Posted on: November 14, 2011 12:25 am

In The Trenches: Week 10 Thoughts

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A game of inches indeed..

Falcons Lose Ground-It was a call which left many scratching their heads.  On their second drive in overtime, Atlanta believed they had converted a third down only to be short a few inches at their own 29 yard line.  Head Coach Mike Smith played with fire, had Matt Ryan hand it off to Michael Turner, and got burned as Turner was stopped in the backfield.  New Orleans kicked the game-winning field goal moments later and padded their division lead.  Smith put all the heat on himself, not wanting to give Drew Brees and the Saints offense back the ball.  It's a bold call which will make you look like a champ, or a chump as it did Smith.  I won't play armchair quarterback and unequivocally say they should've punted, although it'd be an easy route to take.  Even with a first down, Atlanta had at least 35 yards to go before field goal range and their defense had just forced New Orleans into a three and out.  But it's not a call that I will question Smith making.

Eagles Crash Landing-Never say never, but the Eagles'playoff hopes look as promising as a salad being consumed by Andy Reid.  The latest fourth-quarter meltdown came against the Cardinals in a 21-17 defeat as John Skelton (who?) did what Kevin Kolb has failed to do for most of this season.  Skelton gave the Cardinals offense a pulse and actually found Larry Fitzgerald early and often as Fitzgerald had by far his best game of the season with 7 receptions for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Barring a miracle finish, the Eagles will miss the playoffs, which may signal the end for Head Coach Andy Reid.

Romo Cowboys Up-While the Eagles continue to fade into a top-16 draft pick, the Dallas Cowboys are showing signs of life again, clobbering the Buffalo Bills, another fading team, 44-7.  Tony Romo had as many incompletions as touchdowns, throwing for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns.  DeMarco Murray continued his brilliant display of rushing with 135 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.  Murray's average of 6.7 yards per rush, not too shabby.

49ers Stifle GMen-The game was up for grabs at the start of the 4th quarter as New York led 13-12.  Frank Gore had left the game with a knee injury.  That would presumably leave the Giants in a prime position with Alex Smith forced to do the heavy lifting.  Deemed a "Game Manager," Smith was efficient in San Francisco's 27-20 win in a battle of NFC division leaders.  The 49er defense did their part as well, but let's give credit where credit is due.  Smith has been labeled a bust as long as he's been in the league.  While he is not putting up numbers that make fantasy football players act like schoolgirls, he has been reliable in crucial moments.

Patriots Blow Out Jets-It was a game the Jets had been looking forward to all week.  At least that's what we were led to believe.  Maybe it was the fact that Rex Ryan kept quiet for once, maybe it was the fact that New England's defense finally had a substantial lead to work with.  Whatever the reason, the Jets simply got handled in a 37-16 stomping.  Tom Brady had all the time he needed to dissect the Jets defense while Sanchez couldn't keep up.  The Jets had their chances, but couldn't capitalize.  As terrible as the Patriots defense has been this season, a Bill Belichick-coached team will make you pay.  From Nick Folk missing a 24-yard field goal to Sanchez's pass being tipped and intercepted at New England's 25-yard line, any momentum the Jets appeared to be gaining was soon squashed.

Ravens Hungover Again-It appears the best time to play the Ravens is right after they defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers.  For the second time this season, Baltimore fell flat on its face, this time losing to the Seattle Seahawks, 22-17.  We've seen this before as the Ravens blew out Pittsburgh Week 1 only to lose to the Tennessee Titans.  No one expected Seattle to pose as much of a threat and frankly, they didn't.  It was the Ravens who did themselves in with two fumbles on kickoffs and terrible play calling once again.  Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron is losing credibility by the day, as we've seen a tendency to completely forget about Ray Rice.  Rice only had 5 carries, 5, for 27 yards.  Zero in the fourth quarter and one in the third.  Cameron managed to pull this off before against Jacksonville when Rice only had 8 carries.  Simply maddening.

Broncos Win Again Despite Tebow-When you are told that the Denver Broncos only completed two passes, you're initial thought is probably something along the lines of, "They kept Tebow in the whole game?" or "Wow Tebow was that bad?"  Forget even winning the game, which is exactly what Denver did, 17-10, as Tim Tebow went 2-8 for 69 yards and a touchdown to go with 43 yards rushing and a touchdown.  The Broncos did amass 244 yards on the ground, but still.  Two completions? Two? We know exactly what Tebow supporters are thinking, "Only Tebow could win a game with two completions!"

Texans Gaining Steam-People will likely overlook them given their lack of a competitive division, but the Houston Texans have the components to go deep into January and we're seeing it consistently.  Houston kicked Tampa Bay to the curb, 37-9, as the Texans are now 7-3 on the season.  Houston has what most lack, a balanced offense which can lean on either aspect.  Arian Foster and Ben Tate are by far the best 1-2 punch running attack in the NFL.  Tate managed 63 yards on the ground while Foster totaled 186, 84 on the ground.  Matt Schaub continues to put up decent numbers even with out Andre Johnson.  Imagine how much more potent the offense can be when its Pro Bowl Wide Receiver is healthy.  Johnson has missed the last five games, but Houston has remained patient as its been able to win without Johnson, allowing Johnson's hamstring to fully heal.  With a bye week coming up, Johnson should be ready to go Week 12.  AFC, you've been warned.

Bears Nip Lions-The Lions fade continues as they have lost three of their last four, with the lone win coming against the Broncos.  As for the Bears, still not sold on them, call me stubborn.  As for Matt Forte, he should probably pay the man as he is all but the entire Bears offense.  That and Devin Hester being counted on for a return touchdown here and there.

Colts Remain Winless-Now 0-10 after a 17-3 loss to the Jaguars, it looks as if the Indianapolis Colts have all but clinched the <del>rights to Andrew Luck </del>first pick in the draft.  The Colts have a firm two game lead on the Rams and Dolphins, both with two wins under their belt.  Frankly, I don't see a game on the remaining schedule where the Colts can come out on top.

Posted on: November 7, 2011 12:25 pm

In The Trenches: Week 9 Thoughts

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The day they stopped calling him Archie’s Boy, and started calling him Eli…wait a minute.

Mr. Clutch-The backlash was hot and heavy after Eli Manning said he’s in the same class as Tom Brady.  It seemed to be a bit of the stretch at the time, all things considered, to put the oaf on the same pedestal as the suave pretty boy.  In what seemed like a flashback to Super Bowl XLII, Manning led the Giants to a 24-20 comeback win over the Patriots.  Manning led the two-minute drill after Brady had just threw a touchdown on fourth down.  The drive also consisted of Manning connecting on a jaw-dropping grab by Jake Ballard, who also happens to wear number 85.  Seahawks game aside, Manning seems to play his best in crunch time, leading New York down the stretch time and time again.  He also played without his top running back and wide receiver, no big deal. Manning will say all the right things, but you know he’s basking in solidifying his status as a top-flight quarterback.

Mr. Clutch Revisited-Like Manning, Joe Flacco has also been subjected to mixed reviews throughout his career.  Some say he doesn’t show the passion, the drive due to his seemingly consistent lack of emotion.  Some question whether Flacco can lead Baltimore to a Super Bowl.  We won’t know that for sure, but Flacco put two notions to rest: that he can lead his team down the stretch and that he does have some fire in his belly as seen by those fist pumps and screams.  Flacco led the Ravens to a 23-20 last-minute victory over the Steelers in one of the NFL’s most intense rivalries.  Flacco was unfazed, leading Baltimore 92 yards on the final drive, overcoming several dropped passes by his receivers.  Many would’ve given those receivers an earful, but Flacco remains calm, using this alleged hinderance to his advantage.  Asides from the glory of taking down a heated rival, Baltimore sweeps the season series against Pittsburgh, giving them the tiebreaker which may come in handy come January.

Jets Rise To Occasion-It was a game that had the potential to put the Jets at the back of the pack if they didn’t come to play.  The defense would have none of that, clamping down on Ryan Fitzpatrick in a 27-11 win.  The first half left much to be desired, only leading 3-0 as the Jets were unable to capitalize on a few opportunities.  The second half saw better results as Mark Sanchez was able to execute a few scoring drives behind a dominant showing by the defense.  The Bills missed on the chance to distance themselves from New York, but the offense looked frazzled from the onset.

Julio Jones’ Coming Out Party-There was a lot of hoopla when the Falcons traded everything but the kitchen sink for Julio Jones, giving up several high draft picks.  Jones was expected to be the final peice to the Falcons offense in hopes of catapulting them to the Super Bowl.  Jones has been dealing with injuries throughout the season, leaving the Falcons offense to be consistently inconsistent.  Jones was healthy yesterday, and Atlanta liked what it saw, with 131 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns.  Matt Ryan has to like the added dimension his new toy brings.  Next up for Atlanta, first place New Orleans.

Saints Hold Off Bucs-You figured New Orleans would bounce back after that terrible loss to the Rams.  You also figured Tampa Bay would be prepared coming off a bye week.  Something had to give, and it was the Buccaneers who lost 27-16.  Tampa Bay’s offense stalled just enough as Drew Brees returned to his efficient form.  Tampa Bay had the chance to be tied for first in the NFC South, now they stand two games back.

49ers Rolling Along-You almost have to wonder if this team will fall asleep by December with how easy they’ve made it look the last two months.  San Francisco had little trouble against a depleted Redskins team, 19-11.  The same recipe applied as Alex Smith went 17-24 for 200 yards and a touchdown, Frank Gore ran for 107 yards on 19 carries, and the defense held firm.  The 49ers have a 5 game lead with 8 games left, making it close to impossible that they miss the playoffs considering the teams in their division.  San Francisco gets a real test next week against the suddenly rising G-Men.

Dolphins Celebrate Good Times-When a second victory comes, nobody knows, but a winless season is now out of the question.  Miami let out their frustrations on a lost season with a 31-3 romp against Kansas City.  Nobody should have to endure a winless season and it’ll be interesting to see if the Dolphins build off this or become content with avoiding the 0-16, but one thought comes to mind.  With the Chiefs getting blown out by the Dolphins, it has to make you wonder how the San Diego Chargers didn’t blow them out last Monday, much less win.

Packers Pile On Points-The defense returned two interceptions for touchdowns, so it’s not as if they didn’t play a part in the 45-38 victory over San Diego.  However, a game in which your offense scores 45 points generally should lead to a solid margin of victory.  The defense continues to get beat while Aaron Rodgers continues to beat other defenses.  If you’re Green Bay, you’d like to shore up the defense even a little bit, but as long as Rodgers continues to play like a robot, it might not matter.

Don’t Forget this Rookie QB-While what Cam Newton has been doing in Carolina is impressive, it appears that Andy Dalton has been forgotten unjustifiably so.  Dalton was instrumental in a 24-17 win over the Tennessee Titans.  Dalton’s numbers aren’t as eye-popping, but they are sound, pacing a Bengals team that wasn’t supposed to be relevant this time of the year, much less already notch 6 victories.  Dalton gets his biggest test yet, a matchup for first place in the AFC North with Pittsburgh.

Raiders Reverting to Old Form-Oakland looked headed towards a blowout win over the Tebows, leading 24-14 against a liability at quarterback.  From 6:30 mark in the third quarter to the the 6:00 mark in the fourth quarter, Oakland fell behind, trailing 31-24 on a punt return touchdown, a 60-yard score by Willis McGahee on the first play of that drive, and a few Raider turnovers sprinkled in.  On the plus side, Carson Palmer showed flashes with 332 yards and 3 touchdowns.  There were 3 interceptions, but Palmer should improve as he continues to work off the rust and Darren McFadden returns.  Oakland, San Diego, and Kansas City are tied for first in the AFC West at 4-4 while Denver is only a game behind.  Don’t buy into Tebow Mania just yet as he didn’t attempt a single pass in the fourth quarter, which speaks volumes.  Next up for Oakland, a battle for first place with San Diego in a battle of the underwhelming.

Posted on: October 31, 2011 9:15 pm

In The Trenches: Week 8 Thoughts

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This past Sunday, Rob Ryan ate Crow, ahem, Eagle.

Cowboys Massive Flop-Jerry Jones said this was a statement game, one that Dallas circled over the Summer.  Rob Ryan called Philadelphia the, "All-Hype Team."  A 34-7 blowout later, the Eagles are riding high as everyone is all aboard their bandwagon once again while Dallas leaves much to be desired.  Dez Bryant continues to throw tantrums that are only acceptable when you are 7 or Terrell Owens.  If nothing else, Ryan has done well to copy his brother in placing all blame on himself; if he really wanted to copy big bro, he'd put himself out there next time Tony Romo cements lame-duck status since the guy is one of the media's favorite pinatas.

Ravens Escape Rough Start-After asking if this was real life a handful of times, I accepted the fact that the Ravens were, in fact, trailing, 24-6, at halftime to the lowly Arizona Cardinals.  The Cardinals don't typically fare well as a West Coast team traveling East, but were in prime position to pull off the massive upset.  We're not sure what was said in the locker room, but the Ravens got their act together and pulled out a 30-27 win.  Baltimore got their act together, albeit a little late, as Ray Rice totaled 99 yards and 3 touchdowns while Anquan Boldin turned on Beast Mode with 7 receptions for 145 yards. 

Giants Rally Late-Yet another game the Giants were expected to dominate that went down to the wire.  The Dolphins are winless and desperate for a win, but Miami leading 17-13 with under 7 minutes to go is concerning.  Eli Manning has been steady for the Giants more often than not.  However, the 5-2 record is not surprising, but the struggle New York has had in the process of getting there certainly is.  A win is a win, but with a tough 6-game stretch in which they could objectively lose all 6, it's time to rise for the G-Men.

Ponder Bests Newton-The game didn't hold much significance asides from draft positions as neither team will be making the postseason.  That being said, Minnesota and Carolina have to feel good going forward with what appears to be two franchise quarterbacks.  Cam Newton's critics can now hush up until the time comes to ask where the Super Bowl wins are.  Newton looks to be as dynamic as Vick, but more difficult to bring down ala Ben Roethlisberger.  Many wondered if the Vikings offense would ever wake up after Donovan McNabb put it to sleep, but Christian Ponder has resuscitated Minnesota's offense.  Adrian Peterson in the backfield is a nice option as well.

Back to Reality for Tebow-Let's try to focus on the positives for Tim Tebow after Sunday's 45-10 loss to the Lions.  Okay so there weren't many, if any, positives to take from Tebow's performance.  That dreadful showing was definitely a score for the critics.  Tebow looked, well, like a quarterback who was ranked third on the depth chart this Summer.  Now it's only one game, but it was a game that highlighted all the things that are wrong with Tebow's game.  From poor mechanics to inability to read coverage are not issues that will go away nor are they easily fixed.  Although he probably isn't fit to continue starting, Denver wants to see if there's any future with Tebow, a middle-round talent who was picked in the first round.

Saints Offense Disappears-This was a team that had just put up 62 points on the lifeless Colts, so a visit with the seemingly lifeless Rams seemed favorable to say the least.  That was until they played the game.  Sparked by the World Series champion Cardinals, the Rams trounced New Orleans 31-21.  The score doesn't do the Rams justice as Drew Brees and Co. looked frazzled from the start, never able to get into a rhythm.  Colt and Dolphin fans rejoice as now they are the lone winless teams/frontrunners for Andrew Luck.

Big Ben Bests Brady-Sunday's outcome shouldn't come as a huge surprise, but now that New England has lost in this fashion, this is a concern that can't be ignored.  What was once believed to be a high-poewred offense now looks to be a one-dimensional offense.  There is no deep threat; Chad Ochocinco has failed miserably to provide any vertical aspect to the passing game.  That has left Brady to attempt dissecting defenses with short, quick routes which can only go so far.  The running game isn't completely missing, but when your defense can't stop anybody, that will eventually get abandoned.  I will never count out Bill Belichick or Brady, but New England's prospects don't look too promising as of now.

Bills Defense Shines-It's usually Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson that receive most of the attention when Buffalo shines, but it was the defense that shinedx the brightest, shutting out the Redskins on their way to a 23-0 win.  It wasn't the biggest challenge as Washington was minus Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, and Tim Hightower, but a shutout is a shutout.  With New England apparently in crisis mode, a one-trick pony on offense and a swiss cheese defense, Buffalo has to feel pretty good about their chances.  Next up, the New York Jets.

49ers Carry On-One of several surprise teams this season, the San Francisco 49ers were heavily favored against the lowly Cleveland Browns.  While it wasn't a statement game or a victory that proved anything, it was a game that they were expected to win.  It's very easy to overlook games which seem to be a given.  Good teams put away the teams they're supposed to, and San Francisco did just that, taking care of business on their way to a 6-1 start for the first time since 1998.

As Do the Bengals-Another suprise team, Cincinnati faced a dreadful offense in Seattle and also took care of business, clamping down on the Seahawks in a 34-12 win.  The Bengals are tied with the Ravens and Steelers atop the AFC North at 5-2, who would've thought.

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 17, 2011 11:51 am

In The Trenches: Week 6 Thoughts

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Handshake gate?

49ers Tame Lions-There were some, myself included, who weren't sold on the San Francisco 49ers.  I'm not ready to jump on their bandwagon, but I will recognize them as a legitimate contender.  The NFC West, or the race for 8 as I've previously put it, looks to be San Francisco's to lose at this point with 5 wins already.  They stifled a Lions offense that had been able to score at ease all season.  Perhaps Head Coach Jim Schwartz was so ticked at Head Coach Jim Harbaugh because he had done what no team had previously thought of, double-teaming Calvin Johnson.  I know what you're thinking, why haven't teams been doing that already?

Packers Are Lone Undefeated Team-I'm not sure if any of the Green Bay Packers broke a sweat on Sunday.  Now that's not a jab at the St. Louis Rams, although they seem to be lacking all around, but a testament to Green Bay's dominance.  Aaron Rodgers was okay I guess, 17-28 for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Not much to complain about, unless you're Brett Favre, in which you are disappointed Rodgers didn't reach 400 yards and 4 touchdowns?

Falcons Go Back To Their Roots-Noone was happier than Michael Turner to see the Falcons return to their run-heavy approach, except for his fantasy owners.  Turner ran 27 times for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns as Atlanta took down Cam Newton 31-17.  Atlanta should keep this in mind going forward.  I'm not saying abandon the passing game, but at the very least run to set up the pass like you have the last few years.  I don't care if you're Matt Ryan or Tom Brady, a running game will only open up the field.

Eagles Bounce Back-An overall solid performance by the Eagles as they likely knocked Rex Grossman out of the starting quarterback job in Washington.  Philadelphia picked off Grossman four times and held the Redskins to 42 yards on the ground.  The Redskins fast start seems like a distant memory and Head Coach Mike Shanahan will likely roll John Beck out there, who was the favorite in preseason to start under center.

Giants Survive Another One-It wasn't looking good for the G-Men, you could tell as Head Coach Tom Coughlin's face became brighter as the fourth quarter went on.  Buffalo had the ball in field goal range with less than 5 minutes to go, as Ryan Fitzpatrick had the Bills offense clicking on all cylinders.  Then an underthrown pass down the sideline by Fitzpatrick changed everything as Corey Webster saved the Giants from a late-game demise.  Eli Manning led New York down the field for a Lawrence Tynes field goal and the 27-24 win.  They're 4-2, but the Giants would probably like to see a few dominant performances for an entire game.

Steelers Cruise-It had all the makings of a blowout as the Steelers led 17-0 in the second quarter.  That was more than enough, but Jacksonville hung around and made it a close one with a hail mary at the end of the game.  A win is a win and Pittsburgh is 4-2, but this a game the Steelers should've won by at least double digits.

Brady Leads Pats Comeback-The quarterback play looked to be the key factor in this game.  Could Tony Romo keep up with Tom Brady?  The answer looked to be yes for most of the game.  Romo was actually out-intercepted by Brady, 2:1.  Then Head Coach Jason Garrett decided to quit while they were ahead and take the ball away from Romo.  Now Romo has shown to be prone to mistakes late in the game, but you can't play not to lose against Brady.  Especially when you're running game is average at best.  Dallas was in the driver seat late in the game, but decided to take time off the clock and rely on their defense to hold Brady down.  If you can't trust the guy to make plays late in the game, that would appear to be a red flag with the player you have under center.

Raiders Honor Davis-Playing their first game at home since Al Davis passed away, it was inconceivable to see the Raiders fail to honor Davis against the BrownsDarren McFadden led the way with 91 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown.  The Raiders took a big hit with Jason Campbell who appeared to break his collarbone and is unlikely to return this season.  Kyle Boller and Terrelle Pryor are the current candidates to replace him.  Yikes.

Ravens Outlast Texans-A valiant effort by the Houston Texans, but without their top players on offense and defense, they couldn't keep up with the Baltimore Ravens.  Houston did their best minus Andre Johnson and Mario Williams, leading 14-13 midway through the third quarter.  Baltimore eventually pulled away behind solid running from Ray Rice and timely passes by Joe FlaccoArian Foster was bottled up by the Ravens, who were able to stack the box with Johnson out.  The Ravens are coasting, the Texans are not.  Luckily, Houston plays in the AFC South, where rivals are lacking to say the least.

Vikings To Fold?-This looked to be a competitive game on paper.  Chicago can't stop the run and can't keep Jay Cutler upright.  Minnesota runs the ball well and gets to the quarterback.  That's why they play the game, as the Bears stomped on the Vikings, 39-10, and may have sent Donovan McNabb to the bench for good.  McNabb wasn't awful, going 19-24 for 177 yards, but the Vikings season looks to be over.  This isn't so much about McNabb's usefulness as it is about the Vikings giving their 1st round pick Christian Ponder some playing time.  McNabb is on a one-year deal and was likely staying for only one season anyway.  So they might as well see if Ponder has potential to be the franchise quarterback going forward.

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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Posted on: September 26, 2011 1:04 pm

In The Trenches: Week 3 Thoughts

They are who we thought they were?

Buffalo Soldiers-Who would’ve thought that Tom Brady would match his interception total from last season, four, in one game, much less against the Bills?  Neither did Bill Belichick.  Any doubts about the Bills being for real can now be put to bed as Ryan Fitzpatrick is no slouch nor is that offense.  Fred Jackson gives the Bills a balanced attack as Jackson is one of the few workhorse backs left in the league.  Stevie Johnson and David Nelson give Fitzpatrick reliable deep threats as Buffalo has scored 41, 38, and 34 points this season.  Not all four interceptions were Brady’s fault, but when your offense is one-dimensional and you attempt 45 passes, odds are a few will take an unfavorable bounce.  It would probably help if Chad Ochocinco didn’t drop a 41-yard-touchdown pass here and there.

Lions’ Roar Getting Louder-So the Minnesota Vikings for a third-consecutive week were up big at halftime, this time 20-0.  But as the script goes, they crumbled, and Detroit was the latest to benefit from Minnesota’s overall incompetence.  Credit them for being consistent though.  For the first time this season, Matthew Stafford was backed up against the wall, but he led the Lions to a 23-20 overtime victory and their first 3-0 start since 1980.  Don’t talk about playoffs?  Shush up Jim Mora, this team looks for real.

Packers Look Scary-The 3-0 team people expected, Green Bay looks like the most complete team in the NFL.  With an offense anchored by Aaron Rodgers, there is little pressure on the defense to clamp down on teams, which they are fully capable of doing.  Tight end Jermichael Finley adds another dimension to an already stacked offense.  Definitely looking forward to seeing them match up with the Lions.

Down Goes Vick-In what is starting to become a troubling trend for Eagles fans, Michael Vick left the game again, this time with what appears to be a broken hand.  How long this will sideline Vick nobody knows, but the Dream Team has several glaring problems.  For starters, the defense looks average, which must be infuriating for Andy Reid when you have 3 pro-bowl cornerbacks only to be beaten by no-namers like Victor Cruz.  The offense seems to tighten up in short-yardage situations as Philadelphia got stopped numerous times in big moments in the second half.  Luckily they face the 49ers next week, who managed an impressive 13 points against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Jets Kept Grounded-A promising 17-7 lead in the first half for the New York Jets turned into a 31-17 deficit by the beginning of the fourth quarter.  The usually-reliable defense allowed the most rushing yards ever in Rex Ryan’s tenure as Darren McFadden steamrolled New York.  It’s probably a bad time to mention that nosebleed talk to Bart Scott.  On the other side, the offense looks to be stuck in a rut.  The running game has been underwhelming while Mark Sanchez continues to look lost at times.  Entering his third season, it’s time for Sanchez to take the next step if the Jets want to go far in January.

Ravens Bounce Back-One week they trample the Steelers, the next they get crushed by the Titans.  This week?  More of week one, as they blew out the Rams 37-7 in a game that was over by halftime.  Baltimore recorded 553 yards of total offense while holding St. Louis to 244.  Take it with a grain of salt as the Ravens are the far superior team, let’s see how the Ravens fare when they see former defensive coordinator Ryan and the Jets next week.

Saints, Texans Light Up Scoreboard-73 combined points in New Orleans, or as many as the 49ers-Bengals (21), Cardinals-Seahawks (23), and Steelers-Colts (29) combined, the Texans and Saints checked their defenses at the stadium and gate and decided to treat fantasy football teams across the nation.  Houston was looking to solidify itself as a contender with a big win over a top NFC team.  While they failed to do so, there are plenty of positives to take from this game.  Most teams fail to slow down the Saints, so that’s nothing worth sweating.  But the offense matched New Orleans most of the way.  The only discouraging note is that in 12 red-zone trips, Houston has 2 TD’s and 8 FG’s.  For an offense so potent, that has to change.

Falcons Get Clipped-This trendy Super Bowl pick, which I may have made as well, is looking worse and worse each week.  This offense seems to be undergoing an identity crisis, wanting to become more dynamic, but struggling in the process of converting.  At one time a ground and pound, Matt Ryan has seen more of the ground than he would like early on, as the Falcons for the second time in three games were lacking on offense, losing 16-13 to Tampa Bay.  Atlanta better get its act together soon, as division foes in New Orleans and the Buccaneers show no signs of slowing down.

Cardinals-Kevin Kolb will take his lumps with the Cardinals, but is there really any excuse to manage only 10 points against the Seahawks?  I’m struggling to come up with any.  Now it didn’t help that Jay Feely missed two field goals, but Kolb still had his opportunities, including late in the fourth quarter when he threw his second interception with less than 2 minutes remaining.

Steelers, Chargers Take It Easy-Right?  I mean both were expected to absolutely demolish their opponents.  Pittsburgh was playing the Indianapolis Mannings, sans Peyton Manning, while San Diego was playing the <del>Toronto Argonauts</del>, ehh, Kansas City Chiefs, who have probably as many recognizable faces left on the roster as the Argonauts.  Despite the apparent mismatches, the Chargers needed an Eric Weddle interception with under a minute to go to seal the 3-point victory while the Steelers needed Ben Roethlisberger to drive them down the field for a game-winning field goal.  So much for those anticipated blowouts.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com