After this game, I received an e-mail from Gary J:
So, shall I take a stab at what your going to say about the Bengals?
My guess is something along the lines of "ya sure Carson Palmer just threw for 412 but if you watched the game he clearly has no arm strength and should have been picked off three separate times. Most of his yards came on big plays so we can't count any of those because it's Carson Palmer were talking about. Also, Atlanta's top two [defensive backs] were out so it was like there was no one out there to cover.
"So just to recap, Carson Palmer is a washed-up has-been. Good luck to the 2011 Bengals and Ryan Mallet."
Something along those lines Walt?
Exactly! Thanks for saving for me the time, Gary!
The Falcons were up 24-3 in this contest, so it's not like it was close most of the afternoon. Palmer (36-of-50, 412 yards, 3 TDs) took advantage of Atlanta's prevent defense in the second half; he was just 11-of-20 for 95 yards at intermission. Palmer's one long score to Jordan Shipley (68 yards) was all on the receiver, who caught a short pass and took it the distance.
Shipley (6-131) outgained both Chad Ochocinco (10-108, TD) and Terrell Owens (9-88, TD).
The Falcons sport a good run defense, so they were able to limit Cedric Benson to 70 yards on 20 carries.
Atlanta produced 452 total yards of offense, but 299 came in the first half. Matt Ryan finished with that exact amount, going 24-of-33, three touchdowns and a pick.
Ryan had it going with Roddy White the entire afternoon. White caught 11 balls for 201 yards and two touchdowns. When White scored for the first time, CBS announcer Gus Johnson yelled, "HE IS THE BEST RECEIVER ON THE FIELD TODAY!!!"
Michael Turner beat up the Bengals, trampling them for 121 yards and a pair of scores on 23 carries.
Steelers 23, Dolphins 22
At 4 p.m. Sunday, I tweeted ( @walterfootball), "Dolphins-Steelers game is fixed. No question about it."
It certainly appeared that way. Ben Roethlisberger ran the ball in for a game-winning touchdown, but fumbled prior to crossing the goal line. Even though Miami clearly recovered the ball, official Gene Steratore inexplicably stated that he couldn't tell who came up with it, thus giving the Steelers the ball at the half-yard line. With an extra possession, Pittsburgh kicked the decisive field goal.
There's no denying that Steratore made a very crooked call - and it was even more shady that it took him 10 minutes to decide what to do - but Dolphins fans can't complain too much because their team blew way too many opportunities, so it's not like they didn't have a chance to win.
Miami obtained the ball twice in the red zone off Pittsburgh turnovers in the first half. They couldn't get into the end zone, settling for a pair of field goals. In fact, the Dolphins kicked five times, all from 40 yards or closer. Dan Carpenter was perfect on all of his tries.
The Dolphins were simply too conservative, and I don't know why. Chad Henne was a solid 23-of-36 for 257 yards and a touchdown. Running the ball didn't work; Ricky Williams was OK (11-48), but Ronnie Brown couldn't do anything (9-14). At one point, Miami inexplicably opted to run the ball in a short-yardage situation with Brown over Lousaka Polite, and were unsuccessful.
Ben Roethlisberger fumbled three times, but was otherwise pretty sharp, going 19-of-27 for 302 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Hines Ward (7-131) and Mike Wallace (2-53).
Miami did a great job shutting down the run, particularly in the red zone; Rashard Mendenhall had just 37 yards on 15 carries.
Bad news for the Steelers: Star defensive end Aaron Smith tore his triceps and is out for the year.
Ravens 37, Bills 34
I was praying for the Bills to win this contest. Not that I'm a Buffalo fan or a Ravens hater, or anything. I'm just selfish and wanted to win my survivor pool (I had Atlanta).
The Bills appeared to have this game in hand. They were up 24-10 in the second quarter. Someone asked me in the live in-games thread - I apologize for not remembering who it was because things were hectic at the time - if I thought Baltimore had a chance. My answer: "Hell yes. The Bills blew a lead against the Jaguars, so they could easily do that here."
Sure enough, Buffalo choked away yet another possible victory, thanks in part to a C.J. Spiller fumble on a kickoff return that gave Baltimore a late touchdown in the first half. Expect a joke or two about this in my NFL Power Rankings on Tuesday.
Despite Ed Reed being back in the lineup (Reed had two interceptions), Baltimore's defense was awful in this contest. The Bills totaled 506 net yards, and Ryan Fitzpatrick went 29-of-43 for 374 yards, four touchdowns and two picks. Buffalo may have won in overtime had the officials properly overturned a fumble because a Bills player's forward progress was stopped.
Steve Johnson (8 catches, 158 yards, TD) and Lee Evans (6 catches, 105 yards, 3 TDs) were both awesome against the Ravens. They have renewed fantasy life with Fitzpatrick under center.
Oh, and I feel obligated to mention this: Fred Jackson had 23 carries (73 yards). Spiller had just seven (33 yards).
Spiller, selected ninth overall, is barely being used. Meanwhile, Aaron Maybin, taken No. 11 overall a year before, was a healthy scratch. Perhaps, the Bills shouldn't even draft anyone to save themselves the embarrassment.
The Ravens ran the ball all over the Bills - Ray Rice (16-72) and Willis McGahee (11-64, TD) did whatever they wanted to - which really saved Joe Flacco because he was inconsistent. He went 16-of-31 for 250 yards and three touchdowns.
Anquan Boldin had six catches for 92 yards and a score. Todd Heap (3-59) found the end zone twice, but collapsed on a play without even getting touched. He apparently suffered a stinger.
Chiefs 42, Jaguars 20
This was almost a great story. Todd Bouman, who hadn't started a game in five years, got the nod for the Jaguars with both David Garrard and Trent Edwards injured. Bouman's kids were too young to remember him under center, so they got to watch to watch their dad play the Chiefs.
Things started well - the camera panned to his wife and children whenever he made a good play - but it all fell apart in the second half. Bouman tossed a pick-six in the third quarter and struggled from that point on. He finished 18-of-34 for 222 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of picks. Romeo Crennel, looking rather snazzy in a sweater vest and jacket, finally figured out how to stop the great Bouman.
Maurice Jones-Drew owners were glad their running back found the end zone, as he caught an 18-yard pass from Bouman. He hauled in five balls for 74 yards, but struggled on the ground, rushing for just 47 yards on 16 attempts.
The Chiefs gashed the poor-tackling Jaguars on the ground. Thomas Jones (20-125, TD) finally out-produced Jamaal Charles (15-71, TD). However, most of Jones' yardage came on a 70-yard score after a Jacksonville turnover (the defense didn't look like it was prepared to play... not like it ever does.)
Matt Cassel didn't have to do much. He was 13-of-18 for 193 yards and two touchdowns, and did a good job converting third downs (6-of-11).
Dwayne Bowe has been on fire since humiliating himself at Indianapolis. He caught three balls for 81 yards and a pair of touchdowns in this contest.
Browns 30, Saints 17
Wow. Raise your hand if you saw this coming. I had the Browns covering this game for three units, but I never imagined that Cleveland would blow out the Saints, let alone beat them.
Eric Mangini really opened up the playbook and threw the kitchen sink at the defending Super Bowl champs. On a kickoff return, Joshua Cribbs lateraled the ball back to Eric Wright, who took it back 62 yards. Later, punter Reggie Hodges ran a fake 68 yards through a wide-open hole in the middle of the field, marking the longest run by a punter since 1970. And on offense, Peyton Hillis actually threw a 13-yard pass to Colt McCoy.
Aside from succumbing to several trick plays, how did the Saints lose this contest? Well, it was more of the same at first. They couldn't take advantage of opportunities in the red zone. A touchdown to Lance Moore was called back because of a penalty early on. Afterward, it just seemed like Brees got frustrated and began forcing passes. He ended up with four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns by linebacker David Bowens. Coincidentally, Brees' new baby son is named Bowen.
Marques Colston finally scored a touchdown, though it came very late in garbage time. Still, Colston finished with 10 grabs for 112 yards.
Chris Ivory was started by many after his great performance last week. However, the Browns are very good against the run, and limited Ivory to just 48 yards on 15 carries.
McCoy wasn't as good in this contest as he was at Pittsburgh. He went 9-of-16 for 74 yards, and seemed to settle for a ton of checkdowns. On a positive note, McCoy didn't turn the ball over. That's more impressive than it sounds because playing in the Superdome is a major challenge for any quarterback, especially a rookie.
Hillis rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts.
The star for the Browns defensively - aside from Bowens, of course - was linebacker Scott Fujita, who had 11 tackles, a sack and a pick against his former team.
Redskins 17, Bears 14
What a horrifying game if you're a Chicago fan. The Bears had more net yardage and first downs than the Redskins, but beat themselves with a barrage of turnovers.
Chicago had a whopping six give-aways, including three inside Washington's 25. On one sequence at the beginning of the third quarter, it appeared as though Earl Bennett scored a touchdown. It was ruled short of the end zone, even after the challenge (I thought it could have gone either way.) However, on the next play, Jay Cutler fumbled the football on a sneak.
Cutler's cough-up really hurt, but his interceptions were much worse. Cutler had four picks - all to DeAngelo Hall, who tied an NFL record for interceptions in a game - and they were all awful. He just looked like he was thinking, "F*** this, I'm tired of getting hit, I'm just going to fire the ball as hard as I can and hope it's complete." This strategy apparently didn't work.
On the bright side, Cutler was sacked only four times!
Cutler went 26-of-40 for 281 yards, one touchdown and those picks. He nearly threw a fifth interception that bounced off a Washington player's helmet. His score went to Johnny Knox (6-86).
For some reason, Matt Forte had just 10 carries, turning those into 41 yards. He also had five grabs for 32 receiving yards.
The Bears weren't the only team giving the ball away. The Redskins had three turnovers of their own, two of which came from Donovan McNabb. McNabb went 17-of-32 for 200 yards, one touchdown and a pair of interceptions. He had a third pick that was called back because of a delay-of-game penalty.
Washington's third turnover came from Ryan Torain, who had a great game otherwise (21-125).
Santana Moss (5-63) caught McNabb's touchdown. Chris Cooley hauled in seven balls, but for just 52 yards.
Panthers 23, 49ers 20
Remember when the 49er fans chanted, "WE WANT CARR!! WE WANT CARR!!" during that Sunday night game against the Eagles? I wonder if they still want him now. Carr replaced Alex Smith, who suffered a shoulder injury in the third quarter. Carr really struggled, going 5-of-13 for 67 yards and a horrible interception that led to Carolina's game-winning field goal.
San Francisco went up 7-0 quickly, and it appeared as though Carolina wouldn't have much of a chance. However, the 49ers just stopped scoring, and Alex Smith (9-19, 129 yards, TD) wasn't very good after that first drive. He'll have an MRI on Monday, but told the media he will travel to London with the team to take on Denver.
Frank Gore was successful on the ground, rushing for 102 yards on 19 carries. I have to wonder why the coaching staff didn't run the ball more often.
Gore was one of three 49ers who caught four balls (57 yards). The others, as you might guess, were Vernon Davis (74, TD) and Michael Crabtree (31).
Facing a soft defense for the first time in about a month, Carolina's offense "exploded" for 23 points. Matt Moore went 28-of-41 for 308 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Moore should have tossed a third score, but rookie receiver David Gettis dropped the ball in the end zone despite being wide open.
Gettis would later redeem himself by hauling in the game-tying score. He finished with eight catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. The other rookie wideout, Brandon LaFell (6-91) also out-produced Steve Smith (4-50).
Despite the unexpected and renewed aerial attack, the Panthers still couldn't run the football. Both DeAngelo Williams (19-44) and Jonathan Stewart (14-29) had no running room with Jeff Otah out yet again.
Buccaneers 18, Rams 17
The Rams look really sharp at home, but they're just not ready to beat teams on the road yet. They had a 17-3 lead in this contest, but just couldn't muster anything in the second half, permitting Josh Freeman to engineer a great comeback.
Freeman went 23-of-40 for 212 yards and a touchdown. He was very clutch in the fourth quarter, but never should have had a chance. The Rams dropped at least four possible interceptions, including two where James Laurinaitis and another defender crashed into each other to accidentally break up a would-be pick.
LeGarrette Blount is back! After doing nothing for two weeks, the punching maniac ran for 72 yards on 11 carries despite the fact that his longest gain was just 11 yards. Blount couldn't be stopped, as he trampled the poor, helpless St. Louis defenders. Cadillac Williams (4-12) was nowhere to be seen, so feel free to pick up Blount in your fantasy league.
Mike Williams continues to be beastly; he caught five balls for 82 yards. The awesome rookie just keeps getting better and better.
Congrats to Steven Jackson for becoming the franchise's all-time leading rusher. Jackson rushed for 110 yards on 22 carries, and really helped an otherwise stagnant St. Louis offense.
Sam Bradford threw two touchdowns, but wasn't very good. He completed 13-of-26 passes for 126 yards. He had two routine interceptions dropped in the end zone. Ironically, he tossed his two scores immediately after those near-picks, so at least he has a short memory.
One hilarious sequence from this game: The Buccaneers had a first-and-goal at the 6-yard line following a Bradford fumble. An offensive pass interference, holding and sack later, Tampa had a second-and-goal at the 35! They ended up settling for a field goal.
Titans 37, Eagles 19
Quite honestly, I stopped paying attention to this game when it was 19-10 in the fourth quarter. Kerry Collins was dreadful early on and looked like he belonged in a glue factory. I didn't think that Collins had it in him to engineer a comeback, let alone a 27-point fourth quarter.
Collins finished 17-of-31 for 276 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions even though he was completely dreadful early.
All three of Collins' scores went to Kenny Britt. Britt, who was in danger of missing this game because of an alleged bar fight, caught seven balls for 225 yards and three touchdowns.
The Eagles did a great job containing Chris Johnson, who ran for just 66 yards on 24 carries. Of course, this was a lot easier with Vince Young out.
Philadelphia killed itself with penalties; the team was whistled for 10 infractions. Four turnovers (two interceptions, two fumbles) didn't help either. Rookie Jorrick Calvin's fourth-quarter fumble on a punt return hurt the most because it sealed the game for Tennessee, though a fumble on the Titans' 3-yard line could have put the Eagles up 23-7 in the third quarter.
Kevin Kolb went 26-of-48 for 231 yards, one touchdown and those two picks. However, aside from a 37-yard pass to Riley Cooper, Kolb's longest completion was 17 yards. That was to Jeremy Maclin (5-42).
LeSean McCoy rushed for only 48 yards on 16 attempts, but saved his fantasy day with six catches for 54 receiving yards.
Seahawks 22, Cardinals 10
A week ago, I wrote, "I don't know what to think about these Seahawks. Their win at Chicago was very impressive, yet they were blown out at St. Louis a couple of weeks ago. Still, the solid play of Russell Okung, Mike Williams and Marshawn Lynch is reason for optimism."
There's a lot more optimism now. The Seahawks really dominated this matchup despite this 12-point spread. The reason it was so close is because out of seven trips to the red zone, Seattle came up with just one touchdown. The Seahawks also committed 10 penalties. It could have been a lot worse for Arizona.
One thing we learned in this contest is that Williams is a stud. Finally living up to expectations, Williams hauled in 11 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.
Another thing is that Seattle's pass protection still stinks. Matt Hasselbeck (20-38, 192, 1 TD) was sacked five times. Russell Okung left the game early with a high ankle sprain, which would explain how Arizona was able to put so much pressure on Hasselbeck.
Lynch ran for 89 yards on 24 carries. Justin Forsett chipped in with 41 yards on nine attempts.
If you want to know how this game went for Arizona, just read what Fox color analyst Brian Billick had to say at the end: "In two games, I haven't seen anything from Max Hall that tells me he's ready to play in this league. Derek Anderson gives the Cardinals a better chance to win right now."
Hall was awful. He went 4-of-16 for 36 yards and an interception, and continuously failed to recognize the blitz. Anderson was solid on one scoring drive, but sucked otherwise. Anderson went 8-of-17 for 96 yards, and I have to disagree with Billick; there's no way a drunken quarterback can possibly be an upgrade over anyone.
Regardless, Larry Fitzgerald's numbers (2-30) will continue to struggle. Shame on anyone who thought his production wouldn't slip with Kurt Warner off eating cereal with crappy stars.
Like the Seahawks, the Cardinals could have played a lot better if they didn't shoot themselves in the foot. Tim Hightower fumbled in Seattle territory to set up a field goal. Later, Andre Roberts coughed up a punt return to give the Seahawks a touchdown. In the third quarter, Hall fumbled to give Seattle yet another field goal.
Patriots 23, Chargers 20
How do you lose a game in which you outgain your opponent, 363-179? By having an overwhelmed coach and undisciplined players! The Chargers really screwed themselves over in this game. Here were three key moments where they killed themselves:
1. Reserve rookie receiver Richard Goodman caught a 25-yard pass and fell down untouched. Thinking he was still at Florida State, Goodman got up to celebrate without the football. The Patriots took notice and picked it up for a "fumble recovery."
2. Philip Rivers threw a backward pass - or at least that's what it was incorrectly called on the field - to Jacob Hester. Hester didn't realize that it was a "lateral," and just stood around with his hands on his hips. The Patriots were much more aware; three players pounced on the ball.
3. The Chargers had a chance to kick a game-tying, 45-yard field goal at the end of the game. A false start, however, moved the ball back five yards. Backup kicker Kris Brown doinked it off the right upright.
San Diego also hurt itself with numerous drops - at least a half dozen.
Despite not having Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee, and watching his stud tight end hobbling around the field, Philip Rivers still was very impressive, going 34-of-50 for 336 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
Darren Sproles paced the Chargers with nine receptions for 70 yards, as San Diego finally got its electrifying runner the ball in open space.
Patrick Crayton (7-82) and Craig Davis (6-53) both posted solid numbers despite hurting Rivers with drops. Antonio Gates, meanwhile, caught four passes for 50 yards and a touchdown although he wasn't anywhere close to being 100 percent.
Ryan Mathews had just 15 yards on eight carries. The Chargers couldn't run the ball because they were down the whole game. The bad news for Mathews owners is that Mike Tolbert undeservedly received more goal-line touches. Seriously, why draft a guy No. 12 overall if you're not going to give him the most important carries of the game? I don't get it.
The Patriots won, but they were very unimpressive. Tom Brady spent his time dinking and dunking, finishing 19-of-32 for 159 yards and a touchdown.
Brady spread the ball around, as no player had more than five catches or 54 yards. Those numbers belonged to Aaron Hernandez. Deion Branch had four grabs for 39 yards.
New England struggled to run the ball yet again. Bill Belichick made a curious decision on a crucial fourth-and-inches late in the fourth quarter by running the ball with BenJarvus Green-Ellis (11-24, TD) instead of just sneaking it with Brady.
Raiders 59, Broncos 14
I can't get over this score. It's really insane. Think about it... the Raiders just scored the most points in their history - with Jason Campbell under center.
The Broncos really deserved this though. They put everything they had into last week's Jets game. With a trip to London coming up, Denver assumed that it could just show up and beat the "crappy" Raiders. The Broncos put absolutely no effort into this contest, and Josh McDaniels should be completely embarrassed for failing to prepare his team.
Darren McFadden was unbelievable. Despite telling the media that he was just "70 percent," McFadden rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. He had a fourth score on a reception (2 catches, 31 yards). Raider fans have to be asking why McFadden hasn't produced like this in the past two years.
Jason Campbell did not look like a skinny version of JaMarcus Russell this week; he went 12-of-20 for 204 yards and two scores. His second touchdown went to Zach Miller (3-65).
As for the Broncos, most of their yardage came late in second-half garbage time. Amid chants for Tim Tebow, Kyle Orton went 12-of-29 for 198 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Orton can't really be blamed for this loss, however, so the calling for Tebow didn't help. Every single Denver player is responsible for this mess.
Knowshon Moreno caught Orton's two touchdowns. He rushed for 53 yards on 14 carries, as neither Laurence Maroney nor Correll Buckhalter had a single attempt.
Brandon Lloyd notched just one catch for 46 yards. It came on Denver's final drive of the game.
Packers 28, Vikings 24
If you were unfortunate to miss this NFC North clash, it was one of the more entertaining games of the year. There were numerous big plays on offense, game-changing turnovers, trick plays on special teams, a last-second touchdown that didn't count, Brett Favre getting hurt, and the Packer fans booing Favre on and off the field, even emphasizing "a big disgrace" when We Will Rock You was playing.
This was a huge win for the Packers. Not only did they slay Brett Favre; they were finally able to win a close game. I completely agreed with Trent Dilfer when he said this victory would provide a huge boost of confidence for Green Bay.
Aaron Rodgers went 21-of-34 for 295 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Those numbers look pretty good, but Rodgers had quite a few ugly misfires where it seemed like he and his receivers weren't on the same page.
Rodgers' touchdowns went to Greg Jennings (6-74) and Andrew Quarless (2-16). James Jones had four catches for 107 yards. Donald Driver, meanwhile, didn't have a single reception, and clearly wasn't 100 percent. He probably should have just sat out.
Green Bay's tackles deserve a ton of credit. Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga kept Jared Allen and Ray Edwards at bay, holding Minnesota's defense sackless.
Favre had a great first half, but tossed three ugly interceptions after intermission. Favre suffered an ankle injury during his first pick, and was hobbled afterward.
In his post-game press conference, Brad Childress slammed Favre amid lashing out at the reporters and blaming the officials. Childress is clearly in over his head and is showing us why he isn't head-coaching material.
Favre did have many pretty throws in this contest, including a game-winning touchdown to Percy Harvin (5-65). Harvin, however, couldn't get his second foot inbounds. The Collard Kector also had three rushes for 41 yards and a score.
Randy Moss, meanwhile, had three grabs for 30 yards and a touchdown. Moss had a long catch called back because of offensive pass interference.
Adrian Peterson was great yet again, rushing for 131 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. The Vikings offensive line pushed around a Green Bay front that had only three healthy defensive linemen.
I also think free safety is the big need, not necessarily strong safety. We can live another year with Devon Kindred and Ibraheim Campbell at strong safety. Maybe if we didn't have so many other more pressing needs I wouldn't mind addressing SS, but there are other priorities on this team.