Tuesday, November 03, 2009

NFL Winners and Losers -- Week 8

Damn do those Saints look unbeatable or what? On Mike and Mike in the morning this morning on ESPN radio, they went through the balance of the Saints' 2009 schedule, and it's not exactly what you'd call tough. It's Carolina still twice, the Buccaneers still twice, the Rams and the Redskins for probably a damn near guaranteed six more wins right off the bat, bringing the Saints' win total to at least 13 right there. The other three games are all tough, but winnable: the Cheatriots in New Orleans on Monday night in Week 12, at the Falcons in Week 14, and home against the Cowboys in Week 15 when Dallas has not exactly shined over its recent history. 16-0 is not at all out of the question for this team after they've already beaten the Eagles, the Jets, the Giants, the Dolphins and the Falcons in just their first seven games. It's basically the halfway point of the season, and in my view the NFC is shaping up to be a two-horse race, whereas things are much more wide open in the AFC as far as there being anywhere between three and five teams seemingly capable of going to the superbowl.

And with that, let's get to this week's winners and losers in the NFL.


1. The Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo. America's Team won its third straight game on Sunday at Dallas Stadium, besting the Seattle Seahawks 38-17 on the strength of three touchdown passes from Tony Romo and another solid performance from the runningback lineup. What's more, upstart Dallas wide receiver Miles Austin caught a touchdown pass for the third straight week, certifying him in my view as the real deal, and solidifying the fact that the Cowboys now have that legitimate downfield threat they've been missing since running TO out of town in the offseason. Even though this team has still yet to beat any great teams in its 2009 campaign, the last two wins against the Falcons and now the Seahawks at home both go a long way towards demonstrating the staying power that will be necessary to make it through the NFC East come December, which has always been Tony Romo's absolute least favorte month to be throwing the ball.

2. The Minnesota Vikings. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Brett Favre is and continues to be the most exciting -- if not overplayed -- story in the NFL this season. Favre's Vikings headed into Lambeau Field this weekend for a matchup that meant more than just Favre's uber-selfish personal quest to defeat his old team in front of his old hometown fans, as a win would also have left the Packers tied in the loss column with the Vikings for the first time since Week 2 of the NFL season. Even though the game ended with just an 8-point victory for the Vikes, it was never that close as Favre's team jumped out to a 24-3 lead before coasting to victory in the second half, cementing their position as the clear #2 team in the NFC. Unless things change drastically in the coming weeks, it seems all but assured that we'll be seeing a battle of the Vikes and the Saints come the NFC Conference Championship in January, most likely down in the dome in New Orleans.

3. The Houston Texans and Matt Schaub. Since getting crushed by the Jets on opening weekend of the 2009 season, the Texans have not made an appearance yet on the Winners board, but this will be their first as the team has finished the first half of the season at 5-3 for the first time in the franchise's short history in Texas. After leading his team to another big win on Sunday at Buffalo, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub currently leads the NFL in passing yardage with 2342 yards through 8 games, and he is also tied (with Brett Favre and Drew Brees) for the league lead in passing touchdowns with 16, to go along with just 7 picks for the Houston qb. With their Week 8 win the Texans are poised to make a solid run over the second half of the 2009 NFL season at the franchise's first ever playoff appearance.

4. DeSean Jackson. Eagles' rookie wide receiver DeSean Jackson scored on a 54-yard pass from Donovan McNabb late in the first half on Sunday in Philadelphia, lifting the Eagles to a 23-7 lead from which the G-Men could never recover. This would be DJ's sixth touchdown play of more than 50 yards already in just eight games this season, tying a Philadelphia team record that is nearly 50 years old, and it goes a long way towards filling the big-play void left by a certain wide receiver that goes by the initials "T" and "O" some years ago. With Jackson leading the way with the big plays on offense and on kick returns, the Eagles moved to 5-2 on the season, and setting up for a huge game next Sunday night at the Linc against Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys.


1. New York football took a huge hit this weekend, no matter which half of the city's teams you root for. The Giants received an absolute butt-whipping at the hands of the division rival Eagles, 40-17, while the Jets chipped in with an arguably even more disappointing 30-25 loss at home to the Miami Dolphins that saw the Fins sweep the season series against Gang Green after yet another incredibly frustrating loss. For the Giants, the question now becomes just how good this team really is, after starting off 5-0 beating up on a bunch of awful teams but now dropping three straight games -- never even particularly close in any of them -- to conference rivals New Orleans, Arizona and now Philadelphia. Eli Manning completed just over 50% of his passes for 222 yards and one score, but two costly picks kept Eli's quarterback rating for the game around 50 and really did in his team's chances on the day, with the Eagles all too happy to cash in on Manning's miscues.

But it's the Jets who are the ones whose fans will be pulling the hair out of their heads for weeks after another brutal loss, as the team outgained Miami 378 yards to 104, had 23 first downs to the Dolphins' 10 and held the ball for ten minutes longer than Bill Parcells' team from south Florida, and yet still the Jets managed to give up 27 points to Miami in just the second half of their game and make it impossible for the Jets and rookie quarterback Ryan Sanchez to catch up. And unlike the Giants, who still have at least some air of a solid, playoff-caliber team in the NFC, the vultures are once again circling for the Jets' season after their loss dropped the team to 4-4, sinking them two games in the loss column behind the division-leading Cheatriots and, more importantly, into 9th place overall in the AFC in a league where only the top six teams are going to make it to postseason play.

2. The Arizona Cardinals. Fresh off of drubbing the Giants in New Jersey York on national tv last Sunday night, the Cardinals had a chance to move two full games ahead of the 49ers for a big lead in first place in the NFC West, and go a great deal of the way towards putting to bed the curse of the superbowl-losing teams failing to make the playoffs the following season since the turn of the millennium in the NFL. Instead, the Cardinals somehow found a way to lose 34-21 this weekend to a 2-win Carolina Panthers squad that had only scored more than 20 points one other time in eight games so far in 2009. Giving up 270 yards rushing to the Panthers I'm sure does not help Arizona's cause, nor does their quarterback Kurt Warner's five picks and a fumble on the day, which is enough to keep any team in the league from winning a game against pretty much any other professional football team. The Cardinals will now travel to Chicago to meet the Bears next week in Arizona's quest to become the first NFC team to repeat as conference champions since Brett Favre and the Packers went to two straight superbowls in the 1996-1997 NFL seasons.

3. Special teams coverage. Kickoff and punt return coverage has got to be one of the biggest losers in the NFL this season. How many games have been decided by punt and kickoff returns already in just the first half of the year so far? I personally have watched the Dolphins win two games on the strength of their return game alone, plus one for the Jets and another two games where kick returns played a huge role for the Minnesota Vikings. And I don't actually get to watch that many football games, so this is really saying something. If anyone out there reading this happens to be a stat-crunching type for the NFL, I would be interested to see the official numbers on the frequency of kickoff and punt returns this season -- in particular game-changing ones -- as compared to previous NFL seasons. For whatever reason it just feels like I'm watching way more instances of kickoff and punt returns, followed by a kick return for the other team on the very kickoff from the first team's return touchdown, etc. Something has gotta be the reason for this trend, and it is highly relevant because week after week, actual NFL games are being swung the other way by returns and special teams instead of the actual offensive and defensive action.

The JaMarcus Russell award: Normally I like to save this for the man whose name is forever enshrined on this weekly award. After all, Russell did put up a valiant run at the trophy this week, finishing 14 for 22 for 109 yards, no touchdowns and one INT in a 24-16 loss at home to the Chargers, with a final qb rating of 56.8 on the day. But sorry, JaMark....this week somebody just wanted it more. A now two-time winner of the JR award of the week, for Week 8 the hardware has to return to the mantle of Cleveland qb Derek Anderson. Anderson's line on the day in his team's 30-6 smushing by the Chicago Bears? 6 for 17 for 76 yards, no touchdowns, and two INTs to boot. Final passer rating on the day for DA? 10.8. So sweet.

The Worst Team in the NFL award again changes hands this week, after the previously winless St. Louis Rams came up big with a win on the road at 1-win Detroit to shuffle off this ignominious award for at least one more week. I was tempted at first to return the top spot to its most recent holder, the Washington Redskins, but then I realized that the Skins did not lose this week either, primarily due to the fact that this was a bye week for the anti-Native American team from our nation's capital. So I'm moving to the top spot the latest example of a team that just seems to get utterly blown out every single week, embarrassing themselves and their entire city almost every time they step foot on the gridiron: the Cleveland Browns. I may not have given this "team" enough due during the first half of the 2009 NFL season, but just take a look at what the hapless Browns have managed to accomplish already just by Week 8: a 3-point overtime loss to the state-rival Bungles in Week 4, that thrilling 6-3 victory over the Bills in Week 5, two-touchdown beatdowns by the Vikings and the Steelers, and of course the four other 20+ point drubbings by the Broncos, the Ravens, the Packers and now the Bears as well. Amazingly, the Browns have now managed to score 6 or fewer points in five of their last seven games, while allowing at least 23 points to all but one opponent throughout this season so far. Oh, and head coach Eric Mangini managed to trade away the team's best player in Braylon Edwards a couple of weeks back as well to boot, and now they have fired their GM mid-season (I'm sure that'll solve the whole problem). The Browns as a franchise, from the players all the way up to the owner, are easily worthy of being this week's Worst Team winner.

TO Watch: 5 catches for 39 yards and no touchdowns on Sunday at home against the Texans, although TO did manage to get into the end zone on his one running play of the day, a 29-year touchdown scamper on an end-around early in the first quarter. Still, TO's receiving stats for the season now move to 23 receptions for 281 yards and one touchdown. Ugh. Still sounds more like one big game of his than the eight games he has taken to reach this point so far in 2009. 281 yards receiving through half the season for TO? FAIL!

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Blogger Bayne_S said...

Give the BUCS their due!

Just because they had a bye is no reason to forget that they lost to Redskins and have yet to win.

The lack of winnable games remaining on their schedule leads them to an easy #1 position in Tim Tebow sweepstakes.

1:11 AM  
Blogger OhCaptain said...

As a Vikings fan, why do I hate post season talk?

11:43 PM  

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