By: Shawn Davis
With NFL games moving to Thursday evenings beginning this past week, the season is winding down and the playoff picture is slowly forming – except for the 49ers who might have their division wrapped in two weeks – for a select group of teams. Others seem to play themselves into total confusion (while costing me games in my pick-league in the process). On to the games before I start crying:
Oakland 24 @ San Diego 17:
What a difference a short week made for the Raiders, huh? Carson Palmer moved the ball beautifully and hit targets on deep throws reminiscent of his days in Cincinnati. Operating mostly out of the shotgun, the offensive line kept Palmer clean while he surveyed the field and gashed the Chargers all night.
Michael Bush tallied 242 yards from scrimmage (157 rushing, 85 receiving) to pace the Raiders attack. Palmer was 14/20 for 299 yards with 2 tds, Denarius Moore caught five balls for 123 yards and 2 tds while the defense stifled any response the Chargers planned to muster. Sometimes, the Thursday NFL offerings can be sketchy but this game provided entertainment for the entire contest and I’m glad I watched.
Next week: Oak @ Minn (2-7); SD @ Chi (6-3)
New England 37 @ NY Jets 16:
It baffles the hell out of me that the Jets didn’t throw the ball more against a terrible Patriots defense, baffles me to no end. At what point will Ryan believe in Mark Sanchez? Yes, Sanchez threw 39 times (completing 20) but there was no real shots taken down the field and the short stuff doesn’t work. The flow of the game was similar to most of their meetings but the third quarter was when Brady got zoned in and the Jets couldn’t catch up.
I have so many doubts about the offensive future of the Jets. Shonn Greene – up to this point – doesn’t seem to be the running back they envisioned him to be. Dustin Keller seems to be an incomplete tight end, and if you doubt that look at his counterparts on the Patriots: Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Santonio Holmes is the best player on that side of the ball and I feel he’s underused. At 5-4 the Jets remain a force in the AFC and in their division but I wonder about their ceiling, realistically.
Next week: NE hosts KC (4-5); NYJ @ Den (4-5)
NY Giants 20 @ San Francisco 27:
Such a FUN GAME TO WATCH! It was probably the game I was most interested in seeing and it was so good I might watch it again. Ha! As the season progresses there seems to be a simple formula brewing on how to upend the 49ers: stop Frank Gore and the ground game and MAKE Alex Smith win it. That’s the formula, right? Frank Gore got injured early in the game (while having zero rushing yards), the 49ers gained 77 rushing yards as a team, the Giants had just under 100 yards rushing and Manning passed for over 300 so the G-Men won easily, right? Wrong!
Alex Smith beat them from the pocket – like I knew he could – and I’m confused as to why this is a surprise…to anyone. He’s had to deal with multiple systems, coaches and coordinators so it’s been hard for him to find a level of consistency. When he ran NorvTurner’s offense, he played well and the league-wide critique of Smith was that he was “trending upwards.” Smith has his detractors; I’m not one of them.
This game felt similar to the clashes these two teams were apart of in the 80’s and 90’s and it seemed like a playoff game from the crowd noise. Candlestick Park was going crazy and I felt like I did in junior high when I was so charged to see these two teams square off. I loved this game…did I say that?
Next week: NYG hosts Philly (3-6); San Francisco hosts Ari (3-6)
Detroit 13 @ Chicago 37:
I’m going to stop looking for ways to underestimate the Bears because they are a good team – and have been since a loss to the Lions in Week 5. I’ll stop right now. They have a very simple formula for winning: depend on the defense, be smart and efficient on offense by making sure Forte is featured (they need to pay him, like seriously) and watch Devin Hester get MORE return touchdowns.
I don’t – and still don’t feel – Jay Cutler is elite since he makes dumb throws because of his arm strength but he’s making his way on the list. Some in the media make excuses for the guy and marvel about the throws he makes like a woman gushes over her new shoes but I like this version of him better. He’s patient, and not looking for the deep shot all the time, but still finding ways to win which I favor.
The Lions are definitely moving in the wrong direction. Why? They cannot run the ball and opposing teams are fully aware of that. They had 80 yards on the ground – which is good – but they weren’t physically imposing at all so Matthew Stafford was forced to throw 63 times! Sixty-three. He threw 4 interceptions, with two being returned for touchdowns. Brilliant.
Next week: Det hosts Car (2-7); Chi hosts SD (4-5)
Baltimore 17 @ Seattle 22:
Let me get this straight, the Ravens beat the Steelers (twice), Jets and Texans but LOSE to the Titans (Tennessee looked dangerous at the time), Jaguars (yup) and the Seahawks (…)? What am I missing about this unit? And yes we are at the point of this column where I pout and complain about the Ravens costing me a win in my pick-league! I thought this was my easiest selection of the week and I feel like a fool for it!
They beat Pittsburgh both times this year and if they played five more times, I would still pick the Steelers. I don’t care that they lost to them twice – I think they’re better. Shut up!
Next week: Bal @ Cinn (6-3); Sea @ Stl (2-7)
Tennessee 30 @ Carolina 3:
Chris Johnson is still alive, people. The Titans defense set the tone in this game and Johnson took over the game in the second half with 130 yards rushing and a touchdown. Cam Newton has been coming back down to earth over the last 4 weeks and what’s going on with the Panthers’ offensive game plan?Newtonthrew the ball 40 times; remember the days when Carolina actually ran the ball? Hmmm.
Next week: Tenn @ Atl (5-4); Car @ Det (6-3)
Houston 37 @ Tampa Bay 9:
The Texans have won four straight…by 90 points and it’s been easy. Mind you, Andre Johnson is nursing a hamstring injury so when he returns…man. I can’t say much about the Bucs, so I won’t.
Not long after typing this I found out that Matt Schaub will be out for the year with a Lisfranc fracture to his right foot. Not good!
Next week: Hou on bye; Tampa @ GB (9-0)
Arizona 21 @ Philadelphia 17:
The Eagles, oh wait, the “Dream Team” is 3-6. They have lost five games this season where they held a fourth-quarter lead. No more words. Larry Fitzgerald made two amazing catches and if they ever find Kurt Warner’s successor at quarterback they can really unleash him and contend in their putrid division.
Kevin Kolb? Eh. John Skelton? Maybe. Someone in the 2012 NFL Draft? Think about it.
Next week: Ari @ SF (8-1); Philly @ NYG (6-3)
Washington 9 @ Miami 20:
Reggie Bush scored two touchdowns as Miami won their first home game of the season. As for the Redskins, they started Rex Grossman. Ok.
Next week: Was hosts Dal (5-4); Mia hosts Buf (5-4)
Denver 17 @ Kansas City 10:
Who says you need a quarterback to throw the ball in the NFL? Anybody out there? I thought I was looking at a Madden 12 demonstration when it’s the fourth-quarter and the computer decides that any pass you throw will get picked off and you’re forced to run. Well, the Broncos played that way for four quarters. Tim Tebow completed two out of eight passes for the afternoon! Please don’t let the score fool you into thinking this game was close – it wasn’t.
Tebow has a lot of warts but he’s 3-1 as a starter. Knock him all you want; I’d like to thank him for costing me a game in my league.
Bad news report: Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel could be out for the year with a hand injury and Broncos halfback Knowshon Moreno is out for the year with a torn ACL in his right knee.
Next week: Den hosts NYJ (5-4); KC @ NE (6-3)
Jacksonville 17 @ Indy 3:
Zero and 16 is right around the corner for the “team” inIndiana. The Colts have a two-game lead in the Luck sweepstakes and they’re primed to beat everyone to the podium. I cannot believe how uninspired they’ve played. Getting beat is one thing but they still have good players (at key positions) and the effort they’ve put forth is embarrassing. No more words.
Next week: Jac @ Cle (3-6); Indy on bye (I would pick the bye week to win if I could)
Buffalo 7 @ Dallas 44:
DeMarco Murray ran for 135 yards and a touchdown and also helped in the passing game with 35 receiving yards to make it really difficult for Felix Jones to feel comfortable about his standing when he returns from injury. Tony Romo was playing as if this game was in the backyard because his receivers were open all day and he had a clean pocket all game long.
Buffalo has dropped their last two; they sit at 5-4, and the next four games feature visits to the Dolphins, Jets, Chargers and a home game with the Titans. The aforementioned games will determine their postseason destiny. We will see. Oh yeah, David Nelson caught the only touchdown for the Bills and gave the ball to this girlfriend who is a cheerleader for the ‘Boys. It seems the Cowboys were the only ones who wanted the ball anyway.
Next week: Buff @Miami (2-7); Dal @ Wash (3-6)
St. Louis 13 @ Cleveland 12:
Brandon Lloyd made a terrific catch for the Rams, one-handed, before going out-of-bounds. Steven Jackson ran for 128 yards and looks like his usual battering-ram self because he’s healthy, which was bad for the Browns.
Next week: Stl hosts Sea (3-6); Cle hosts Jac (3-6)
Pittsburgh 24 @ Cincinnati 17:
A key game in the AFC North division that I was so excited for and it was surprising to see the Bengals in the face of the Steelers; they didn’t run for cover at any point in the contest. I expected the Steelers to come out the victor, but the Bengals showed the league that they will be formidable the rest of this season, at the least.
Andy Dalton has to be tied with Newton (and a fast approaching DeMarco Murray) for the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, right?
Bad news report: Bengals cornerback Leon Hall is out for the year with a torn Achilles injury.
Next week: Pitt on bye; Cin @ Bal (6-3)
New Orleans 26 @ Atlanta 23:
I totally understand why Falcons coach Mike Smith chose to go for the fourth down conversion when he did but he had to be aware that his defense forced the Saints to punt on their two previous drives, right? Maybe not. The last thing I’m going to do is kill him for a brave call because I hate punts – most of the time – but with the ball on his 29-yard line, failure to gain the one yard needed to convert would give the Saints the win.
A field goal is worth three points, check the score.
Next week: NO on bye; Atl hosts Tenn (5-4)
Minnesota 7 @ Green Bay 45:
I’m going to go out on a whim here and say that the Packers are playing good ball this season. Has anyone else noticed this?
Next week: Minn hosts Oak (5-4); Green Bay hosts Tampa (4-5)
Overall, I liked what Week 10 had to offer and it only sets the scene for the rest of the regular season. I’m a bit concerned for the Bills, Lions and possibly the Jets. The Ravens seem comfortable playing with schizophrenia and you can clearly see the game with Pittsburgh was their Super Bowl. You don’t follow that with a dud in Seattle; it wasn’t the explosive Seahawks from 5-8 years ago – it was the Tarvaris Jackson led group. That game makes me want to throw something.