I'm still trying to figure out how the Titans covered this game. They were down 21-0, and were trailing by nine in the final minutes. Instead of opting for a field goal, they settled for a clock-consuming touchdown at the end of regulation. Kerry Collins hit Bo Scaife for a meaningless score as time expired, giving Tennessee the unjust cover.
Facebook friend Joe M. was not a big fan of this:
Unf***ingbelievable. Worst last minute cover ever. Good luck getting fired Jeff Fisher, you douche.
I tweeted (@walterfootball) "One of the worst backdoor covers I've ever seen. Thank God I had only one unit on the game, or I'd consider jumping off my roof."
Gotta love ESPN. "Peyton Manning is back! The Colts are back!" No, morons, they never went away. They're just banged up and rebounded against a bad team. Manning went 25-of-35 for 319 yards and two touchdowns to Pierre Garcon. He should have thrown a third score, but Blair White accidentally knocked the ball out of Reggie Wayne's hands.
Donald Brown started, but rushed for just 38 yards on 15 carries. Javarris James looked a lot better, gaining 49 yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts while displaying some nice moves. Dominic Rhodes did not play.
Kerry Collins did not play like a leering drunk this week, going 28-of-39 for 244 yards and three touchdowns, though his stats were inflated by junk-time yardage at the very end.
Chris Johnson finally broke out of his slump. He rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, and also caught eight balls for 68 receiving yards. This is why you should never bench your studs in fantasy football.
Randy Moss didn't play. He just stood on the sidelines with his gloves attached to his helmet. Instead, Kenny Britt made his return to the lineup, and caught three balls for 49 yards. Unfortunately, he dropped two key passes.
Speaking of Britt, Matt Millen oddly referred to him as a "young stallion." Not that there's anything wrong with that.
On a related note, Joe Theismann said that "the head is taboo." What a truly awful thing to say, Joe. What are you trying to do to us men?
Of course, the NFL Network crew gave us some factual errors. Reggie Wayne was referred to as "Reggie White." Meanwhile, the hot blond sideline reporter said Indianapolis signed running back "Dominique Rodgers" this week.
As this happened, I tweeted, "Thinking about asking the NFL Network crew whether I should start Dominique Rodgers or Adrian Foster at RB this week."
Falcons 31, Panthers 10
There is no reason this game should have been close in the second half. The Falcons went up 14-0 right away, and led 17-0 at intermission. However, they let the Panthers hang around, thanks to extremely conservative play-calling by Mike Mularkey.
Once the Panthers scored to make it 17-7, Atlanta began running the no-huddle offense to perfection, scoring almost instantly.
I said this contest shouldn't have been close because Atlanta really dominated the matchup. At the end of the first half, the Falcons had the net yardage advantage, 202-33. The Panthers had just two first downs at that point, and the furthest they advanced on the field was their own 36-yard line. Fail.
Carolina's offense was miserable. The offensive line refused to block for Jimmy Clawful, as the Falcons dominated the trenches (5 sacks). When Clawful did have time in the pocket, he was wildly inaccurate, going 14-of-24 for 107 yards and an interception. Worst of all, the play-calling was very predictable and unimaginative. On one key third down inside the red zone, Clawful's primary receiver on a play was Gary Barnidge, who was double covered. Gary freaking Barnidge - and Atlanta knew it was coming.
The good news for Panther fans? You can start buying your Andrew Luck jerseys!
Carolina was able to run the ball well in the second half; Jonathan Stewart finished with 133 yards on 18 attempts, while Mike Goodson mustered 70 yards and a nifty touchdown on nine attempts.
Speaking of running the ball, Michael Turner compiled 112 yards and three touchdowns on 28 attempts. The Panthers showed no interest in tackling at times, and it seems as though they have given up on the completely inept John Fox.
Ryan disappointed his fantasy owners, going 20-of-34 for 227 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He just didn't need to air it out because his team was up big almost instantly.
Lions 7, Packers 3
When the schedule released, this projected to be a fun game with tons of offensive firepower. Aaron Rodgers. Matthew Stafford. Greg Jennings. Calvin Johnson. Ryan Grant. Jahvid Best...
Yeah, not so much. The Lions were already missing their top two quarterbacks, while the Packers had to use backup, Matt Flynn, because Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion in the second quarter when he was hit in the head while going to the ground.
Rodgers finished the game 7-of-11 for 46 yards and an interception that wasn't his fault (Jennings dropped a perfect pass). This is a shame for all Rodgers owners whose fantasy season was ruined because of the injury.
The Packers had just two first downs in the opening half. Matt Flynn was half-decent at times, but made many poor throws. He finished 15-of-26 for 177 yards and an interception. Flynn will look better next Sunday with a full week's worth of first-team reps.
Green Bay could not run the ball whatsoever, which is disappointing because rookie back James Starks looked good last week. Neither Starks (6-8) nor Brandon Jackson (7-19) found much success. In fact, Green Bay's leading rusher was Rodgers with 25 yards, which is sad because he played just a quarter and a half.
While Flynn struggled, Drew Stanton wasn't any better. He went 10-of-22 for 117 yards, one touchdown and two bone-headed interceptions. Like last week, Stanton continuously dropped back 5,000 yards in the pocket and took a 19-yard sack on one occasion.
Stanton also couldn't get the ball to Calvin Johnson, whose only catch (44 yards) came with three minutes remaining in the third quarter. In fact, only two Lions caught more than one pass: Bryant Johnson (2-21) and Brandon Pettigrew (2-14).
Bills 13, Browns 6
I used Buffalo's defense in two of my fantasy playoff matchups this weekend. The reason should be obvious: Jake Delhomme.
The Browns ran the ball well - Peyton Hillis rushed for 108 yards on 21 carries - but Delhomme made sure his team lost this game. He went 12-of-20 for 86 yards and an interception that looked like a punt. Delhomme also fumbled on a strip sack.
Quarterbacking proved to be the difference; while Delhomme was sloppy and committed turnovers, Ryan Fitzpatrick was a safe 14-of-23 for 142 yards and a touchdown. He did a good job converting the chains, as the Bills had way more first downs (19) than Cleveland (9).
Like the Browns, The Bills ran the ball really well. Fred Jackson gained 112 yards on 29 carries, while C.J. Spiller tallied 33 yards on eight attempts.
Buffalo's players can celebrate this victory, while the fans have every right to be miserable. With a third victory, the Bills lost all hope of landing Andrew Luck, and maybe even Nick Fairley. This win could actually set the franchise back a couple of years. Hope it was worth it.
Jaguars 38, Raiders 31
The Jaguars just keep finding ways to win. Whether it's a Hail Mary or fumbles by the other team in the red zone, Jacksonville just keeps piling up the W's. Though they were behind by 10, the Jaguars managed a great comeback and scored the winning touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.
Maurice Jones-Drew had the decisive score, running in on a 30-yard scamper after a great kickoff return. Both Jones-Drew (23-101) and Rashad Jennings (5-109, TD) eclipsed the century mark. Even David Garrard piled up significant rushing yardage (5-32), as the Raiders looked inept versus the rush for most of the second half. Perhaps the jet lag finally set in.
Garrard went 11-of-22 for 159 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The Jaguars struggled to protect Garrard at times in the first half, but Garrard got into a rhythm after intermission and led his team on multiple scoring drives to beat the Raiders.
While the defeat diminishes Oakland's playoff chances, the silver lining for the season has Darren McFadden's performance. McFadden was incredible at Jacksonville, totaling 123 rushing yards (16 carries), 86 receiving yards (3 catches) and three touchdowns. When McFadden broke free, the Jaguars had no hope of catching him.
Jason Campbell played pretty well, going 21-of-30 for 324 yards and two touchdowns. He led an impressive scoring drive late in the fourth quarter, only to be betrayed by his special teams on the ensuing kickoff. Campbell missed some action with a minor injury, and Kyle Boller promptly tossed an ugly interception.
Steelers 23, Bengals 7
It's always sad when the opposing team can just kneel down on every down and win the game. That's exactly what the Steelers could have done in this contest; Carson Palmer tossed two pick-sixes to Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley, so Pittsburgh didn't need to do anything offensively.
Watching Palmer play is like having a sick old dog that can't move around anymore. It's really sad to watch. Palmer has absolutely no zip on his passes, which allowed the Pittsburgh defenders to feast on his passes. He went 20-of-32 for 178 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Palmer's score screwed all fantasy owners, as he went to tackle-eligible Andrew Whitworth. Chad Ochocinco had a decent game (6-71), while Terrell Owens did nothing (1-22).
Ben Roethlisberger played this contest with a visor. He appeared to have trouble early on, as the rain pelted his visor and perhaps forced some errant throws. The Bengals actually dropped two interceptions in the red zone.
But Big Ben finally got into a rhythm at the end of the first half. He finished 21-of-33 for 258 yards, converting third downs with ease after intermission.
Roethlisberger actually reaggravated his foot injury in the third quarter when he rolled his ankle while taking a hit. He was really limping around for a while, prompting forum mod VBSiena to comment, "Rape takes a lot out of you."
Hines Ward (8-115) and Mike Wallace (5-78) took advantage of Cincinnati's skeleton-crew secondary, but Rashard Mendenhall (18-66) surprisingly struggled against Cincinnati's defense.
Buccaneers 17, Redskins 16
Forum member Guru_92 described the first half of this game perfectly:
Washington leads first downs with 14-4. They lead total yardage 272-145. They have more rushing yards than what Bucs have rushing and passing combined. They lead turnovers 1-0. They lead time of position by 9-and-a-half minutes. And yet they only lead by a touchdown.
So, what happened? Well, kicker Graham Gano hit the left upright on a 34-yard attempt and then was wide left on a 24-yard try. More prominently, the Redskins had multiple screw-ups in the red zone. They dropped passes, Donovan McNabb (22-35, 228 yards, 2 TDs) made horrible throws and Mike Shanahan was responsible for awful game management and play-calling. Washington took a timeout at the end of the first half. Immediately following the stoppage, the coaches couldn't get the play into McNabb, and the Redskins had to take a delay-of-game penalty.
The Redskins were able to dominate this contest early on because of the running game. Ryan Torain trampled over a hapless Tampa defense that was missing Gerald McCoy with a bicep injury. Torain totaled 158 rushing yards on 18 carries in the first half (finished with 24 rushes, 172 yards).
However, thanks to Washington's inability to put Tampa away, the Buccaneers roared back and took a 17-10 lead in the fourth quarter on a 41-yard pass to Kellen Winslow from Josh Freeman (15-25, 266 yards, TD). On that play, it appeared as though safety Reed Doughty actually dived out of the way, as he apparently wanted no part of Winslow.
Later, McNabb engineered a touchdown drive at the end of regulation, but the Redskins botched the extra point on a bobbled hold - a fitting way to end this sloppy game.
Saints 31, Rams 13
Sam Bradford tossed a pick-six at the end of the first half to make this a 21-6 game. But that wasn't the decisive play of this contest. That came much earlier, when Steven Jackson fumbled in the first quarter.
At that point, the Saints were up 7-0. The Rams were driving, but Jackson (16-96) coughed it up at midfield. Minutes later, Drew Brees scored another touchdown to put his team up 14-0.
At that point, Bradford had no chance. It's very difficult for any young quarterback to play in the raucous Superdome, let alone one who has a 14-0 deficit. Bradford really struggled from that point on, finishing 18-of-32 for 231 yards and two interceptions. He also missed a wide-open receiver for a potential touchdown in the third quarter.
One play that you won't see on SportsCenter was Bradford's effort on another Jackson fumble. Jackson coughed up the ball in the fourth quarter, and Bradford impressively ran down safety Roman Harper. The play was inconsequential - the call was overturned, so it wasn't even a real fumble - but this was a great effort play by the rookie quarterback, who will undoubtedly earn even more respect from his teammates.
The Rams kicked field goals early, which is never a good strategy against the Saints. Drew Brees was highly efficient, going 25-of-40 for 221 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions (one of which was a late deep ball). He converted 11-of-16 third downs and did a great job keeping the ball away from St. Louis.
Two of Brees' touchdowns went to Marques Colston (5-46), who was described by color commentator Charles Davis as "Go-Go Gadget." The other score went to Lance Moore (5-70).
Pierre Thomas made his return to the lineup, but was really ineffective. He rushed for just 39 yards on 12 carries, whereas Chris Ivory tallied 47 yards on just seven attempts. Ivory didn't get more work because he left the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury.
49ers 40, Seahawks 21
FOX didn't need to send any TV analysts to broadcast this game. They could have just set a recording to continuously repeat, "What a poor throw by Matt Hasselbeck!"
Seriously, the FOX analysts must have said this a dozen times. Hasselbeck was epically horrid in this contest. His passes were all over the place, and he looked like he drank out of Derek Anderson's magic flask.
Hasselbeck finished 27-of-42 for 285 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. However, most of his yardage and one of his scores came in junk time.
It's hard to blame Hasselbeck entirely for this though. He didn't have Mike Williams or Ben Obomanu, leaving him with Ruvell Martin, Deon Butler and Brandon Stokley as his top downfield targets. Meanwhile, the running game was nonexistent; Marshawn Lynch totaled 29 yards on 10 attempts.
But this is all about the 49ers. Most people expected them to win the NFC West at the beginning of the year, and this is how they were supposed to look.
Alex Smith played (relatively) brilliantly, going 17-of-27 for 255 yards and three touchdowns. He made only a couple of errant throws, but was able to move the chains (7-of-17 third downs) and find his play-makers all afternoon, opening up with a 42-yard touchdown strike to Vernon Davis (5-70).
Michael Crabtree didn't do much (1 catch, 1 yard), but Brian Westbrook caught six balls for 87 yards and a score. Anthony Dixon, meanwhile, had 60 rushing yards on 14 attempts.
With the win, and the Rams and Seahawks losses, the 49ers are now within one game of the division lead. Unfortunately for them, they have a short travel week going to San Diego for a Thursday night game. So, enjoy it while it lasts, San Francisco fans.
Cardinals 43, Broncos 13
There was no way the Broncos could duplicate Dallas and Minnesota's success with their new interim head coach. I'll just copy-paste what I wrote on the NFL Picks page:
Both Dallas and Minnesota had logical successors in place. The Broncos didn't. While Jason Garrett and Leslie Frazier were being groomed to become head coaches, Eric Studesville was not. And in losing McDaniels, Denver will essentially be without two coaches - the main guy and the offensive coordinator.
The Broncos looked lost. Kyle Orton seemed completely disoriented, going 19-of-41 for 166 yards and three interceptions against an awful secondary. The one bright spot for Denver's offense was predictably Knowshon Moreno (Studesville is the running backs coach), who totaled 81 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and led the team with five catches for 32 receiving yards.
Let's focus on Arizona though. Rookie quarterback John Skelton went 15-of-37 for 146 yards in his first start. Those numbers look ugly, but Skelton played a lot better than those stats indicate. His receivers, namely Steve Breaston, dropped numerous long passes. Skelton moved around well in the pocket and managed the game efficiently.
Skelton, who has a big arm, should have been starting all year. Shame on Ken Whisenhunt for putting the Arizona fans through 13 weeks of Derek Anderson and Max Hall.
Larry Fitzgerald caught six balls for 72 yards. His production was not limited despite the fact that a rookie was making his NFL debut. Skelton is easily the most talented quarterback on the roster.
The Cardinals ran all over the Broncos. Unfortunately for Chris Wells fantasy owners - assuming any made the playoffs - Tim Hightower got all the work (18-148, 2 TDs). Wells had just 16 yards on six attempts.
Patriots 36, Bears 7
Yeah... so, the Patriots are easily the favorite to win the Super Bowl. And it's not even close.
If you couldn't tell by the score, New England dominated this contest, which was played in a blizzard in which winds reached 50 mph. The Patriots outgained the Bears, 475-185 (273-33 in the first half). They held the ball for nearly 40 minutes, and converted 12-of-19 third downs.
The difference was at the quarterback position. Tom Brady went 27-of-40 for 369 yards and two touchdowns - amazing numbers considering the conditions.
In the wake of this performance, Brady became the second quarterback ever to go six straight games with at least two touchdowns and no interceptions. The other was the late Don Meredith.
Check out these numbers: Deion Branch (8-151, TD), Wes Welker (8-115), Rob Gronkowski (5-43, TD). As Chris Berman said, it's like the Patriots played in 60-degree weather.
On the other end of the spectrum, is this the end for the Bears? The Jets suffered a similar loss to the Patriots on Monday night, and then capsized against an inferior divisional opponent six days later. Chicago travels to Minnesota next week.
The main reason I never had the Bears high in my NFL Power Rankings is because I don't trust Jay Cutler. Cutler self-destructed against New England, going 12-of-26 for 152 yards, two interceptions and a fumble.
Chicago is just not built for this sort of weather. Cutler makes too many mistakes, while the team doesn't run the ball well enough. Matt Forte gained just 25 yards on nine carries.
Dolphins 10, Jets 6
I loved the following trend I posted on my NFL Picks page:
Teams coming off a blowout loss (17+ points) on Monday Night Football are a dreadful 4-15 against the spread when favored the following week since 2002. Make that 4-16.
The reason for this? Teams in this situation are just so deflated that they either have trouble getting up for next week's contest, or lose focus and make mistakes.
Consider the following errors: In the first half alone, Mark Sanchez (17-44, 216 yards, 1 INT) fumbled to set up a Miami touchdown, threw an interception, and had two picks dropped by Sean Smith (one of which would have gone back for a score). Santonio Holmes dropped an easy touchdown. And on one defensive play, the Jets had only nine men on the field.
New York played only slightly better after intermission. Sanchez had yet another dropped pick and bobbled several snaps. On the final drive, Jerricho Cotchery had a huge drop that would have set the Jets up deep in Miami territory.
I'm listing all of these mistakes because Miami's offense didn't do anything. Chad Henne had only five completions, one of which was a 6-yard score to Brandon Marshall (2-16).
Henne was awful. He played like a man with no confidence. The coaching staff apparently didn't have any faith in him either; offensive coordinator Den Henning ran a ton of Wildcat. Ronnie Brown (16-55) and Ricky Williams (10-34) did enough on offense to win the game.
Chargers 31, Chiefs 0
The Chiefs better not blame this loss on Matt Cassel's appendectomy. Two reasons:
First, Cassel isn't that good. I know Brodie Croyle was awful (7-of-17, 40 yards), but Cassel isn't very talented either. He wouldn't have made the difference.
Second, good teams can win without their starting quarterback during a short period of time. Just look at the Steelers, who upset the Falcons with Dennis Dixon. The Chiefs just aren't a good team.
Besides, Cassel needs a running game to be effective, which is something Kansas City could not establish Sunday. Jamaal Charles rushed for 40 yards on 10 attempts, while Thomas Jones mustered only one yard on three carries.
Sorry, Dwayne Bowe fantasy owners. Bowe caught only one ball for three yards. Croyle could not get Bowe the ball. He nearly hit the stud wideout on a deep pass, but San Diego corner Antoine Cason made a great play to tip it away from Bowe.
San Diego completely dominated this game. The Chargers had 426 total yards, compared to Kansas City's 67 (16 in the second half). The Chiefs managed just five first downs (one in the second half) and failed to convert any third downs (0-of-11).
Philip Rivers went 18-of-24 for 226 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, which was an impressive pick by Eric Berry along the sidelines. Rivers didn't have Antonio Gates, but enjoyed throwing to Malcom Floyd (4-51, 2 TDs) and Vincent Jackson (2-29).
With Ryan Mathews back, the rookie and Mike Tolbert evenly split carries. Each had 16 attempts and a touchdown. Tolbert outgained Mathews by one yard, 66-65.
Eagles 30, Cowboys 27
The Eagles once again didn't bring their "A" game. They had red zone issues. QB Dog Killer tossed two interceptions, one of which was actually a dropped pass by Jeremy Maclin. Philadelphia's offensive line surrendered two sacks and numerous hits to the quarterback.
Yet, despite the mistakes, the Eagles found a way to beat a very good Dallas squad, thanks to their explosive offense.
QB Dog Killer went 16-of-26 for 270 yards, three touchdowns (2 pass, 1 rush) and the two aforementioned picks. He didn't do much scrambling, as Dallas did a great job of containing him in the pocket.
DeSean Jackson caught four balls for a whopping 210 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown. At the end of the play, Jackson stopped before reaching the end zone, and then tipped himself over sideways across the goal line, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. The infraction would prove to be inconsequential, but Andy Reid can't be pleased after scolding Jackson a couple of weeks earlier from clowning around. Reid will probably take a cheesesteak break during the week and warn Jackson not to mess around again.
LeSean McCoy curiously received just six carries in the first half. I guess the Eagles realized this at the break because they made sure McCoy touched the ball frequently throughout the rest of the game. McCoy finished with 149 yards on 16 attempts.
As for the Cowboys, Jon Kitna played a pretty decent game. He made a very poor decision on one of his two picks, but was otherwise 24-of-35 for 242 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both to Jason Witten (7-69).
Felix Jones had nearly double the carries (13-41, TD) that Tashard Choice (7-16) received. I was disappointed to see that Choice wasn't involved much on offense - until Choice asked QB Dog Killer for his autograph after the game. QB Dog Killer obliged and signed Choice's glove. Not that there's anything wrong with that.