NFL: Week 4 Picks

5 undefeated teams remain as we head into week 4 of the NFL season.  I went 9-7 a week ago, bringing my season total to 26-22.

Bye Week: Philadelphia and Green Bay

Thursday Night Football

  • Dolphins @ Bengals: Miami barely squeaked by the Browns last week, while the Bengals were beat down by the defending champs at home.  The Dolphins got a big day from Jarvis Landry, but inconsistency continues to plague Ryan Tannehill, who threw a pick six in the win. Cincinnati got their running game going, but still lost to 1-2 for the first time in five years.  After two very good weeks, Andy Dalton couldn’t do much against the Broncos defense. I like the Bengals at home with another good rushing game to get their second win of the season. CINCINNATI WINS

Sunday Morning Football 

  • Colts @ Jaguars: London here they come! Indianapolis got their first win of the season last week, while Jacksonville is still looking for theirs.  Andrew Luck has the uncanny ability to turn a bad day into a big day passing the ball, but the Jaguars defense isn’t the problem so far, so he’ll need help.  Blake Bortles on the other hand, has been pretty awful for Jacksonville in his third year under center. So what happens this weekend across the pond? Give me a cleaner day from Luck to lift the Colts. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Patriots: Three different quarterbacks have started for New England, but that hasn’t stopped the winning.  And as for the Bills, they got their first win over a team many think, myself included, are a playoff team destined for a deep run.  Both teams got big two-touchdown games out of their number 1 running backs, so look for another day of running the clock. The Patriots have to get through one more week without Tom Brady, and while they’ve done a great job doing so, and are very, very good at home, I’m taking the road team in this one. BUFFALO WINS
  • Titans @ Texans: It was a very bad week for Houston, who not only lost their Thursday game versus New England 27-0, they learned that JJ Watt re-injured his back and will be out the rest of the year.  Tennessee’s week wasn’t much better, as they scored just 10 points in their loss to Oakland. Both teams enter action having scored the same amount of points through 3 games, but of course that’s skewed with the Texans O-fer last weekend. Marcus Mariota and Brock Osweiler have both thrown 4 interceptions so far this season, so whoever can limit mistakes has the edge. A Titans win puts them in a tie for the division early.  But I don’t think they get it, because I like the Texans skill position players better. HOUSTON WINS
  • Lions @ Bears: The Lions are 1-2, but haven’t struggled in the passing game, as Matthew Stafford has found a new weapon in Marvin Jones after Calvin Johnson called it a career in the off-season.   The silver lining there for the 0-3 Bears is that their defense has actually done okay against the pass so far this season.  Chicago got a pretty good game out of Brandon Hoyer, who finished 30-49 for 317 yards, though most of that came with the game out of hand already. Both teams have the ability to get the points in the air, and with two middling defenses, that shouldn’t be a problem.  So this game will be won in the trenches, and the edge there lies with the Lions. DETROIT WINS
  • Panthers @ Falcons: Carolina is another team I thought would have a great season, but has disappointed so far.  Thanks to the struggles of the Panthers and the rest of the NFC South, Atlanta finds themself atop the division early on in the season.  This dispite allowing 31, 28 and 32 points in their first three games.  The Falcons may not be getting sustained success in their ground game early, they are getting it when it counts.  Tevin Coleman has just 110 yards on the ground, but has 4 rushing touchdowns, including 3 on Sunday in New Orleans. Carolina entered action red-hot at home dating back to 2014, but we shut down by a red-hot Vikings defense a week ago.  I still believe in the Panthers defense, and as hot as Atlanta has been, I think Carolina gets the win on the road. CAROLINA WINS
  • Seahawks @ Jets: The good news for Jets fans? Ryan Fitzpatrick can only be better than he was a week ago. The bad news? He has to be a lot better against the top defense in the league. After scoring just 3 points against L.A. in week 2, the Seahawks exercised some demons putting up 37 against the Niners.  Russell Wilson was hobbled in the game, but still managed to leave with a nice lead.  Big games from Christine Michael and Doug Baldwin helped get the offense back on track.  New York can solace in the fact that they have had a pretty good run game all season, and while some of it came in garbage time, Seattle did allow the Niners to get over 130 yards on the ground, finding pay dirt twice.  This shouldnt be as ugly for the Jets as it was last week, but it will still be a loss. SEATTLE WINS
  • Raiders @ Ravens: Baltimore finds itself among the undefeated teams heading into week 4, in large part thanks to their defense and a good day from kicker Justin Tucker.  The Ravens are second in total defense through 3 weeks of play.  Their opponents won their 2nd game by  forcing three turnovers, with a sack after entering week 3 having allowed the Saints and Falcons to walk all over them.  So based on defenses, Baltimore should have an easy win.  But I actually like Oakland’s offense a lot more, and as someone who thinks this is a playoff team, I’ll take the Raiders in the upset. OAKLAND WINS
  • Browns @ Redskins: Cleveland should’ve gotten their first win of the season in Miami a week ago, but an inability to stop the air attack, and three missed field goals left them at 0-3. They gave themselves a shot, but couldn’t take it.  Cody Kessler’s first career start wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good for Cleveland, though at this point, coming out healthy is huge for the Browns. Washington did get their first win, taking down the Giants on the road. After a couple lackluster offensive weeks, Kirk Cousins let it loose and got a number of big plays in the passing game to help get that first win and move back in the right direction to defend their NFC East title.  So can the Browns get their first win this week? Yes. Will they? I don’t think so. They stayed in last week thanks to mistakes by Tannehill, but Cousins won’t make those same mistakes. WASHINGTON WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Broncos @ Buccaneers: The Superbowl Champs are showing no signs of slowing down as they look to start the season 4-0.  Denver got off to a slow start last week against the Bengals, but came on strong late thanks to a big day from rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian.  Siemian threw four touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter for the win.  Not to be outdone, the Broncos are a top flight defense that held down Andy Dalton and their rushing attack.  They’ve got another tough test when they take on Jameis Winston this weekend.  The Bucs 2nd year quarterback is tied for the league lead in touchdown passes so far with 8, though he has thrown six picks to.  It won’t be a blowout, none of Denver’s games really have been, but it will be another win for the Broncos. DENVER WINS
  • Rams @ Cardinals: I’m shocked at the start the Cardinals are having at just 1-2. Carson Palmer has had a bad TD-turnover ratio through 3 weeks.   Arizona isn’t getting quite out of David Johnson on the ground, while their defense is allowing the 5th most rushing yards per game.  This is as good a week as any to get back to what they want to do in all phases as they take on their division rival Rams, who find themselves tied atop the division at 2-1.  Los Angeles has rebounded nicely from a shutout on opening day, winning their last two games.  The Rams tend to play up or down to their opponents, evident by a 9-3 home win over Seattle and a 37-32 shootout on the road in Tampa Bay.  Going off those results,  I’ll take the Cardinals at home in what should be a close game throughout between these two West foes. ARIZONA WINS
  • Cowboys @ Niners: Dallas couldn’t have asked for more from rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot through three weeks.  The Tony Romo-less Cowboys were a game-winning field-goal away from being 3-0 right now. Dez Bryant has a hairline fracture in his knee but is still expected to play this weekend.  San Francisco was manhandled in week 3, and still isn’t making a change back to Colin Kaepernick.  The biggest thing the Niners have going for them is Carlos Hyde has looked pretty good.  I like what the Caowboys have done this season, but I have a feeling about San Fran this week. It might be a bad feeling, but I’m rolling with it. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Saints @ Chargers: It’s still early, but the Saints need to start picking up some wins quickly if they want to make the playoffs as I predicted they would as a wildcard team in the NFC.  The offense hasn’t been the problem.  Drew Brees is already over a 1,000 yards passing, with an 8-1 touchdown to interception ratio, though that one interception last week was a fourth quarter pick six for Brees.  New Orleans defense hasn’t been been able to stop anyone, as they’ve allowed the 2nd most total yards.  Worst at stopping the run, that’s where the Chargers will need to take advantage this week.  But without Danny Woodhead, San Diego needs Melvin Gordon to get going, so this is the perfect opportunity for that.  I like Philip Rivers, but I like Drew Brees more.  Give me the road team to get win number 1 this week. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Chiefs @ Steelers: What a defensive performance put on by the Chiefs this past week! Two defensive touchdowns and six interceptions helped Kansas City get the easy win over the Jets.  The offense wasn’t great, but they didn’t need to be with that showing on defense.  Alex Smith continued to show his game management skills, and why Travis Kelce is one of the better tight ends in the league right now. They’ve got a desperate Steelers team thsi week, who didn’t score a touchdown in a week 3 beatdown by the Eagles.  After two very good weeks, DeAngelo Williams was stymied on the ground, so the rushing attack will gladly welcome back Le’Veon Bell from suspension this week. The biggest test for the Kansas City defense will be stopping Antonio Brown, but I don’t think it will matter much even if he does have a big day. KANSAS CITY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Giants @ Vikings: This should be a battle of two unbeatens, but a late game collapse left the Giants at 2-1 heading into today.  Too many penalties, a couple late turnovers and allowing Washington to open up the field multiple times led to the home loss for New York.  They lost Shane Vereen to a triceps injury as well.  Eli Manning and company need to do more in the passing game, and they have the capability with three wide receivers.  The bad news for New York is that the Vikings are running on all cylinders right now.  Their defense has been relentless through three weeks, and despite losing starting QB Teddy Bridgewater before the season started, the offense has been very good.  Sam Bradford has come in and fit in better in two weeks then he’s done in the first few seasons of his career.  It’s going to be tough for the Giants on the road, but I like New York will figure things out and get back in the win column.  NEW YORK WINS
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NFL: Halfway to the Finish Line… Who are the pretenders, and who are the contenders?

I cannot believe we are here already. 9 weeks down. The playoff picture is starting to take shape.

So who has themselves in prime position, who has work to do and who is on the clock?  Here is a breakdown by division of how all 32 teams look midway through the season.

AFC EAST (Remember when we all thought Tom Brady was done?)

  1. New England Patriots (7-2): Since being blown out in week 4, the Pats have won 5 straight, 4 of those by double digits.  They made easy work of the of 3 teams that could be in the playoffs, including a 22-point victory over the Broncos last week.  Tom Brady is top 5 in passing yards in a season where Rob Gronkowski came in off injury and Julian Edelman was leading the team in receiving yards early.   It took a couple weeks for them to figure things out, and now here they are, atop the AFC once again.  It’s almost like in the NBA when everyone calls out the Spurs for being too old, and they go and win the championship.  Maybe we should stop underestimating Brady and Belichick?
  2. Buffalo Bills (5-3): They’ve lost their top running back, their 2nd back is banged up and yet here they are, fighting for a wild card spot.  A big reason why is their defense.  They’re 6th in points per game in the league and are a +7 in turnover differential.  Add to that a steady progression from rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins to a big play threat, the ability to close out games and decent production from QBs EJ Manuel and Kyle Orton (yes that Kyle Orton).  If this team wants to stay in the conversation, they have to continue their strong defensive presence and get Fred Jackson back.
  3. Miami Dolphins (5-3): Ryan Tannehill has taken a step.  It’s in the right direction, but I’m not ready to say it’s a step that puts him in the next tier of quarterbacks step yet.  His decision making has gotten much better, as has his accuracy, all things you want to see as your franchise starter gets older.  Losing Knowshon Moreno was big, but Lamar Miller has done a good job picking up the slack.  They find ways to win, and just demolished the once high flying Chargers to the tune of 37-0.  Like the Bills, their defense is where they make money, and of the two teams, I think they have a better shot at a wild card spot coming off an 8-8 record a year ago.  They’re no worse than a season ago.
  4. New York Jets (1-8): 8 straight losses with no hope on the horizon.  Geno Smith is on the bench. Eric Decker hasn’t been the addition they hoped for.  Their defense has been awful and the run game has been abandoned.  Things are so bad for the Jets that fan put their money together to buy a “Fire Idzik” billboard (their GM).  Could Rex Ryan be out at the end of the season?  Time will tell, but they’re fighting hard for a very high draft pick, and not the playoffs like I thought they would be this season.

AFC NORTH (Who would’ve thought all these teams would be above .500?)

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1): They’ve been inconsistent since coming out of their week 4 by with a record of 3-0.  Inconsistency is bad in any sport, but it’s very bad for Cincy this year, as they can’t afford a slip in the only top-to-bottom over .500 division in football.  Andy Dalton has shown flashes of deserving the big 6-year $115 million contract he got in the off-season.  But again, inconsistency is an issue.  Hopefully AJ Green is over his injury issues, because everyone knows how lethal he is in the passing game, and putting a confident Mohammad Sanu, who stepped up for Green in his absence, next to him is huge.
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3): 12 TDs in two games. Historic numbers.  That’s what Ben Roethlisberger and company have put up of late to get back into the division champion conversation.  Pittsburgh is still very inconsistent.  They started out 3-3, and despite their 3 game win streak, the Steelers defense is nowhere near the “steal curtain” of old. It’s more like a bead curtain.  It’s easy to outscore your opponents, until it’s not.  Can they keep it up?  Yes.  Will they?  Who knows.
  3. Cleveland Browns (5-3): So… we all saw this coming right?  The Browns are 2 games over .500 despite not getting much from Ben Tate on the ground, an oft injured Jordan Cameron and a QB controversy heading into the season.  They’ve been impressive, finding ways to win games late that they would’ve lost in years past.  Brian Hoyer has gotten better at late game decision making and has his team looking at winning it’s most games in a while.
  4. Baltimore Ravens (5-4): After looking like they’d turned a corner, Baltimore has lost two straight in the division, finding themselves momentarily in the basement.  The positive for this team?  They have games left in the division and it’s close, so it won’t take long to jump back into the top.  But they can’t be so inconsistent on defense.  The offense without Ray Rice hasn’t really skipped a beat, so if they can get some more stops, they will be in it til the end.

AFC SOUTH (Indianapolis is starting to pull away)

  1. Indianapolis Colts (6-3): After an 0-2 start, the Colts have righted the ship in a huge way.  Andrew Luck leads the league in passing yards, with a healthy 3,000 plus already! So you wouldn’t be surprised to know they have the best total offense because of it,which has helped cover up their middle of the pack total team defense.  Those numbers are a bit skewed at 18 after allowing over 600 total yards to Pittsburgh in week 8, but it is what it is.  They already beat Houston once, so in affect have a 3 game lead, and with how they’re playing, I think they’re easily on their way to another division crown.
  2. Houston Texans (4-5):  The good news?  JJ Watt is a beast and they’ve already doubled their win total from a year ago.  The bad news. they are in the same division as the Colts, and Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t the greatest replacement for Matt Schaub, which has led to him being benched in favor of Ryan Mallett.  But they are still in the conversation without any real production out of number 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney, so there is room for improvement.  Add better days from offensive weapons Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, and I see them hovering around .500 the rest of the way.
  3. Tennessee Titans (2-6): They’re in the bottom third of the league on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football. So frankly, I don’t know how they have two wins (one of which came against Jacksonville).  Two of their losses were by a combined 3 points, which shows a lack of late game execution, which reeks of bad coaching and bad personnel.  Delanie Walker might be the lone guy that’s having a representative season for Tennessee.  And after a 7-9 season a year ago, there was a place for improvement, and they haven’t and look like they won’t even get back to a similar record this year.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8): They’re not good, but I have to give the Jags some credit.  They aren’t rolling over on a weekly basis.  They took down the Browns for their first win in wee 7. Things weren’t made easy for the Bengals and Dolphins following that win.  Denard Robinson has proven to be a very good starting running back and Blake Bortles has shown some glimpses as the 4th pick in the 2014 draft.  So while the record will again put them in the running for a top pick, there are at least signs of talent at skill positions in Jacksonville.

AFC WEST (Denver might start to run away with this one)

  1. Denver Broncos (6-2): Peyton Manning is still really good, but even he couldn’t lead his team past the red hot Patriots.  But at 6-2, they’re still in prime position to make a deep playoff run despite a very difficult schedule.  The difference between last year’s Broncos and this year’s… the defense.  A bad showing against New England not withstanding, off-season acquisitions are doing big things for this team on both sides of the football.  This offense is so good, Wes Welker is now the 4th option. Think about that.  I’m not worried about this team, and even though they haven’t run away with the division, the Chargers have dropped and they can do no worse than tying the season series with both them and the Chiefs.
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-3): The defense hasn’t allowed more than 26 points in a game, and that came week 1.  Jamal Charles continues to have the ability to break out on any day.  Alex Smith isn’t lighting up the stat sheet, but he’s done enough to keep them in the conversation in the division.  This team was never going to repeat the 9-0 start from a year ago, but they’ve responded from a slow start, and can still make a play at a wild card spot, if not the division.
  3. San Diego Chargers (5-4): This team was 5-1 and looked like a top 2, top 3 team in the league.  Now they’re on a 3-game slid that’s seen them score 3 TDs in the past 8 quarters of football.  The defense can’t live up to that, but it’s hard to outscore 35-plus point efforts as well.  So if this team wants to get back in the conversation, both sides of the football need to improve and fast.
  4. Oakland Raiders (0-8): They may never win again.  This team has yet to show me any reason to ever pick them.  Charles Woodson called it early, and it never sparked a fire.  They’re the worst team in the league, but could always fall into a win, and could lose that title to a Jets or Jaguars team.  But I doubt that happens.

NFC EAST (Is this division really as “strong” as the records suggest?)

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (6-2): They’re well on their way to a possible 2nd straight division crown.  But a couple of big injuries in week 9 could derail their Superbowl aspirations.  Nick Foles is set to be out 6-8 weeks with a broken collarbone, while DeMeco Ryans is out for the season with a torn Achilles.  The latter could prove more costly, as Philly at least has a backup QB in Mark Sanchez who has proven he can help lead a team deep into the playoffs.  But if they want to survive the injuries, the run game has to pick up the slack.  So this team will only go as far as LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles can run, in conjunction with Sanchez limiting the mistakes.
  2. Dallas Cowboys (6-3):  Just when you thought this might be their season, Tony Romo goes down.  DeMarco Murray is on a record pace on the round, but with his injury history, how much more can you ask from him?  Brandon Weedon wasn’t horrible with Cleveland, but you’re not going far with him either.  You’ve got to hope you can get Romo back after the bye week in week 12, while hoping teams like the Packers, Panthers, Seahawks or 49ers don’t get hot and steal a wildcard spot.
  3. New York Giants (3-5): The G-men were feeling good about themselves after a 3-game win streak that saw them score 30-plus to get them above the .500 mark at 3-2.  But it’s been downhill from there.  Eli Manning hasn’t thrown an interception since week 4, and has just 5 all season. But the injuries are piling up and Manning has no real deep threat.  They’ve put themselves behind the 8-ball, but with games left with both the Eagles and Cowboys at home, to go with some softer games in the 2nd half, it’ll be tough, but they don’t have any wiggle room if they want to make a real run for the playoffs.
  4. Washington Redskins (3-6): RGIII came back, for better or worse and it didn’t make them better.  The former Rookie of the Year looked slow and out of it in his return, and I didn’t understand bringing him back when they did.  Colt McCoy (yes he still exists) looked pretty good and got them a win against Dallas. I would’ve run him out there again.  They’re the worst team in the division, even with how banged up the Giants are.

NFC NORTH (This was always going to be a fight between Detroit and Green Bay)

  1. Detroit Lions (6-2): They boast the best team defense in football.  You’ve been looking for this team to put all their talent together for a while now, and this seems to be the year, led by the D.  But that being said, their offense has been off lately. Calvin Johnson has missed time, the run game isn’t what you want and they’ve played games using their 4th string tight-end.  But when your defense is top 5 in rushing and passing defense, it tends to hide offensive question marks.  If they can get Megatron healthy, this team is going to be very dangerous in the playoffs.
  2. Green Bay Packers (5-3): They might be in 2nd place, but they’re the best team in this division.  Green Bay got off to a slow start, but while defense has carried the current leader, the Pack is a much more balanced team.  Aaron Rodgers is an MVP candidate again.  And if Eddie Lacy could ever be the consistent threat they need on the ground, I don’t know how you beat this team.
  3. Chicago Bears (3-5): You boast probably the best wide-receiver combination in football to go with a top 5 running back, and yet they find themselves under .500.  The defense, aside from allowing a 51 spot to New England in their last game has been pretty good.  The issue is on offense, where there is questions of a lack of trust between Jay Cutler and his targets of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.  And when there is questioning of each other in the media, it’s hard to recover from.
  4. Minnesota Vikings (3-5): considering they lost their starting QB and their All-pro running back early on, Mike Zimmer has his team competing.  Even with Matt Cassell and Adrian Peterson, I don’t think this team would be much better than 3-5, but they’ve learned that Teddy Bridgewater is a capable starter.  In a tough division like the North, at least they’ve shown they can play with teams outside.  Now they just have to figure out how to make games in the division close.  And with how bad Chicago looks, finishing 3rd is in the realm of possibility, especially with two left against the Bears.

NFC SOUTH (The most disappointing division in football?)

  1. New Orleans Saints (4-4): It’s been a long trek back to .500 for the Saints after an 1-3 start.  Drew Brees’ low is 17 points scored… that on the road against the Cowboys.  So the offense has been pretty good.  But this team is only going to go as far as the defense.  They are very lucky to be in a division having a down year top-to-bottom.  Having a game up on Carolina already for me gives them a clear path to the division crown.
  2. Carolina Panthers (3-5-1): So I think their defense forgot how to play… well defense.  Carolina finds itself top 3 in points allowed and the bottom 3rd of the league in total yards allowed.  Add to that, a banged up Cam Newton, and an offense that finds themselves in similar spots in offense as defense.  All ingredients for a below .500 record.  And nothing I’ve seen of late has me thinking they can rebound in the second half of the season here.
  3. Atlanta Falcons (2-6): Remember when this was a good team?  Yeah, neither do I. A 2-0 start, the Falcons look like the 2013-14 Texans that finished the season on a 14-game skid. You know, minus the loss of a quarterback.  Matt Ryan has been healthy, and has had enough weapons to get some wins here.  The issue is on defense.  Their secondary is basically swiss cheese, and the front 7 isn’t any better.  I do think they’ll find a way to win again this season, but it might not be more than once or twice.
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7): Ugliness. I thought they’d be a playoff team.  Nope.  A rotating door at quarterback has shifted back to Josh McCown.  Doug Martin looks like he’s never ran a football.  The defense is atrocious.  Vincent Jackson seems to forget that he’s a load and can out muscle any secondary player.  It’s just bad for the Bucs.

NFC WEST (Arizona far atop the hill, just like we all thought… right?)

  1. Arizona Cardinals (7-1): I give you the best team in the NFC, and it’s not really even close.  They swept the NFC East that currently holds 2 of the 4 best records in the conference.  They survived a couple weeks without their starting quarterback.  Not to mention they’re getting healthy and are consistent on both sides of the ball.  Arizona’s only real issue is that they still have two match-ups with the defending champs, but with how they’ve played, there’s no reason they shouldn’t at least split with them and maintain their led in the division.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (5-3): For a team that entered the year as defending champs, they look nothing like a team capable of a repeat.  Russell Wilson is leading one of the worst passing offenses in football.  Marshawn Lynch is a shell of himself. Percy Harvin, a dynamic offensive weapon, was so distracting they traded him for nothing to the Jets.  And the Legion of Boom has been disappointing to say the least.
  3. San Francisco 49ers (4-5): This team is a mess.  Between off-the-field issues and a lack of a run game to help take pressure of Colin Kaepernick who has his team in the bottom half in passing offense, they find themselves on the outside looking in.  Rumors that Jim Harbaugh is leaving don’t help.  Their only bright spot is their team defense, ranked 2nd in total yards allowed.  What they need is to take advantage of 3 games left with the teams ahead of them, and for Kaepernick to figure some things out offensively, particularly in the red zone.
  4. St. Louis Rams (3-5): I have to give them credit, they don’t quit.  They’ve shown glimpses with getting big leads early over the Cowboys and Seahawks, but then they regress to a 3-5 team by losing both of those leads.  Now they look to play spoiler (as they did against San Fran this week).  Losing your starter just before the season starts is tough.  If they could’ve executed better down the stretch of games, they could be in the conversation for 2nd in this division with a down year from the champs and niners.

So if things continue on the track they are, here are my 12 playoff teams as of now:

NFC

– Arizona, Green Bay, Saints, Philadelphia, Dallas (if Romo comes back quickly) and Detroit

AFC

– New England, Denver, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Miami and Baltimore

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.

NFL: Week 10 Thoughts

10 down. 7 to go.  No more win-less teams, and just the 1 undefeated team left as week 10 wrapped up.

A number of quarterbacks went down, while many crazy, circus catches were made.  Long story short, this week was fun.

4 teams were off this week: the Patriots, the Jets, the Chiefs and the Browns.

NFC EAST (The Eagles Have Flown Into a Tie for First)

  • Cowboys: A week after winning despite not running the ball, Dallas went run early and often.  DeMarco Murray had 80 yards rushing and a touchdown at the half. But they abandoned the run in the 2nd half, Murray finished with just 89 yards and Tony Romo couldn’t pick up the slack.  Dallas’ QB completed less than 50% of his passes, and threw just 1 touchdown pass. Injuries continue to come on to key members on defense, this time to linebacker Sean Lee. All of those injuries are showing themselves, with this defense allowing the most yards in a 10 game span in franchise history. They continue to be up and down, and now it has cost them sole possession of 1st place.  (5-5)
  • Eagles: Nick Foles was never going to put up 7 touchdown passes for a second straight week, but Philly’s QB did enough to get a second straight win.  Foles threw for 228 yards and 3 scores.  And how about this stat: just the 3rd QB to throw at least 16TDs before their first interception of the season. The other two: Milt Plum in 1960, and Peyton Manning earlier this season. LeSean McCoy had a monster day on the ground, rushing for 155 yards, while Riley Cooper added two 3rd quarter touchdowns to help Philadelphia pull away. (5-5)
  • Giants:  Make it 3 straight in the win column for New York.  The special teams put them down with an opening kickoff fumble which was then turned into 7.  Then they got it back with a blocked punt for a score, New York’s first since 1988. Then normal scoring took place. Andre Brown returned from a fractured leg suffered in pre-season, and looked like his old self. Speaking of a guy who’s done big things coming off a big injury, Terrell Thomas was named NFC Defensive Player of the week after week 8, and he made his presence felt in the 3rd quarter this week.  A 47-yard interception return helped the Giants find the end zone on a Brown run and take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.  Going back to before the injury suffered late last year, it gives the back a rushing TD in 6 straight games.  Eli Manning survived his 3rd pick six of the season. (3-6)
  • Redskins: It’s hard to lose a game when you don’t turn the ball over, but that’s what happened on the road to start week 10.  Alfred Morris had a good day on the ground, while Robert Griffin III threw 3 touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough.  They had a shot to tie at the end 4th quarter, but Santana Moss couldn’t get his second foot in bounds on a pass in the corner of the end zone on fourth down.  Washington was 3-6 last season when they went on a 7-0 run to steal the Division and get into the playoffs(3-6)

NFC NORTH (And Just Like That the Pack Aren’t Leading the Pack)

  • Lions: Make it a season sweep of their division rivals from Chicago, thanks in large part to a stop on a two-point conversion with 40 seconds left in regulation. Calvin Johnson’s two touchdowns moved into first for the most TD receptions in Lions history.  Matthew Stafford completed just over 50% of his passes, but still managed to throw for 3 scores. Reggie Bush had 89 of his 105 yards rushing in the 2nd half to help Detroit move into a tie for 1st. (6-3)
  • Bears: Jay Cutler wasn’t very sharp in his return from a groin injury, throwing for just 1 touchdown and 1 interception.  To make matters worse, he left the game with an ankle injury.  Brandon Marshall benefited from having Cutler back, grabbing that one score in a 139 yard day.  Alshon Jeffery also had over 100 yards receiving on the day.  But other than that, no one else really contributed on offense, with Matt Forte gaining just 33 yards on 17 carries.  The defense didn’t do a good job stopping the run or getting to Stafford.  (5-4) 
  • Packers: They lost Aaron Rodgers last week, then lost backup Seneca Wallace in the 1st quarter this week around. This team had been able to find ways to score after losing many big targets in the passing game, but it’s hard to win when you get down to your 3rd string QB, especially as fast as this team did.  Third year QB Scott Tolzien came in and threw two interceptions.  The defense couldn’t help out, allowing the Eagles to run all over them.  Mason Crosby continues to struggle kicking the ball, missing two of his four field-goal attempts.  Eddie Lacy did a good decent on the ground, while Jarrett Boykin went over 100 yards receiving. (5-4)
  • Vikings: Christian Ponder went down late, but not before he helped lead his team to their first win since week 3 against Pittsburgh.  After an early interception, Ponder settled down to throw 2 touchdowns, before leaving with a left shoulder injury late in the 3rd quarter.  Adrian Peterson with a second straight big week, with 2 touchdowns on 75 yards rushing. Tight-end John Carlson with the big day in the receiving game, grabbing 7 balls for 98 yards and a score.  The defense did enough to hold off the Skins in the end. (2-7)

NFC SOUTH (Things Are Getting Interesting)

  • Saints: After a bad road loss in week 9, a big bounce back moved them to 5-0 at home.  Receiver Marques Colston and running back Darren Sproles both returned from injury and made their impact felt immediately, with a combined 3 touchdowns in the 1st half. Drew Brees was on point all night, and finished with nearly 400 yards passing and 4 touchdowns. Colston, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram (career high 145 yards rushing) each finished with over 100 total yards.  Rookie Kenny Stills, Ingram and Thomas each found the end-zone as well.  New Orleans finished with 600-plus total yards on offense, and their 40 first downs set an NFL record. (7-2)
  • Panthers: This team is for real.  Make it 5 straight wins after absolutely dominating last years NFC Superbowl representatives, the San Francisco 49ers.  The league’s only defense ranked top 10 in the rush and pass, as well as points allowed, showed they’re not there by accident.  DeAngelo Williams scored the games only touchdown, while Graham Gano’s 53-yard field goal in the 4th proved to be the game-winner.  Cam Newton didn’t do much against a good niners defense.  Luke Kuechly continue to have a good year defensively, with a game high 11-tackles and one of the teams 5 sacks. (6-3)
  • Falcons: They’re just not the same team this season. Matt Ryan finally figured out how to avoid the turnovers, something to take away from a turnover happy Seattle defense.  But he couldn’t even reach the 180 yards passing mark to go with no run game.  Not to mention the defense had no answers for the Seahawks. It’s their 3rd straight loss, putting them two losses away from their first losing season since 2007 or pre-Ryan. (2-7)
  • Buccaneers: Watching the Jaguars get their first win must have inspired Tampa Bay.  They saw their 15-7 halftime lead evaporate heading into the 4th quarter, but their defense pitched a final quarter shutout to give the offense a chance.  Mike Glennon led the team on a long drive to start the 4th, and it ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tackle Donald Penn.  The run defense was on point to say the least… holding the Dolphins to just 2 yards on the ground, a staggering number.  The defense added a safety 2 key sacks and a pick to their impressive night. (1-8)

NFC WEST (The Hawks Are Flying High)

  • Seahawks: After two straight shaky wins, there was nothing shaky this week against Atlanta. Marshawn Lynch continues to live up to the nickname “beastmode” after a averaging 6 yards a carry, finishing with 145 and a rushing touchdown.  Russell Wilson threw connected with Golden Tate on a one-handed grab in the corner of the end-zone as a part of his 2 touchdown day.  It was a rematch of a 2012 playoff game, a match-up won by Atlanta.  How quickly things change. (9-1)
  • 49ers: Colin Kaepernick couldn’t get anything going against a stout Panthers defense.  The mobile QB couldn’t crack 100 yards passing, and only gained 16 yards on the ground. His one interception iced the victory for Carolina.  Phil Dawson was the only offense, kicking 3 field goals, including a season high 53-yarder. Frank Gore ran for 82 yards, while Mario Manningham caught 3 passes for 30 yards in his season debut. (6-3)
  • Cardinals:  They almost gave it away, but held on to move match their win total from a year ago. The Cards took a quick 7-nothing lead when on the game’s first play John Abraham caused a fumble and Matt Shaugnessy returned it 6 yards for the score.  Carson Palmer threw 2 touchdowns, but also threw a pick and lost a fumble.  It was Rashard Mendenhall’s fumble deep in their own territory that allowed the Texans to stay in the game, but in the end the defense held.   (5-4)
  • Rams: Snapping a 3 game losing streak was due to a big defensive performance, and this time they got a lot of help on offense as well.  Tavon Austin had just two catches, but he made them both count; 138 yards and two scores.  Add a 98-yard punt return for a touchdown, and the rookie helped blow out the previously 6-2 Indianapolis Colts.  3 interceptions of Andrew Luck, to go with a strip sack, helped St Louis make easy work and pick up their first win since losing Sam Bradford. (4-6)

AFC EAST (The Two Best Teams Didn’t Play)

  • Patriots: Bye Week. (7-2)
  • Jets: Bye Week. (5-4)
  • Dolphins: They got off to a slow start, but were able to rally back to score 19 unanswered points to hold a lead heading into the 4th over a win-less bucs team.  But it wasn’t enough as they couldn’t get anything done in the 4th, losing by 3.  Ryan Tannehill threw two touchdown passes and Caleb Strugis hit on two field-goal attempts in the comeback effort. Their biggest problem came on the ground, with the team managing just 2 measly yards on the ground all night. In their first game since the bully scandal really blew up, they sure did miss their offensive linemen.  The loss drops them further back from the top two teams, with a match-up with the Jets upcoming. (4-5)
  • Bills: EJ Manuel’s return wasn’t a good one.  After coming back from an MCL injury, the rookie only managed 155 passing yards, a score and a turnover.  He couldn’t help himself out on the ground, and the rest of the backs didn’t do much against a Steelers defense that needed to bounce back after a horrible week 9 performance.  Rookie tight-end Chris Gragg scored the Bills lone touchdown in the 4th quarter. Make it 3 straight losses for the East’s bottom-dwellers. (3-7)

AFC NORTH (Cincy Falters, Still Holds a 2 Game Lead)

  • Bengals: Andy Dalton connected on a crazy tipped hail mary touchdown as time expired to AJ Green to send the game to overtime. Green finished with a 151 yards receiving thanks to that 51-yard TD catch. But a questionable play call on 4th and 2 in their territory gave Baltimore good field position, and they ultimately lost on a field-goal.  Dalton threw 2 touchdowns, but also threw 3 interceptions in their 2nd straight loss. (6-4) 
  • Browns: Bye Week. (4-5)
  • Ravens: Justin Tucker’s 46-yard field-goal in overtime saved Baltimore from a crushing loss at home, and snapped their 3 game skid.  They blew a 17-0 halftime lead when they didn’t bat down the Bengals hail mary attempt. The run game continues to be non-existent, while Joe Flacco continues to under perform.  Sure he threw two touchdown passes, to Torrey Smith and Dallas Clark, but he also threw two interceptions, and fumbled in the fourth. They found a way to win, a division game at that, and that’s all that matters for the Superbowl Champs.  (4-5)
  • Steelers: After a franchise low on defense a week ago, the Steelers stepped up and made easy work the Bills.  They held Buffalo to just 95 yards on the ground, nearly 50 below their average  while giving up just 10 points, after 55 a week ago. Add 3 sacks and a pick to their defensive effort. Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t great, passing for just 204, a touchdown and an interception, while Le’Veon Bell added 52 and a score on the ground. But they did enough for the home win. Shaun Suisham added 3 field-goals. According to ESPN stats, Pittsburgh is now 17-2, including the playoffs, against rookie quarterbacks since 2004.  (3-6)

AFC South  (The Jags Won and the Colts Didn’t- Fact)

  • Colts: Talk about a letdown.  Andrew Luck threw 3 interceptions, and lost a fumble, and still managed to throw for over 350 yards.  And when your not mobile quarter back leads the team in rushing, you know you’re in trouble.  This team doesn’t lose often, let alone this badly and at home, but an improved Rams defense and bad special teams play burned them.  Their lone score came in the 3rd quarter, a Donald Brown score, capped off with a 2-point conversion to Coby Fleener. Their 30-point loss was the largest margin of any game this week. Lucky for them the Titans lost, so they still hold a 2 game lead in the division. (6-3)
  • Titans: Jake Locker just can’t stay healthy, leaving with what is probably a season ending lisfranc injury. Ryan Fitzpatrick did a good job in relief, running in for a score and throwing 2 more.  But the damage was done early, and Tennessee couldn’t recover against a previously win-less Jaguar team. They had a chance late, but with no help on the ground this week, the win-less Jags took advantage.  Four turnovers didn’t help in what ended up a 2-point game. (4-5)
  • Texans: For the first time in franchise history, Houston is on a 7-game losing streak.  A third good start for youngster Case Keenum, but again, it results in a loss.  Keenum threw 3 touchdowns, including 2 to Andre Johnson.  But he did turn the ball over on the games first play, putting them in the hole from the get go.  JJ Watt did all he could to keep his team in the game, forcing two fumbles, including one late in the 4th that helped score and get to within a field-goal of tying the score. Gary Kubiak wasn’t with the team after collapsing at halftime in Indianapolis, but he could be back sooner rather than later after suffering a “mini-stroke.” (2-7)
  • Jaguars: A 13-game losing streak dating back to last season finally comes to an end, and on the road no less.  Maurice Jones-Drew and Jordan Todman each ran in scores, but only combined for 52 yards on the ground.  Chad Henne wasn’t good, throwing two picks to no touchdowns. A fourth quarter safety turned out to be the difference in the game. The reason they won, their defense turned the Titans over 4 times. (1-8)

AFC WEST (It Was Always Going to be a 2 Team Race)

  • Chiefs: Bye Week. (9-0)
  • Broncos: Peyton Manning threw for 4 touchdowns, 3 to Demaryius Thomas to move within a game of the division lead. Manning took a shot late to his ankles and came up hobbling, and underwent an MRI early Monday.  The team was without head coach John Fox, who had heart surgery last week.  But it didn’t slow them down.  Knowshon Moreno had a big day, with over 100 yards of total offense.  Julius Thomas nearly cracked the 100 yard mark, and scored Manning’s fourth TD pass. (8-1)
  • Chargers: Phil Rivers wasn’t great, throwing for just 218 and a score.  It’s a second straight loss by just 1 score, dropping them under .500. Ryan Matthews was better than a week ago on the ground, finding the end zone once, but again didn’t crack the 100 yard mark after two straight games doing so.  This team continues to be very streaky, something they can’t afford with arguably the two best teams in the AFC both in their division. (4-5)
  • Raiders: They scored 17 points off turnovers.  You can call Tracy Porter a Manning magnet.  The 6th year corner-back is the only player with a pick 6 against both Peyton and Eli Manning.  But it was their own turnover late in the 3rd, a Terrelle Pryor interception, that put them down for good.  Pryor was pressured all game long, and despite getting passes off early, eventually it got to be too much.  Rashard Jennings did all he could do on the ground in place of the injured Darren McFadden, but it wasn’t enough. According to CBS, this was their 9th straight loss to NFC opponents.  (3-6)

That’s it.  Week 11 approaches as teams look to better their playoff positioning.

NFL: Week 6 Thoughts

6 down. 11 to go.  And we still have 3 win-less teams, as well as 2 undefeated squads.

Atlanta and Miami were both on their bye weeks.

NFC EAST (At Least a Couple Teams Are at .500 Now)

  • Cowboys: A big win on Sunday night, but it came with some costly injuries.  Both defensive end Demarcus Ware and running back DeMarco Murray left with injuries.  Ware with a pulled quad muscle, and could miss 3-4 weeks; he’s never missed a start since entering the league in 2005. Meanwhile, Murray, who scored the games first touchdown, left with a knee sprain; he’s expected to miss about a week. Dwayne Harris returned a punt for an 86-yard touchdown and set up another Dallas score with a 90-yard kickoff return.  Tony Romo had just 170 passing yards a week after his 506 in a loss to Denver.  I think he’ll take that trade every time.  (3-3)
  • Eagles:  The offense had a huge day, with LeSean McCoy running for 116 yard, while Nick Foles threw for nearly 300 yards and 3 TDs, while running for a 4th, in place of the injured Michael Vick. Desean Jackson caught 2 touchdowns, while Riley Cooper found paydirt once, while racking up 120 receiving yards.  It was close early, but the defense held Tampa to just a field goal in the in the 2nd half. (3-3)
  • Redskins: Robert Griffin III completed less than 50% of his throws, threw no touchdowns and one pick in their loss to Dallas.  RGIII did rush for 77 yards, but fumbled twice, losing one.  Alfred Morris score their lone offensive touchdown as a part of his 81 yard rushing day.   The defense managed just one sack of Romo, but Rob Jackson did take a pick to the house.  Their special teams play was a killer, unable to stop Dwayne Harris from putting up big return numbers. (1-4)
  • Giants: They played their best game of the season, and still managed to lose.  Eli Manning threw 2 picks in his first 5 pass attempts, but it was the interception thrown on a possible game winning drive in the 4th quarter that sealed their win-less fate.  It was a game that saw Brandon Jacobs run like it was 2008, scoring 2TDs and bringing a much-needed run game back to New York.  When a guy like Jacobs turns back the clock like that, you’ve got to find a way to win.  But no pass rush to go with turnovers hurt Big Blue once again.  It’s the teams first 0-6 start since 1976.  (0-6)

NFC NORTH (It’s Crowded At the Top)

  • Lions: Calvin Johnson made his return after a week off with an injury, but didn’t have a big stat day, as he was used as more of a decoy.  Tight-end Joseph Fauria was the beneficiary, catching a career high 3 touchdowns, including the one to seal the victory with 2:01 left to go in regulation.  Matthew Stafford threw 3 of his 4 TD passes in the 2nd half to rally his team to victory and keep a share of 1st place. (4-2)
  • Bears: Brandon Marshall had a huge game in Chicago’s first win since week 3.  The team did everything they could to give New York the game in the 4th except turn the ball over, but in the end they held tough and picked off Manning 3 times in the final frame.  Tim Jennings got Manning twice, including a 48-yard return for a touchdown on the Giants opening drive.  QB  Jay Cutler had a good day, with no turnovers and throwing for two scores.    (4-2)
  • Packers: Outside of a 64-yard touchdown strike to Jordy Nelson, Aaron Rodgers didn’t bring his A game on Sunday.  But Green Bay held on despite a big fourth quarter comeback attempt by Baltimore.  4 Mason Crosby field goals and 120 yards on the ground by rookie rusher Eddie Lacy helped give the Pack just enough cushion.  Despite being without Clay Matthews, their defense held Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense in check, sacking last years Superbowl MVP five times, and holding Baltimore backs to 47 combined yards on the ground.  It was their first road win of the year.  AJ Hawk was a monster, picking up 3 sacks in the win. (3-2)
  • Vikings: it was a trying week for Minnesota as they came off their bye.  Adrian Peterson played days after the death of his son, while Matt Cassel got the start despite the addition of Josh Freeman at quarterback.  Cassel couldn’t make it two wins in a row for his Vikes, throwing 2 interceptions, both of which led to Carolina touchdowns.  (1-4)

NFC SOUTH (The Saints Are Still Running Away With It) 

  • Saints: In a dog fight with New England, they left   Drew Brees had brought them back from an early 10-point deficit to take a 27-23 lead late in the 4th.   But they left too much time on the clock for Tom Brady, losing their first of the year on a last second touchdown.  Tight-end Jimmy Graham had entered action averaging over 118 yards receiving a game this season, but was held catch-less, and pulled up lame late in the game. (5-1)
  • Panthers: They used their bye week well.  Cam Newton was spectacular, throwing for 3 scores, and running for a 4th in a 25-point rout of Minnesota.  Carolina took advantage of turnovers, and carried an 11-point lead into halftime.  (2-3)
  • Falcons:  Bye Week. (1-4)
  • Buccaneers: Vincent Jackson had a huge day, but they still couldn’t pick up win number 1.   The wide-out caught 9 passes for 114 yards and Tampa’s two touchdowns. Mike Glennon didn’t have a bad day either, throwing for two scores and one pick.  They just couldn’t stop the Eagles offense, which combined for 412 yards in the air and on the ground. (0-5)

NFC WEST (The Most Improved Division?)

  • Seahawks: It wasn’t their best performance, but a win is a win.  They won this one on the ground, with Marshawn Lynch running for two scores, and racking up 155 all-purpose yards in the process.  Richard Sherman did what he does, picking off Ryan Fitzpatrick early in the 4th quarter.  Russell Wilson showed once again why he’s one of the top young QB’s in the league, throwing for over 250 yards, no picks and adding 77-yards on the ground.  Seattle has now won 11 straight home games, proving they have one of the best home-field advantages in football.  (5-1)
  • 49ers: Vernon Davis had an absolute monster of a 1st half, 177 yards and 2 touchdowns, finishing with a career high 180 yards receiving.  It was also another banner day for the defense, forcing 4 turnovers for the second straight week.  Add another 100 yard rushing game for Frank Gore and a strong day by Colin Kaepernick, and you have another big win for San Francisco. (4-2)
  • Rams: Talk about a big win.  They played well in all facets of the game, scoring on defense and special teams to go along with 3 TD passes from Sam Bradford.  Alec Ogletree returned a TJ Yates interception 98 yards to push their lead to 38-6.   The defense racked up 5 sacks including 2 by Michael Brockers. (3-3)
  • Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald gave Arizona a 1st quarter 7-6 lead on a 75-yard catch and run from Carlson Palmer.  But then the 49ers took over and the Cardinals couldn’t recover, even getting shut out in the 4th quarter.  They turned the ball over 4 times, and also lost star defensive end Calais Campbell to an apparent right leg injury late in the game. (3-3)

AFC EAST (Brady’s Comeback Puts Some Distance Atop the Division)

  • Patriots: They survived a Tom Brady pick with just over 2 minutes to go.  They got the ball back with just over a minute to go thanks to a good stop by Chandler Jones on 3rd down.  And with 5 seconds left, Tom Brady hit Kenbrell Thompkins in the end zone to cap off a 70-yard game winning drive.  It was a big win a week after Brady was shutout in the touchdown department.  Stevan Ridley helped out big time on the ground, finding the end zone twice, and racking up over a 100 yards from scrimmage. (5-1)
  • Dolphins: Bye Week. (3-2)
  • Jets: A step back for Rookie Geno Smith and the Jets in their home game against the once win-less Steelers.  Smith threw two interceptions, barely got over the 200 yard mark and fumbled once.  The offense mustered just two Nick Folk field goals in the first half.  (3-3)
  • Bills: The running game was very balanced on Sunday, with 5 players getting touches, including new starting QB Thad Lewis.  Lewis threw for 2 touchdowns, and ran for another in his second career start.  14 points in the 4th quarter forced overtime against Cincinnati, but they fell by a field goal none-the-less. (2-4)

AFC NORTH (Where Almost Everyone is 3-2)

  • Bengals: it wasn’t pretty, but Cincy got it done in overtime against Buffalo. Up 27-10 heading into the 4th, it looked like it would be an easy win for the Bengals.  But 14 unanswered by the Bills sent the game to OT.  BenJarvius Green-Ellis and not Giovanni Bernard was the featured back, and he delivered 86 rushing yards.  Andy Dalton threw for over 300 yards and broke a two game touchdown-less drought in a big way, finding the end-zone three times.  AJ Green did his thing, going over 100 yards again.  (4-2) 
  • Ravens: The defense wasn’t the problem Sunday in Green Bay.  The offense was shutdown in the first half, and was forced to mount a furious comeback in the 4th, one that came just 2 points shy of being completed.  Ray Rice and the run game was not a factor in this one at all, and though Flacco threw for almost 350 and 2 touchdowns, he also fumbled twice, losing one(3-3)
  • Browns: Brandon Weedon was not good Sunday in Detroit, and with no help on the ground, Cleveland didn’t have enough to get past the Lions. The newly reinstated starting QB was picked off late on a strange shovel pass when the game was not yet out of reach.  Guys like Buster Skrine and TJ Ward had very nice games on defense, while receiver Josh Gordon caught 7 balls for 126 yards.  They let a 10-point half-time lead slip away thanks to a goose egg in the second half. (3-3)
  • Pittsburgh: Steelers fans travel well, and on this day their team played well, picking up their first win of 2013.  The defense was outstanding, holding the Jets to a pair of field goals, and finally turning over an opponent.   They were the only league to not force a turnover through week 5.  With no production on the ground, Ben Roethlisberger had a good game, completing 23 of 30 passes for 264 yards and a score.  (1-4)

AFC South (Houston We Have a Problem) 

  • Colts: A rare bad game for Indy, who managed just 3 Adam Vinatieri field-goals on Monday Night.  Andrew Luck wasn’t so lucky on this night, with many big drops by his receivers.  And yet he still had a chance in the 4th quarter, to drive his team on yet another comeback.  But it wasn’t meant to be, throwing his only interception of the game with less than two to play.  Reggie Wayne with a nice milestone in the loss, hitting the 1,000 reception mark and passing Steeler great Hines Ward on the all-time receptions list for 8th place. (4-2)
  • Titans:  Tennessee made things tough on the Seahawks, something that’s hard to do in that home-field advantage Seattle boasts.  They had plenty of chances to steal one, but when Ryan Fitzpatrick ties Chris Johnson for the team lead in rushing yards, you know things aren’t going well.  Their lone touchdown came thanks to their special teams, who recovered a bad snap on a field goal to end the 1st half.  (3-3)
  • Texans: Things went from bad to worse in Houston.  Matt Schaub didn’t throw a pick 6 for what would’ve been the 7th straight game, but he did leave late in the 3rd with a right ankle injuries.  The beleaguered starting QB left to cheers from the Houston crowd, and was replaced by TJ Yates, who did throw a pick 6 of his own.  (2-4)
  • Jaguars: It was probably their best game of the year, but in the end the Broncos were just too much for them.  It was just a 2-point game mid-way through the 3rd, despite the crazy 28-point spread put on the game in Denver’s favor.  Justin Blackmon had another good game, 190 receiving yards, thanks to a big day from Chad Henne, who threw for 2TDs and 303 yards.  But the defense couldn’t stop the run game in the redzone, which was the difference(0-6) 

(AFC WEST) Where All the Undefeated Teams Reside

  • Broncos: Peyton Manning with his worth performance of the year, losing two fumbles and throwing his 2nd pick of the year.  And still they won by 16.  The big story was the performance of Knowshon Moreno, who rand for just 42 yards, but scored 3 rushing touchdowns. Talk about taking advantage in the red-zone.  (6-0)
  • Chiefs: This team just can’t lose right now and it’s all thanks to their stellar defense.  10 sacks in one game is a lot no matter who you’re playing, but against a rival Oakland team that boasts a mobile quarterback, that’s just downright impressive.  Tamba Ali racked up 3.5 of those.  Alex Smith wasn’t good, but he didn’t need to be thanks to his defense and two touchdown runs by Jamaal Charles.  Smith completed just 14 of 31 pass attempts for 128 yards, but didn’t turn the ball over, which is exactly what head coach Andy Reid wants.  (6-0)
  • Chargers: Nick Novak kicked 3 big field goals to help bounce back from a tough loss to Oakland last week.  The offense didn’t turn the ball over, and the lone touchdown of the day was thrown to rookie Keenan Allen, who had another big day.  Their lone forced turnover sealed the win late in the 4th quarter.  Ryan Matthews broke a string of 23 straight games without a 100-yard rusher for San Diego. (3-3)
  • Raiders: Terrelle Pryor got little help from his offensive line.  He was sacked 10 times.  Their lone touchdown, a 39-yard strike to Denarius Moore, actually gave them a 2nd quarter lead.  Pryor threw three picks, one for a Kansas City score, and saw his offense shutout in the 2nd half. (2-4)

So that’s a wrap on week 6.  Week 7 kicks off on Thursday Night Football with an NFC West Showdown.  The Seahawks are in Arizona for a date with the Cardinals.