NFL: Week 12 Thoughts

12 down. 5 to go.  Divisions have tightened up, making for a fun last month of the season.

How do I sum up week 12? Big Losses, Bad Losses, and a tie… oh my god football is great.

NFC EAST (It’s Officially a Two Horse Race)

  • Eagles: Bye Week. (6-5)
  • Cowboys: Tony Romo has been exceptional in the 4th quarter this season, and showed it once again.  Big 3rd down conversions helped set up a Dan Carpenter game winning 35-yard field goal.  Romo finished with 2 touchdown passes, both to Jason Witten.  Dez Bryant finished with 102-yards, and DeMarco Murray ran for 86-yards on just 14 carries.  A big fumble recovery for a touchdown helped get the Boys the win.  Now the fate of the division lies in two match-ups with Philly starting next week.  (6-5)
  • Giants: A late second field-goal sunk any hopes they had of completing a huge playoff resurgence.  First half struggles included Victor Cruz’s first fumble returned for a score, and an inability to get into the end-zone.  They ran the ball effectively with Brandon Jacobs and Andre Brown combining for nearly 200-yards, but abandoned the run in the red-zone. Eli Manning finished completing just 50% of his passes, but threw 2 touchdowns and no turnovers.  They managed to score 15 unanswered to tie the score late at 21, but the defense struggled to stop Tony Romo on 3rd down in what became the Cowboys game winning drive.  Strange play-calling and penalties are the biggest reason for their 4 game win streak coming to end. They lost both games to Dallas by a combined 8 points. (4-7)
  • Redskins: He’s not the same guy as the Robert Griffin III that own rookie of the year last season. RGIII finished with just 127-yards on 17-27 passing.  THe offense couldn’t muster anything more than a couple Kyle Forbath field goals, both coming in the 2nd quarter.  There won’t be a 7-game win streak to propel them into the playoffs this season. Now they have to hope they can beat the giants to stay out of last place, and not go from first-to-worst. (3-8)

NFC NORTH (A Tie Means Nobody Won this week)

  • Lions: They had a chance to get a last second win, instead Matthew Stafford threw his 4th interception of the game, sealing their fate. Stafford threw 3 touchdowns to go with those 4 turnovers.  Calvin Johnson went over 100-yards again, while Nate Burleson had a good day in his return from injury, catching 7 passes for 77-yards and a score.  This team continues to show potential, then have let-down games like this against bad teams. (6-5)
  • Bears: Josh McGown passed for 352-yards and two touchdowns with an interception.  Chicago had a Devin Hester 62-yard punt return for a touchdown nullified by a holding penalty in the fourth quarter.  But it didn’t matter, since the defense couldn’t stop the Rams offense.  That’s nothing new for a defense that has struggled since their 3-0 start.  Lucky for them, Detroit couldn’t put any separation between them. (6-5) 
  • Packers: After an early touchdown, Green Bay couldn’t do anything on offense.  That is until Matt Flynn came to the rescue, bringing them back to tie the game at 23 in the 4th quarter.  But didn’t do it alone, getting a lot of help from running back Eddie Lacy, who got back over the 100-yard mark and found the end-zone. Scott Tolzien wasn’t horrible, scoring a touchdown on the ground, but he was just 7-of-17 before his benching. They forced overtime, and kicked a field-goal to take the lead, but because of the new overtime rules, Minnesota tied, and that’s how it ended.  It was the first tie in the league since November of last season. (5-5-1)
  • Vikings: For 3 quarters, they shined. Adrian Peterson led the way with 146-yards rushing and a score, though he did lose a fumble.  Blair Walsh continues to show why he’s one of the top kickers in the league, hitting on all four of his attempts.  Christian Ponder threw 2 touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over.  But the defense wavered in the 2nd half, and nothing good happened in overtime.  A tie for this team is better than nothing, but they had a 3rd win in sight and let it slip away. (2-8-1)

NFC SOUTH (The Final 4 Weeks are Going to be Fun)

  • Saints: They weren’t sharp, but they made the plays when they had to in order to get the 4-point road win.  Drew Brees threw his two touchdowns to his tight-ends Jimmy Graham and Benjamin Watson.  Pierre Thomas led the way on the ground with 73-yards on just 10 carries.  All that damage came in the 1st half, with a Garrett Hartley field-goal the only New Orleans scoring of the 2nd half.  But the defense pitched a shutout in the 2nd half, giving this team just enough for the win.  (9-2)
  • Panthers: More late game heroics for Cam Newton, who engineered a game winning drive capped by a Greg Olsen touchdown with 43-seconds left in regulation.  It was a rare slow start, 16 points allowed in the 1st half that made the comeback necessary.  The game winner was Newton’s lone touchdown pass, though he did find pay dirt on the ground.  Other than that rushing TD, Carolina had no real success on the ground. But the defense showed up in the 2nd half, pitching a shutout.  The 7-game win streak is their longest in a decade.  They kept pace with New Orleans ahead of their first match-up of the season next week, a game that becomes a battle for first.  (8-3)
  • Buccaneers: Three straight wins, and they took down their best opponent in Detroit this time around. According to NFL.com, their 3 game win streak after losing the first eight of the season puts them in rare company, joining the 1978 St. Louis Cardinals as the only teams to do so.  Mike Glennon continues to show he can win in this league, completing 14-of-21 passes for 247-yards and 2 touchdowns.  Bobby Rainey didn’t come close to his break out performance from a week ago on the ground, but it didn’t matter.  It was Tiquan Underwood that had the break out week.  The 5th year wide-out went for 108 and 2 scores on the day. And obviously the defense did a good job turning Stafford over 4 times to help hold on in the end. (3-8)
  • Falcons: A loss on Thursday Night meant a lot of bad things for Atlanta.  Their 5th straight defeat ensured their first losing season since 2008, and eliminated them from playoff contention.  This is not how anyone saw a Superbowl favorite showing up this season.  Not saying much, but Matt Ryan had one of his best performances of the season, completing 30 of 39 passes for 292 yards with no interceptions, but no touchdowns either.  Steven Jackson ran one in for his first rushing score as a Falcon.  2 Matt Bryant field goals made up the rest of the lack luster offense.  The defense did a pretty good job holding a good New Orleans team to 17 points.  (2-9)

NFC WEST (The Race For 2nd is On)

  • Seahawks: Bye Week. (10-1)
  • 49ers: It’s always a good day when your defense holds the opponent to field goals.  And he wasn’t good last week, but boy did Colin Kaepernick look good this week. San Fran’s man under center threw 3 touchdowns, finished with a total of 255-yards and no turnovers.  Anquan Boldin was the recipient of two of those touchdown passes, with the other going to Vernon Davis.  The run game was lacking, but they did enough to win and keep pace with the cards.  (7-4)
  • Cardinals: This team continues to win, and this week they made a statement against a very good team. Carson Palmer threw for 2 scores and over 300-yards. Larry Fitzgerald caught five passes for 52-yards and 2 touchdowns, and according to NFL.com, become the youngest player in NFL history to reach 11,000 yards receiving.  Jay Feely added 4 field-goals to the 40-point effort. The defense shut down the Colts offense, including a Karlos Dansby pick 6 in their 20-point 2nd quarter.  Head Coach Bruce Arians beat the team that he was the interim head coach for a year ago when Chuck Pagano fought leukemia.  They’ve moved themselves into playoff contention. (7-4)
  • Rams: I’ve said it all year, this defense is for real.  And this week, the offense matched their greatness with a season high 42 points.  It’s their 2nd game in a row where they’ve looked unstoppable on offense, and against good teams.  21 in the 1st quarter made it an uphill battle all game for Chicago, and they couldn’t recover.  Kellen Clemens’ performance wasn’t anything to write home about, 167-yards, and a touchdown.  The story was the run game.  For a team that took til week 9 to drive it in on the ground, the Rams picked up rushing touchdowns from 3 different players.  Rookie rushers Billy Cunningham and Zac Stacy each found the end zone, as did rookie wide-receiver Tavon Austin.  The defense got a pick and forced 2 fumbles. (5-6)

AFC EAST (A Big Win All But Ensures New England’s Division Championship)

  • Patriots: An atrocious 1st half was followed up by an incredible 2nd half.  Two early fumbles which led to 2 touchdowns put New England down 14-0 quick.  Down 24-0 at the half, 31 unanswered points in the 2nd half to take a 1-score lead in the 4th quarter.  Tom Brady was brilliant after early struggles, finishing with 344-yards passing and 3 touchdowns.  Julian Edelman had a huge night, finishing with 9 catches for 110-yards and two touchdowns.  After the defense allowed Denver to tie the score forcing overtime, Stephen Gostkowski hit his 21st straight to give them the big come-from-behind victory(8-3)
  • Jets: It was all bad on Sunday, leading to their first 2-game losing streak of the season.  Geno Smith was as bad as he’s been all season, completing just 9 of 22 passes along with committing 3 turnovers.  The run game didn’t help, low-lighted by a Chris Ivory ankle sprain. It doesn’t help when the offense finishes just 1-for-12 on 3rd down conversions either. The defense wasn’t terrible, but they did lose Antonio Cromartie to a hip injury. (5-6)
  • Dolphins: They got off to a hot start against one of the hottest teams in the league, but then the Panthers defense tightened up, and the Miami offense had no answer. The run game continues to suffer following the bully scandal and the loss of two key offensive linemen.  Ryan Tannehill passed for over 300-yards and threw a touchdown, while Caleb Sturgis hit 3 of his 4 field goal attempts.  But all the good came in the 1st half before they could do nothing right in the 2nd half.  Mike Wallace had 127-yards receiving and a touchdown, but missed on a possible game-winner from Tannehill. (5-6)
  • Bills: Bye Week. (4-7)

AFC NORTH (The Cats are Still Sitting Pretty, but Things Are Tightening Up)

  • Bengals: Bye Week. (7-4) 
  • Steelers: The comeback from an 0-4 start continues.  Ben Roethlisberger threw 2 touchdowns, to Antonio Brown in the 1st half, and Emmanuel Sanders in the 2nd half to keep playoff hopes alive.  Le’Veon Bell added 80-yards on the ground to Big Ben’s 217 passing. 4 forced turnovers didn’t hurt either. It’s Roethlisberger’s 16th win over Cleveland in 17 career starts, and gives Pittsburgh the season sweep over their division foes. (5-6)
  • Ravens: Jacoby Jones has a big day receiving, finishing with 103-yards on just 4 catches.  Joe Flacco finished with 1 touchdown thrown to Jones, 1 pick and 273-yards passing. Justin Tucker continues to come up big, hitting all 4 of his field-goal attempts, including a 53-yarder.  The run game disappeared again, but it didn’t matter with how the defense played.  They didn’t allow the Jets to sustain drives, while recording 3 sacks and forcing 3 turnovers.  The win puts Baltimore back in contention for a wildcard spot(5-6)
  • Browns: The season got off to a promising start, but losing 6-of-7 have turned it into another season that could end at the bottom of the division.  Injuries at quarterback have defined the season, and their 3rd starter of the season went down, when Jason Campbell left with a head injury after being sacked.  Brandon Weedon came back in, but couldn’t help stop another loss.  4 turnovers, including 3 lost fumbles led to the two score loss.  Not even Josh Gordon’s 227-yards receiving could help stave off defeat. (4-7)

AFC South (Indy Running Out of Luck?)

  • Colts: This team can’t continue to get off to such bad starts.  After a strong 1st half of the season, this team is starting to show why a lack of a run game could hurt them in the playoffs. Andrew Luck came within 2-yards of being the team leader in rushing against Arizona, which can’t happen with a non-mobile quarterback.  Luck wasn’t good passing either, throwing a pick 6, and throwing a garbage time touchdown to Coby Fleener. At this point, they’re just lucky they built up a big lead in the division with Tennessee not going away. (7-4)
  • Titans: Don’t look now, but Tennessee is the number 6 seed in the AFC.  It took til the 2nd half to score a touchdown, but Ryan Fitzpatrick found the end-zone twice, including a game-winning strike to Kendall Wright with 10 seconds left in regulation.  The defense held Oakland to one touchdown and field-goal attempts, and they were helped out by a couple misses.  They also won the turnover battle, which was key in a 1 score game. (5-6) 
  • Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew continues his 2nd half resurgence, rushing for 84-yards on 14 carries including a touchdown. Chad Henne managed the game well, throwing for 239 with no touchdowns but no turnovers.  The defense held late as Houston drove down the field, when rookie Ryan Davis grabbed a deflected ball for the interception to seal the victory. (2-9)
  • Texans: Things went from bad to worst for a once highly thought of Houston squad.  Make it 9 straight losses,dropping them into a tie for last place after the home loss to the Jaguars. Case Keenum was back under center after being benched in the 2nd half last week in favor of Matt Schaub.  Keenum with his worst performance of his young career, completing just 18 of 34 passes for 169-yards and an interception. It’s hard to win when you can’t do anything but kick field-goals, no matter who you’re playing. (2-9)

AFC WEST (Denver Blows Opportunity to take a lead in the Division)

  • Broncos: A week after coming up big, Peyton Manning came up small on the road against New England.  A season low 150-yards, two touchdowns and a pick, Manning couldn’t pick up a big road win despite being spotted a defensive touchdown and good field position on another early turnover.  Knowshon Moreno did his best to save Denver, rushing for a career high 224-yards and a score.  Bad news on Moreno, he as found on crutches after the game.  The defense couldn’t do anything in the 2nd half, allowing the Pats to score on  their first 5 drives of the 2nd half. (9-2)
  • Chiefs: Defensive injuries are piling up at the wrong time, leading to their 2nd straight loss.  Both Tamba Hali and Justin Houston left in the 1st half with bad injuries.  Alex Smith threw the ball as good as he has all year, going for nearly 300-yards, 3 scores and 1 pick.  Jamaal Charles added his 7th and 8th rushing scores on the year as apart of a 115-yard performance.  Dwayne Bowe’s touchdown catch with under 3 to play looked to be the dagger to help overcome their injuries, but it wasn’t to be. (9-2)
  • Chargers: Make it 11 wins versus the Chiefs for Philip Rivers. San Diego’s QB took advantage of Kansas City’s defensive injuries, torching the depleted secondary for  392-yards and three touchdowns, the final one a 26-yarder to Seyi Ajirotutu with 24 seconds remaining to snap their 3-game losing streak.  Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead added scores on the ground.  Their defense wasn’t great, but they were lucky Kansas City was so banged up, and that the offense clicked on all cylinders. (5-6)
  • Raiders: Sebastian Janikowski doesn’t miss many, but he missed two on Sunday, in a 3-point loss.  Matt McGloin wasn’t too bad, throwing for 260, a score and a pick.  Rashad Jennings couldn’t crack the 100-yard mark again, but it wasn’t a bad effort by Oakland.  A win would’ve put them in the 6 seed in the AFC, instead they fall further down in the playoff hunt, and drop to the bottom of the West. (4-7)

That’s it.  Week 13 approaches as division foes square off to better their playoff standings, play spoiler and pick up as many wins as possible.

Enjoy.

Advertisements

NFL: Week 11 Thoughts

11 down. 6 to go. And playoff races are starting to heat up.  The final undefeated has fallen, while leads atop divisions have shrunken, grown and switched hands.  Everything you could hope as the days inch closer to the holidays.

2 more teams were off this week: the  Cowboys and the Rams.

NFC EAST (The Birds Are All Alone Atop the Division… For Now)

  • Eagles: A 3rd straight victory snapped a franchise record 10-game home losing streak.  Up 17-0 at the halftime break, the defense was able to hold off a 4th quarter comeback.  The offense looked great in the 1st half, but only scored once in the 2nd half.  Nick Foles used his legs, not his arm, to find the end-zone this week.  Philly’s new top gun ran in for a score, while LeSean McCoy did the rest, finding pay-dirt twice on the afternoon.  Foles threw no TDs, while continuing his streak of no interceptions in tack as apart of a 298-yard passing day.  They became the 8th team in NFL history with at least 2,800 passing yards and 1,600 rushing yards through it’s first 11 games. With Dallas off, Philly takes over sole possession of 1st in the East, but they have already lost once to the Cowboys with another match-up ahead. (6-5)
  • Cowboys: Bye Week. (5-5)
  • Giants: 4 straight wins for the Giants, and this was the best all-around game in the stretch.  Eli Manning looked as good as he has since week 1 (the part after those 3 interceptions to start the year).  The struggling 2-time Superbowl MVP threw a 26-yard touchdown to Ruben Randle in a game where he completed 25 of 35 passes for 279 yards.  Running backs Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs did their thing on the ground, combining for 75 yards and a score.  The defense allowed just the 2nd touchdown in their last 18 quarters, and they continued to shut down opposing backs.  Up just 7 in the 4th, Jason Pierre-Paul sealed the win with a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown. (4-6)
  • Redskins: The offense couldn’t do anything right until the 4th quarter.  Down 24-0, Robert Griffin III threw TD passes of 62 and 41 yards to Darrel Young and Aldrick Robinson, while converting on both 2-point conversions to get within 8.  With one final drive, Griffin drove Washington all the way to the Eagles 18 before a Brandon Boykin interception sealed the loss. Griffin and Alfred Morris combined for 137 yards on the ground, but two RGIII turnovers proved too costly in the end. They’re now alone in last place, with two against the Giants left to be played. (3-7)

NFC NORTH (It’s Crowded at the Top)

  • Lions: A golden opportunity to at least hold onto their 1 game lead, they got off to a slow start in Pittsburgh and never recovered. They now have company atop the division, though should they end in a tie with Chicago, they hold the tiebreaker.  Matt Stafford did become the franchise’s leading passer thanks to his 362-yards passing.  And Calvin Johnson put up monster numbers again, with 179 and a score.  But much of their damage came in a 27 point 2nd quarter.  Detroit was shutout in the 2nd half, while the defense surrendered 4 Steelers touchdowns and 3 field-goals.  (6-4)
  • Bears: A long weather delay gave Chicago new life, leading to an overtime win on the strength of a 38-yard Robbie Gould field-goal.  Down 10-0 with 4:51 in the 1st, play was stopped because of tornado warnings.  Nearly 2 hours later, play resumed, and the Bears woke up. Josh McCown connected with Matt Forte on his lone TD pass of the day.  Forte added 83-yards on the ground to that receiving touchdown.  Defensive end David Bass added a score on defense with a 24-yard interception return of Joe Flacco in the 2nd quarter. (6-4) 
  • Packers: Scott Tolzien had a chance to tie in the 4th quarter, but a pick 6 sealed a 3rd straight loss since losing Aaron Rodgers and then Seneca Wallace. Despite nearly 350 yards passing, the team couldn’t recover from Tolzien’s 3 interceptions, including the game sealing  pick 6. Rookie running back Eddie Lacy was all but shutdown, managing just 27 rushing yards and a score that turned into nothing more than window dressing.  All hope is not lost, with Rodgers back to practice and match-ups against all three division foes left on the schedule. (5-5)
  • Vikings: Neither Christian Ponder, or Matt Cassel could solve the Seahawks defense, combining for 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions and a lost fumble on Sunday.  Toby Gerhart and not Adrian Peterson led the team in rushing yards, but the 132 combined yards on the ground didn’t help stave off defeat.  Just about the only things they did well were to keep it close at half, and limit Lynch everywhere but the redzone.  (2-8)

NFC SOUTH (The Saints Keep Marching On)

  • Saints: It was a defensive struggle in the 2nd half, but 9 points in the 4th gave New Orleans the come-from-behind home victory over San Francisco.   Tied late, Marques Colston finished off a record day with a 20-yard catch to set up Garrett Hartley’s 31-yard game winning field goal as time expired.  The wide-receiver out of Hofstra finished the day with five catches for 80 yards to become the Saints all-time leader in yards receiving with 7,922. It wasn’t the Saints best day offensively, but it was enough thanks to the play of the defense.  3 sacks and a pick of Colin Kaepernick gave Drew Brees and company enough time to get 3 scoring drives in the 4th. (8-2)
  • Panthers: Maybe now is the time to start talking about this team as a threat. A 4-point win on Monday night gives them 6 straight, and back-to-back statement wins.  Cam Newton threw for 3 touchdowns for the 3rd time this season, something he did only twice his first 2 seasons in the league.  He spread the wealth, hitting 3 different receivers for scores, while 3 finished with at least 50-yards receiving.  Ted Ginn Jr was the recipient of the game winner with just over a minute to play in regulation. Newton was also the only real threat in the run game, leading the way with 62 on the ground to go with 209 in the air.  The defense forced two turnovers, including a Brady INT in the end-zone as time expired.  According to the Panthers PR department, they’re the first team since the 1935 Giants to allow 1 or fewer first half touchdowns over their first 10 games of the season. (7-3)
  • Buccaneers: Don’t look now but the previously win-less Bucs are on a win streak. Waiver wire pick-up Bobby Rainey had himself a day in the place of the injured Doug Martin and Mike James.  162-yards rushing and 2 scores for the 2nd year back out of Western Kentucky.  Not to mention a 3rd touchdown catch for Rainey thrown by Mike Glennon, who finished with 231 and two scores on the day. Vincent Jackson had a monster day, grabbing 10 passes for 165 and a touchdown. (2-8)
  • Falcons: I never thought this team would be at the bottom of the division with all the talent they have, but here they are.  They’ve now dropped 4 straight, and according to NFL.com, they’ve been outscored 135-61 in that stretch.  Matt Ryan threw 2 touchdowns, but also another 2 interceptions.  Harry Douglas had another good game despite being questionable leading up to kick-off, catching 6 passes for 134-yards and a score.  The run game was finally decent, but if you can’t stop the run or get stops in the red-zone, you’re not going to win many games. (2-8)

NFC WEST (The Hawks Are Flying Away With It)

  • Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch didn’t have the monster yardage total he’s accustomed to, but he made his yards count, taking it in for 2 scores, one on the ground and one in the air, in a big win over the Vikings.  Russell Wilson didn’t throw it much, but he did complete 13 of 18 for 230 and two touchdowns.  It was still a game at the half, but the defense did it’s job in the 2nd half, including a pick 6 to help pull away for good.  The win makes them just 1 of 3 teams with just 1 loss, and keeps their 1-game lead for the NFC’s number 1 seed in tact after the Saints win.  Not to mention all but locks up the West after the aforementioned New Orleans win over San Francisco. (10-1)
  • 49ers: Make it two straight losses after a 5-game stretched where San Fran looked nearly unbeatable.  This team doesn’t blow many leads, but they did just that against the Saints. Colin Kaepernick was sacked 3 times, threw 2 touchdowns and an interception.  He nor running back Frank Gore could get much going on the ground.  Aaron Brooks had really the only good game on defense, picking off Brees, getting the teams lone sack and forcing a fumble.  Now they’re tied for 2nd with Arizona. (6-4)
  • Cardinals: Nobody is talking about this team, but they are in a fight for a wildcard thanks in large part to their defense.  They got off to a slow start in the 1st quarter, but then both sides of the ball dominated the Jaguars for the rest of the way. Carson Palmer threw for 419 yards and two scores and no picks for the first time all year.  Receiver Michael Floyd finished with a career-high 193 yards receiving, including a 91-yard touchdown. (6-4)
  • Rams: Bye Week. (4-6)

AFC EAST (The Pats Maintain a Decent Lead)

  • Patriots: They were down 10 early, but rallied back to take the lead in the 4th, but it wasn’t enough. Tom Brady threw for just 1 touchdown, and didn’t get the help he needed from his run game.  He had a shot with 4-seconds left from his own 18, but his final throw was picked off in the end-zone.  Controversy struck when a flag for what New England thought would be defensive holding was picked up.  Brady was visibly upset with the refs as the teams took the field to shake hands. Whether or not the call should’ve been made, the Patriots were once again shutdown by a top flight defense.  Lucky for them the Jets didn’t close the gap.  (7-3)
  • Jets: They’re consistently inconsistent. According to NFL.com, they’re the first team to alternate wins and losses the first 10 games of the season.  Geno Smith looked like a rookie on the road today, with 2 turnovers in the 1st half alone. Things got worse when he was benched in favor of Matt Simms.  Down 20-0 at the half, they could never make a threat on the Bills. Chris Ivory had really the only good day, falling just short of a 100 yards on the ground to go with a score. (5-5)
  • Dolphins: This needed a win for many reasons, and they battled til the end to get one. Their first since the bully scandal broke, Ryan Tannehill led his team to victory.  The 2nd year quarterback threw for 268 yards, including a 39-yard score to tight-end Charles Clay to break a 10-10 tie in the third. Miami also managed 104 yards rushing behind a makeshift offensive line. (5-5)
  • Bills: EJ Manuel led his team to their 1st win in 3 weeks. Manuel was on point, completing 20 of 28 passes for 245 and 2 scores.  The run game didn’t come into play much, but the way the defense stepped up, they didn’t need help on the ground.  Jarius Byrd forced two of the Jets 4 turnovers, while Da’Norris Searcy returned his interception for a score.  The two teams split the season series, each winning at home.  (4-7)

AFC NORTH (The Bengals Pounce, Give Themselves A Big Cushion)

  • Bengals: Nothing like 31 unanswered 2nd quarter points (the largest output in a quarter in team history) to put a bad start behind you.  After losing two straight games in overtime, a rout was what this team needed to get back on track.  Andy Dalton shook off a bad start that saw two of his passes picked off in the 1st quarter, one returned for a score, to put them down 13-0 quick.  But he came back to throw 3 scores, but on just 93 yards passing. It was a good all around game, with both the defense and special teams finding the end-zone, with a fumble recovery and a blocked punt for a score.  (7-4) 
  • Steelers: Don’t look now but they’re technically not in last place anymore after a very slow start to the season.  Big Ben and company had their most impressive day on offense.  Ben Roethlisberger threw for 367 yards, 4 touchdowns and no turnovers.  Add 3 more field-goals for Shaun Suisham and it’s pretty easy to see why this team held off the Lions. (4-6)
  • Browns: They jumped out to a quick 13-0 score.  But then they fell apart on both offense and defense, and you can’t do that against a hungry team like Cincinnati. Jason Campbell threw 3 interceptions, Chris Ogbonnaya lost a fumble and their special teams allowed a score.  And despite creating a couple of turnovers of their own, they couldn’t get any real pressure on Dalton. (4-6)
  • Ravens: Justin Tucker’s 21-yard field goal forced over-time, but it wasn’t enough to save them from the loss. Baltimore jumped out to a quick 10-point lead thanks to a 1-yard Ray Rice touchdown run, and a Tucker 52-yard field goal in the 1st half. But then the weather delay happenedRice finished with his best total of the season, 131 yards and that score.  Joe Flacco ended with 162-yards passing, a touchdown and two interceptions, one of which was returned for 6.  It was a golden opportunity to move into a better spot for a possible wild card spot, instead they fall 3 games back of the division lead. (4-6)

AFC South  (Indy All But Has This Things Wrapped Up)

  • Colts: A slow start wasn’t enough to hand Indy their second straight loss, which would’ve been a first in the Chuck Pagano era.  Andrew Luck and company woke up in the 3rd quarter to rally from a 17-6 half-time deficit and get their 7th win.   The Colts got some much-needed help from Donald Brown, who ran in for two scores for the first time in his career.  Luck added an 11-yard scamper of his own.  Tight-end Coby Fleener had a career high 8 catches for 107 yards. (7-3)
  • Titans: Things looked good early, when Chris Johnson’s 30-yard and 7-yard touchdown runs in the 1st quarter put the Colts’ backs against the wall early.  But if you can’t turn over the Colts, or stop the run in the red zone, you’re in trouble.  Ryan Fitzpatrick had a good day in place of the injured Jake Locker, completing 22 of 28 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown.  But it wasn’t enough in the end.  They started off the season well, but have taken a turn for the worse as they’re losers of 2 straight and 5 of their last 6. (4-6)
  • Texans: Make it 8 straight losses.  Two early turnovers including Case Keenum’s first career interception gave the Raiders two quick drives from their own 16. Oakland scored on both turnovers and put Houston down 14-0 in the 1st.  But 17 unanswered points capped by a career-long 51-yard field goal by Randy Bullock had them up at the half.  Down 21-17 in the 3rd, Houston decided to remove a healthy Keenum for Matt Schaub, who hadn’t seen action since he went down in week 6.  (2-8)
  • Jaguars: They jumped out quick, but it wasn’t enough as they were shutout through the final 3 quarters.  They scored a touchdown (2 in fact) for the first time at home all season.  Maurice Jones-Drew only finished with 23 yards rushing on 14 carries, but he did have one of the two Jacksonville scores.  Chad Henne threw two picks, one touchdown.  The defense sacked Carson Palmer 3 times, but was unable to turn the Cardinals over.  (1-9)

AFC WEST (December is Going to Be Fun in the West)

  • Broncos: In the biggest game of the week, Denver put up the most points on KC of any opponent.  Peyton Manning wasn’t sharp, but the run game was huge in the red zone, while the defense did their best Chiefs impression, with a number of impressive stops and takeaways. Manning extended his record for 300 yard passing games to 81, but threw just one touchdown and lost a fumble in the process. Rookie running back Montee Ball had his best game of the season, capitalizing in the red zone by finding the endzone twice.  A huge reason for the good run game was the offensive line, which prevented a sack-happy defense from touching Manning all night.  They hold the end in the division, for now.  Their 2nd match-up comes in 2 weeks in KC. (9-1)
  • Chiefs: Alex Smith threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns as his team suffered their first loss of the season. They were in the game the whole night, but couldn’t find a way to get over the hump.  Dwayne Bowe had a 57-yards receiving and a` touchdown in a game he could have been out for days after being arrested for speeding and marijuana possession. The defense held down the potent Broncos defense for the most part, but it was still almost 15 points more than their opponents average.  Jaamal Charles had a good day on the ground, running for 78 at 4.9 yards a carry. (9-1)
  • Raiders: Matt McGloin made quite the impression in his first NFL start. 3 touchdowns (2 of which came on turnovers) and no interceptions for the former Penn State QB.  Rashad Jennings continues to make Oakland fans ask Darren McFadden who? with 150 yards and a rushing touchdown to help get his team their 4th win.  The defense forced 3 turnovers, and held late with a goal-line stand in the final seconds to stop the Texans comeback attempt. The win ensures they finish with a better win total than a year ago. (4-6)
  • Chargers: Forever the inconsistent team are these Chargers.  San Diego could only muster one touchdown, coming in the 1st quarter to fall for the 3rd straight game. They stayed in the game til the end thanks to 3 Nick Novak field goals.  But their possible game winning drive ended with an incomplete pass in the end zone.  Philip Rivers fell just short of 300 yards passing, with a touchdown and an interception.  Ryan Matthews was able to get back over 100 yards rushing, but was unable to find the end zone. (4-6)

That’s it.  Week 12 approaches as teams look to continue bettering their playoff positioning.

NFL: Week 8 Predictions

Week 8. Wow. We’ve come to the halfway point of the season (for teams that haven’t taken a bye that is).

Speaking of byes, six teams are off this week: the Ravens, Bears, Titans, Colts, Chargers and Texans.

I went 9-6 last week in my picks, and now here are my picks for week 8.

Thursday Night Football

  • Carolina @ Tampa Bay: It’s not the most glamorous matchup to get Week 8 started.  Cam Newton and his Panthers offense have been playing very well the last few weeks, while Mike Glennon had a good day in a loss to Atlanta.  The Bucs are still looking for their first win and are without their top back after Doug Martin tore a labrum last weekend.  The Panthers defense has been very good at getting to the quarterback, and if they can do the same thing to Glennon, I see this being another easy win for the cats.  CAROLINA WINS

1PM Sunday Games

  • San Francisco @ Jacksonville: Let’s be honest, the Jags are bad, and the 49ers are hot.  Jacksonville had its best game 2 weeks ago against Denver and still lost by almost 20 points. The revolving door of Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne at quarterback continues, with Henne getting the nod this week.  The run game for the Niners, coupled with a great defense, is just too much for a flawed Jacksonville team. SAN FRAN WINS
  • Cleveland @ Kansas City: Brandon Weedon to the bench, Jason Campbell under center for the Browns.  Off two straight bad performances, Cleveland is trying something different.  A tough time to change quarterbacks when they’re on the road taking on the leagues only undefeated team.  At 7-0, the Chiefs are obviously playing good football, particularly on defense, and should have another big day. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Miami @ New England: I was surprised at how bad the Dolphins played out of the gate last week, coming off their bye.  The offense got going and took the lead over Buffalo, but couldn’t hold it.  The same came be said for the Patriots, who managed to force overtime against the Jets.  The Pats hold just a one game edge in the East, and the Dolphins are now 2 back.  This is a big game for both squads, but give me the home team. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Buffalo @ New Orleans: The Bills offense played well a week ago against Miami, and the defense made the plays late to secure a victory.  But they have to do a better job of holding a lead if they get one against the Saints, which is easier said than done. And I don’t really see them having a lead, let alone holding one.  I think the week off the Saints good, and not to mention how hard it is to play in the Superdome. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Dallas @ Detroit: Two high-powered offenses in this one. The Lions lost a tough one against Cincy, the cowboys won an easy one against Philly.  But Detroit actually played better on offense than Dallas did a week ago, and with DeMarco Murray still questionable for this week, I think the Lions just have more weapons right now, both offensively and defensively. DETROIT WINS
  • New York Giants @ Philadelphia: The G-Men finally enter a game coming off a win, the Eagles head in on a loss.  Some good news for Philly, who will be getting back Michael Vick. The ground game was better for the Giants for a second straight week, while the defense has done a great job stopping the run themselves.  I think a with a win under their belt, the Giants start to find a rhythm. Rarely do these two teams sweep the season series, and I think the Giants get a big road win, their first.  NEW YORK WINS

4/4:25PM Sunday Games

  • Pittsburgh @ Oakland: They’re still not playing their best football, but the Steelers have no won two straight against good teams. They’re doing a good job stoping the run, which they’ll need against Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders.  Oakland is coming off their bye week and while they’ve played better this season than most expected, I think the Steelers get a third straight and continue to get good progress out of Le’Veon Bell. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • New York Jets @ Cincinnati: The Jets got a big division win last week, while the Bengals increased their own division lead.  Both teams have gotten big performances out of their defenses this season.  But I think the difference will be Andy Dalton finding his rhythm, while Geno Smith continues to have one up and one down game, as to be expected with rookie QBs.  I just really like how the Cincy is playing, and have been able to win without much production in the run game, something they probably won’t get against New York.  Another case of give me the home team here. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Atlanta @ Arizona: Matt Ryan should get back Roddy White and possibly even Steven Jackson, giving him two more weapons to play with.  The Cardinals got off to a good start this season, but I think the Falcons are primed for a run.  ATLANTA WINS
  • Washington @ Denver: The Redskins offense was on point last week, but the defense was not.  And despite a tweaked ankle for Peyton Manning, this offense is going to be motivated coming off their first loss.  It might not be a blowout, but I can’t see the Broncos losing a 2nd straight, especially with this being a home game. DENVER WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Green Bay @ Minnesota: The Packers are now down 2 of their best offensive weapons with the loss of wide-out Randall Cobb and tight-end Jermichael Finley.  But the Vikings are back to a change at QB now that after 1 start Josh Freeman has a concussion, meaning Christian Ponder will be under center.  GREEN BAY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Seattle @ St. Louis: The Seahawks are just better than the Rams, and without Sam Bradford under center, it doesn’t help.  The Rams have added Brady Quinn and Austin Davis to the roster, after only being left with Kellen Clemens.  No word on who gets the start yet, but I don’t think it really matters. SEATTLE WINS

So that’s it.  Enjoy week 8 everybody.

NFL: Week 6 Predictions

Can’t believe it’s week 6 in the NFL already.

We’ve got two more teams on their bye: Atlanta and Miami.

Last week I went 7-7 in my picks, so let’s see if I can top that this week.

Thursday Night Football

  • New York Giants @ Chicago: I need to stop picking the Giants, who are bad in all 3 phases of the game right now.  But here are the Bears, losers of 2 straight where they’ve allowed 66 points.  Both teams are struggling, and their QBs just keep turning the ball over.  I have to give the edge to the home team here. CHICAGO WINS

1PM Sunday Games

  • Green Bay @ Baltimore: Both teams are coming off much-needed wins, but also wins where neither QB looked spectacular.  The run game for both seem to be turning around, but despite it being a road game, Aaron Rodgers has the edge over Joe Flacco in this one. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Cincinnati @ Buffalo: The Bills are down their starting quarterback, while the Bengals defense is on a high following a complete shutdown of the Patriots.  Buffalo will have to rely on their running back tandem of CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson to carry them.  While the Bengals have to hope Andy Dalton can find his rhythm.  CINCINNATI WINS
  • Detroit @ Cleveland: This is one of the more intriguing match-ups this week. Two 3-2 teams that pretty much no one had being over .500 at all this year let alone after week 5.  The Browns lost starter Brian Hoyer, but Brandon Weedon is healthy again.  While the Lions hope start wide-out Calvin Johnson can come back and help an offense which struggled a week ago.  I’m giving the home team the advantage here, thanks to a defense that has looked impressive early. CLEVELAND WINS
  • St. Louis @ Houston: Houston isn’t very good right now, while the Rams are coming off a nice win over the hapless Jaguars.  If the Texans want to make any type of run to get back into the  playoff picture, this is a game, at home, against another under .500 team that they have to win.  And I think they will, despite a possible QB controversy brewing following the benching of Matt Schaub in favor of TJ Yates late Sunday night against San Francisco.  Schaub starts and bounces back in a big way. HOUSTON WINS
  • Carolina @ Minnesota: The Vikings are coming off their bye, while the Panthers are coming off a bad performance against Arizona. Both are looking for their 2nd win of the season.  The Vikings have a new QB on the roster after signing Josh Freeman.  Cam Newton had one of his worst days as a starter Sunday.  The Vikings have log-jam at QB, as they now have Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Freeman as possible starters.  but Freeman is in no rush to take over the reigns, so Cassel will get the start Sunday after leading Minnesota to their first win before their bye week.  I think the uncertainty hurts, and the Panthers will pounce. CAROLINA WINS
  • Oakland @ Kansas City: The Raiders are feeling good after their Sunday Night win, but the Chiefs are feeling better sitting here at 5-0.  They got a scare from Tennessee last week, but at home this team is going to continue their huge bounce back from a disappointing 2012 season.  KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Pittsburgh @ New York Jets: The Steelers are coming off their bye and looking for win number 1.  But they face a tough test in a Jets team flying off a big win over Atlanta.  Ben Roethlisberger isn’t used to this losing, while the Jets aren’t used to winning.  I honestly can’t see the Steelers going 0-5 but New York’s defense is very good, and Geno Smith continues to grow.  I will probably regret it but I’m taking experience versus hot play. PITT WINS
  • Philadelphia @ Tampa Bay: With the drama surrounding Josh Freeman over, the Buccaneers look to pick up their 1st win of the year against the Eagles who picked up win number 2 last week.  Nick Foles is expected to start for the injured Michael Vick, but that worked out fine against New York, so no worries there.  PHILADELPHIA WINS

4/4:25PM Sunday Games

  • Jacksonville @ Denver: If ever there were a trap game, this would be it.  The beat up 0-5 Jags on the road against the seemingly unstoppable 5-0 Broncos?  Well, you know the saying any given Sunday?  It’s true, I just don’t see it being true on this Sunday. DENVER WINS
  • Tennessee @ Seattle:  This might be my favorite game of the week.  Most people probably didn’t have the Titans winning many games all season, yet here they are at 3-2.  And really they had a chance last week against the now 5-0 Chiefs.  The Seahawks are coming off a tough loss to the Colts, their first of the year.   I think the Titans can hang around again, but that 12th man is going to be the difference again. SEATTLE WINS
  • New Orleans @ New England: Two teams who are a combined 9-1?  Should be fun.  Tom Brady and co are coming off a rare no-touchdown effort, and I see them responding in a big way, handing the Saints their first loss. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Arizona @ San Francisco:  This is another one of the more intriguing games of the week.  Both enter action off big wins and at 3-2 in a much improved NFC West.  If this game were in Cardinals territory I might give them the edge.  But home-field and a Niners team clicking in every facet of the game is too much to pick against.  SAN FRAN WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Washington @ Dallas: An NFC East battle that could help the Cowboys pull away, or just make things more jumbled in a down division.  Tony Romo is coming off the best game of his career, except for the only thing people will remember, which is the poor decision-making late that caused a turnover and led to a loss.  The Redskins are coming off a bye, and look to pick up their 2nd win of the year.  Anything can happen in division games, and I see this one being close until the end, but I think the boys bounce back at home. DALLAS WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Indianapolis @ San Diego: The Colts are really, really good.  The Chargers are very up and down.  If Phillip Rivers can stop with all the turnovers, this team maybe wouldn’t be so inconsistent.  I see it being a fairly close game, but as it tends to happen, Andrew Luck will do something awesome in the 4th quarter.  INDY WINS

So there you have it.  My week 6 picks.  Enjoy all the football action, and I’ll be back Monday with my thoughts on what went down.

NFL: Week 5 Thoughts

5 down. 12 to go.  And we still have 3 win-less teams, as well as 3 undefeated squads.

Washington, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Tampa Bay were all on their bye weeks.

I’m deviating from breaking this down by record.  Now that we’ve come to week 5, division races are starting to take shape.  So let’s take a look around the league that way.

NFC EAST (The Under .500 Club)

  • Cowboys: Tony Romo had the best game of his career, becoming the 1st Dallas QB to throw for over 500 yards. But a late second interception led to a Broncos game-winning field-goal and a loss. But don’t focus on another Romo turnover.  When you put up 48 points, you should win.  The defense just couldn’t stop Peyton Manning.  To be fair no one has yet this year.  (2-3)
  • Eagles:  Michael Vick went down with a hamstring injury in the 1st half, but Nick Foles didn’t miss a beat. Kicker Alex Henery shook off a shaky start to his season by completing all 5 of his field-goal attempts. (2-3)
  • Redskins: Bye week. (1-3)
  • Giants: The good news? The offense looked a little better.  The bad news?  They didn’t look good enough, with 4 more turnovers, 3 of which came courtesy of Eli Manning in the 4th quarter.  The run-game remained anemic, and the defense generated absolutely no pass-rush once again. Changes need to come, and quick. (0-5)

NFC NORTH (Too Close to Call)

  • Lions: After a big win over Chicago last week, the offense sputtered without Calvin Johnson in the lineup against Green Bay. The running back tandem of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell couldn’t help Matt Stafford and the pass game either.  (3-2)
  • Bears: It wasn’t a horrible performance by the defense a week after allowing 40 to Detroit.  But they couldn’t get much going on offense.  Aside from a huge day from wide-receiver Alshon Jeffery, who caught 10 balls for 218 yards and a touchdown, Chicago couldn’t do capitalize.  Jay Cutler’s two fumbles, 1 which was lost didn’t help.  (3-2)
  • Packers: It wasn’t the prettiest game, but a win’s a win. Most of the offense came from the leg of Mason Crosby, who kicked 5 field goals.  Aaron Rodgers did connect on a long TD pass to James Jones to pull away in the 3rd quarter. (2-2)
  • Vikings: Coming off their bye week, they’ll have a new QB on the roster after signing Josh Freeman, who was released last week by the Bucs.  (1-3)

NFC SOUTH (The Saints Are Running Away) 

  • Saints: After starting last year 0-4, the turnaround in New Orleans has been a big one.  One of the final 3 unbeatens, Drew Brees is having a great start to his year, as is the defense.  Jimmy Graham tied an NFL record held by Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez with his 4th straight 100-yard game as a tight-end. Graham accomplished this feat back in 2011 as well. (5-0)
  • Carolina: Cam Newton had a very bad day Sunday against the Cardinals.  The mobile QB did manage to throw for over 300 yards, but was also picked off 3 times, took a safety and was sacked 7 times.  The defense had an okay day, but that many turnovers is hard to overcome. (1-3)
  • Atlanta: They came from 13 down to take a 1-point lead with less than 2 to play.  Really they should’ve been up 4, but somehow instead of kicking a field goal to end the 1st half to get within 7, the Falcons instead chose to go for it on 4th and goal and were stuffed. For the first time in his career, Matt Ryan loses back to back games at home, and are now essentially 5 games out of 1st. (1-4)
  • Tampa Bay: Bye Week. (0-4)

NFC WEST (The Most Improved Division?)

  • Seahawks: They suffered their first loss of the season, a shootout loss with the comeback kids, the Colts.  Going back even further, it was their first regular season loss since November 25th of last season.  Russell Wilson had 300+ total yards in the loss, including 102 yards rushing. (4-1)
  • 49ers: Another easy win for San Fran, this time coming against a Houston team that is struggling big time.  Tramaine Brock’s pick six of Matt Schaub on the first pass of the game was all the niners needed in the 34-3 win on Sunday Night football. (3-2)
  • Cardinals: Their defense was the real star against Carolina, picking up 7 sacks, a safety and three interceptions.  Carson Palmer’s day was nothing to write home about, neither was the run game, but they did enough to win thanks to short field position.  (3-2)
  • Rams: A good game on all ends versus the now 0-5 Jaguars. Sam Bradford threw for 3 touchdowns, including 2 to Austin Pettis. The run game was pretty good as well.  Big plays were the name of the game, including Matt Giordano’s 82 yard interception return for a touchdown. (2-3)

AFC EAST (You Can’t Just Hand New England the Division Anymore)

  • Patriots: They still lead the division, but they picked up their 1st loss of the year thanks to a shutdown Bengals defense.  It was a low scoring game, something we’re not seeing from New England.  And that’s because  Tom Brady did something he hadn’t done in 52 games, he didn’t throw a touchdown.  (4-1)
  • Dolphins: A 13-6 halftime lead wasn’t enough to save Miami from their second loss of the year.  In a game of field-goals, Caleb Sturgis missed from 57-yards to tie the score with 33 seconds to go.  The run game was non-existent, with starter Lamar Miller picking up just 15 yards on the ground. (3-2)
  • Jets: Geno Smith continues to show growth in his rookie season, leading his team on a game winning drive with under 2 minutes to play. The defense was lock down in the 1st half, but showed some holes in the redzone late.  But it’s a big road win none-the-less. (3-2)
  • Bills: Not only did they lose their game with Cleveland, they lost starting QB EJ Manuel.  On a scramble in the 1st half, Manuel took a hit to the knee, and suffered an LCL sprain, which could sideline him for up 6 weeks.  Fellow rookie QB Jeff Tuel came in for Manuel, but didn’t look very good.  The run game was on point, but it wasn’t enough on the road. (2-3)

AFC NORTH (Where Almost Everyone is 3-2)

  • Ravens: Justin Tucker had himself a day, going 4-4 on his field-goal attempts, including the game winner with 1:42 to go. Joe Flacco wasn’t a whole lot better than his 5-interception performance last week, but Ray Rice finally showed up on the ground, running in for 2 touchdowns.  (3-2) 
  • Browns: Three straight wins, despite losing QB Brian Hoyer to knee injury.  Brandon Weedon lost the starting job to Hoyer when he went down with an injury, but returned to help lead Cleveland to another win. (3-2)
  • Bengals: The offense wasn’t great, but their defense pitched a Brady shutout.  Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis ran in a 1-yarder for the games only touchdown in the 4th quarter. (3-2)
  • Pittsburgh: Coming off their bye (0-4)

AFC South (Houston We Have a Problem) 

  • Colts: Another impressive win for Indy, this time handing Seattle their first loss of the year.  Andrew Luck continues to show why he was the number 1 pick in last year’s draft, leading his team for a 9th career comeback win.  The special teams for both squads showed up, including Delano Howell who scored for Indy on a 61-yard return touchdown of a blocked field goal.  (4-1)
  • Titans: Tennessee lost, but put up a good fight against the undefeated Chiefs.  Ryan Fitzpatrick, in place of the injured Jake Locker, ran in a go-ahead TD in the 4th.  (3-2)
  • Texans: Ever since taking a 20-0 1st half lead in week 4 against Seattle, Houston has been outscored 57-3 in their 2 game losing streak. Matt Schaub threw a pick 6 for the fourth straight game (a 1st in NFL history), and was benched in favor of TJ Yates. (2-3)
  • Jaguars: Things have gone from bad to worse for the win-less Jags.  After getting starting QB Blaine Gabbert back, he left their loss to St Louis with a hamstring injury, and lost 1st round pick OT Luke Joeckel for the year to a broken ankle. Things don’t look better with the 5-0 Broncos coming to town. (0-5)

(AFC WEST) Where You’re Either Undefeated or a Game Under 

  • Broncos: This team has scored the most points through the first 5 games of a season in NFL History.  And yet they almost lost to Dallas.  The defense hasn’t needed to be on much this year, with Manning being so automatic (20 touchdowns, 1 rushing TD and just 1 interception).  But they couldn’t stop the run or the pass against Dallas, something they need to fix, because odds are Manning will struggle one of these days.  Maybe. (5-0)
  • Chiefs: Denver has company.  They got pushed by Tennessee, nearly blowing an early 14-0 lead.  But a Jamaal Charles touchdown in the 4th, apart of a 108-yard rushing performance, put them up for good. (5-0)
  • Raiders: Terrelle Pryor made it known Sunday Night that this is his team.  Two touchdown passes in the 1st quarter put San Diego in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.  The Raiders showed more faith in Pryor Monday, when they released off-season acquisition Matt Flynn. Their defense forced 4 turnovers, including one from veteran Free Safety Charles Woodson, who tied an NFL record with his 13th defensive touchdown. (2-3)
  • Chargers: The dilemma that is Phillip Rivers continues.  400 yards passing, but threw 3 interceptions.  This team was 2-0, and now find themselves at the bottom of the division. (2-3)

So that’s a wrap on week 5.  Week 6 kicks off with two desperate teams on Thursday Night Football.  The win-less New York Giants head to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears.

NFL: Week 4 Thoughts

The quarter pole of the season is here, and there are still 4 winless teams and 5 perfect teams.

Green Bay and Carolina were both on bye weeks, and enter week 5 at 1-2.

Let’s start with the have-nots (0-4)

  • Jaguars: Not surprised by this.  The Colts are a better team, and Jacksonville just doesn’t have any weapons outside of MJD to get them going on offense.  And Jones-Drew only carried for 23 yards.  They held a rare lead in this one, 3-0 after 1.  That’s where the positives ended.
  • Giants: I actually thought this was the type of game that would wake New York up.  I was wrong.  The offense continued to look lost, penalties killed their actual good drives and the defense wore down once again in the 2nd half.  Now they head into division play with a high-powered Eagles offense.
  • Steelers: A trip to London couldn’t help, so another perennial playoff team that finds themselves in the cellar.  It’s their first 0-4 start since 1968.  Ben Roethlisberger had a good day throwing the ball, but 2 turnovers in a 7-point loss was the difference.
  • Buccaneers: They led 10-0 in the first half, but allowed the Cardinals to score 13 unanswered in the 4th quarter to leave Tampa winless.  Rookie QB Mike Glennon couldn’t do any better than the benched Josh Freeman did.

Now for the big time haves (4-0)

  • Chiefs: They made easy work of the Giants, despite a bad 1st half from Alex Smith.  Jamaal Charles had a big day, and the defense was great again.
  • Saints: They made it look easy against another undefeated team in the dolphins.  They took their first possession and marched easily down the field for a TD, and a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. This after starting last year 0-4 last season.  Drew Brees had his 10th game of over 400 passing yards, good for 2nd all-time behind Dan Marino’s 13.
  • Seahawks: It looked like Seattle would take their loss, until their defense shutdown Houston, allowing Russell Wilson to lead his team to 20 unanswered 2nd half points to take the 23-20 win in overtime.  It’s the first 4-0 start in Seahawks history.
  • Broncos: Peyton Manning is a machine, starting off the season throwing for 16 touchdowns, and no interceptions.  It was close early against Philly, but then the offense put up 31 in the 2nd half to complete another laugher, 52-20.
  • Patriots: This team continues to find ways to win.  Win number 4 was costly, losing Pro-Bowler Vince Wilfork to a torn Achilles.

More teams feeling pretty good about themselves (3-1)

  • Colts: They won 37-3, but it wasn’t their best performance, getting off to a slow start in the first half.  Trent Richardson scored his 2nd touchdown since coming over to Indianapolis, and combined for 125 yards on the ground with Donald Brown.  Reggie Wayne and Coby Fleener had good days on the receiving end of Andrew Luck.  The wide-out and tight-end combined for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns on 10 receptions.
  • Dolphins: They couldn’t keep pace with New England, losing big to Miami.  Ryan Tannehill was picked off 3 times.  The Saints offense was just too much for a good Miami defense.
  • Lions: I said I thought Detroit could hand Chicago their first loss, but I never thought it would be to the tune of a 40 spot.  I thought it would be close late, with the home-field advantage tipping the scales for the Lions, but the usually stout Bears defense looked anything but.  The game wasn’t as close as the 8-point win suggests.
  • Titans: Up 24-6, QB Jake Locker was carted off the field with a hip injury in the 3rd quarter.  He left having thrown a career high 3 TDs.  Cornerback Alterraun Verner had a big day, picking off 2 Geno Smith passes, as well as recovering a fumble.
  • Bears: 3-1 in the NFC North is a good place to be, but after a poor showing against Detroit, Chicago needs a big bounce back in week 5.  The defense couldn’t stop Matt Stafford, and Jay Cutler was turnover prone.

.500 records at this point- good or bad? (2-2)

  • Bengals:  The Browns have a good defense, but you have to score more than 6 points against a 1 win team.  Giovani Bernard and BenJarvis Green-Ellis combined for just 50 yards on the ground.  Andy Dalton threw a pick on a drive that could’ve given them the lead.  He also fumbled twice, losing one.
  • Cardinals: They were lucky to play a bad bucs team, who let them come back from an early 10-point deficit.   Cornerback Patrick Peterson was the star, with two interceptions.  Larry Fitzgerald with his 80th TD reception.
  • 49ers: San Fran bounced back in a big way on Thursday Night Football, easily taking down St Louis 35-11. Frank Gore picked up his 1st 100-yard rushing game of the season (finished with 153 and a TD) and the defense picked up 5 sacks and two turnovers.
  • Jets: They didn’t look good at home against the now 3-1 Titans, but 2-2 under a rookie QB is nothing to scoff at.  Smith was picked off twice, and fumbled twice.
  • Bills: EJ Manuel didn’t look good, throwing 2 interceptions and a lost fumble but he was helped out by his defense and a big day on the ground.  Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller combined for 164 yards and a TD on 39 carries.
  • Chargers: A Richard Marshall fumble recovery in the endzone with 2:42 to go in regulation helped seal the win for San Diego.  The defense is woke up in the 2nd half, pitching a zero, allowing for the comeback victory.
  • Cowboys: They’re still in first place in the East, but that’s not saying much for the leagues worst division through week 4.  Dez Bryant had a huge 1st half for Dallas, but the wide-out and the rest of the offense were shut out in the 2nd half.
  • Browns; Don’t look now but Cleveland is on a win streak.  Brian Hoyer looked good in his 2nd start in the place of the injured Brandon Weedon, and Jordan Cameron is emerging as a top tight-end in the NFL.  And the defense was huge, limiting the Cincy to just 269 total yards.
  • Ravens: Baltimore couldn’t complete a 2nd half comeback, thanks in large part to 5 Joe Flacco turnovers.  It was another bad day on the ground, with Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce combining for just 24 yards on 9 carries.  Torrey Smith had a big day, 166 yards and a TD.

And finally the 1 win teams (1-3)

  • Vikings:  They’re the happiest of this group, picking up their first win of the year.  Sure it was against the winless Steelers, but Adrian Peterson got going again, and Matt Cassel looked good in place of the injured Christian Ponder.
  • Falcons: A team I thought needed to make a serious Superbowl run looks bad early.  They are having trouble closing out games.  And with a much improved Saints team in the South, Atlanta needs to right the ship quick.
  • Redskins:  The only NFC East team to win on Sunday, the skins found away to rally back from a 14-0 1st quarter deficit to the Raiders.  A big defensive TD helped Washington get their first win of the year.  RG3 was held under 300 yards passing for the first time of the year, but it didn’t matter.
  • Eagles: They found a way to stay close to Denver in the 1st half, but then the Broncos turned it on in the 2nd.  They had a good day on the ground, and Michael Vick had an okay day throwing the ball, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
  • Rams: St Louis got absolutely nothing on the ground, forcing Sam Bradford to throw the ball 41 times.  The Rams QB threw 1 touchdown, but also threw an interception and lost a fumble in the blowout loss to

Early Notes and Stats:

  • The NFC East has the worst combined record at 4-12, while the AFC West boasts 2 4-0 teams and an 11-5 record.
  • Peyton Manning leads the league with 16 TDs, giving Denver the leagues best total offense.
  • The Eagles rushing attack is getting them nearly 200 yards a game on the ground.
  • Atlanta’s Julio Jones leads the league with 481 receiving yards.
  • Houston’s 3rd year Linebacker Justin Houston has 7.5 sacks, tops in the NFL.
  • Buffalo’s Kiko Alonso, New England’s Aquib Talib and Tennessee’s Alterraun Verner lead with 4 interceptions apiece.
  • 3 playoff teams from a year ago are 4-0.

Another fun week in the NFL, with week 5 kicking off Thursday Night in a battle of 2-2 teams, as the Buffalo Bills head to Cleveland to take on the Browns.

NFL: Week 3 Thoughts

Another crazy week in the NFL. Wouldn’t have it any other way. 3 down. 14 to go.

This week I will start with the winless squads:

  • Giants:  The fact that this team is 0-3 might be the most surprising record through 3 weeks.  After two weeks of turnovers, Eli Manning had absolutely no time to throw Sunday against Carolina.  The o-line was ineffective, as was the run game and pass rush.  A 38-0 blowout was the worst for the team in 4 decades.
  • Redskins: Another close game goes against the skins. RGIII just doesn’t look 100% and that’s a concern for Washington. The NFC east is just 3-12 through week 3.
  • Jaguars: The only positive for this team?  Managing to put up 17 on a vaunted Seahawks defense.
  • Steelers: They finally got the offense going, but ran into a better Bengals team.
  • Vikings: They lost to the browns and their inexperienced QB. Even Adrian Peterson can’t save them.  It’s going to be a long season in Minnesota.
  • Buccaneers: After losing two games late, they had no answer for a Patriots team that finally got going on offense.

Next up the 1-2 teams:

  • Packers: After going down 14-0 quick, Aaron Rodgers led them to 30 straight points.  But despite forcing 6 turnovers, the Bengals fought their way back on Green Bay turnovers.
  • 49ers: After a win in week 1, the niners have now dropped 2 straight.  Their usually stout defense hasn’t looked good through 3 games.
  • Falcons: Atlanta ran into an upstart Dolphins team and couldn’t pick up a road win.  They haven’t looked bad through 3, but need to pick it up quick with an much improved Saints team in the South.
  • Panthers: It was against a disjointed Giants squad, but a big win none the less.  The run game got going, as well as the pass attack.  A shutout for their defense should help with confidence and help them try to make noise in the South.
  • Bills: EJ Manuel continues to look good, but he couldn’t complete a comeback win against fellow rookie Geno Smith and the Jets.  But things are looking up in Buffalo despite the 1-2 record.
  • Eagles:  After 2 big offensive performances, Michael Vick couldn’t lead his team past the now 3-0 Chiefs. 4 turnovers and 6 sacks of Vick didn’t help Philly in the 10-point loss.
  • Rams: The Cowboys walked all over them, plain and simple.
  • Chargers: Another last second loss for San Diego.  Good teams win close games, and so far San Diego just isn’t.
  • Browns: After trading RB Trent Richardson, many thought Cleveland was already waving the white flag on 2013.  But they showed toughness and won a shootout with Minnesota behind a good day from QB Brian Hoyer, making just his 2nd career start after backing up Tom Brady in New England.
  • Raiders: After a decent showing through 2 games, they were no match for Denver on Monday Night Football.
  • Cardinals: New Orleans was too much for Arizona.  4 sacks and 2 picks of Carson Palmer meant trouble.

Teams feeling good at 2-1:

  • Titans: Rookie WR Justin Hunter’s 34 yard touchdown grab with 15 seconds to go on Sunday made Titans fans real happy.  It was a big win for a team that is looking to get back on track after a down year last year.
  • Lions: They almost blew it against Washington, but Joique Bell continues to impress.  Not many had the Lions being ahead of Green Bay at all this season, let alone through 3 weeks.  Of course it’s early, but Detroit should feel pretty good.
  • Jets: The best team in New York?  At 2-1 they sure look like it.  Again it’s early, but Geno Smith has shown he can make the throws to win his team a game.  And the defense has been on point early.
  • Ravens: I didn’t see a win, let alone a double-digit one of Houston for the defending champ, but that’s just what happened.  Even without Ray Rice, the run game showed up, and Baltimore played their most complete game of the season.
  • Texans: They couldn’t get anything going on offense, mustering just 3 Justin Tucker Field Goals.  One of their worst games in a while.
  • Colts:  Andrew Luck didn’t need one of his famous 4th quarter comebacks this week.  After a 7-7 first quarter, 20 unanswered by the Colts helped sink a Superbowl participant from a year ago in the Niners.
  • Bengals: The run game continues to get better, and the defense has been great early.  This team looks like it’s rounding into shape.
  • Cowboys: The NFC Easts only winning team handled an improved rams team easily at home. DeMarco Murray finally got going on the ground, a good sign for Dallas.

And finally those riding high perfect through 3:

  • Broncos: If you can make predictions before a snap is played, I can say Denver is by far the best team in the league so far.  Peyton Manning is automatic.  12 Touchdowns (a league record in the first 3 games to start a season), with no interceptions is juts mind-boggling.  The run game finally showed up on Monday Night and the defense continues to show up despite missing several key pieces.  Watch out AFC.
  • Dolphins: Surprise, surprise.  Miami is getting great play from their defense, and Ryan Tannehill is showing growth in year 2.  This is a team that will stay with New England all year in the East.
  • Patriots: Two wins by a combined 6 points in weeks 1 and 2 made you think maybe the Pats were vulnerable.  They may very well be, but their offense looked much better in week 3, and the defense shut down the bucs to stay perfect in 2013.
  • Chiefs: My most improved team of the year is showing why many people feel the same way.  Alex Smith is doing what Andy Reid wants, manage the game and be smart.  But their run game led by Jamaal Charles and a great defense has this team rolling.
  • Seahawks: They let the Jags score 17, but in a game they scored 45 maybe you chalk it up to that.  But this team continues to show why they are a Superbowl favorite.  Russell Wilson is the real deal.
  • Bears: Their defense deserves most of the credit.  Chicago has been a take away machine, and Jay Cutler is taking full advantage.  Along with a strong run game early, the bears, and not Green Bay sit atop the NFC North.
  • Saints: Sean Payton is making a huge difference to this team.  Drew Brees finally has a lot of weapons in the backfield, opening things up for him in the pass game.  And the addition of Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator is paying immediate dividends for a defense that was bad to say the least a year ago.

So it was another fun week in the NFL.  We reach the 1st quarter pole of the year, starting with a match-up of two 1-2 NFC West teams as the 49ers visit the Rams on Thursday Night Football.

Enjoy you football fanatics.