Tag:New York Jets
Posted on: December 20, 2011 12:45 pm

In The Trenches: Week 15 Thoughts

Primetime Thoughts

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Change in the script.

Undefeated No More-I think I speak for everyone in saying that Kansas City was the team most likely to give Green Bay its first loss on the season.  Just kidding, now in all serious, where did that come from?  The Packers offense has torched every defense they’ve faced, it seemed close to impossible that a decimated Chiefs team, a vastly depleted unit with an offense working around no-name quarterbacks and third-stringers across the board on both sides of the ball, could even put a scare into the Packers.  This was pegged as a race to 17 points, one that the Packers could win in their sleep.  At least that’s what everyone thought.  Whether it was Romeo Crennel providing a spark, or everyone taking the Packers game as their Super Bowl, Kansas City stepped up in a major way.  The Chiefs had scored 10 points or less in their previous 6 games, or a total of 45.  That’s an average of 7.5 points a game, or roughly how many points Aaron Rodgers will lead Green Bay to on his first few drives, if not more.  The rest is history, Mercury Morris pops some champagne and Green Bay got a serious wake-up call.  This may not be the worst thing for the Packers.  Not that it has become evident, but when you haven’t lost a football game in over a calendar year, it’s quite possible to become a tad complacent in thinking you can’t be touched.  The concern and media frenzy around the undefeated season is over, which will benefit Green Bay.  Any player from the 2008 New England Patriots Super Bowl team can tell you that much.

Up Goes Colts-It was a day of firsts, as Indianapolis ended any possibility of becoming winless team No.3 in NFL history with a 27-13 win over the Titans.  The only news here is that the Colts allowed the St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings to pick up a game, as both are one back of the top pick in the draft at 2-12 with two weeks left.  This race for the cellar may come down to the final week after all.  On the other hand, I’ve been skeptical of Tennessee being a playoff contender all season.  I don’t think anything speaks to that more than losing to a winless team by two touchdowns.  The Titans are only 1 game out of the playoffs, but I’m ready to send them on their merry way.

Down Goes Tebow-Who was suprised to see SportsCenter lead Monday’s showing with questions about Tebow being the long-term answer in Denver?  That would be nobody.  The Broncos magical run took a screeching halt after Tom Brady and Bill Belichick handed it to them, 41-23.  It was highly unlikely Tebow would be able to keep up with Brady as the two styles of offense are not anything close to each other; Tebow with a run-heavy approach, Brady with the aerial assault.  This comes as no shock, but it’s a shame to see all the backlash Tebow is receiving, none of which is his own doing.  While I don’t feel he is ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, I can still respect the dedication and effort he puts in to the game.  It’s not his fault that ESPN is so inclined to lead with Tebow every day, whether it’s the day after a game or the middle of the week.

Oh When The Saints Go Marching In-One of the best passing attacks in the NFL vs one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.  The over/under for the Saints Vikings game was 53.5.  The only question was whether the Saints alone would surpass that margin.  They fell up just short in their blowout win, 42-20, over the Vikings.  Drew Brees was okay, going 30-for-42 with 412 yards passing and 5 touchdowns.  The game itself didn’t give us any lessons we didn’t know already; the Saints are a threat to the Packers in the NFC while the Vikings are not.  But with the Packers loss, Drew Brees becomes a threat to Rodgers for the MVP award.  His numbers are comparable to Rodgers, if not better. 

TD’s: Rodgers- 40 TD’s, Brees- 37. 
Yards: Rodgers- 4,360 yards, Brees- 4,780. 
Completion %- Rodgers- 68.1, Brees- 71.5. 

Big Rotten Apple-The New York Jets and New York Giants were both in position to strengthen their playoff aspirations.  Both decided not to show up.  As bad as both are, one of them will probably win next week.  No, not because I’m that confident in either, but because they faceoff next week.  The Giants lost miserably, 23-10, to the Redskins in a game believed to be theirs for the taking.  Hakeem Nicks dropping a touchdown pass early had to be an omen for the GMen.  Santonio Holmes gets the dunce cap this week, not only for his two turnovers, the interception goes to Mark Sanchez, but Holmes dropped a catchable ball, but for his excessive celebration penalty.  Santonio, if you’re going to celebrate, not only should you be winning, or not losing by three scores, but you should probably learn the dirty bird first.  That was ghastly.  Presumably, one of these teams leaves MetLife Stadium with a win next Saturday. But we can’t put a tie past these two bumbling, stumbling teams.

Bears? More Like Cubs-This 4-game losing streak has all but ended the Chicago Bears playoff hopes at 7-7.  But one things for certain: Jay Cutler and Matt Forte are the heart and soul of the Chicago Bears offense.  Without them, Chicago is, well, inept.  That much was clear after the Seattle Seahawks stomped all over them, 37-14.

Texans Trip Up-Cam Newton knows how to put points on the board, so you figured Houston would allow a few scores, but the Texans offense was expected to score on the Panthers offense-friendly defense.  Except they didn’t, at least not enough, as Houston lost, 28-13.  The Texans are a game back of New England for the top seed in the AFC, but are still in contention for a bye week.

Buffalo No Soldiers-That 5-2 start is a distant memory, right besides those Jim Kelly days.  Head Coach Chan Gailey continues to stick by Ryan Fitzpatrick despite his struggles since signing the contract extension.  That makes him one of, a few supporters remaining?

Lions Pull it Out-The Lions are one win away from clinching the playoffs after yet another comeback win.  Where this one ranks, I’m not sure, but a 98-yard drive in 1:35 has to go pretty high on the list.  The Lions passing attack is no joke as Calvin Johnson is a man among boys while Stafford looks to be on his way to becoming an elite quarterback.  Johnson had a madden-esque 9 catches for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 28-27 win.  As for the Oakland Raiders, you remain one game out of the playoffs, but when you blow a two touchdown lead with less than 8 minutes left in the game, do you really deserve to make it?

Ravens, Roadless Warriors-Talk about being homesick, the Baltimore Ravens have a bad case of just that.  All four losses by Baltimore have been on the road, the latest a 34-14 drubbing by the San Diego Chargers.  The Ravens got a treat from Head Coach John Harbaugh’s brother Jim as San Francisco beat Pittsburgh.  Baltimore has the tiebreaker from sweeping the season series.  It’s a lucky break because the Ravens don’t look to be much of a threat in the playoffs if they have to do it on the road.

Posted on: December 14, 2011 12:48 pm

In The Trenches: Week 14 Thoughts

Primetime Thoughts

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Now trending: Young Quarterbacks on the rise.

Yates Leads Comeback-Houston isn’t supposed to pull off late-game comebacks, let alone win games with T.J. Yates at quarterback.  But Yates did just that on Sunday as Houston clinched its first-ever playoff appearance with a, 20-19, victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.  The Texans won their first AFC South title, thanks to Yates’ efforts on their final possession, a 13-play, 80-yard drive, including a 17-yard scramble by Yates on 3rd and 15 at Cincinnati’s 40.  Yates will not be asked to do much with a two-headed monster in the backfield in Arian Foster and Ben Tate along with a top-tier defense.  If Yates can provide Houston with even a smidge of balance on offense, Houston’s once-promising Super Bowl aspirations will seem more feasible. 

Tebow’s World-By now you are all likely familiar with the weekly script the Denver Broncos have fed us during Tim Tebow’s tenure as starting quarterback.  You know, the one where Tebow and Denver does little to nothing on offense all day, only to storm back late in the game when it seems like nothing more than a last-ditch effort.  Except Tebow leads the unlikely comeback and Mile High rejoices after an unlikely Broncos win.  Yet again, Denver had the ball down 10-0 with 4:34 left in the game.  Tebow led the Broncos to their first score with 2:08 left in the game, trailing, 10-7.  Even then, Chicago recovers the onside kick with no timeouts left on the Denver sideline.  Best case scenario, Denver gets the ball deep in their territory with less than 20 seconds left.  Marion Barber decides to run out of bounds and preserve an additional 40 seconds.  Again, Tebow leads Denver down the field for the, wait for it, game-tying 59-yard field goal.  Yes, 59 yards, albeit in Denver, but 59 yards is 59 yards.  Once again, Chicago won the coin toss and had been closing in on field-goal range, only to give Denver the ball back as Barber fumbled on a run in which he looked headed for the end zone.  We’ve yet to find an explanation for this seemingly divine intervention.

Eli, Romo, Save Giants Season-Losers of four straight, the New York Giants season hung in the balance as a loss to the Cowboys would’ve all but eliminated them.  Eli Manning, a fourth-quarter specialist with 5 game-winning drives this season, was given life after Tony Romo was unable to seal the deal.  With 2:25 remaining, Dallas was faced with a 3rd and 5 at their own 25.  The Giants sent an all-out blitz, leaving single coverage on Dallas’ wide receivers.  Miles Austin beat his man and had a clear path for a touchdown and the game-clincher, the dagger to New York’s season.  Only thing was, Romo overthrew him, giving the Giants life.  Manning did what he’s done all season, lead the Giants down the field in crunch time, giving New York the lead for good on a 6-play, 58-yard drive capped off by a Brandon Jacobs touchdown.  Dallas lost in grand fashion, a failed field goal attempt for a second straight week as Dan Bailey’s attempt was blocked by Jason Pierre-Paul.  Dallas’ late-game collapses are hard to explain, as this has become a trouble pattern for the Cowboys.  One possible explanation: Dallas seeks LeBron for change of a dollar, leaving them with no fourth quarter. 

Packers 13-0-The game became out of reach rather quickly, as Green Bay led, 31-0, midway through the second quarter.  The offense remained its usual, productive self, but the defense was impressive, containing an Oakland Raiders unit that had become more proficient, albeit without several stars on offense.  Green Bay avoided a major scare when Greg Jennings left the game with a knee injury.  What was feared to be a torn MCL was only a sprain as Jennings will likely sit as Green Bay will have Jennings rest until their Divisional Round game.  Since Green Bay clinches the top seed in the NFC with one more win, the only thing in question is the Packers pursuit of an undefeated season.  Do they continue to pursue history while keeping everyone in rhythm, or do they rest players down the stretch to avoid potential injury scares?  Stay tuned.

49ers Slip Against Cardinals-Up 19-7 midway through the third quarter, San Francisco seemed headed towards another victory while keeping pace with the Packers for the top seed in the NFC.  Then San Francisco slipped up and got caught as Arizona stormed back for a, 21-19, upset win.  A troubling game for the 49ers as they sat on a comfortable lead for most of the game and their defense failed to maintain it, against the Cardinals?  When San Francisco fell behind and needed a score late in the game, Alex Smith and the 49ers offense stalled in the fourth quarter.  It’s a troubling sign for San Francisco because with the potential to face teams like the Packers, Saints, or Giants, teams who can light up scoreboards, the defense is given little to no room for error with an offense that seems incapable of rallying late in games.

Jets Make It Look Easy-Granted, it was against the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Jets look like they’re hitting their stride after a 37-10 romp.  The blowout has to be taken with a grain of salt as Kansas City is 5-8 and not much of a challenge at this point of the season.  On one Jets touchdown drive, the Chiefs were penalized five times for 81 yards.  That being said, New York is rounding into form and may sneak into the playoffs after Oakland, Tennessee, and Cincinnati all lost Sunday, giving the Jets a one game lead for the final Wild Card spot with three weeks left.

Patriots Survive Redskins-More of the same from the Patriots, Tom Brady was Tom Terrific and Rob Gronkowski was impossible to bring down once more; on a 49-yard reception, DeAngelo Hall didn’t even try to tackle Gronkowski, he knew it was of no use.  The defense, too, was more of the same, as they made Rex Grossman look like a viable starting quarterback.  New England was bailed out by Santana Moss, as Washington was inside New England’s 10 with less than 2 minutes to go.  Grossman hit Moss cutting across the field with a touch pass.  Moss tried to haul it in, but inadvertently shoveled the pass to a New England defender who held on for the interception.  Next up, the Denver Tebows.

Lions Hold On-A win is a win, but this one wasn’t Detroit’s most inspiring.  Detroit kept pace with the rest of the NFC teams fighting for a Wild Card spot, with a 34-28 victory over the Vikings.  The Lions actually led this game by 21 points, but allowed Minnesota to claw back into this game, as the Vikings were actually in position to pull off the comeback win.  Minnesota had a 1st-and-Goal at Detroit’s 1 yard line, but Detroit held on, or got away with a no-call by the officials, depending on how you look at it.  Joe Webb, who replaced Christian Ponder in the third quarter, fumbled after DeAndre Levy all but ripped off Webb’s facemask.  How the officials missed that call, nobody knows, but the Lions will take it. 

Chargers Rounding Into Form-Either the talk of losing his job sparked the team, or San Diego is up to its old tricks, turning up their play in December like they always do.  Head Coach Norv Turner is looking to save his job, but it might be too little, too late.  San Diego blew past Buffalo, 37-10, as Philip Rivers and the offense gave everyone what was to be expected on a weekly basis.  The Chargers stand at 6-7, two games behind the Wild Card and the Denver Broncos in the AFC West.  Had the Bears held on against Denver, San Diego would’ve been one game back.  Unless Tebow and the Broncos fall flat on their face the final three games, San Diego will miss the playoffs and Turner will likely be gone.

Colts Lose, Again-There’s not much to say here, asides from Indianapolis ruining many bets with a backdoor cover, losing, 24-10.  As for the Peyton Manning-Andrew Luck situation, good luck to having your cake and eating it too.  If Manning is healthy and able to provide several more years of Hall-of-Fame ability, Indianapolis can’t trade him to see him possibly win a Super Bowl(s) elsewhere.  Luck would definitely benefit from learning under one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.  But how long is he willing to sit and wait for his turn?  We’re months away from this playing out, but what else is there to talk about regarding the Colts?  They, are, atrocious.

Posted on: December 5, 2011 12:03 am

In The Trenches: Week 13 Thoughts

<span style="color: #6e8dcf;">Primetime Thoughts

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San Francisco 49ers: NFC West champions after Week 13?

49ers Break Dry Spell-After a steady 26-0 shutout victory over the St. Louis Rams, the San Francisco 49ers clinched the NFC West, despite having 4 games remaining.  San Francisco returns to the postseason for the first time since 2002.  A secured playoff spot at this point in the season can be a double-edged sword, as there’s potential for complacency to settle in.  They’re still chasing the Packers for the top seed in the NFC, but Green Bay doesn’t look like they’re losing anytime soon, with games against Oakland, Kansas City, and Chicago.  We’ve seen a tendency where the teams that go into the postseason on fire carry that momentum throughout January.  We’ve also seen teams lock up positioning with a week or two remaining, become rusty after their bye week during the Wild Card round, only to lose to the hotter team in the Divisional round.  Potentially projecting a bit on my part, but as far as the present goes, Alex Smith looks to be developing a rapport with Michael Crabtree, which will greatly help balance the offensive attack.  Frank Gore would probably appreciate having fewer defenders in the box.

Packers Strike Again-The Giants played them down to the wire, as Eli Manning led a game-tying drive with under a minute to go.  Aaron Rodgers proved to be too much once again, throwing for 369 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Arguably their toughest test remaining on their regular season schedule, Rodgers and Co. seem headed for a 16-0 regular season, barring some unforseen circumstances.  The MVP award also looks to be all but locked up.  In other news, Brett Favre is surprised that Rodgers and Green Bay didn’t reach 12-0 faster.

Texans Carry On-Apparently it doesn’t matter who plays quarterback for the Houston Texans.  When you have a workhorse running back and a top defense, your quarterback has the luxury of playing the role of game manager.  T.J. Yates, the third-stringer for Houston, was serviceable in his first start as the Texans held off the Atlanta Falcons, 17-10.  Yates was helped by Arian Foster, who ran for 111 yards and a touchdown, along with the defense who held the Falcons offense to 70 yards rushing.  Andre Johnson went down with an injury to his other hamstring, though this injury doesn’t appear to be as serious.  Despite the injury-bug, Houston is tied for the top seed in the AFC.  With their four remaining games against Carolina, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Tennessee, Houston has the potential to finish 13-3, their best regular season mark in franchise history.  If Houston has Super Bowl plans, they’ll have to do so going against the grain.  In a league dominated by aerial assaults, Houston’s winning formula will be reliant on a defense to go with a heavy rushing attack.

Jets Keep Pace-The Jets are in a tight spot right now, fighting for the last Wild Card spot with Tennessee, Denver (how we’ll never know), and Cincinnati.  The one thing New York has going for them is their schedule, the weakest amongst the teams mentioned.  That being said, the Jets have been known to not show up on game day every so often.  Midway through the fourth quarter, it looked to be just that as the Jets trailed the Redskins, 16-13.  Then, shocking us all, the offense showed signs of life, after appearing to be half asleep for most of the game.  The final score, 34-19, indicates a wallop, but the Jets were messing around for the first 55 minutes, and nearly gave this game away.  When you’re facing Rex Grossman, you’re never out of a game. 

Bears In Trouble-Jay Cutler breaks the thumb on his throwing hand, so the Bears just resort to an even heavier workload for Matt Forte.  Forte then leaves the game with a sprained MCL, which leaves the Bears with either Caleb Hanie to air it out or Marion Barber to flash back to his Dallas Cowboy days when he could muster more than 3.7 yards per carry.  The result was to be anticipated, as a field goal was all the Bears could put on the scoreboard.  Then take into account that it was against the Chiefs and you thought maybe that would be enough for Chicago to win the game.  Except Kansas City snapped their touchdown drought, which had been 3 games, on a hail mary pass before halftime, to win, 10-3.  The Bears are tied with the Falcons at 7-5 for the last playoff spot and only a game up on the Giants.

Tebowing Again-I wish I could offer you some explanation for Tim Tebow being 6-1 since being inserted into the starting lineup.  A 35-32 victory over the Minnesota Vikings was Tebow’s latest display of being a winner.  I  can’t take that away from him, but it’s hard to see that translating at the quarterback position where so much lies in the hands of that player.  If Tebow were a skill player who had his number called a handful of times for a particular role, I could make sense of that.  I could focus on the fact that Minnesota’s defense is atrocious while their run defense is much better, explaining Tebow’s 13 yards rushing, but 202 yards and 2 touchdowns on 10 completions.  Not yet sold on what is going on in Denver despite being tied for first in the AFC West, I look at Denver’s 6-1 run like I would the guy at the blackjack table who keeps hitting on 19 and scoring that 2.  Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Ravens Break Trend-A Cleveland Browns victory today would’ve been fitting given the Ravens pattern this season.  Take down a big-time opponent one week, lose to a doormat the following week.  Coming off a big win over the 49ers, a let down against the Browns had to be a concern for Head Coach John Harbaugh.  Whatever he told them before the game, he should probably stick with that routine, as the Ravens took care of business, 24-10.  Another troubling trend we’ve seen with the Ravens was avoided as Ray Rice had 29 carries for 204 yards and a touchdown.

Lights, Cam, Action-The Carolina Panthers aren’t going anywhere this season.  But they won’t have to look hard to find optimism about the direction their franchise is headed.  After an offseason with many doubts and questions about his ability to be a franchise quarterback, Newton has squashed that talk as Newton led a blowout win over Tampa Bay, 38-19.  Newton ran for 3 more touchdowns, giving him 13 rushing touchdowns, a new record for quarterbacks.  Surround this man with a young receiver to grow with him and a defense that won’t rank near the bottom of the pack, it won’t be long before Carolina returns to the postseason.

Cowboys Fade Late-Nothing feels worse than calling a timeout to freeze a kicker who misses the first kick, only to make the second kick because of your strategy.  Except when you call a timeout when your kicker makes the first kick, only to miss the second.  Head Coach Jason Garrett pulled off just that as Dallas lost, 13-19, in overtime to the Arizona Cardinals.  Garrett said he was concerned about a potential bad snap as players were still settling into their position when he called timeout, but this is a game he’d like to have against a weak Cardinals team.

Colts Lose, But Win-A three-touchdown underdog, the Colts stood no chance to win this game.  Unless of course, Peyton Manning put a helmet and pads on.  That didn’t happen, but Indianapolis covered that spread and scored many garbage-time points to make the final score seem competitive in defeat, 31-24.  It wasn’t that competitive, but credit the Colts for trying and padding fantasy stats along the way.

Posted on: December 1, 2011 8:12 pm

In The Trenches: Week 12 Thoughts

Primetime Thoughts

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This week’s publication delayed due to excessive Thanksgiving-related carb goggles.

Jets Escape-New York deserved to win that game as much as LeBron James needs another endorsement deal.  But with the holiday season coming soon, Buffalo wide receiver Stevie Johnson gift-wrapped a Jets victory with several moments which left much to be desired for Bills fans.  Johnson was penalized 15 yards after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter as he mocked Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress by pretending to get shot.  I’m all for the celebrations, unlike the NFL, but this one went a bit far, using someone’s past transgressions as a mocking point.  Character aside, it backed up Buffalo 15 yards on the kickoff and resulted in a Jets touchdown.  Johnson also managed to haul in two passes on the final drive which would’ve resulted in a game-winning score both times.  It’s difficult to look past the shenanigans when it’s costing your team a victory.

G-Men In Trouble-Not that anyone can fault them for getting lit up like a Christmas tree by the Saints, but New York’s once promising season is fading fast.  In first place at 6-2 three weeks ago, the Giants are currently out of the playoffs and one game behind the Cowboys.  The running game has disappeared and with that so has Brandon Jacobs future contract.  The defense faced a tall order in Drew Brees and Co., but at the least the worst is behind them.  Wait, they play the Green Bay Packers Sunday.  They have a guy named Aaron Rodgers, he’s pretty good from what I hear.

Dream Team Done-Facing the Patriots was tough enough, doing it without Michael Vick or Jeremy Maclin is just unfair.  The Eagles stood no chance against Tom Brady and New England as the Patriots raced past Philadelphia 38-20, putting the Eagles towards the back of the NFC at 4-7.  It looks as if Head Coach Andy Reid has lost his locker room, worsened by DeSean Jackson’s maddening inconsistency and coordinators allegedly fighting on the sidelines. 

Packers Onto Week 12-The Packers are just about the only ones who won’t talk about an undefeated season.  Green Bay took down Detroit 27-15 on Thanksgiving, leaving few in doubt that Green Bay will win their final five regular season games.  Green Bay has won their last 17 games, a number of video game proportions.  Aaron Rodgers is playing Madden with opposing defenses, it doesn’t seem like they stand a chance.  On the other side, Lions nose tackle Ndamukong Suh has all but cemented his status as a dirty player after his most recent display.  The previous incidents seemed defendable, but the Albert Haynesworth remix play was straight up malicious.

Tebow Mania-This is getting out of control.  I have no words to describe what is going on in Denver right now.  I do know that there’s no way this keeps up with Tebow unable to complete more than a handful of passes a game.  Let’s also not look past the defense, who has allowed 15 points or less in four games since Tebow replaced Kyle Orton.  That and solid play by Willis McGahee has also aided this run to 6-5.  The best way to describe what’s going on in Denver: see The Sword in the Stone, it matches up nicely.

Life Without Cutler-It wasn’t pretty, and you have to figure the Chicago Bears’ playoff chances are in dire straits.  Say what you will about Jay Cutler, but Caleb Hanie leaves much to be desired at the quarterback position.  A soft schedule may be a saving grace, but the defense can only do so much, and Matt Forte only runs the ball.  A non-existent passing game would make Chicago hard-pressed to hold on to a playoff spot.  Unless you believe in that whole Tebow Mania.

Next In Line For Texans-Matt Leinart was the topic of discussion all week for Houston as he was set to replace Matt Schaub.  The experiment was going fairly well at the outset, until Leinart himself suffered a season-ending broken collarbone.  T.J. Yates, a rookie out of North Carolina, is next in line for the Texans, who signed Jake Delhomme to serve as Yates’ backup.  The Texans Super Bowl aspirations worsen as they go down the quarterback depth chart.  The good news: Brett Favre rumors didn’t flare up once Leinart went down.

Doomed Colts-A second matchup with Jacksonville aside, this was likely the Colts’ best chance to win their first game of the season against Carolina.  Effort was certainly there as the Colts were tied, 10-10, at halftime, and Reggie Wayne made a sighting with 5 catches, 122 yards and a touchdown.  The Colts have all but clinched the rights to Andrew Luck, now the race is on for win no. 1.

Steelers Survive-Faced with a struggling team starting a rookie quarterback, many figured Pittsburgh had a blowout victory in its sights.  Especially since the New England Patriots spotty defense shut them down a week earlier.  Except Pittsburgh needed an interception deep in their territory to hold off the Kansas City Chiefs.  The lesson here: AFC North rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh tend to play up and down to their competition.

Bengals Follow Division Foe-Like the Steelers, Cincinnati looked ready for a lopsided victory over the Cleveland Browns.  Except they trailed by double digits for much of the game, needing a late rally to pull out a 23-20 win.  The two letdowns face off next week in a big AFC North battle.

Posted on: November 21, 2011 5:33 pm

In The Trenches; Week 11 Thoughts

<span style="color: #6e8dcf;">Primetime Thoughts

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A Giants dud t'was.

G-Men Fall Face First-There was certainly enough motivation for the New York football Giants.  An opportunity to deliver the knockout punch to a division rival who has been underwhelming all season would typically have any team chomping at the bit.  Instead, the Giants struggled against the alleged "Dream Teamm," who looked more like the Replacements with Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin out.  Vince Young came in and looked like, well, Vince Young, throwing 3 interceptions.  Lucky for him, the Giants were even less efficient, highlighted by an impressive 29 yards rushing.  The Giants seemed likely to win handedly, but matched the Eagles' incompetence every step of the way, until Young showed potential suitors in free agency something in an 18-play, 80-yard drive which took almost 9 minutes to give Philadelphia a 17-10 lead with 2:45 left.  The Giants blew a big opportunity to 1) knock the Eagles out for good and 2) keep a 1 game cushion over the Cowboys.  Things don't look promising for New York as their next two games are against the Saints and Packers.  10 points wasn't enough to outlast Young, it definitely won't be against Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.

Tebow Mania At Epic Proportions-If you were to tell me after 5 starts, Tim Tebow would be 4-1 nad the Broncos 5-5, I would've laughed in your face, called you crazy, then smacked you back into reality.  That's how inconceivable it seems, at least it did, before the Jets were the latest to fall over Tebow as Denver won 17-13.  The Jets stellar defense was supposed to absolutely crush the college offense.  It appears the Jets defense isn't playing quite as well as Rex Ryan would like.   It's one thing to get lit up by Tom Brady, it's another to let Tim Tebow lead a 95-yard drive at the end of the fourth quarter to beat you with his legs time and time again. 

Baltimore Rights Ship-Last week Ray Rice rushed five times, the Ravens were underwhelming on offense, and lost to the Seattle-Stinking Seahawks.  Yesterday Rice rushed 20 times, registered over 100 yards on the ground, and Baltimore took down surprising Cincinnati in a battle of 6-3 teams.  What have we learned here?  Rice is a pretty good player and when he gets the ball a lot, the offense fares well.  Why is this troubling?  Well, the Ravens have already been through this two times too many, leaving many concerned of a potential trend.  One that would leave them doomed come playoff time.

Watch Out for Oakland-One reason Tebow and the Broncos won't make the playoffs: the Raiders are a balanced offense with a quarterback who can pass the ball.  Carson Palmer has provided Oakland with its best quarterback since JaMarcus Russell, ahem, Rich Gannon was around.  Palmer hasn't even been able to utilize Darren McFadden who has been out essetially the last four games.  Michael Bush has filled in admirably and proven himself as a starting running back in this league, but he lacks the explosiveness McFadden brings to the table.  When he returns, Oakland will be even more difficult to contain.

Cowboys Sneak Past Redskins-A win is a win, but that one was ugly for the Dallas Cowboys, who pulled out the overtime victory against Washington 27-24.  The Redskins managed 20 points their previous 3 games, including a shutout, but put a scare into Dallas, tying the game with 14 seconds to go on a 12-play, 89-yard drive.  If Rex Grossman can hardly be contained, I can't wait for them to face a team with a quarterback who wasn't benched in favor of John Beck.

Lions Storm Back-It didn't look too promising for the Detroit Lions, allowing 27 quick points to the Carolina Panthers.  Lucky for them, Carolina's defense is as bad as their offense is good.  That and a running game for a change helped spark a massive 42-8 run once they trailed, 27-7.  Kevin Smith, a one-time Lions draft pick, was brought back from the dead and ran for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns along with 61 yards receiving.  Whether this will last is yet to be determined, but Detroit must feel better knowing they have the potential to manage the clock with Smith.  Facing the Packers on Thanksgiving, if the Lions can put points up early, which is likely given the Packers inconsistencies on defense, we may have an upset in the making.

Dolphins Feast On Buffalo-It was reported earlier in the week that LeBron James was quoted, regarding to the Dolphins win streak, as saying, "Not 0, not 1, not 2." Wait a minute, I got that wrong, but the Dolphins have put together a 3-game winning streak, which likely makes the season a success given the state of the franchise a month ago.  Although on the flip side, they have taken themselves out of the running for Andrew Luck, a supposed franchise quarterback/best prospect since John Elway.  Look at those wins as you wish.  On the other side of the field, the Buffalo Bills 5-2 start is a distant memory and the playoffs are becoming less and less likely.  Next up is the Jets, also a 5-5 team that will be fighting to remain relevant in the playoff hunt.

49ers Nearly Clinch NFC West-Another game, another win, the process has become routine for Jim Harbaugh and San Francisco.  A 23-7 victory over Arizona is not representative of the dominance the 49ers displayed over the Cardinals.  If not for 3 David Akers missed field goals or inept play in the red zone, this might have been a 30 or 40 point margin.  At 9-1, San Francisco is 5 up on the Seahawks with 6 to play.  San Francisco could mail in the last 6 games, finish 9-7, and likely win the NFC West.  That would be asking the Seattle Seahawks to win 5 more games, and I'd bet my life that they won't.  Nothing would be sweeter for Harbaugh to clinch the division with a win Thursday night on Thanksgiving against his brother John.

Falcons Steady Against Titans-The Titans 5-4 record coming into yesterday's game is misleading, simpy because it implies that Tennessee is a good football team.  Atlanta cruised throughout, despite only winning, 23-17, as the Falcons jumped out to a 23-3 lead in the 3rd quarter.  For Tennessee, Chris Johnson was once again irrelevant with 13 yards on 12 carries.  However, Jake Locker saw his first real action and left Titans fans feeling good about Locker going forward, as Locker went 9-for-19 with 140 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Bears Win, Lose Cutler-The Chargers season is going up in flames as Philip Rivers continues his worst season in the NFL.  In 10 games, Rivers has 17 interceptions this season, his previous career-high was 15.  The Bears win their fifth in a row, but I'm still not sold.  As you've read from week to week, I don't buy into what Chicago has going on right now.  I certainly won't now as Jay Cutler has a broken thumb on his throwing hand and will be out a while.  The reports conflict, but Cutler won't return earlier than Week 16.  Luckily, the schedule isn't terrible, as the four games Cutler is sure to miss include the Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos, and Seahawks.  But if Caleb Hanie proves to be a steep decline from Cutler, it won't matter who they play.

Posted on: October 27, 2011 12:35 pm

In The Trenches: Week 7 Thoughts

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Feels great to be a Miami Dolphin, poetic justice and all...not.

Dolphins Welcome Tebow-The Tim Tebow hype had reached inappropriate proportions already, but having his first start of the season in Miami - where they decided to honor the Florida Gators' 2008 National Championship team, which was led by the aforementioned Tebow - the only thing that could make this more unpleasant for Dolphins fans would be if Tebow then won his homecoming.  Miami looked well on there way to stomping on the celebration, leading 15-0 with a little over five minutes to go.  But what was a storybook day for Tebow ended in such fashion as the Dolphins aided the comeback, collapsing 18-15 in overtime.  I'm not buying this Tebow mania just yet, so the focus here is on the lifeless Dolphins.  Two thoughts in particular: did Miami really expect Tebow not to run up the middle on the two-point conversion and will Tony Sparano make it past Halloween before getting canned.

Jets Takeoff After Early Turbulence-A fumble return for a touchdown on your fourth offensive play isn't exactly the ideal start nor is trailing 21-10 at halftime against an alleged offensive juggernaut in San Diego.  But the Jets stood up and were able to do what has been missing for much of the season, lengthy drives that ended in scores.  It's difficult to do that without a running game to get you those much-need short gains to keep the defense honest, which Shone Greene provided with 112 yards on 20 carries.  It's a statement win for the Jets and their biggest one of the season, but let's not overlook what's going on with the ChargersPhilip Rivers has looked nothing like the Pro Bowl quarterback of season's past and with the Oakland Raiders proving to be a legitimate foe, they might be in trouble if Rivers can't get out of his early season slump with a  7:9 TD:INT ratio in six games.

Should The Lions Panic?-The NFL is a league all about the present, one week a team looks unstoppable, the next simply human.  Case in point, the Detroit Lions.  That 5-0 start is now a distant memory after two consecutive losses.  The running game seems to have been grounded and doesn't look to be getting any better with Jahvid Best's latest concussion.  It doesn't help that Matthew Stafford is dealing with a leg injury himself and is questionable for Sunday against the Broncos

Texans Romp Titans-If you needed any more evidence that the AFC South is all but in the bag for the Houston Texans, look no further than Sunday's 41-7 blowout over Tennessee.  That was without Andre JohnsonArian Foster looks healthy, piling up 234 total yards and 3 touchdowns. 

Redskins Injury Pile Up-Cam Newton has been tough to stop this season and Washington was the latest team to get up close and personal, losing 33-20.  Two more offensive weapons were lost to injury, Tim Hightower for the season and Santana Moss for at least the next 3 weeks.  Luckily, they're in the same division as the Eagles and Cowboys, whose failures are magnified enough that most will just look past the Redskins, who if nothing else, can be credited for their consistent disappointing seasons.

Brush the Dust off Carson-So that didn't go quite as planned for the Raiders, unless they expected 4 interceptions from Carson Palmer, or 7 as a team, in which they exceeded expectations.  Oakland stalled in their 28-0 loss to the somehow 3-3 Kansas City Chiefs.  Raider fans shouldn't put too much into this, as Palmer only had a few days to learn his teammates' names and a previously unseen playbook.

Cowboys Ride New Horse-While everyone has focused on the ups and downs of Tony Romo, Dallas has lacked a reliable running game all season, resulting in a one-dimensional offense.  Then there was DeMarco Murray, who may have just solved the Cowboys problems.  Now the Rams defense doesn't instil fear into anyone, but 253 yards rushing is still 253 yards rushing.  Especially when that is a team-record, previously held by Emmitt Smith (he was pretty good I believe), and the 253 yards is the ninth-highest mark in NFL history.  Felix Jones' recovery doesn't look as pressing with Murray in the backfield.

Packers Remain Unbeaten-The score is misleading as the Packers were up 33-17 at the start of the fourth quarter.  Aaron Rodgers and the offense have now become a given, at least in my book.  Rodgers has failed to throw for over 300 yards only once this season, a 297-yard performance against the Bears week 3.  The defense doesn't look as dominant as last season which has to be a concern, but it may just be a circumstantial matter.  Consider that the Packers put up so many points, it allows the Packers to be more aggressive knowing that the opposition is likely in passing mode.  When you live and die with aggressive play, you are likely to get beaten every so often.  For what it's worth, the Packers have come up with stops when they needed to, so a bend-but-don't-break ability works well with an offense that has put up at least 30 points in four of seven games.

Saints Race Past Colts-I don't know if Peyton Manning would have matched Drew Brees on their way to 62 points, but I do know that they would've scored more than 7.  Lifes sans Manning continues for the lifeless Colts, who have become the league's rag doll without their Hall of Fame quarterback.  At 0-7 they are in the driver seat for Andrew Luck, but Miami and St. Louis are not far behind at 0-6.  The, "Suck for Luck" race continues.

Ravens Forget Who Opponent Is-I will always give credit where credit is due, and the Jacksonville Jaguars played a game I didn't think they were capable of on Monday night.  That being said, did the Ravens really give Ray Rice only 8 carries?  No wonder Terrell Suggs is questioning the play-calling.  Your most explosive player on offense happens to be a workhorse too, so feed him the ball.

Posted on: October 11, 2011 12:43 am

In The Trenches: Week 5 Thoughts

In The Trenches: Week 5 Thoughts

Posted on October 10, 2011 by David S. London <!-- .entry-meta -->

R.I.P. Al Davis (1929-2011), you always said it best; Just Win Baby!

Raiders Win With Heavy Hearts-The NFL lost a longtime member in Al Davis on Saturday, leaving Raider Nation with heavy hearts along with many other who appreciated all of Davis’ efforts.  Head Coach Hue Jackson was very emotional after the 25-20 victory over the Houston Texans, as Oakland fought down to the wire, as Michael Huff’s interception in the end zone as time expired sealed the win.  The Chargers may be the favorite to win the division, but their sloppy play remains a weekly trend, and with the Raiders providing a legitimate foe, the AFC West may not be won till December.

Eagles Solidifying Bust Label-Head Coach Andy Reid doesn’t want to talk about this alleged Dream Team, much less the playoffs.  Much like Jim Mora, Reid might just hope the Eagles can win a game, another game as Philadelphia has lost four straight. Michael Vick had another performance which left many with mixed feelings.  On one hand, Vick threw for 315 yards and ran for 90.  On the other hand, Vick threw four interceptions, giving him seven on the year.  Vick had six all of last season. The dream has become a nightmare.  

A Giant Fall-New York had blown out Seattle the last two times they met in the regular season and this one looked to be the same, at least on paper.  Then they played the game, which didn’t quite turn out as expected.  The Seahawks stunned the Giants as double-digit underdogs with a 36-25 victory.  Seattle’s offense showed some life, consistently sustaining long drives on a typically reliable Giants defense.  It didn’t help that Eli broke his turnover-free streak at three, clinching the game for Seattle with a pick six in the red zone.

Saints Slip Past Cam-With each passing game, all the Cam Newton doubters look more and more foolish.  Carolina continues to sneak up on teams and give them a run for their money.  New Orleans saw themselves trailing 27-23 in the fourth quarter.  The Saints also have a pretty solid quarterback in Drew Brees, while the Panthers defense, not so much.  30-27 win for New Orleans.

Colts Remain Winless-It looked like Peyton Manning was under center during the first half with Indianapolis leading 17-0.  Ok maybe not that great, but the Colts looked primed for their first win of the season.  In a season that has seen little offense support the defense, it was the defense who let down, allowing Kansas City’s normally non-existent offense to put up 28 points on the board.  Two positives for the Colts, there’s always next week and reports say Peyton Manning’s return to the field this week remains questionable.

Cardinals Look Awful-This is usually where we come to terms with the fact that Donovan McNabb is a shell of his former self, but the Cardinals looked so bad, he gets a reprieve for a week.  Transitions are difficult for anyone coming to a new team, especially when it’s a quarterback.  That being said, Kevin Kolb has not quite lived up to expectations as Arizona has started 1-4.  Him and Larry Fitzgerald have not been connecting as much as one would hope, namely fantasy football owners (most importantly).  The Cardinals slow start would’ve been no big deal, except for the fact that the 49ers have plans of a record over .500 in what many figured was a division race for 8 wins.

Patriot Vindication-Rewind to last January, and Bart Scott was feeling pretty good after taking down the Patriots in the Divisional Round, reminding everyone that New England’s defense can’t stop a nosebleed and the win was poetic justice (just go with it).  This time around it was the Patriots who bent the Jets over and gave Rex Ryan and Co. a good ol’ spanking, 30-21.  The score misrepresents a game which New England controlled throughout.  The Jets have lost 3 in a row and are doing themselves no favors with a slow start.  On the bright side, the running game had its best showing and the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football may be the pick-me-up the Jets need.

49ers Raid Bucs-Apparently San Francisco had other plans when the NFC West was deemed a .500 record at best.  The 49ers opened plenty of eyes after walloping Tampa Bay 48-3.  Presumed a bust by all, Alex Smith has looked like, well, not Alex Smith, with a 7:1 TD:INT ratio, providing San Francisco with stable play under center.  A few more wins, and the 49ers may have locked up the NFC West.

An Iffy 4-1- (San Diego)-A win is a win is a win, but San Diego’s 4-1 record feels nothing like it should.  The Chargers have allowed teams like the Broncos and Chiefs to compete down to the wire when they should be blowing them out.  The Chargers can’t afford to slack off with the Raiders in their division as previously discussed.

New Sheriff In Green Bay-It pains me to give this man any attention, but much like a car accident, you can’t help but look and discuss.  Brett Favre is many words, alleged sextor, diva, sourpuss, wrangler jeans model, etc.  For those of you who didn’t hear Favre’s radio appearance, he does his best to take a passive-agressive shot at Rodgers, saying that Rodgers is alright, but fell into a good situation and should’ve won a Super Bowl sooner.  Right, because winning a Super Bowl is as easy said as it is done, and you won a bunch yourself.  Just kidding, it was only one, the same amount as Rodgers.  All the while, Rodgers isn’t throwing an interception while one leaves to go to the bathroom, or simply closes their eyes for just a second.  Looks like Favre sees people marveling at the stud that is Rodgers and he just can’t handle the lack of attention.  As far as the game, Rodgers and the Packers fell behind early, 14-0, then climbed out behind Rodgers’ reliable arm to win 25-14.  Rodgers was lights out, again, throwing for 396 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Soon this will become merely a blip as Rodgers has made these jaw-dropping performances routine dating back to last January.

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Posted on: October 3, 2011 4:25 pm

In The Trenches: Week 4 Thoughts

Time to hit the panic button?!?

Eagles Not Soaring-Nobody was expecting a 1-3 start from the Philadelphia Eagles after the first month of the season.  A loss to the San Francisco 49ers is troubling enough, but blowing a 23-3 second-half lead is even more eye-opening.  Alex Henery missing two field goals inside 40 yards didn’t help matters, but the game shouldn’t have even come to that.  This alleged Dream Team has proven unable to battle in the trenches, a must for any team to be considered a contender, let alone a Dream Team.  This team can score in bunches, and those in defense of Philadelphia will find excuses, namely Ronnie Brown turning the clock back to his Wildcat days in Miami, but let’s be real.  A 20-point lead against San Francisco in the third quarter should be in no danger.  If it’s not clear, I’m not quite sold on the 3-1 49ers.

Romo Solidifies Role For Two-Face-There may not be a better man to play the role in the Batman series.  One week, Tony Romo shows flashes, reminding everyone that he is a Pro-Bowl caliber quarterback.  Romo lead two late-game comebacks against the Redskins and 49ers.  Then there was the opening game against the Jets where Romo flipped the switch in the fourth quarter.  Sunday against the Lions was a tale of two halfs to say the least.  Romo’s Cowboys lead 27-3 early in the third quarter, only to lose 34-30 with Romo’s three interceptions, two returned for touchdowns, playing a pivotal role in Detroit’s charge.  It probably didn’t help either that Rob Ryan claimed that Calvin Johnson would be the Cowboy’s third-best receiver.  Maybe stick to assessing talent on the defensive end Rob.

Bills Stumble-After flexing their muscles and taking down Tom Brady a week ago, Andy Dalton and the Cincinatti Bengals didn’t seem like much of a challenge.  Too bad Buffalo felt that way as well, falling apart in the fourth quarter, losing 23-20.  The fireworks that Ryan Fitzpatrick had been lighting all season fizzled out against an unlikely opponent. Up 20-13 midway through the fourth, it’s a game they likely should’ve held on to win, but inexperienced teams will let games get away as we saw here. 

The Early MVP Favorite-Aaron Rodgers hasn’t missed a beat and the Broncos will vie to that after he threw for over 400 yards to go with 6 total touchdowns, two rushing.  Rodgers has more toys to play with than he needs, from Greg Jennings to Donald Driver to Jordy Nelson to Jermichael Finley.  The two-headed monster in the backfield in Ryan Grant and James Starks gives Green Bay the perfect compliment, allowing Rodgers to torch defenses time and time again.  As for the Broncos, well, Tim Tebow made an appearance, rushing once for -1 yards.  Good times for Denver these days.

G-Men Escape-The Giants are breathing a sigh of relief after Victor Cruz nearly gave the game away, literally.  The officiating ruled that Cruz gave himself up, rendering the play over.  However replays show him simply getting up, dropping the ball in the process before anyone touched him.  It’s certainly not a black and white ruling, but one that the Giants were fortunate to have.  Victor Cruz will likely never let go of the ball again.

Dirty Sanchez Needs A Cleaning-Or at least a few more seconds in the pocket.  I know what you’re thinking, “a few more seconds to allow a different defender to make a play on him.”  While Mark Sanchez has been downright awful, inducing projectile vomit from Jet fans amany, this does not fall entirely on him.  Once a very efficient ground and pound, New York has not brought its running game out on to the field, only amassing 284 yards in 4 games. It’s very difficult to be a one-dimensional offense when you’re an elite quarterback like Tom Brady, but expecting Sanchez to lead an aerial assault may be asking too much.  There are receivers to work with, but when the defense is sitting back, expecting a throw since the ground game is disregarded, turnovers become not if, but when.  It also doesn’t help that Sanchez’s offensive line too has been missing with the running game.  I don’t care who you are, Brady couldn’t do much either with only a few seconds to throw the ball.

Patriots Back On Track-All is right in the world, Brady shows off his brilliance, Wes Welker racks up a bunch of yards, Chad Ochocinco remains irrelevant, and the defense is still not reliable.  But wait, spotted at the Patriots 31-19 victory over the Raiders was, in fact, a running game.  Rookie Steven Ridley led the ground game with 97 yards as New England totaled 183 for the game.  Brady had to only throw 30 passes, after games of 48, 40, and 45 attempts. 

Falcons Experience Turbulance-This game looked to be over when the Falcons were leading 27-7 in the third quarter, but nearly collapsed like the others  as Steven Hauschka missed a 61-yard field goal as time expired.  Atlanta showed flashes of brilliance in building that lead, but it’s not a comforting win if you’re Head Coach Mike Smith.  The defense was the downfall last season, and despite the offseason improvements, you can’t handle the Seattle Seahawks?  If Tarvaris Jackson was giving them trouble, I can only imagine what Aaron Rodgers will do to them next Sunday night. 

Texans Roll, Johnson Trips-If not for Andre Johnson’s injury, the Houston Texans would be Chevy Riding High right now at 3-1 after a 17-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers; albeit a victory over the Steelers doesn’t seem to hold as much weight as it used to.  With the division in shambles as previously discussed (Indianapolis Mannings sans Manning, Jaguars are the Jaguars, and we are not ready to take the Titans seriously yet), Houston has to be feeling good about its prospects.  The only concern is the severity of Johnson’s injury. 

Vikings Remain Winless-Technically the season is not over, but sitting at 0-4 after a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs is as close to a nail in the coffin as one can get after four weeks.  Donovan McNabb has not worked out as hoped, and one has to wonder when the rookie first-round pick Christian Ponder will be thrown into the fire.
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