Carnage’s Long and Boring Divisional Playoff Review/Title Game Preview

Here we are. Down to the final four teams in the NFL playoffs. There are certainly some surprises. First is the fact that we witnessed for the first time three teams that played on wildcard weekend to advance to the championship games. I also believe this is the first time that two #6 seeds advanced, but I am not sure of that. I’m also pretty sure that 90% of the football public did not expect to see the Ravens, Cardinals, or Eagles in the playoffs much less one week away from the Super Bowl.

One would think that the home teams in divisional games would be obvious favorites and win the majority of the time. While that used to be the case this year’s 1-3 record put up by first round bye teams puts the home team in divisional week down to 7-9 over the last 4 seasons. What is the root cause of this? The biggest argument would be for parity, suggesting that we have reached the point where “Any Given Sunday” any team has just as good of a chance of winning as any other. I myself think it is more of a momentum/state of mind thing. Let’s take a look at some of the matchups since 2005 where the home team lost the game.

Panthers (11-5) over Bears (11-5) – Even records tell us that the Bears were not enjoying an enormous talent advantage. The Panthers had won their last two games by a total of 67-11 and were riding high. The Bears rested Rex Grossman who was coming off an injury and had played in two games all season. He completed 17 of 41 passes for under 200 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. The Bears lost their last game to Minnesota and gave playing time to Jeff Blake.

Steelers (11-5) over Colts (14-2) – The Colts were talked about as a 19-0 candidate with Peyton Manning lighting up the sky. Their Regulars lost to the Chargers in week 15 which was December 18th. Manning and the starters played a few downs from then until the playoff game on January 15th. They lost 2 of their last 3 and limped to a win against the Cardinals in the last week of the regular season. The Steelers were 7-5 and on the verge of possibly not making the playoffs before tearing off 4 straight and beating the Bengals in the Wild Card game. They outscored opponents 146-50 in that five game stretch.

Chargers (11-5) over Colts (13-3) – The Colts had things wrapped up pretty early with their big record and didn’t give it much of an effort against the Titans, who needed a win to get in. The starters really hadn’t seen a full, serious game’s action since December 23rd when they finally took the field for the playoffs on January 13th. The Chargers, though they had wrapped up the division, played their starters (even slightly banged up Ladainian Tomlinson) in the Broncos and and Raiders games the last two weeks. Rivers was even jawing at Jay Cutler during the week 16 game as if the game meant something. They won 7 in a row leading up to the divisional game by an average margin of 28-10.

Giants (10-6) over Cowboys (13-3) – The 10-1 Cowboys beat the 10-1 Packers in week 13 in what the Cowboys must have believed to be their Super Bowl, because they played the next five games without emotion. The barely edged the Lions and lost to the Eagles and Redskins en route to a 2-2 finish. In the last three games, Tony Romo threw 1 TD to 5 INT’s and completed about 50% of his passes before it was decided that he needed some rest and Brad Johnson took over after a few series the final game. The Giants played hard down the stretch, even taking the 15-0 Patriots down to the wire in a game meaningless for both teams (expect in the context of a possible undefeated season.) Eli Manning played very well that game and had a very competent playoff run. The defense really came alive and had a four game stretch for the ages.

Eagles (9-6-1) over Giants (12-4) – The Giants didn’t seem to learn from their tactics last season. After Plaxigate, they went 1-3 down the stretch and the offense was not clicking. The Eagles, after tying lowly Cincy 13-13 and being crushed by the Ravens really turned it on and with some help made the playoffs. They pounded the Cowboys 44-6 in a win or go home regular season final and outscored opponents in their 5-1 run leading up to the divisional game 171-74.

Ravens (11-5) over Titans (13-3) – The Titans lost 2 of their last three and sat starters in the final game of the season, meaning they hadn’t played a meaningful game since December 21st when January 10th arrived. The Ravens started out 6-4 before finishing 6-1 with their only loss coming to the tough Pittsburgh Steelers. They came in with a defense that was taking the ball away…16 times since December. The Titans defense had gotten the ball back only 6 times. The Titans looked rusty on their ball handling turning the ball over 3 times to the Ravens 0.

The lesson? Play those December games as if they matter, even if they don’t. If not, you can find your dominant season going up in a smoke of one and done.

There is no question what was the dominant deciding factor in the games this weekend. Turnovers. The four winning teams turned the ball over 3 times. The four losers turned the ball over 14 times. Of course, the Panthers were responsible for 6 of those 14 themselves….

Eagles over Giants or “12 point win over favored Giants not enough to keep Philly fans from clambering for Kevin Kolb.”

From the start of last season until sometime late this season I actually have heard quite a few Eagles fans saying that they can’t win with Donovan Mcnabb and would rather switch over to the highly accomplished Kevin Kolb. Donovan Mcnabb’s numbers for this game are not spectacular but I thought he played pretty well considering that the Eagles running game did not really exist. His first interception was on a 3rd and 9 shot downfield that gave the Giants the ball at their 20. They likely would have punted had the ball landed incomplete so not much harm was done. The second was on a pretty freaky Fred Robbins batted down/stuck to hands play.

The game didn’t start out well for the Eagles offensively. Luckily, Asante Samuel picked off a pass just about the same place he did last week and ran it back to the two yard line, eventually giving the Eagles a touchdown. Up to the 2 minute warning in the first half the offense had mustered only 19 yards of total offense. I was thinking it incredibly unlikely that they would be able to move the ball very much the rest of the game. When they got the ball back at their own 25 with 1:33 and 1 timeout, I figured that they would be intent on running down the clock and going into the locker room only down one point. Suddenly, the offense clicked and they went on a brilliant 12 play (!!! 12 plays in 90 seconds with 1 timeout! That’s clock management!) drive that spanned 68 yards. They had to settle for a field goal from the seven yard line due to time constraints, but I think it did a lot to bolster their confidence that they could in fact do this. They went into halftime with the momentum and despite a first possession interception, it appeared to carry over.

In the previous two contests between these two teams, the Giants defense failed to register a sack on Donovan Mcnabb. They must have been convinced that this was a key to the game because they chose to blitz on what seemed like every passing down. There was some pressure early on in the game but eventually the offensive line and running backs picked up on the blitzing schemes and started to buy loads of time to pass the ball. They allowed him to stand in the pocket for 4, 5, even 6 seconds on some plays. It makes me wonder if the week or two of “rest” actually made them tire more quickly…as the Giants Offensive Line also seemed tuckered out as the game went on.

This can be seen pretty clearly by the two fourth quarter possession where the Giants chose to go on 4th and 1 and 4th and 2. The first attempt was a quarterback sneak call for Eli Manning. The offensive team really just needs to come out and make a decent showing at moving forward to be awarded a first down. The also have the advantage of knowing the snap count and thus being able to get moving before the defense. Eli Manning started forward and saw his offensive line just getting pushed backward. They got absolutely no push and he was stopped for no gain. The second time around the Eagles had once again stacked the box full of half their roster. Knowing that the offensive line moved nowhere on the last attempt, the Giants decided to call a Brandon Jacobs rush right down the gut. The Eagles were ready for it, the line failed to move forward, and they were stopped on fourth down again.

Perhaps one of the biggest possessions of the game came near the end of the second half. With a 1st and 5 at the Eagles’ 21 yard line, just under two minutes and holding timeout, the Giants called pass, pass, pass which was incomplete, incomplete, gain of four. You have time to run the ball in this situation and you have been pretty effective up to this point, averaging 4 yards per carry. Surely they can get five yards in three chances! Run a few times, get a first down, hopefully get a touchdown, and grind the clock down to next to nothing so you go into halftime with the lead. Instead they settled on the three and gave the Eagles the ball back. At this point they had outgained them 162-19 but were clinging to only a 1 point lead. The Eagles offense got into sync, marched, and took the lead going into the half.

Statistical Notes – The Giants took down Donovan Mcnabb 15 times in 2 games last season, and zero in three games this season. Eli Manning threw twice as many touchdowns (2) in this game as he did in all four playoff games last season. John Carney was 35/38 on field goals during the regular season and 3/5 this Sunday. Donovan Mcnabb will be starting in his fifth conference championship game. He is 8-2 in all other playoff games (including a Super Bowl loss) and 1-3 in the NFC Title game. Asante Samuel has played in 11 playoff games and has 7 interceptions in the postseason. Not bad. Brian Westbrook has averaged 4.7 yards per carry over his playoff career but is just under 2.0 yards per carry in two postseason games this year. The Eagles defense has created 10 turnovers in the last three games.

Steelers over Chargers or “Charger’s faithful pin photos of Eric Weddle to their Dartboards.”

Free Safety Eric Weddle led the Chargers in tackles during the regular season and came up with a huge 86 yard punt return for a touchdown in week 13 against the Falcons to keep the Chargers in the game. This Sunday he led the team in tackles as is usual and came up with a third down sack of Ben Roethlisberger in the first quarter. He was having a decent game…until the second half happened. Within four football minutes he let a stray punt hit him right on the head and get recovered by the Steelers on the Chargers’ 23 yard line and interfered with a pass in the end zone resulting in a 44 yard penalty and a 1st and goal at the 1 yard line. Ouch! Some days things don’t go your way.

I still don’t see the point in most end zone interference. I saw this a lot in the last few weeks of the season from the Bears. Run Devin Hester down the field, toss the ball in the air, hope he draws a flag. Many of those Hester passes as well as this weekend’s shot at the end zone to Nate Washington are not easy balls to catch. I would contend it is more likely that a team will score given four tries from the 1 yard line than it is that a wide receiver comes down with one of those deep throws. Force the other player to make a play! Go with the chance that he comes down with it rather than the sure 44 yard penalty. Of course….some may argue that this interference call was a little bit on the soft side but when it comes down to it I do believe he interfered and the correct call was made.

Being the last game of the weekend and karma smiling down on the wild card weekend teams, I watched as the Chargers gained 75 yards on four plays on their opening drive against the best defense in the league and thought “Here we go again!” Philip Rivers hit Antonio Gates, Darren Sproles, and Vincent Jackson for increasingly large gains and didn’t appear to have broken a sweat. Of course, reality struck and they gained 40 yards in the next 45 minutes of football but still…

I am really coming around on Philip Rivers. Part of me thought he was a mentally unstable brat who doesn’t know when to shut his yap, can’t control his emotions, and happened to inherit a highly skilled team from Drew Brees’ departure. First came last season’s effort in the AFC Championship game where he went out there and gave it his all with a (Sprained/Torn ACL I think?) I look at the season he has had, with very little support from his running game and injured/sporadic receiving targets and realize that he’s a darn good football player. Seeing the camera shots on the sidelines of him in the third quarter when the Steelers would reach third down giving the Chargers defense another chance to make a stop somehow made me realize just how committed the guy is to winning. He could probably show his emotions in better ways but if I’m a Chargers fan I’m happy to know that I have a reasonably young and increasingly skilled QB that is going to leave it all on the field.

Which brings me to quarterback number 2. Ben Roethlisberger. In him I saw a guy surrounded by a team talented enough to go 28-9 (including post season) during his first two season while he dinked away throwing 12 passes a game while the running game and defense did all the work. I felt vindicated when he actually had to throw the ball to try to win his third year and tossed 23 INT’s and completed fewer than 60% of his passes. I came around on him last season not because of the gaudy TD numbers but because of how bad his pass blocking was and how his huge, seemingly slow body managed to get him out of trouble to make some plays.

This season his numbers are down….mostly because that pass blocking is even worse but have been in awe of his ability to make plays when it matters. The constant stream of defenders in his face the last two or three years has forced him to learn how to get rid of the ball really quickly. I watched him this game and saw how he is reading the play and going through his progressions AS he drops back. If you blitz him you better get there within 2 and a half seconds, because he’s throwing the ball by three. The first drive of the second half showcased Big Ben at his finest. He converted 3rd and 7, 3rd and 11, and 3rd and 8. It was capped off by him facing heavy pressure on 2nd and 6 from the 8, rolling out, and finding the underneath guy Heath Miller instead of trying to wing it into the end zone. He put the ball in the hands of his Tight End to make a play, and a touchdown broke out. Seeing a guy that looks like an oaf look at the defense and change the play to a squib punt a la Randall Cunningham (A squib punt that pinned the Chargers inside the 10) was awesome. Big Ben is the real deal.

Another leader of this offense for some time has been Hines Ward. I like his attitude because he isn’t a “GIVE ME THE BALL GIVE ME THE BALL” kind of guy. For a “Stud” receiver he has hit 1000 yards only twice in the last five years, topping off at 1043 yards, but he seems to be there when they need a big play. He makes the most of his time with the ball. His incessant jawing, smiling, and overall smug look infuriates defenders and often makes them do something stupid. Cletis Gordon wanted to take him down even though Ward reached the sidelines. Gordon made a half hearted effort to rough him up which Ward made look like a hit deserving of a felonious battery charge. Of course, the flag flew and he got up with that smile and smug look on his face.

I have long believed that most NFL running backs are interchangeable with one another or their backup, with the system, the offensive line, and the quarterback being more responsible for their success….Except for a few elite runners. Ladainian Tomlinson was always one of those irreplaceable guys to me. Darren Sproles couldn’t get anything going on the ground, but this IS the Steelers defense and nobody really has been able to run on them. Sproles still made himself known in the passing game breaking a huge 61 yard touchdown. With the success that Michael Turner had in limited carries for the Chargers, I’m starting to think not even Tomlinson is exempt from the interchangeable running back theory.

Statistical Notes – Of course I didn’t have time to talk about Willie Parker and the Pittsburgh run blocking which is probably the ultimate reason they won this game. The Steelers outgained the Chargers by 150 yards on the ground which has the side effect of a huge edge in time of possession (36:30 to 23:30). The Steelers defense had a poor outing. They allowed an entire 290 yards. That is 54 yards more than their average (237 yards per game!) The League average is somewhere between 310-320 yards per game. Only the Titans have put up more than 300 (322) on this unit. Lamar Woodley and James Harrison had 3 combined sacks to add to their 27.5 regular season total. Philip Rivers threw for more TD’s than INT’s for only the second time in six playoff games. Darren Sproles put up 596 all purpose yards and 3 touchdowns in two post season games.

Cardinals over Panthers or “No really, the Cardinals…the ARIZONA CARDINALS are in the NFC Title game!”

Ok, for the second straight game the Cardinals have outrushed a big time rushing team by a decent margin. They held the time of possession edge on the Panthers 39:49 – 20:11 on the Panthers home turf. What the heck is going on here? After me displaying a huge man crush on Kurt Warner, his uncanny accuracy, and some nice fantasy numbers that took me at least as far as the second round of my fantasy playoffs in all three leagues I had left them for dead against the Falcons and again left them for dead against the Panthers. Suddenly Edggerrin James, who I recently trashed as being a complete jerk and someone I wouldn’t want on my team is getting the ball, running hard, looking happy, getting embraced by Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone and being mildly productive. Did I mention that Anquan Boldin was sitting on the sidelines for this game?

With Boldin out, Fitzgerald is going to get double teamed and for all purposes taken out of the game, right? Ok, not a chance. Fitzgerald seems to be getting into that unstoppable zone. For the second straight week, Kurt Warner looked for a big play from Fitzgerald early on. For the second straight week, he looked to find Fitzgerald double covered. For the second straight week, he lobbed the ball up in the air anyway and let Fitzgerald use his athleticism to come back amidst two defenders and come down with the ball. Last week he got into the end zone but this week it only got them to the six. Bah. Fitzgerald caught a touchdown later in the game while two Panthers defenders frantically tried to run him down. He angled towards the sidelines and stretched at full extension to hit the pylon and put up six points.

Panthers fans, I can feel your pain. It’s a distant pain but I still feel it looking at seasons past. My feisty 2001 Packers team was better than people thought (At least that is what we thought in Wisconsin) and had beaten the 49ers and headed out to play the Rams. An early 7-7 tie turned into a 45-17 route while we all watched our hero, Brett Favre, throw SIX interceptions. On the other side, who else but Kurt Warner was there completing 18/30 for 216 yards, 2 TD’s, 1 INT (Eerily like his 21/32, 2 TD, 1 INT 220 yard performance on Saturday). Jake Delhomme was absolutely terrible and I had mentioned this as a possibility in the playoffs somewhere around the time he had thrown for 170 yards, 2 TD’s and 4 INT’s in two games against the Broncos and Raiders this season. The Panthers lack playmakers on offense short of Deangelo Williams and Steve Smith and it showed.

Why wasn’t Deangelo Williams more of a factor? He looked ready to have another 200 yard, 3 TD performance after bursting out for a 31 yard gain on the first drive. I’ll tell you about it. I hate this method of play calling. A team will go up by a touchdown early, notice it ran the ball well on that scoring drive, and decide to run the ball. On the Panthers second possession they called Run, Run, Run. On first it was predictable. No gain. On second and 10 it was not, gain of 8. On third and 2 is was predictable. No gain. Mix it up a little! When you say you are going to run, run, run it doesn’t have to be literal! Run, Run, Pass. Pass, Run, Run. Run, Pass, Run. They are all acceptable. Williams had 6 carries at this point in the game with the Panthers up 7. He would only touch the ball 6 more times. Once a team gives a back the ball three straight plays and they don’t gain 10 yards, they decide the run isn’t working and must throw it. Let me tell you, it doesn’t work well that way.

The shocking thing is the team that Delhomme had such a bad outing against. The Cardinals had given up 30+ points in four of their last six regular season games. The Eagles, Vikings, and Patriots combined to run for over 600 yards on them. They hadn’t forced more than one turnover against a team not named the Seahawks, 49ers, or Rams all season except for a week 5 Buffalo Bills Meltdown. If you can name a Cardinals defensive player you are a pretty decent football fan. Name two and you are on the ball. Name three and you really deserve credit. That covers Antrell Rolle, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Adrian Wilson (The former two having distinctive names). Name 4+ and you are either in a deep IDP fantasy league, are a Cardinals fan, or need to stop spending so much time watching/thinking/talking/dreaming about football. Ok, I named 8 off the top of my head but I CLEARLY need to stop spending so much time on football activities. My point is, they are mostly “no names”. They have three pro bowl appearances to split between the entire squad and with the exception of 3 or 4 high round picks they are mostly 3rd, 5th, 6th, and undrafted players. On the opposite side the Panthers have 7 or 8 first rounders that allowed 22 first downs and a 10/18 third down conversion rate. With the talent on that defense, Kurt Warner should be the one wallowing in the agony of utter failure.

Statistical Notes – Larry Fitzgerald has 20 catches, 496 yards, and 5 touchdowns in his last four games. Kurt warner is now 7-2 in postseason games. Edge averaged about 8 carries a game in the regular season and 18 in two playoff games. Steve Smith has 8 touchdowns in 8 playoff games. The Panthers allowed 15.5 points per game in their first 10 games this season, 29.5 in their last 7 games. The Cardinals defense allowed at least 323 yards in 11 of their last 14 games before the playoffs began. In two playoff games they have averaged 259 yards. 3 of the 5 Panthers losses this season came the only three times they did not rush for 100 yards . Tim Hightower has 12 touchdowns in 18 career games.

Ravens over Titans or “One RB who I think is not interchangeable…..”

A few weeks ago I voiced my opinion that Chris Johnson should at least get MVP consideration. The dynamic of the Titans offense changed very drastically when Chris Johnson left the field. The Titans offense gained 261 yards in A SINGLE HALF against the Ravens defense. When the cameras panned to the sidelines in the second half and showed the star running back in the big fluffy hooded jacket that screamed “He is not coming back in”, it conjured up images in my mind of the grim reaper standing there watching with his sickle firmly planted on the Titans Super Bowl dreams.

I argued earlier that last season’s Titan team was very similar in all aspects of the 2007 version of the group save one….This season’s team had a fast, athletic game breaker. They had a go to guy in the form of the dual threat home run hitting back. I think Lendale White is great in certain circumstances and is an excellent compliment to Johnson, but the team just isn’t the same with him as the every down guy.

I mentioned last week that I thought that the difference in this game would be the Quarterback play. I said that when the two teams faced last that Joe Flacco was a really green rookie and was prone to giving the ball away. This time around he had more than a full season worth of experience under his belt. The result? Pretty low numbers put up by Flacco overall but ZERO turnovers, ZERO sacks, and two really big plays. The first big play obviously as the 48 yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason. Flacco did a few important things on that drive to get to that point. First, he was able to push up the middle on 3rd and 1 to keep the drive alive. Second, he stood in the pocket with with 275 pound defensive tackle Jason Jones barreling down on him remaining calm and delivering an 8 yard completion while drawing a roughing the passer penalty. I really think the Joe Flacco of week 5 would have tucked and taken a big hit/lost yardage/fumbled or else tried to throw while evading the defender leading to an incompletion/interception and no roughing penalty.

I also mentioned that I wasn’t convinced that Kerry Collins could win a game for you if you needed it. He played all right but missed some big passes (Overshooting Justin Gage early in the first half, for instance.) He turned the ball over and took a big sack that gave the Ravens good field position but he probably played well enough to win.

One possession that I found to be….curious was after an Algae Crumpler red zone fumble gave the Ravens the ball on the 1 yard line. They needed some breathing room to avoid a potential safety or other disaster so Joe Flacco goes up the middle to get them out to the three. The next play they come out in the I formation with…..Leron Mclain up front. A few minutes later, we saw Leron Mclain limp/hop off the field. At this stage in the game in this spot on the field why give the ball to someone that could barely get off the field? Result? Back to the one yard line. Time to go to the air. Joe Flacco drops back and I SWEAR he stepped on the line in the back of the end zone before throwing an incomplete pass. Ouch. Somehow, Sam Koch managed to get a respectable punt off standing in the back of the end zone to give the Titans the ball at the Ravens 42 yard line.

What’s up with Justin Gage? In his six year career he has never caught more than 53 passes gained more than 750 yards. Last season, when the Titans needed a win to get in to the playoffs, he caught 7 balls for 104 yards. To wrap up homefield advantage against the Steelers in week 16 he caught five balls for 104 yards and a touchdown. In this big playoff game, he caught 10 passes for 135 yards. He has five career 100 yard games and all of them have come in big time situations.

In the end, I think the Ravens were pretty lucky to win this game. The Chris Johnson injury, two huge fumbles, and 12 Titans penalties helped them overcome deficits of 180 yards and five minutes time of possession.

A lot has been made of the delay of game no call. The play clock had clearly hit zero while two seconds ticked off the game clock and no flag was thrown. I hate to say it but if I’m the Titans or a Titans fan this is not something that I want to hang my hat on and say “See, this is why we lost the game.” This kind of call does not directly impact the game in a way that a holding call would. Yes, the rules are there for a reason and yes, this should have been a delay of game but there have been far worse calls by officials this season. The fact that the Ravens got away with something so minor doesn’t take away from the fact that the Titans shot themselves in the foot repeatedly during the contest.

Statistical Notes – The Ravens take away tear continues, with 32 in the last 11 games. Over that span they turned the ball over only 8 times. A +24 ratio is a good thing. The Ravens were held to under 100 yards rushing for only the second time this season. Their yards gained on Saturday was a season low and yards allowed a season high. The Ravens have allowed more than 13 points only once since week 12. Before this year, Derrick Mason’s last playoff win came when the Titans beat the Ravens in 2004.

As for what is on the menu this week….

Eagles (9-6-1) at Cardinals (9-7): (Eagles -3.5)

Yup, a Title game hosted by the Arizona Cardinals. Had the Chargers managed to beat the Steelers we would have seen the Title games hosted by teams with a combined record of 17-15. I’ve been saying this the last two weeks but I just can’t see the Cardinals winning this game. The Eagles absolutely destroyed the Cardinals in week 13. The Cardinals seemed to have changed significantly since that point and actually are running the ball. However, there is a big difference between running the ball with some success against teams ranked 28th and 20th in yards per carry allowed (Falcons and Panthers) and a team that is stout against the run (the Eagles are 4th in YPC allowed). The Cardinals will likely have to become one dimensional again early on. The Eagles have been able to move the ball well against 2 good defenses in the postseason so despite the sudden appearance of a defense in Arizona I do not think that they will have problems scoring points.

There is a possibility that the strange inept version of the Eagles shows up on Sunday. You know, the one that posted a tie against the Bengals? They tend to be a streaky team though and are pretty hot right now. I think Brian Westbrook poses a big problem for the Cardinals defense whose front seven is not all that talented.

The Eagles defense big weakness probably has been giving up big plays in the passing game. With Larry Fitzgerald playing like one of the few receivers who can take over a game, they have to watch out for that. I would think the Cardinals will try to go downfield in the first quarter to jump out to an early lead. Despite the good things I have said about Donovan Mcnabb I think that he tends to get a bit rattled if his team goes down by 10 or more points early and is more prone to mistakes.

Result: Eagles win fairly handily.

Ravens (11-5) at Steelers (12-4) – (Steelers -6)

The last two meetings between these two teams were excellent and I expect more of the same out of this one. The big issue for me is the injury report. Derrick Mason, Terrell Suggs, and Samari Rolle are all key Ravens players that are questionable. Without Mason, there simply is no passing game in Baltimore. He has been absolutely outstanding this year and is the only pass catcher who rookie Joe Flacco can count on consistently. Defensively I think they are good enough to survive if Rolle sits out but Terrell Suggs is a very important piece of this game. They need him out there to help chase down Willie Parker and attack Ben Roethlisberger.

Once again I think this is a game that will come down to quarterback play. Both teams have extremely tough defenses. Both teams, good running teams though they are, will probably have a hard time moving the ball on the ground. As well as Joe Flacco has played lately I think dealing with the Steelers intense pass rush is going to give him some major problems. He has to keep his head about himself and throw the ball away instead of trying to force something if the defense is coming at him. Big Ben is no stranger to getting hit as his offensive line has not really been spectacular at keeping him upright in recent years, but he handles pressure about as well as any QB in the league. He is no stranger the playoffs (6-2 career record) and is going into his third Title Game. I’ve been increasingly impressed with him and I think he will find a way to make just enough plays to put the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

Result: Pittsburgh wins by a field goal

2009 Underclassmen going Pro

For all you NCAA Dynasty owners here is a list of the Declared Underclassmen going pro.

Kenny Britt Rutgers WR Jr.
Eben Britton Arizona OT Jr.
Donald Brown Connecticut RB Jr.
Everette Brown Florida State DE Jr.
James Casey Rice TE So.
Andrew Davie Arkansas TE Jr.
Vontae Davis Illinois CB Jr.
Josh Freeman Kansas State QB Jr.
Shonn Greene Iowa RB Jr.
Darrius Heyward-Bey Maryland WR Jr.
P.J. Hill Wisconsin RB Jr.
Jeremy Maclin Missouri WR So.
Sen’Derrick Marks Auburn DL Jr.
Gerald McRath Southern Miss LB Jr.
Captain Munnerlyn South Carolina CB Jr.
D.J. Moore Vanderbilt CB Jr.
Knowshon Moreno Georgia RB So.
Hakeem Nicks North Carolina WR Jr.
Kevin Ogletree Virginia WR Jr.
Jerraud Powers Auburn DB Jr.
Andre Smith Alabama OT Jr.
Matthew Stafford Georgia QB Jr.
Chris Wells Ohio State RB Jr.

Carnage’s long and Boring Wild Card Review/Divisional Preview

    I am feeling melancholy this Sunday night. First, I gambled my only Fantasy Playoff pool on the Colts beating the Chargers. I was so sure of it. I carried one quarterback (Peyton Manning) figuring I would get two games out of him and be fine with having running backs, wide outs, or defenses for championship weekend and the Super Bowl while others were possibly stuck with 2 QB’s going into the divisional playoffs. Fantasy Football is officially over. Of course, I don’t think I’ve ever placed anywhere but the bottom 10% in any fantasy pool before. I just don’t get it.

    More depressing is the fact that we are down to a mere 7 games in this NFL season (Unless you watch the Pro Bowl…..I have not seen anything more than highlights since I was 10 years old. Sure, there are going to be some really solid games out of the seven, but I already feel withdrawal coming on.

I was surprised this weekend by the results of two of the games. I was positive that Baltimore would win by the largest margin, and had great faith in the Eagles….but I thought Michael Turner would be way too much for the Cardinals to handle and the wounded Chargers would put up a dismal showing while Peyton Manning ran circles around their defensive backs. Let’s take a look at what happened, and how I feel heading into the next weekends worth of games.

Ravens over Dolphins or “Ed Reed, ball magnet.”

After deciding that the Dolphins were not going to move the ball on the Ravens, I was quite shocked when they recovered an early Ravens fumble and marched 50 yards to find themselves at 2nd and goal from the 1. Chad Pennington and his merry band of castoffs, dope smokers, and comers back from near career ending injuries were going to make a game out of this. In my estimation, they made a mistake though. The Ravens obviously were going to be playing physical, talking physical, and likely intimidating the Dolphins Offense. You have 2nd, 3rd, and 4th downs to gain one yard and go up 7 in a low scoring game. Punch that ball forward 3 times. Show them you are ready to take it right to them and don’t think they can stop you. If they do stop you, show them that you think they can’t dig themselves out from their own 1 yard line. Change the psychological makeup of the game. Instead, incomplete pass, run for zero, 19 yard field goal.

Is it just me or is Ed Reed randomly places where it doesn’t seem like he should even be…yet the ball happens to go there. Not so much this game…but other times this year he seemed to be standing in the middle of nowhere which happened to be right where the quarterback was throwing it. The guy just seems to have a sense of where the play is headed. Time and time again Ed Reed is in the picture. Ray Lewis might be the heart of this defense, but Ed Reed is either ……A. Simply dump lucky a whole lot, which is unlikely In the NFL or B. Has an absolutely incredible football IQ and is the brain of the operation. I’m guessing B. Of all the things he does well, I’m amazed how he transitions from defender to offense when he gets the ball. Many D-Backs (And certainly linebackers and D-Linemen) hesitate for a second as if they aren’t sure what they should be doing. Reed knows what he’s doing and that is trying to get the ball as close to the enemy end zone as he can.

The biggest surprise of this game had to be the number of turnovers by Chad Pennington. Pennington isn’t going to blow you away with his arm strength or take a game over by himself, but he’s always been a pretty smart QB, knowing when to give up on a play and take the loss of down instead of loss of yardage or a turnover. He has played in 85 games to this point and has thrown multiple interceptions in only 14 of them… disaster 5 INT outing earlier in his career, two 3 INT outings, and eleven 2 INT outings. That means 82/85 games were 2 INT’s or less. On Sunday, he threw four of them and I think all were into at least double coverage. You’ve made a living throwing the ball away instead of trying to make these throws, why force it now?

A big answer, of course, could be the threat of being flattened by a Raven’s defender. They came up with three sacks, which isn’t a huge number, but I couldn’t help but notice that on many a play a Ravens defender would at least tap their target fairly lightly on the shoulder after the throw. I wondered if that was by design to say “Hey, I was RIGHT there. Better get the ball away quicker next time.”

Miami did have a sweet sequence at the start of the fourth. Leading by 17, the Ravens were playing pretty soft at the line. Davone Bess was lined up in the slot and took a step towards the receiver split wide and a split back. Pennington tossed him the ball and he turned on the jets. He made several Ravens miss en route to a big gain. 2 plays later, the Dolphins had 2nd and goal from the 2. In a Big I formation, Tight End Anthony Fasano went into motion and planted at the “H-Back” spot. Pennington took the snap and kind of bumbled into Fasano. At this point the play looks a little broken and he goes to hand off to Ronnie Brown. Ronnie Brown doesn’t take the ball but sprints at oncoming 2 time Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs as if to pass block but instead goes around him. Suggs was all twisted up and Brown was wide open for the Dolphins only Touchdown.

The Ravens offense consisted mostly of plugging away with LeRon Mclain, and Joe Flacco did not have his brightest day. There were some moments though. To set up their first field goal, Todd Heap ran straight about five yards and cut across towards the opposite sideline. Let’s face it, the Ravens do not have many receiving weapons but somehow, Heap was forgotten in the mix. Flacco hit him in stride to take the team down inside the five.

The Next big Ravens play (I promised to be done disrespecting the Dolphins, but this must be noted) was set up by an interesting sequence. The Dolphins got the ball on their own 20 with just over 2:30 to play. Terrell Suggs busts into the backfield and tosses Pennington for a loss of 12. The clock ticks to the two minute warning and the Dolphins have 2nd and 22 at their 8 yard line. The Ravens hold two time outs. Pass complete for five yards, Ravens burn a timeout. 3rd and 17 at the 13. PASS INCOMPLETE. WHY, oh WHY are you trying to convert 3rd and 17 in this situation? Run forward and force the Ravens to let a lot of time tick or use their last time out.

Suddenly the Ravens have the ball on their 41 with 1:30 and a timeout to play with. A nine yard run gets them to midfield. With that timeout in hand, they take their time, call a play, and Flacco hits Derrick Mason on a 31 yard sideline pattern putting them well within field goal range and with an opportunity for a touchdown. They settled for the field goal, but that was poor clock management. The fantastic play on this occasion was by Mason. All year I have been praising the old receiver’s agility near the sidelines. I don’t know how many balls he has caught keeping two toes in bounds but that has been a signature play for Baltimore this season. The Dolphins (I hope…but it doesn’t seem as if they had a clue) had to know it was coming and failed to stop it. Derrick Mason doesn’t have the gaudy numbers as some Wide Receivers in the league, but I’m not sure there are very many (If any) that have been more valuable to their team.

Up by 11 with 4 minutes to go, the Ravens found themselves at the Dolphins 5, 3rd and goal. Surely the Ravens will run up the middle, tick some time off the clock, and content themselves with a 14 point lead, right? Flacco took the snap and dropped back to pass. An eternity later he was standing in the end zone as the result of a designed QB draw. Joe Flacco is either one of those guys that is really fast but looks slow, or is simply pretty slow. I’m guessing he’s actually speed challenged but he has managed to break off some pretty decent runs this season.

It was a great season by the Dolphins but they simply met a superior team. I really like this Ravens squad and think that with the Colts sent packing, the team they match up the worst against is out of the way. The Titans and Steelers have advantages over the Ravens (Experience at the QB position possibly being huge against these aggressive defenses) but the Ravens CAN beat those teams.

Statistical Notes – Mclain has scored 7 TD’s in the last 8 games. The Ravens defense has 27 takeaways in the last 9 games. They have scored 7 defensive touchdowns. Ed Reed has four of them and has more touchdowns this season than all Ravens but Mcclain, Willis Mcgahee, and Derrick Mason. Joe Flacco has 148 or fewer passing yards in four of the last five games. The Dolphins had 13 turnovers in 16 regular season games, and five in one post season game.


Cardinals over Falcons “Cardinals coaches discover that the rules allow teams to RUN the ball as well as pass it.”

I had no confidence in the Cardinals going into this game. I admit it. The stomping that Brian Westbrook, Adrian Peterson, Sammy Morris, and Lamont Jordan had me thinking 400 yards and 6 touchdowns for Michael Turner. Their complete neglect of the run in the second half of the season combined with Edgerrin James blowup early in the week made me think the Falcons would just Tee off on Kurt Warner. Somewhere along the lines, the Cardinals coaching staff realized that EVERYONE was thinking that and decided to do something different.

For weeks I have been imploring the Cardinals to at least TRY running the ball to keep defenses honest and open things up for their pass happy offense. On their second possession they came out with handoff, handoff, handoff, handoff….flea flicker and a big touchdown. Of course, Atlanta’s defensive backs were not fooled and chased Larry Fitzgerald into the end zone. He was simply too big, too strong, too fast for them to handle. Oh yeah, and Kurt Warner put the ball in the perfect spot. Man, Kurt Warner is really an accurate passer. Not to be outdone, Anquan Boldin took a short pass 71 yards for a touchdown. The play that was called in this situation was “trips left gin and tonic twist lime”. At least that is the name it went by a few years back when I was quarterbacking a touch football league. Three receivers line up to one side with one hanging slightly back. The two outside receivers run forward and twist around one another trying to confuse the defenders. In touch/flag football using crossing and twisting routes is pretty effective, so the defenders bite on one of those receivers being the intended target. Often forgotten is the man bringing up the rear. Apparently this play works in Pro Football too, as Atlanta completely forgot to cover Anquan Boldin. Uncontested, he caught a pass in stride and torched the Falcon’s secondary with a tweaked hammy. Here is a free tip for teams playing the Cardinals in the future: NEVER forget about Anquan Boldin.

I wanted to mention both of those guys to segue into a confession. I’ve been forcing myself to hate Larry Fitzgerald for a long time now, for no other reason than the fact that I really really like Anquan Boldin. This is perhaps one of the most irrational and childish opinions I have held about the NFL. This season….watching Fitzgerald…I realized that A. He is a slightly better receiver than Boldin (First time I have admitted that) and B. I really like his game. He doesn’t drop balls, he doesn’t act like a jerk, and he doesn’t whine if Boldin or (Bryant Johnson/Steve Breaston) get more looks in a game.

Anyway, back on track. This was a pretty weird game momentum wise. First you have the Falcons go down 14-3 despite second after mounting a 14 play, 80 yard drive. I always feel this is the type of thing that is most damaging to a team. Grinding it out for 8 minutes to get three points, starting to feel good, and then watching the opponent return a kick or end up with a 50+ yard rushing or passing touchdown. You worked so hard and they did it so easy! Still, Atlanta recovered and mounted another long drive, this time into the end zone. They get a turnover before half, and end up leading. They had to feel pretty good. They survived two huge offensive plays and kept the Cardinals defense on the field for 22 minutes. They had to be wearing down. It was time to pound the ball.

Coming out of halftime, a handoff got botched and bounced directly into the hands of Antrel Rolle for a touchdown. Yup, now the Cardinals have 21 points on you despite holding the ball only 8 minutes. Of course, Antrel Rolle was lucky to get into the end zone. He decided he could hold the ball out with one hand and start prancing at the 15 yard line. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan was charging him as fast as he could and almost made it to slap at the ball. It was a very foolish risk on Antrel Rolle’s part and a good display of Ryan’s determination and character. The question is…..if the Falcon’s relatively slow rookie QB was in the picture, where were the speedy veteran receivers or running backs? Standing around or walking to the sidelines of course! Falcons offensive players! Follow your rookie’s lead! The play isn’t over until it’s over. Disaster strikes? Get moving and try to do something about it!

The Falcons were flustered by this point and a loss of one, an offensive holding, a delay of game, and two drops later they have 4th and 25 at their own 5. They manage to get off a good punt given the circumstances, but a fifteen yard illegal contact call gives the Cardinals the ball on the 38. Even though the result of the ensuing drive was a missed field goal, Atlanta seemed to have their shoulders sagging and never really recovered.

Another play that could have really changed the momentum but did not was on the Falcon’s first drive. They faced 3rd and 10 from the Cardinals 20 yard line. Michael Jenkins ran and out pattern near the sticks and his defender fell down. Jenkins did not know his defender fell down and though he came down well in bounds, he made only a token effort to reach the ball past the first down marker. He had a good 2, maybe 3 steps to try something but looked like he expected to get hit and instead held on his course. Had he shifted his weight and dove with all he had he probably would have made it. Nobody likes to lay themselves out to get hit but in this case a little extra effort may have gone a long way.

Later in the game, Matt Ryan was called in the grasp while in the end zone resulting in a safety. The screen flashed to what I thought was Darnell Dockett in a fight with a Falcon’s Offensive lineman in the end zone. He was jumping and landing his considerable weight on the man’s back. A closer look revealed that it was the man who came up with the sack, Antonio Smith, who he was abusing. This is how the Cardinals treat each other when they do well? Ouch! I hate to see what happens when they are frustrated with each other! At any rate, the Cardinals defense bounced back from being horrible as of late. If that is what it takes to get them fired up, so be it.

The Falcons came charging back with an impressive drive by “Matty Ice” who completed 7 of 9 passes on a 58 yard touchdown drive to cut the lead to 6. I really think the “Matty Ice” nickname should be dropped. What kind of role model is he? A generation of Atlanta youth could grow up thinking Natural Ice is a tasty beverage! That and with his new contract you know darn well he’ll never touch the stuff again in his life.

With over 4 minutes left and holding two timeouts, the Falcons kicked deep having a few chances to hold the Cardinals. Going against every purist nerve in my body, the Cardinals threw 15 yards up the middle to Larry Fitzgerald. Ok, they got one first down, that’s huge. The will run now, right? One run, no gain, Falcons timeout. The Cardinals gamble AGAIN and throw it downfield and gain 25 yards and a first down. A standard run for 2 yards later they try a crazy reverse and lose 8 yards leaving them with 3rd and 16 near midfield. Run the ball and you take it down to the two minute warning with a chance to pin the Falcons deep in their own territory with no timeouts. No! Warner is dropping back to pass and guns it 23 yards to Stephen Spach for a first down. I didn’t know what surprised me more, the fact that they threw it or the fact that I didn’t realize the Cardinals actually had Tight Ends on the roster. Those deep balls ensured that the Cardinals didn’t have to give the ball back and were a good strategy only because NOBODY thought that even they would do that.

Statistical Notes – This victory gives Kurt Warner a 6-2 record in the post season. His two losses came by three points each and in both games he passed for exactly 365 yards. Weird. Larry Fitzgerald has 22 100 yard games out of his last 60. The Falcons were held to their lowest rushing total of the year (60 yards)…which was 203 fewer than they had last weekend against the Rams. Matt Ryan’s first regular season pass? A long TD. His first playoff pass? An interception. He knows how to set a tone I guess. Ryan threw 6 picks in his first 12 games and 7 in his last 5. At halftime, the Falcons had a first down advantage of 16 to the Cardinals 4 and were only up by three points.


Eagles over Vikings or “Why Quarterbacks matter.”

Back when Donovan Mcnabb was benched by the Eagles in the loss to the Ravens, I speculated that Zygi Wolf spent the night salivating all over the salary cap paperwork in his office, figuring out a way to get Mcnabb under center for the Vikings in 2009. There are teams out there that would love to get their hands on a veteran like Mcnabb, but for some reason the Eagles fans seem to always be on the verge of running him out of town. My advice to Philly management…..detain anyone who could possibly look at Kevin Kolb and talk themselves into him being a better option for this team. They are obviously insane.

I figured this game would come down to what the quarterbacks could do. I didn’t anticipate either team to run the ball well, and they didn’t. Peterson’s 83 yards and 2 TD’s does not look bad from a fantasy perspective but he was mostly ineffective. His one 40 yard run came on a play where several Eagles defenders appeared to trip over their own feet or something, leaving nothing in the way of Peterson and the end zone. The rest of the day was gain of 2, loss of 1, gain of 2, gain of 3, etc. The Eagle’s attempts at running Westbrook were even more futile.

Brian Westbrook still came up with one of the big plays of the game, a 73 yard screen pass that was about as pure of a team effort as I have seen. After Westbrook caught the ball, three Eagles players ran towards him to spring him into the secondary for a larger gain. Not to be outdone by their larger blocking team mates, Desean Jackson made a good block and Kevin Curtis made a spectacular block to pave the way for Westbrook to reach the end zone. The best thing a coach can urge his players to do is to never give up on a play. The odds of Curtis and Jackson needing to make blocks 50 yards away from the line of scrimmage were not real good but they were in position to do so anyway.

The Vikings probably need to give up on the Tavaris Jackson experiment. He was looking better after Frerotte went down with an injury and he was reinstated as the starter but he just doesn’t have it. Too many of his 20 incomplete passes were “cover your eyes” or maybe “Uhhhh, where was that throw supposed to be to?” bad. Ultimately it was a problem with poise. The Eagles only sacked him one time but they were bringing the pressure. He stopped even trying to plant his feet and was just chucking the ball around while stumbling backwards, stumbling sideways, or jumping in the air. I am not sure that he completed a pass more than five yards through the air all game long.

Maybe Jackson isn’t the only Viking that needs to go. I have not heard Vikings fans say too many kind things about Brad Childress and I really have to question his judgement on the Eagles second possession. Desean Jackson gave the Eagles the ball at the Vikings 27 yard line. Three plays later the Eagles were on the 26 with an offensive holding call awaiting the Vikings decision. They chose to decline it? David Akers kicked a 43 yard field goal for the first points of the game. Had the Vikings accepted the penalty the Eagles would have had 3rd and 19 at the 36 yard line. If the Vikings hold them on that down they have a tough decision to make. It is hard to punt from the 36 but it’s hard to go on 4th and 19. A 53 yard field goal is in Akers range but I’m guessing he’s a 33% success rate kicker from that distance. A miss gives the Vikings the ball at their 44.

As if the poised leader who completed a good percentage of his passes despite his receivers letting the ball bounce off their chests matched up against the sophomoric quivering mess was not a big enough advantage, the Vikings lost big time in another key area of the game. The pesky special teams. A few bad punts and some bad punt coverage cost the Vikings some serious field position. The Vikings averaged 31.6 net yards on 8 punts. Some big moments: The Vikings get pinned back at their own 10 on their first possession, Chris Kluwe punts 60 yards, Desean Jackson brings it back 62 yards, Kluwe punts from the Eagles 42 out of bounds at the Eagles 25 (Ugh, at least just kick It in the end zone), Sav Rocca punts from the 43 and pins the Vikings at their own 10 once again, Kluwe kicks it 51 yards and Jackson brings it back 30, Kluwe muffs one that luckily rolls to make it 36 yards, Rocca bangs another 51 yarder to pin the Vikings at their 15. Ouch. Average field position for the Eagles: 33 yard line. Average for the Vikings: 21 yard line. With 24 possessions, that is a big difference in real estate.

The Vikings were built to win now and had a heck of a run defense, pass rush, and running game this season. Inconsistent QB play really really hurt them. They need to rethink the position this offseason, as well as give Adrian Peterson some lessons on keeping the ball close to his body. He had a brilliant season but fumbled 10 times and seemed to be holding the ball farther away from his body as the season wore on.

Statistical Notes – The Eagles only reached the big game once, but they have been to the playoffs in 7 of the last 9 years. They have not been one and done in any of those seasons. The Vikings have been to the playoffs 3 times in that span and won 2 games total. Since throwing five picks in two miserable games against the Browns and Ravens, Mcnabb has thrown only 2 in six games. Brian Westbrook has 100+ total yards in each of his last six playoff appearances. He scored at least one touchdown in five of those games. Asante Samuel doesn’t mess around in the playoffs. He recorded his fourth playoff pick six this weekend. Tarvaris Jackson had looked much better since his reinstatement as QB, completing 64% of his passes, averaging 8.3 yards per attempt, and throwing 8 touchdowns to only 1 interception. This weekend he completed 43% of his passes, averaged 4.8 yards per attempt, and threw 0 TD’s and 1 INT. Chester Taylor caught five balls tying Bernard Berrian with 50 catches and just six behind leader Bobby Wade. Taylor’s touches were way down this season but he has been an important part of the Vikings offense since he arrived in Minnesota.

Bolts over Colts or “Ok, I was really really wrong about this one.”

Not only did I say last week that the Colts would win this game handily, but I also made claims of how Darren Sproles was a fine player yet he was no Ladainian Tomlinson or Michael Turner. The Chargers advanced the ball 534 yards on offense and kick/punt returns. 327 of those yards belonged to the 5 foot 6 inch Sproles who also hit paydirt twice (Should have been three…more on that later). On the flipside Ladainian Tomlinson and Vincent Jackson, by far the two most productive members of the Chargers offense during the regular season, combined for 25 yards. Of course, Tomlinson did not play very many snaps, but that may have worked in the Chargers favor. Perhaps the Colts underestimated the little guy a bit.

Even with the game that Darren Sproles had, the game MVP is clear to me. As special teams made quite a difference in the Eagles/Vikings games they also made a big difference here. “Who Dat” Punter Mike Scrifes was unconscious and constantly helped the Chargers maintain a huge field position advantage. The Chargers average starting field position? The 35 yard line. The Colts average starting position? The 15 yard line. Ouch. When you need 85 yards to reach pay dirt on every drive things will be tough. Check out Scrifes’ 6 punts. 51 yards to the Colts’ 10. 58 yards plus four return yards to the Colts’ 19. 50 yards to the Colts 3. 67 yards plus two return yards to the Colts’ 5. 38 yards to the Colts’ 9. 52 yards to the Colts 1. The six times the Chargers punted the Colts average start position was their own 8 yard line. It’s quite possible that this is the greatest performance by a punter I have ever seen with a nod to the coverage team too.

The Chargers defense which is now led by former Chicago Bear’s coordinator Ron Rivera used some interesting tactics to try to slow down Peyton Manning. Their Nickel package was a 2-4-5 set. The Chargers linebackers took their sweet time setting themselves and giving away any indication who was rushing the passer and who was dropping back. The Offensive line could only account for the two line men and figure out the rest at the last second. They did a good job of keeping the rush off of their QB but Manning did get chased out of the pocket more often than usual. Peyton Manning did find a way to exploit this once though. While the Chargers defense was playing their not set routine, Manning rushed his team to the line of scrimmage and had Reggie Wayne, split alone to the left run a fly pattern. Two Chargers defenders were 10 yards behind Wayne as he caught a perfect pass on the run and took it in for a touchdown.

The Chargers didn’t really adopt this plan until a bit later in the game. Peyton Manning had been very effective in the first quarter, finding Anthony Gonzales for several big plays. With 10 minutes to go in the second half Manning hooked up with Gonzales for a 20 yard gain. What is important about this moment? From this point on Manning completed the deep touchdown to Wayne when the Chargers’ defense was unprepared and later completed a 17 yard pass to Wayne. These were the only two completions after the 10 minute mark in the second quarter that went for over 9 yards. Between the Chargers’ attempts at confusing the blocking schemes and the ineptness of the Colts’ ground game their big play aerial attack faltered. From the time Wayne’s catch put the Colts up one to the ending gun the Colts ran 20 plays and gained a total of 40 yards. No wonder the Chargers were so confident going into overtime!

A new play emerged from the Colts huddle. In the second quarter facing 3rd and 1 from the Charger’s 38, the Colts wanted to run the ball. To this point the Colts runners had gone for gains of 0,1,1,1,1,2 and 3 yards. Dallas Clark lined up on the right end a body length behind the line of scrimmage. He stepped back and started to the left, taking the handoff in the process. The Chargers clearly were not expecting a Tight End reverse and Clark gained 10 yards and a first down. To start the third quarter, the Colts had a 3rd and 1 at the Chargers 34. Joseph Addai was stopped for no gain. They went on 4th and 1 and Manning threw an incompletion. If you are willing to use Dallas Clark as a running back, why not let him in the fullback role in these short yardage situations? He can be a lead blocker, the up guy taking a short handoff and smashing forward, or go in motion to the spot he would start a route if they choose to pass. I have long believed the Colts and some other spread teams hurt themselves by not employing a bruising fullback. Handing off to the up back gets you to the line of scrimmage faster. Handing to a fullback led tailback means the defense has to deal with an extra blocker at the point of attack.

Darren Sproles’ only real blemish of the game was his fumble at the 2 yard line. Trying to get those extra few yards Sproles ended up with 2 much larger men hanging on his arms. He had the ball secured with two hands but when it came down to it, he couldn’t hang on. This was a demoralizing blow because the Colts had taken back the lead on the previous possession and the Chargers were getting the momentum back in their favor with a 78 yard drive. To his (And Norv Turner’s) credit, the next time the Chargers got the ball it did not seem as if the fumble ever happened. They kept their faith in him and he kept playing hard.

Statistical Notes – Antonio Gates had his least productive season since he was a rookie but came up with his second highest reception and yardage total of the year when it mattered. He already has 2 catches and 26 yards more than he had in three playoff games last year. Philip Rivers as 78 touchdowns to only 36 interceptions in his regular season career and has a 92.9 QB rating. In his playoff career he has 4 TD’s to 6 INT’s and a 73.9 rating. Peyton Manning has led the Colts to the playoffs nine times in his career. This is their sixth one and done showing. The Colts did not turn the ball over at all on Saturday. They have not lost a game where they did not turn the ball over since losing to the Broncos in December of 2003. Dallas Clark’s 7 receptions gave him 85 on the season and tied with him Reggie Wayne. Unfortunately, he only gained 33 yards.


So now that Wild Card Weekend is over, leaving four entire fan bases crushed until next season let us see who will be walking around next week with their chests puffed out and who will be carrying extra Kleenex.

Chargers at Steelers or (Line: Pittsburgh -6)

When last these two teams met the Steelers were starting their string of heart pounding come from behind victories and the Chargers were in the midst of what would turn out to be a 1-5 stretch. The end result? The most controversial 11-10 final in the history of the NFL. Actually, the only 11-10 finish in the history of the NFL. Some large sum of money was lost when the officials made an illegal forward pass call on the last play of the game that would have put the Steelers up 17-10 and put them over the odds line. A lot of people are going to point at the fact that the Chargers have won five straight and are hot right now. A lot of people are talking about Ben Roesthisberger’s concussion possibly affecting his play. A lot of people are going to look at the final score of that regular season game and talk about how tight the Chargers played the Steelers last time.

In reality the Steelers kicked the stuffing out of the Chargers. They were able to move the ball pretty freely and had the ball for 37 minutes. It just so happened that a usually disciplined team had a horrendous outing with 13 penalties for 130 or so yards. The Chargers aren’t going to get that kind of opportunity again and are going to once again have a hard time moving the ball against an absolutely intense defense. The Chargers will be lucky to put up 10 points on this team.

Verdict: Steelers win.

Cardinals at Panthers (Line: Panthers -10)

The Cardinals jumped to a 17-3 lead early in the first quarter before some big plays by Deangelo Williams and Steve Smith gave the Panthers a 21 point third quarter. Being one of those people tremendously surprised by what the Cardinals were able to do with Michael Turner, I can’t see the run defense tightening up and keeping off the field in the face of the Deangelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart onslaught. If Anquan Boldin does not play I think this game could be a big, big, blowout. If he does play the Kurt Warner aerial circus should at least put enough points on the board to keep it interesting.

Verdict: Panthers Win

Ravens at Titans (Line: Titans -3)

Looks like the betting public is giving the Ravens some respect. A sixth seed going on the road against the team with the best record in the NFL and only getting 3? Of course, they may just be thinking that the final score will be 9-5 or something like that. I don’t really like either of these teams to do much on offense against the other. Oddly though, I think the quarterback dynamic has changed greatly since the Titans beat the Ravens 13-10 in week 5. Joe Flacco was playing like you would expect a rookie quarterback to play back then. In the meantime, he has learned how to take care of the ball a little better and has begun to target his tight end Todd Heap. Leron Mcclain emerged as a true running threat and seems to have lit a fire under Willis Mcgahee. The Titans starters have not played in a game since December 21st. Even with their fantastic line and running back Chris Johnson I don’t think they will be able to run on the Ravens. Despite reports to the contrary, I don’t think you can rely on Kerry Collins to win this sort of game for you… least not with the weapons available. The Titans have not turned the ball over much but after sitting for two full weeks and facing a really fired up Ravens defense, that may change.

Verdict: Ravens win.

Eagles at Giants (Line: Giants -4)

Another sixth seed going up against the number one team in the conference with the line giving up more than the 2 or 3 token home field advantage points. A sixth seed that seemed to have squandered any chance of making the playoffs after their week 16 loss to the Redskins. A team that in successive weeks tied the lowly Bengals and were beaten so bad by the Ravens that their veteran quarterback’s head was being called for after his benching. So why are people not charging to the sports book web sites by putting their money on the Giants?

Seriously, I see a little of last year’s Giants team in this year’s Eagles team. Eli Manning was taking a lot of criticism, nobody outside of the New York area really knew the names Osi Umenyiora or Justin Tuck, and the team was not expected to make the playoffs when they started to stumble. They came out and played a heck of a game (Granted they lost) against a star studded team in the Patriots heading into round one. The Eagles destroyed a start studded team in the Cowboys headed into round one. Their defense has played fantastic but isn’t garnering much attention. Donovan Mcnabb has been taking care of the ball really well. Brian Westbrook is healthy and playing very well.

The Giants are a pretty good team but it feels like they peaked too early. Their offense did not look like it did early in the season in weeks 14 and 15 against the Eagles and Cowboys. Their defense that looked so good early on has allowed at least 320 yards in six straight games, has 1 turnover in the last four, and gave up an average of 5 more points per game in the second half of the season. Brandon Jacobs and Dominick Hixon have been banged up recently and Plaxico Burress….well…. Fred Robbins missed some games recently and Justin Tuck is allegedly not 100%.

Verdict: Eagles Win

This weekend has some really intriguing matchups and is a purists’ dream playoff weekend. The top five defenses are represented amongst the eight teams. Only one of the top 4 offenses joins them. Four of the teams are in the top six in rushing offense. Five of the teams are in the bottom half of the league in passing offense. For those who don’t have a team to cheer for, break out your Ray Nitschke, Dick Butkus, Deacon Jones, Ronnie Lott, Dick “NightTrain” Lane or jersey from other defensive monster of the past and enjoy the show.




Carnage’s Long and Boring Wild Card Weekend Preview!

The real season is about to begin and never before has the opening playoff weekend looked so bizarre. When you think 5th and 6th seed you think of teams that just got a little lucky near the end of the season and won a few games, backing into the playoffs. When you think 3rd (And to a lesser degree, 4th) seed you usually think of a powerhouse that won its division and was a game or two away from having a first round bye and possible home field throughout.

Not so this year. Our 3rd seeds are the 11-5 Dolphins who didn’t clinch a playoff berth until the last game of the season and the 10-6 Minnesota Vikings who are led by a young Quarterback that isn’t really known for his consistency. Our 4th seeds are the 9-7 Arizona Cardinals, a team that has defined inept for most of its history and comes limping into the playoffs losing 4 of their last 6 and being outscored 198-138 in the process and the 8-8 San Diego Chargers, a team that was 4-8 and left for dead a month ago. A team that doesn’t even have a winning record and won the weakest division in football. A team with two of the superstars, Antonio Gates and Ladainian Tomlinson, questionable for wild card weekend.

On the flipside, I present our 6th seeds. First we have a brutal 11-5 Ravens team. About those five losses, they were to the 13-3 Titans, 12-4 Giants, 12-4 Colts, and 12-4 Steelers Twice. The three losses to the Steelers and Titans were by a combined 10 points. They sport a defense that gave up 13 or fewer points 11 times and are really only overshadowed by the Steelers. Second we have a 9-6-1 Eagles team with a lot of talent. They have not given up 300 yards of offense since week 10 and feature perhaps the most versatile running back in the game, Brian Westbrook, who is looking like a world beater now that he’s healthy. They just demolished “star-studded” Dallas 44-6. The fifth seeds include a couple of decent squads too. First the 12-4 Colts led by a guy you may have heard of. You know, the guy who earned his third MVP this season? This team has won nine straight and are welcoming back Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders, important members of their defense. Next we have the 11-5 Falcons, 7-2 down the stretch. Michael Turner runs as hard as anyone and Matt Ryan has played like a veteran.

This brings me to the point. Probably for the first time ever, no home team is drawing the favorite line on the opening weekend of the playoffs. The closest we get is the Cardinals getting a “Pick-Em” hosting the Falcons. The Chargers are 1 point dawgs and the Dolphins and Vikings are each getting 3. Do I agree? See Below.

Falcons (11-5) at Cardinals (9-7):

I like the Cardinals. I really do. They have been fun to watch. I have been all over Kurt Warner as the MVP of all three of my fantasy leagues this year. The problem? The defense is wavering bad. Especially the run defense. The Patriots, Eagles, and Vikings exposed this particular flaw very convincingly late in the season, with the Cardinals allowing an average of 204 yards on the ground in those four brutal losses. Who comes into town? The Falcons, a team that would love to give Michael Turner about 200 carries this weekend. The Cardinals offense will not get enough time on the field and the defense will become more and more worn out as the day progresses.

Winner: Atlanta Falcons

Eagles (9-6-1) at Vikings (10-6):

A defense that is 13th in points allowed and 6th in yards allowed against a defense that is 3rd in yards allowed and 4th in points allowed. You are likely to hear all about the Vikings defense, Jared Allen, and the Williams wall but the Eagles defense is the one to look at. They have better overall numbers than the Vikings against a tougher schedule. The run defense of the Vikings is often talking about, giving up 3.3 yards per carry, but the Eagles are only giving up 3.5 YPC themselves. The pass rush of the Vikings is talked of, producing 45 sacks. The Eagles produced 48. The Eagles have a savvy veteran leading it’s balanced offense. The Vikings have an unknown quantity. Adrian Peterson is fantastic but so is the more Versatile Brian Westbrook, who happens to fumble a whole lot less. The Vikings pass defense is a little shaky and Donovan Mcnabb can spread the ball around the field. The Eagles simply are just as good on defense, and significantly more balanced on offense.

Verdict: Eagles win Handily

Ravens (11-5) at Dolphins (11-5):

The Dolphins have beaten 2 teams with winning records. The Patriots in week 3 when they were still getting used to that Matt Cassell thing and the wildcat took everyone by surprise, and the flailing Jets in week 17. The Ravens have been socking it out against better teams and really have some attitude and talent on defense. They are giving up just over 10 points per game the last 6 weeks. I don’t see how the Dolphins can move the ball on them. Chad Pennington is capable, but not fantastic. The Wildcat was different and took a lot of people by surprise, but it takes more than gimmicks to deal with the physical nature of the Ravens. The Ravens won’t have an easy time moving It but Leron Mclain will slowly pound the ball towards the end zone and produce some points. This should be a low scoring affair unless Pennington floats one too many towards Ed Reed.

Verdict: Ravens Win

Colts (12-4) at Chargers (8-8)

I’m going to qualify this with a larger prediction. The Colts are going to the Super Bowl. Usually I prefer a team with a more solid defense but Peyton Manning appears to be on a mission. During the Colts current 9 game winning streak he has 17 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions. He’s dipped under 71.4% completion percentage only twice (65.4 and 52.5). The Colts defense has stepped up and allowed only 15 points per game during that span. 15 points isn’t going to get it done with Peyton Manning on the other side. The Chargers are on a hot streak having beaten the Raiders, Chiefs, and Broncos (Yawn) down the stretch to get to .500. Ladainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates got banged up on the way. The Colts on the other hand are getting healthy. Darren Sproles is a fine player but he is no Tomlinson or (like last year) Michael Turner. Philip Rivers is looking to be a great one, but he’s not getting to round 2 with this supporting cast.

Verdict: The Colts Win, Handily

Yup. I’m going with the favorites. I think they are all fairly obvious. I can’t see any of the home teams winning. I really can’t. Sorry. If you are a fan of one of those teams though, take heart. My predictions during the season have not been all that impressive (160-96 straight up) and I’ll probably miss on at least two of these. Until next week, enjoy the start of the playoffs.

Keep it classy Edgerrin James!

    I’ve been doing some thinking and I’ve decided something. Edgerrin James is not a guy I would want in my NFL Franchises’ locker room. I’m not even looking at it from the standpoint of James being a player going on 31 and headed into the last year of a 4 year, $30 Million contract. I am saying I wouldn’t want a 25 year old healthy Edgerrin James. I wouldn’t want the 2000 version of Edgerrin James who put up 2303 yards and 18 touchdowns.

    Yeah, that’s a lot of talent I’m saying that I would not want on my team but facts are facts. James is quite possible the worst type of locker room cancer, the (usually) dormant type. Terrell Owens? You know what you are getting with T.O. You know he’ll blow up on people when things are not going well. When you sign a guy like Owens the chance you are taking is written in plain English for you to see.

    With James you get a guy who said “It’s a great situation, all they need is a back.” And “I’m a poker player. You can take it to the river. I’m not scared to make a change. I’m not scared to go out on a limb and try something different.” When he signed a big deal with the Cardinals but is now sulking, saying that he won’t be back in Arizona in 2009, saying that he didn’t go there to block and that he is not an offensive lineman. In other words, he’s outright telling you he is not in this to help his team win games. He’s telling you that his statistics and personal glory matter.

    It kind of makes you think back to 2005 when the Indianapolis Colts had a difficult decision to make. Pay their 4 time pro bowl back whom seems fully recovered from his injuries or roll the dice on a rookie and a career backup that has had some marginal success. With a large amount of their salary cap already devoted to the likes of Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, and Reggie Wayne they chose to go the Joseph Addai/Dominic Rhodes approach. Addai and Rhodes did the time share thing and were a large part of the Colts Super Bowl run, including setting the tone for the second half of the legendary 2006 AFC Championship game against the Patriots where the Colts rallied from not having a pulse and being 15 down to beat the Patriots and claim the AFC Title for the first time.

    At the same time, Edgerrin James was plinking away at 3.4 yards per carry en route to a 5-11 Arizona Cardinals record.

    Is it just a coincidence that the Colts won the Super Bowl in 2006 AFTER losing Edgerrin James despite having what many felt was a team far inferior to its 2004/2005 versions? Or is it possible that having two backs fighting it out for the rights to be called the “Starter” translated into a more successful post season? Is it possible that the platoon situation led to Addai and Rhodes both being more than willing to be blockers or “Offensive Linemen” if the situation warranted it in order to make the TEAM better? Is it possible that despite everything Edgerrin James was for the Colts from 1999-2005 that his now glaring selfishness was one of the problems come crunch time?

    If I’m a 30, going on 31 year old back who is 4 years away from glimpsing 4.0 yards per carry and I STILL want to play the game, I’m not saying the things Edgerrin James is. I’m saying the the right things. I’m telling my coach that I will do whatever it takes to get the Cardinals a home playoff win and a chance to move deeper into the post season. I’m looking at my 600 total yards and 3 TD’s, comparing them to Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston and realizing that I am not among those most responsible for taking this team to the playoffs. I’m realizing that at my age I’m lucky to be part of a team that could make an improbable Super Bowl run.

    What I couldn’t do is look across the huddle at a guy who had his face smashed in earlier this season who has come back and worked even harder to make this team win, and declare that it is all about what I want. I couldn’t look up at the stands and see the fans who have paid my $30 Million salary and tell them I wanted no part of the extremely rare moment of success their team is having. I couldn’t stare into the eyes of a Quarterback who was bagging groceries at age 28 and has been cast off by the Rams and Giants before coming to Arizona to play backup to Matt Lienert and declare that that I’ve had it rough since being the fourth overall pick at age 21 and being wanted my entire career.

    These are the reason why I would not want Edgerrin James. Just days before what is perhaps the biggest game ever for this franchise he has decided to go out to the media and let them know that Edgerrin James is more important than pass blocking for Kurt Warner. Edgerrin James would rather have 5-11 and stats than a playoff berth. Edgerrin James is a selfish malcontent that is on the verge of fading from the NFL ……. forever.

Carnage’s Long and Boring week 15 Review

The season is officially over for me as of the end of Week 15. My team, the Green Bay Packers, are officially out of the playoff chase, winning only 5 games (And having a shot at winning 7). My fantasy football teams are finished. It was a pretty successful season. My wife and I had five teams. Combined record: 51-20-1. 4 Division Titles, 5 playoff teams. I sent two teams to the Super Bowl, winning one. My attempt at a perfect season was ended in the other one leaving me at 14-1. We each had one team make the second round and she had a team eliminated in the first. I have to boast about what success we had after going 0-4 as far as making the playoffs last season.

That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of season left. I still love the game, even when I do not have personal stakes in anything. There are some good football teams out there and some great games left on the docket. Let’s take a look at what transpired this week.

Bears over Saints or “Force Hester to catch the ball!”

On immediate glance at the game stats, it looks like this would have been the Saints game all the way. 120 more yards, 10 minutes Time of Possession edge, 1 fewer turnover. Looks like a dominating performance, right? Well, there are those two little things called penalties and special teams that really changed the face of this game.

Both times that the Bears went deep on the Saints, they were looking for speedster Devin Hester who had a step or two on his coverage. Both times the Saints interfered with the play leading to a total of 77 yards worth of penalties on those two plays. Both were on 3rd down well out of field goal range. Devin Hester has been a great return man in previous years but his biggest weakness has been catching the ball. Don’t give him the sure yardage, make him prove he can hang onto it!

The scored on the first possession with a Daniel Manning kick return that saw nobody touch him past the Bears’ 40. Manning followed that up with a 57 yard return that led to a Bears touchdown soon after. For the Bears third score, a solid punt by Brad Maynard and a series of Penalties left the Saints punting from their 7 yard line and the Bears once again getting the ball in Saints territories. I don’t care how superior your offense is, if you lose the field position game you will win the game.

I was most impressed with Kyle Orton on Sunday. He played horribly for the majority of the game but he sucked it up when it counted. Going into the final drive of regulation he was 16-30 with 110 yards and 2 interceptions. Instead of crawling into a shell he displayed confidence spreading the ball around to five different receivers en route to an 8/10 62 yard finish. I truly believe Rex Grossman would have added another blunder to his list while Orton calmly left his poor performance behind him and rose to the occasion.

Drew Brees struggled for the 2nd time in three weeks against an opponent that uses the cover 2 scheme. While it would seem that Brees and the Saints would pick apart the typical cover-2 defense, I think the Saints need that lateral game to really be effective. The Saints did not run enough plays to exploit the moderate length outside weaknesses of the defense and too often ended up having to settle for short completions.

Statistical Notes – In the last five games, Pierre Thomas has 574 total yards, 8 touchdowns, and 16 receptions. His 4.7 Yards per carry tower over both Reggie Bush and Deuce Mccallister. He has also proven to be a pretty decent kick return man. The undrafted rookie is essentially what people hoped Reggie Bush would be. Drew Brees has multiple TD passes in 13/14 games and now leads the league with 28. With 2 games left, rookie Matt Forte has 11 touchdowns, the most in a single season by a Bears player since Curtis Conway had 12 in 1995.

Falcons over Buccanneers or “The Brian Griese Aerial Circus.”

Once again, Tampa went to a pass happy offense when it has been their running game that has kept them winning this season. In their five losses, the Bucs have ran 211 passes to 106 rushing plays. In their 9 wins, they passed 283 times and ran 292 times. Four of their losses were at a combined 14 points. The 15 point romp by the Panthers was a tie game headed into the fourth. They aren’t passing the ball around during runaway games, they are passing in games that they are in…and losing them.

Despite the fact that the Bucs defense has been spectacular in pass defense and even better at creating turnovers, its painfully obvious that they are vulnerable to the run. Michael Turner had a lot of big gains where he simply wasn’t touched until he reached the secondary. The front seven of Tampa is wavering and that doesn’t bode well for them if they make the playoffs. The Vikings, Giants, Panthers, and Falcons…all playoff hopefuls….run the ball very well. The Bucs need to get a grip on run defense.

The Falcons played a pretty ugly game but it was good enough to get it done. After the first quarter, they only had three drives of any substance. These drives all ended in turnovers. The Harry Douglas fumble in the end zone was particularily painful.

Antonio Bryant is absolutely the comeback player of the year. After being juggled around by three teams in five years and finding himself out of the NFL in 2007, he is having an amazing season. Only in the last two games is he really getting recognition but he has been a big part of this team for awhile now. With the Bucs losing Joey Galloway who carried most of the receiving load for them, Bryant has come in and really stepped up. He has 74 catches and over 1000 yards. No other Tampa player has more than 41 catches or 380 yards. He has run some excellent routes in the last two games.

Statistical Notes – Tampa’s defense game up with its 10th multiple turnover game of the year. Unfortunately, they have given up 474 yards on the ground in two weeks. Jeff Garcia was thrown 3 interceptions in 309 attempts. Brian Griese has thrown 7 interceptions in 184 attempts. Warrick Dunn went over 1000 total yards for the 11th time in his 12 year career. John Abraham had his 3rd 3 sack game of the season bringing his total to 15.5 on the year. Matt Ryan has 3 INT’s in the last two games…the first time he threw an INT in back to back games. Michael Turner has scored in 5 of the last 6 games. Antonio Bryant has 17 catches for 308 yards and 3 TD’s in two games. He is on pace for 84 catches and 1200+ yards.

Bengals over Redskins or “A tale of two seasons.”

The self destruction of the Redskins is amazing. At one point they were 10-2 in regular season play dating back to last season. They had back to back wins on the road against the Eagles and Cowboys, both tough divisional foes. At 6-2, they had The Seahawks at home, Bengals, 49ers, and three home divisional games. Should be able to come up with 4 or 5 wins out of that, right? Now they have to win out to make it to three wins and a 9-7 record.

Amidst all of the problems between Clinton Portis and Jim Zorn, the Redskins desperately needed someone to stand up and become a leader. With the Redskins down by 17 to the lowly Bengals, they finally get it together and engineer a drive that ends with a 10 yard touchdown pass from Jason Campbell to Santana Moss. Moss performed an obviously pre planned touchdown celebration that led to a 15 yard penalty on the kickoff, giving the Bengals the ball on the 45. The Bengals did nothing with the ball on that possession but down by 10 and having lost four of your last five games, why are you celebrating?

Cedric Benson’s 79 yard screen play was a thing of beauty. As soon as Benson caught the ball, three Bengals offensive linemen released and started leading him down the field. Each threw a big block, one running as far as 15 yards downfield to cream a Redskins defender. The play was well executed by Benson, Fitzpatrick, and the O-Line.

On the other side, the Redskins attempt at the goal line was ugly. With a 1st and goal from the 1, the Redskins chose to pass on first down. Incomplete. On second down, the handed the ball off to fullback Mike Sellers. To this point in the season, Sellers has 4 total carries. He does not get in. Third down, another handoff to Sellers and not only does he not get in, he fumbles and the Bengals recover, touchback. I personally believe his forward progress was stopped and the Redskins should have kept the ball, but the officials disagree. My question is……did the Clinton Portis/Jim Zorn fued have anything to do with the play calling? Portis is a strong back that has scored from inside the four on five occasions this season. Mike Sellers is a fine lead blocker. Why not let the pair do what they do best and hand the ball to Portis four times if necessary? Then again, when Portis did get the chance to win the game on the final drive, he dropped a pass on what likely would have been a touchdown.

Statistical Notes – Cedric Benson went over 100 total yards for the second time as a Bengal. He only went over 100 twice in his entire time as a Bear. Ryan Fitzpatrick is tied for the team lead in Rushing touchdowns with…2. The Redskins turned the ball over 5 times in the last two games, the same amount of turnovers in the first seven. Santana Moss scored for the first time in seven weeks. Chris Cooley has caught at least five balls in 10 games this season.

Texans over Titans or “Titans act like they forgot about ‘Dre”

Andre Johnson is having an absolutely incredible season and yet the Titans decided to play single coverage on him most of the day. Not saying that the Texans don’t have any other weapons but I think I will take my chances with Kevin Walter instead. Free Safety Michael Griffin who is having a pretty good season for the Titans looked lost when it came to Johnson. He continuously was way late for the party, totally out of position, or getting burnt by Johnson. The Guy has caught at least 7 passes in 9 games this season! Cover him!

The Texans are gobbling up tons of yards this season but they have scored a disturbingly low number of points to go along with them (3rd in the league in offensive yards, 18th in points scored). They simply can’t get it done in the Red Zone. Out of 4 trips they came away with only 13 points. In those possessions, I noticed they didn’t throw to Owen Daniels at all. If I’m in the Red Zone, I’m trying to get the ball to him on play action or throw a fade to the large, physical Johnson…which seemed to work well the one time they tried it.

I’m starting to worry about Kerry Collins’ ability to win the game for the Titans when the opposition stacks the box and takes Chris Johnson and Lendale white out of the picture. Not just him, but his receiving group. There were some really bad routes run, bad passes thrown, and quite a few drops. I think the image of Algae Crumpler backpeddling and turning this way and that looking for the ball when he was wide open. The first thing is that you need to keep running forward to have a good chance at the ball. Either Algae is lacking in fundamentals or he doesn’t trust his QB to be able to throw the ball far enough, neither is really a good sign.

I really have to question Jeff Fisher’s decision to go for it on 4th and 3 rather than put in Rob Bironas for a 49 yard field goal. First, Bironas has been money in the last two seasons, hitting 28/33 from 40+. Second, his rationale for not kicking the field goal was the swirling winds. If you are worried about the wind, why throw the ball 30 yards downfield on that play? Collins precision on Sunday was questionable as it is, if the winds were that bad not to have your accurate kicker attempt the figgy, how can you let your inaccurate QB throw it deep?

Statistical Notes – Andre Johnson leads the league in receptions and yards. He’s on pace for 117 catches for 1605. Average game for Johnson with Matt Schaub at the helm: 7.75 catches for 113 yards. Average game for Johnson with Sage Rosenfels at the helm: 6.8 catches for 84 yards. Matt Schaub had 1 TD and 5 INT’s in his first two games, 12 TD’s and 4 INT’s in his next 6. Houston has not dipped below 326 yards of offense since week 1. The Titans turned the ball over 5 times in the last 2 weeks. They turned the ball over 4 times in the previous 7. Titans receptions leader Bo Scaife has only 6 catches for 38 yards the last three games.

Jets over Bills or “Dick Jauron shows off his coaching savvy.”

Leading by 3 with 2:09 on the clock the Jets are facing a 2nd and 5. Marshawn Lynch had just powered his way to gains of 4,5,3, and 5 yards to give the Bills a first down and get them halfway to another one. Dick Jauron decided to call a pass play. This particular play involved J.P. Losman rolling right and hitting running back Corey Mcintyre for a short gain. Offensive juggernaught Corey Mcintyre has 3 catches (10, -1, 0) in his three year career. The line collapses and Losman finds himself attacked by several Jets defenders when he fumbles the ball and the Jets take it in for a touchdown. Had the Bills simply handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch two straight plays, it’s likely he would have gotten the first down and the Bills would have gotten the win. Instead it’s another loss.

The Jets tackling was abysmal to say the least. Lynch and Fred Jackson required six defenders to take them down on a few plays. The Bills running game which hasn’t been that explosive this season found itself gaining 6.1 yards per carry. Lynch played a very physical game and looked great.

Believe it or not, the Jets second longest run of the game was a scamper by….Brett Favre? On 3rd and 1 Favre faked a handoff and took off to the left side where there was absolutely nobody in a Bills uniform. The old man galloped his way not only to a first down but a gain of 27 yards! I know that the Bills bought the play fake and all but to allow a 40 year old slow QB to go for 27 yards in inexcuseable. On the other hand, the Jets do have some speed in that backfield in the form of Leon Washington. The Jets spread their wideouts and sent them on deep routes. Washington took a quick inside handoff from Favre and ran untouched for 47 yards. Washington is fast. Thomas Jones is having a fantastic season but the Jets need to find a way to get Washington the ball a bit more.

Statistical Notes – Marshawn Lynch failed to gain 100 total yards in any of the first nine games. He has now broken that barrier 4 times in the last 5 games. J.P. Losman has turned the ball over 13 times in 119 pass plays this season. That is about once every 9 plays. After starting 4-0, the Bills have lost 8 of 10, turning the ball over 24 times in those 8 losses. Thomas Jones has scored in 8 straight and has 15 TD’s on the season. He is on pace for 1600 total yards. Brett Favre has now gone over 3000 yards in 17 straight seasons.

Vikings over Cardinals or “Cardinals redefining One-Dimensional.”

The idea of the Cardinals in the playoffs is seeming less and less appealing with every decent team they play. They are 8-6 but to look a little deeper that is a pretty week 8-6. Their eight wins come from opponents a combined 41-71…..taking away the Cowboys and Dolphins and you have 23-61 for the other six victories. Those are some pretty rotten teams. Their six losses have come from teams a combined 55-28-1.

I think the problem is that they can’t simply play 6 on 6 playground ball against these better teams. Their defense is strong enough to handle the weaker teams and the offense can have their way with them. Against a team like Minnesota their offense ends up on the sidelines for far too long, Kurt Warner cools down and never really gets in sync. The Vikings defense can put in a Nickel (Or Dime) back on every single play and rush Kurt Warner with no consideration for outside containment or a delayed handoff. The Cardinals gave up any pretense of running the ball early on in this game and I think that was the core of a lot of their woes. I know the Cardinals are way better when throwing the ball, but 7 runs out of 61 plays is ridiculous. They need to keep defenses honest.

I thought this game was one of Adrian Peterson’s greatest performances. He was a human wrecking ball that shed tacklers as always, but he seems to be developing patience. On quite a few of his big gains he took his time and picked the hole instead of simply trying to run over defenders. Not that the running over defenders hasn’t worked for him thus far but avoiding them first, running over them later will make him even more dangerous.

What to do about Tarvaris Jackson? Suddenly he is out there making some great throws with Gus Frerotte injured and sitting on the sidelines. Whomever leads this squad is expected to be more of a “Game Manager” type while Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor carry the brunt of the offense. Ideally, you want your game manager to complete a high percentage of passes and have a low amount of turnovers. Frerotte has 15 interceptions in only 301 attempts. He isn’t completing 60% of his passes. Needless to say, he isn’t exactly lighting it up. If Jackson can stay on target with his passes, he is the obvious choice because of the added threat to take off running that he presents. Jackson had a rough opening two games, but I’m starting to wonder if it was more that the Vikings offense started clicking in week 3 as opposed to Gus Frerotte making all the difference.

Statistical Notes – The Vikings have ran the ball only 31 times in their last three losses. They’ve had more than 76 rushing yards just once since week 5, and are throwing on 76% of plays for the season. After throwing 19 TD’s to only 6 INT’s in the first 9 weeks, Warner has 7 of each in the last five games. Neither Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald have topped the 100 yard mark since week 11 when they combined for 23 catches and 337 yards. Steve Breaston is 83 yards away from becoming the third receiver on a team to catch for 1000 yards in a season for the first time since Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Brandon Stokley did it in 2004. Adrian Peterson went over 100 rushing yards for the ninth time this season. He is on pace for 1800 rushing yards.

Colts over Lions or “Close in the fourth quarter again? Are the Lions getting better?”

Really, I just wanted to say that the Lions have some hope for the future. Despite each of them putting the ball on the ground in this game Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith really showed that they were good picks and have the potential to be a great duo for years to come. Calvin Johnson is a ridiculous physical specimen. He’s fast, he knows how to use his body on slant routes, and he can just plan out muscle smaller corners when you put the ball near him. The season he is having is even more incredible when you consider how bad the team is and the fact that he’s had five different QB’s in the huddle. Kevin Smith showed a lot of evasiveness on Sunday. On his 25 yard run he made an incredible jump stop, switched directions, and then switches directions again. He can run between the tackles and he can run it on the outside. I really wonder why the Lions were giving the ball to Rudi Johnson earlier in the season when they have a great talent to develop.

I’m starting to favor the Colts to be the AFC representatives in the Super Bowl. This team is starting to have shades of the 2006 version. Both teams were forgotten about amidst the other strong AFC teams. Both teams had some injuries to work through. Both hit rough patches during the season (Near the end for v.2006, start for v.2008). They even have the potential of finishing with the same 12-4 record. Peyton Manning got past his early struggles and his the offense ticking. Dominic Rhodes and Dallas Clark are starting to get more involved in the offense. Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders will be returning to the club in week 16 or 17….. They’ll probably draw the Broncos in the first round and I can’t see them losing that game.

Statistical Notes – Calvin Johnson had his 4th 100 yard game of the season and has scored in 8 of the last 10 games. He is on pace for 75 catches and 1350 yards. Kevin Smith went over 1000 total yards and is second on the team in receptions. The Lions have allowed 31 or more points nine times this season. The colts have won 7 straight and Peyton Manning has 13 TD’s to only 3 INT’s in that stretch. Reggie Wayne went over 1000 yards for the fifth straight season. Dominic Rhodes now leads the Colts with 8 Touchdowns. Marvin Harrison’s 2 catches were enough to pass Tim Brown to become the #3 all time in receptions. He also holds the record for most receptions in a single season (143).

Steelers over Ravens or “Pittsburgh fans go back to the doctor to up their dose of Valium.”

After last week and another come from behind 4th quarter win I suggested that Pittsburgh fans would need some sedatives to keep them from having a heart attack during Steelers games. This week they pulled off another fantastic fourth quarter drive to win the game. This was one heck of a physical game and I enjoyed every minute of it. I would watch the Ravens vs. Steelers every week if I could.

My favorite play of the game came in the third quarter on a 3rd and 8 for Pittsburgh. The Ravens sent five up front to rush Big Ben and Ed Reed came charging up the middle seemingly out of nowhere and wrapped Roethisberger up for the sack. My dad, a fan of aggressive defenses was quiet for a bit and asked “Why don’t the Packers have players like that.” The Packers have some great players in the secondary but Ed Reed is fantastic. The man is always around the ball. The talk this week has been “Would you take Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu?” I think I’d take Polamalu because he’s three years younger but Ed Reed is as good of a safety as I’ve seen in a long time.

Ben Roethisberger is given a lot of credit for the Steelers drives but an often overlooked component of this team is Hines Ward. 6 of Ward’s 8 catches came on the two fourth quarter scoring drives. He makes sure to draw attention to himself after making a play, often causing defenses to watch him more closely and leave others open to make plays. Ward hasn’t put up big numbers for most of his career and doesn’t seem to have any overwhelming physical skills but he is a cagey veteran that runs great routes.

Actually, I do not understand the ruling on the touchdown catch by Santonio Holmes. In my mind, the ball did not break the goal line while in Holmes’ possession. Is it a touchdown if you have two feet down in the end zone but the ball is outside it? It would stand to reason that this is the case as on a punt the player downing the ball cannot be in the end zone when he touches the ball regardless of where the ball is or it is a touchback. The call on the field seemed to say that the ball crossed the line but I can’t believe that. Anyone know the rule?

The Steelers next week will round out one of the most difficult stretches of games imaginable. Without the Bengals interlude, the Steelers will have faced 8 teams with a combined 73-39 record….and if they can beat the Titans they will be the #1 seed throughout the playoffs. That is an impressive accomplishment.

Statistical Notes – Through 14 games, the Steelers have not allowed more than 290 yards by their opponent in any single game. After throwing 8 picks in 3 games, Big Ben has only 1 pick in his last five. They have allowed only four touchdowns in the last 20 quarters of football. The Ravens have turned the ball over as many times in the last 2 weeks (4) as they did the previous 7. Since Week 7, the Ravens are +12 (20-8) in the turnover department. The Ravens had more rushing yards (112) than net passing yards (90). The Ravens had 1st and 10 at the Steelers 16, 16, and 11. They never made it past the 8 yard line.

Jaguars over Packers or “Cure for ailing offense? Get the Packers on your schedule!”

Oh has this season been rough. Since the win against the Colts, Packers fans have had to endure watching their team take the lead or tie it up only to see the other team march down the field with 3 minutes or less to go in the game five times. The offense comes down and does its job and the defense fails spectacularly. It hurts to watch.

After picking up 17 yards on 3rd and 18 in the fourth, the Jaguars had a 4th and 1 and went with an empty backfield. Quarterback draw! I yelled. Garrard is going to run with it! The Packers looked as if they weren’t expecting it, first down. A few plays later, touchdown Jacksonville.

In the Wisconsin sports yak world, people have been calling for the Packers to draft or trade for a running back in the offseason. Coming into this year, I was not at all convinced that Ryan Grant was the answer. His numbers have not been good, but the guy has been running really hard the last 6 or so games. He misses a hole now and then but he is a young runner. I’ve started to like Ryan Grant while the media has turned on him.

I really don’t want to talk about this game anymore. To be fair, I took the homer out of myself and predicted that the Packers would go 7-9 this season. I still think that they will reach that mark, but the way that the games have gone down leave me feeling ill….watching them go 3-9 after a 2-0 start is painful.

Statistical Notes – Greg Jennings has scored in 4 of the last 5 games. Aaron Rodgers is on pace for 3955 passing yards and 30 total touchdowns (26 passing, 4 rushing). The Packers defense has given up at least 311 yards in all but 3 games. The Jaguars put up 20 points for only the second time since the bye week. Maurice Jones-Drew has 38 touchdowns in 45 games. He has as many touchdowns this season as the rest of the Jaguars offense combined. Reggie Haywards 2 sacks puts him as the Jaguars leader…with 4.5. The Packers defense failed to force a turnover for only the second time this season.

Cowboys over Giants or “On the Rise: Cowboys Defense”

While the offense continues to suffer from injuries and internal conflict, the Cowboys defense has rose to the occasion to make a playoff push. They made the day a living hell for Eli Manning, sacking him 8 times, hurrying him most of the day, and forcing him to throw quite a few poor passes. Demarcus Ware has emerged as an absolute monster coming from the outside.

The Giants offense struggled mightily in the face of this onslaught and without Plaxico Burress and Brandon Jacobs. Of course, I almost think that the injury to Brandon Jacobs did more damage because the Giants have reconsidered their offensive scheme. They switched from trying to establish a strong running game to going to a more pass orientated offense. I find this decision questionable with the success that the Cowboys were having getting to Eli Manning. Derrick Ward isn’t the back Bradon Jacobs is, but he performed fairly well…averaging 4.6 yards on his 14 carries.

Watching Marion Barber run this week, it is clear that he still isn’t really ready to go and was wise to not play last week. I guarantee the words that Jerry Jones had about Barber made him get on the field Sunday Night and he ended up not doing the team any favors. Tashard Choice has done a fine job filling in for Barber, so I do not understand what the urgency to get him on the field is. Let him sit until he is healed up and ready to play at a high level again.

The Giants sure can get into the backfield fast themselves. Justin Tuck and Mathais Kiwanuka looked completely unimpeded on their way to crunching Tony Romo in the end zone for a safety. As Romo lay motionless, Cowboys fans cringed with visions of Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger dancing in their heads. Thankfully, Romo was allright. The Cowboys found a way to take advantage of the strong outside blitz of the Giants. They started executing delayed handoffs out of the I formation and more so out of the shotgun. The Giants were already coming all out at the corners leaving Choice and Barber some room to run up the middle. The blitzing backfired a few more times as Cowboys receivers found plenty of room to roam short in the middle of the field picking up some key first downs.

Statistical Notes – Tashard Choice has 309 yards of total offense in the last two weeks. Tony Romo has 7 multiple TD games out of 11. He is on pace for 3500 yards and 30 TD’s despite missing 3 games. Terrell Owens has between 31 and 38 yards receiving in 7 of the last 9 games. Maybe if he hadn’t dropped that pass on the first possession…. Roy Williams has only 14 catches for 182 yards as a Cowboy. That’s an expensive decoy. Eli Manning failed to throw for a touchdown for the first time since week 1. He is completed only 50% of his passes the last two weeks. Demarcus Ware has at least a half a sack in 16 of the last 17 games dating back to last season. He has 19 total this year. The Cowboys lead the league with 53 sacks combined.

Panthers over Broncos or “Jam Steve Smith at the Line!”

Steve Smith romped all over the Broncos secondary on Sunday. Time and time again they played off him, time and time again he streaked by them. Steve Smith is not a big guy. He’s deceptively strong but he’s not going to be physically dominating you. Why let him get a running start? On his touchdown reception, the Panthers lined up two wide receivers to the right with Smith on the outside. Somehow, Mushin Muhammed managed to block two Broncos Cornerbacks leaving Smith wide open on the screen. How are you not right up on this guy? If he gets past you, that is what the safety is for! He’s going to get past you anyway so you might as well play him tight!

The Panthers made sure that they kept the Broncos receivers in front of them, giving up short patterns most of the game but denying the long pass. Jay Cutler looked frustrated near the end of the game, unable to find anyone open downfield even when he had the time. Cutler’s 172 yards on 33 attempts was his lowest yards per attempt of the season. During the second half, I was absolutely convinced that the Broncos could not score again, and they did not.

Statistical Notes – Steve Smith had his 7th 100 yard game of his 12 game season. He also has two 96 yard games. He leads the league with an average of 103 yards per game. Deangelo Williams extended his touchdown streak to 8 games. He has 16 in the season…all in the last 10 games. Jonathon Stewart scored for the third time in two games and is one away from double digits on the year. Jay Cutler has thrown at least one INT in 8 of the last 9 games. Brandon Marshall has gone 11 games without a 100 yard weekend after starting with games of 166 and 155. Tony Schaeffler became the 11th Bronco to run the ball. He lost a yard on his single carry.

Carnage Guesses on games: Yikes! What a bad week. 8-8. Same as the coin flip. My crazy upset special should have come through if Dick Jauron wasn’t a terrible coach. 137-81 on the season.

Saints over Bears

Falcons over Bucs

Redskins over Bengals

Titans over Texans

Packers over Jaguars

Dolphins over 49ers

Rams over Seahawks

Chargers over Chiefs

Colts over Lions

Cardinals over Vikings

Panthers over Broncos

Patriots over Raiders

Giants over Cowboys

Eagles over Browns

Ravens over Steelers

Crazy Upset pick – Bills over Jets

This is what I have going on for Week 16

Colts over Jaguars

Bengals over Browns

Saints over Lions

Patriots over Cardinals

Steelers over Titans

Dolphins over Chiefs

Bucs over Chargers

Jets over Seahawks

Houston over Raiders

Packers over Bears

Ravens over Cowboys

Falcons over Vikings

Eagles over Redskins

Giants over Panthers

Crazy upset Duo!

Rams over 49ers – Rams starting to play better

Bills over Broncos – Broncos can’t stop the run, Lynch is hot, and the Broncos can’t run. The Bills failed me last week, but not this week.

Carnage’s Long and Boring Week 14 Review

Week 14 of the season has come and gone. Three games left. Three teams have clinched division titles (Titans, Giants, and Cardinals.) If your team is done like mine, don’t fret. There is plenty of interesting races going down yet. Let’s take a quick look at some of them.

AFC East:

New York Jets (8-5). Remaining games are Bills, at Seahawks, Dolphins

New England Patriots (8-5). At Raiders, Cardinals, at Bills

Miami Dolphins (8-5). 49ers, at Chiefs, at Jets

Boy, this one is tough to call. The Jets went from looking like the team to beat to…well…losing to the Broncos and 49ers. All of these teams have reasonably easy schedules. I say that Miami wins outright at 11-5 with the others going 10-6.

AFC North:

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3). At Ravens, at Titans, Browns

Baltimore Ravens (9-4). Steelers, at Cowboys, Jaguars

Both teams have the right to claim impressive records considering their schedules. Ouch. Next week will be one physical matchup. I favor the Steelers eve with their inability to protect their QB.

NFC North:

Minnesota Vikings (8-5). AT Cardinals, Falcons, Giants

Chicago Bears (7-6). Saints, Packers, at Texans

I think the Bears have one win left I them and that is about it. I am not convinced that they are a good team. If the Williams duo is suspended though, I could see the Vikings losing at least 2 games. If the Bears can eek out two wins (One being against the Packers) they have a chance depending on what tie breaker is next (They’d be tied head to head, division)

Bears over Jaguars or “Yeah, it’s safe to say that the Jaguars have given up.”

There was talk last week of the Jaguars giving up on their coach and their season. Long time Veteran Fred Taylor came out and said that this was the worst team he had ever played on, and he didn’t mean talent wise. Somewhere, the chemistry of this team broke. It was horribly obvious early on. Receivers were dropping balls, running sloppy routes, secondary looking disinterested. No player not named Maurice Jones-Drew caught a pass for this team In the first half. It was downright ugly. By the way, the quitter label doesn’t apply to Jones-Drew. He plays hard on every down no matter what.

I read an article on the former Jaguars offensive line man Richard Collier. What a brutal, sad, turn of events. The Jaguars should know better than anyone not to sulk because they have lost a few ball games. Yeah, they’ve had a rough year, but I guarantee it’s better than the year their former teammate had. Go out, play hard, enjoy yourself. You never know if the next game you are going to play is your last.

I have often implored the Jaguars to run the ball, but I thought the play calling was on the bizarre side. It seemed like there was no middle ground. Run, Run, Run or Pass, Pass, Pass. Mix it up Del Rio! That’s the point. Try to keep the defense off balance!

The Devin Hester experiment might be progressing a little. He grabbed five balls for 80 yards to lead the team in receptions and yardage. Another player with five catches for this team? Matt Forte. Forte had a pretty rough day on the ground with the exception of breaking one nice run, but he can help his team in many ways. He is a fantastic fit for this team.

Statistical Notes – Maurice Jones-Drew went over 1000 total yards again and is on pace for a 1320 yard, 15 TD season which is nearly as good as his brilliant rookie year. Fred Taylor’s 53 yards wasn’t a supurb outing but it vaults him ahead of O.J. Simpson and Corey Dillon on the all time rushing leaders list. The only players above him are active, Hall of Famers, or Future hall of famers. Hmmmm. David Garrard has 7 more INT’s and 7 fewer TD’s than he had last season. Kyle Orton has as many INT’s in the last two games as he had the entire rest of the season. Matt Forte went over 100 total yards for the 10th time in 13 games. He is on pace for 1800 yards. He also leads the team in receptions and touchdowns.

Vikings over Lions or “Barely avoiding humiliation.”

With the prospect of losing their two huge defensive tackles, Vikings fans had to breath a sigh of relief after Gosder Cherilus chopped at Jared Allen’s knees and sent Allen to the ground writhing in pain. This was a cheap shot no doubt, but Allen got up and started limping towards the player as if to attack him. His team mates held him back. As much as I respect Allen and understand that he was upset that the player took a shot as his livelihood, two wrongs do not make a right. Allen should not have gotten up (On a hurt knee, nonetheless) and stormed across the field threatening this player. The officials missed throwing a flag on the chop and missed throwing a flag on Allen’s charge.

The Lions moved the ball better than they have…but oh the chances they threw away! 1st and goal from the 4, Field goal. 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 1 on the Vikings 30, Turnover on downs. 3rd and 4 on the Vikings 5, Field goal. 4th and 1 on the Vikings 6, Turnover on downs. You have to convert some of these short yardage downs and gets some points on the board! I do wonder why the Lions just have not gone to saying “Calvin Johnson, just go deep” on every play. That seems like a good strategy.

Gus Frerotte was injured in the game meaning the Vikings get turned back over to….Tarvaris Jackson. Maybe he learned a bit sitting on the sidelines because he actually looked really good. Of course, once Adrian Peterson started to take over in the second half its pretty easy to look good. Then again, Peterson is starting to make me a bit nervous. He put the ball on the ground 3 times again today. He has fumbled quite a bit this season (Luckily most of them have come back to him.) I ran some numbers on his fumbling percentage compared to other top backs early in the year and it was not so good.

Statistical Notes – Adrian Peterson ran for 100+ yards for the 8th time this season. He’s on pace for nearly 1900 total yards. Jared Allen brought his sack total up to 12.5. Perhaps the time had come for change. Gus Frerotte threw his 12th interception in only 7 games. Calvin Johnson went over 1000 yards for the year but only has 56 catches. That’s a hefty 18.7 Yards per reception. He has 9 TD catches, 5 of which are from 30+ yards. Kevin Smith was involved in the offense again. Ignoring the turkey day debacle he has yardage totals of 123, 135, 86, and 90 in recent games. The five Lions QB’s have been sacked a total of 45 times already.

Colts over Bengals or “Bengals WIN!!…..time of possession battle. Lose game by 32.”

Ugh. The Bengals are not very good. Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh both almost started to prance with glee when Palmer walked onto the field…until they realized it was Jesse. Oh boy. Did I ever mention that the Cowboys gave up something like a 1st, 3rd, and 5th round pick for Roy Williams and probably could have been coaxed into a 1st, 3rd, and a 4th or even better for Chad Johnson? A hard line attitude towards malcontents is good. So is circling the wagons, declaring a rebuilding period, and getting draft picks for them is better.

Forget last week’s apparition that was the Browns game, Peyton Manning is playing well. He’s been sort of forgotten about in our new Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler world…..but he’s coming on strong and is spreading the ball all over the place. The Broncos had better hope Champ Bailey Returns better than ever and can cover about three people because when the Colts walk into Invesco Field at Mile High on wildcard weekend, Manning will be licking his chops. Don’t count this team out of the Super Bowl equation.

Statistical Notes – Peyton Manning has 12 TD’s to only 3 INT’s in the last six games after starting 10 TDs/9INTs. The colts have 5 total turnovers in six games. The Colts defense has 24 sacks. Robert Mathis has 11.5, Dwight Freeney has 9.5. The rest of the team has 3. T.J. Housh has 7 or more catches in 8 of 13 games. Chad Johnson posted his season high of 79 yards. Three previous season highs: 217, 260, and 189. The Bengals offense was dropped behind the line 10 times (5 Sacks, 5 Rushes) in this game. Bengals QB’s have been sacked 48 times this season.

Eagles over Giants or “Not what I was expecting…..”

The Eagles have to be absolutely maddening for their fans and those that bet on games. Look dismal while tying the Bengals and getting blown out by the Ravens, Blow out the Cardinals and beat possibly the best team in the league. Beat the Steelers, lose to the Bears.

Of course, there is the Brian Westbrook effect. He hasn’t really been healthy all season but he’s finally healthy enough to play well. On his first touchdown, the Giants had about 9 players in the box as the Eagles had one wide receiver split out. Westbrook ran into a pile, sideslipped, and took off down for the score. Later In the game, Westbrook was lined up in the backfield with 3 wide. He saw Mathais Kiwanuka come off the corner and chipped him just enough to move him out of Mcnabb’s path. Not necessarily recognized as a receiver In this play, he ran a simple wheel route that Antonio Pierce was way too late to recognize. This system is designed in a way that sets Brian Westbrook up to succeed…no doubt… but he really plays the game “Smart” and does a lot of the little things well.

Of course, I don’t want to make it sound like Westbrook did it all himself. The Eagles offensive line was huge this game. They held the Giants brutal defense to just one sack and gave Mcnabb plenty of time to throw the ball.

After I spent recent weeks praising the Giants unheralded wide receiving corps for performing without Plaxico, they look terrible. Dominik Hixon let an easy touchdown go right through his hands. I’m not saying that Plaxico would have been there and made that catch but it sure makes you wonder if they will miss him in the post season. Even more troubling was Brandon Jacobs trying to limp off the field. Derrick Ward has been fantastic for the Giants this season but I like him in his third down type role while the bruiser works the area between the tackles. Losing a game isn’t a signal to panic but losing your two best offensive players makes things a little shaky.

For all the Eagles did right, those two blocked kicks were ridiculous and the one to end the half was especially costly. How you allow that much penetration on a short kick is beyond me. If the Eagles manage to avoid getting two 32 yard field goal tries blocked, they win 26-7 and aren’t quite as nervous in the end.

Statistical Notes – What a difference in perception those two nightmare games make. Without them Donovann Mcnabb would have 18 touchdowns to only 5 Interceptions, a brilliant season. Not that 19/10 is bad. The Fact is he is on pace for a 4000 yard season, 60% completions, 24 TD’s (+1 rushing), and 12 INT’s with an acceptable 7.1 Yards per attempt. Did I mention he gets booed? After not scoring or having 100 total yards since October 26th, Brian Westbrook has 333 yards and 6 TD’s in the last two weeks. He’s over 1000 yards for the 5th straight season and over 10 TD’s for the 3rd straight. The Giants were held to their lowest (By 60+ yards) total of the season. They’ve been held to under 300 yards only 3 times. Eli Manning didn’t play that well but he did throw a touchdown for the 12th straight week.

Saints over Falcons or “Are you ready for some offense?”

828 yards. 26 first downs. 54 points. One turnover. Zero sacks. Not much defense going on here. The Saints had their star QB on pace to break Dan Marino’s record, but two running backs stole the show…and neither is named Deuce Mccallister. It looks like they are phasing him out despite the reprieve from the (Seemingly unfair) drug policy suspension. He appears to have been replaced by Pierre Thomas who came up huge. I don’t know what to say about him. He doesn’t look fast, he doesn’t look shifty, he just gets it done. Not only did he provide 109 yards of offense and 2 touchdowns, he came up with a huge 88 yard kick return. Reggie Bush also looked explosive at times in limited carries. The two combined for 218 of the Saints 414 yards and scored 3 touchdowns.

The Falcon’s ground game has been pretty good and despite one good run and a touchdown, Michael Turner was locked down pretty well by the Saints defense. Matt Ryan’s first possession interception was certainly an amateur mistake, telegraphing the pass by staring at his target all the way giving the defense ample time to react. After that miscue, he was once again sparkling. The rapport he has developed with his receiving corps allows him to know what to expect out of them. The longest pass of the game came after Ryan scrambled for a few seconds and simply tossed the ball up towards Roddy White. It wasn’t a particularily good throw but White has come down with quite a few similar passes this season. Later, he threw a semi-fade to the towering Brian Finneran In the side of the end zone. With Finneran having a good five inches on his defender, as long as the ball was up high he would be the only one to have a shot at it.

One thing about Drew Brees and his passing yards is I have to wonder how many yards the ball has actually travelled through the air. Once again we saw plenty of yard after catch out of this crew. All of the significant games came on fairly short passes followed by a run. With as many targets out there as the Saints have, the field gets spread forcing a defender in single coverage to make the tackle or almost certainly give up a large gain.

Statistical Notes – Drew Brees is over 4000 yards for the third straight season. His 230 yard game was a major set back in the chase for Dan Marino, and he would need to average 328 yards per game over the last three games to tie him. Pierre Thomas has 428 yards and 6 touchdowns in the last four games. Reggie Bush’ 80 rushing yards marked his highest total for the season and third highest in his career. Matt Ryan has thrown for at least 207 yards in eight straight games. During that stretch, he has 10 TD’s to only 4 INT’s and has completed 63 percent of his passes or better 6 times. Roddy White had his 7th 100 yard game of the season and took over as NFL receiving yards leader. He is on pace for 95 catches for 1534 yards.

Titans over Browns “Ken Dorsey led Browns or 1 loss Titans? Hardly a surprise.”

The Titans kept up with their winning formula. Run Chris Johnson right, Run Chris Johnson left, Run Lendale White up the middle. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. It really didn’t matter how many the Browns put in the box, the Titans offensive line is strong enough and Johnson (And to everyone’s surprise) White are shifty enough to find room to run. I remember two gains of 8+ yards, the Titans saw 8 in the box but Johnson was able to get into the secondary untouched. There were probably more.

Of course, the bruising running attack can open up other opportunities. In the first quarter down by 6 the Titans had the ball 4th and 1 on the Browns’ 28. They lined up in a standard 1 formation with Lendale White back. They ran a play fake left with fullback Ahmard Hall leading the way. Hall acted like he was blocking until he got five yards off the line of scrimmage and took off running. The Browns defenders in the area were looking at Lendale White trying to figure out if he dropped the ball or ate it. By the time they realized they were duped, the fullback was catching the ball and heading for paydirt.

Ken Dorsey picked a bad week to get to start. The Browns offense was anemic, with only 3 plays over 10 yards. The Browns did try a little Josh Cribbs In the backfield, which I think is a great move. Cribbs is an dynamic player. I think this strategy may work better against a less intense defense.

I want to throw something out there a little wild. Everyone has some thoughts on MVP candidates. Clinton Portis, Albert Haynesworth, Kurt Warner, A player from the Giants…. I ask you this. What is the big difference between the 2007 Titans who barely made the playoffs at 10-6 while beating six teams with about 24 wins between them and the 2008 Titans? What is the difference between a team 22nd in points, 21st In yards, 17th in first downs, 20th in Yards per pass and 21st in yards per rush and this years team: 6th in points, 13th in yards per pass, and 12 in yards per rush? Kerry Collins? Maybe…although Collins should finish the season with a lower completion % and about as many yards as Vince Young did last year (no doubt the turnovers have helped.)

I’m thinking that the Titans Largest need by far on offense was a playmaker. Someone who could break a few big ones a game. A guy they could count on to touch the ball a lot. Chris Johnson resembles that guy to me. With all due respect to Lendale White (And yes, I know he has a longer run this year than Chris Johnson) who shouldered the load fantastically last season and has played his role well this year, I can’t see the Titans having been as successful on offense without him. He doesn’t have eye popping numbers, but I think he’s every bit as valuable to his team as anyone else is to any other team.


Statistical Notes – Chris Johnson had his 4th 100 yard rushing performance of the year and went over 1000 yards on the season. He is on pace for nearly 1700 total yards. Lendale White went over 100 total yards for the second game In a row and scored his 14th touchdown which ties him for the league lead. Kerry Collins threw 2 INT’s, twice the number he has thrown in the past 7 games. Braylon Edwards 3 catches vaulted him in front of Kellen Winslow to become the season reception leader for the Browns…with 45 . The Browns have not scored an offensive touchdown in three straight games. They have 21 total points and 611 yards in that span.

Dolphins over Bills or “Bills players conspire to ensure Toronto does not want them.”

The Bills “Home Game” in what could someday be their new permanent home of Toronto was absolutely embarrassing. The Dolphins defense dominated the Bills offense, holding them to a meager 163 yards of total offense. The Bills averaged 24 points per game over the first six games of the season but have put up only six total points in the last two outings. The Dolphins and 49ers are hardly defensive powers, either. And to think! Dick Jauron just signed a huge contract extension.

I don’t know if I like the musical chairs game the Bills are playing with their QB’s. I know Trent Edwards is supposedly “Hurt” but it seems more like a demotion. J.P. Losman has been with this team for five seasons. If they have not seen anything they are sure of by now, I don’t think they will. The season is lost and Edwards barely has a full year’s worth of games under his belt. If you are going to try to develop a quarterback, stick with him and allow some continuity.

The Dolphins offense wasn’t explosive but it got the job done. The Bills pass rush was non-existent and Chad Pennington absolutely thrives in this type of situation. I am not sure there are any quarterbacks in the NFL as ACCURATE as Pennington when given time to sit back in the pocket. That’s not to say he’s a great QB with a huge arm, but he can very much manage a game. I think this team is going to the playoffs.

Statistical Notes – Davone Bess suddenly has 20 catches for 245 yards in the last two games. He’s a small quick receiver with some speed. He’s like Tedd Ginn, only cheaper and better. Ronnie Brown is close to hitting 1000 total yards. Chad Pennington is on pace for 3766 yards, easily his best season in terms of passing yards. The Dolphins had their third turnover free game. In the other Ten games, they had a single turnover in each. Joey Porter racked up 2 more sacks to bring his season total to 16.5. His previous high? 10.5. He has at least one sack in 11 of 13 games. Marshawn Lynch had an excellent three week run snapped by getting only 14 carries. He’s on pace for over 1400 total yards and 10 touchdowns. Josh Reed has gotten more involved, with 5 catches each of the last three games with yardage totals of 50, 58, and 58. How’s that for consistency?

49ers over Jets or “Uhhh, wasn’t Favre supposed to just be a game manager?”

Despite the fact that the Bills had posted a season high 153 rushing yards on the 49ers last week and despite the fact that their team’s resurgence has come not through the air, but on the ground, the Jets coaching staff decided to take the ball from Thomas Jones and put it in the hands of Brett Favre. The Jets called Thomas Jones’ number only 10 times on Sunday despite his averaging a healthy 5.6 yards per carry on those limited touches. Why? Despite early season success, Lavernious Coles and Jerricho Cotchery have not been getting open and have been dropping balls. This is a team that counts on it’s running backs to make plays and they chose to keep the ball away from them. On Sunday, the Jets averaged 4.9 yards per rushing play and 3.6 yards per passing play.

This poor play calling led to only 10 first downs which of course, led to a serious differential in time of possession. The more balanced 49ers offense managed to stay on the field for nearly 40 minutes. Even after Frank Gore went down, the San Fran continued to be committed to the run with Deshon Foster.

The 49ers offensive line played well. As a unit that has given up like 800 sacks the last few seasons I have to say I can remember about 4 occasions out of the 40 pass plays where Shaun Hill was flushed from the pocket. Most of the game he was kept insulted. The schemes even kept Jets blitzers from getting through. On many plays, 49ers receivers were absolutely wide open. Shaun Hill played well, but he was put in a situation where he was almost sure to succeed.

Penalties were a big problem for the Jets on Sunday but one in particular looms large. Explosive Leon Washington weaved through defenders 99 yards on a kick return. This play could have changed the game drastically. Here comes the flag and it’s coming back. Do not hold/block in the back on special teams. You will likely get caught and a potential game breaker can be denied.

Statistical notes – Thomas Jones has now scored in seven straight games. Brett Favre is 43/74 for 384 yards with 0 TD’s and 2 INT’s and 5.2 yards per attempt in the last two games (both losses). Isaac Bruce has 19 catches in the last three games for 262 yards and 2 TDs. Shaun Hill has 10 touchdowns and 4 INT’s. No QB since Jeff Garcia has thrown more Touchdowns than Interceptions for the 49ers.

Patriots over Seahawks or “A Seneca Wallace vs. Matt Cassell Shootout. Decidedly not what was expected on this day.”

With both their veteran QB’s that had career seasons last year sidelined, we were treated to Seneca Wallace against Matt Cassell….and dare I say it was a treat! I know that a lot of people lack faith in Seneca Wallace, no doubt due to the ever growing roll call of failed “Athletic” quarterbacks: Michael Vick, Kordell Stewart, Vince Young, Tarvaris Jackson, Aaron Brooks, Byron Leftwich… Sometimes we forget the ones that have succeed such as Steve Young, Randal Cunningham, Donovan Mcnabb, and Steve Mcnair. Wallace has had the benefit of watching a quarterback with good mechanics and being taught by a coach known for developing passers.

Not that there was much to say about the defense in this game, how come teams seem to completely forget about Wes Welker every game? Out of his 12 receptions, Wes Welker produced 8 first downs….five of them on third down. Defensive coordinators! Make sure someone knows where Wes Welker is on third down! Randy Moss may be the hall of famer but Welker is the one moving the chains for this team!

I give Bill Bellichick a lot of credit for what he has done with his team over the years. No doubt. I do wonder why it appears that he has not learned anything from last season. As the weather got colder, the high flying offense slowed down a bit. It didn’t hurt them so bad because of how strong their team was, but they aren’t nearly as dominant this year as last year. Once again, the weather is getting colder and the Patriots can’t run the ball and are not making much of an effort to do so. Running backs took handoffs a mere 17 times out of 72 plays. They are going to have to mix it up a bit if they expect to beat the Steelers or Titans in the playoffs.

Statistical Notes – Rookie Tight End John Carlson is really turning into a force and has 14 catches for 174 yards and a touchdown the last two games. Seneca Wallace has 7 TD’s and 0 INT’s in four games (120 pass attempts). Wes Welker is on pace to put up better numbers than last season (118 catches to 112 and 1250 yards to 1175). He has gone over 100 yards in four of five games. Randy Moss became the 11th player in NFL history to gain 13,000 receiving yards.

Steelers over Cowboys or “Steelers fans rush to doctors for Sunday Valium Scripts”

The Steelers cut it close again. As with the Chargers game, they don’t move the ball too well all game and manage to come up with a lot of points in the last few minutes (I still consider the Chargers game to be 18-10…not 11-10). Having put up 3 points on 103 yards late into the third quarter, they manufacture a long drive and find themselves with a 3rd and goal on the one. Incomplete, loss of three, turnover on downs. They get the ball back down by 10 with 8 minutes to play. 6 minutes and 17 points later, they lead by 7.

The Steelers offense was just ugly in this outing. 13 Points from the offense despite getting the ball on their own forty or better 8 times and on the right side of the fifty 5 times. By the numbers they were 3/16 on third down, 1 for 4 in the red zone, allowed 5 sacks, and averaged only 3.7 yards per offensive play. Luckily, their defense is so utterly dominant that it can keep them I games.

The Cowboys offense was also pretty bad. Tony Romo had a terrible game. His three interceptions were ugly. The first he threw into an area occupied by about five Steelers and two Cowboys. On the second was on a stop and go by Terrell Owens. Tony Romo watched Owens the whole way, making an unconvincing pump fake on the stop and pulling back as he threw the ball. Owens had no chance on it. The final devastating pick came late in the fourth quarter. He was pressured and threw to an area with no Cowboy in sight. Pick Six. Game over. Commence finger pointing. Jerry Jones calling out Marion Barber for not playing on Sunday, Tony Romo yelling at his offensive line, and Terrell Owens yelling at everyone. With the NFC South teams playing so well the Cowboys had best get it together if they expect to make it to the post season.

Statistical Notes – Unheralded running back Terrence Choice had 166 total yards on Sunday. The Cowboys had 289 as a team. In six weeks as a Cowboy, Roy Williams is averaging 2 catches for 30 yards. Terrell Owens has scored in four of the last five games. Demarcus Ware picked up his 16th sack of the season. Troy Palamalu has an interception in four straight games. Pittsburgh’s defense has forced 10 turnovers in two games. After throwing 8 picks in a three week stretch, Ben Roethlisberger has thrown zero in four games.

Texans over Packers or “Anology. Packers:4th Quarter Lead. Plaxico: Gun in Sweatpants.”

The Packers really cannot stop anybody. For the fourth time in six weeks they completed melted down at the end of the game. People can talk about Brett Favre until they are blue in the face, but tumbling from the 6th ranked defense to the 23rd is what truly has caused their downfall. After a holding penalty brought a 9 yard run to the Texans 13 back to the 32nd and a 9 yard sack, the Packers were forced to punt with the game tied. They pinned the Texans on their own 3 with 1:49 remaning in regulation. 8 plays and 75 yards later, Kris Brown got onto to the field and finished them off. The Texans even gave the ball away after drives of 79 and 71 yards or the Texans would have routed the Packers.

Early in the game, I was a little dismayed with the Packers play calling. Apparently it was decided that they could beat the Texans deep and Mike Mccarthy had Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball long. This really hasn’t been a successful strategy for the Packers. 8 of the Packers 19 rushes came on 3 drives, leaving the other 9 drives with 11 rushes. What did the three “Run Heavy” drives have in common? They produced the three Packers touchdowns.

With Matt Schaub back the Texans offense is operating on all cylinders. They are putting up Gobs of yardage but not so many points. They do need to avoid the turnovers. They have a good core of offensive skill position players (Shaub when healthy, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Steve Slaton, and Kevin Walter.) I believe they can make some noise if they can keep that group together. They are 6-3 after an 0-4 start where they played the Titans, Steelers, and Colts who are a combined 31-7.

Statistical Notes – The Texans had less than 355 yards only once since week 4. Kevin Walter has 445 yards and 3 TD’s in the last five games. Andre Johnson is on pace for 113 catches for 1500 yards. Steve Slaton had his 6th 100+ total yard game and is on pace for 1600+ total yards and 11 TD’s. The Packers defense has allowed 20 or more first downs 8 times this season. They are 2-6 in those games. Aaron Rodgers has thrown 2 or 3 TD’s in 8 games and for 250+ yards in 6. He is on pace for 3950 yards, 28 TD’s and 13 INT’s. Greg Jennings has 23 catches for 339 yards and 3 TD’s the last four games. Green Bay has only 21 sacks on the year. Aaron Kampmann has 9.5 of them, leaving 11.5 for the rest of the team!

Panthers over Buccanneers or “Deangelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart replace boogey man in Tampa area children’s nightmares.”

I made it to the Super Bowl in my 14 team league. My opponent for the next week was hanging In the balance. My best friend was losing his matchup by 48 points. The scoring system is 1 point for every 10 yards rushing or receiving, 7 points for a touchdown. I went to watch the game with him to give moral support. He has a great team but I knew his season was over with only Antonio Bryant and Deangelo Williams left to play. He would need something like 100 yards and 2 TD’s out of each to win. He was strangely calm about it and kept telling me how he was going to crush me in the Super Bowl next week. Yup. He was in Denial.

He uhm, ended up winning by 16. He was going absolutely berserk. It was a great time. Next week we’ll be mortal enemies, with a ton of pride, my perfect fantasy season (I’m 14-0. Seriously. ) and the greater share of the $1100+ pool on the line. That Monday we were 8 year old kids jumping up and down and yelling at a bar where nobody else was paying attention to the game. It was Fantasy Football at its finest.

Now that the personal aside is over, I’ll get back to the game. What incredible individual efforts out of Jeff Garcia, Bryant, Williams, Steve Smith, and Jonathon Stewart. Although the game ended with a sizeable margin of victory for the Panthers, I think the seeds were sewn early for the Bucs loss. First, after a nine minute drive, Matt Bryant who has missed only 2 field goals inside of 50 yards bounced a 40 yarder off the uprights. On the Bucs next possession, they found themselves with a 1st and goal at the Panthers 2 yard line. A drop on first down by Alex Smith and a drop on third down by Jeremy Stevens after some brilliant scrambling by Jeff Garcia led to 4th down and the Bucs took the field goal. I can see why Garcia chose to go to Bryant all day after those plays.

I do wonder why Jon Gruden didn’t commit to running three straight times at that point. The Panthers run defense has been good but not spectacular this season. The Bucs are a better team when running the ball. In the 4 losses this season, they have averaged 42.5 passing plays. Taking away the bizarre Bears game where they called 67 pass plays, They averaged 27.5 passing plays in their 8 victories (32 passing plays with the Bears game). Why mess with what works?

The last time these teams played, the Panthers turned Jake Delhomme “Loose” on the Bucs having him throw 39 times. Deangelo Williams and Stewart ran the ball 17 times for only 39 yards. They’ve been running wild since then and stuck with it. The Bucs defense has been pretty solid this season and they just looked silly. They were blown off the line and then juked or run over by the Panthers duo. As the game wore on so did the Bucs and it seemed every time the Panthers handed off, they were going to gain at least 10 yards.

I thought about this game later in the context of a possible playoff matchup between the Giants and Panthers. I thought for sure the Giants would roll through the playoffs but now I am not sure. The Eagles and Brian Westbrook shredded New York despite not being really strong running the ball recently. The Panthers could be much worse. They are vulnerable to a dominant receiver taking the game over as was demonstrated, but the Giants’ dominant receiver is heading to prison. How large will Plaxico’s problems loom if the Panthers end up playing the Giants?

Statistical Notes – In his first 75 games, Antonio Bryant had 7 100 yard games. In 12 games this season with Tampa, he has 4. Since taking his job back, Jeff Garcia has 8 touchdowns and a single interception in 251 attempts. 10 Buccanneers have an interception. 6 have more than one. Deangelo Williams has now scored in 7 straight games. He has 854 yards and 12 TD’s in that span and is averaging a ridiculous 6.4 yards per carry. NOTE: When I said Lendale White was tied for the lead in total touchdowns with 14 I had written it before this game. Williams has 15. Despite missing 2 games to start the season, Steve Smith is fifth in receiving yards with 1075. He has 3 straight 100 yard games and 6 in the last 8. Jake Delhomme is averaging 165 yards per game and has 4 TDs and 6 INTs in the last five games.

Carnage Guesses On games.


Last week I rocked with a 12-4 record. I don’t know why I didn’t pick the Panthers. That puts me at 129-73 on the year. Remember, this is straight up, not against the spread.

Chargers over Raiders

Bears over Jaguars

Vikings over Lions

Packers of Texans

Colts over Bengals

Saints over Falcons

Giants over Eagles

Titans over Browns

Dolphins over Rams

Pats over Seahawks

Cardinals over Rams

Ravens over Redskins

Bucs over Panthers

Crazy Upset Duo: Chiefs over Broncos and 49ers over Jets

Let’s see what we have next week. I look at the lines to declare crazy upset picks (They are five or more point underdogs). I was actually surprised to see the Ravens and even moreso….the COWBOYS as favorites. If I were a gambling man…..I get the Giants and three points? You are kidding! It’s at Dallas and the Giants are coming off a loss and may be without Brandon Jacobs…but the Cowboys are in complete disarray!

Saints over Bears

Falcons over Bucs

Redskins over Bengals

Titans over Texans

Packers over Jaguars

Dolphins over 49ers

Rams over Seahawks

Chargers over Chiefs

Colts over Lions

Cardinals over Vikings

Panthers over Broncos

Patriots over Raiders

Giants over Cowboys

Eagles over Browns

Ravens over Steelers

Crazy Upset pick – Bills over Jets

See you next week when we are 7/8ths done with the season. Yikes!