BUFFALO BILLS 24 @ NY JETS 28
BILLS: Fitzpatrick was as effective as we had seen him in weeks, completing 26/39 for 264 yards with 3 scores. He and Steve Johnson tested Revis early with positive results. Most impressive were the routes and moves Johnson was able to use on Revis, which is why he is one of the few receivers who has success against him. Johnson masked his routes with stutters and shifty moves en route to a 75 yard, 1 touchdown day. After celebrating his score by mocking Plax and Holmes, karma would come and collect when Johnson dropped a crucial pass while wide open. The catch would have propelled the Bills to a win but instead the Bills would only be able to muster a field goal in the fourth quarter. The Jets took advantage and squeaked out the win instead.
JETS: Sanchez threw his 11th interception this week and it seemed like more of the same we had seen from him. The fans let him know it, booing the quarterback for the majority of the fourth quarter. Fans may want to employ the tactic more often, as it lit a fire under Sanchez’ ass. Sanchez would look nearly flawless in the fourth quarter, driving for the game winning score to Holmes. He finished with 180 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. He amassed 65 of those yards on the scoring drive to salvage what was otherwise a poor performance overall despite the career high touchdowns.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 17 @ TENNESSEE TITANS 23
BUCCANEERS: Watching the game, you could clearly tell the Bucs were by far the more effective team on both sides of the ball. But effectiveness doesn’t help when you have turnovers. The Bucs finished with 5 turnovers in a game marred by fumbles due to rainy weather. Legarrette Blount once again showed why he needs to be fed, finishing with 20 carries for 103 yards. Blount flashed more of the brilliance we saw against thePackers, hurdling over a defensive back at one point and bull dozing over others. The main issue for the Bucs was once again Josh Freeman and his turnover issues. He threw an interception into coverage with three minutes left which turned into a field goal and a six point lead for the Titans. On the next possession with the Bucs on the Titans 25 with a 4th and 1, his quarterback sneak attempt was fumbled though he did recover but was short of converting. Freeman finished with 199 yards with a score to Mike Williams and the interception. The kid that was Mister 4th quarter last season has failed to find the magic again. He now has only 11 touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions. What a difference a year makes.
TITANS: Matt Hasselbeck was even worse than Freeman this week, passing for 160 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. The highlight of the day was CJ2K, rushing for 190 yards on 23 carries. The bulk of his damage came in the second half, reminding us of his abilities with excellent movement between the tackles. It was his best performance of the season though we should take into consideration it came against one of the league’s worst run defenses. Overall this was a game best not taken too seriously. The rainy weather led to 9 total turnovers and saw points from special teams and defense. Still, this was a big win for the Titans who are as primed as ever to win the division with Houston now down to their third quarterback.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 17 @ ATLANTA FALCONS 24
VIKINGS: As expected, Percy Harvin was the heart of the offense, finishing with 204 total net yards on the day. Harvin caught the only touchdown pass of the day, a 39 yard pitch and catch in the back of the end zone while double covered. His 104 yard kickoff return (from the end zone) with under 7 minutes left put the Vikings on the Atlanta 3 yard line, only to see Gerhart get stuffed on 4th and goal at the one. The score could have tied the game but instead allowed the Falcons to run out the clock and send the Vikes packing. Christian Ponder managed the game well with 186 yards and a score, but failed to find much room to work given he was sacked 4 times and knocked down 7 times in the game. The problem here was poor tackling by the secondary and interior line which were targeted with effectiveness by White and Turner most of the game.
FALCONS: Michael Turner pounded interior runs with his offensive line dominating the center and taking advantage of the Vikings aggression off the edges. Turner finished with 60 yards on the day, being used primarily to set up the pass after wearing the defense down. Matt Ryan connected with Roddy White for 120 yards and a score. Ryan finished with 262 yards with 3 scores, finding his receivers easily since they were able to get separation from the defensive backs with ease. The Falcons were simply too fast in all aspects of the game for the Vikings whom were overwhelmed from the start. With the Bucs and Panthers out of contention, the Falcons have a pivotal match up against the Saints in week 16. Get your popcorn ready.
CLEVELAND BROWNS 20 @ CINCINNATI BENGALS 23
BROWNS: Peyton Hillis made his return with a 69 yard rushing day against a solid defense. The first half was dominated by Cleveland and the run game, leading the Bengals 17-7 at half. Colt McCoy was actually more effective than we have seen from him of late, finishing with 151 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Jordan Norwood was his receiver of choice, completing 4 passes for 69 yards and a score on the opening drive. Though he was more effective overall, he was only able to complete 47 percent of his passes against one of the better secondaries in the league. At this point, the team you see today will not be on the field next season. Starting with McCoy and Hillis, we can expect plenty of new faces at prime positions. Get ready for a long few years Cleveland. On the upside, there is some very good young talent on this team which can evolve with the new faces.
BENGALS: Cedric Benson had one of his better games of the season, rushing for 106 yards with a score. He had a faster break off the ball than seen all year and displayed some great vision on his 16 yard touchdown. AJ Green made a splash in his return from injury, averaging almost 37 YPC and finished with 110 yards on just 3 catches. Andy Dalton was forced to resort to his legs for most of the game. He rushed for 23 yards, taking off on crucial third downs amid heavy pressure from the Browns most of the game. Dalton still ended with 270 yards and a touchdown pass to Gresham at the end of the 3rd quarter. Dalton has been the best rookie quarterback in terms of overall performance this season but his efforts go largely unnoticed due to the small market he plays for.
CAROLINA PANTHERS 27 @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 19
PANTHERS: As if it was ever in doubt, the Panthers scored in every quarter and continued the Colts win-less record. Though still outperformed in terms of quality by Stewart, Williams made the most of his carries by scoring twice behind 69 yards rushing. Jonathan Stewart carried the ball only 10 times in comparison to Williams 15 yet still rushed for a team high 70 yards. Cam Newton added a rushing score behind 53 yards as the Panthers totaled 201 on the ground for the game. The Panthers took what the Colts allowed them and dominated by finding the lanes and weaknesses in the Colts front.
COLTS: Donald Brown was the lone bright spot for the Colts this week, rushing for 80 yards and a touchdown. Reggie Wayne also made a splash for the first time nearly all season, finishing with 122 yards with a score. Curtis Painter did spread the ball around and was effective most of the game until he tossed two interceptions on consecutive drives in the 4th quarter. The last came on the goal line to destroy any hopes of tying the game. It looks like the Colts are the leading Andrew Luck candidates but mark it here…the Colts will leverage the pick and trade it in order to get the pieces needed to make a playoff run once Manning is healthy.
HOUSTON TEXANS 20 @ JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 13
TEXANS: Arian Foster carried the load by racking up 89 yards and a score amid a crushing blow to the Texans offense. Matt Leinart exited the game and will be done for the season after suffering a broken collarbone. The team is now left with rookie T.J. Yates. Leinart was very effective before the injury, going 10/13 for 57 yards and a score. If the Texans can find a veteran to replace Leinart immediately they can find a way to keep their 2 game lead in the division and prepare for a showdown in week 17 against the Titans. Brett Favre anyone???
JAGUARS: Blaine Gabbert was benched after his 136 yard, 1 touchdown performance. Gabbert has found it hard to get his accuracy in check but despite the benching Coach Del Rio insists Gabbert is still the man. MJD as always carried the load, rushing for 99 yards and catching 4 balls for 67 yards, both team highs. The Jags are perfect candidates to trade up for Andrew Luck next season but their poor track record drafting quarterbacks may keep them from taking a risk on the surest thing to come out of college in years.
ARIZONA CARDINALS 23 @ ST. LOUIS RAMS 20
CARDS: Beanie Wells had a career day, rushing for 228 yards with a score. What was most impressive was Well’s absolutely amazing acceleration off the ball throughout the game. He seemed to be the fastest back in the league, often ten yards deep before a defender could hone in on him. His performance and a 95 yard punt return touchdown by Patrick Peterson carried the day. John Skelton had another poor performance in consecutive weeks, totaling just 114 yards and 2 interceptions. Skelton could not make a decision, holding the ball for well too long which forced him into errant throws. Larry Fitzgerald suffered most, finishing with just 55 yards on the day, 41 of them coming on the first drive of the second half. Kevin Kolb was expected to be ready this week so perhaps this will be the week he actually makes it back in the lineup. Skelton has now passed for only 213 yards and 5 interceptions with no touchdowns in two games.
RAMS: Sam Bradford overcame a slow start to finish with 203 yards and a score to Brandon Lloyd. The slow start and 8 minute disparity in time of possession was just enough to keep the Rams from pulling the game out. Steven Jackson did post 64 yards on the ground but had a rough day overall. He found little room to work against the aggressive Arizona front, his longest run going for 19 yards which accounted for a chunk of his total. Brandon Lloyd has officially proven his rise to stardom from obscurity after 9 years in the league is not temporary. Despite being the focus of the secondary, Lloyd posted 74 yards and the score while using his speed to separate from defenders. If the Rams could find that true #2 WR, Lloyd and this offense will be a force to deal with next season.
CHICAGO BEARS 20 @ OAKLAND RAIDERS 25
BEARS: Despite a valiant effort at the end of the game, Haine’s early mistakes cost him the game. Haine forced passes a more seasoned vet would have not made, turning them into 3 interceptions on the day. Haine finished with 254 yards and 2 scores to go with the picks, settling in the second half but by then it was too late. He connected with Johnny Knox for a 81 yard pass, who finished with 145 yards on the day. Matt Forte was held to 84 total yards as the Raiders attacked the back who was clearly their main focus of the game. It’s a good possibility Haine simply had to knock off the rust in order to get into a rhythm so all is not lost for the Bears chances. Next week will be a big determining factor in where the team stands and what their chances are at a playoff run.
RAIDERS: Despite all the turnovers and pressure put on the Bears, Oakland could only muster up six Janikowski field goals until Michael Bush pounded one in late in the 4th quarter. Carson Palmer did not have one of his better days despite the 301 yard performance. Oakland was 3-15 on third downs and Palmer did not seem in sync with his receivers. Case in point, Marcel Reece led all receivers with 5 catches for 92 yards. Palmer simply did not have the touch he was able to display against San Diego and Minnesota but bottom line is he got it done.
DENVER BRONCOS 16 @ SAN DIEGO CHARGER 13
BRONCOS: Tebow is now 5-1 this season as the starter though this one took overtime to complete. Tebow limited his passing mistakes, finishing 9/18 for 143 yards and a score to Eric Decker. Tebow’s 16 yards rushing to go with McGahee’s 24 yard scamper in overtime set up Matt Prater’s winning field goal. While Tebow does have the “it” factor in winning games, the true pulse of this team lies in the run game behind Willis McGahee who rushed for 117 yards. His play coupled with Tebow’s abilities are keeping defenses questioning their assignments, even when they know what is coming. Tebow did progress in terms of his passing this week, seeming to make safer decisions with better overall accuracy. Of note is also the fact this defense has not allowed more than 13 points their last three games. They seem to have settled into their roles now that there is some stability at the quarterback position and everyone knows what to expect.
CHARGERS: The play to be criticized here is Norv Turner’s decision to go conservative on third down late in the second quarter and run the ball instead of allowing Rivers to take a shot. The result was a Chargers punt returned 31 yards which eventually led to Tebow’s lone touchdown pass and the difference in score. While Turner deserves the criticism, bottom line is Phillip Rivers has not performed to the level we all expect from him. The Denver secondary did play exceptional, but there were at least 3 plays which could have converted first downs which Rivers opted for a “back shoulder” throw instead of leading his receivers. This is a decision made by Rivers in those circumstances as it is clear they were not designed routes. Each time the receiver was looking over the shoulder expecting the ball. This is something which we have seen in nearly every game this season and seems to be part of the overall issue in the pass game. Ryan Mathews did post 137 yards rushing, looking as healthy and electric as we have seen him all season.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS 23 @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 17
REDSKINS: Santana Moss had a quiet 29 yard return to action but his presence did allow the other receivers to take advantage of the focus on him. Grossman connected with Anthony Armstrong for a 50 yard strike in the fourth quarter to take a 20-17 lead and never look back. The sign of the times that the world is ending took place in this game as Mike Shanahan actually committed to ONE running back for the duration of a game. Roy Helu was the beneficiary, rushing for 108 yards with a score and adding 54 yards receiving. Helu was the work horse throughout the game, keeping the Skins moving the ball and in contention to set up the second half scoring.
SEAHAWKS: Marshawn Lynch accounted for most of the offensive yards, rushing for 111 yards and catching a 20 yard pass for a score. Tavaris Jackson continued to underachieve, passing for 144 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Sidney Rice once again had to leave the game with head issues, leaving Doug Baldwin as the leading receiver with 60 yards on 5 catches.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 38 @ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 20
PATRIOTS: Even after giving the Eagles a ten point cushion, Tom Brady engineered 6 scoring drives which reminded the Eagles they are far from contention with the elite teams. Brady totaled 361 yards with 3 touchdowns, the bulk going to Wes Welker whom finished with 2 scores on 115 yards. Deion Branch added 125 yards of his own, coming down with a 63 yard strike from Brady to set up a Benjarvis Green-Ellis touchdown. While the “Law Firm” only amassed 44 yards on the ground, he was excellent in short yardage situations, scoring twice in the red zone. With the Bills grazing and the Jets flailing, the Pats seem primed to take the division with their current two game lead. This season has been a testament to the talent of Brady, who is poised to surpass 5,000 passing yards and is compensating for the league’s worst pass defense.
EAGLES: Vince Young started out where he left off in New York, completing a 58 yard pass to Riley Cooper on the third play from scrimmage. Capped off by a LeSean McCoy touchdown, Young also connected with DeSean Jackson for 44 yards on the first play of the next drive which led to a field goal and the 10 point lead. Unfortunately for Young, dropped passes and the inability of McCoy to get anything going left Young and Avant as the only two effective players on the field. McCoy was held to just 61 total yards and Cooper was held to just 13 yards the rest of the game. The Eagles went 4-13 on third downs, tarnishing a 400 yard, 1 touchdown, 1 interception day for Young. The season is officially over for the Eagles and now the rumor mill will be focused on Andy Reid and his inability to get the “dream team” form performing like a wet one.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 13 @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 9
STEELERS: The Steelers were able to overcome a 3-11 day on third downs to squeak out a win by doing just a bit more than the Chiefs. Roethlisberger totaled 193 yards with 1 interception and 1 touchdown to Weslye Saunders. Despite all the stalled drives, Antonio Brown emerged as the leading receiver with 81 yards on 6 targets. Rahsard Mendenhall finsihed with his token 57 yard performance, and afterthought in the Steelers new pass first system.
CHIEFS: It looks like Orton will be thrown into the mix quickly after another poor performance by Tyler Palko. Plako’s key interception on the Steelers 37 yard line left the Chiefs wondering “what if” after one of the best games this defense has played all season. A bigger issue is why Haley is insistent on using all three backs instead of at least taking it down to a time share? McCluster makes a great 3rd down/change of pace back, but when throwing him into the mix with Battle and Jones it keeps either of them from getting into a rhythm. Both backs are the type which improve with more touches yet each is forced to contend with random inserts into packages which keeps them from being effective. Haley is quickly falling into the Shanahan trap just when Shanahan seems to have realized the difference committing to a back makes.