1. Looking for a dark horse to saddle for the playoffs? Try Miami. The Dolphins are one game out of first in the AFC East, but look at their schedule: They have Oakland at home next week. That's a win. Then New England at home. I don't know if that's a win, but I know the Dolphins crushed the Patriots in Foxborough. Then it's at St. Louis. Another win. At Buffalo. Iffy. San Francisco and at Kansas City. Two more wins. When the Fins meet the Jets on Dec. 28 it might be for a division title.
2. Good news, Jets fans. You're only halfway through the NFC West. In two games against the NFC West, the Jets put up 74 points in the first half to their opponents' zero. Next stop, San Francisco. Appropriately, it's on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day.
3. So now we know what happens when a good defense dares Kerry Collins to beat it. He does. Chicago stacked the box against the Titans, with eight-man fronts that reduced them to 20 yards in 29 carries. But that's where Collins comes in. He has seldom looked sharper, hitting 31 of 40 for 289 yards and two touchdowns. He hadn't thrown a TD pass in the previous three games.
4. Don't tell me Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio didn't pick his spot to get tough with players. Del Rio had to figure he would beat up on winless Detroit and that guys would think there was a cause-effect relationship. Maybe. A more, shall we say reasonable test comes this weekend when Jacksonville plays host to Tennessee.
5. Say it's so, Baltimore. Joe Flacco hasn't been intercepted in the past four games, but he has thrown six touchdown passes.
6. I don't need Mike Tomlin to tell me Ben Roethlisberger's sore shoulder is an issue. I just need to see Big Ben. In his past three games, he has one touchdown pass and eight interceptions.
7. I'm with my Buffalo Bills buddy, Rich Q. The Bills are playing scared on offense. Worse, they're coaching scared. They're taking no chances and going nowhere. It's time to loosen up, guys, or start leasing the cellar.
8. This is why I like the Panthers to go deep into the playoffs: On an afternoon when Jake Delhomme suffers four interceptions, they still win by 11. One reason: Their running game, with DeAngelo Williams accounting for 140 of the team's 162 yards. That's just like the good ol' days with Stephen Davis. Another reason: They played the Raiders. Man, are these guys awful. They've been outscored 117-35 under Tom Cable. Nice move, Al.
9. I loved Herm Edwards going for the win. So he failed. Big deal. His team isn't going anywhere. So show your players you believe in them. Herm did and came up short. Edwards is beginning to reap the rewards of playing a slew of young guys, with the Chiefs coming this close to beating the Jets, Bucs and Chargers the past three games. And keep this in mind: He did it with a third-string quarterback.
10. The party's over for Jim Haslett. After winning his first two with the Rams, reality has set in. And reality bites. The Rams lost their last three, but, worse, they've been outscored 104-32.
11. If and when Romeo Crennel gets fired he can look back on the last series of Thursday's game with Denver and ask himself: "What in the world was I thinking?" Three plays to get one yard against the Broncos' defense, and you don't run once? Please.
12. Maybe these in-season trips to London take more out of NFL teams than anyone imagined. All I know is that in two years the clubs that went overseas are 1-3 in their next games, with no one scoring more than 20. The only team to win? San Diego. And barely.
13. You can't blame Ted Cottrell for that 60-yard drive at the end of San Diego's win. I don't know what's wrong with the Bolts' defense, but I do know it's not working. A year ago San Diego had a league-high 48 takeaways; now, they haven't had one in their last 13 quarters -- with only one sack in that time. The one sack? Kansas City's Tyler Thigpen ran out of bounds rather than throw the ball away.
14. Remember this name when you start talking All-Pro teams: Ray Lewis. The Ravens' linebacker is having a monster season, with his two interceptions against Houston the latest evidence.
15. I tell you what's most impressive about New England, and it's not the 5-3 record under Matt Cassell. It's four penalties in its last three games. You heard me: Four. Are you kidding me? They had none against St. Louis, two against the Colts and two against Buffalo. Unbelievable.
Just asking but ...
• What happens first -- Raiders in the Super Bowl or Buffalo over New England?
|Week 10: Keeping up with Brett, Chad and Aaron|
• Time to take the Jets seriously?
• Was Tony Gonzalez held on that two-point try?
• Is it over in the NFC East?
• Matt Forte or
Five things I like
1. Brandon Stokley's quick thinking. By short-circuiting Brandon Marshall's glove routine last Thursday, Stokley might've saved the Broncos a ballgame. The Broncos defense has trouble stopping anyone ... so why give an opponent a 15-yard headstart? Because of Stokley, the Broncos didn't have to.
2. Matt Ryan's learning curve. With some of the early polls getting ready to close, the Atlanta quarterback might have the Offensive Rookie of the Year award cinched.
3. Ben Roethlisberger's one-handed catch of a Mewelde Moore pitch, a move that set up Big Ben's 41-yard bomb to Hines Ward. I'm not sure which grab was better -- Roethlisberger's or that over-the-head TD snag by Ted Ginn Jr.
4. Tom Coughlin's challenge of that illegal forward pass by Eli Manning. I thought Manning was over the line, too. Fortunately, Coughlin -- or an assistant upstairs -- didn't, and they were rewarded with a touchdown.
5. The Giants' offensive line. You might have trouble naming some of these guys, but they open holes for the league's second-ranked rushing attack and keep Eli Manning's jersey clean.
Five things I don't
1. Detroit starting Daunte Culpepper. It's one thing to be bad with young players; it's far worse to be bad with old ones. The Lions should've given Drew Stanton a shot. Now, they may have no choice ... and that's good. After all, somebody must have thought the guy could play. That's why he was drafted.
2. Ahmard Hall's hands. The Tennessee fullback touched the ball twice. He dropped it twice, including once at the 1.
3. Anyone challenging Tennessee cornerback Cortland Finnegan, which is what Rex Grossman did on the Bears' last snap. "This guy is playing at a Pro Bowl level every week," said CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf.
4. Minnesota's punt coverage units. That was the fourth TD the Vikings surrendered this season, and, I'm sorry, you better get that straightened out quickly, Brad Childress. If you don't, I have the number of a realtor you should get to know.
5. The Raiders on third downs. They were 2-for-17 against Carolina, 1-for-9 against Atlanta the week before and 2-for-13 against Baltimore two weeks ago. That's 5-for-39 and just another reason the Raiders stink.
Numbers, numbers, numbers
Minus 5 -- First-half rushing yards for Tennessee
1 -- Colts' wins in Pittsburgh since 1969.
6 -- Defensive touchdowns by Green Bay, a franchise record
9 -- Antonio Gates' career touchdowns vs. Kansas City
10 -- Straight Buffalo losses to New England
19 -- Plays in one drive for New England, a franchise record
111 -- Straight Joe Flacco passes without an interception
2-0 -- The Mannings vs. Pittsburgh this season
Next weekend's three best games
1. Baltimore at New York Giants ... Can anyone beat Big Blue?
2. Chicago at Green Bay ... Time to straighten out the NFC North.
3. Dallas at Washington ... Cowboys' season on the line.
My top five
2. N.Y. Giants
My bottom five
30. Kansas City
29. San Francisco