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: November 14, 2011 12:25 am

In The Trenches: Week 10 Thoughts

<span style="color: #6e8dcf;">Primetime 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 29, 2011 12:06 pm

Sports World Looks On,Pujols Has Decision To Make

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I don’t expect an hour-long telecast on ESPN to announce the free-agency decision, but where Albert Pujols ends up this offseason will have a LeBron-esque audience.  Fresh off arguably the most improbable World Series run in history, Pujols has avoided the topic all season, having not addressed the matter since Spring Training when a contract extension couldn’t be reached. 

Let’s be clear here, Albert Pujols is not LeBron James.  Pujols has delivered St. Louis with two World Series titles while James has provided Cleveland what seems to be eternal doom.  We were all given a reality check when it became apparent that James was all about his “brand” and loyalty was not as important as he claimed throughout his time in Cleveland. 

The circumstances are different for sure, Pujols has given Cardinal fans two championships.  He could never reach base again and would be forever loved.  James had failed to deliver Cleveland a title after eight years and the pressure was mounting to win a ring.  While James in my opinion and many others took the easy way route, his decision was motivitated by the desire to win a title, albeit as one of the background dancers as opposed to the lead singer. 

Undoubtedly a Hall of Famer, Pujols has the numbers, the money, and the success.  So what could possibly drive Pujols to a different uniform for the first time in his career?


Ahh yes, money, it talks to us all.  professional athletes tend to make a lot of it, and often free agency sees players gravitate towards the biggest deal.  Pujols has made well over $100 million dollars in his career; it’s safe to say he could retire now and be set for life as would his children and their children.  Pujols isn’t a player who’s coming off a career year and wants to break the bank on one big contract.

Pujols has a bank-breaking year every season. 

The Cardinals will pay the man, he is the heart and soul of their team and the driving force behind two World Series championships.  But it is possible and likely that they will not be the highest bidder.  Now would Pujols leave his home for over a decade to go elsewhere because the Cardinals offered, let’s say, a $200 million deal while a big market club offered $225 or $250?

It may seem unfair on my part to expect Pujols to pass on the money, but why walk away from a city where you are a living legend and blemish that?  Of course Pujols would always be embraced by St. Louis if he were to leave, the guy did deliver in his time there. 

However, we can all agree that a guy like Derek Jeter, who has been a Yankee his entire career with five World Series wins, is viewed differently than a guy like Shaq.  Sure he won three titles with the Lakers, but the fact is he drifted around from one team to the next, and while he’ll always be known as a Laker, it can’t be ignored that the guy rocked as many jerseys as he did.  Pujols has an opportunity to be a rarity, the legend that plays his whole career with one team.  Does he really want to be like Michael Jordan, who is a Bull through and through, but also played a few seasons with the Wizards?

Pujols has already accomplished more than any baseball player ever hopes for and has the opportunity to add to his impressive run.  I just hope it’s with the only team he’s ever known.

Posted on: October 27, 2011 12:35 pm

In The Trenches: Week 7 Thoughts

Primetime 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

Primetime 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.

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