the purple uniform anymore. Hopefully they will continue to lose so I don’t have to see them in the playoffs.

First, Favre had his annual rite of lounging around in Mississippi leaking word that he might retire, he might not retire, don’t you want me back Vikings? “I’m injured and had ankle surgery so I might not come back. Did you hear me? I might not come back?! But I’m throwing the ball and working out. Pssst, I might retire. But I’m working out! Hey, look at me…I might retire, but the arm feels good.” I have come to believe the entire story of several Vikings players flying to Mississippi to get Favre and bring him back to Minnesota was entirely scripted. He missed all of training camp and has played mostly horrible this season.

Then rumors surfaced of him sending voice mails trying to lure a then New York Jets sideline reporter to his hotel room when he played for the Jets, and then supposedly sending lewd pictures. He admits to the voicemails but not the pictures. Give me a break. If he did one he almost certainly did the other. And guess who knows if those pictures really are of Brett Favre? His poor wife, a breast cancer survivor who has become a public figure herself. I feel sorry for her. Maybe the injuries and certainly a lack of domestic bliss has Favre distracted and that is why he isn’t playing well. Or that he missed all of training camp. Or that he is, and always has been, overrated.

Reportedly he doesn’t get along with or respect coach Brad Childress, and maybe for good reason. How can Favre respect a coach when he is the one that is really in control of the organization, not Childress? And stemming from that, why should the rest of players respect him? It’s becoming pretty clear they don’t.

And then we have the Randy Moss saga. The Vikings, desperate for wide receivers with the injury to Sydney Rice and the health of Percy Harvin, make a trade with the New England Patriots for the mercurial Randy Moss. And then cut him four weeks later after a tirade in the locker room aimed at some poor mom and pop outfit feeding the team and his rant about how much he misses the Patriots and taking a subtle jab at the coaching staff for not listening to before getting beaten by the Patriots this week. So the Vikings are out a third round draft pick for four weeks of Randy Moss with little to show for it.

Brad Childress, aka Chili, must be feeling the heat after the Vikings owner Zygi Wilf showed up to practice to talk to the players about their coach. Another nail in the proverbial coffin as far as any respect the players are likely to have for Childress. He may last this season, but he has got to be gone next. And if the Vikings are smart, so will Brett Favre, even if they have to lock him out of the facilities.

And then, unfortunately for a team that was on the cusp last year, they will likely be almost in a rebuilding phase next year.

If Childress were smart he’d bench Favre and put in Tarvaris Jackson to see, once and for all, if he can be a starting quarterback in this league. I suspect not, but they need to be looking to the future

Fat Albert, Donovan McNabb, and the Shanahans

No, this is not a new age rock band. This is the mess that is the Washington Redskins. Granted, the Redskins are much better this year with essentially the same personnel, except at quarterback, as they had last year. Mike Shanahan has clearly improved this team’s play. But what a whacky way to start his new coaching gig. It’s not a very auspicious start.

I find it hilarious that Dan Snyder gave Albert Haynesworth a $100 million contract with nearly half guaranteed. Last year he played okay but not a $100 million worth. And then he shows up to camp out of shape, doesn’t want to play nose tackle in the 3-4 defense, and can only get on the field in third down situations. I bet a lot of players would love to be making Haynesworth kind of money for taking a handful of snaps in the game. That is what Danny Boy gets. He loves the high priced, flashing signings instead of going after players of substance both mentally and physically. Haynesworth has no heart but he has a bank account full of Danny Boy’s money.

And now we get an even juicier story. The Redskins sign one of the better quarterbacks of his generation to lead the team into the future. And let’s face it, he has been very streaky this year and most of the Redskins’ wins have been because of their defense. McNabb played horribly against the Chicago Bears but the Redskins won thanks to four interceptions, with one being a touchdown, by DeAngelo Hall. But with about two minutes to go against the Detroit Lions this week, in a winnable game, they bench McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman. Rex Grossman! Of course Rex promptly fumbles the ball and gives up a touchdown to seal the game for the Lions.

Now wait a minute. You bench Donovan McNabb with two minutes to go for Rex Grossman? Shanahan first said it was because McNabb didn’t know the two minute drill as well as Grossman. So what has McNabb been doing since training camp during the two minute drill offense? Then he said it was because he was out of shape. Okay, maybe he is but what does that say when your starting quarterback is not in shape to run the two minute offense halfway through the season? Then he said it was because of injuries. While McNabb is dinged up, he said this is not the case.

Clearly Shanahan made an emphatic statement that he does not trust nor think McNabb is the quarterback of the future. His actions speak loudly. This will clearly be a strain on the Redskins’ psyche the rest of the season. Even with McNabb playing poorly with his overthrows and under throws and missing open receivers, Shanahan undermined a team leader. If McNabb is not your guy just say so and move on. It should be an interesting rest of the season for the Redskins.

The Dallas Jerry Joneses

The Dallas Cowboys are 1-6. Before he got injured Romo was inconsistent and the play calling suspect. Now with Romo out and Jon Kitna in the defense seems to have quit on the season as well. All the talk before the season started from the Cowboys and pundits was that this team would be playing the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Then the losses mounted up. Wade Philips took what appeared to be a swipe at offensive coordinator Jason Garret and heir apparent to the head coaching job after the loss to the Redskins. And Jerry Jones weekly, but it seems like almost daily, has to reiterate that Wade Philips is the coach for at least the rest of the season. It’s been fun watching the Cowboys lose this year. I hope it continues.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Minnesota Vikings, 28-18

The New England Patriots shut out Randy Moss and after a shaky first half offensively and defensively, outplayed the Vikings in the second half to secure the win. One of the biggest keys to the game was the Patriots’ outstanding goal line stand, stopping Adrian Peterson on fourth and 1 with a few seconds left in the first half to keep the Vikings from building their lead.

New England finally got its running game going in the second half with BenJarvis Green-Ellis pounding the ball for 112 yards and Danny Woodhead making some nifty runs to keep the chains moving. The biggest play of the game came in the third quarter when Brady scrambled around and then found a wide open Brandon Tate for a 65 yard touchdown pass and a 14-10 lead. That was followed by a Devin McCourty interception of Brett Favre (which actually bounced out of Percy Harvin’s hands) that New England promptly turned into another touchdown and never looked back.

The New England Patriots may have the best record in the league but their offense really has struggled at times without Randy Moss, who opened up the short passing game, and their defense has been mostly not up to par. In this game both units played very well in the second half, which was heartening to see for Patriots fans.

Danny Woodhead has been a huge addition to the team. If you simply look at his stats they appear unimpressive but Woodhead is a playmaker. He made some very nifty moves and fought for yardage to secure key first downs in the game and is as valuable a player as anyone on the squad save Tom Brady. And New England finally getting a running game going in the second half greatly helped keep the Viking defense a little off balance. On defense, Jerrod Mayo is a rock. He was mostly responsible for stopping Adrian Peterson on the goal line stand to end of the half, and frankly had stopped Adrian Peterson on the Vikings first score of the game but the referees gave the Vikings a touchdown.

Brett Favre actually played quite well in this game despite his ankle injury and before being knocked out of the game on a hit late in the game. But this team is in disarray and will likely continue to spiral downhill.

Meanwhile the Patriots are winning games on special teams, turnovers, and simply playing smarter than their opponents.

MVP: BenJarvis Green-Ellis, RB


Detroit Lions over Washington Redskins, 37-25

This was a fascinating game to watch. Both teams’ defensive lines dominated their opponents and both teams had outstanding special teams play, especially in kick returns. Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams just decimated the interior line of the Redskins leaving the running game and passing game in disarray. But the same can be said for the Redskins front three, plus London Fletcher and Brian Orakpo.

The difference? In the second half Matthew Stafford handled the pressure better than Donovan McNabb did, hitting Calvin Johnson for three touchdown passes. Johnson was taking a beating in the process but manned up and grabbed some tough catches. And Stefan Logan’s kick returns consistently set the Lions up on good field position. While he didn’t outduel the Redskins’ Brandon Banks returner who took one to the house for a score, his runbacks were a real difference maker for the Lions.

For the Redskins, like last year’s loss to Detroit, this could be a negative turning point in the season as Mike Shanahan benched Donovan McNabb with about two minutes to go in a winnable game. This unfathomable decision led to backup quarterback Rex Grossman taking a snap and getting mauled by the Lions’ defense and giving up a fumble for a touchdown. Redskins Park will be interesting for the next two weeks after this call (see above).

Ndamukong Suh is the real deal at defensive tackle and when healthy, Detroit rookie running back Jahvid Best has proven to be a dynamic runner. The Lions have a good, young core of players to build around for the future.

I know it will be odd not to give Calvin Johnson and his three touchdowns or Ndamukong Suh for his sterling play the MVP award for the game. Both of them deserve it. But the most telling difference in the game, outside of McNabb’s poor play even when he wasn’t under pressure, were the kick returns.

MVP: Stefan Logan, KR

New Orleans Saints over Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-10

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is the toughest, roughest, meanest, nastiest unit in the NFL. They are scary. And they played a great game against the Saints. The only problem is the Saints defense played a great game too and a turnover by the Steelers’ Heath Miller late in the fourth quarter was too much to overcome. With the score 13-10 New Orleans, and the Steelers moving the ball well, Miller fumbles near midfield. The Saints score what turns out to be the decisive touchdown. Then Big Ben throws another interception on the ensuing drive. Game over.

This very well might be the hardest hitting game I have seen all year long by both defenses.

MVP: Jonathan Vilma, LB

Indianapolis Colts over Houston Texans, 30-17

Many pundits crowned the Houston Texans Super Bowl champs and said the Colts were through after the Texans upset the Colts in their first tilt in the season opener. Peyton Manning simply did what Peyton Manning does best, pick apart the Texans like they were schoolboys against real men. Even with injuries to several starters and his security blanket Dallas Clark, Manning just made the Texans look silly on defense. It was a little embarrassing to watch actually.

And of course once behind, Dwight Freeney could tee off. He got a couple of sacks and some good pressure on Matt Schaub. At the start of the season after seeing him for a few games I thought Texans’ Duane Brown might be the best left tackle I’d seen. After being suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy he looks rusty and got schooled by Freeney. Maybe he needs to get back on whatever it was he got suspended for.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (238 total yards)
Defensive Player: Ndamukong Suh , DT, Detroit Lions
Offensive Lineman: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh Steelers
Special Teams: Stefan Logan, KR/WR, Detroit Lions
Rookie of the Week: Ndamukong Suh , DT, Detroit Lions

Doug Baker’s NFL All Decade Team 2000’s: Offense

Following is the definitive offensive team of the decade for the years 2000-2009. In some cases I name two players when it was particularly close call and the second player deserved a prominent mention on the team. Mostly I name one player for each position.

I only use statistics where needed when players are fairly close and it helps differentiate between contenders for key spots.

Fact checking was done using the following:  NFL.com, 2009 NFL Record and Fact Book, Pro-Football-Reference.com, and Wikipedia.com.

Quarterback: Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Quarterback: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts

There will be a never ending debate over who was the better quarterback in their careers, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Peyton sycophants will trot up all kinds of statistics that will show that Peyton Manning is the best regular season quarterback in this decade. I am not going to debate that.

But on the biggest stage and in the playoffs, Tom Brady has dominated the league in the 2000’s. He has been to four Super Bowls and won three of them, more than any quarterback this decade. And he engineered one of the greatest offensive performances in league history with 50 touchdown passes and a perfect 16-0 regular season record in 2007.

Meanwhile Peyton Manning’s teams have underperformed in the playoffs and have been to one Super Bowl, which they won.

Add to that Peyton Manning has had stability at wide receiver with Marvin Harrison and now Reggie Wayne, while Tom Brady had to work in average receivers in a lineup that changed frequently over the years.

To me, especially at the quarterback position, championships matter, so my nod goes to Tom Brady as the best quarterback of the decade.

Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan are the most likely young quarterbacks to define the next decade, but they are unlikely to duplicate the success of these two.

Running Back: LaDanian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers

Tomlinson is really the only running back that can be mentioned as the tailback of the decade. He has defined excellence at this position since he entered the league in 2001, reeling off eight straight 1,000 plus yard seasons. He has already amassed 12,489 yards rushing with 138 touchdowns, and 3,938 yards receiving with 15 touchdowns (stats as of 2009 week 16). He ranks 8th on the all time rushing list.

His best season was 2006 when he rushed for 1,815 yards and scored 28 touchdowns to lead the league in scoring.

Will Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans or Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings show up on this list in 2020?

FB: Lorenzo Neal, San Diego Chargers

Lorenzo Neal played for 17 years before being cut by the Carolina Panthers this year. From 2003 to 2007 he was the lead blocker for the best running back of the decade, LaDanian Tomlinson. I list him as a San Diego Charger even though he also played for the Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, and most recently the Baltimore Ravens in this decade. It was his five year stint with the Chargers where his performance earned him this award.

Will La’Ron McClain of the Baltimore Ravens take up the mantle at this position in 2010’s?

Center: Kevin Mawae, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans

Kevin Mawae has been an anchor on the offensive line this decade for both the New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans. No other center comes close to matching his excellence at this position over so many years. He is a seven time Pro Bowl participant.

Guard: Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets
Guard: Will Shields, Kansas City Chiefs
Guard: Steve Hutchinson, Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings

This decade Alan Faneca has been the most consistent performer at the guard position. He has made the Pro Bowl nine times in his 12 year career.

Will Shields is a forgotten player, maybe because he has been out of the league for a few years, but to me he was one of the most consistent and solid guards this decade. He played for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1993 to 2006. He went to 12 Pro Bowls in his 14 year career, making it every year from 1995 to 2006, when he retired. He blocked for the likes of Marcus Allen, Priest Holmes, and Larry Johnson. He was also an iron man starting in every game except one his entire career.

I could not in good conscious leave Steve Hutchinson off of this list. He has made the Pro Bowl seven times in his nine year career with the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings and is perennial regarded as one of the most outstanding guards in the league.

Tackle: Jonathan Ogden, Baltimore Ravens
Tackle: Walter Jones, Seattle Seahawks

Jonathan Ogden was the best offensive lineman in the league during his prime and is a shoe in for the Hall of Fame at left tackle. He made the Pro Bowl 11 times in his 12 year career with the Baltimore Ravens spanning the 1996 to 2007 seasons. A toe injury forced him to retire in 2007.

Walter Jones is the other dominant left tackle in the 2000’s, playing for the Seattle Seahawks from 1997 to 2008. He is currently on injured reserve. He has made nine Pro Bowls and has been recognized nearly every year he played, along with Ogden, as the best left tackle of the league.

Others that deserve mentions as being outstanding in their primes are Willie Roaf (1993-2005) who played with the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs. And, believe it or not, Orlando Pace who is now a washed up shell of himself in Chicago, was one of the best tackles of the decade in his prime with the St. Louis Rams.

Tight End: Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons
Tight End: Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers

Tony Gonzalez is best tight end of the decade, making a huge impact both blocking and receiving. He has 996 receptions for 11,777 yards and 82 touchdowns from 1997 to 2009 (with one game to go in the regular season). He currently is the career leader for tight ends in receptions and reception yards. He also has the single season reception record for tight ends with 102 catches in 2004.

With all due respect to Dallas Clark and Jason Witten, Antonio Gates has been the other dominant tight end this decade. From 2003 to 2009 he has 478 receptions, 6,211 yards receiving, and 58 touchdowns. He has been an integral cog in the Chargers offense during his career.

Wide Receiver: Randy Moss, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, and New England Patriots
Wide Receiver: Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis Colts

Randy Moss burst into the league in 1998 with the Minnesota Vikings and has been one of the most feared receivers in the league since. Despite less stellar years, by his standards, with the Oakland Raiders (and one with the Vikings) he has really been the face of the wide receiver position in the 2000’s. He currently has 921 receptions for 14,390 yards and 148 touchdowns. He is 10th all time in career receptions, 6th all time in career receiving yards, and second only to Jerry Rice in career receiving touchdowns. He also holds the NFL record for touchdown receptions in a season with 23 in 2007.

Marvin Harrison has been the most consistent wide receiver in this decade until a knee injury shut him down in 2007. He played for the Colts from 1996-2008 with 1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards, and 128 touchdowns. His best years were from 1999 to 2006 when he had multiple 100 plus catch seasons and was always over 1,000 yards receiving. In 2002 he set the single season receptions record with an amazing 143 catches for 1,722 yards and 11 touchdowns. He currently ranks second, only to Jerry Rice, on the all time receptions list.

Terrell Owens has statistics that rival Moss and Harrison, and some would even say surpass them with 1,002 receptions, 14,886 yards, and 143 touchdowns, but his divisiveness has literally blown up one team (the Philadelphia Eagles) and hurt two others (San Francisco 49’ers and Dallas Cowboys).

Tory Holt, who played for the St. Louis Rams from 1999 to 2008 (and is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars in a career that appears to be winding down) also deserves a mention. He was the key offensive threat during the Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf era from 1999 to 2001. He currently has 920 receptions for 13,382 yards and 74 touchdowns. He currently ranks 11th in all time receptions (one behind Randy Moss), and 10th in reception yards.

Kicker: Adam Vinatieri, New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts

Who else? Adam Vinatieri may not be the best pure kicker in the 2000’s but he may be the best clutch kicker of all time. He has made the most dramatic field goals in the most pressure packed situations than any kicker this decade. He kicked game winning field goals with little time on the clock in two Super Bowls and has four Super Bowl rings (three with the Patriots and one with the Colts).

But the most dramatic moment in Vinatieri ‘s career came in a playoff game against the Oakland Raiders in 2001. In a driving blizzard he kicked a game tying 45 yard field goal to send the game into overtime at 13-13. Some have called this the greatest kick of all time, and it probably was. He then kicked a 23 yarder in overtime to win the game which launched the Patriots on their way to their first Super Bowl championship where Vinatieri kicked the game winning field goal with no time left on the clock. What a year for a kicker!

Kick Returner: Dante Hall, Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams
Kick Returner: Joshua Cribbs, Cleveland Browns

From 2000 to 2008 Dante Hall had 10,136 yards on kickoff returns with six touchdowns, to go along with 2,261 punt return yards and six touchdowns. He was referred to as a human joystick with his ability to run around like a madman to break free for a long return, but mostly he went straight up the gut and followed his blockers, which he said is the key to success in returning kicks. Hall ranks 5th in combined kickoff and punt return yardage with 12,397 yards. He just barelyekes out Joshua Cribbs for the top spot only because he also had six career punt returns for touchdowns (which is tied for fifth most held by several players) and has complied return yardage that currently puts him among the top returners of all time.

Joshua Cribbs has played for the Cleveland Browns from 2005 to present. While there are many good kick returners in the league today, Cribbs is on a record breaking pace for kickoff yards and touchdowns. With 7,009 kickoff returns for a 26.7 average and eight touchdowns, he has already set the career record for kickoffs returned for a touchdown in a career, and he ranks 9th all time in career yardage. He also has 100 punt returns for 1,123 yards and two touchdowns. His 11.2 yard per return average ranks right up there with the best punt returners in the league now (DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles and Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears).

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE DECADE: TOM BRADY, QUARTERBACK, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Three Lombardi Trophies.
Four Super Bowl appearances.
Two Super Bowl MVP awards.

That’s what it’s all about.

Tom Brady, NFL Offensive Player of the Decade

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

2008 NFL Football Season: Week 12

Randy Moss Dominates the Dolphins

Randy Moss Dominates the Dolphins

New England Patriots over Miami Dolphins, 48-28  

Unfortunately I didn’t get to watch this game live because I can’t get DirectTV at my house. I did get to watch it on NFL Replay on the NFL Network.

Thank Matt Cassel and Randy Moss for this important win over the classless Dolphins!  This was essentially a playoff game in the regular season for both teams and it clearly showed.  The loser (Miami!) very likely will miss the playoffs.  Too bad the Titans, Eagles, and Chargers didn’t give the Patriots any help in our bid to get back to the postseason this year.  But a loss against the Dolphins would have been nearly catastrophic to the Patriots’ playoff chances given Miami would have the tiebreaker against us with a sweep of the season series and a better conference record.  Not to mention we would be two games behind the Jets.  As it stands we need to keep winning and hope someone can pick off the Colts and Ravens. 

The Patriots dominated the game offensively but let Miami stay in it because two turnovers lead directly to 14 Miami points. Matt Cassel had his second consecutive 400 yard passing game and is one of only five QBs in NFL history to accomplish this (the others being Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, Phil Simms, Billy Volek, and now Matt Cassel).  Meanwhile Randy Moss made some outstanding catches and recorded 8 catches for 125 yards, and 3 touchdowns. 

Joey Porter is a classless loudmouth punk and unfortunately he seems to be rubbing off on his teammates.  He received a couple of personal foul penalties late in the fourth quarter and his coach tried to pull him out of the game but he wouldn’t leave the field.  He’s not only a classless, loudmouth punk but a sore loser too.  Matt Light got into a fight with Dolphin linebacker Channing Crowder on a field goal.  I couldn’t tell from the replay what precipitated the fight but I’ve been watching Matt Light his entire career and he is definitely not a hot headed or dirty player.  The way the Dolphins were playing I’m sure the punk Crowder did something to provoke him then ran away like a sissy when the action got going. It was announced today they both got $15,000 fines but no suspension. 

While the Dolphins had a hard time stopping the New England offense, the New England defense wasn’t anything to get excited about. The Dolphins did not have “give me” touchdown drives on either of the Patriots’ turnovers. If the defense lived up to the offense the Patriots would be hard to beat.

Regardless of whether or not the Patriots make the playoffs, this has once again been a season where Bill Belichick, love him or hate him, has proven what a great coach he is (the debacle in the Colts’ game excepted).  The team didn’t panic after Tom Brady went down and Cassel has steadily improved all season long.  The offense, despite losing its best running back, is performing at a high level.  Ironically it’s the defense that has struggled more this year but they too have overcome significant injuries. 

And one more thing.  Wes Welker rules!!!

Next week will be a tough game against Pittsburgh.  I hope Big Ben sends a few of his stupid interceptions our way.

MVP: Randy Moss, WR, New England Patriots 

GAMES I WATCHED

New York Jets over Tennessee Titans, 34-13 

If you could only watch the offensive and defensive lines play and nothing else, barring turnovers, you could pretty much tell who won the game.  The team that dominates the line of scrimmage almost always wins.  The Jets offensive line put on one of the most dominating performances I have seen this year, and they did it against a great, highly touted defensive line.  Nick Mangold has been playing extremely well all season but this was an A+++ performance.  The interior line made Albert Haynesworth all but disappear as a factor in the game.  Haynesworth lined up at defensive end a few times and once overpowered the overrated D’Brickashaw Ferguson for a sack on Favre.  But for the most part the Jets handled the Titans tough defense. 

The Jets played a mostly run oriented, short passing game that was highly effective all game long moving the ball and putting points on the board.  Their offensive success kept them in third and short situations and they seemed to make nearly all of them.  The Jets controlled the ball for over 40 minutes compared to only 20 minutes for the Titans and they really started to wear down the defense in the second half.  Even though the game was, to me, already over because the Titans showed no signs of being able to come back, Leon Washington breaking off a 61 yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter was the nail in the coffin. 

Defensively the Jets also played quite well.  They clearly geared up to stop the run and were very successful doing so.  Unlike last week, however, the Titans could not generate offense through the air.  Kerry Collins didn’t play terribly, the Titans were just in third and long frequently.  It didn’t help that his receivers dropped several balls throughout the game, especially the first half, that could have made it a little more competitive. 

While this is only one game in the regular season, the Jets have served notice that they are going to be a team to be reckoned with down the stretch.  They have a five game winning streak and have knocked off two division rivals and the team most thought was the best in the NFL going into the game.  While all their wins haven’t been quite as impressive as this win over the Titans, if they can duplicate this kind of performance every week they are going to be hard to beat.

MVP: Brett Favre, QB, New York Jets

Washington Redskins over Seattle Seahawks, 20-17

As far as professional football games go, this one was a bit lethargic by both teams. It took a third quarter interception by Matt Hasselbeck with the game tied at 10, resulting in the Redskins starting in great field position and going up 17-10, to basically seal the game. While the Seahawks played fairly well defensively, Clinton Portis was the star of the show in the second half, grinding out 143 yards in the game. Ironically for these two West Coast, short passing oriented coaches, the game was decided by a power running attack by the Redskins in the second half.

Maybe it’s just me but the Redskins are not looking like a playoff caliber team. They seem lethargic (I say it again) and without the fire I saw earlier in the season.  And not just this week, but lat week against Dallas too.  Maybe it’s just a late season slump.  We’ll see.  Regardless, Jim Zorn is destined to be a solid head coach.  I’m impressed.

MVP: Clinton Portis, RB, Washington Redskins

Indianapolis Colts over San Diego Chargers, 23-20

The Colts and Chargers played a pretty even game. The difference in the game was one single turnover. Philip Rivers fumbled the ball in the red zone, on the 10 yard line, which the Colts drove to a 17-10 lead.  At least a 10 point swing, and possibly a 14 point swing if they could have scored.  Game over. Well, not quite. San Diego did come back late in the game to tie it at 20-20 but left too much time on the clock. Manning quickly got the Colts into very long field goal range but Adam Vinatieri booted a 51 yarder for the win.

I am frankly shocked that the Chargers, with all their talent, are 4-7. I don’t care if Tomlinson is not playing up to his standards or that they lost Shawn “Juicer” Merriman to injury, there is just no excuse for this team to have a losing record. 

And while Peyton doesn’t look like the Peyton we’ve seen in years past, he’s on a roll and the Colts are going to be a tough, scary match-up if they make the playoffs.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts

New Orleans Saints over Green Bay Packers, 51-29

Drew Brees put on a show with over 300 yards passing and four touchdown passes against the Packers in one of the best offensive showings I’ve seen this year. Meanwhile Aaron Rodgers did his best Brett Favre imitation, the bad Brett Favre that is, with three interceptions, two of them stupid ones that turned into Saints scores. The Saints offense was simply unstoppable all game long. The Packers put up some crazy numbers on offense as well but the turnovers and the inability of the defense to get a pass rush on Brees and his accurate passes and bombs just blew the game totally open in the second half. This was a phenomenal QB clinic by Brees in this game. He just shredded the defense of the Packers again, and again, and again. I think Green Bay is a good offensive team and will bounce back, but their defense, despite having two of the best corners in the league, were really exposed in this game.

MVP: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Terrell Owens, WR, Dallas Cowboys, 7 catches, 213 yards, 1 touchdown

Defensive Player: Ed Reed, FS, Baltimore Ravens, 2 interceptions and NFL record 108 yard interception return for a touchdown

Offensive Lineman: Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets

Special Teams: Domenik Hixon, 201 return yards and 68 yard kickoff return for a touchdown

Rookie of the Week:  Leodis McKelvin, CB, Buffalo Bills, 2 interceptions and 64 yard interception return for a touchdown

Patriots Resign Randy Moss to 3-Year Deal

Patriots fans can now take a big sigh of relief and rest a little easier. The Patriots have resigned Randy Moss to a three year, $27 million deal. As noted in previous posts Randy Moss is essential to opening up the offense, especially with the departure of Donte Stallworth to the Cleveland Browns.

The Patriots have lost a number of key players this year. It was looking so bleak that I thought we may have to trot out 15-year veteran Troy Brown to play receiver AND defensive back next year.

While the players we lost are going to be hard to replace, things aren’t looking too bad for the Patriots chances to compete for a championship again next year.