Breaking news: The best team in the NFC just lost yet again. The best team in the NFC is now 0-3 against teams with winning records. But at least they're still the best team in the NFC.
This game wasn't as close as this score indicates. The Falcons outgained Tampa by about 80 yards. The Falcons were in position to cover the 9-point spread, but the Buccaneers had a kickoff return for a backdoor touchdown late in this contest.
Despte the tone in my opening paragraph, Tampa didn't play poorly or anything, and they continue to show promise. Josh Freeman went 11-of-22 for 189 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Freeman had a number of impressive deep throws to Mike Williams (4-89, TD) and Arrelious Benn, but also made some dumb decisions. On one occasion, Freeman was in the process of being sacked, but still tried a desperation heave, which was easily picked off by Atlanta.
One question for the coach of the best team in the NFC: Where the hell was LeGarrette Blount? Blount finished with 46 yards on 13 carries, including a 21-yard scamper, but had just one attempt in the first half. Cadillac Williams (8-13) got all of the work before intermission, but was his usual awful self.
The Buccaneers didn't manage a single sack in this contest (they have just two sacks dating back to Week 2), allowing Matt Ryan to shred their struggling secondary. Ryan went 24-of-36 for 235 yards and a touchdown.
Tony Gonzalez led the Falcons with eight receptions and 72 yards. Roddy White (4-49) was effective when he was on the field; White was in and out of the game with a knee injury. He had x-rays at halftime, but nothing was wrong.
Michael Turner had a big outing, rushing for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
Ravens 26, Dolphins 10
The Ravens won this game by converting third downs. In the live in-games thread on the forum, I wrote, "Baltimore must be 500/500 in converting third downs outside of the red zone." Overall, they were 6-of-13, but most of those failed attempts occurred deep in Miami territory.
The Dolphins' red-zone struggles into this contest were well-documented. I guess the Ravens watched too much Miami tape because they were anemic close to the goal line as well. Baltimore had a whopping seven trips into the red zone, and managed just one touchdown (19 points overall). The team was guilty of multiple sacks, penalties and botched field goals.
Of course, Miami had its issues in the red zone as well. Most notably, Chad Henne missed a wide-open Anthony Fasano in the end zone on 3rd-and-goal at the 1-yard line. And unlike the past two weeks, Dan Carpenter whiffed on a field goal.
Joe Flacco was prolific in this game (20-27, 266, 2 TDs), but the guy who made things happen was Ray Rice, who registered 180 total yards (83 rushing, 97 receiving).
Unfortunately for Rice owners, Willis McGahee vultured a touchdown on a 32-yard first-quarter reception. Derrick Mason (4-42) had Flacco's other score. Anquan Boldin (2-28) didn't do much statistically.
Chad Henne made some nice throws in this game, but was his usual erratic self; he went 22-of-34 for 231 yards and three interceptions, though one of the picks wasn't his fault because Brian Hartline fell down. Henne fumbled twice as well.
Brandon Marshall had five catches for only 30 yards. Hartline (4-85) and Davone Bess (5-50) both had bigger fantasy outings.
The Dolphins ran the ball just 11 times with their running backs, as they were behind throughout. Ricky Williams (2-1) did nothing, but Ronnie Brown (9-59, TD) was effective. I'll never understand why Lousaka Polite didn't get the ball on the aforementioned 3rd-and-goal at the 1.
The amusing thing to come out of this game was a fight between Channing Crowder and LeRon McClain. During a heated exchange, Crowder was seen wiping his face and later claimed that McClain spit on him.
Said Crowder after the game, "Y'all can write it down - the [expletive] punk Le'Ron McClain spit in my face. Keep writing - he spit in my face, and that's why I got mad. The refs told me they didn't see nothing, they didn't see the spit hit my face."
Bears 22, Bills 19
The Bears have tried everything. Three-step drops. Shortened routes. Voodoo dolls. Nothing has worked. Jay Cutler just continued to take sacks and throw picks every week.
Maybe Chicago should move to Canada. Cutler was surprisingly careful with the football in Toronto, going 17-of-30 for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Cutler took one sack, which was actually a fumble recovered by Buffalo. So maybe Canada isn't perfect, but it's pretty close.
The Bears scored three touchdowns, but none of the players who found the end zone have any sort of fantasy relevance. Chester Taylor - not Matt Forte (14-49) - scored on a run. Cutler's touchdowns went to Earl Bennett and Greg Olsen. Johnny Knox caught just three passes for 49 yards.
I've been complaining about Buffalo's refusal to use C.J. Spiller on offense this year. Well, I'll take a break this week even though Spiller had just eight touches (three in the first half). Instead, I'll let FOX's color commentator do it for me:
"A guy I'd like to see more of is C.J. Spiller. The guy is dynamite. It's time to get him the rock."
Interesting strategy, FOX analyst. I'll consider writing about it next week.
I'll expect the "We don't need to draft Andrew Luck" e-mails to keep rolling in because Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 299 yards and a touchdown. However, it took Fitzpatrick 51 attempts to get there, and he also tossed two interceptions. He could have had a third; he was nearly picked off twice prior to tossing his sole score.
Steve Johnson continues to amaze. Johnson notched 11 receptions for 145 yards. Lee Evans (3-31) didn't do much, while Roscoe Parrish had seven grabs for 60 yards and a touchdown.
Saints 34, Panthers 3
I hate to keep harping on this, especially after a blowout win, but the Saints are still having the same issues that have been haunting them all year. They just can't convert in the red zone.
New Orleans' first trip into the red area resulted in a Drew Brees interception that deflected off Robert Meachem. Another trip saw Brees attempt a horrible fade for Julius Jones.
The good news is that the Saints have a bye week to get Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush healthy. New Orleans hosts Seattle in Week 11, so we should know by then if they've gotten their act together.
The final score of this contest is indicative of how dominant New Orleans was. The Saints outgained the Panthers, 284-91, in the first half, and 408-195 overall.
Drew Brees went 27-of-43 for 253 yards, two touchdowns and the aforementioned interception. Marques Colston (8-65) and Lance Moore (6-77) did the most damage. Close to halftime, Moore had an impressive grab on a ball that looked like it was 10 feet over his head.
Rookie tight end Jimmy Graham caught his first touchdown of his career. Jeremy Shockey had Brees' other score.
The Saints ran the ball well with Julius Jones (6-68) and Chris Ivory (12-50).
Speaking of reserve running backs, Mike Goodson and Tyrell Sutton received most of the work for Carolina because Jonathan Stewart (5-30) was carted off into the locker room with a head injury in the first half. Neither was particularly effective.
Stewart wasn't the only Panther who got hurt. Matt Moore was knocked out with a shoulder injury, but wasn't doing much anyway (3-6, 13). Jimmy Clawful replaced him, and aside from one impressive deep back-shoulder throw to Steve Smith that was wiped out by a penalty, was completely inept. Clausen's 8-of-18 for 47 yards and pick-six forced John Fox to replace him with Tony Pike, who also blew (6-12, 47).
Steve Smith recorded one catch for nine yards. As mentioned, he had a long reception that was erased because of a penalty.
Browns 34, Patriots 14
The Browns' upset over the Saints in the Superdome was a fluke victory. Cleveland ran several trick plays, and caught a few uncharacteristic interceptions from Drew Brees.
This victory was legit. The Browns completely dominated this game, outgaining New England, 404-283. They converted 7-of-13 third downs, while limiting the Patriots to 3-of-11 in that department.
Tom Brady looked like a completely inept quarterback, which was just bizarre to watch. Brady went 19-of-36 for 224 yards and two touchdowns (one in junk time), but those numbers don't tell the whole story; Brady missed wide-open receivers all afternoon.
Both of Brady's touchdowns went to Aaron Hernandez, who caught five balls for 48 yards. Wes Welker, meanwhile, had four catches for 36 yards. He also kicked an extra point because Stephen Gostkowski suffered an injury, so congratulations to all Welker owners who received that literal "extra point."
One week after steamrolling the Vikings, BenJarvus Green-Ellis was limited to just 14 yards on nine carries. Danny Woodhead, meanwhile, took nine rushes of his own for 54 yards.
Speaking of steamrolling, Peyton Hillis rumbled for 184 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. The Patriots, who have been better against the run since their bye, looked completely helpless trying to tackle the bruising runner.
I'm really impressed with Colt McCoy. It's not just the solid numbers (14-of-19, 174 yards); McCoy has shown great pocket presence for a rookie. On one occasion in the red zone, McCoy escaped pressure from multiple New England blitzers, scrambled out to the right and found Joshua Cribbs for a first down. Much later, McCoy ran in for a 16-yard touchdown, which looked very Steve Young-like.
It's only been three starts, and I hate to make rush judgments, but the McCoy era in Cleveland looks really promising.
Jets 23, Lions 20
Poor Lions. They just can't catch a break.
In the fourth quarter, Detroit led 20-10. Things were going great. Matthew Stafford was having a terrific game (20-of-36, 240 yards, 2 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD) despite the fact that the Jets completely erased Calvin Johnson (1-13).
If you've seen the highlights, you know the rest. Stafford re-injured the same shoulder that knocked him out for six games earlier in the year. The Jets, meanwhile, mounted a comeback, eventually winning in overtime.
It's unknown if Stafford will be out for a while again. It really is a shame, because his shoulder problems have ruined what was a promising season for Detroit.
With Megatron blanketed, Nate Burleson caught seven balls for 113 yards and a touchdown. Jahvid Best, meanwhile, had 88 total yards (48 rushing, 40 receiving).
Mark Sanchez struggled early on, but finished 22-of-39 for 336 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Sanchez had a 74-yard bomb to Braylon Edwards, and later found Santonio Holmes for a 52-yard strike in overtime. Unfortunately, Holmes was tackled down from behind in the red zone, preventing the Jets from covering the spread.
Speaking of Holmes, the former Steeler had five grabs for 114 yards. Edwards, meanwhile, hauled in three balls for 78 yards and the aforementioned score.
The Jets surprisingly struggled to run the football at Detroit. LaDainian Tomlinson (15-55) and Shonn Greene (10-46) didn't have much running room.
The most amusing part of this game - as I'm sure all of you have seen - was an Ndamukong Suh extra point attempt in the second half. Jason Hanson suffered an injury on a roughing-the-kicker penalty, forcing Suh to try an ensuing kick. Suh looked good, but pulled the ball wide right. Sorry to all of you who started Suh as your kicker in your fantasy leagues.
Chargers 29, Texans 23
If the Chargers rally and eventually win the AFC West, Philip Rivers has to be named MVP. Despite all the injuries to his roster and the ineptness of his special teams, Rivers continues to play incredibly well. If it weren't for Rivers, the Chargers would be 1-8 right now.
Despite not having Antonio Gates or Malcom Floyd, Rivers went 17-of-23 for 295 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, throwing to the likes of Seyi Ajirotutu (4-111, 2 TDs), Patrick Crayton (3-70) and Randy McMichael (2-23, 2 TDs).
The Chargers are on bye next Sunday. After that, Floyd and Gates should both be back. Vincent Jackson will be available the following Sunday. This team is going to be dangerous down the stretch.
Of course, San Diego needs to stop shooting itself in the foot. The Chargers allowed their fifth blocked punt of the year in the first quarter, which led to a Houston touchdown. Ryan Mathews (9-42) fumbled later on, setting up the Texans with another touchdown. Mathews would eventually leave the game with an ankle injury.
I'm really pissed off at the Texans. They had a great offensive game plan, giving Arian Foster tons of carries against an overrated San Diego defense that has feasted on weak opponents all year. Foster rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.
Why am I angry at Houston? Because they should have done this against the Colts last week!
Matt Schaub went 21-of-32 for 266 yards and an interception in the fourth quarter that bounced out of Andre Johnson's hands. Johnson, who clearly wasn't 100 percent, had four grabs for just 41 yards. Foster actually led Houston with 70 receiving yards off four grabs.
Vikings 27, Cardinals 24
So much happened in this game, so let's go through it chronologically.
- For the first 28 minutes or so of the contest, Arizona was barely hanging on. The Vikings were dominating the game, as it could have been pretty ugly if Minnesota managed to hang on to a dropped Derek Anderson interception. Every time the Cardinals punted, I thought, "Well, at least there was no turnover."
- Arizona's only points in the first 29 minutes came off a LaRod Stephens-Howling kickoff return for a touchdown. On that play, Ryan Longwell made the most pathetic attempt at a tackle that I've ever seen. He seemed to trip over his own legs and dive into the ground. It was a horrifying display, and I'll be very disappointed if it's not featured on C'mon Man.
- The Cardinals had their way with the Vikings for the next two quarters. The turning point was a converted 3rd-and-19 on the Arizona 10-yard line in the final minutes of the first half. Before the play, I joked in the live in-games thread, "The Cardinals will easily convert this." After the inexplicable 30-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald, I added, "Nah' mean?"
- Anderson (15-of-26, 179, TD) entered Sober Mode and did a good job of moving the chains until the fourth quarter, particularly on throws to Fitzgerald (7-107). The Metro Dome crowd constantly booed the Vikings.
- Beginning at the 12:40 mark of the fourth quarter, Arizona possessed the ball for about only five of the next 17 minutes. When the Cardinals had the ball, Anderson weakly crumbled under Minnesota's heavy pressure (6 sacks). Brett Favre, meanwhile, did a great job of converting third downs and completing an incredible comeback.
Favre set a career personal high for yardage in this contest, which is hard to believe given all the records he has. Favre went 36-of-47 for 446 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of picks.
Percy Harvin, who reportedly was "barely able to move" in pre-game warmups, caught nine balls for 126 yards. Bernard Berrian also had nine grabs for 89 yards.
Visanthe Shiancoe had the game-tying touchdown, finishing with four grabs for 66 yards. Earlier in the game, Shiancoe was hilariously pancaked by Adrian Wilson, so it was nice to see Shiancoe redeem himself.
Adrian Peterson was incredible with his tough running in the fourth quarter and overtime. He had 144 total yards (81 rushing, 63 receiving) and two touchdowns.
Giants 41, Seahawks 7
Everyone in Seattle - from the owner, to the coaching staff, to the players and the fans - could be in therapy after this game. Years from now, everyone involved in this contest from the Seahawks side will have nightmares about this loss. And now everyone in Seattle knows how random women in trashy Georgia bars feel.
The Giants outgained the Seahawks, 487-162. They also had way more first downs, 30-8. They won the time-of-possession "battle," 42:34 to 17:26.
Eli Manning embarrassed Seattle's secondary, going 21-of-32 for 290 yards and three touchdowns. He constantly went after Marcus Trufant, as Hakeem Nicks hauled in six grabs for 128 yards and a score.
Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for just 57 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, but was much better than those numbers indicate. Brandon Jacobs (11-78) and D.J. Ware (13-66) also abused Seattle's front.
As for the Seahawks, Charlie Whitehurst didn't look like an NFL quarterback. He went 12-of-23 for 113 yards, one touchdown and a pair of interceptions. Most of that positive productive came in garbage time; Whitehurst was 9-of-19 for 64 yards and two picks at halftime. Seattle will likely be targeting Jake Locker in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Notable Seattle fantasy fails: Marshawn Lynch (11 carries, 48 yards), Mike Williams (2 catches, 25 yards), John Carlson (2-9).
Raiders 23, Chiefs 20
This game absolutely lived up to its hype. The Chiefs and Raiders combined for 27 penalties, five turnovers and two back-to-back botched fake punts. Oh, and let's not forget this gem from NFL.com's GameCenter:
(:07) S.Janikowski 96 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-J.Condo, Holder-S.Lechler.
I want to give the Raiders credit for winning this game because last year's team would have given up after being down 13-0. This is a good Oakland squad that could definitely win the AFC West.
However, this was all about the Chiefs. They had a victory in their back pocket, and they blew it.
Up 10-0 and 13-7, Kansas City had a field goal nullified by a penalty; threw an interception in the red zone; allowed a kick return for a touchdown; fumbled the following kickoff; dropped a pass with two minutes remaining (Dwayne Bowe) that would have sealed the game; and went three-and-out on the opening possession of overtime because Matt Cassel threw short of the first-down marker on 3rd-and-3.
The Raiders had nothing going in the first half. Jason Campbell was 4-of-10 for 18 yards and an interception, while the team was getting killed in the yardage (169-49) and first-down (11-2) categories. But Campbell got his act together after intermission, finishing 19-of-33 for 229 yards, one touchdown and the pick.
The lightning-quick Jacoby Ford came out of nowhere to haul in six grabs for 148 yards. Darrius Heyward-Bey had no receptions.
Darren McFadden rushed for 89 yards on 17 carries, and also had four catches for 25 receiving yards. He just missed getting into the end zone; he had a run down to the 1-yard line.
Cassel, meanwhile, went 20-of-35 for 216 yards, two scores and a pick. He had some nice throws, but his limitations were really apparent late in the game when his poor arm strength prevented him from keeping drives alive. He will be the eventual downfall of the Chiefs...
That is, if Todd Haley isn't. Thomas Jones had 19 carries for 32 yards. Jamaal Charles had 10 attempts for 53 yards. Great job, Todd. Only you can prevent your best player from leading your team to victory.
Charles did have five catches for 47 yards. Bowe also hauled five grabs for 63 yards and a touchdown, but had the aforementioned crucial drop.
Did this line remind you of that insane Baltimore (-1) over Indy spread from Week 11 last year? I didn't
understand such an aggressive line, given that Vegas could've cleaned up anyway; they could've had 80 percent of the money on the Colts if the line
had been Colts -2.5, but they felt the need to go all in and try to
soak the public. Well, this was EXACTLY like that Baltimore game... and Vegas loses about $3 million on a single point.
The betting perspective aside, there were two plays that will be heavily discussed this upcoming week. First was a Kurt Coleman helmet-to-helmet hit on Austin Collie, who was knocked out with a concussion. I know many Eagles fans who were angered about this and felt like it shouldn't have been a penalty. I completely disagree. Coleman could have seriously injured Collie, and should absolutely be suspended. There's no room for this crap in the NFL.
The second, which also infuriated Philly fans, was a penalty on the Eagles for a blow to the helmet on Manning that gave Indianapolis a first down in the fourth quarter. The call was legitimate; it's part of the rules. You can't have your quarterbacks getting hurt; if the NFL has guys like Manning, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, etc. going down, it stands to lose a ton of money. Like it or not, the NFL is a business.
At any rate, it was surprising to see Manning struggle so much. And by "struggle," he still went 31-of-52 for 294 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Manning was constantly pressured and endured some drops.
Someone who had a key drop was Jacob Tamme, who still hauled in 11 balls for 108 yards and a touchdown. Reggie Wayne also notched 11 receptions for 83 yards. Pierre Garcon had just two catches for 15 yards. Asante Samuel completely locked him down.
QB Dog Killer had a very good game. He went 17-of-29 for 218 yards and a touchdown, and also chipped in with 74 rushing yards and a second score. The Colts dropped two potential interceptions, but QB Dog Killer made up for that with numerous impressive throws.
It should be no surprise that DeSean Jackson (7-109, TD) and Jeremy Maclin (4-48) finished as the Eagles' top receivers. Brent Celek had no catches; he scored a long touchdown, but that was wiped out by a holding penalty. Remember, Celek is a Kevin Kolb supporter.
I expected a lot more from LeSean McCoy. McCoy had 95 yards on 16 carries, most of which came on one 62-yard scamper. I thought he'd have a much stronger performance given Indianapolis' struggles against the run.
Packers 45, Cowboys 7
If Wade Phillips doesn't get fired after this game, his job is definitely safe for the rest of the year. This blowout loss has to rank among the most embarrassing moments in Dallas Cowboys history.
The Cowboys were outgained 415-205. They had 14 fewer first downs. The worst part of the night was when their kickoff returner fumbled the ball and the Packers returned it for a touchdown, but Phillips couldn't challenge the call - it would have been overturned - because he ran out of timeouts.
For what it's worth, I don't think Phillips should be fired now. I thought he should have been axed two years ago, but there's no point in getting rid of him at the moment. It's not like the Cowboys can still make the playoffs or anything, and it's doubtful that there's anyone on the staff who can get the most out of these bums, namely cornerback Mike Jenkins, who isn't trying at all right now.
Aaron Rodgers was essentially flawless, going 27-of-34 for 289 yards and three touchdowns, with several of his few incompletions being drops. He also had five scrambles for 41 yards. Rodgers' performance was really impressive considering he didn't have Jermichael Finley or Donald Driver at his disposal. Rodgers found Greg Jennings seven times for 80 yards and a touchdown. Green Bay's leading receiver was James Jones, who notched eight receptions for 123 yards and a score.
The Packers actually ran the ball somewhat well; John Kuhn (13-50) and Brandon Jackson (13-42, TD) kept Dallas' defense honest enough to open things up for Rodgers.
Dallas' ground attack, meanwhile, was completely invisible. Felix Jones (5-16) and Marion Barber (6-14) couldn't find any running room. I'd say the Cowboys should showcase Tashard Choice more often, but there are just no holes for anyone to navigate through.
If there's a silver lining for the Cowboys, it's the performance of Dez Bryant. The star rookie receiver caught nine balls for 86 yards and a touchdown. Miles Austin-Jones, meanwhile, had just two grabs for 16 yards. Jon Kitna was a nondescript 19-of-30 for 183 yards, one score and two interceptions.