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The NFL’s Good, Bad and the Ugly: Week 12
NORTH CAROLINA – The New York Giants continue to dominate, the Tennessee Titans are no longer perfect, and the NFC North continues to show its unpredictability.
All of this while the top 15 teams looks very different after this past week of play.
Let’s examine all of this and other story lines in the Good, Bad and Ugly of the NFL and college football.
Giants: With the Titans loss to the Jets, is there any doubt the Giants are the best team in football? The Cardinals believe so. Playing without leading rusher Brandon Jacobs and losing Plaxico Burress early in the game due to injury, the Giants still manage to find ways to score points in beating Arizona 37-29 in the place where they won the Super Bowl last season. Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes and Derrick Ward ran for 69 yards and a touchdown as New York ties Tennessee for the best record in football at 10-1 and snap the Cardinals seven-game home winning streak. Once again the “G-MEN” find ways to win games in the face of injuries and a subpar performance from their defense. The defense allowed 29 points, 27 first downs, a 57 percentage conversion on third down and 351 yards passing to Kurt Warner yet they scored enough points to get the “W”. With a three-game lead over the Redskins and Cowboys and five games left to play, the Giants will surely win the division and should end the regular season with the best record and the top seed in the NFC going into the playoffs.
Colts: Make it four in a row for red hot Indianapolis they barely get by the slumping Chargers 23-20. It was another big win for the Colts thanks in part to one of the most clutch kickers in NFL history, Adam Vinatieri. Vinatieri made a 51-yard field goal as time expired giving the Colts the win and sending the Chargers closer to missing the playoffs.
The two-time defending AFC West champions have lost four of five and remain two games behind division leader Denver, which was upset 31-10 by the Oakland Raiders (more on that game later). Peyton Manning continues to play well, throwing for 255 yards and two touchdowns and seems to be back on the same page with his receivers including Marvin Harrison, who caught six passes and Anthony Gonzalez caught six passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. The Colts have now defeated three of the AFC’s top teams( Patriots, Steelers and Chargers) with a win against the Texans sandwiched in between and are positioning themselves for a top wild card spot if they can continue their stellar play.
Jets: After terrible losses to the Chargers and Raiders, New York has suddenly their season around in a big way with a big win in Tennessee and handing the Titans their first loss of the season 34-13. The Jets were physical on defense and balanced on offense in winning their eighth game of the season and holding on to their one game lead in the AFC East. Brett Favre continues to play within the offensive system (for now), throwing for 224 yards and two touchdowns but it was the running game of the Jets that controlled the ball and led to the victory. New York surprisingly ran the ball for 178 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries against one of the league’s best run defense and kept the ball for over 40 minutes in the game compared to only 18 minutes for the Titans. When the Titans had the ball, they didn’t do much with it. The once undefeated team, had less than 300 yards of total offense including only 46 yards on the ground. The rushing attack continues to struggle and should be a concern of head coach Jeff Fisher and the Titans staff. It was an important win for the Jets but I think a more important loss for the Titans because they can get re-focused, forget about the “undefeated” rhetoric and get back to playing sound and fundamental Titan football the way they know how.
Meanwhile Jet fans, don’t get your Super Bowl tickets yet because the old Brett Favre can still come out of the closet and throw the “big pick” in a crucial situation, costing the Jets a game or even their season.
Falcons: Atlanta continues to stay in the playoff race with a much needed win at home against division rival Carolina 45-28. The Falcons controlled the game early, fell asleep at the wheel in the middle of the game and then gain their composure at the end of the game in beating the division leaders. The win for the Falcons moved them within one game of Carolina and Tampa Bay, who came back to defeat the winless Lions. After leading 17-3 at half time, the Panthers narrowed the Falcon lead to 17-13 heading into the fourth quarter. Atlanta got the momentum back on their side scoring early in the fourth quarter win Michael Turner scored his third of four touchdowns on the day giving them a 24-13 lead.
Even though Carolina would score again, they would get no closer largely because of the ball control power running game and timely pass plays of the Falcons. Turner was spectacular on the day, running for 117 yards and four touchdowns and Matt Ryan completed big passes down the field to Harry Douglas for 92 yards and a touchdown on only four catches.
Douglas also came up big on special teams, scoring another touchdown on a 61 yard punt return late in the game to seal the deal for the Falcons who won their seven game of the season after only winning four last season. If the Falcons can use the ingredients of running the football mixed in with play action passes on offense and can stop the run on defense with no turnovers, they will be a factor in the playoffs and have a legitimate shot at winning the NFC South division.
Saints: New Orleans and Drew Brees continue to put up huge numbers on offense. Their latest victim — Green Bay. It was home sweet home — for a change — as Brees threw for four touchdowns, Deuce McAllister set a Saints record with his 54th career touchdown in a 51-29 victory over the Packers Monday Night. The Saints spent 43 days away from the Louisiana Superdome for a trip to London, a bye and three road games to play one of their best games of the season. Brees continues to put up video game numbers, going 20 of 26 for 323 yards and four touchdowns putting him ahead of Dan Marino’s record setting season back in 1984 after 11 games. The Saints defense was really the story of the game intercepting Aaron Rodgers three times. Trying to keep up with Brees and keep his team in the game, Rodgers threw two picks to Jason David and one by Kevin Kaesviharn.
David’s first pick set up McAllister’s scoring run, which broke Dalton Hilliard’s club record set in 1993. The Saints needed the win to try and keep their faint playoffs alive. A wild card spot would be the only way they could get into the playoffs because a division title is all but done due to their poor start of the season.
Vikings: Minnesota continues to keep pace in the mediocre NFC North with a road victory against Jacksonville 30-12. The Vikings jumped on the Jaguars on the first play of the game and never looked back in defeating the slumping Jags easily on Sunday. David Garrard lined up in shotgun formation, but center Brad Meester apparently thought he was under center. The snap fell to the ground and Napoleon Harris picked it up and ran 28 yards for a touchdown. The Jaguars were behind 7-0 and stunned after just seven seconds. It got worse as rookie Brian Witherspoon fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Minnesota recovered another loose ball. Chester Taylor found the end zone three plays later and the Vikings quickly had a 14-0 lead which the Jaguars could never recover from. The Vikings didn’t need Adrian “Superman” Peterson much in this game although he rushed for 80 yards. Lucky for them they didn’t need him early because he was unavailable.
Peterson was benched to start the game because he was late for a team meeting earlier in the week. The Vikings are now tied with the Bears at 6-5 with the Packers just a game behind at 5-6 with five games remaining. They will look to take control of the division at home this Sunday night when they face Chicago. A win and the Vikings can control the division and their own playoff destiny.
Broncos: How bad is the AFC West? You are the Denver Broncos, you have a two game lead over a slumping San Diego team, you have a chance to extend your division lead to three games with only five games left to play and you lose at home to one of the worse teams in football who happens to be your most hated rival. Yes, Denver managed to accomplish mediocrity losing at home to the Raiders 31-10 in a game that was never close. Rookie Darren McFadden ran for two 1-yard touchdowns and Oakland, who hadn’t scored an offensive touchdown in 15 quarters, scored three TDs in an 18-play span to snap a four-game losing streak. It was also redemption for the Raiders after being embarrassed in the season opener at the hands of the Broncos. In that game, the Broncos repeatedly picked on since-released corner back DeAngelo Hall, and they went after his replacement, Chris Johnson, with very little success Sunday. The Broncos had little success in any category against the Raiders in this game. Jay Cutler was 16 of 37 for only 204 yards, they ran the ball for less than 100 yards and the offense had the ball for under 28 minutes in the game. Denver, like San Diego, continues to be inconsistent and underachieve, but are fortunate to have two more wins than the Chargers including the controversial win against them earlier this season. Even if they win the AFC West and make the playoffs, look for an early exit for this team. Maybe it’s finally time for the Pat Bowlen to start taking a look at replacing long time coach and friend Mike Shanahan.
Chargers: Let’s see, you need a victory to stay within striking distance of the division leading Broncos, who gave you a gift by losing to the Raiders and you lose at home to the Colts. I know this is redundant folks, but the Chargers will not make the playoffs because of two words — NORV TURNER.
Panthers: Carolina continues to struggle for the third straight week but this time instead of pulling out a victory, they took a loss. After the falling behind division rival Atlanta early, closing the gap in the second and third quarters, the Panthers eventually fell short to Atlanta 45-28 at the Georgia Dome. It’s hard to put your finger on the issues with the NFC South co-leaders. At 8-3, you would think they don’t have too many problems but evidently they do after barely beating the pathetic Raiders and Lions and getting routed by the Falcons.
Offensively, Jake Delhomme continues to be inaccurate although he played much better against the Falcons, especially in the third quarter. The offensive playbook seems to lack imagination and is very predictable. Defensively, they allow too many big plays in the running and passing game during the game especially late in games when they are trying to tie or take the lead. Julius Peppers seems to sleep walk through games like he’s either uninterested or unenthusiastic. They were dominated and out physicalled by the Falcons which seems to be there theme the last three weeks. It isn’t clear what the biggest problems for Carolina are at this point but what is clear is they are clearly not as good as their 8-3 record would lead you to believe.
Dolphins: After dominating New England in their first match up in Foxboro, the Dolphins were handed their fins all day in Miami losing to the Pats this time around 48-28. The Dolphins allowed Matt Cassel to throw for over 415 yards, Randy Moss to catch the ball for over 125 yards and they made numerous turnovers and mistakes costing them the game. This was a crucial lost for Miami who couldn’t afford to fall too far behind and couldn’t afford to lose another division game, now find themselves on the outside looking in for the playoffs this season but have made huge strides an improvement this season. They have a lot of work to do to get back to respectability but they are well on their way.
Titans: After two weeks of back to back comebacks, Tennessee couldn’t come up with the same magic against the Jets. A heavy dose of Thomas Sanders, Leon Washington and the Jets defense, was too much for the once undefeated Titans to overcome losing their first game 34-13 in front of a sell outcrowd in Tennessee. This is the first time the Titans are in any other category but “THE GOOD”. It wasn’t that the Titans were necessarily bad, they just weren’t good enough and played out of character in their loss to New York. They allowed the Jets to be more physical, they allowed the Jets to rush the ball successfully, they turned the ball over and once again, struggled to run the ball. Surprisingly, they didn’t get much pressure on Brett Favre and win they couldn’t run the ball. Kerry Collins didn’t make any plays down the field to keep them in the game. Although there is no such thing as a good loss, this one is as close to being a positive one as you can get because I believe Jeff Fisher will use this loss as a rallying cry for the team to prove all the non-believers of the Titans as a legitimate top team and a legitimate contender for the Super Bowl. Let’s face it, MANY PEOPLE in the media and others, are sleeping easier at night now the Titans loss because they didn’t want Tennessee to tie the beloved Patriots who went undefeated in the regular season but choked in the Super Bowl. That’s all the Titans really care about. An undefeated season would have been nice but they have their eye on the prize and will re-group and re-tool the rest of the season and into the playoffs. They are still talented, physical and poise to get to the big game this season if for no other reason, to prove all of the doubters and haters wrong.
Eagles: Things have gone really bad fast in the city of brotherly love. Philly is reeling with another lost and their is “no love” being shown by Andy Reid to Donovan McNabb after another loss, this time to the Baltimore Ravens 36-7. What made matters worse, Reid showed no class when he benched McNabb at halftime in favor of Kevin Kolb. but made one of his assistant coaches tell McNabb of the move rather than be a MAN and the head coach and tell McNabb himself. The Eagles are like a dysfunctional marriage and a decision to part ways seems to be a solutions. McNabb has never been a fan favorite in Philly and is always the scapegoat while Reid seems to fly low under the blame radar. McNabb is not calling the offensive plays, Reid is yet McNabb has all fingers pointed at him. This team will not make the playoffs even if they beat the Cardinals on Thanksgiving which I think they will. It will be a one night stand with McNabb and the fans if they beat the Cardinals but the next morning, reality will set in and the fans will get back to hating the franchise greatest player once again.
Chiefs: Kansas City is officially the worse team in football. Anytime you allow a struggling quarterback like Trent Edwards to play like he’s a Hall of Fame quarterback and you allow a struggling offense like the Bills to look like a scoring machine, you have to be the worse professional football team on the planet. The Chiefs achieve such status in allowing 54 points to the bills in yet another loss. Whether you think Herm Edwards is solely the blame for the Chiefs horrible season or not, he will be fired or will resign at the end of the season.
Lions: At least Detroit has been competitive in most of their games this season but they still haven’t tasted a victory this year. Look for them to move closer to immortality this Thursday as they will lose to a very angry Tennessee Titans team coming off their first loss of the season.
Packers: Green Bay fans can’t blame this loss solely on Aaron Rodgers. Yes he threw three interceptions in their 51-29 loss to New Orleans, but the defense couldn’t stop Drew Brees and the Saints offense. The Packers secondary was supposed to be a strong point of their defense, yet they were shredded time and time again by Brees with big pass plays down the field. The Packers fall one game behind the Vikings and Bears who play this Sunday and the winner could really put themselves in a great position to win the division. I still like the Packers to pull it out in the end although another performance like the one against the Saints and they will be home for the holidays.
Browns: You let Sage Rosenfels beat you? That’s what many Cleveland fans must be saying after another bad home loss, this time to the Houston Texans 10-6. “Mr. Savior” Brady Quinn was ineffective causing head coach Romeo Crennel to yank him in the third quarter for former starter Derek Anderson(sound familiar). Crennel has totally mishandled the quarterback situation this year with Anderson and Quinn and it’s going to cost him his job along with many other factors with this team. Now that Quinn is out for the rest of the season with a broken index finger, Anderson becomes the starter again which will make remaining home games a circus for Anderson and the Browns because the fans will boo him especially when he throws an interception or incomplete pass. Like the Eagles, it’s time to shake up the team and start over from players, to coaches to the General Manager.
Cardinals: Arizona may be kings of the mediocre NFC West, but they also proved they are still not among the league’s elite after losing to the Giants 37-29. The Cardinals are not ready for prime time especially defensively as they continue to give up big points in big games. The Giants came into the game with no Brandon Jacobs and loss Plaxico Burress early in the game and Arizona still couldn’t but scoring is not enough. The Cardinals need to get stops defensively and not get into a scoring match every game in order to win if they wanna be among the league’s elite teams. They will win the NFC West because they are the best of the worst teams in that division but look for an early exit out of the playoffs.
Jaguars: Jacksonville is officially out of playoff contention after another bad loss at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings. The injury-depleted Jags dropped to 4-7 after early mistakes and turnovers in the game at home against the Vikings. David Garrard continues to run for his life from constant pressure from the Vikings defense while the defense allowed Adrian Peterson to break free in the open to score a touchdown and rush for 80 yards. The biggest problem with this version of the Jaguars is the players vs head coach Jack Del Rio. His fiery style of coaching doesn’t seem to resinate with the players anymore and it’s time for him to step down and allow another voice to be heard in order for this franchise to take the next step in becoming an elite team and winning a championship.
Games To Watch
1. Giants at Washington
Key Matchup: Giants defensive line vs the Redskins offensive line. The winner of this battle will win the game. The Giants want to stop the run and control the line of scrimmage to force Jason Campbell win the game passing the ball while the Redskins wanna control the line of scrimmage to sustain long drives and score points in order to keep Eli Manning and the offense off the field. If the Giants win, they will probably secure the best record in the NFC if not football.
2. Carolina at Green Bay
Key Matchup: Julius Peppers vs Aaron Rodgers. This is a must win for both teams. The Packers have to stay within striking distance of the Vikings and Bears while the Panthers need to win to stay tied with the Buccaneers. It’s time for Julius Peppers to step up and play like the dominant player that everyone expects him to be and get after Aaron Rodgers and the Packer offense. On the other side, Rodgers has to do a better job at reading the defense, avoid the pressure and make smarter decisions with the football. The player that steps up and has a big game for their team will help lead his team to victory.
3. Denver at Jets
Key Matchup: Jay Cutler vs Brett Favre. Both teams sit atop of their prospective divisions but the Jets need to keep winning because their division lead is only one as oppose to the Broncos lead by two games. The Broncos need to control the ball and Cutler needs to stay out of third and long in order to avoid mistakes against the Jets. Defensively, the Broncos must force out the old Bret Favre into throwing interceptions and capitalized on those mistakes if and when they occur. If they don’t force turnovers it could be long day for the AFC West leaders.
4. Chicago at Minnesota
Key Matchup: The Bears defense vs Adrian Peterson. Simply put, if the Bears stop Adrian Peterson, they win the game, if they don’t, the Vikings will be alone in first place.
5. Pittsburgh at New England
Key Matchup: The Steelers defense vs Matt Cassell. The Steelers need to shut down the Patriots running game, contain Randy Moss and force Matt Cassell to win the game for the Patriots. Cassell did the job the last two weeks throwing for over 400 yards but that was against teams like the Dolphins not the league’s best defense. The Patriots will need to put pressure on Big Ben and try to force him to turn the ball over like he did in games against the Giants and Colts. The team that wins the turnover battle and can run the football successfully will win the game.
My top 15 teams after week 12
1. Giants 2. Pittsburgh 3. Jets 4. Tennessee 5. Indianpolis 6. Tampa Bay 7. Washington 8. Atlanta 9. New England 10. Carolina 11. Dallas 12. Minnesota 13. Baltimore 14. Chicago 15. New Orleans
Best performance a Division I college football team
Oklahoma Sooners: Although I don’t think the Sooners will play in the National Championship, they certainly are playing well enough to play in the big game after destroying the Number two team, Texas Tech 65-21 in Norman last weekend. The Sooners were dominate on offense and were physical on defense in beating the Red Raiders easily knocking down in the rankings and ruining their national championship hopes. It’s about time “BIG GAME BOB” Stoops finally one a big game but unfortunately the lost to Texas will hurt their chances to play in the big game.
Worst performance by a Division I college football team
Notre Dame: Once again, the “fighting leprechauns” lose again but this time they sunk to an all-time low. After leading by 13 points in a game against one of the worst Division I teams in America, the leprechauns found a way to snatch defeat from victory losing to the Syracuse Orangemen 24-23 on Senior day in South Bend. The Leprechauns have one game left against USC and after they are destroyed in that game, they will finish at .500 and could finish the coaching job for Charlie “the great” Weis at Notre Dame.
Best HBCU football team of the week
South Carolina State: Congratulations on a great season goes out to the Bulldogs of SC State as MEAC Champions, making the Division 1-A playoffs and playing hard in a tough and unfair environment losing to the three-time National Champion Mountaineers of Appalachian State 37-21 in Boone, NC. The Bulldogs had a lead on a couple of occasions in the game and trailed only by three points going into fourth quarter but just came up short The Bulldogs defense was stellar once again, pounding and containing Mountaineer receivers and backs for most of the game but App took advantage of field position and their home crowd to move on. The Bulldogs and their fans, should not only be proud of this season but they should be excited for next season. SC State represented their school, conference and HBCU’s over all over the country extremely well. One can only wonder if the result would have been different if the game was played in South Carolina or on a neutral site. Hmmmm?????
Best HBCU football player of the week
William Ford of SC State University: Ford was a man among boys rushing the ball 23 times for 117 yards and a touchdown in a losing effort against Appalachian State. Ford averaged 5.1 yards per rush and kept the Bulldogs within striking distance of the three time defending Champions. Congratulations to Ford and the Bulldogs on a great season.
Until next week…….Stay positive, be safe and enjoy the games!