Let’s see…What did I learn this weekend? Tom Brady is awesome and the Patriots are playing better football than anyone (to be fair, I knew that first half already). Peyton Manning is going to be just fine, but his team is still playing with fire on a weekly basis. The Chargers are still the best team in the AFC West, and either Brody Croyle is not ready to run the offense in Kansas City or Todd Haley trusts him less than Ed Rooney trusts Ferris Bueller. The Jets are knee-deep in an identity crisis of unknown origin. The Eagles can score. The Jags refuse to go away. The Bears…are who I thought they were. So is the entire NFC West. The Eagles are dangerous, but so are all those hits their superstar QB is taking. That’s a quick spin around the league. As we await an unexpected Monday Night Football doubleheader thanks to Mother Nature (who apparently has a crush on Brett Favre and his consecutive games streak), let’s dive in a bit deeper, shall we?
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 36, CHICAGO BEARS 7: Tom Brady threw for 369 yards and two scores in a freaking blizzard, and the Pats utterly demolished the Bears on every level. This surprises me, like, not at all. Anybody listening or reading along this season knows I think the Bears are total frauds, and I’d like to thank the Patriots for driving home the point. The Pats are on a mission. Look out, NFL. That is 81-10 combined the past two weeks over the Jets and Bears, both playoff teams (allegedly). The new offensive gameplan has been largely unstoppable, and the defense is getting better every week with a ton of young, fast, smart, explosive talent. And oh, by the way: the Patriots have more early round picks than anyone in the next couple of drafts. The Hoodie has created a scenario usually reserved for my Madden Franchises. Are we witnessing the dawn of a second Belichickian Dynasty?
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 30, DALLAS COWBOYS 27: Hey, here’s an idea for teams that play the Eagles going forward: keep an eye on DeSean Jackson on the game’s opening play. That’s twice he’s toasted inexplicably unsuspecting defensive backfields. How do you not see that coming? At any rate, Jackson put up a ridiculous 210 yards on four catches, for a staggering 52.5 yards per catch. The guy is essentially uncoverable, and he and Michael Vick are a perfect fit. The Eagles also showed some much needed brute force as they ran the clock down to finish it off. LeSean McCoy put up 149 yards rushing and the Eagles held off the ‘Boys to improve to 9-4. Their awful start destroyed their season, but the Cowboys are playing much better football under Jason Garrett, and I would be stunned if Jerry Jones did not remove the interim tag. It’s what he wanted to do in the first place anyway.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 31, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 0: I went back and forth on Twitter yesterday with the very knowledgeable Herbie Teope over this one. I tweeted that the Chargers were just the better team. Herbie correctly pointed out that the Chiefs offense is a totally different unit with Matt Cassel at the helm, a point I readily concede. Indeed, Cassel has been playing some of the best quarterback in the league. But I don’t for a second believe he’s worth 31 points all by himself, and last I checked, he doesn’t play defense. The Chiefs got beaten up in the trenches on both sides of the ball in this one, and the Chargers scored 31 points without their favorite offensive weapon. Herbie agreed on the trenches, specifically noting that the Chiefs lack the NT they need to successfully run the 3-4. As a result, the Chargers ran it down the Chiefs’ throats all day with Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews, and Philip Rivers conducted the attack with his usual symphonic brilliance. And, once again, Todd Haley was a little too cute or stubborn, depending on how you see it, with the playcalling. The Charger defense ignored the pass all day, and Haley never really tested it. Perhaps he simply didn’t trust Croyle, but they got down big and should have been trying to get Bowe, Moeaki and McCluster involved much earlier. They’re not quite championship ready, and Cassel’s absence, if it extends into next week, could cost them a trip to the playoffs.
MIAMI DOLPHINS 10, NEW YORK JETS 6: Anyone want to tell me why the New York Jets would throw the ball 46 times out of 75 plays in a game that ended 10-6 and was played in a driving rain storm? Anyone? No? Against a top 5 defense with quality pass rushers like Miami’s, that’s a good way to end up getting your young, still relatively inexperienced quarterback in trouble (remember, Sanchez started only 16 games at USC). Like it or not, Rex, this one’s on you. It’s your job to tell Mini-Schottenheimer what to do when he’s doing it wrong. And I bet his daddy would even do it for you in this instance, because nobody loves to pound the rock like Martyball. The Dolphins D showed up to play, but Chad Henne (55 yards passing) and the offense were atrocious. Brandon Marshall’s second TD of the year was the difference.
DETROIT LIONS 7, GREEN BAY PACKERS 3: The gasp of dread from Green Bay was audible all the way out here at Sickness HQ in Southern California when Aaron Rodgers got drilled into the turf headfirst and left with his second concussion on the season, which puts the rest of his campaign (and thus, the Pack’s) in jeopardy. Matt Flynn came on and could get nothing done, but the fact of the matter is the Lions seemed to have the Packers befuddled on offense even before the injury. Props to The Schwartz on a solid defensive game plan. The Lions couldn’t do anything on offense either, but they got the game’s only touchdown and that was enough.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 17, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 16: Graham Gano misses two chip shot field goals and the tying PAT with 9 seconds left. Any other questions? In all seriousness, of course there were other impact plays, but that’s the ballgame right there. Sidenote of congratulations to Redskins TE and fellow Bruin Logan Paulsen on his first career NFL touchdown catch.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 38, OAKLAND RAIDERS 31: I knew I shouldn’t have picked Oakland in this one. The Raiders’ defense couldn’t stop a thing, and despite a monster day from Darren McFadden and a fairly strong performance by Jason Campbell the offense couldn’t keep up with all the not stopping the defense was doing. Jacksonville, despite being outscored by its opponents on the year, are now 8-5 and a game ahead of the Colts with three to play, having beaten Indy earlier in the season. That makes this weekend’s trip to Indianapolis fairly important, I should think.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 30, TENNESSEE TITANS 28: As #18 said, people kept asking him about his ‘slump’ when the fact of the matter is he has been on an eight and a half-year hitting streak. But they still only beat a suddenly mediocre (at best) Titans team by 2 lousy points. Peyton is still Peyton, but the D and running game simply are not getting it done. The Titans are 0-5 since trading for Randy Moss. Probably not the key factor, but might be worth cutting him now just in case, since you’re not going to use him. At this point, one has to wonder whether the Titans were just grabbing him to deny others his 9 route. And also whether he’s going to play anywhere in 2011, lockout or no.
BUFFALO BILLS 13, CLEVELAND BROWNS 6: Browns fans saw an all too familiar pattern reinforced yesterday, as two solid opening drives resulted in 3 points because Jake Delhomme sucks and Peyton Hillis thinks he’s Edwin Moses. Good win for the Bills, who are more talented than most realize, are well coached, and have come close way too often this year not to come away with a couple toward the end here. Chan Gailey has done a pretty darn good job in 2010. Bills fans are bummed they’re losing draft standing, but it hasn’t gotten them very far in 2 decades to have high picks, so…yeah.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 23, CINCINNATI BENGALS 7: Carson Palmer is absolutely terrible. It’s time. Cincinnati needs to go into full blow-up mode, because they are far and away the worst team in their division and it’s not getting better. Quite the contrary. Two more pick sixes, one to Troy Polamalu and another to Lamarr Woodley. I know what you’re thinking- “shouldn’t it be ‘by’ Polamalu and Woodley? In theory, sure. But when the QB actually throws it to the DB, I choose accuracy over custom. Meanwhile…wait for it…the Pittsburgh Steelers…just…know how…to win. See what I mean by that? It’s uncanny, isn’t it? But that’s what makes them the Steelers.
ATLANTA FALCONS 31, CAROLINA PANTHERS 10: The Falcons made like BTO and took care of business.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 40, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 21: The Niners team many of us thought we were going to see in 2010 showed up and pasted a division foe at the ‘Stick. Why are they so incapable of playing like this from week to week? I’ve said it many times- consistency is the difference between garbage and greatness in the NFL. Speaking of which, Seahawks…you go to the garbage pile this week. Not the first time, not the last in 2010. Somehow, the ‘Hawks are still tied with the Rams for first place in the sorry NFC West at 6-7. Gross.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 31, ST. LOUIS RAMS 13: About what I thought. Sam Bradford moved the Rams decently, but made a couple of big mistakes, including a 96-yard pick six by Malcom Jenkins, who baited the rookie into making a throw outside the left seam just a second too late, snatched it, and took it to The House. Meanwhile, don’t look now, but the Saints are 10-3, and you’re only not noticing because the Falcons are 11-2. New Orleans never trailed and won their sixth straight. They’re getting healthy at the right time, are starting to make more plays on defense, and are a threat to win it all once again.
ARIZONA CARDINALS 43, DENVER BRONCOS 13: I have literally no idea why Kyle Orton was still in this game in the second half, because the Broncos certainly weren’t. Cardinals rookie QB John Skelton didn’t put up any numbers, but then he didn’t have to, did he? He did, however, look relatively poised and kept the offense moving. He even got the ball to Larry Fitzgerald 6 times for 72 yards, something Derek Anderson and Max Hall had struggled at times to do. Tim Hightower had a big game statistically, but much of it was in garbage time as the Cardinals defense just confounded the Donkeys (hey, you’re 3-10. Wear it.) all afternoon. Wouldn’t it be funny if the new Broncos coach, whomever he turns out to be, wanted to draft Cam Newton?
Enjoy the Monday Night doubleheader. Oh, and Minnesota: it was a lovely 80 degrees and crystal clear here in SoCal today. Think Zygi noticed as he was mentally noting how much it would cost to put a new baggy on that dinosaur? I bet he did.