Tuesday, December 08, 2009

NFL Winners and Losers -- Week 13

Week 13 was probably the craziest weekend of the NFL season so far, with at least three significant upsets and a few more in the making as well. Unfortunately my Week 13 picks fell victim to the madness as I posted a 1-4 record, my worst week of the season so far as the only game I nailed was the one that everybody thought I was crazy for -- the Saints' letdown at the Redskins. Otherwise I was a last-minute field goal away in both Seattle and Buffalo, a punt return away at the Giants, and I was way off base in the Sunday night matchup as Arizona did away with its 2-3 home record and dressed down one of the titans of the NFC in the Vikings. That's a week I just want to forget and move on from, which is exactly what I'm going to do here now as I put the wraps on Week 13 with the weekly Winners and Losers report:


1. The Philadelphia Eagles. What a day for the Eagles, and I don't just mean because of what they did in Atlanta. Not only did the Eagles completely obliterate the 6-5 playoff-hopeful Falcons in their home stadium in a crucial game for the Eagles' divisional chances, but they managed to accomplish their stated goal of getting Mike Vick into the end zone in a big way, as The Torturer both threw and ran for touchdowns in the Eagles' 34-7 romping over the Falcons in a game that wasn't even that close. Quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Mike Vick threw a very efficient 16 for 27 for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns, and the team got a huge contribution from fullback Leonard Weaver who amassed more than 100 yards on just 5 rushes and 2 receptions on the day, one for a touchdown. But most of all, the Dallas Cowboys' loss at the Giants later on Sunday afternoon lifted the 8-4 Eagles into a tie with the 'Boys for first place in the NFC East, the first time the Eagles have been able to claim that position in the division since Week 1 of this year.

2. The Denver Broncos. Denver has come roaring back from a 4-game slide following the team's 6-0 start to the 2009 season, as the team erupted for 44 points in a blowout at one of the league's historically hardest stadiums to win at in Kansas City. On Sunday, the Broncos banged out 413 yards of total offense -- 245 of those via the running game -- compared to just 222 total yards for the Chiefs on the day. Correll Buckhalter picked up 113 yards on 12 carries on the ground, while Knowshon Moreno chipped in with 83 more rushing yards of his own, and Broncos wideout Brandon Marshall also came up with a big game in hauling in 7 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown to boot. After faltering in the middle of the season, the Broncos now sit at 8-4, all alone in line for the first wildcard in the AFC, which at this moment would set them up with a trip to San Diego for a sexy first-round playoff matchup with their sworn enemies and divisional rival Chargers.

3. The Miami Dolphins and quarterback Chad Henne. After the Dolphins big come-from-behind victory against the Cheatriots on Sunday in what was a national game in many markets, I suspect this will finally be the time that Chad Henne starts to get his due for what has been a really solid season for the 2nd-year quarterback out of Michigan. After last year's MVP runner-up Chad Pennington went down to injury after leading the Fish to an 0-3 start, Henne has stepped in and gone an amazing 6-3, including the big Cheatriots win as well as two wins against fellow division rivals the New York Jets. In the win on Sunday, Henne had his best game since Week 5, throwing for 335 yards for the first 300-yard game of his career on 29 of 52 passing. More than that, however, is just how poised and strong Henne looks back there behind the O-line, and the incredible gun Henne has for an arm as he routinely whips the ball screaming towards his receivers with just a flick of his wrist in the air. Despite having played games at the Falcons, Chargers, Jets and Patriots and at home against the Colts, Jets, Saints and Patriots, and losing last year's MVP runner-up at quarterback, the Dolphins now sit at an amazing 6-6, just one game out of the AFC East lead and with seemingly winnable games at Jacksonville and Tennessee coming up before finishing up at home against the Texans and Steelers. And in stark contrast to the Dallas Cowboys, the Dolphins are also 5-0 in December under second-year head coach Tony Sparano. It could be another fun winter in southern Florida if all goes well for Dolphins fans.

4. The NFC East race: What was looking just a few weeks ago as a runaway for the Cowboys is now one of the most wide-open races in the NFL for 2009. What it comes down to is that the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants will likely battle it out for two playoff spots, one of them the division winner and one the wildcard. And with the Cowboys and Eagles now at 8-4 and the Giants just behind at 7-5, this really is anybody's division to win with four huge games left for each team. Interestingly, the remaining schedules for these three squads each have their scare points, with the Eagles still playing the Giants, Cowboys, 49ers and Broncos, the Cowboys facing the Eagles, Redskins, Saints and Chargers, and the Giants slated to face the Eagles, Redskins, Panthers and Saints. Something tells me that we're going to be looking at our second straight season of the Eagles at the Cowboys in the last game of the season to determine the final member of the 2009 NFC playoff picture.

5. The AFC East race: The AFC East is another division that was thought to be an absolute runaway, in this case for the New England Cheatriots, as recently as a few weeks ago and certainly before the season began. But after this past weekend saw the Jets pull out a victory against the Bills while the Dolphins shocked the Pats in Miami, we're now looking at the Cheatriots at 7-5 while the Jets and Dolphins are right on their heels, each at 6-6 through twelve games on the season. Unlike in the NFC East, however, the current leader in the Cheatriots has a very favorable remaining schedule, with games at Buffalo, at Houston, and at home against the Jaguars and the Panthers to close out the 2009 season, so they may be very difficult to catch from a practical perspective. But with Miami fixing to play the Jaguars, Titans, Texans and Steelers, they have as good of a chance as anyone of making a race yet out of the division normally reserved for the biggest cheaters in the game today.


1. The Washington Redskins. Can somebody please tell me, how in the weinerschnitzel did the Redskins manage to lose this game? And can Jim Zorn get a fucking break or what? The guy's team comes out rocking and rolling, takes an early 10-0 lead on the Saints in their letdown game, and even after giving up a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the waning seconds of the first half on what was itself an interception return by the Redskins to drop back to 17-17 at halftime, the Skins come right back out in the second half and quickly retake a 10-point lead. They did everything they possibly needed to do to win, including getting into position with just three minutes left to kick the ultimate chip-shot field goal to take an insurmountable 10-point lead, and boom! Suisham misses it. He misses a field goal from the fucking four yard line. Fast forward one blown coverage from the Redskins, and we're in overtime, and even though the Skins won the toss you knew that wasn't going to save them after blowing a lead like they did on Sunday afternoon to a team like the Saints. I know the Skins put up a good effort and they still covered and won me my lone win of Week 13, but come on guys. The Saints have been deserving to lose for weeks this year, and this one was supposed to be their game.

2. The Pittsburgh Steelers. This was one of the most shocking upsets of the season, as the Oakland Raiders rallied to beat the defending Superbowl champions on the road in a crucial matchup by a score of 27-24 on the strength of three fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Let me repeat that again in case you are too drunk to understand: The Raiders. Scored on three separate touchdown drives. In just the fourth quarter. Against the superbowl champions. On the road. I know, I know, but what can I say, it really happened. The bottom line is that, when Troy Polamalu is not out there prowling the backfield for the champs, that defense is a shadow of its former self, and this weekend was no exception as the hapless Raiders ran for 109 yards and passed for another 308, with Bruce Gradkowski leading Oakland on his second late game-winning touchdown drive in his three starts since replacing the infamous JaMarcus Russell as the Raiders' quarterback. And this loss is particularly damaging to the Steelers, who with it now fall to 6-6 on the season, tied with the Jets, Dolphins and Ravens, and a full game out of the AFC wildcard race if the season ended today.

3. The Dallas Cowboys. Never has a single loss for a team still tied for their division lead meant so much as the Cowboys' 7-point loss at the New York Giants late on Sunday afternoon seems to mean. After going 11-23 in December and January since 2002, it's become an annual ritual to wait for the Cowboys to swoon in winter, especially on the road in the cold, and to have an 8-3 team that's already lost once to the G-Men lose again (and lose badly) with the Giants in the midst of a terrible slump is a very bad sign for Dallas. Want to know just how bad things got in a hurry after the 'Boys Week 13 loss? Check out Monday's press conference. That's about as hostile as you ever see the press get towards a head coach, especially one whose team is still in first place and holding the tiebreaker over the team it's tied with. And with the Chargers and Eagles at home and the Saints and Redskins on the road, the remaining road for Dallas almost seems custom-made for a good old-fashioned collapse, Wade Phillips-style.

4. The New England Cheatriots. With the 1-point loss to the Dolphins this weekend, the Cheats fell to 7-5, the first time this team has seemed so beatable with Tom Brady at quarterback since, well, before the team was caught regularly stealing the signals for every play the opposition was running on them game-in and game-out for years earlier this decade. Although Randy Moss and Wes Welker continue to make Tom Brady look solid in the passing game, the Pats have now gone six games without even an 85-yard rusher to help them balance the offense and eat up clock against the better teams, which has really shown in the team's record so far this season. And, while the Pats have remained strong at home at 6-0 so far here in 2009, the team fell to 1-5 on the road with the Miami loss on Sunday, which has to be viewed as a very disturbing sign for anyone hoping or expecting to cheer the cheaters on to their fourth superbowl title this decade.

5. Matt Cassell. Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassell was benched in the fourth quarter for the first time in what has been by all counts a disappointing first season for the former Cheatriot quarterback who followed the Cheatriots' Director of Player Personnel Scott Pioli to KC in the 2008-2009 offseason. After a dismal performance at home against the division rival Broncos on Sunday (more on that later), Cassell's numbers on the year are looking highly dubious for the guy who was supposed to lead the Chiefs back to respectability after a 11-5 season under Bill Bellicheat in New England. Cassell is off to a 3-8 start in Kansas City, totalling 1982 yards with a too-low 13 touchdowns combined with a too-high 9 interceptions in 11 starts. Furthermore, Cassell has completed just 53% of his passes on the year, reaching 60% on only three occasions in 11 starts, and he has tossed equal or more interceptions than touchdowns in six of those 11 starts, which is a sure recipe for disaster for any quarterback. In the end, the proof is in the offense that Cassell has led for 11 of his team's 12 games so far here in 2009 -- the Chiefs have failed to score more than 21 points in all but one of Cassell's starts on the season, including 16 or fewer points in 8 of those games. With the benching this past weekend, Chiefs management and fans have got to start thinking whether this guy was really the right decision to take the home team to the promised land in KC.

TO Watch: After back-to-back season best performances over the past two weeks for the volatile Bills wide receiver, TO returned to form on Thursday with Darelle Reavis, perhaps the best cover cornerback in the NFL today, shadowing his every step. On the game TO recorded just 3 catches for 31 yards, no touchdowns and one or two big drops on passes he should have caught to boot. In 12 games with Buffalo in 2009, TO now has 43 receptions for 690 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers look a whole lot better than the roughly half that each was just a few weeks ago, but they're still not anywhere close to where TO needs them to be if he expects to get any kind of a worthwhile job catching passes in the NFL in 2010.

The JaMarcus Russell award: This week, this one's gotta go to the Chiefs' Matt Cassell. Before being benched in the fourth quarter against the hated Broncos in favor of someday named Brandon Croyle, Cassell managed to end 10 of 29 (34% completions) for 84 yards and zero touchdowns, and he tosses two interceptions just for good measure. Cassell's final qb rating on the day? 14.2. That right there is a couple of points high, but definitely JaMarcus Russell-worthy.

NFL's best team: Well, the Saints certainly made it interesting with their start-to-finish letup against the lowly Washington Redskins on Sunday, potentially creating an opening for either the Colts or Vikings to swoop in with a huge game and really challenge for the top spot. But then the Colts won only by 7 points at home against Vince Young and the Titans, and the Vikings went out and got spanked all over the field by the Cardinals in Arizona, replete with Brett Favre looking like the more recent versions of himself in throwing two picks, and probably another two or three more that should have been intercepted but somehow were not despite the throws being very ill-advised. The Vikings, who have now shown at least some weakness to teams that throw the ball, definitely drop out of this mix for now after their beatdown on Sunday, and as between the Colts and the Saints I am still going to lean slightly towards the Saints. And with the Saints looking at games at Atlanta (sans Matt Ryan and several other offensive players), at home against the Cowboys (another Cowboys road game in December against a good team), home against the Bucs and then at Carolina to end the season, 16-0 is at this point a very real possibility for the boys from the land of the Mississippi delta.

NFL's worst team: I think we still need to go with the Rams here, despite the team having the NFC's second-leading rusher in Steven Jackson. Although Cleveland obviously wants this award and the Browns continue to make a major push, in the end the Rams have still scored the fewest points in the NFL with 139 in 12 games (under 12 points per game) -- 6 points fewer than the Browns have scored thanks to their offensive outbursts over the past few weeks -- and although the 1-11 Rams have allowed only the 5th-most points in the NFL, the 1-11 Browns have again allowed 5 fewer points through 12 games so far this season. If you narrow this down to the league's 1-11 teams, the Rams just edge out the Browns as well as the Buccaneers, with an overall point differential of -175 that is at least double-digits worse than any other team in the league.

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Blogger CarmenSinCity said...

Thanks for the question Hoy. I answered it on my page in a blog post.

So, am I going to see you this weekend????

12:00 AM  
Blogger 1Queens Up1 said...

Good news, Cassel wont be benched even though he is horribly sucking.

Besides we don't want Brodie Croyle to get hurt again.

6:59 AM  

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