By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
The NFL’s Good, Bad and the Ugly: Week 11
NORTH CAROLINA — Week 11 proved to be another wild week of NFL football .
The Titans and Giants showed why they are head and shoulders above the rest of the league with impressive victories.
The Lions remain winless, while the Colts continue to turn their season around.
Let’s examine all of this and other story lines in the Good, Bad and the Ugly of the NFL and college football.
Giants: Coming into the game against Baltimore, the Super Bowl champs were expected to battle against one of the league’s best defenses, especially against the run. The battle never materialized as the Giants ran through, around, and over the OVERRATED Ray Lewis-led Ravens’ defense for over 200 yards in an easy 30-10 victory at the Meadowlands. Although the Ravens kept their streak alive–of not allowing a 100-yard rusher this season–Ahmad Bradshaw came within four yards of ending the streak with 96 yards on only 9 carries, and Brandon Jacobs amassed 73 yards on only 11 carries and two touchdowns. The Ravens’ offensive line did a good job protecting rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, allowing only one sack in the game, but the Giants’ defense did intercept Flacco twice and held him to only 164 yards passing. The Ravens are a pretender and have six wins largely because of their schedule, while the Giants continue to show how mentally and physically tough they really are and prove to the world, last year’s championship was not a fluke.
Titans: Tennessee continues in their quest to be the third undefeated regular season team in NFL history, this time with an impressive come from behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-14. Once again the Titans’ running game struggled and once again, Kerry Collins made plays in the passing game down the field to lead the comeback. Down 14-3 at halftime, the Titans used their passing game to take the lead, and their defense to secure their 13th straight victory going back to last season. Collins threw for three touchdowns including two big connections to Justin Gage, who had a career high 147 yards in the game. The Titans held David Garrard to a season low 135 yards passing and only 13 completions. Tennessee has shown the ability to play with a lead or if behind, and are very confident. The one concern the Titans should have is rushing the ball. Over the last couple weeks, their rushing game has struggled to get over 100 yards for the game including the game against the Jags. They were outrushed in the game 140-114.
Buccaneers: Tampa Bay continues to fly under the radar as a good team that no one talks about. If you ask the Vikings if the Bucs were good, the Vikings would say a resounding “YES!” Jeff Garcia threw for 255 yards and the Bucs’ defense contained Adrian Peterson and the Vikings’ offense en route to a 19-13 win. “Superman” Peterson rushed for 85 yards on 19 carries, but really didn’t have one of those “special moments” where he can change a game at any moment. Gus Ferrotte was non-existent–throwing for 138 yards–further proving how dumb it was for the Vikings to sit Tarvis Jackson because the Vikings offense is one dimensional. The Bucs continue to play well with a balanced offense and a quarterback who knows how to “manage the game”. Their attacking-style defense, continues to disrupt the rhythm of the offensive opponents they’ve faced this season. The Bucs continue to put pressure on the NFC South’s division-leading Panthers, by winning their second consecutive game and should make it three-in-a-row win when they travel to Detroit to face the winless Lions.
Colts: Make that three-in-a-row for the suddenly surging Colts after they hold on to beat the Houston Texans 33-27. Peyton Manning, who seems to be getting healthy and getting his rhythm and timing back, threw for 320 yards, two touchdowns and no picks in the game against the Texans. More importantly, Manning and wide receiver, Marvin Harrison, look to be on the same page once again as Harrison caught nine passes for 77 yards and a touchdown for the Colts, who are not going to win the AFC South this season, but seem to be heading in the direction of a wild card berth in the playoff. Indy has to be pleased to have Joseph Addai back in the lineup; he rushed the ball 22 times for 105 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, the Colts continue to struggle in stopping the run, which is their Achilles heel. They allowed Steve Slaton to get off, rushing the ball 156 yards on only 14 carries and a touchdown, including several big chunks of yards down the field. The Colts need to try and somehow bandage their run defense because they will surely get a steady dose of LT and the Chargers running game this Sunday.
Broncos: In a division where no one seems to want to string victories together to take over first place, Denver may finally be the team to get it done. Jay Cutler threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Graham, and the Broncos much maligned defense held Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense out of the end zone late in the game, leading to a 24-20 victory in Atlanta on Sunday. Cutler wasn’t great, but got the job done, throwing for only 216 yards and a touchdown in handing the Falcons their first home loss of the season. The Broncos now have a two-game lead over the fading Chargers, despite losing five tailbacks this season and other key players, including all-pro cornerback Champ Bailey. Ryan threw for 250 yards, but no touchdowns and one key interception against a mediocre Broncos defense that, in fairness, has been playing better lately. The Broncos could really take complete hold of the AFC West with a win this week at home against the pathetic Raiders while the Chargers have to face the red hot Indianapolis Colts. A win for the Broncos and loss for the Chargers would give the Broncos a commanding three-game lead with only five games remaining in the season.
Packers: Does anyone want to win the surprisingly mediocre NFC Northern division? Coming into the game against the Chicago Bears, the Packers had an opportunity to tie for first place, along with the Bears and Vikings, with a win. They got the win with some thanks to the hard nose running of Ryan Grant (145 yards, touchdown on 25 carries) while the Packers’ defense shutdown Bears’ rookie running back, Matt Forte, and Green Bay destroyed Chicago 37-3. It was also the first win for the Packers over the Bears at Lambeau field since Lovie Smith took over the Bears. Aaron Rodgers had a solid game going 23-30 for 227 yards and two touchdowns, while the return of Bears’ Kyle Horton to the starting lineup didn’t make any difference as he struggled and was eventually pulled and replaced by Rex Grossman. Green Bay needs to build on this win over the Bears, because they have two tough games coming up with a road game at New Orleans and at home against the Carolina Panthers.
Chargers: San Diego lost another close game, this time in the cold and snow of Pittsburgh. Phillip Rivers looked horrible, throwing three interceptions leading to a narrow 11-10 loss to the Steelers. Both teams had chances to score more than they did, especially the Chargers who won the field position battle, and shutdown the Steelers and their running game in the first half, yet blew many opportunities to score when they were on the Steelers’ side of the ball and in the red zone. Although LT looks like he is getting healthier and running the ball better, he still hasn’t had a 100-yard game and has less than 700 yards rushing so far this season. As good as Rivers has played this season, he can’t do it alone, as evidenced in the game against the Steelers, in which he forced several passes into double coverage, not to mention his interceptions. This team is going no where fast and at 4-6, will not win the division and will not make the playoffs. And, if they don’t make the playoffs, those two words, NORV TURNER, will be the famous two words for the reason they failed to make the post season, and Mr. Turner will be looking for other employment.
Bills: Buffalo continues to struggle to win games after a fast start this season. After beginning the season 5-1, the “pretender” Bills have lost four straight, including the loss on Monday night to the Cleveland Browns 29-27 in the battle of Lake Erie. The Bills have looked like the Browns over the last month, finding ways to lose and blowing leads late in games. Trent Edwards continues to struggle, throwing three interceptions in the first half, which either led to points or stopped a drive for the Bills. While Edwards continues to struggle, the defense continues to allow teams to score at will, especially when they need to get a crucial defensive stop against opponents. Just when they get some momentum offensively, the defense gives up points and big plays, and when the defense gets a stop, the offense struggles to score or turns the ball over. This is not a complete team and certainly not a playoff team. The Bills lack players; they need to be an elite team and they lack confidence, which begins with Edwards, who doesn’t seem to have confidence in his self.
Texans: HOUSTON LOST TO THE COLTS BECAUSE THEY ARE HORRIBLE AND THE REASON THEY ARE HORRIBLE IS BECAUSE OF THERE OVERRATED COACH, GARY KUBIAK. ENOUGH SAID.
Redskins: Washington came off a bye hoping to get back on the winning track against the hated Dallas Cowboys after suffering a beat down to the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago. The week off didn’t seem to help. Marion Barber ran for 114 yards, and once again the Redskins struggled on offense in losing to the hated Cowboys 14-10 in the nation’s capital. Even with Clinton Portis in the lineup after there were questions about him playing in the game, the Redskins managed only 10 points in the game. Defensively, the Redskins played well, holding returning Dallas quarterback, Tony Romo, to 198 yards and two interceptions, but couldn’t stop the “BOYS” on the ground. Jason Campbell was efficient, but not really a factor in the game and neither was Portis who ran for 68 yards. The Redskins have to find their offensive rhythm fast, if they want to make the playoffs. The loss almost assures the Giants will win the division and drop the “Skins” back in the pack with numerous teams fighting for a wild card spot.
Falcons: Well I think we should put all the rhetoric aside about Matt Ryan being the next Tom Brady. A game in which he threw for only 164 yards and an interception at home–where you haven’t loss all season–against a very mediocre and suspect defense is not the kind of day the first-round draft pick, out of Boston College, wanted or needed in the 24-20 loss to the Denver Broncos, and certainly not Brady-like numbers. Before this game, I challenged the mainstream media to take a look at how Ryan has played against teams with a good or great defense as opposed to teams with a mediocre defense, and check his stats to see how well he performed in those games, but now, after struggling against one of the league’s worst defenses, I think we can put to bed the Brady comparisons or any other quarterback comparisons.
Eagles: You are fighting for a playoff spot in the very competitive NFC East and you go into overtime with the Cincinnati “BUNGLES”, and end up finishing the game in a tie? The two words that best describe the Philadelphia Eagles…ANDY REID.
Chiefs: If you wanna get your first road win of the season, make sure you put K.C. on your schedule. The Chiefs continue to show why they have only one win on the season, after losing at home to the New Orleans Saints 30-20. Although they were competitive in the game against the Saints, the end result was the same: a loss. Drew Brees was solid for the Saints, throwing for 266 yards and a touchdown, and the Saints had over 100 yards rushing, which is not a spectacular number, but enough to hand the Chiefs their 18th loss in the last 19 games, dating back to mid last year. The Chiefs lack talent due to poor draft picks, bad trades and bad free agent signings, which has led to their record over the last two years and will almost certainly lead to the dismissal of Herm Edwards.
Seahawks: Seattle Seahawks apparently has no desire to send Mike Holmgren out with a successful season. The team from the upper northwest allowed Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals to put up huge numbers in losing the game 26-20 in Seattle. The return of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was overshadowed by Arizona’s Kurt Warner who threw for nearly 400 yards and two touchdowns. The Cardinals’ defense held the Seahawks’ running game to less than 50 yards in the game and the Seahawks loss their third consecutive game and dropped to 2-8 on the season. The 2-8 record is the worst start since 1992, when the team began the season 1-8 en route to 2-14. Hasselbeck played okay and threw for 170 yards, but the league’s 31st ranked defense couldn’t stop Warner from compiling some great numbers for the Cardinals. The Seahawks’ season is obviously over in terms of making the playoffs and have been for a while, but you think as a professional, you would play a little harder and have some pride to try and win, if for no other reason, but to win for the coach who is exiting. I guess not.
Raiders: Two words: AL DAVIS
Lions: They’re playing better but they still have not won a game. They are still the very bad DETROIT LIONS
Rams: After two initial wins under Jim Haslett, St. Louis has come crashing back down to earth losing their fourth straight game at San Francisco against the 49ers, 35-16. Like the Chiefs, the Rams lack talent, but unlike the Chiefs, the Rams lack heart and professionalism. It seems many of the Rams’ players have mailed in the season with only thoughts of the holidays on their mind. Mark Bulger threw the ball 53 times for 295 yards and a touchdown with two picks, while Antonio Pittman ran the ball well for 95 yards in place of Steven Jackson, yet they only managed 16 points. We know the Rams are missing key players like Jackson and all-pro tackle Orlando Pace, but there are plenty of teams with injuries, so there is no excuse for the Rams to be as bad as they are. Don’t look for Haslett to get the title of “permanent Head Coach” the way the Rams are playing under him as Interim Coach, in the meantime, congratulations goes out to “interim” Head Coach Mike Singletary for getting his first career coaching victory. A few victories to finish the season and Singletary could drop the “interim” Head Coach title and wear the title of “permanent Head Coach.
Games to watch week 11:
1. Jets at Tennessee- Match-up: Bret Favre vs. the Titans’ defense. If the Jets can run the ball against the tough and physical Titans’ defense, it will set up play action for Favre to get comfortable in the pocket and throw the ball down the field for big plays, but if the Titans shut down the run, look for at least one pick 6 from Favre and another victory for the league’s only unbeaten team.
2. New England at Miami-Key Match-up: the Patriots’ defense vs. the Dolphins’ offense. In their last meeting, the Dolphins used all the trick plays and offensive plays in their playbook in trouncing the Patriots’ defense in Foxboro. The Patriots must stop the run and get pressure on Chad Pennington, who played well in the first match up. If the Patriots can’t stop the run and stop the Dolphins on third down, it will be consecutive losses for the Pats in quite some time.
3. Philadelphia at Baltimore-Key Match-up: Donavan McNabb vs. Ray Lewis. This is a must-win game for the Eagles, because a loss will make the playoffs a dream for this season. This will be a chess match between two of the league’s top players at their position. McNabb must know where Lewis is in order to get the ball to Bryan Westbrook and others to score points. They must also score in the red zone when the opportunity presents itself. They have to try and run the ball to keep the Ravens’ defense on their heels and not on top of McNabb
4. Giants at Arizona-Key Match-up: The Giants’ running game vs. the Cardinals’ defense. The Giants are one of the most physical teams in the league on both sides of the ball and their running backs are physical as well, which will be a tough task for an undersized and underachieving defense in the league. The possibility of Brandon Jacobs not playing due to injuries should and could help the Cardinals, but the Giants are deep at running back so they will try to run the ball against the Cardinals’ defense. The Cardinal offense has to protect Kurt Warner against the pass rush in football in order for him to continue his stellar play and get a victory at home in Arizona.
5. Carolina at Atlanta-Key Match-up: The Panthers’ running game vs. the Falcons’ defense. This game is simple, if the Panthers dominate the line of scrimmage on offense and run the ball successfully, the Panthers will win the game. If the Falcons stuff the run, that will force Panthers’ quarterback, Jake Del Homme, to throw the ball, allowing John Abraham and company to get up the field and put pressure on him, and if that happens, the Falcons will win.
6. Colts at Chargers-Key Match-up: The Colts’ playmakers vs. the Chargers’ playmakers. Like the Eagles, this is a must-win game for the Chargers because a loss will take them out of playoff contention and the only way they can get into the playoffs, realistically, is to win the AFC West. The team that makes the big plays with their playmakers will win the game, because it will probably be a high-scoring affair. Look for Peyton Manning to try and go deep down the field to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, or dump the ball down to Joseph Addai if needed. The Chargers will try and counter with Ladamian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates and others. This game could very well come down to the team with the ball last.
My Top 15 teams after week 10:
1. Giants2. Tennessee 3. Pittsburgh 4. Tampa Bay 5. Carolina 6. Indianapolis
7. Jets8. Green Bay
13. New England
Best performance by a Division 1 college football team:
The University of Florida -Okay, I’m on the Gators’ bandwagon. Another impressive win for the Gators, this time over former quarterback and Coach Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Game Cocks 56-6, in a game most thought would be a highly competitive contest with a narrow edge to the Gators. Percy Harvin rushed for 167 yards and Tim Tebow accounted for three touchdowns against one of the nation’s top defenses. The loss was the worst in Steve Spurrier’s career, both college and pro. The Gators have two games remaining, including their hated rival, Florida State, before a showdown against number one ranked and undefeated Alabama, for the SEC Championship. If the Gators win their remaining games, including Alabama, they will be playing in the BCS Championship.
Worst performance by a Division I college football team:
South Carolina: For the obvious reasons just explained in the “best performance by a Division 1 college football team” category.
Best HBCU football team of the week:
South Carolina State: Dewain Clark threw a pair of touchdown passes as South Carolina State defeated Morgan State 32-0 for their second straight shutout. It is South Carolina State’s first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Championship since 2004, and the School’s first outright conference title since 1994. South Carolina State shutout Howard at home 56-0 last weekend. Congratulations to South Carolina State for winning the MEAC Championship.
Best HBCU football players of the week:
Herbert Bynes & Justin Brown of Hampton: Bynes threw for 401 yards and three touchdowns, while Justin Brown caught 10 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown for the Hampton Pirates, in a losing cause against Florida A&M. They played hard and exceptionally well in the hostile environment of FAMU’s own homecoming.
Until next week…….Stay positive, be safe and enjoy the games!