By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
The NFL’s Good, Bad & Ugly: Week 10
NORTH CAROLINA — Week 10 provided us with another wild weekend of NFL action.
The Titans and Giants showed why they are head and shoulders above the rest of the league with big road wins.
The Lions remain winless while the 49ers fell short of a victory due to poor play calling and poor clock management.
Let’s examine all of this and other story lines in the Good, Bad and Ugly of the NFL and college football.
Giants: Once again, the Super Bowl champs have a tough task and once again they pass with flying colors! Eli Manning threw two touchdown passes, Brandon Jacobs had 126 yards and two TD runs and New Tork held on to beat Philly 36-31 and further distance themselves from the pack in the NFL’s toughest division. The Eagles had the ball at their own 45 with 1:55 left, but Brian Westbrook was stopped by Chase Blackburn on fourth-and-1. The Giants have now beaten the Redskins, Cowboys and Eagles this season. With two of their final three meetings coming against these division foes at home in the second half of the season, New York is in the driver’s seat. Once again, Manning was a workman like 17 of 31 for 191 yards and two touchdowns leaving the heavy lifting to Jacobs and the Giants defense. Although Donovan McNabb played well and threw for three touchdowns, the Giants set out to stop his tag team partner in the game and they did. The Giants defense focused on Westbrook and held him to 26 yards on 13 carries and two catches for the game. The Giants are focused, physical, poised, talented and confident right now and those are tough qualities to overcome if you are an opponent. Just think if they were as focused in the Browns game and didn’t take them lightly, we would be talking about two undefeated teams right now. They are the best team in football not because of their defense or their running game, but because they can beat you in a close game or destroy you, and they can win in a low scoring game or a game like they played Sunday night against the Eagles. It should be a low scoring game for them this week as they welcome the surprisingly tough Baltimore Ravens with an exceptional defense of their own.
Titans: Tennessee continues to take care of business and in the game against the Bears, they showed this time that their quarterback can lead them to victory. With LenDale White and Chris Johnson struggling to rush the ball, Kerry Collins threw for a season-high 289 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-14 win Sunday over Chicago. Even though they kept losing yards, the Titans continued to run the ball, although unsuccessfully, which makes Collins performance even more impressive. The Titans proved they can win even when they are not at their best, which is a credit to their coaching staff and players. Like the Giants, they can beat you by shutting you down defensively, forcing turnovers, running the ball and apparently with their quarterback play. Say what you want about them and their schedule but they are undefeated and that’s what matters.
Colts: Don’t look now, but Indy is suddenly back in playoff contention. The Colts beat the Patriots two weeks ago at home and upset the Steelers on the road thanks to the defense coming up with two big interceptions of Ben Roethlisberger. Dominic Rhodes came out of the backfield on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 3:04 remaining for Indianapolis’ only lead, and the Colts rallied in a virtual must-win game to beat Pittsburgh 24-20 on Sunday. Manning also hit Reggie Wayne on a 65-yard touchdown pass play on a tipped ball that wasn’t well thrown as well as Dallas Clark on a 2-yard scoring pass six seconds before halftime following an unnecessary interception by Roethlisberger, helping end the Colts’ 40-year losing streak in Pittsburgh. Manning struggled throughout the game going 21-40 for 240 yards with three touchdowns, two off Roethlisberger interceptions. The Steelers wasted another great performance by their defense, holding Colts running back, Joseph Addai, to 12 carries for 34 yards and Dominic Rhodes to seven carries for 28 yards. It was the Colts making plays on offense and capitalizing on Steeler mistakes (Indy converted 56 percent on third down). The Steelers are now 0-2 against the Manning brothers this season and more importantly, dropped into a tie for first place with the Ravens. The Colts look to win their third straight game when they host the reeling Houston Texans.
Ravens: Baltimore continues to win football games with a rookie quarterback and a rookie head coach. Joe Flacco threw two touchdowns and Ray Lewis had a pair of interceptions to lead Baltimore to a 41-13 victory over the Texans on Sunday. The Ravens have scored at least 27 points in a team-record four consecutive games. Sunday was the first time they’ve scored more than 40 points on the road since 1999. Although Flacco is playing well, we can’t overlook the aging but still effective defense led by All-World LB Lewis and running back Willis McGahee. Baltimore’s defense held Houston to only 19 first downs, 37 percent on third down conversions, intercepted Sage Rosenfels four times, including two by Lewis and sacked him two times. McGahee ran the ball well for 112 yards on 25 carries and scored two touchdowns. The Ravens have taken advantage of a weak schedule and clawed their way back into a tie with the Steelers atop the AFC Northern division. The position at the top with the Steelers could be a short one as they travel to the Meadowlands to face the red hot Super Bowl Champion Giants.
Falcons: What do we make of Atlanta? Like the Ravens, the Falcons have a rookie coach, rookie quarterback and a 6-3 record after another impressive performance this time at home dominating the Saints 34-20. Atlanta’s defense, led by John Abraham, constantly pressured Drew Brees and forced some turnovers leading to their six win of the season. This from a team who only won four games all of last season. The Falcon defense forced Brees to throw three interceptions including one that was taken to the house and only 46 percent on third downs. The offense did what it needed to do with a balance attack of 248 total yards passing and 113 yards on the ground. The Falcons continue to play hard and hang around in the NFC Southern division. The Falcons’ defense needs to get ready for another team that can score points in bunches as they host the Denver Broncos.
Adrian Peterson: They don’t call him “All Day” for nothing. The Packers were reminded of that Sunday as Peterson single-handily demolished Green Bay’s defense, running for 192 yards on 30 carries including the game winning 29-yard scamper in the end zone to give the Vikings a 28-27 victory at home. Peterson not only continues to show how great he is as a running back, he shows he is durable, which was a question many people wondered when he entered the league. Despite the poor play of Gus Ferrotte at times in this game, it was Peterson that kept Minnesota in the game with his play and won the game late for the Vikings who are now tied for first place after Chicago’s loss. It doesn’t get easier for Peterson and Minnesota as they travel to Tampa to take on the Bucs and their attacking defense.
Saints: New Orleans has been one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this season. The Saints again failed to string together their first winning streak of the season losing to Atlanta 34-20. The loss is a severe blow to their postseason hopes in the highly competitive NFC South. With Reggie Bush still recovering from a knee injury and the Saints barely bothering with a running game, Drew Brees also was picked off by Chris Houston and Erik Coleman. He threw for 422 yards and two touchdowns, but much of that was done after Atlanta got out to a big lead in the game. You can’t win in this league if you can’t stop the run or run the ball and as good as Brees is playing, even he can’t hide those weaknesses enough for the Saints to consistently win. Look for the team that made it to the NFC title game just two years ago, to fade fast out of playoff contention.
Chargers: I know San Diego won their game against K.C. 20-19, but with the talent they possess, the game shouldn’t have been that close. They allowed Tyler Thigpen to throw for 266 yards and three touchdowns. Tony Gonzalez caught 10 catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns, but the Chargers managed to pull out a one-point victory against the team with only one win. The once proud San Diego defense is playing like one of the worst defenses in football even with all the talent they have on that side of the ball. We know they lost Shawne Merriman, but this Chargers’ defense still has the ability to step up and shut down a pathetic offense like the Chiefs with a quarterback named Thigpen. San Diego’s defense played so erratically in the season’s first half, that defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell was fired and replaced by inside linebackers’ coach Ron Rivera. Despite coming off their bye, the Chargers looked lethargic in the first half and were booed heading to the locker room, trailing 13-6. San Diego made enough plays in the second half including a pass in the end zone on a two point conversion to preserve the victory, but that’s the problem — they only do enough to win or they flat out lose. Norv Turner has managed to take all the hard work and accomplishments his predecessor, Marty Shottenheimer, built up, and destroyed it as fast as George Bush turned a surplus into a deficit over eight years as the President. The only complete game they’ve played all season was the game against the Matt Cassel-led Patriots. They better be ready to play a complete game this week as they travel to Pittsburgh to face an angry Steelers team coming off a horrible loss against the Colts.
Bills: Let’s see, total net yards: 168. Total turnovers: 2. Total time of Possession: 22:20. Total points against the Patriots:10. Those are some of the pathetic numbers the reeling Buffalo Bills compiled in their 20-10 loss against the Patriots at Foxboro. Trent Edwards needed to have a big game because Buffalo’s running game is struggling and he didn’t come through. He was 13-of-23 for only 120 yards for one touchdown and two interceptions. Edwards was not the only one who struggled. Lee Evans had just two catches for 22 yards and Marshawn Lynch gained only 46 yards on 14 carries as the Bills continue to try and find an offensive identity even after nine games into their season. If this team doesn’t get turnovers, they struggle to score points and in this game they only forced one and allowed the Patriots to control the ball for over 37 minutes of the game. It is clear these are two teams heading in opposite directions. New England is taking advantage of a weak division and probably will make the playoffs while Buffalo is slip sliding away and will be lucky to finish .500.
Texans: Whether it’s Matt Schaub or Sage Rosenfels, Houston continues to put up good offensive numbers, but continue to turn the ball over and lose football games. Joe Flacco threw for two touchdowns and Ray Lewis intercepted two passes as the Ravens controlled the ball and forced mistakes and turnovers on the way to their easy 34-13 victory over the back-sliding Texans. Houston had a penalty and mistake-filled day with Rosenfels playing for the injured Schaub. In his first start earlier this season, he led the team to a 17-point lead before his fourth-quarter turnovers allowed the Colts to rally for a win. His errors started early in this one and he never had a lead to lose. He was intercepted four times, with the first one coming in the end zone in the first quarter. The promise of the Texans defense has never materialized this season. Although they didn’t give up many yards and their offense put them in bad positions all day, they did allow another 100 yard rusher and didn’t't force any turnovers in the game against an average offense at best with a rookie quarterback. I now put Gary Kubiak in the Norv Turner School of Coaching, which allows you to answer with his name for all the problems the Texans will have the rest of the season. So let’s begin with this statement — Houston will not make the playoffs because of two words: GARY KUBIAK.
Browns: Well, Cleveland turned to their native son to try and turn around their season and once again, they come up short. Even inserting Brady Quinn as the starting quarterback for the Browns could not stop Jay Cutler and the Denver Broncos. Cutler passed for a career-high 447 yards and threw three touchdown passes in the final 15 minutes Thursday night — the last one an 11-yarder to Brandon Marshall with 1:14 remaining — to rally the Broncos to a 34-30 win spoiling Quinn’s highly hyped debut as an NFL starter. The Broncos entered the fourth quarter trailing 23-13, but Cutler brought Denver back. He recorded his fifth career fourth-quarter comeback victory despite losing two more running backs to injuries and only having his fullback to carry the ball. Cutler threw a 93-yard TD pass to rookie wide receiver Eddie Royal, a 28-yarder to tight end Daniel Graham, and then finished off the Browns–like so many Denver teams have done in the past– with his toss to Marshall in the corner of the end zone. The Broncos have beaten Cleveland eight straight times and been the Browns’ longtime nemesis, with Elway beating them three times in AFC title games. Cutler finished 24-of-42 with three TDs and one interception. He piled up 204 yards passing in the fourth quarter alone. Quinn threw two TD passes to Kellen Winslow and went 23-of-35 for 239 yards, but like former starter, Derrick Anderson, Quinn can’t play defense. Once again Cleveland’s defense allowed another team to comeback and score enough points in the fourth quarter of the game to win. So now where do the Browns go? You insert Quinn and still lose. How about fixing the defense? Derrick Anderson and Quinn in the game together couldn’t win if the defense can’t stop teams piling up points, particularly in the fourth quarter. Besides, I am not sold on Brady Quinn. He looked okay against a very bad Broncos defense that was already allowing big plays and lots of points coming into this game. What’s sad is Anderson is the scapegoat for Browns’ failures this season and is the odd man out. The irony is that Anderson’s playing last season led to GM Phil Savage and head coach Romeo Crennel getting contract extensions. Now they are ready to ship his butt out of town replacing him with the hometown boy (Quinn).
Ben Roethlisberger: Hey, Steeler fans, here is a question for you. WHY THE HELL DID THEY START BEN ROETHLISBERGER? Big Ben looked okay with no pressure, but the moment he got pressure in the pocket, it was disaster for the Steelers. Peyton Manning took advantage of Roethlisberger’s fourth quarter interception and the Colts rallied in a virtual must-win game to beat the Steelers 24-20 on Sunday. Manning also hit Reggie Wayne on a 65-yard touchdown pass play on a tipped ball that wasn’t well thrown and Dallas Clark on a 2-yard scoring pass six seconds before halftime following an unnecessary interception by Roethlisberger. It helping end the Colts’ 40-year losing streak in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger was 30-of-42 for 284 yards but three big picks that the Colts were very happy to take advantage of leading to 14 points. Roethlisberger is hurt physically but much more important, mentally. He reminds me of Drew Bledsoe, who was beaten up and battered so much in New England, he developed happy feet that eventually led to his exit out of the league. You can’t throw the ball from your back and even if you are standing, you can’t think more about pressure than passing the ball down the field, which is something Roethlisberger didn’t concern himself with until the last couple of years. I know the offensive line has not been the best at protecting him in pass protection, but Big Ben should get a lot of the blame. He holds the ball, looks confused like the game is moving too fast for him, but more importantly, the Big Ben of the past would have improvised and made a play by running the ball or scrambling enough to make a big throw down the field. Now, Big Ben scrambles to avoid the sack and instead of running the ball, he holds the ball long enough to get sacked or throw a bad interception. The Steelers need to rest Ben and let him get physically and mentally healthy because right now, he is hurting the team. Head Coach Mike Tomlin should look back to a few years ago when Roethlisberger was hurt in a motorcycle accident and instead of Bill Cowher sitting him and starting a very capable Charlie Batch, he went with Big Ben and Ben wasn’t ready. This is the same scenario with only Tomlinson and Byron Leftwich playing the role of Cowher and Batch respectively. This season and this situation is heading in that direction.
Chiefs: Playing better but still only has one win after losing to the Chargers 20-19. The bottom line is they have no talent on this team outside of tight end Tony Gonzalez and Larry Johnson, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they lose their remaining games of the season which would more than likely have Herm Edwards looking for another job.
Seahawks: Like the Chiefs, Seattle is just banged up and lack talent at key positions. Quarterback Matt Hasselback could miss the rest of the season which would be the smart move, because they only have two wins after losing on the road to the Dolphins and will not make the playoffs. Mike Holmgrem must have seen the writing on the wall by deciding this would be his last season, because the team hasn’t played well and look like they are just playing out the season at this point.
49ers: This is a team in turmoil right now. They fired their head coach, their interim coach likes to show up players and pull his pants down in front of them, and their offensive coordinator blows the game against Arizonas with poor play calling and poor clock management and proceeds to blame the officials. As much as I respect and admire Mike Singletary, I don’t know if he is the right fit in San Francisco at this time. His in-your-face style isn’t working so far and he really is in a tough position because the 49ers need a quarterback, some receivers and secondary help to even be a .500 club and I don’t see that on their roster. In addition they need to fire offensive coordinator Mike Martz who’s never been a guy who holds himself accountable and never plays to the strength of his personnel. If the 49ers don’t overhaul the players and management soon, they will continue to be mediocre this season and seasons to come.
Raiders: Two words — AL DAVIS
Lions: Two words — DETROIT LIONS
The Packer defense: There is no excuse why Green Bay allowed Adrian “ALL DAY” Peterson to run all over them in their 28-27 loss at Minnesota last Sunday. The Packer offense gave the defense the lead on several occasions and yet they couldn’t hold the lead because they couldn’t contain “A.D.” Peterson’s rush for 192 yards, including the game winning 28-yard run to give the Vikings the victory and drop the Pack under .500 for the season. The “D” better step up and play better this week because they face the Bears and rookie sensation Matt Forte.
Games to watch
Baltimore at N.Y. Giants: This will be a battle of two hard-hitting defenses that can make big plays. The key match up will be how well rookie quarterback, Joe Flacco, can handle the Giants’ exceptional pass rush. If the Ravens can protect Flacco and he doesn’t make mistakes, the Ravens have a chance, but I wouldn’t't bet the house on it against the best team in football at home.
San Diego at Pittsburgh: The key in this game will be the quarterback play. Can Philip Rivers get the ball out of his hands quick enough against that powerful and athletic Steelers defense, can Tomlin run the ball against the Steelers and can Ben Roethlisberger handle what will be a barrage of blitzes the Chargers will throw at him? Willie Parker must run the ball effectively to take pressure off Big Ben in order for the Steelers to win at home.
Dallas at Washington: This is an interesting match up because both teams are coming off byes last week. The Cowboys hope to have starting quarterback Tony Romo back in the lineup while the Redskins are hoping running back Clinton Portis is healthy enough to play. The key match up will be the Dallas pass rush against Redskins’ quarterback Jason Campbell. I’m sure the Cowboys looked at a lot of the game the Skins played against the Steelers, where the Steelers sacked Jason Campbell seven times and made him very uncomfortable in the pocket all game. Cowboys’ defensive end DeMarcus Ware will try and be in the Redskins’ back field all day so Portis, other running backs and the tight ends must protect Campbell to allow him to throw the ball down the field.
Minnesota at Tampa Bay: The Vikings are coming off an emotional division win against the Packers, while the Bucs got a week off to heal. Expect the Bucs to do a better job in containing Adrian Peterson than the Packers did and try and force Viking quarterback Gus Ferrotte to beat them in the passing game. I don’t see that happening and the Bucs should win this game.
Chicago at Green Bay: The Bears travel to cheese land trying to put behind the tough loss they had last week against the undefeated Tennessee Titans while the Packers try to have a short memory after blowing the game against the Vikings last week. The Bears don’t have Adrian “superman” Peterson in their back field but they do have a solid rookie in Matt Forte. If the Bears can run the football and play defense like they did last week against the Titans,–in particular, how they held the Titans to 20 yards on the ground–they will win the game.
My top 15 teams after week 10:
1. Giants 2. Tennessee 3. Washington 4. Philadelphia 5.Pittsburgh 6. Tampa Bay 7. Carolina 8. New England 9. Indianapolis 10. Atlanta 11. Miami 12. Minnesota 13. Jets 14. Jacksonville 15. Greenbay
Best performance by a Division I college football team:
Florida Gators: I know Texas Tech knocked off the number one team in the land, the Texas Longhorns, but it’s hard to overlook the complete domination the Florida Gators have shown over the last four straight weeks with blowouts over LSU, Kentucky, Georgia and most recently, Vanderbilt. While teams like Oklahoma, Texas and Penn State have stumbled, the Gators have stepped of their play and are arguably the best team in College football. Look for the Gators to destroy Alabama in the SEC Title game and Texas Tech to lose to Oklahoma setting up a Florida vs. USC National Championship game.
Worst performance by a Division I college football team:
Notre Dame: When is this team going to beat a real college football team? The Armed Services doesn’t count. Boston College struggles from time to time to score points and clearly is not the best team in the ACC, yet they beat up on the not-so “Fighting Irish” 17-0 in Boston. I guess if they lose the rest of their games this year, Charlie Weis will get another 10-year extension. I heard Lou Holtz (Mr. Notre Dame homer) say because the game was in Massachusetts, Notre Dame would win because Charlie is back in the state where he won three championships with the Patriots. HUH? What the hell does that have to do with anything? Weis wasn’t even the head coach. It’s time for the little leprechaun (Holtz) and find a nice nursing home where he can make crazy ass statements like that and cheer on his beloved overrated Irish until he burst! No qualified African American coaches available? Yeah ok.
Best HBCU football team of the week:
Tuskegee: This program has been so dominant all season including their huge win over Lane College for homecoming 55-21. It is very clear to me the Golden Tigers can compete and even beat MANY teams in the top 25 in Division one football. They score a lot of points and make big plays on defense which has led to an undefeated season so far. It would be nice if they are allowed to play a top 25 Division one team like Appalachian State who played and beat Michigan a couple of years ago. They are by far, the best team in HBCU football.
Best HBCU football player of the week:
The Shaw University defense: I know I save this section for one player, but it was more than one player on the Bears of Shaw University’s defense that propelled the back to back CIAA Football Champions to an easy win over the surprising Vikings of Elizabeth City State University 36-7 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Shaw’s defense, which came in ranked first in total defense in the nation, giving up just 213 yards per game, held the Vikings to 238 yards and the one score. They sacked Vikings’ quarterback Curtis Rich four times and intercepted him once. Although Shaw’s Robinson finished with 16 completions in 33 attempts for 209 yards and 3 TDs and was the game MVP, it was the defense that set the tone to give Shaw its second CIAA Title in as many years.
Until next week…….Stay positive, be safe and enjoy the games!