TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 26 @ GREEN BAY PACKERS 35
BUCS: Tampa gave the Packers a run for their money but in the end it was the play of E.J. Biggers which cost them. Biggers committed two big penalties early in the 4th which led to a Packers score and was then burned by Jordy Nelson which put the game out of reach with less than 3 minutes left. The Bucs did realize the need to feed LeGarrette Blount, who rewarded them with a 107 yard 1 touchdown performance. Mike Willams also came to life once again, finishing with 83 yards and a score. Had Biggers not been picked on all day, this game could have wound up differently. Overall, it was a step in the right direction for the Bucs despite the loss.
PACKERS: Aaron Rodgers had his 7th 300+ yard game this season and now has a QB rating of over 110 in every contest this year. Jordy Nelson was the go to guy, taking advantage of man coverage by burning E.J. Biggers to the tune of 123 yards with 2 touchdowns. James Starks exited the game late in the 4th with what looks to be a serious knee injury so prepare for Ryan Grant to carry the load Thursday. Green Bay now sits at 10-0 with what will be a great Thanksgiving game Thursday against the Lions.
CINCINNATI BENGALS 24 @ BALTIMORE RAVENS 31
BENGALS: The Bengals were actually quite successful given they were without A.J. Green this week, nearly pulling out the win against a touch Ravens defense. Jerome Simpson stepped up despite seeing heavy coverage most the day, his speed proving too much for the secondary to handle. Simpson finished with 152 yards on the day, setting up 2 Cedric Benson scores. Andy Dalton turnovers are what cost this team for the second straight week, tossing 3 in this game. Dalton did perform well overall, finishing with 373 yards to go with 1 touchdown and the 3 picks. The problem here for me is why the Bengals continue to stick with Benson. On 15 carries he provided only 41 yards compared to Scott’s 40 on only 9 carries. Scott is just as able to handle the ball on goal line carries and while we understand the need to feed Benson due to his contract, at some point the pressure needs to be taken off Dalton by providing a solid run game.
RAVENS: The Ravens have now been outscored 23-3 in first quarters this year, but continue to prevail despite digging out of holes. Ray Rice was ineffective early, gaining the bulk of his 104 yards rushing in the second half as the defense tired. Rice did finish with 2 touchdowns, helping to open the pass game for Flacco. Torrey Smith has claimed the starting wide out job after another big performance, totaling 165 yards with a touchdown. Lee Evans at best will be a slot if he ever returns to full health but will be a welcome addition since he still has enough left in the tank for defenses to have to account for him. The Ravens escaped without Ray Lewis this week, but should have him back on Thursday night. The Ravens are looking as good as they have offensively all season, finding an identity they can fall back on. Their first half woes do need to change if they plan on making a run deep into the playoffs.
BUFFALO BILLS 8 @ MIAMI DOLPHINS 35
BILLS: The woes continued this week for Fitzpatrick, tossing 2 interceptions with no scores on only 209 yards passing. Fred Jackson finished with only 67 yards, failing to get into the end zone and left the game in the 3rd with a leg injury. The Bills seem to be hitting a rough patch here, plagued with injuries and ineffectiveness. Fitzpatrick has been struggling with his accuracy for several games and his receivers are not getting the separation we saw early in the year. It begs the question if the Bills were successful due to an early soft schedule, or if they are simply melting down.
DOLPHINS: Matt Moore came out slinging the ball, looking like he just may be the answer at QB long term for the Fins. Moore showed amazing confidence by making quick releases and hitting his receivers with precision most of the game despite great coverage by the Bills at times. Moore finished with 160 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Once again, Reggie Bush displayed great vision and speed, rushing for 32 yards with a score and 34 yards receiving. Thomas had the better day on the ground with 50 yards on the same amount of carries (15) as Bush but it should remain a time share as long as Bush keeps playing at a high level. Miami is now one of the hotter teams to contend with and will be looking to play spoiler the rest of this season.
DALLAS COWBOYS 27 @ WASHINGTON REDSKINS 24
COWBOYS: November continues to be Romo’s favorite month as he has a 113 QB Rating for his career in the seasonal weather. Romo finished this one up with 292 yards with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. DeMarco Murray chipped in with 107 yards this week and once again, Laurent Robinson may have been the Cowboys smartest pick up of the year after recording yet another touchdown. Jason Witten added a 59 yard score and Felix Jones returned with only 22 total yards but showed he can still be a valuable piece of the puzzle as a change of pace guy. The biggest issue for me was how the Cowboys scaled back towards the end of the half. Instead of continuing the shots taken down field, the Boys went to screens and short yard routes when they should have been focused on keeping momentum and putting the nail in the coffin early. Instead they were forced to pull this one out behind two Graham Gano missed field goals when Bailey hit the game winner in overtime. The win is the important thing, but the Boys are still lacking the killer instinct offensively and that begins with the calling of Garrett.
REDSKINS: Graham Gano single handedly lost this game for the Skins, missing a field goal in regulation which could have been the difference, then missing one in overtime which would have sealed the win. The culprit offensively was once again a lack of a run game, the Skins totaling just 60 yards rushing. Ten of those yards were from Grossman, who had to run it in on a designed draw play because of the run game struggles. Grossman did toss his token interception this week, but performed well and was the only reason the Skins were in a position to win. He tossed 289 yards with 2 touchdowns, finding 9 different receivers completing 25 of his 38 attempts.
CAROLINA PANTHERS 35 @ DETROIT LIONS 49
PANTHERS: Cam Newton and the Panthers are one of the most confusing teams in the NFL if you look at the stat lines. They continue to put up big points yet always are one turnover away from putting away wins despite the numbers. Cam Newton and Steve Smith carried the team for most the game, with Smith catching the lone touchdown pass behind 41 yards receiving. Newton rushed for 37 yards on two scores to go with his 280 yards passing, the touchdown, but 4 interceptions. Once of those was a tipped pass, and another was with him trying to push the ball with time running down and the Panthers playing catch up. In the end, those turnovers proved costly, putting the game out of hand for good. The Panthers have a choice, limit the turnovers or limit the damage allowed defensively. The two have been the Achilles heel for this team which only has 2 games in which they were beat soundly and didn’t beat themselves. An off season to correct these issues will only make this team better and an instant contender for the division next year.
LIONS: Kevin Smith single-handedly kept this team in the game for most the first half and much of the game. Smith’s play allowed the Lions to incorporate the screen game which made them so effective early, totaling 61 yards receiving with a score. He also added 140 yards with 2 touchdowns on the ground in the best performance we’ve seen all year from a Lions running back. Matt Stafford also had a great performance tossing 5 touchdowns against 2 interceptions and 335 yards. He completed passes to 9 different receivers and came out of the game no worse for wear with his hand injury. If Smith can provide an effective screen game, look for the Lions to get back to their winning ways. A win on Thanksgiving against the Packers would go a long way in helping their playoff run.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 10 @ CLEVELAND BROWNS 14
JAGS: Blaine Gabbert actually had one of his better days, completing 22 of 41 with 210 yards passing and no interceptions or touchdowns. While it leaves much to be wanted, this was a solid performance against the NFL’s best secondary which has made better, more seasoned quarterbacks look bad. MJD was the only true offense of the day, rushing for 87 yards and scoring the lone touchdown. He also contributed 31 yards receiving. The Jags are playing for next year but this is a game which showed some promise in certain areas of play. Their defense continues to play solid in both aspects of the game and if ownership opens the purse in the off season and helps the offense, they can become a very competitive team immediately.
BROWNS: Like Gabbert, Colt McCoy had one of his better days after passing for 199 yards with a touchdown and interception. He does not have a game breaking wide receiver to count on, though Greg Little is doing his best to provide him that option. Still, the scheme in general for the Browns is based on run heavy small ball so the ceiling is only so high for McCoy or Little. Ogbonnaya did provide his second straight solid performance, rushing for 115 yards and a score. The Browns may have struck pay dirt here given Hillis is not likely to return next year. This win makes up for the one that got away last week vs. the Rams.
OAKLAND RAIDERS 27 @ MINNESOTA VIKINGS 21
RAIDERS: Michael Bush carried the Raiders with him after losing Heyward-Bey with a concussion and leaving Palmer with limited options. Bush racked up 109 yards with a score, adding 20 yards in the pass game. Palmer was very efficient with 164 yards and 1 touchdown passing to go with one rushing. Chaz Schilens made his only catch worth it, scoring on a 11 yard touchdown pass. The defense carried Oakland this week, totaling 5 sacks and 3 interceptions which allowed the Raiders to suck up time of possession and keep the ball out of Peterson’s hands before he left the game.
VIKINGS: As noted, Peterson left the game with a sprained ankle injury and will have an MRI to determine the severity. The fact he was carted off does not bode well even if there were no breaks. Christian Ponder’s 3 interceptions proved most costly, giving the Raiders an early 14 point advantage which had the Vikes playing from behind the whole game. Percy Harvin continued to be Ponder’s favorite target, finishing with 73 yards receiving and a score. Harvin also chipped in with 5 carries for 21 yards after Peterson was forced to exit. Look for Harvin to wear both hats again if AP is forced to miss any more time.
ARIZONA CARDINALS 7 @ SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 23
CARDINALS: John Skelton had a rough start, going 0-5 passing with an interception. A Beanie Wells fumble on the next drive set up the Niners to take a 9-0 lead but the Cards just couldn’t turn it around. Skelton finished with only 99 yards passing and 3 interceptions before being replaced by Bartel. Richard Bartel engineered the only scoring drive for the Cards and came close to a second with time running down in the 4th quarter. He would finish with 64 yards passing and the score in a losing effort. As expected, the run game was nearly non-existent, finishing with 71 yards between the 3 running backs. It looks like Kolb will get his job back next week, presuming he is healthy enough to return.
49ERS: The Niners went heavy to Vernon Davis early, setting the tone in what would be a high passing day for Alex Smith. Smith went 20-38 for 267 yards passing to go with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Frank Gore added 88 yards on the ground in a game which saw both SF tight ends come up with touchdowns. The Niners are same as they ever were, executing with great fundamental football. We also saw Mike Crabtree’s best performance of the year, finishing with 120 yards on 7 catches. He just nearly missed a touchdown from Smith which was just out of the receivers grasp.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 20 @ CHICAGO BEARS 31
CHARGERS: If there is one thing we have learned this season it’s all bets are off as it pertains to Phillip Rivers this season. A top-five quarterback the last few years, Rivers has struggled with his decision making. His two interceptions in the 4th quarter stymied the hopes of a Chargers win and their hopes at a playoff run. Oakland extended their lead with a win over the Vikings and are the clear favorites unless we see a change in Rivers. Both Mathews and Tolbert totaled just 51 yards on the ground and only 38 in the air. Vincent Jackson did provide a nice spark, making some great catches en route to a 165 yard 1 touchdown day. As much as it is easy to place the blame on Rivers, the defense did contribute to the loss as well, allowing Chicago to convert on 3rd downs at will down the stretch when San Diego needed a stop desperately. For once, the blame can’t be put on Norv Turner.
BEARS: Jay Cutler continued his streak of solid play on a 286-yard, two-touchdown and one-interception day. Cutler spread the ball around to 7 different receivers, connecting with Williams, Bennett, and Knox for 234 yards. Matt Forte had a relatively quiet day, rushing for 59 yards and catching 4 balls for 26 yards. He was kept out of the end zone, leaving Marion Barber and Cutler with the only 2 rushing scores. After the first half, the Bears seemed to take control and never lost their composure. The defense faced one of their stiffer challenges coverage wise yet still came up with a solid game despite being without DJ Moore. This is one of the best divisions in football right now and the Bears are one of the hottest teams in the league. The big concern now is that Cutler may miss the rest of the year with a broken thumb according to Chicago reporters.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 24 @ ST. LOUIS RAMS 7
SEAHAWKS: The defense kept pressure on Sam Bradford all day, totaling 6 sacks and an interception. Marshawn Lynch continued his solid play as of late, posting 88 yards with a score. The Seahawks were helped by Leon Washington and the return game which set them up in good field position, allowing Lynch and Tarvaris Jackson to move the ball and put them in position to score. Jackson finished with a mediocre game, throwing for 148 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. This is now two straight for the Seahawks, whom are finding ways to get it done by taking what they are given.
RAMS: Steven Jackson could not get it going this week, rushing for 42 yards and catching 3 passes for only 19 yards. The offensive line allowed penetration most of the day which limited Bradford and Jackson’s effectiveness. Bradford finished with only 181 yards with an interception and a pick, never really finding a rhythm due to the pressure he was under. Brandon Lloyd did provide the only spark for this team, catching 5 balls for 67 yards and a score. Lloyd will have to shoulder the load until Mark Clayton hits 100% health, but the Rams in general need to find more creative ways to get it done offensively. Their scheme in general has been very vanilla given their options, but mixing in some trickery would help in keeping defenses at bay.
TENNESSEE TITANS 17 @ ATLANTA FALCONS 23
TITANS: Just when it looks like Chris Johnson has busted out of his funk, he posts a 28 total yard day. Johnson averaged just 1 yard per carry, toting the ball 12 times for 13 yards. In his defense, the Falcons have been adept at stopping the run, rarely allowing big days from opposing running backs. Matt Hasselbeck was injured after struggling for most the game, finishing with 124 yards and a pick. Jake Locker entered the game and engineered two scoring drives, giving the Titans a spark they lacked most the game and putting them within striking distance. Locker finished with 140 yards and 2 touchdowns, each to Nate Washington who totaled 115 yards receiving. The Titans will have to kick it into high gear the rest of the way if Houston takes a turn for the worst with Schaub out for the season. While Locker did perform well, now is not the time to change things up unless Hasselbeck is forced to miss time with the elbow injury.
FALCONS: Despite being without Julio Jones, Matt Ryan posted 316 yards passing with a touchdown. Roddy White torched the Titans secondary for 147 yards on the day, finding space despite the focus being solely on him. When the Titans would clamp down on White with extra help, Ryan found Tony Gonzalez. Mike Turner was the key to the game however, rushing for 100 yards and a score. Turner was constantly getting to the second level which allowed very manageable downs for Matt Ryan to work with. We are finally seeing the Falcons defense which was so touted in the preseason. If Julio Jones can return to health, the Falcons will be one of the most dangerous teams in the NFC. They are prepped to make a run at the Wild Card and possibly the division if New Orleans stumbles. Either way, they are a team hitting their stride down the stretch and playing to their potential.