Another week of NFL madness almost in the books, with only an NFC East Monday Night battle between the ultra-desperate Dallas Cowboys and the better-than-we-thought New York Giants left to unfold. This week started off crazier than most. The Bills got up big early on the Ravens before succumbing to superiority, the Browns hammered the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints into submission, #4 brought out some magic but couldn’t get it done in what we can only assume will be his final trip to Lambeau, and the Steelers got the rulebook bounce to eeek out a win in Miami. Let’s bounce around the league for a few notes and observations from each game.
TENNESSEE TITANS 37, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 19: Anyone else starting to think the NFC has no hope whatsoever of winning the Super Bowl this year? The Eagles looked on point a week ago in a thrashing of the Falcons. This week, they looked disinterested and lost, failing to make obvious adjustments in an ugly loss to the apparently dangerous Titans. Kenny Britt shook off his mid-week barfight benching to score three TD’s as the Titans beat a good team easily without a big Chris Johnson performance. This should tell us something. This team is legit.
GREEN BAY PACKERS 28, MINNESOTA VIKINGS 24: Too soon to have Wikipedia change the entry for “Regret” to include a big picture of Brett Favre? The ankle got hammered again and looks like it’s back to how it was in March, Favre can’t stop throwing bad INT’s, and there is a silicone-infested pox on his house. Things aren’t going well for the Ol’ Gunslinger. Tonight he looked like Cap Rooney trying to come back- he had happy feet and threw panic garbage up into the blue. This swan song ain’t going the way he envisioned it when the boys came down to the ranch to get him. The Pack needed this one to get back on track, and now have control in that division. (No, I don’t care that the Bears have the same number of wins.) Still plenty to iron out, and they obviously miss their injured stars, but they’re going to compete in the NFC just like we thought they were.
CLEVELAND BROWNS 30, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 17: Hang on, I’ll be right back. I’m just checking for frogs falling from the sky. And locusts. I expect both momentarily.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 23, MIAMI DOLPHINS 22: Hmmmmm. Awfully nice break they got there. But a win is a win, and the Steelers did it again. There’s no “deserve” column in the standings. This isn’t the BCS.
ATLANTA FALCONS 39, CINCINNATI BENGALS 32: Carson Palmer threw for over 400 yards. Great. They were down 17-0. Am I supposed to be impressed that he then was able to chuck it around after it meant little? And hey, Bengals: Roddy White is still open. How is it that NFL teams haven’t figured this out yet? Cover him. With 2 guys. All the time. Matt Ryan barely even bothers to look at anyone else. 12 catches, 201 yards, 2 TD’s and a 2-point conversion that made him look like a 7th-grader playing with 2nd-graders. The Bengals, well…they pretty much just reek. Ced Benson once again couldn’t do much, the defense played horrible football all the way around, and the Bengals were down early and thus out of it by halftime. Forget the score. The Mouthy Twins made plays all day, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Most NFL teams aren’t good enough to spot a playoff contender 17 points and have any hope of winning. And the Bengals aren’t as good as most NFL teams. True story.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS 17, CHICAGO BEARS 14: I’d like to thank the Bears and Redskins for three hours of hideously unwatchable football. Four picks for DeAngelo Hall and the Redskins get a W (As in, “Wow. We really get a win for that?”) Who here has seen Jay Cutler and Jeff George in the same place before? Can I get one of those neat Camaro n’ mullet mustaches superimposed on a picture of Cutler just to be sure? I think we may have a Finkle-and-Einhorn kind of thing going on here. The Bears are just awful on offense. It’s like Cutler is in a race with the offensive line to see which happens first: he throws the final backbreaking pick, or they chaperone some pleasantly-surprised defensive lineman in to finally break Cutler’s back.
OAKLAND RAIDERS 59, DENVER BRONCOS 14: There are some really gross things happening in the Davis Estates this evening, I fear. Really gross. Look, if Darren McFadden plays like that, the Raiders aren’t losing another game. But I’m guessing we’re likely to see a lot of big days against that Broncos’ run defense. Small, weak and slow is no way to go through life in the NFL, boys. Also, it was nice to see Kyle Orton remember that he is, in fact, Kyle Orton. Change is scary, and that one was freaking me the hell out.
BALTIMORE RAVENS 37, BUFFALO BILLS 34: To say that the Ravens almost choked is the obvious observation here, but the fact of the matter is that the Buffalo Bills played one hell of a football game and were simply constrained by their limitations, most notably a dearth quality NFL players. But Lee Evans and Steve Johnson are certainly 2 of them, and Ryan Fitzpatrick at least played one on TV this weekend. The Bills just missed getting a huge first win, and if not for a questionable non-whistle on the clinching Ray Lewis strip of Shawn Nelson, they might have pulled it out in overtime. Tough way to go out. Despite the frightening adventure, the Ravens can take pride in coming back from way down.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 23, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 20: Personally, I think that classic song from The Wizard of Oz said it best: “Turnovers and penalties and brain farts, oh my!” I’ll ask it again, though it appears to be largely for the benefit of my sanity: Why does Norv Turner still have this (or any) head coaching job in the NFL? I don’t get it. Offensive coordinators make good money too, Norv. Good cross-country win for the Patriots, who are now 2-0 After Randy. Just saying. If they keep winning, Mr. Brady needs to be in the MVP conversation.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 22, ARIZONA CARDINALS 10: Nobody goes into the Seahawks’ house and gets a win. Nobody! That defense is really turning into something. They’re extremely stout against the run, and opportunistic in the passing game, with rookie safety and Sickness favorite Earl Thomas getting yet another pick in this one. Meanwhile, they started to work Marshawn Lynch a bit more, and Big Mike Williams caught 11 balls and a score. I like what I’m seeing in Seattle.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 18, ST. LOUIS RAMS 17. Josh Freeman does it again in the 4th quarter. This kid has that thing, believe you me. He also has Mike Williams, who made more than one fantastic bail-out catch to save Freeman’s bacon. The defense did enough, and Cadillac Williams got open for the winning score from Freeman, who has now done this 5 times in his brief NFL career. In related news, who the hell is going to want that Panthers’ job when they fire John Fox? Atlanta, New Orleans and now the Bucs look to be a team on the rise…that division is a quiet monster. A tough loss for the Rams, but no reason to hang their heads. A young football team is going to lose games like that, especially on the road.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 42, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 20. The Jaguars lost by more than 22 points for the fourth time this season. That’s not good. The Chiefs are, though. They’re using Dexter McCluster and Jamaal Charles more, Dwayne Bowe is coming to life, and Matt Cassel even looks vaguely comfortable running the offense. The defense and special teams are making plays, and the schedule sets up nicely. The Chiefs have the inside track on the Raiders in the AFC West.
CAROLINA PANTHERS 23, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 20: We’re sending the Broncos and Niners over to London this week? I’m not even sure which joke to use. Is it (1) “We want them to like NFL football, right?” Or, perhaps (2) “Payback for the whole ‘Boston Massacre’ thing, is it?” Or maybe (3) “What, did the Queen run out of knitting associates for tea and crumpets next week?” Whatever. David Gettis became this week’s Danario Alexander, Alex Smith fell down and got a boo-boo, and the Niners lost to a previously winless Panthers team that sucks. Real bad. The Niners are clearly on the Andrew Luck plan at this point.
THESE TEAMS LOOKED AMAZING ON BYE: NEW YORK JETS, HOUSTON TEXANS, DETROIT LIONS, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS