It's the eve of the best weekend on the NFL schedule, and this season, all eight division winners will vie to play for their conference championship game. Its been an up and down, average season for my picks but, i'm feeling like the Packers of 2010, sneaking into the playoffs and going on a roll to finish the season on top. Or maybe like the Giants of 2007 -- but we'll get to that.
On to the winners.
New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers (+4)
Finally, we're going to find out what the 49ers are made of. They have been looming under the radar all season, handling bad teams with ease on the west coast.
Jim Harbaugh, in his first season as the coach of the Niners, has transformed a team, with a relatively unchanged roster, into the NFC's second seed. His biggest accomplishment however, was managing to salvage Alex Smith's career, helping him become an effective quarterback -- albeit a game manager. But the question is, can Smith be a big game quarterback and get his team to the NFC title game? In this game, Smith cannot depend on the strength of his defence to hide his mistakes-- Brees is too lethal. Defensively, the Niners are a big, physical, intimidating team -- one that certainly won't feel threatened by Brees and the slew of records he snatched up this season.
Much has been made about the Saints and their struggles on the road. However, this, in reality, is a big misconception. The Saints have won 12 of their last 16 road games, many of which were played on natural grass. Saints quarterback Drew Brees is about as hot as he has ever been both in regular season play and in the playoffs. In the last four games of 2011, Brees threw 17 touchdowns to just three interceptions. In his last 5 playoff games, Brees has not thrown an interception, while throwing for 13 touchdowns. Big game Brees.
Although natural grass will slightly slow the Saints roll, weather should not be an issue Saturday, with clear skies ahead. This game will be a classic strength versus strength matchup. The Saints were second in scoring this season, while the 49ers were second in points allowed. Between a rock and a hard place, in a quarterbacks league, lean towards the star pivot. Alex Smith will have to be perfect to win this game, Drew Brees is the closest thing to it.
Pick - New Orleans Saints (-4)
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots (-14)
Rating records smashed and CBS execs counting stacks. Tebowmania invades Foxboro in what should be the highest rated non-superbowl game ever.
In Week 15, less than a month ago, the Patriots beat the Tebows, in what looked to be the beginning of Tebowmania unravelling. The Broncos dropped two straight after the loss to the Pats, but by the grace of god, they managed to upset the Steelers in overtime last weekend. The Pats won by 18 that day, but the game was much closer than the score suggests. The Broncos had their best quarter of football all season in that game. Tebow and McGahee ran rampant over the Pats defence in the first quarter, piling up 167 yards and a two score lead. However, the unravelling began at the drop of a ball. Well, three balls. Three costly fumbles, turned into Patriot scores and the Broncos lost control of the game, which score, eventually got out of hand.
Despite all the jokes, the Tebow effect has been substantial in Denver. Since Tebow was drafted, the Broncos are 5-16 without him behind centre, but when Tebow takes the snaps, the Broncos are 8-4.
The New England Patriots have lost just three times at home, with Tom Brady at the helm, since 2006. However, two of those games were playoff tilts. The Pats may not be as good as their record suggests. In fact, they didn't beat a team with a winning record all season. Defensively, the Patriots gave up over 400 yards of offence per game, which is worse than any other team in NFL history, minus the Packers of 2011.
The Broncos have nothing to lose in this game. They should be loose, confident and ready to ball. If they run effectively and protect the ball, they will hang around. The Patiorts will ultimately prevail, and reach the AFC title game without beating an opponent with a regular season record over .500. But, the line is far too big for a playoff game, especially against the son of god.
Pick - Denver Broncos (+14)
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens (-9)
It may not be pretty, but it'll sure be nasty.
The Ravens and Texans will slug it out in the trenches in a rematch of Week 6, in which the Ravens dominated the Texans in Baltimore. The Texans will return to the east coast for the rematch Sunday, on a field in which the Ravens remain undefeated this season. For the first time in the Harbaugh era, the Ravens will have the luxury of playing a home playoff game.
Back in week 6, the Ravens dominated with Matt Schaub still under centre for the Texans. Two quarterbacks later, the Texans will have to lean heavily on the best rushing tandem in the NFL. In their last matchup, Arian Foster was limited to just 49 yards on the ground. However, the Ravens were able to bring an extra man into the box to stop Foster, because one the leagues premier receivers, Andre Johnson, was inactive that day. On Sunday, Johnson will provide TJ Yates with a legit deep threat, that should open up a few holes for the Texans rushers. Along with the second ranked rushing attack, the Texans also boast the league's second ranked defence.
These two teams are eerily similar. Both run well, play great defence and struggle to throw the ball. Home field advantage will go a long way in this bout, but the key factor in this game will be the utilization of Ray Rice. If Cam Cameron decides to lean on his best offensive player, the Ravens will win this game handily. However, the Texans have the formula to keep games close and short - run the ball, play defence.
Pick - Houston Texans (+9)
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers (-9)
Can the Giants recapture the magic of '07?
The script is certainly starting to look like the one the Giants wrote 4 years ago. The parallels are undeniable. Back in 2007, the Giants gave the undefeated Patriots all they could handle, but ultimately came up short in their bid to end the Patriots undefeated regular season run. This season, the Giants went toe to toe with the undefeated Packers, a game that featured lead change after lead change, until Aaron Rodgers made best of the final drive. Despite the loss, the Giants left the game with an undeniable confidence, just like in 2007.
A month and a half later, the Giants are a better, healthier and even more confident team, peaking at the perfect time and culminating in their near shutout of the Falcons on wildcard Sunday. Eli Manning, along with his elite pair of wideouts, has never been better. Despite being ranked 32nd in rushing this season, the combination of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw is gaining some serious steam. And finally, the best pass rush on paper are now playing like players possessed.
The Giants have nothing to lose and will no doubt, carry some swagger into Sunday. This game will be won or lost at the line protecting Aaron Rodgers. If the Giants can get to Rodgers, pressuring and disrupting his rhythm, they may be able to make up for the deficiences in the secondary, that will inevitably by exploited by the Packers' elite receiving core, given time.
I think this game will play out much like the first, with the teams exchanging leads. Both teams will score and both teams will be scored on. Unlike Favre in 2007, Rodgers, in the clutch, will ultimately win out, but you have to take the points with New York this weekend. Too many.
Pick - New York Giants (+9)
THE MORNING AFTER - NFL WEEK 14
Stretched to their limits, the Green Bay Packers survived the New York Giant's best on Sunday afternoon, improving to 12-0, as they close in on a perfect season. In their next three games, the Packers will be heavy favourites, with the Raiders, Chiefs and injury-riddled Bears next on the calendar. They should improve to 15-0, before a date with the Detroit Lions, who will more than likely require a victory for a chance at the playoffs, to decide a possible 16-0 season. However, the Giants may have slightly exposed the Packers, as they made Aaron Rodgers look human for the first time this season and torched the Packers secondary for 350 passing yards. The Giants big mistake was leaving time on the clock before tying the game late in the fourth quarter. The should have known better.
How long can TJ Yates keep the Houston Texans at the top of the AFC? The Texans rallied around their third string quarterback, who made his first career pro start, and they managed beat a good team in the Atlanta Falcons. Injuries continue to pile of this team however, as all-pro wide receiver, Andre Johnson, now has two injured hamstrings. Like a Jenga puzzle, the Texans are quickly rising, but a weakening base has them on the verge of collapse.
Does anyone want to win the NFC Wildcard? All five teams that will be contending for the two wild card playoff spots, lost on Sunday. The Cowboys, Giants, Falcons, Bears and Lions all had their records dip and missed opportunities to seize control.
Speaking of the Wild Card race, it should be a fun one in the AFC. With either the Steelers or Ravens having locked up the first wild card birth (depending on who wins the division), five teams will be scrapping it out for final playoff positioning. The five teams involved in the race; the Bengals, Jets, Raiders, Titans and Broncos, all have matching records of 7-5. With either the Raiders or Broncos are guaranteed to win the West, the remaining four teams will have absolutely no margin for error, if they expect to compete in the new year.
Stick a fork in the Bears season. If Jay Cutler's injury wasn't the final nail in the coffin, Matt Forte's possible torn MCL is. With Cutler and Forte out, the Bears offence was completely stagnant in a loss to the Chiefs, as they were only able to muster a field goal on Soldier Field.
Something is wrong in the world when you can hold a gun up to someone's head, have a man begging for mercy, fire it to threaten them and commit misdemeanour assault, but just days later, play a professional football game. Raiders (no surprise) Linebacker, Rolando McClain had quite the homecoming, when he returned to Alabama for a funeral and was arrested for his actions listed above.
Sticking with Raiders, Richard Seymour was ejected from the game, being involved in a minor skirmish on the field with Richie Incognito. Maybe the softest ejection I have ever seen. Not exactly Rolando McClaine-esque. Despite the controversial ejection, there is no doubt that the Raiders bad boy image does nothing but bite them back. No one is scared of a team that is on pace to break the NFL record for penalties. In fact, they want to play the Raiders because they make it way too easy.
The Bengals finally looked like, well, the Bengals. In a huge divisional game with the Steelers, their playoff hopes took a major hit as they were trounced in Pittsburgh. Their wounds, like in years past, were mostly self-inflicted. A false start negating a touchdown, a blocked field goal attempt, fumbles and pass interference penalties made it easy for the Steelers to declaw the Bengals.
The Viking secondary is so bad, it made evn Tim Tebow look good. Tebow is now 6-1 as a starter with another come from behind win, this time over the Vikings in Minnesota. The team had always had his back, and now it seems like the coaching staff and upper management is starting to buy in to Tebow-mania.
Aaron Maybin must not have been a fan of the city of Buffalo (can you blame him?). Maybin was run out of town because of his poor performance in Buffalo after the Bills invested a first round pick on the pass rusher. Upon his release, the Jets quickly scooped him up, and contrary to the Bills, they have received a big return on their investment. Maybin was a beast on Sunday, forcing a huge 4th quarter fumble with a sack of Rex Grossman, sparking the Jets to a come from behind, 21 point, 4th quarter win.
Christian Ponder had a Game Ball all but wrapped up, throwing for a Vikings rookie record of 381 passing yards and three TDs, until he handed the Broncos the victory, with a terrible interception that sealed yet another Tebow-led comeback. Vikings fans have to be excited for what the future will bring with Ponder; He is going through the bumps and bruises most rookies endure but has shown flashes of brilliance both passing and running with the football.
Larod Stephens-Howling made the most of his only reception on Sunday with this walk-off winner.
Week 13 Game Balls
1) Dan Orlovsky - Yes, that Dan Orlovsky. Orlovsky proved the Colts coaching staff incompetent once again on Sunday as he scorched the Pats secondary on Sunday for 353 yards and two TDs. Although much of his success occurred when the game was already out of reach, Orlovsky is a far better option than Curtis Painter, and he may have ensured another year of earning an NFL pay check with his performance.
2) Rob Gronkowski - Gronkowski would have broken the NFL Tight End record with his 14th TD reception of the season, but the pitch from Brady was a few degrees off. Nonetheless, Gronkowski scored three touchdowns, one of which considered a rush, against the Colts Sunday, and tied the NFL record, that he will eventually shatter with his 13th TD reception of the season. BiBi must be proud.
3) Cam Newton - Speaking of records, Cam Newton broke the single season record of rush TDs by a quarterback with his 13th of the season, in a three rushing, one throwing TD performance in a Panthers blow out of the Buccaneers.
4) Chris Johnson - He's back. Johnson led the Titans into the thick of the AFC wild card playoff race with 153 yards rushing and two touchdowns in a win over the Bills.
5) Shonn Greene - Greene found the end zone three times for the Jets, for his best fantasy performance of his career.
6) Mario Haggan - Haggan filled the void and more, in place of injured pro-bowl calbire Broncos rookie linebacker, Von Miller. Haggan led the Broncos in tackles and returned a Ponder interception for a touchdown, sparking the Broncos who won their 5th straight.
7) San Francisco 49ers Defence - I know it was the Rams, but when you pitch a shutout in the NFL, you deserve some props. In addition, they did it without their leader, Patrick Willis, for much of the game as their captain left with an injury.
8) Ray Rice - Rice had a career-high 204 rush yards and added a touchdown in the Ravens win over the Browns. He was all the offence they needed.
9) Percy Harvin - With Adrian Peterson out for the Vikings, Harvin is the only real offensive threat for the Vikings. Despite garnering a lot more attention from the defence, Harvin put on a show on Sunday, picking up 175 yards from scrimmage and two TDs. Recieiver or running back, it doesn't matter. He is a flat out great football player.
10) Clay Matthews - Matthews was huge on Sunday, helping keep the Packers undefeated. He jumped a route perfectly and returned an interception back for a touchdown, forced a fumble and sacked Eli Manning as the Packers held on to perfection.
Week 13 Goats
1) Detroit Lions - The Lions played well enough to be beat the Saints Sunday night. However, once again, they showed their immaturity and selfishness that has haunted them all season, committing 108 yards in terribly stupid penalties, that truly were the difference.
2) Caleb Hanie - Donovan McNabb anyone? Hanie was miserable on Sunday, completing just 11 passes for 133 yards and three interceptions.
3) Matt Ryan - On a team with all the pieces, Matt Ryan is not getting the job done for Atlanta. He threw two costly interceptions for the dirty birds, who have put themselves in a tough spot in the NFC wild card race.
4) Michael Bush - Bush had just 18 yards rushing for the Raiders, who offence was stymied by his poor performance. Bush had been tearing up defences after McFadden was injured, before Sunday's blow out loss to the Phins.
5) Jason Garrett - Don't ice your own kicker, Jason.
Rankin' Em after Week 13
1) Green Bay Packers - Cracks are beginning to form in the Packer armour, but they have a real legitimate shot at 16-0, after barely surviving the Giants, who were thought to have the best chance. They also, quietly, clinched the division.
2) New Orleans Saints - The Saints are definitely gaining ground on the Pack, with Brees and the Saints arguably outplaying the Rodgers-led Pack over the past few games. With the rest of the NFC playoff hopefuls floundering, a dream NFC Championship matchup between the Pack and Saints seems more and more likely.
3) New England Patriots - There are 29 other teams in the NFL that could beat the Colts by seven this season. But, despite the final score, this game was never in doubt. The Tight End combination of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski is un-defendable.
4) Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens ran all over the Browns en route to their best start in franchise history at 9-3. With the Colts, Chargers, Browns and Bengals remaining, the Ravens should win the division and clinch a first round bye.
5) Pittsburgh Steelers - Possibly their best game of the season, the Steelers tamed the Bengals and have all-but clinched an AFC wildcard birth at 9-3.
6) San Francisco 49ers - The Niners can surely make bad teams look bad. The 49ers shut out the Rams on Sunday, but until they beat a good team, I'm not sold, despite the 10-2 record.
7) Houston Texans - Impossible not to root for these guys. Not deterred by the decimation of injuries, the Texans improved to 9-3 and currently are the top seed in the NFC.. for now.
8) New York Giants - Valiant attempt against the Pack. The Giants visit Big D next Sunday night to face the Cowboys, with control of the NFC East at stake.
9) Atlanta Falcons - This team needs to get together fast, the playoffs are slipping away.
10) Detroit Lions - The NFC's version of the bad boy Raiders continue to shoot themselves in the foot. But with the other NFC wild card contenders floundering, despite losing two straight, the Lions are still in the best position to earn a wild card birth.
On the Bubble - New York Jets, Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans
San Diego Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars (+3)
The Jaguars have a defence that will surely give Philip Rivers fits, if he continues to play the way he has this season. However, if forced into mistakes, the Jags simply do not have the offence to make them pay. Finally, with the playoffs out of reach and lessened pressure and expectations on the team, Rivers will have his A-game and the Chargers will pound the Jags.
Pick - San Diego Chargers (-3)
THE MORNING AFTER - NFL WEEK 9 REPORT
Deja Vu? Unlike his brother, Eli Manning certainly has Tom Brady's number. Just like in Super Bowl 42, the Patriots took a late 4th quarter lead, handing the ball to Eli for a two minute drill, down a score. Once again, Eli Manning stepped up and stunned both the Patriot faithful and the NFL world as he marched the Giants down the field, eight plays for 80 yards, capped off by a one yard TD pass to Jake Ballard. Ballard played the role of David Tyree (even sporting Tyree's number 85, imagine that) in the comeback, making a fantastic over the shoulder grab up the middle midway through the drive. The Giants and Patriots are starting to form a history, and with Peyton's career in flux, its great for the NFL and its fans to still have a Brady-Manning rivalry.
Great football game in Pittsburgh. Thank goodness the Ravens and Steelers play each other twice a year or we'd be without real, passionate, hatred-filled football. When I think Steelers-Ravens, the only thought that comes to mind is helmets smacking together, its awesome. Football is much more exciting when the teams are legitimately trying to hurt one another. But how about Joe Flacco? 92 yard game winning drive against the Steelers defence? What a drive, pass and redemption catch from Torrey Smith. Despite their ups and downs this season, the Ravens have beat the Steelers twice, own the tiebreak and sit atop the AFC North.
Props to the Miami Dolphins for showing some balls and putting a hurt on the Chiefs Sunday. Although they all but removed their bid from the Andrew Luck sweepstakes with the win, they deserve credit for showing some pride, unlike the Colts. Matt Moore looked off the charts, throwing for 243 yards and two scores and to the surprise of Dolphins fans, there was finally a Brandon Marshall sighting. On the other end of the spectrum, Jim Caldwell's Colts continue to just lay over and die. I'd be embarrassed to be a fan, no matter what the prize is.
With the loss, Chiefs Coach, Todd Haley, can finally get a shower in.
Two division leading teams had a great chance to solidify their relevance and assume control of their playoff fates on Sunday, but both failed miserably. The Chiefs were embarrassed by the Dolphins while the Bills failed to show up against the Jets. Now, the Chiefs have no excuse for their effort, but the Bills ran into a really tough defence in Rex Ryan's Jets. All phases of the Jets defence were stellar in their dominant win over the Bills. The pass rush was all over Fitzpatrick, while the secondary was blanketed over the Bills receivers all afternoon. The AFC East should be a fantastic race down the stretch, as the Jets now look like who we thought they were and the Bills and Patriots failed to pull away.
How do you flag Yeremiah Bell for his hit on Dwayne Bowe? Picture perfect, clean, yet bone-jarring hit. The NFL is getting way too soft.
Could the Titans really cut Chris Johnson?
The Saints prevailed in what turned out to be a tough game against the Bucs. Despite Drew Brees shining this year (first player to ever reach 3,000 passing yards in their first nine game), where would the Saints be without Darren Sproles. The Saints brass certainly got it right trading Reggie Bush to acquire Sproles. He is the catalyst for the Saints offense and Brees' go-to-guy in any tough situation. Brees just lights up when talking about the speedy running back. I think he found a new best friend.
With another easy win, the 49ers have moved to 7-1 and have opened up a 5 game lead in the NFC West, just eight games into the season. Eight. Check out the NFC West standings. It's a joke.
Is it just me or does every incompletion in the NFL result in both the wide receiver and defender reaching for their imaginary flags in protest? Just play, this isn't soccer.
Raiders WR, Jacoby Ford earns catch of the day honors for his tight rope walk along the endzone sideline for the TD.
Man, Ryan Clark can hit.
Week 9 Game Balls
2) Arian Foster/Ben Tate - Houston has the best running back tandem in the league. Foster and Tate combined for 239 yards and two TDs, ripping through the Browns defence all afternoon.
3) Matt Moore - Minimal skill, whole lot of heart.
4) Calais Campbell/Patrick Peterson - Campbell forced overtime against the Rams, blocking Josh Brown's game winning field goal attempt with time expiring. Peterson, whose pass interference penalty put the Rams in position to win, returned a punt 99 yards in overtime to walk off the Rams.
5) Tim Tebow - Tebow got roughed up in the "Black Hole" Sunday, but left with a W. Bloodied up, Tebow chipped in with 118 yards rushing and two passing TDs on just 124 yards passing. However, he finally got some help from his teammates who seemed to rally behind the young pivot.
6) Charlie Peprah - Peprah was the difference for Green Bay in their win over the Chargers on Sunday. In the first quarter, Peprah sat in coverage and picked off Rivers before dancing through defenders en route to the endzone for a pick six. Later, with the Chargers rallying to tie, Peprah sealed the win with his second pick of the afternoon, Rivers' 3rd of the game.
7) New York Jets Defence - There's more than one island in the Jets secondary. The Jets defensive backs were game-changers in Buffalo Sunday, giving Ryan Fitzpatrick absolutely no targets. Despite no sacks, the Jets pass rush disrupted Fitzpatrick all day and the Jets defence accounted for four turnovers in their shutdown of the Bills. A performance sure to make Rex proud.
8) Eli Manning - Belichick and Brady must have nightmares about this guy. Eli, really?
Note - Aaron Rodgers receives a game ball every week, unless stated otherwise. It gets tedious.
Week 9 Goats
1) Philip Rivers - Rivers threw for 385 yards and 4 TD's Sunday. Game Ball numbers right? Nope. Once again, mistakes from Rivers cost the Chargers a win. Rivers threw two pick sixes and a third interception that halted the Chargers' drive to tie the undefeated defending champs late in the 4th. He leads the NFL with 14 interceptions, and the Chargers 4-4 record can be fully attributed to that stat.
2) LaGarrette Blount - The Bucs were chipping away at the Saints lead midway through the second half and driving to pull them within a score. However, Blount reverted back to his college days and connected with an upper cut on a Saints defender during a scrum. The punch cost the Bucs 15 yards and a chance to get back into the game.
3) Curtis Painter - Painter was so bad, Dan Orlovsky relieved him.
4) Sergio Brown - With 30 seconds left in Manning's two minute drill, Brown was flagged for pass interference at the goal line when he collided with Victor Cruz. The penalty made Eli's game winning score academic as he found Ballard for the TD a play later.
5) Tarvaris Jackson - 221 yards and three picks in a loss to the Cowboys. As a Vikings fan, it pleases me to no end.
Note - Chris Johnson receives Goat status every week, unless stated otherwise. It gets tedious.
Rankin' Em After Week 9
1) Green Bay Packers - (8-0) - The Pack are just the third defending Super Bowl Champ to reach 8-0 the following year but at some point, that defence has to play better.
2) San Francisco 49ers - (7-1) - The 49ers have won five games in the Eastern timezone while compiling a 7-1 record overall and all but wrapping up their division half way through the season. But the book is still out on this team, when will they play a decent team?
3) New Orleans Saints - (6-3) - Brees continues to chase down Marino's record, becoming the first player to pass for over 3,000 yards in their first nine games.
4) Baltimore Ravens - (6-2) - 92 yard game winning drive in Pittsburgh. Mr. Flacco, I am impressed.
5) Pittsburgh Steelers - (5-3) - Heartbreak for the Steelers. With control over the AFC North all but locked up, the Steelers let it slip through their fingers with Flacco's late game heroics. All of the sudden, they are third in the division.
6) New York Giants - (6-2) - Without Bradshaw and Hixon, the two most skilled offensive weapons for the Giants, they managed to knock off the Pats. To say their pass rush is elite, is an understatement.
7) Philadelphia Eagles - (3-4) - The Eagles better keep rolling because the Giants are starting to run away with the NFC East.
8) Detroit Lions - (6-2) - If I was Roger Goodell, I'd reject a meeting with Ndamukong Suh too.
9) New England Patriots - (5-3) - Nothing better than a Tom Brady temper tantrum eh?
TIE - 10) Atlanta Falcons - (5-3) - I was expecting the Falcons offense to explode on the Colts, but really, only Julio Jones impressed.
TIE - 10) Houston Texans - (6-3) - Without Mario Williams and Andre Johnson, the Texans are running away with the AFC South on the strength of Arian Foster and Ben Tate.
Bubble - New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills
Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles (-8.5)
Tough line for the Monday nighter. The pressure on Philly is getting heavier with the Giants playing so well as of late. I expect another primetime, pro bowl showcase with Vick and McCoy carving up the aging Bears defence. Eagles cover.
Pick - Eagles -8.5
For more NFL odds and opinion, follow me @kidcuthy
THE MORNING AFTER - WEEK 8 NFL REPORT
The "Show Me" state is starting to show off. Two days after the Cardinals completed their miracle World Series run, the previously win-less Rams, with AJ Feeley at the helm, upset the New Orleans Saints 31-21. The World Champion St. Louis Cardinals were on hand for the game and honoured by the crowd while parading around their World Series trophy. Their presence must have inspired some championship mentality onto the city's football team. The Rams were led by Steven Jackson, who ran for 159 yards and two scores, and a defence, sparked by a relentless pass rush, that shutdown an offence that put up 62 points a week ago. The party in St. Louis keeps on chugging.
Rob Ryan needs to shut up. Every time he opens his mouth, he is forced to put his foot in it (insert Rex Ryan joke here). Ryan continued to call the Eagles all hype before their huge NFC East showdown last night and in the off-season, claimed that they would "beat their ass". Consequently, the Eagles crushed the Cowboys 34-7 and embarrassed Rob's defence by running all over them. The Eagles rushers combined for 239 yards and Michael Vick looked vintage, having his way with the 'Boys defence. Vick and McCoy are the most dynamic, exciting and explosive QB-RB tandem in the NFL. All of the sudden, Philly are once again favorites in the NFC East and easily look like the best team, despite being just 3-4. The all-stars are beginning to gel and the rest of the NFC needs to take notice.
In the only big game of the afternoon, the Steelers beat the Patriots 25-17. The Steelers defence looked as dominant as ever, making Tom Brady look like anything like, Tom Brady. They were able to hold the "golden boy" to just 198 passing yards and the Patriot rushers to just 43 yards.
Tebow-geddon is blowing up in the Broncos face. The Broncos were embarrassed at home by the Lions 45-10. Tim Tebow threw for just 172 yards with a completion percentage of just 46%. He fumbled the ball three times, with one returned for a touchdown and Chris Houston capitalized on his lone interception and returned it for 100 yards and a score. Tebow's rep of "just winning" is in serious danger as long as he takes snaps behind Broncos center.
Dolphins QB, Matt Moore deserved some credit for his effort in a loss to the Giants. The hook slide wasn't in Moore repertoire Sunday as he fought for every inch of his 31 rushing yards that led the 'Phins to a halftime lead. Although he'll never be a good NFL QB, Moore showed some serious passion and effort, two scarce attributes in Miami, and forced the Giants to the brink.
Who Dey? The Bengals have won 4 straight games behind the combination of the "Red Rifle", Andy Dalton and rookie stand-out WR, AJ Green. However, the book is still out on the Bengals. Their four wins have been against teams with a combined 9-21 record.
Tony La Russa should never be allowed to wear a football jersey in public.
Week 8 Game Balls
1) Steven Jackson - This guy is a horse. Jackson galloped for 159 yards and two TD's on 25 carries and was the difference for the Rams in their upset of the Saints.
2) Anquan Boldin - Boldin looked like a man possessed when it looked like the Ravens were going to lose to his former team. He caught seven balls for 145 yards including a filthy one-handed grab as the Ravens stormed back to bounce the Cardinals.
3) Fred Jackson - Jackson carried the Bills offence once again, picking up 194 yards from scrimmage. What's got into this guy?
4) Darian Stewart/Chris Long - Rams Saftey, Darian Stewart sealed the Rams upset over the Saints as he jumped the route in front of the Brees pass and sprinted into the endzone to extend the euphoria in the mid-west. Long had three sacks and the best celebration of the weekend as he showed off his inner Cardinal, taking a homerun swing after a sack.
5) Patrick Peterson - 5th overall in 2011 NFL Draft, Cardinals CB, Patrick Peterson took back his second punt return for a score this season in a loss to the Ravens.
6) Cliff Avril/Chris Houston - The Lions defence put a hurt on Tebow and the Broncos. Avril led the assault on Tebow with three tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and a 24 yard fumble recovery for a TD. Houston picked off Tebow at the goal line and returned it back 100 yards, untouched, for the major.
7) Jacksonville Jaguars Defensive Line - In the second quarter, Clint Sessions forced a fumble with a sac of Matt Schaub and DE Matt Roth scooped it up. Roth then threw an overhead lateral back to DT Terrance Knighton, who then flipped the ball back to Sessions who picked up an additional 10 yards. The imaginative, unexpected and ballsy play from the Jags D-Line would set up a Jaguars TD a few plays later and add some excitement to a game that lacked much.
8) LeSean McCoy - McCoy gained more yards than Tom Brady threw for yesterday. The Eagles running back shredded the 'Boys defence, picking up 200 total yards and scoring two TD's.
Week 8 Goats
1) Chris Johnson - 34 yards on 14 carries for the highest paid running back in the league. CJ's backup, Javon Ringer, had double the offence on the same about of touches.
2) Chad Ochocinco - Once an all-pro wide receiver, Ochocinco has a total of nine receptions for the Patriots in 2011. Ocho didn't have a catch in the Pats 25-17 loss to the Steelers. "Kiss the baby", Chad.
3) Olindo Mare - On a 4th and long with the game on the line, Cam Newton continued to show poise beyond his years, hitting Brandon LaFell for a 44 yard strike and assuring the Panthers would at least force overtime against the Vikings. Or so they thought. Mare booted a 31 yard field goal attempt wide left and the Vikings escaped Carolina with a 31-28 win.
4) Rob Ryan - All hype eh Rob? The Philly offence finally exploded Sunday night and embarrassed Ryan's defence. It couldn't be more entertaining watching Ryan's temper tantrums.
5) Mike Shanahan - Shanahan was shutout for the first time in 267 consecutive games as a coach. Impressive stat for Shanahan but Goat status nonetheless.
6) Dallas Cowboys - You'd think they would show up for that game.
Rankin' Em After Week 8
1) Green Bay Packers - The only thing not working for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are Rodgers' Associated Bank commercials. Best QB in the NFL, but far from funny.
2) Pittsburgh Steelers - Vintage Steeler football on Sunday. Roethlisberger was unleashed, passing 50 times for 365 yards and two touchdowns while the defence looked mean and nasty, holding Tom Brady to 198 yards. No one does that.
3) San Francisco 49ers - Hard to beat the LB tandem of NaVarro Bowman and Patrick Willis. They have combined for 80 solo tackles this season and are both in the top 10 individually.
4) New England Patriots - Chad Ochocinco`s lack of production is showcasing a major void in the Patriot offence. They have no deep threat, and good defences, like the Steelers, can take advantage of that ineptness.
5) New Orleans Saints - Last week alone, they scored more points than the Rams had all season, yet they lose. This team is impossible to figure out. They can look like world beaters one week and lose to the Rams the next. Keep your hard-earned money away from their games.
6) Philadelphia Eagles - Andy Reid is 13-0 after byes since taking charge in Philadelphia. The Eagles proved they are definitely not just hype as they crushed the Cowboys and are once again NFC East favorites.
7) Detroit Lions - Nice to bounce back with a blowout after losing two straight. Their pass rush is scary good. Their tilt against the Packers can`t come soon enough.
8) Buffalo Bills - If you told me a year ago, heck, a month ago, that Ryan Fitzpatrick would sign a 6 year, $59 million contract, I would have thought you were upside your mind. Hell of a beard though, no questioning that.
9) Atlanta Falcons - The Falcons get another bye week as they visit the Colts this weekend. Rest up Falcons, the Saints come marching into Atlanta two weeks from now.
10) Baltimore Ravens - Baltimore travels to Pittsburgh this Sunday night for one of the perennial games of the year. They will need to be a lot better next week or they will be bounced out of Pittsburgh pretty quick.
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (+3.5)
The Chiefs have won three straight, steadily improving after each game after getting blown out by the Bills in week one. On the other hand, San Diego started off the season well, but have yet to live up to expectations offensively. Philip Rivers, a perennial pro-bowler is 19th in the league in passer rating, while pro-bowl TE, Antonio Gates, has battled injury all year. However, the Chargers are quietly 4th in league in team defence. I expect the Chiefs to have difficulty scoring in this one and Philip Rivers will have his best game of the season. Chargers win by a touchdown.
Pick - Chargers (-3.5)
THE MORNING AFTER - NFL WEEK 7 REPORT
Tim Tebow has proved his golden boy status once again, this time in his first career NFL start. Despite being down 15-0 to the win-less Miami Dolphins, and shutout for over 57 minutes of the football, the Tebow-led Denver Broncos rallied and beat the `Phins in overtime 18-15. The first score was in typical Tebow fashion as he spun around a pass rusher from the backside, rolled out and found Demaryius Thomas for the score. The Broncos then successfully recovered an onside kick, setting the stage for Tebow to lead a 56 yard drive, capped off by a beautiful throwback screen TD pass to Daniel Fells and a two point conversion in which Tebow called his own number on the draw. DJ Williams stripped Dolphins QB, Matt Moore in overtime and Matt Prater drilled a 52 yard field goal to complete the comeback. Despite his impressive final moments, Tebow-mania should be put on hold for the time being. What has been lost in the excitement is the fact that Tebow was just 4-14 for 40 yards against one the worst teams in football before the Broncos first scoring drive even began. Tebow proved his knack for winning once again, but in reality, you can't play 5 good minutes of quarterback and beat any other team in the NFL (not even the Colts). It`s hard to believe he will ever be a Manning, Brady or even a Romo but he needs to play out the rest of the season to uncover his NFL identity.
The Jets finally looked like a good football team on Sunday as they stormed back with 17 unanswered second half points to beat the Chargers 27-21. Rex Ryan`s proud defence allowed the Jets to get back in the game as they picked off Rivers twice, in crucial situations, sparking Jets scoring drives. In addition, Sanchez discovered a viable red zone option in Plaxico Burress, who finally looked like he belonged back in the NFL with three TD catches. In a month or so, we can look back on this second half as the turning point of the Jets season.
Its way too early to judge Carson Palmer on his relief performance for the Raiders but then again, he did not look like a player worth two potential first round picks. After starting quarterback, Kyle Boller, was lifted, the former Bengal threw 3 interceptions, boosting the Raiders game total to 6, in the 28-0 thumping to the hands of the Chiefs. While I will give Palmer a break, it is safe however, to anoint Kyler Boller as the worst back up QB in NFL history. How does this guy still earn a paycheck playing football?
The Browns 6-3 win over the Seahawks is the clear cut favorite for the worst game of the 2011-12 NFL season.
At the start of the season, NFL fans and media were unhappy with the new kickoff rule that places the ball 10 yards further up-field, negating many return opportunities, one of the more exciting plays in football. However, I noticed another flaw in the rule change yesterday after Brian Robison of the Vikings squared Packers lineman TJ Lang with a kick just below the belt, after an extra point. Robison picked a 15 yard personal foul for is up-kick on Lang, moving the ball up an addition 15 yards on the kick off. After another Packer score, a Viking was flagged for roughing the kicker as he tried to block the extra point and made contact with Mason Crosby. Again, the Packers kicked off an additional 15 yards up-field, negating yet another return. However, because the ball is initially placed too far up-field, penalties during field goal and extra point attempts are basically meaningless infractions. Now, players can take liberties on these plays because the penalties have no real effect on the game. The NFL needs to look into this situation and find a way to actually penalise players in these situations. A kick to the groin of a player is a call that should garner a substantial penalty, not just make an inevitable touchback, more inevitable.
The Atlanta Falcons rode Michael Turner and his 40 inch thighs to a huge win in Detroit to keep pace behind the NFC South leading Saints.
62-7 Saints. To be a fly on the (skull) wall of Peyton Manning's head...
Week 6 Game Balls
1) New Orleans Saints Offence - It doesn't get more surgical than that.
2) Arian Foster - No Andre Johnson? No problem. Foster gains 234 total yards and three TDs in a blow out of the Titans.
3) DJ Williams/Matt Prater - Lost in Tebow-Mania, Williams and Prater were the unsung heroes for Denver. Williams strip sack of Moore in OT set up a Prater 52 yard walk off field goal to complete the comeback.
4) Matt Forte - Forte picked up his 5th 150 yard+ game from scrimmage this season in front of the "London Eye". The Bears need to pony up and pay this man.
5) Christian Ponder - No need to ponder the QB change in Minnesota. Despite a few critical mistakes for interceptions, Christian Ponder kept the Vikings in the game against the defending Super Bowl champs in his first career NFL start.
6) Tony Gonzalez - Gonzalez caught 5 passes for 65 yards in Atlanta's win over Detroit moving up to second in the NFL's all time receptions list. Hard to believe a Tight End is second only to Jerry Rice.
7) Plaxico Burress - Burress caught three TD passes from Sanchez, catalyzing the Jets win over the Chargers. After catching each TD, he brought the balls over to his wife and kids in the stands and broke down in the dressing room after the game, claiming that these were the days he dreamed about in jail. Another NFL player is taking full advantage of their second chance.
8) DeMarco Murray - Murray set a Cowboys franchise record with 253 yards on the ground, including a 91 yard TD. Fantasy owners across the world were racing to the waiver wire.
9) Charles Woodson - Future Hall of Famer and wiley vet took full advantage of Christian Ponder's rookie mistakes in his NFL debut. Woodson's two picks were the difference in the game.
Week 6 Goats
1) Oakland Raiders - Awful performance. A combined 6 interceptions, 14 penalties and a Chiefs 4th down goal line stand contributed to a 28-0 shutout at home. Meanwhile the Bengals are studying Mel Kiper's Mock Draft.
2) Chris Johnson - 10 rushes for 18 yards on Sunday. In professional sports, there is nothing more embarrassing than a player that holds out for big money and squeezes every dollar out of their team only to return and play like complete garbage.
3) Tenard Jackson - The Bucs DB picked off Cutler and looked to have a great shot a scoring as he ran down the sideline. With Cutler chasing him down, instead of making a move or putting his shoulder down, Jackson stepped out of bounds. A few plays later, Josh Freeman threw an interception and the Bucs fails to score on the pick. Man up Jackson, its just Cutler.
4) Kyle Boller - Not only did he embarrass himself with just 61 pass yards and three interceptions, but he directed the unwanted microscope onto the Raiders and new acquired, Carson Palmer. His terrible play forced Palmer into a game he never should have been in. Now, the Raiders and Palmer have to deal with the criticism and skepticism caused by his poor performance.
5) Philip Rivers - Rivers, a usually prolific NFL passer, had only 179 yards passing and threw two key interceptions that allowed the Jets to comeback and beat the Chargers. In addition, Rivers' two minute drill was sloppy and terribly mismanaged. Figure it out Philip.
6) LaDainian Tomlinson - Watched most of a game against his former team from the sidelines with an illness. Tough dude.
Rankin' Em After Week 7
1) Green Bay Packers - Lost my shirt betting they would cover the spread. No surprise there.
2) New England Patriots - Wes Welker having his career season in a contract year? No surprise there either.
3) New Orleans Saints - Payton shows no remorse for the Peyton Manning-less Colts from the box.
4) San Francisco 49ers - Harbaugh spent the bye week re-watching the win over the Lions and ripping his shirt off in celebration.
5) Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens defence is licking their chops at the thought of preying on the Jaguars young offence tonight.
6) Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers need to beat a big name team to show off their legitimacy but this team is still for real.
7) Dallas Cowboys - The 'Boys can only benefit from their crowded backfield.
8) Atlanta Falcons - Matt Ryan does his best Stretch Armstrong impersonation in a win over the Lions.
9) Detroit Lions - Back-to-back home losses and a possible injury to Matt Stafford. The party might be coming to an end in Detroit.
10) Buffalo Bills - Hopefully the Rogers Center Canadian crowd will be in full force in support of the Bills when they "host" the Redskins this weekend.
Bubble - Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals, San Diego Chargers, New York Jets
The Ravens travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jags in one of the weaker Monday Night games on the schedule. The Ravens D will be way too much for Blaine Gabbart and their young offence. Flacco will find his range in primetime in a blowout.
Pick - Ravens (-10)
THE MORNING AFTER - NFL WEEK 6 REPORT
Congrats to Ray Lewis. Lewis became the first player in NFL history to reach 40 sacks and 30 interceptions in his Hall of Fame career. Lewis has defined the middle linebacker position during his illustrious 16 year career.
The Packers improved to 6-0 with a ho-hum 24-3 win over the Rams. In the second quarter, Rodgers displayed nothing short of perfection at quarterback with a picture-perfect roll out pass to James Jones for a 35 yard TD. It was a thing of beauty and a perfect example of the level of QB that Rodgers is playing at right now.
Is it Terrell Pryor time in Oakland?
Week 6 Game Balls
1) Ahmad Bradshaw - This little back can run hard. Bradshaw picked up over 100 yards on the ground, powered through the Bills defence for three TDs and was the difference for the Giants in their win over Buffalo.
2) Shane Lechler - The Raiders win over the Browns Sunday was highlighted by the Raiders punter hitting Kevin Boss with a TD pass after a faked Janikowski field goal attempt. The Browns bit hard.
4) Alex Smith - Despite a modest 125 yard passing game, Smith was clutch on a 4th and goal game winner as he hit Delaney Walker on a slant to improve to 5-1.
5) Kurt Coleman - The Eagles safety had a career game in Washington. Coleman picked off Rex Grossman three times in their win over the Redskins. His three picks helped the Eagles win the turnover margin, who are now 2-0 when they do so.
6) Michael Turner - Turner had a monster game as the Falcons held serve over the Panthers. Turner rushed for 139 yards and 2 TDs, proving he still can be a fantasy stud.
7) Devin Hester - Hester continues his case for the greatest returner in NFL history. He buffed up his resume with a 98 yard kickoff return TD against the Vikings, Sunday night. He also added 91 receiving yards and a TD. Not bad.
8) Cedric Peerman - Peerman, a backup RB for the Bengals, earns a game ball for his earth shattering block on A.J. Edds of the Colts. Edds literally had an out of body experience.
9) Dallas Clark/Brent Celek - Two tight ends earns game balls for their awesome one-handed catches on Sunday.
Week 6 Goats
1) A.J. Hawk - After sacking Sam Bradford, Hawk proceeded to flip off his own sideline in celebration. Hawk claimed it was an inside joke between teammates. Hilarious, A.J. Expect a call from Goodell after hes through with the fighting Jim's.
2) Vince Young - Young, the backup QB who coined the "Dream Team" nickname for the Eagles, had the worst stat line of the afternoon. Young went 0-1, with an unbelievably bad interception to DeAngelo Hall. Its not a dream Vince, you're simply delusional.
3) NFL Rules Committee - Last year, Calvin Johnson had a TD called back, on what looked to be a good catch. It was ruled that Johnson failed to control the ball to the ground despite having possession for few seconds. On Sunday, Nate Burleson, Johnson's Lions teammate, had a very similar play in the endzone. But this time, the play was overturned and ruled a TD by referee, Mike Carey and the replay officials. The NFL needs to find consistency.
4) Rex Grossman - Before the season, Grossman all but guaranteed the Redskins would win the NFC East. In chance to back up his talk in a huge divisional game, Grossman promptly went 9 for 22 for 143 yards and 4 interceptions. Grossman was replaced by John Beck in the third quarter for the rest of the game, and likely the season.
5) Donovan McNabb - Time to hang 'em up Donovan.
6) Pierre Garcon - A lateral attempt with two and a half minutes left? Garcon's blunder ensures the Colts stay winless.
Rankin' Em After Week 6
1) Green Bay Packers (6-0) - Simply way too easy.
2) New England Patriots (5-1) - Was there any doubt Brady would march a Patriot 4th quarter game winner down the field?
3) San Francisco Giants (5-1) - Harbaugh is quickly becoming the face of the franchise and his intensity is rubbing off on all his players.
4) Baltimore Ravens (4-1) - The Ravens are flying under the radar. Who's Torrey Smith?
5) Detroit Lions (5-1) - After 9 straight wins, Jim Schwartz forgot how to lose, and he didn't like how it felt.
6) San Diego Chargers (4-1) - Without Rivers playing at a high level, the Chargers should travel to Green Bay with a 6-1 record a few weeks from now.
7) New Orleans Saints (4-2) - Sean Payton is one tough dude but I hope he didn't call the 4th and 2 Brees rollout pass attempt that ended the game. You drafted Mark Ingram, run the ball.
8) Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2) - Polamalu's spectacular 4th quarter hip-piercing tackle of Jones-Drew in the Jags backfield was one of few impressive moments in a lackluster win over the Jags.
9) Oakland Raiders (4-2) - The Raiders continue to roll but lose Campbell for the next 4-6 weeks. Think David Garrard might be getting a call this morning?
10) Buffalo Bills (4-2) - Bills lose a tough game in the Meadowlands. Good news is, Fred Jackson is still an animal.
On the Bubble - Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (-7)
Two AFC East teams who have lost a combined 7 games in a row meet on Monday Night. 'Phins wide receiver Brandon Marshall promises to be ejected from the game and fined by Roger Goodell for starting a fight with the Jets defence. Not sure how that will help Matt Moore, who replaces the injured Chad Henne behind center for the Dolphins. Since the Phins have other priorities, the Jets will show their desperation, feasting on Matt Moore, and scoring enough to cover the spread.
THE MORNING AFTER - NFL WEEK 5 REPORT
For roughly 15 minutes, late in the game at Orchard Park, the Dream Team looked to be all they were cracked up to be. But, then reality set in and we were once again reminded that buying pro-bowl players does not equate to championships, or even a winning record for that matter. Vick threw his 4th interception of the game (although not entirely his fault), late in the 4th quarter, allowing the Bills to hang on and beat the Philadelphia Eagles, who were proven to be overrated (once again), despite a torrid comeback attempt.
Rest in Peace, Al Davis. We saw a different side of Raider Nation Sunday, as the usual toughness and intimidation of the "Black Hole" was replaced by mourning and gratitude towards their fallen leader. Davis, a true NFL Football pioneer, died over the weekend on the eve of a big upset win in Houston by his beloved Oakland Raiders. Raider Nation, led by Coach, Hue Jackson and the players Davis drafted, stood up and won one for Al. I'm sure he loved every second of it.
Adrian Peterson, I apologize. You (not Arian Foster) are definitely the best running back in the NFL. "All Day" AP's efforts, in the first quarter alone, was enough to beat the Cardinals Sunday. Peterson's three monstrous first quarter TD's led the Vikes to their first win of the season.
How do the Giants lose to the Charlie Whitehurst-led Seattle Seahawks? Tom Coughlin's head must have exploded last night.
Sebastian Janikowski is unbelievable. The margin between Janikowski and the next best kicker in the NFL is far greater than any other positional comparison in football. He's the Wayne Gretzky of place kicking. Janikowski went 4-4, hitting from 55, 54, 50 and 42, proving why Al Davis was right to draft him 17th overall back in 2000. Although none were last second winners, he proved to be the difference, once again, for the Raiders.
Week 5 Game Balls
1) Al Davis/Raider Nation/Hue Jackson - Davis was often criticized for his draft picks, but on Sunday, his players were the difference for Oakland. The performances of Heyward-Bey, Huff and Janikowski, all players Davis drafted with first round picks, led the Raiders to victory and certainly made the Davis family proud. Also, props to Hue Jackson for wearing his heart on his sleeve in the post game presser as he shared what Al meant to him.
2) Ben Roethlisberger - On a sprained left foot, Big Ben threw five TD's as the Steelers cruised past the Titans. I hope he wasn't on your bench.
3) Ron Rivera - Props to Rivera for standing up for his teammates when commenting on the Roman Harper cheap shot on Steve Smith. No secret why the Panthers play so hard for this guy.
4) Michael Vick - Despite 4 picks, Vick earns a Game Ball as he set the all-time rushing record for a QB, passing Randall Cunningham, in a loss at Buffalo. Where would Vick's career be if he hadn't served time?
5) Brandon Browner - Longest "Pick Six" in Seahawk history turned out to be the dagger in their win over the Giants. Always good seeing former CFLer's succeed down south.
6) BenJarvus Green-Ellis - Green-Ellis was the key offensive player for the Pats in their win over the Jets. Green-Ellis ran for two TD's and picked up 136 yards on the ground, many of those tough yards late, as he ran out the clock on the Jets.
7) Matt Cassel/Dwayne Bowe - Despite a 17-0 deficit to Indy, Cassel answered with 4 TD passes, two to Bowe, who had 128 yards receiving. The Chiefs duo kept the Colts winless.
8) George Wilson - Bill's Free Safety had 11 tackles and an interception of Vick. Wilson is the leader of the Bills play-making secondary that has haunted QB's during the first five weeks of the season.
Week 5 Goats
1) Roman Harper - The Saints safety showed his gutlessness in a win over the Panthers. After Steve Smith caught a 54 yard TD pass, Harper, at full speed, decided to shove Smith in the back. Fortunately, Harper's coward act bit him back, as Smith roughed him up in the endzone. My money would be on Smith if these two scrapped, although I doubt Harper would ever oblige.
2) Juqua Parker - Faced with a 4th and inches late in the game, the Bills brought out their offence in attempts to draw the Eagles offside, to win the game before having to punt it away. After two Fitzpatrick hard counts and it becoming very obvious the ball wouldn't be snapped, his third bark managed to fool Parker, who jumped offside. To Parker's defence, Fitzpatrick is a smart guy. Harvard and all.
3) Matt Schaub - On a 4th down, red zone, final play, Schaub could have shown some serious balls by lowering his shoulder and heading for the goal line to win the game after being flushed out of the pocket. Instead, Schaub pulled up, circled away and flipped the ball to a Raider defender to end the game. Killer instinct.
4) Jason Avant/Victor Cruz - Both receivers had over 100 yards receiving in their respective games. However, in critical plays late, both receivers failed to squeeze catchable balls. These passes found the hands of defenders and cost their teams a chance at the W.
5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Pathetic effort. Top to bottom.
6) Brett Favre - On an Atlanta radio station this week, Favre mentioned that he was "surprised" it took Aaron Rodgers so long to win a Superbowl. Every once in a while, Brett likes to remind NFL fans how stupid he really is. If Favre had stepped aside when he should have, Rodgers would have multiple rings by now and Brett wouldn't be the embarrassment he has become. Rodgers, the best QB (and player) in the NFL, will be twice the Packer Favre ever was.
1) Green Bay Packers (5-0) - Rodgers would be an unanimous choice for offensive MVP five games into the season - His Packers cruise to 5-0. Shut up Brett.
2) Detroit Lions (4-0) - The Lions get a chance to prove how good they really are in primetime tonight. Will they step up to the plate?
3) New England Patriots (4-1) - Will Ochocinco ever get involved? Do they need him?
4) New Orleans Saints (4-1) - Game winning drive - Brees goes 8 for 9, 80 yards and a game winning score. Clutch.
5) Baltimore Ravens (3-1) - Fresh off a bye, a big test looms as the Texans visit Baltimore next week.
6) San Diego Chargers (4-1) - Barely escaping with a win in Denver, the Chargers have work to do over the bye week to be ready for a desperate Jets team in week 7.
7) Buffalo Bills (4-1) - The Bills continue to impress as they hold on to beat the Eagles. With their play-makers on defence, they are never out of a game.
8) Houston Texans (3-2) - Losing Andre Johnson is one thing. If they lose Mario Williams, it will be devastating.
9) Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) - All of the sudden, everything is gravy in Steelerland.
10) San Francisco 49ers (4-1) - Jim Harbaugh is the early frontrunner for Coach of the Year.
On the Bubble - Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Oakland Raiders
Bears at Lions (-5.5)
The Bears can't protect Cutler. The Lions front four is nasty. Stafford and Calvin work out early jitters and lead the Lions over the Bears by a TD in the second half as they stay undefeated. Take the Lions to cover.
THE MORNING AFTER - WEEK 4 REPORT
The roller coaster that is Tony Romo's career began another free fall right on schedule Sunday. Dallas found a way to blow a 24 point half time lead on the strength of three Tony Romo interceptions, propelling the Detroit Lions (the story of the 2011-12 season thus far) to 4-0. Romo found former Cowboy (and groomsman at his wedding) LB Bobby Carpenter to start the Detroit comeback, hit Houston for a second return score and then buried the `Boys as he threw up a duck for Tulloch late in the fourth. Tulloch's pick set the stage for Stafford to find Calvin Johnson with their patented (and undefendable) jump ball route in the endzone a few plays later. Calvin Johnson, the leagues best receiver, made it 4 consecutive weeks with two touchdowns as he continues to make NFL history and boost his fantasy MVP campaign. In addition, the Lions made it 8 straight regular season wins dating back to last year.
The Buffalo Bills may be "who we thought they were" after all as "The Red Rifle", Andy Dalton led the lowly Bengals to a fourth quarter comeback win. Fitzpatrick struggled in the second half for the first time this season and Dalton picked apart the Bills defence in the second half, outscoring them 20-3. Dalton's two minute offense set the stage for a Mike Nugent 43-yard walk off field goal dropping the Bills to 3-1.
Defence was once again expected to highlight the Sunday Nighter between the Ravens and Jets but with only one TD scored from scrimmage in a 34-17 final, defensive scores and special teams determined the winner. Sanchez and Flacco were equally bad but the Ravens D took better advantage of the QB misery, scoring three defensive TD's. Sanchez and Flacco combined for 282 yards passing (126 yards less than Aaron Rodgers) and 0 Touchdown passes (4 less than Aaron Rodgers). Yikes.
The Minnesota Vikings won the early "Andrew Luck Bowl" with a loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead and are a strong consideration for the league's worst team. If McNabb`s best game as a Viking couldn't produce a victory against the Chiefs, will this team ever pick up a W this year? I think it might be time to Ponder a QB change (brutal, I know).
The Dream Team gives up 21 unanswered to the 49ers to drop to 1-3. The Phillies blew a 4-0 lead with Lee on the bump.Will it be sunny in Philadelphia tomorrow?
Oh and by the way, Steve Hauschka is no Sebastian Janikowski.
Week 4 Game Balls
1) Aaron Rodgers - 408 Passing Yards, 4 TD Passes, 36 Yards Rushing, 2 Rushing TDs - His 48 fantasy points most likely had an impact on a few matchups this week.
2) Matt Hasselbeck - Hasselbeck is turning back the clock in Tennessee. 3 Touchdowns in a beat down of the Browns.
3) Mike Nugent - The Bengals kicker was as cool as ice as he drilled a 43 yard game winner (twice) to bury Buffalo.
4) Devin Hester - Hester becomes the greatest punt returner in NFL history with his record setting 11th TD (in just 5 seasons), helping the Bears hold onto a win against the Panthers.
5) Cam Newton/Steve Smith - Killa Cam runs in two scores and throws for another along with 374 passing yards, 181 of which to Steve Smith. This is the player you wish you were Tarvaris Jackson.
6) Matt Forte - Scorched the Panthers for 205 yards and a score, the most since Walter Payton was carrying the ball for DA BEARS.
7) Calvin Johnson - Man or Machine? Megatron has 8 TDs in 4 Games. Top 5 pick in 2012 Fantasy drafts.
8) Arian Foster - I guess the "Anti-Awesomeness" found on Foster's injured hamstring has healed up. He ran for 155 yards and a score against the Steelers in a triumphant return.
Week 4 Goats
1) Tony Romo -Romo looked brilliant early but eventually led the Cowboys to a 24 point blown lead and loss against the Lions. Romo`s split personality reared its ugly head once again and costs the `Boys.. again.
2) Jeremy Maclin - With the Eagles marching into Niners territory for a potential winning field goal, Maclin is caught from behind by 285 lbs DE Justin Smith and stripped with the Niners recovering. Maclins effort sends the Dream Team to 1-3.
3) Jay Cutler - How do you win a game 34-27 with 9 completions and two total fantasy points?
4) Danieal Manning - Manning blocked the Steelers FG attempt to close out the half, springing a teammate with a clear path towards the endzone. Manning however, shoved the Steelers holder from behind, a few strides behind the ball carrier, that drew a flag and negated the score. Luckily for Manning, the Texans grinded out the Steelers for a 17-10 win.
5) Rob Ryan - Earlier in the week Cowboys D Coordinator Rob Ryan suggested that Calvin Johnson would be the Cowboys 3rd best receiver. You're dumber than you look Rob.
Rankin' Em after Week 4
1) Green Bay Packers (4-0) - The Packers cruised past the Broncos in Week 4. Rodgers put on a "scary good" performance and Charles Woodson returned an interception for his 11th career defensive touchdown, second all-time.
2) Detroit Lions (4-0) - In the last two games, the Lions have faced large first-half deficits and have responded by outscoring their opponents 57-13 in the second half. As long as the Lions have the Stafford/Johnson tandem, they will never be out of a game? eh Minnesota? Dallas?
3) New Orleans Saints (3-1) - The Saints didn't exactly blow the lowly Jags out but Brees and his new favorite target Jimmy Graham steadily improved the Saints to 3-1.
4) New England Patriots (3-1) - Wes Welker continues an MVP-like campaign with 158 yards and a score in a win over the Raiders. Brady managed to throw 4 interceptions less than he did last week. May not get a chance to say that again so I'll take advantage.
5) Houston Texans (3-1) - The Texans defensive line beat up on Roethlisberger and the Steelers offensive line on Sunday. With a healthy Foster, the Texans prove they are AFC elite.
6) Baltimore Ravens (3-1) - The Ravens have the Jets number. 7 straight W`s.
7) San Diego Chargers (3-1) - The perennial slow starters are quietly 3-1 but they need to prove themselves against a legit team.
8) Washington Redskins (3-1) - Rex Grossman isn't satisfied with a 3-1 record. I think he should be.
9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) - The young Bucs get to show off their talent on MNF. Favored by 10.5 against the Colts, they have big expectations to fulfill.
10) Buffalo Bills (3-1) - The Bills freefall from cloud nine as they blow a big lead in Cincinnati. It'll be interesting to see how they bounce back.
Knocking on the door - San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons
Colts at Buccaneers (-10.5)
The Colts ability to hang with the Steelers in primetime last Sunday with Collins and Painter taking the snaps surprised most NFL fans. There will be no surprises here. Freeman and the young Bucs have a coming out party, trouncing the Colts as they make Painter's first career start a painful one. Take the Bucs and the points.
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