Tuesday Morning Double-Back

Robbery, assault and other forms of mayhem highlight our latest edition of the TMDB. Still tinkering with the format, as you’ll notice. My goal is to streamline it for maximum readability and enjoyment while still leaving room for the hard facts and stats that you crave.

And away we go.

Indianapolis Struggles, Tennessee Lacks Ability To Capitalize

The Recap:

After digging into the Colts with two first quarter touchdowns (props to Chris Johnson giving me 20 fantasy points, a legitimate performance for a change), the Titans proceeded to take their foot off the pedal and let the Colts pull up, and away, with the last game Tennessee needed to win before their season was tanked. Lack of talent, lack of effort, lack of whatever; this Titans team is lacking something, and it needs to be looked at very closely in-house if they’re going to stay competitive.

The Colts, meanwhile, came into the game the favorites, and didn’t really play like it. Their penchant for come-from-behind victories is great for headlines, but it signifies a team that can’t pull away from teams that flat out aren’t their equal talent-wise. They’re destined for the playoffs with the AFC South a mess behind them, but how far they go once they’re there depends a great deal on their ability to attack early and stay consistent.

The Numbers: Adam Vinatieri, the oldest active player in the NFL at 40 years young, hit three field goals, including one from 48 and one from 50 yards out. I realize kicker isn’t exactly a position where age takes its toll, but in the end, his field goals proved the difference in a 3-point outcome and it was his most clutch performance since the glory days of kicking the Patriots through the playoffs.

The Next Steps: The Titans get to test their meddle against a beatable Raiders team (which means the Titans will probably lose), and the Colts have a much more formidable test as they fly out to the desert to take on the Cardinals. Neither game looks promising for the road teams, to be sure.

Jets Aim For Postseason, Forget They Still Had To Play On Sunday

The Recap:

It seemed like a juicy bit of steak to the outsider looking in; a Bills team struggling to put it all together, weather conditions that dictated a run-first, defensively dominated approach, and the Jets coming off of a solid win. Knowing their playoff destiny hung in the balance of divisional games first and foremost, the Jets, almost without a second thought, proceeded to lay an unbelievable egg. From the first play, where Bills DT Marcel Darius hit Geno Smith hard enough to knock the wind out of him, the tone was set; Buffalo were on a mission, and the Jets were thinking about week 12 at halftime.

It’s hard to put a finger on how inconsistent this Jets team is. They got decimated by the Bengals in week 9, only to turn around and best a superior Saints team. Coming off a bye, they apparently didn’t realize they had a challenge waiting for them in Buffalo. The Jets aren’t a playoff team, plain and simple. Playoff teams don’t overlook anybody. The news that HC Rex Ryan spent the night before at a local Dave And Buster’s instead of running through the final preparations probably had little or nothing to do with the loss, but it’s downright laughable considering the outcome on Sunday.

The Numbers: If you needed proof of the Jets’ inconsistency: they are the only team ever to alternate wins and losses throughout their first ten games of a season.

The Next Steps: The Jets take a small trip south to Baltimore, where they’ll be playing a team almost as inconsistent as they are, while the Bills get a week off to celebrate a nice divisional massacre.

The Football Gods Continue To Ice The Ravens

From the power outage in last year’s Superbowl to the weather delay in their opening game against the Broncos, it seems the powers above have it out for the Ravens. After taking an early 10-0 lead, a fierce storm caused a delay of over two hours. When play resumed, the game turned into a back-and-forth struggle to do anything at all. The Ravens botched several opportunities to take the game, letting the struggling Bears take it to overtime, collapsing defensively on the last drive and setting up a chip shot field goal and a disheartening loss.

Both teams are still firmly in their respective playoff pictures, but you get the sense that the Ravens are a step behind after this loss, and not just because of the loss. Their play for the majority of the season has been suspect, starting with a poor offensive line and shaky play from Joe Flacco and Ray Rice. Their defense is maintaining, but it doesn’t have the firepower to carry this team to yet another championship. The Bears are tough, no matter how a game turns out, but toughness isn’t going to get you much further if your talent is on the sidelines instead of on the field.

The Numbers: Ray Rice’s first carry, a burst of 47 yards, exceeded the total amount of yards he’d gained in any game this year except for week 5 against the Dolphins.
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The Next Steps: The Ravens host the Jets, who will probably continue their win-loss-win-loss streak regardless of the matchup. The Bears are on the road, traveling to St. Louis to a play a Rams team that has the ability and the fight to make this somewhat of a “trap” game for Chicago. While Josh McCown/McNown/McNabb has been playing solid in Jay Cutler’s place, the Bears have already ruled Cutler out for week 12, and this gives a solid Rams defense the extra time to prep for the backup QB.

Jason Campbell Attempts 56 Passes, And…You Know The Rest

The Summary: Why is Jason Campbell attempting 56 passes? Because the Browns feature back is…Willis McGahee, one the last bit of his last leg. Regardless, the Bengals defense dictated the Browns offense, and took advantage of it for four disastrous quarters. Andy Dalton is still a mess, despite three touchdown passes, and it’s starting to become more and more transparent that there isn’t a team in Ohio that has their QB position solidified.

I had high hopes for the Browns in this game, and they took a major step in the wrong direction. They’re still a decent team, and I think they finally have a head coach that knows what he’s doing and how to get it done, but they’re a year or two of development away from competing consistently.

The Numbers: Browns CB Joe Haden caught as many of A.J. Green’s targets as Green did; Green caught two passes for 7 yards, while Haden intercepted Green’s other two targets in a game where the star WR was absolutely shut down. Joe Haden is an elite CB, and I feel like not enough people understand that.

The Next Steps: The Bengals get a bye week, which could benefit them in the injury department while gearing them up for their inevitable playoff run. The Browns get to host a Steelers team coming off of a huge upset win over the Lions, and had better come up with a gameplan that doesn’t involve Campbell throwing 50+ passes if they want to pull out the ‘W’.

The Score Is Not The Score In Philadelphia

The Recap: 24-16? No, 24-0. The Eagles absolutely owned the Redskins for three quarters, but were hesitant to close the game out, something that has become a bit of an issue for first-year HC Chip Kelly. It wasn’t all that surprising to see the Redskins pull within a score by the end; it was surprising that the Eagles had stopped scoring at all.

Regardless, the Eagles are now sitting atop the pile of trash that the NFC East has represented for most of the season, while the Redskins most likely just saw their last hope at consecutive playoff berths die. The salary cap penalties, the inexperience and total lack of everything a defense needs in order to be effective, and perhaps just some old-fashioned bad luck have left Washington with a season they’re going to want to forget the day it’s finished.

The Numbers: Nick Foles didn’t throw a TD pass…but he also didn’t throw an interception, bringing his streak of passes without a turnover to 199. There is no way Chip Kelly can even consider Michael Vick after looking at that number. None whatsoever.

The Next Steps: The Eagles are off, while the Redskins are in the unenviable position of having to play a primetime game, in front of their disappointed home crowd, against a 49ers team that is going to be chomping at the bit after what took place this week in their game against the Saints.

The Steelers Steal One, The Lions Won’t Be Sleeping Tonight

The Recap: This game had it all. Big Ben playing his best game of the year, Calvin Johnson being Chris Johnson, a 2nd quarter run of 27 points by the Lions (which, oddly enough, would be all of their points for the game), and an absolutely laughable fake field goal attempt by the Lions. That play didn’t exactly lose the game for them, but it didn’t help matters at all.

It’s hard to say this game means much of anything for the Steelers, beyond proving to themselves they’re capable of beating a good team when they’re not playing at their best. It was more telling about a Lions team that, despite carrying over the same ultra-talented roster for several years, and adding good pieces to it along the way, cannot win when they’re expected to. They just can’t, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why.

The Numbers: Megatron’s 179 yard first half was the 10th highest game total of receiving yardage for any wideout this year. Once again…
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The Next Steps: The Steelers have a good chance at putting together a winning streak against a reeling Cleveland team. The Lions are hosting the Buccaneers. If Detroit somehow, in some unimaginable way, loses this game, their bid for NFC North supremacy will either be ruined or, if they turn things around and manage to take it anyway, should have an asterisk put next to it.

The Buccaneers Are On A Winning Streak. What.

The Recap: I can’t say I didn’t see it coming, but the Falcons have seemingly lost all pride for the game outside of Tony Gonzalez’s unwavering positive approach to each and every week. The Bucs never were in a position to lose, and the Falcons now have the same record as a team that hadn’t won a game before last week.

It isn’t just the lack of Julio Jones. Any idiot can see that. What it is, and what the Falcons need to address with the utmost seriousness in the offseason, is ridiculously poor line play on both sides of the ball. The decision to let Brent Grimes walk (from this Miami Dolphins fans, my heartfelt thanks to the Falcons for this) and their replacing John Abraham with John Abraham (I mean Osi Umenyiora…I think) as their primary pass rusher did their defense no favors. They’d better start doing themselves some favors, or Matt Ryan is going to be the next Dan Marino. Not that that’s a bad thing…unless you want to win a Superbowl with a QB that is good enough to win one, you know.

The Numbers: Tony G passed the 50-catch mark once again this year, which is his 16th with at least that many. There’s only been one other man in the NFL to hit that number more often: Jerry Rice (17).

The Next Steps: The Buccaneers take a trip up to Detroit for a game that I’m going to end up picking on a coin toss, while the Falcons will have to follow up their embarrassing loss with a trip to the Superdome, where embarrassment is something the Saints seem to have a supernatural way of dishing out. At least it’s a Thursday game. Best to pull the band-aid off fast, right?

The Jaguars Make Carson Palmer Look Like Carson Palmer

The Recap: I mean the old Carson Palmer. You know, the one that spent his first few seasons being a great quarterback in Cincinnati? That guy. 419 yards, two scores and (gasp!) no interceptions is a stat line that Palmer will never see again. Mark my words.

The Cardinals had no business losing this game, and they didn’t, which in this season’s landscape is enough to make them playoff favorites if you narrow your focus down to one week. The best part of the game for the Jaguars? DE Jason Babin ripping out a chunk of Cardinals RB Andre Ellington’s dreadlocks, holding them up like a hunting trophy, and then tossing them on the ground. Entertainment at its finest, folks.

The Numbers: Danny Noble’s (who?) big touchdown catch was the first time the Jaguars have scored a touchdown at home this year. Technically, they played a “home” game in England and scored there, but that doesn’t really count, does it? Nope.

Raiders, Texans, A Quarterback Free-For-All

The Recap: Case Keenum gets benched for seemingly no reason, Matt Schaub does nothing to justify it, and some undrafted guy named McGloin (McNown/McCown/McNabb?) leads the Raiders to a pretty decent win against a team that has stepped on their own toes enough to leave shoe imprints across their feet.

While the Raiders get to celebrate a victory, you almost have to pity the Texans, who came into this season with Superbowl aspirations. They’re 2-8, just like the Falcons. These teams need hugs.

The Numbers: Here’s a stat that makes no sense regardless of how you look at it: the Raiders have scored an opening-drive TD in five games this year, which is the same amount as the Broncos, and the highest amount in the league.

The Next Steps: The Raiders host another coin-toss of a game against the up and down Titans. The Texans should talk to the Jaguars about maybe working out a deal where they don’t play the game at all, and just call it a tie. Nobody wants to see Houston lose to the Jaguars outside of Jacksonville, do they? Hell, I’m sure there are some truly compassionate souls in Jacksonville who don’t want to see it, either.

Robbery.

The Recap: The 49ers were most likely robbed. We’ve all seen the play. We all know the only reason a flag was called is because Drew Brees happens to be short (for a QB). No guarantee the 49ers win after the turnover, but there wasn’t much time at all left on the clock, and they would have had the ball in decent enough position to push forward enough for a field goal.

The Saints, hopefully, realize the Football Gods were shining on them this week. The NFL, meanwhile, needs to pull their collective heads from their collective asses and realize they’re a multi-billion dollar enterprise that can afford to let its grinders get ground up. These guys know what they’re signing up for, believe me. There’s no need to baby them. We, as football fans, couldn’t care less if Tom Brady or Drew Brees or anyone else is hurt for a week or a season. We’re going to watch the game anyway, because it’s the GAME we love, the GAME. Backups play the game, too.

The Numbers: Robbery.

The Next Steps: The Saints get a gimme with the Falcons coming to town, while the 49ers get to take their rage out on a Washington team that is staggering like Joe Frazier after a big right from George Foreman.

Quick, Somebody Put A Starting QB In Against The Giants

The Recap: The Football Giants’ winning streak has come at the hands of a series of backup/third string/McCown/McNown/McNabb-like QBs, but I’m not going to take too much from them. Tom Coughlin has these guys playing like they’re going to the Superbowl, for the most part (Eli is still struggling some). The defense has taken big strides. Jon Beason deserves recognition as an MVP candidate even if his arrival just coincidentally woke up a stagnant defense.

As long as we’re talking about MVPs, the past two weeks have proven to us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Aaron Rodgers should be in consideration for the award whether he’s playing or not. The Packers are going in the wrong direction, and are going to kill somebody (figuratively speaking…and that was a line from “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”. Just wanted to squeeze it in somewhere.)

The Numbers: During the Giants four-game winning streak, their defense has allowed the 2nd-least amount of yards per play in the NFL. Quite an accomplishment when you recall how bad they were a month ago.

The Next Steps: No word yet on Rodgers’ possible return this week when Green Bay hosts Minnesota, which makes it yet another coin-tosser. The Giants are hosting the Cowboys, coming off a bye week where they most likely spent their time listening to Jerry Jones quote inspirational movie lines as a motivational tactic.

Seattle Wins The Games They’re Supposed To

The Recap: Even though they’re known to do it with a flair for the dramatic, late-game heroics, they still do it. No dramatics this week, though, which is what putting up 41 points will typically do for you. I had higher hopes for the Vikings at the beginning of the season, and looking at how they’ve been playing, I’m almost ashamed of myself.

Adrian Peterson is in the prime of his career, but at some point in the next two or three seasons, he’ll most likely hit that wall that most RBs hit in their early 30’s. That’s going to be the common consensus amongst football fans. Me? He’s going to be playing, and at a consistent level, as long as Emmitt Smith did. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. People call him All Day. I call him the Manimal. I like mine better.

The Numbers: More proof that the Seahawks’ defense is ridiculously good: they cut Adrian Peterson’s YPC and yards after contact numbers for his first nine games of the year nearly in half.

The Next Steps: This Vikings team is bad. It is. But they have at least a fighter’s chance of pulling off a win in Green Bay, so long as Aaron Rodgers is holding a clipboard. The Seahawks end up being the biggest benefactors of having the latest available bye week, as they can rest, recuperate, heal up a bit and prepare themselves for what could very likely be a winning streak that ends with them holding the Lombardi trophy.

I Love Brent Grimes

The Recap: I’m not naive; I realize Grimes wasn’t the sole reason the Dolphins beat the Chargers to the tune of 23-20 this week. In a game we absolutely had to win, we found a way to do it, but man do I love me some Grimes. Almost as much as I love me some Cam Wake.

This one has to be a killer for the Chargers, who cannot seem to get out of their own way long enough to be considered a legitimate contender. I rarely pick against my own team, but I had the Chargers taking this one in a close fight. The fact that they didn’t certainly makes me happy, but at the same time, it makes me wonder just what San Diego has to do to turn things in their favor moving forward. Running the ball might help, but I could say the same thing about the Dolphins.

The Numbers: Not a number, but did you see that catch-and-run TD by Charles Clay? The man he ran over must have owed him money.

The Next Steps: The Dolphins are going to have to reach down even deeper, with a Panthers team on a 6-game winning streak coming to town. The Chargers have a decent chance to beat the Chiefs, as they match up favorably, but the likelihood of that actually happening in Arrowhead is slim to none.

Now I Eat My Own Words, Enjoy

The Recap: The Broncos laid the blueprint for beating the Chiefs; play decent defense and have the Broncos’ offense. Honestly, I know I called this one the other way, but I don’t think there’s another team in the league that can beat these Chiefs when they’re on their game.

There, the words have been eaten. Happy? Not as happy as the Broncos are, I’m sure. They’re now in prime position to take the division, and most likely will, as the Chiefs’ homefield advantage in their rematch two weeks from now probably won’t make a bit of difference in the end.

The Numbers: Coming into the game, the Chiefs’ defense was the best 4th quarter D in football, allowing a paltry 15 total points over nine games. True to form, they held the Broncos to 3 in the 4th, but by that point, it didn’t quite matter.

The Next Steps: Tom Brady Vs. Peyton Manning. Another classic in the making. Alex Smith Vs. Phillip Rivers. Another…well, the Chiefs have a better chance at a win next week, but I expect both teams to keep pace with one another until they meet again in an even bigger week 13 matchup.

Robbery? You Be The Judge

The Recap: I won’t take a single thing from the Panthers. They played the Patriots extremely well all game, but what happened at the end of the game was, to my eyes at least, an absolute travesty. The Pats should have had one more shot after a blatant pass interference/holding on LB Luke Kuechly. He was all but giving Rob Gronkowski a hug. The worst part of the entire thing was that no explanation was given for the initial flag being overturned, which left millions of people absolutely baffled. Their initial explanation of the pass being uncatchable is, once again from my perspective, laughable.

But it is what it is. The Panthers are playing the kind of football, at the time of year, that nobody playing against them wants to see. Great defense, unpredictable offense. A recipe for success. Let’s see if they can maintain it.

The Numbers: 3rd Downs win games. The Panthers were 8-of-11 on converting third downs, including 2-of-2 on their last drive. That’s the 2nd-best rate for any team in any game this year. That’s clutch.

What’s Next: The Panthers head down to Miami to play a desperate Dolphins team, which could give them even more of a fight than the Patriots did. The Patriots are probably the most unfortunate team at the moment, having to face the Broncos after losing in such gut-wrenching fashion. At least they don’t have to travel for it.

Final Thoughts

This will be the first week I skip my awards, simply because I just scrolled up and realized how long this post is. I’m going to have to keep fiddling with the format, I think…unless you like it this way? Feedback is highly appreciated.

My fingers hurt.

ROBBERY.

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