Tuesday, December 01, 2009

NFL Winners and Losers -- Week 12

Despite a rocky beginning, my picks finished Week 12 above .500 once again thanks to yet another solid Sunday of games where I went 2-1 to close out the week at a 3-2 clip once again. This raises my picks' record so far through 11 weeks to 35-20 on the season against the spread. 63.6% against the sharps in Vegas. Wow. And I know that a good deal of the reason for that success relates to the analysis I am doing here a couple of times a week on the blog, including reviewing each week's action in my Winners and Losers report, where I always try to spot trends and other interesting tidbits that are not necessarily readily available. So without further delay let's get to this week's report:


1. Brett Favre. Wow. I mean, wow. What more can you say? 24 tds and just 3 interceptions on the season. Over the Vikings' last four games, Favre's sickness is even more apparent, as he has amassed 12 tds and a big fat zero picks over those games, all easy wins for his team. Wow. And Favre's lowest quarterback rating over that 4-game span? 112.1, in this past week's 36-10 smushing of the division rival Bears at home. Favre has got the best runningback in the league, and his team is scoring first and scoring often such that he is basically always playing from out in front -- usually way out in front -- and this makes teams focus all the more on the running game, leaving Favre with time to find his receivers and make the great throws he wants to. I know Peyton is putting up extraordinary numbers once again in Indy, and I know Drew Brees is also captaining an 11-0 team down in New Orleans, and I know Chris Johnson is sparking an amazing turnaround in Tennessee, but I've said it before and I'll say it again: I just don't see how you don't give the MVP of the league to Favre this year unless things change dramatically in the final five games of the 2009 regular season.

2. Vince Young, Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans. If not for the incredible season Brett Favre is putting together, there is no doubt that Vince Young would be the story of the 2009 NFL season. After VY led his team on a 99-yard drive in the final minutes to score yet another game-winning come-from-behind touchdown on Sunday to best the Cardinals with just one second remaining on the clock, Young has now led his team to an incredible 5-game winning streak after starting off the season an NFL-worst 0-6. It is clear at this point that the unthinkable 59-0 shellacking that the Titans took in Week 6 at the hands of the New England Cheatriots was the dramatic inflection point of the Titans' 2009 season, as coach Jeff Fisher made the switch to Vince Young at qb and the team has yet to lose since. And once again, Young is doing it in very dramatic and yet efficient fashion, with his lowest qb rating in his five starts being a still respectable 84.7 in the Week 11 win at Houston, and with Young still having thrown just one interception in his five starts this season, especially impressive for a young guy like VY is. And, along with Vince Young's emergence at quarterback, star runningback Chris Johnson has emerged as well as a bona fide MVP candidate, busting out with five huge triple-digit yardage performances in a row after only reaching the 100-yard plateau in two of the team's first six games. After rushing totals of 228 yards, 135 yards, 132 yards, 151 yards and now 154 yards this past weekend against the Cardinals, Johnson is almost as much a catalyst for his team's resurgence as Vince Young has been, and together the two of them can bring their team from the absolute cellar of the NFL to the thick of the playoff hunt with a win next week at Indianapolis.

3. The San Diego Chargers. After a 2-3 start, the San Diego Chargers have now rattled off six straight wins, looking almost more dominant by the week as the team now sits at 8-3 and a game up on division rival Denver, having crushed the Broncos head to head already last week as well. And after some early defensive struggles, the Chargers' D finally seems to be coming together in conjunction with its offense really clicking on all cylinders. In their last six games, the Chargers have scored an average of more than 31 points per game, with quarterback Phillip Rivers leading the way with another solid season consisting so far of 19 touchdowns and six interceptions with a completion percentage of over 64%. And over those same past six games, the Chargers out of nowhere have allowed just under 14 points per game, for an average margin of victory of more than 17 points over the past half dozen games for Norv Turner's team. With games against Cleveland and Washington still on the schedule for the Chargers, the odds are improving almost daily that San Diego will have a chance to eliminate the Colts from the postseason for the third consecutive year before the 2009 NFL season is completed.

4. The Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles. Both of these two teams seemed dead a few weeks back, the Packers after losing at then 0-8 Tampa Bay in Week 9 to drop to 4-4, and the Eagles after that inexplicable loss at the Raiders in Week 6 to fall to 3-2 while star runningback Brian Westbrook sat out with multiple concussions. But now, after three straights wins over the Cowboys, 49ers and Lions for the Pack, and with the Eagles winning four out of their last six games including big wins vs the Giants at home as well as at the Bears and now the Redskins this past weekend, both teams now sit at 7-4 and own the two wildcard spots in the NFC were the season to end today. Both teams will have their work cut out for them if they expect to hold off the competition in the wildcard race, however, as the Pack still has the Ravens at home, at the Steelers and at Arizona on their schedule, while the Eagles prepare for games at Atlanta, the Giants and Dallas, plus home games vs. the 49ers and the Broncos, making the end of the Eagles' schedule about as bad as anyone's schedule could possibly be heading into the most key matchups of the NFL season.


1. The New York Giants and quarterback Eli Manning. I can't believe I am saying this after Eli won the superbowl for New York a couple of years back, but this year is the first time we are starting to see that Phillip Rivers might have been a better choice at quarterback after all than Eli Manning back in the day. Clearly Ben Roethlisberger and his two superbowls in five years is the cream of the 2004 NFL draft quarterback pool, but Eli Manning is once again really starting to look less than spectacular without that big-game wide receiver to make huge plays game in and game out for him. Although Eli has piled up some decent stats against the shitpile teams in the NFL this season, against the five teams with solid defenses on the Giants' schedule so far (Washington, New Orleans, Arizona, Philadelphia and Denver), Manning's total numbers include four touchdowns and eight interceptions, for an average qb rating over those five games of under 65. After getting absolutely embarrassed on Thanksgiving night by the Broncos -- themselves mired at the time in a four-game losing streak -- the Giants have now dropped to 6-5 and sit on the outside looking in for the NFC playoff race, needing to pass either the Eagles or the Packers if they expect to be around for the 2009 postseason.

2. Jake Delhomme. Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme managed to throw not one, not two, not three but four picks against the lowly Jets on Sunday, throws which clearly cost his team a shot at another win and the team's last chance to stay alive in the NFC playoff race. But the most annoying aspect with Delhomme in my view isn't even the badness of most of his throws on Sunday, and throughout much of this season; it's his attitude, the country bumpkin look on his face every time he throws another one. It's like Mark Sanchez meets Hillbilly Jim, for those of you who were into the old WWF, back when it was still the WWF and not the gheyass WWE. All I know is that, 11 starts into the 2009 season, Delhomme has recorded only two games with qb ratings over 82, and has tossed just 8 touchdowns as compared with 18 interceptions on the season, which simply just does not cut it in this league today.

3. The Pittsburgh Steelers. After letting yet another game slip away on Sunday, this one thanks to a final-minutes drive led by 2nd-year Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, the defending superbowl champion Steelers suddenly find themselves in a very precarious position. Despite playing pretty well more or less every time I've seen them on television this season, the Steelers now sit at 6-5 following the loss to the Ravens, having dropped to 0-3 in the division against the Bengals and Ravens combined so far, with one more game against the Ravens a couple days after Christmas in Week 16 of the 2009 season. Now tied with the Ravens and the Jaguars at 6-5 for the final wildcard spot in the AFC, the Steelers are 1-3 in the conference and have lost to the Ravens already, so they are going to need to come up with some fancy footwork pretty quickly here if they expect to have a chance to defend their superbowl title come February.

TO Watch: Whoa. Two receiving touchdowns in two games for Terrell Owens? What gives? I guess something went down during the Week 9 bye week for the Bills, because since then TO has registered his three biggest games of the season in succession, spanning two different quarterbacks and not just being limited to his total yards receiving either. After making three catches for 85 yards in Week 10 in a loss to the resurgent Titans, TO not only caught for 195 yards at Jacksonville but also managed to haul in 9 balls in so doing, nearly doubling his biggest output of the season prior to that in terms of receptions, and then he followed that up this past weekend with 5 more catches for 96 yards and another touchdown, all season-highs for him other than the previous game at JAX. Putting side this past weekend's win against the Dolphins, however, TO's three previous biggest games of the season all came in losses for his team, so he still has a lot of work to go if he plans to show that he can still contribute to a winning team like he has on occasion during his career in the past.

The JaMarcus Russell award: This week once again we can't go to The Namesake since Russell was once again benched in favor of Raiders backup qb Bruce Gradkowski. A few guys put up a decent run at the title this week, but I think I just can't avoid giving this one to Jake Delhomme of the Panthers this week. In his team's 17-6 loss at the Jets on Sunday, Delhomme finished the day 14 for 34 (just over 41% completions) for 130 total yards passing, with zero touchdowns and four picks on the day. Delhomme's final qb rating for this game: 12.7. And if 12.7 ain't what the JaMarcus Russell award is all about, then I don't know what is.

NFL's best team: I had it all planned here, and I had even half-written this piece where I was ready to officially give the nod to the Minnesota Vikings here, but then I watched the Saints utterly and completely dismantle the Cheatriots on Monday night and I don't see how anyone can take the mantle away from New Orleans at this point in the season. The Colts keep on winning but they haven't looked particularly sharp in weeks, culminating with this past weekend's 35-27 victory over the Texans despite dropping to a 17-0 deficit in the first half of that game. And the Vikings meanwhile have been looking just awesome, with Brett Favre leading his team to a 10-1 record including wins by 12 points, 17 points, 36 and 36 in their last four games. But after watching what the Saints did to the Pats this week -- offensively, of course, but even on defense as the Saints swarmed around whichever Pats player was unfortunate enough to be holding the ball at the time, I'm not gonna stand here and call anybody other than them the team to beat in the NFL this season.

NFL's worst team: The Rams. Currently sitting at 1-10 on the season, the Rams lead the league in point differential with a whopping -167 over just 11 games. St. Louis has managed to score just 130 points over those 11 games, while giving up the 6th most points in the league as well at 279. For now we'll give this one to the Rams, with the understanding that the Browns are nipping at their heels for the honor of the worst the NFL has to offer here in 2009.

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Blogger Bayne_S said...

Interesting game this weekend between Titans and Colts.

I would have to think Chargers and Bengals would hate to see Titans come to town for a playoff game

2:56 PM  
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