NFL: What We Know at the Season’s Quarter Pole

4 weeks down.  Time flies when we’re having fun watching games doesn’t it?

So what do we know?  Here is a breakdown by division of how all 32 teams look one month in.

AFC EAST

  1. New England Patriots (2-2): So this team hasn’t been good at all, with Monday Night being the ugly icing on the early season cake.  Sure they’ve won 2, but they weren’t impressive wins.  Tom Brady and the offense have not looked good at all.  The only receiver that has looked good has been Julian Edelman, and that ended Monday as well.  Not to mention how terrible the defense looked on the road in Kansas City.  They couldn’t defend the run or pass.  Makes it kind of hard to win when you can’t do much in any phase of the game. They’re lucky to be tied for first.
  2. Buffalo Bills (2-2): Kyle Orton is in at quarter, E.J. Manuel is out despite the .500 record.  This team got off to a fast start, mostly on the strength of their run game and defense.  And while neither of those phases has dropped off much in weeks 3 and 4, Manuel hasn’t helped, hence the change.  That being said, I don’t think Orton makes this team any better.  But hey, with how even these teams seem early on, maybe the run game and defense can keep them in the race for the long haul.
  3. Miami Dolphins (2-2): Joe Philbin has been reluctant to name Ryan Tannehill the starting quarterback early in the week.  And this week, Tannehill showed him why it shouldn’t even be a question. Sure they played the Raiders, but if you simply look at Tannehill’s decision making and throws, you saw the guy Miami has been waiting for; completing 23-of-31 passes for 278 yards and 2 touchdowns.
  4. New York Jets (1-3): Could it be time for a quarterback change? I don’t think so, but it’s not long off.  Geno Smith has had moments of greatest, but this team continues to shoot themselves in the foot.  New York should really be no worse than 2-2.  But between poorly called timeouts, 2nd year QB growing pains, no secondary and not using their running backs properly, they sit at the bottom of the East.

AFC NORTH

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (3-0): Talk about a team that got the bye way too early. They’ve made the start of their season look easy.  Andy Dalton is earning his new contract, even catching a TD pass in their week 3 victory.  This is a team that has made the playoffs each of the last 3 seasons, but were knocked out in the first round every time.  If they continue to play like this all season, and can stay relatively healthy, Cincy is poised to not only challenge for a first round bye, but make a deep playoff run.
  2. Baltimore Ravens (3-1): A perennial playoff team, this week they put everything together to look like a playoff contender once again.  What a game for veteran wide-receiver Steve Smith against his former Panthers team! Not to mention how well the defense kept down Cam Newton.  And to be succeeding despite all the off-the-field drama revolving around Ray Rice, shows the strength of the guys in the locker room to put all outside issues out of their mind between the lines.
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2): This team has been hard to figure out for a few years now, and the start to this season is no different.  Blowing leads to bad teams left and right, the steel curtain looked more like a bead curtain as they allowed the win-less Bucs comeback in grand fashion.  They have the running back and they have the quarterback to get back in this.
  4. Cleveland Browns (1-2): They’ve had their bye, and get two of their injured stars back thanks to it.  Jordan Cameron and Ben Tate will play Sunday, and that should help their struggling offense.  The defense was the highlight to start the season, and Brian Hoyer has shown he can lead this team to victory.  Improvement is what this team is looking for, not a playoff berth this season.

AFC SOUTH

  1. Houston Texans (3-1): Remember when this team finished 2013-14 on a 14-game losing streak?  Well talk about a turnaround!  The defense was pretty good last season, and this year is no different.  Other than laying an egg against the Giants in week 3, they’ve been stout, led by early MVP candidate JJ Watt.  A former Defensive Player of the Year, Watt has scored on a pick 6, continues to sack at will, as well lined up at tight-end more than once. It also helps that Ryan Fitzpatrick has brought stability to the quarterback position.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (2-2): The first two weeks were very different than the next two.  But that isn’t something to be too happy about, as  they’ve shown they can beat the bad teams, not the good teams.  Last season Andrew Luck was able to lead this team to big wins over the Seahawks and Broncos.  So we know he can lead this team, now we just need to see it this season.  Their first test comes against the red-hot Ravens in week 5.
  3. Tennessee Titans (1-3): Defense has been an issue, offense has been an issue.  Only two teams have allowed more points than the Titans, while only three others have scored fewer.  Not the recipe for success.  Tight-end Delanie Walker, despite an injury, has been a bright spot.  The good news, they’ve played just one home game, so there’s room for improvement.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4): They’re heading straight for another number 1 pick in the draft.  It’s a young team that I think made a mistake not starting QB Blake Bortles out of the gate.  Jacksonville had to know that they weren’t going to compete for a playoff spot, and needs to get their young pieces as many reps together as possible.  At this rate, you’re looking for some sort of improvement as the season wears on.

AFC WEST

  1. San Diego Chargers (3-1): They snuck into the playoffs a season ago thanks to a 2nd half surge.  The way they’re playing so far suggests there will be no sneaking necessary.  Only 3 teams have allowed fewer points, while QB Philip Rivers is 6th in passing yards, 1st in completion percentage and has thrown just 1 interception.  The only negative was the loss of Danny Woodhead, leading to a running back by committee situation.
  2. Denver Broncos (2-1): The 2013 runner-ups have had two weeks to think about their first loss of the season, an OT loss to the Seahawks in week 3.  The time should have helped Wes Welker get back on track, after a pre-season injury and two game suspension limited him.  The defense has been solid, but they need more out of the run game in order to be a balanced team.  If Peyton Manning continues to be Peyton Manning, and stays healthy, a deep postseason run is in the cards again.
  3. Kansas City Chiefs (2-2): Just when you thought this team might take a step back from last season, they completely dominate the Patriots on Monday Night Football. Jamaal Charles was impossible to stop. Alex Smith helped eat clock with short completion passes.  And the defense was relentless.  They’re in a tough division, but they can definitely make some noise if they play close to how they looked in week 4 on a consistent basis.
  4. Oakland Raiders (0-4): Head coach Dennis Allen barely survived the flight back from London.  Charles Woodson called out the team early on.  The worst scoring team in the league, Maruice Jones-Drew has been a serious downgrade at running back from Rashad Jennings.  Derek Carr has taken over at QB and is showing rookie growing pains. New Head Coach Tony Sparano thinks the team can turn things around, I just think he’s spouting lines you say when you get a new job.

NFC EAST 

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1): Despite the run game not being what we thought it would be, this team finds itself amongst the NFL’s best through the first quarter of the season.  Nick Foles has done a good job making last season not look like a fluke.  The defense has been pretty good, and they were one of the 3 teams to start the season 3-0.  But they have shown vulnerability, and with the Boys and Giants looking stronger than a year ago, a repeat as East champs isn’t a given.
  2. Dallas Cowboys (3-1): Remember when we all thought this team was going to have a historically bad defense? Well, that hasn’t been the case.  They aren’t the leagues best either, but the offense is starting fire on all cylinders after a rocky start.  DeMarco Murray is getting back to being an elite back, leading the league by more than a 100 rushing yardsm while Tony Romo continues to look horrible one day, spectacular the next.  They’re in good shape to at least give themselves a good shot at breaking a 3-year string of finishing the season at 808.
  3. New York Giants (2-2): For as bad as this offense looked the first 6 quarters of the season, this team could be 3-1.  Eli Manning has never been a high completion percentage guy, but the past two weeks he has been on point like few others.  Much like his postseason stats, in wins, he has a 6-1 touchdown to interception ratio.  Add to that a good defensive effort all year, a run game that’s coming on and a breakout from tight-end Larry Donnell, this team looks poised to prove some people wrong.
  4. Washington Redskins (1-3): Their point differential doesn’t tell the whole story.  Kirk Cousins has looked out-of-sorts at times, especially in week 4 against the Giants.  DeSean Jackson hasn’t been the play-maker they thought they were getting.  They put up a good fight against the Eagles, but the defense couldn’t make the stops needed.  RGIII continues to be hurt, and if they can’t get production from the former Rookie of the Year, they’re not going far, no matter how adequate Cousins can be.

NFC NORTH

  1. Detroit Lions (3-1): Boy is this team putting something together! They’ve had the talent for years, but now everyone is living up to it, particularly on defense.  I mean they’ve already made the Packers offense look terrible. The offense has always been sharp, led by Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.  This could be the year they get to, and advance in the playoffs.
  2. Green Bay Packers (2-2): I laughed when people said Olivia Munn was why Aaron Rodgers and offense have looked off early.  If completing nearly 67% of your passes for 9 touchdowns to 1 interception is off, than I think he’ll be okay.  They haven’t looked good on the road, but still have 7 home games to come, meaning many of them will be in the cold, adding to the home field advantage that is Lambeau Field.
  3. Minnesota Vikings (2-2): Adrian Peterson and his off-the-field issues have left a gaping hole on offense.  But Teddy Bridgewater got off to quite the start.  The defense has been pretty good, and to be 2-2 without Peterson, in a balanced division, is pretty impressive.  I don’t know how long it can last, but you’ve gotta be happy with how the on-the-field product has looked.
  4. Chicago Bears (2-2): It’s not easy to go 2-0 on the road.  It’s also not easy to go 0-2 at home.  The up-and-down Bears have a fairly even points allowed to points scored ratio.  Jay Cutler has been pretty good getting his team into the endzone, but as a whole the offense is in the middle of the pack.  As is the defense, hence the 2-2 record putting them at the bottom of the division early.

NFC SOUTH

  1. Atlanta Falcons (2-2): Their best game came in week 1 when they took down the Saints at home.  They’ve been a different team on the road.  Good teams win at home, great ones win everywhere.  Matt Ryan has the weapons but the defense has been too inconsistent.  A road win would boost this teams confidence, but heading to New York in Week 5 to take on an invigorated Giants team might be too much to overcome.
  2. Carolina Panthers (2-2): If you asked me if the defense would be the problem early on, I’d think you were crazy.  If anything, I’d have thought Cam Newton’s injury concerns would slow down Carolina.  It has, but allowing nearly 20 more points than you’ve scored doesn’t help.  This team got a taste of success last season, so look for them to look to that feeling to help propel them going forward.
  3. New Orleans Saints (1-3): I did not see this start coming for Drew Brees and company.  The defense has looked awful, the offense not much better.  They’re first two losses were late game collapses, their 3rd an ugly blowout from the Cowboys on Sunday Night.  If there’s anyone who can get his team turned around it’s Brees, but in a conference that has seen the NFC East get off to a better start overall than expected, coupled with a tough Western division, you’re only guaranteed one spot coming out of the South.
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3): A change back to Mike Glennon under center, and a porous Steelers defense helped them avoid an 0-4 start.  But if they want to be success going forward, the run game needs to get involved, as well as more consistency from their defense.  Many thought they’d be good this season because of their defense, and there’s still time for them to be respectable thanks to it.

NFC WEST

  1. Arizona Cardinals (3-0): Carlson Palmer goes down, and Drew Stanton picks up the slack.  The defense has been the best in the league through 4 games, allowing just 11 points a game.  They’re not the most impressive undefeated team ever, but it’s hard to win games in the National Football League, and they’ve managed to win all 3 this season.  If they can find a way to split with the Seahawks and 49ers, they could steal a Wild Card spot, or even the division.  To me, it all hinges on the quarterback play.  We know the team can play defense.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (2-1): Despite a loss to San Diego, this team looks like one ready to repeat.  They’ve had their bye, so it will be interesting to see if conditioning comes into play late.  You could be concerned about blowing a big lead late to the Broncos in week 3, or you can focus on the championship type drive Russell Wilson orchestrated in overtime.  Marshawn Lynch is still a beast.  Richard Sherman doesn’t get challenged.  This team is good. Simple as that.
  3. San Francisco 49ers: (2-2)  Colin Kaepernick’s TD to interception ratio is nothing to write home about at 6 to 4. They’re playing close games, leaving no room for error.  A loss in division puts them behind the 8 ball, but of course they have 5 more chances to get back on track. The Niners defense is in the top half in points allowed per game.  If they want to get past the Cards and Hawks, they need to get more consistent on both sides of the football.
  4. St. Louis Rams (1-2): Losing Sam Bradford before the season began put this team back.  I thought they’d make improvements this season, and of course they still can.  Their defense is pretty good, something I am not surprised about.  Hard to place the offense, as they’ve only played three games, but I can say it’s not a competitive offense, and therefore not a competitive team.  Another top pick in the draft awaits St. Louis.
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NFL: Week 3 Picks

So… can we get back to football now?  With so many off-the-field issues plaguing the NFL right now, it can be tough to focus on the game.  But the beat goes on and we are already entering week 3.  There are some very good teams at 0-2 including 2013 playoff teams the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts.  They have quite the uphill climb if they want to make the postseason this season, as just under 12% of teams that start 0-2 have made it in NFL History.

I went 7-9 in my picks last week, and move to 17-15 overall overall.  Now here’s my predictions for this week’s slate of games.

Thursday Night Football

  • Buccaneers @ Falcons: This is a tough game for me.  The Falcons aren’t as good as the team that beat the Saints in week one, and Tampa isn’t very good offensively.  So what gives?  A strong Bucs defense, or the home fans looking for another big win from their birds? Give me Atlanta in a close game.  ATLANTA WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Chargers @ Bills: Who had Buffalo getting out to a 2-0 start to the season? Not many.  But here they are looking to stay perfect at home.  San Diego meanwhile, is coming off an impressive 9-point win over the defending champion Seahawks. I’m not in love with either of these teams, but experience wins out here for the Chargers on the road in this one.  SAN DIEGO WINS
  • Cowboys @ Rams: Dan Bailey and a solid run game helped Dallas get their first victory of the year.  St. Louis found a way to get a comeback road win against a good defense.  Tony Romo hasn’t been good to start the year, and with a back injury that has had him miss practice this week, who knows what the Boys will be able to do against an upstart front 7 for the Rams.  That’s why I’m going with the home team on Sunday.  ST LOUIS WINS
  • Redskins @ Eagles: Philly likes to take a half to get things rolling.  Washington got going early and often against the Jags in week 2.  In this NFC match-up, the Eagles will continue to fly high at home and improve to 3-0.  PHILADELPHIA WINS
  • Texans @ Giants: The good news for big blue?  Eli Manning looked very good on Sunday.  The bad news, they shot themselves in the foot to drop to 0-2.  Now with JJ Watt and company in town, Manning needs his o-line to protect him better than they’ve done in years.  If they can do a decent job of this, I think, despite Houston looking worlds better than last season’s 2-14 squad, the Giants get win number 1 at home.  NEW YORK WINS
  • Vikings @ Saints: Adrian Peterson is on the exempt list, taking away Minnesota’s best weapon again.  New Orleans is a surprising 0-2, despite being in both games til the end.  No way the Saints lose 3-in-a-row to open the season, especially with this one in the Superdome.  And I’d say this even if AP was suiting up for the Vikings. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Titans @ Bengals: I think the Bengals are finally primed to advance in the playoffs.  It’s a home game.  That’s about all I can come up with for this game.  CINCINNATI WINS
  • Ravens @ Browns: Baltimore knows it can win without Ray Rice.  Cleveland knows it can win with Brian Hoyer.  So what sways the balance of power in this one?  The Browns are banged up at the skilled positions, to go along with missing Josh Gordon.  The Ravens have more weapons, and experience, even without Rice on the field. BALTIMORE WINS
  • Packers @ Lions: It’s an NFC North battle, and a battle to move above .500 on the young season.  Detroit has looked very good, and very bad this year, while the Packers were a badly timed called time out away from possibly falling to 0-2.  These are always hard fought games, and this will be no different.  And while I think the Lions are finally starting to put things together, I think Aaron Rodgers and company use their winning experience to get the road victory. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Colts @ Jaguars: I never thought Indy would be 0-2, but that’s what happens when your defense isn’t very good, and your quarterback looks average.  Andrew Luck is anything but average, and that’s the biggest reason I think the Colts get their first win.  Sure Jacksonville has an impressive defense, and are the home team, but I’m sticking with the reigning AFC West Champions.  INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Raiders @ Patriots: Charles Woodson called out his Oakland squad for their poor start.  Tom Brady hasn’t been very good to start the season and yet the Pats are 1-1.  So what gives?  Give me the Pats to be the Pats at home.  NEW ENGLAND WINS

Sunday 4:05/4:25PM Games

  • Niners @ Cardinals: San Fran is coming off a Sunday night collapse, while Arizona is without their running back Jonathan Dwyer as a part of the on-going domestic dispute arrests plaguing the league.  The Cardinals are 2-0, but wouldn’t be if not for New York gift-wrapping a week 2 win.  Arizona’s defense has been solid, but with Carson Palmer possibly out again, and the 49ers looking for redemption, I think San Francisco can eek out a road win and get to 2-1. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Broncos @ Seahawks: It’s a Superbowl rematch as the defending champs look to shake off a loss to the Chargers in Week 2, and as Denver looks to stay undefeated on the young season.  I know it’s a home game for Seattle, but I’m taking a leap of faith that the Broncos use the Superbowl loss as fuel.  DENVER WINS
  • Chiefs @ Dolphins: Kansas City has gotten off to a horrible start as another playoff team that has started off 0-and-2.  Miami continues to be an up-and-down team.  So what gives?  I don’t think the Chiefs are as bad as they’ve looked on either side of the ball as they’ve shown in the first two weeks of the season, so I think Alex Smith finds a way to avoid an 0-3 start.  KANSAS CITY WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Steelers @ Panthers:  Pittsburgh is 1-1, but after a fast start in the opener, they haven’t looked good for 6-straight quarters of football. Carolina has been very good, led by their vaunted defense, and in spite of a banged up Cam Newton. While it’s hard to win 3 games in a row in this league, I think Carolina does so, to improve to 3-0 on the young season.  CAROLINA WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Bears @ Jets:  The Jets were in a position to start 2-0, if not for a poorly timed called time-out, while Chicago needed a huge 2nd half performance on Sunday night to avoid an 0-2 start. In the end, both enter at 1-1.  As much as I loved the comeback from Chicago, I think the home crowd and the knowledge they blew a possible win couple to motivate the Jets to move their record to 2-1. NEW YORK WINS

Hope we can put the off-the-field story-lines to bed, and just enjoy some good games this weekend! Enjoy scoreboard watchers.

NFL: Week 12 Predictions

As the holidays approach, the playoff races get even more heated.  As always, this week has some intriguing match-ups.

The final 4 teams left have their bye weeks: the Eagles, Bengals, Bills and Seahawks.

I went 9-5 in week 11, including correctly picking both the Broncos and Panthers to pick up big wins in prime-time.  Here are my week 12 picks.

Thursday Night Football

  • New Orleans @ Atlanta: If you asked me early in the year, I would’ve said this week 12 match-up would be a battle for the division.  Instead it’s just a chance for the Falcons to play spoiler. I know the Saints haven’t been the same team on the road as they’ve been at home, but Atlanta hasn’t been good anywhere. NEW ORLEANS WINS

1PM Sunday Games

  • Tampa Bay @ Detroit: The Bucs are finally on a winning streak, while the Lions blew a chance to hold on to the top spot in the NFC North.  While Tampa has put up over 60 points the past two weeks, it wasn’t like they were going against two elite teams.  The Lions had a setback a week ago, but they are still way more dangerous on offense than the Falcons and Dolphins, and I think they get back on track in front of their fans this week. DETROIT WINS
  • Minnesota @ Green Bay: Both teams are coming off losses, and the Packers are trying to get healthy on the fly.  Aaron Rodgers has missed 3 straight, all loses for Green Bay, but has returned to practice and is throwing without pain.  Even if the Pack don’t get their QB back, I still think they’re a better team than the Vikings, and I can’t see them dropping 4 straight. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Jacksonville @ Houston: How many times have I said I will stop picking the Texans?  Well, I keep shutting that voice down and I think I have to do it again.  Neither of these teams are good, but the Texans run game and defense is better than it’s shown.  Not to mention Case Keenum (if he starts again) is better than Chad Henne.  I think Houston can finally snap their franchise record losing streak.  HOUSTON WINS
  • San Diego @ Kansas City: The Chargers have the offense to beat this team, but they’re not consistent enough.  The Chiefs defense is going to be hungry after a “down” performance against Denver a week ago.  They’re back home with the first loss of the season on their mind.  I think San Diego continues to under achieve here on the road. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Carolina @ Miami: One team is on an upswing, the other is not.  The Panthers have shown they can win anywhere, and shut down some of the leagues best teams. The Dolphins finally won a game last week, but their run game isn’t great on a good day, and Carolina knows how to shut the best run games down.  Give me the road team to make it 7 straight wins.  CAROLINA WINS
  • Pittsburgh @ Cleveland: The Steelers had their best offensive showing a week ago, while the Browns were shutdown after a good 1st quarter.  Cleveland got off to a good start of the season, and haven’t looked terrible in a majority of their losses, but injuries at QB slowed their progress down.  Pitt got of to a slow start, and have been coming on of late.  I think this is going to be a close game throughout, but I think the Steelers are just better all around right now. PITT WINS
  • Chicago @ St. Louis: Jay Cutler remains out.  The Rams defense has looked pretty good all year.  So what wins out?  The Bears ability to win despite being without their starting QB, or an offense that found away to tear apart the Colts two weeks ago? I think it’s the latter. ST LOUIS WINS
  • New York Jets @ Baltimore:  The Jets looked bad on every front a week ago, and now they head to Baltimore to face a hungry Ravens team. The reigning Champs blew a 10-0 lead following 2 hour weather delay, but there were positives.  The biggest of all was the return of Ray Rice.  Sure the Jets know how to stop the run, but just giving the Ravens another option other than throwing the ball helps this team.   Last week I said the Jets would finally win two in a row, now I’m saying they’ll actually lose two in a row.  BALTIMORE WINS

4/4:25PM Sunday Games

  • Dallas @ New York Giants: With how the first 6 weeks of the season went, most people wouldn’t have thought this game would have such big playoff implications.  The Cowboys weren’t able to put anyone away in the East, and now find themselves in 2nd with Big Blue on their heels.  A win on Sunday would give New York their 5th straight, split the season series with Dallas, and put them in a tie for 2nd, despite their 0-6 start to the year.  Tony Romo has been better than Eli Manning this season, but the Giants are healthier (strange I know) and are coming together at the right time.  And these two always find a way to split their head-to-head match-ups, and don’t see this season being any different.  Give me the streaking Giants to keep things interesting for another week. NEW YORK WINS
  • Tennessee @ Oakland: The Titans got off to such a good start, but have been on the downward track.  The Raiders have been up and down all season, and are coming off a win against Houston.  I know this is a home game for the Raiders, but I can’t see Matt McGloin having the same kind of game he had Sunday, because most of his success came on good field position gained from two early turnovers.  While the Titans have been bad of late, it hasn’t really been turnovers that have been the problem.  And if Chris Johnson can do anything on the ground, Ryan Fitzpatrick has the ability to get things done.  So give me the road team in a close one.  TENNESSEE WINS
  • Indianapolis @ Arizona: The Colts are coming off their bye, and are looking to get back on track after 3 straight shaky games. They won 2 of those 3, but both were come-from-behind wins, while the loss was a blowout to St. Louis.  They have to get off to a good start this week on the road, because the Cardinals defense has the ability to hold on to leads late.  Not to mention Carson Palmer is coming off his best start of the year, and this team is a surprise 6-4 because of it. I think Andrew Luck uses his week off to good use, and the Colts get off to a good start and picks up the road victory. INDY WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Denver @ New England: Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady. It’s one of the most entertaining match-ups of the last decade.  You’ve got a Bronco team tied for the AFCs best record on the road against the East leaders, who’re coming off a tough loss on Monday Night.  So who wins the biggest match-up of the week?  It’s tough to win in Patriots territory, but the Broncos defense has looked dominant since Von Miller returned from his suspension, and I think they can stop Brady and company. So give me the road team in a fun one. DENVER WINS

Monday Night Football

  • San Francisco @ Washington: The 49ers are looking to rebound off 2 losses by a total of 4 points, while the Skins hope to stay relevant in the NFC East.  Which team comes out on top to end the week’s action?  I think it’s the road team, as they’re much more consistent than Washington.  So give me the Niners to stop the skid and pick up their 7th win of the season. SAN FRAN WINS

So that’s it.  Enjoy all of the week 12 action.

 

NFL: Week 9 Thoughts

We’ve passed the half-way point, and there are still a couple team looking for a their first win, and the Chiefs remain unbeaten, despite teams best efforts.

6 more teams were off this week: New York, Detroit, Jacksonville, Denver, Arizona and San Francisco.

NFC EAST (A Strange Thing Happened- Everyone Not on a Bye Won)

  • Cowboys: They never make it easy, almost losing to a one win Minnesota team at home.  But Tony Romo shook off a late interception to drive his team to a late second game winning touchdown to Dwayne Harris.  Jason Witten had a good day, catching 8 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.  Their rush defense couldn’t slow down Adrian Peterson, but they did a good job on Christian Ponder in the pass game.  (5-4)
  • Eagles: Nick Foles really doesn’t want to give up his starting job.  He only threw for 7 touchdowns, tying an NFL record with 6 other QBs (Peyton Manning did this in the season opener).   Wide-receiver Riley Cooper was the beneficiary of 3 of those touchdowns, finishing with 139 yards receiving.  Not to be outdone, Desean Jackson finished with 150 yards and a touchdown on the day.  This after a few weeks of struggles on offense, and against a previously top 10 ranked defense in Oakland. (4-5)
  • Redskins: It took overtime, but Washington was able to pick up a win and stay on pace with the rest of their division mates.  As if they needed more weapons on the ground, with RGIII and Alfred Morris on the roster, full-back Darrell Young emerged and found the end-zone 3 times, including the game winner.  Entering action, Young had only carried the ball twice this season.  Add 121 more yards from Morris, and you have why this team survived the Chargers comeback attempt.  (3-5)
  • Giants: Bye Week. (2-6)

NFC NORTH (These Teams Can Score With Anyone)

  • Packers:  A division loss bigger than most.  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with a what turned out to be a fractured collarbone on Green Bay’s opening drive, and is expected to miss at least 3 weeks.  Seneca Wallace didn’t do much in his absence, completing just 11 of 19 passes for 114 yards and an interception.  Rookie runner Eddie Lacy did all he could to make up for the Rodgers injury, picking up 150 yards and a touchdown on the ground.  The loss snaps a 6-game win streak over NFC North opponents. (5-3)
  • Lions: Bye Week. (5-3)
  • Bears: No Jay Cutler. No problem.  Back-up Josh McCown had a good day, throwing for 272 yards and two touchdowns, and no turnovers.  Brandon Marshall had a big day receiving, catching 7 passes for 107 yards and a score.  The wide-out was only outdone by back Matt Forte, who ran for 125 and a score.  Defensive end Shea McClellin had 3 of Chicago’s 4 sacks on the night.  (5-4)
  • Vikings: They had a chance to pick up their 2nd win of the year, but they left too much time on the clock for the Dallas offense.  Adrian Peterson woke up, rushing for a 140 yards and a score.  Ponder added another score on the ground, and threw one to tight-end Kyle Rudolph, who left late with a foot injury.  3 sacks on the day, including two by Brian Robison.  Make it 4 straight in the loss column. (1-7)

NFC SOUTH (New Orleans Has Company)

  • Saints: If you’ve got a good front 7, you can beat this team.  Losing Darren Sproles in the 1st quarter, and being without franchise TD leader Marques Colston didn’t help, but there are too many weapons on this team to lose to an inconsistent Jets team.  But it happened, thanks in large part to two Drew Brees interceptions and a lack of a run game following the Sproles injury.  (6-2)
  • Panthers: Cam Newton wasn’t as mistake free as he’s been, but it didn’t stop Carolina from picking up their fourth straight win.  Newton threw two interceptions, and just one touchdown, but he did run one in.  The defense is a big reason for the win, pitching a shutout in the 2nd half, and picking off Matt Ryan 3 times.  Cornerback Drayton Florence returned one of those interceptions for a 38-yard touchdown.  Fullback Mike Tolbert scored his 5th TD during the win streak. (5-3)
  • Falcons:  So much for this team making a run.  Another 3 Matt Ryan picks meant another loss for a team with superbowl aspirations.  Steven Jackson had his first rushing touchdown as falcon, but littleness can be found in the bright spot category for Atlanta.  Much like Houston in the AFC, this team is a big disappointment.  (2-6)
  • Buccaneers: They managed to carry a 21-3 lead into the halfe time break against a very good Seahawks team on the road.  but then the Seattle defense picked up and their bid for win number 1 came to an end in overtime. (0-8)

NFC WEST (Seattle Hasn’t Looked Great Lately, But Keeps On Winning)

  • Seahawks: For the 2nd week in a row, this didn’t look like the best team in the NFC, but luckily for them, they weren’t playing high caliber teams.  They put themselves in a big hole early against the winless Bucs, and needed an extra frame to finish them off.  A big reason for the win was the contributions of Golden Tate on punt returns and Marshawn Lynch in the run game.  (8-1)
  • 49ers: Bye Week. (6-2)
  • Cardinals: Bye Week(4-4)
  • Rams: It took til week nine, but this team finally picked up their first rushing touchdown of the season.  It was apart of a second consecutive 100-yard game from rookie Zac Stacy, who finished with 127 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns.  Too bad for St. Louis, it wasn’t enough.  Kellen Clemens was mediocre, throwing for 210 and a score, but he did lose a fumble.   Their defense did get to interceptions, and record 3 sacks. (3-6)

AFC EAST (Looking Like A Two Team Race)

  • Patriots: They tied an NFL season high with 55 points, and had a big day on the ground and in the air.  Tom Brady had 252 passing yards in the 1st half alone, more than 5 of his first 8 games this season.  He finished with 432 and four touchdowns, including a 2 to Aaron Dobson and 1 to Rob Gronkowski, both who finished with over 100 yards receiving   Danny Amendola also tallied a 100+ yard game, as did Stevan Ridley, though his work was on the ground.  The defense wasn’t spectacular, but you don’t need to be if the offense clicks like it did this time out. (7-2)
  • Jets: This team continues to play to the level of their opponents, and has still yet to lose or win 2 in a row.  They absolutely shut down the Saints on defense, and did a lot of good on offense.  Chris Ivory bounced back from a poor week 8 to deliver nearly 140 rushing yards and a touchdown.  Geno Smith wasn’t great, but he didn’t turn the ball over either.  Nick Foles continues to have a great year kicking the football, making all 4 of his field-goal attempts; he’s now 23 for his last 23, the longest streak in the league.  The defense did a good job stopping the run, and limiting the Saints high-powered offense.  (5-4)
  • Dolphins: It wasn’t pretty, but when you snap a 4-game losing streak, all you want is the win.  For only the 3rd time in NFL history, Miami won on a safety, thanks to a Cameron Wake sack.  It was a strange way to end their skid, but there were a lot of good things Thursday night.  The defense was good all night, forcing 3 Bengals turnovers and limiting too many big passing plays, and of course the game winning safety.  Ryan Tannehill also had a nice game, especially on the drive late in the 4th to help force overtime. (4-4)
  • Bills: They managed a season best 470 yards of total offense against a stout defense. But two turnovers in the 2nd half were returned for scores, killing any chance of handing KC their first loss of the year.  Jeff Tuel’s pass at the goal line in the opening minutes of the 2nd half was picked off and returned a 100 yards to tie the score at 10.  CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson combined for nearly 200 yards on the ground, but no scores.  Their defense did a good job, but it wasn’t enough.  (3-6)

AFC NORTH (Cincy Isn’t All Defense These Days, But They Are All Alone at the Top)

  • Bengals: They didn’t play like a team that entered action on a 4-game win streak.  To be fair, not many teams fair well on a short week, but after the way this team has been playing on offense, they were almost as bad for much of the game.  Two Mike Nuggent field-goals and running back Giovani Bernard wee the scoring offense for Cincy on Thursday.  Bernard found the end-zone twice, while fellow back BenJarvis Green-Ellis helped out on the ground in a nice way.  Andy Dalton had been so great in the past four, but three picks and taking a game losing safety in OT was a big step backward.  This while the defense did an uncharacteristically bad job stopping the Dolphins run game. (6-3) 
  • Browns: Snapping an 11-game losing streak to anyone is nice, but to a division rival, which helps you leap frog them in the standings, is a beautiful thing. Cleveland did a lot of good things against Baltimore, and it all started with Jason Campbell under center. The 31-year-old QB threw 3 touchdowns, 2 to Davone Bess, for 262 yards, while not turning the ball over. Greg Little had a big day, with 122 yards receiving. Cleveland won while getting nothing out of star tight-end Jordan Cameron and very little out the run game.  (4-5)
  • Ravens: The reigning Super Bowl champs countinure to sputter, losing to Cleveland for the first time in the Joe Flacco era. Flacco didn’t have a bad day, throwing for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns to Marlon Brown, but he was picked off once. And you know you have a problem when Flacco leads the team in rushing with 25. Ray Rice continues to struggle mightily on the ground, and this team isn’t the same without him going well. (3-5)
  • Steelers: You’re not going to win many games when you allow a franchise high in points, especially when it’s to the Patriots.  And that’s exactly what happened Sunday at Foxborough.  They got down early, and managed to come back to tie the score at 24 in the 3rd quarter, but were outscored 31-7 the rest of the way.  Jericho Cotchery benefited from a big day by Ben Roethlisberger, catching 3 touchdown passes, but big Ben also threw 2 picks in the loss.  They allowed New England to gain 630 yards of offense. (2-6)

AFC South  (The Luck Still Hasn’t Run Out)

  • Colts: For the 10th time in his young career, Andrew Luck led his team on a fourth quarter comeback. He had some help from breakout receiver TY Hilton, who caught 3 touchdowns. Hilton had really stepped up in the absence of Reggie Wayne. Indy continues to get nothing in the run game, as Trent Richardson continues to struggle since coming over in a trade earlier this year. A couple of two-point conversions on late TDs and a couple of missed Houston field goals helped secure the come from behind win. (6-2)
  • Titans: Jake Locker was not good, but luckily Chris Johnson picked up the slack on the ground.  Locker had only thrown 1 pick all season, but threw two Sunday, though he did score with his legs. The run game was the offense, with Johnson scoring twice, and Shone Green adding another. The defense did enough in the end, and this team is in the hunt, just two games back and two left with Indy, (4-4)
  • Texans:  Case Keenum looked like really good in the 1st half, thanks in large part to Andre Johnson  who had nearly 200 yards receiving before the break.  The young starter had his team up 21-3 over a good Indianapolis squad heading into the break, then things took a turn for the worse.  In a scary moment, head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed as the teams headed to the locker room.  He was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons and was treated at the hospital with medicine that’s “designed to break up clots consistent with people who suffer strokes.”  Wade Phillips took over head coaching duties, and the team didn’t respond.  Randy Bullock missed two field goals and the team was held to just 3 points in the half as the Colts came back yet again  They’re now losers of 6 straight. (2-6)
  • Jaguars: Bye week. (0-8)

AFC WEST (KC Likes Winning So Much They Just Keep Doing It)

  • Chiefs: Another case of making it hard on themselves, but finding a way to get it done for the leagues remaining unbeaten.  Down 10-3 at the half, the defense picked up in the 2nd half to help get them another win.  Linebacker Tamba Hali and cornerback Sean Smith both returned turnovers for touchdowns.  The offense was non-existent, managing just 210 yards of total offense.  (9-0)
  • Broncos: Bye Week – It wasn’t a quiet week off for Denver, as the learned they’ll be without head coach John Fox for an extended amount of time.  The 58-year-old Fox felt light-headed while golfing, went to the hospital, and will have heart surgery.  Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will take over in his absence. (7-1)
  • Chargers: With a chance to win in regulation, what they thought was a Danny Woodhead touchdown was ruled down inside the 1.  And somehow they couldn’t punch it in.  Resulting in a game-tying field goal, and ending in an overtime loss to Washington.  Rookie wide-out Keenan Allen continues to impress, catching 8 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.  Philip Rivers had a bad 1st half, but picked it up in the 2nd half.  In the end, the Skins ability to run it in from inside the 10 proved too much.  This team continues to be very up and down.  (4-4)
  • Raiders: The defense had been on a role, but they had no answer for the Eagles passing game on Sunday.  Their run game led by Terrelle Pryor was good again, with Rashad Jennings getting over 100 yards following an injury to Darren McFadden.  But it’s pretty hard to come back from a 28-13 1st half deficit if you yourself cannot throw the ball too well.  Sure Pryor finished with 288 yards passing, but couldn’t find the end-zone while throwing two picks. (3-5)

That’s it.  Week 10 approaches.