What I learned this week…..
I should call this column “1-6 & Out” b/c after my worst week picking games in years, that’s what I am. 1-6 and out of my survivor pool.
New Orleans Saints are the best team in the NFC, and they’ll be in the Super Bowl. After stumbling to barely beat Tampa they did not seem all that impressive. Since then they’re undefeated in conference and their only losses, against the Jets & Patriots, don’t seem that bad. More on this later…
The AFC may end up with a both 14-win team and an 8 win team as Wild Cards.
Nick Saban produces NFL-ready talent (see: Jones, Julio and Lacy, Eddie). Except when he doesn’t (Id. Milliner, Dee. McClain, Rolando). But his last two RBs, Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram, might’ve been behind more road-grating lines in college than they’ve had in the pros.
For what its worth…Matt Flynn has the best game on record for a Green Bay Packers QB. Not Brett Favre. Not Aaron Rodgers, or Bart Starr or even Don “the Majik Man” Majkowski. Nope, Matt Flynn. On New Year’s Day, 2012, in a divisional shootout with Matthew Stafford and the Lions, Flynn went 31-44 for 480 yds and 6 TDs. On the back of that game he made a lot of money
not really playing for some bad football teams, and now he’s back in the Great White North as an insurance policy for Scott Tolzien and the Pack.
Hey, didn’t you used to be…Monday Night Football? There was a time that MNF was the gold-standard of sports programming. The top teams were pitted against one another, sometimes division rivals but often enough just huge conference games that felt like playoff matchups. Those days are gone. So far this year we’ve had Denver/Oakland, New Orleans/Miami, Jets/Falcons, Giant /Vikings, Seattle/St. Louis, and Tampa/Miami. Meanwhile, in their endeavor to make money from the broadcast pie by selling slices to as many networks as possible, the NFL had to offer NBC the better slate of games and the insane right to ‘flex’ better games in later stages of the season to their primetime slot. How ESPN doesn’t also have a say in this for MNF I’ll never know. But this Sunday night you get Broncos/Chiefs, and we’ve already seen Peyton go back to Indy, 49ers vs. Seahawks, Cowboys vs. Redskins and Colts vs. Texans. Last week we had Saints vs. Cowboys. I know MNF has Patriots @ Panthers this week, but you can’t tell me they knew the Panthers would be this good anymore than they knew the Chiefs-Broncos game would be anything but the divisional grudge-match its always been. Clearly, MNF is not the priority it once was.
A Hitch…So, the Houston Texans released veteran Safety-cum-Hall-of-Famer Ed Reed on Wednesday, just after publication. Speculation immediately began that Reed would join A: the Patriots; B: the Ravens; C: the Colts; or D: the Jets. There’s a case to be made for each. Bill Belichick has long-admired Reed, saying he’s the “smartest player I’ve ever seen at the position” and telling Reed face-to-face “you’re the best that’s ever played.” And, the Patriots have a need at the position. But this is a man that once cut Layer Milloy, Ty Law and Troy Brown. Emotion doesn’t play into it for BB. And since he was recently burnt by not only Al Haynesworth but personal favorite Chad Johnson, I don’t think the move gets made. Not to mention Reed is a classic FS and Devin McCourty is playing the hell out of that position this season. There’s a reason BB signed Adrian Wilson, a prototypical SS, in the off-season: he still thinks the position is viable. The Ravens immediately released a statement saying they’re passing on Reed. If the Ravens, who knew him well enough to let him walk to AFC competitor Houston, aren’t interested in him for a second time, why should anyone else be? The Colts connection is an easy one to make: Colts HC Chuck Pagano was Reed’s position coach in Baltimore (for his best years) and recruited him and coached him up at the University of Miami. But, like Baltimore, Indy has taken a pass. So that leaves Rex and the New York Jets. Rex was his DC in Baltimore and nobody knows him better (save maybe Pagano). Plus, Rex is still coaching for his job, and a playoff game, even on the road, gets Woody more money for more scooters. Jets GM John Idzik is calling the shots now, so it may not happen but if he plays anywhere, I’d bet on Jersey. Still, my feeling is that he’ll retire. He spoke about it before the Ravens last Super Bowl run and was seriously considering it. He’s made his money, gotten his ring, and should feel free to hang ‘em up. Well played, Ed Reed.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugh
Good: Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams The rookie single-handedly put the game out of reach with a 98-yard punt return TD, a 57-yard reception for another, and then a self-engineered an 81-yard catch-and-run for a third. 310 total yards, and two catches for two scores. Get him the Damn Ball.
Bad: Jake “Hurt” Locker©, Tennessee Titans This guy has a ton of talent, but he just can’t stay on the field. Mike Munchak knows it too, and its why Ryan Fitzpatrick was brought in as a very capable back up. By season’s end Locker will have missed 18 games in the last two seasons, and will have played in 23 of his team’s last 48. Not quite a franchise quarterback.
Ugh: Miami Dolphins running game. After another week of turmoil, they really needed to get on the road and get a win. Instead, the Dolphins ended their Monday Night loss in Tampa with just 6 feet of rushing. Put your arms in the air. Now look down at your feet. Now, back up at your hands. They didn’t run the ball that far. It marked the third time this season the Dolphins had been held to (oof) 22 yards or fewer, and the second time they had averaged less than 1 yard per carry. One. As in uno. On Monday, they didn’t even average half a foot per rush. That’s pitiful.
This Carolina Panthers Defense is no joke. Might be the best unit in all of the NFL. Against a 49ers team that had averaged 31+ points in their last 5 games, all wins, the Panthers D won out in a 10-9 victory by surrendering just 151 yards of total offense. The Niners had five second-half possessions. They ended up with three punts, two turnovers and a bagel for points. The Panthers D is now averaging just 12.8 points against, which means Cam Newton & Co. only need two scores to beat you. In nine games they’ve surrendered seven 2nd half TD’s. They’ll face a tough test this Monday when Bill Belichick and his New England Patriots, fresh off of a bye, head to Charlotte to try to crack the code. To win, the Pats need to get the ball into the Panthers secondary, which means motion out of the backfield or better yet, 5-wide. Panthers strength has been outstanding front 7 play.
Meanwhile...The San Francisco 49ers come out of that defensive struggle with more than just a loss. What happened to Colin Kaepernick? After a blistering start against Green Bay in which he threw for 412 yards and 3 TDs, Kaep has just one other game over 200 yards passing, and three at 150 or fewer. He’s completing 56.4% of his passes. In his previous bad starts their running game had won for them. But against a stout Panthers front-7, that just wasn’t possible. When he needed to win the game, he simply couldn’t. Maybe he’s not the next big thing.
W2W4: Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos What else could it be? Peyton Manning & Co. have just gotten through railroading another opponent. His ball looks flat. Arm strength is missing. So is his left tackle. No matter, Peyton and the Broncos offense just keep rolling. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are coming off of a bye (Andy Reid is pretty good after an extra week of preparation) and he’s bringing his top-ranked defense into the Mile High for their biggest game in what seems like decades. Oh yea, they have one loss between them, are battling for not just the AFC West for top seed in Conference, and they play again in two weeks.
The New Orleans Saints just flat beat up on the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. They had forty (40) first downs, an NFL record. That beat the TOTALS of 9 games this week, and would’ve covered the spread against 4 others. The Cowboys had nine first downs. Hell the Saints were 9/12 on 3rd down alone. In a passing league, they’re 2nd on offense and 3rd on defense. Look the hell out.
Locks of the Century of the Week…It was coming. 1-6 & out of my survivor pool (Jaguars!). Brutal week. If you’d had the foresight to disregard me entirely, you’d be doing pretty well. Do I recede? Do I get conservative and try just to end the season even money? Hell no. I’m picking them all. No breakdowns, pure instinct. Stupid is as stupid does.
|Atlanta||-1.5||At Tampa Bay||+1.5|
|At Buffalo||-1||NY Jets||+1|
|San Diego||-1.5||At Miami||+1.5|
|At Denver||-8||Kansas City||+8|
|At New Orleans||-3||San Francisco||+3|
|At NY Giants||-6||Green Bay||+6|
|At Carolina||-2.5||New England||+2.5|
NFL Week 10
Topics: 10 & Out, AFC, Alabama Crimson Tide, Andy Reid, Baltimore Ravens, Bill Belichick Patriots, Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Chad Ochocinco Patriots, Colin Kaepernick, Dee Milliner, Denver Broncos, Devin McCourty, Ed Reed, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Injury Report, Jake Locker Titans, Kansas City Chiefs, Luke Kuechly, Mark Ingram Saints, Matt Flynn, McClain, Miami Dolphins, Miami Hurricanes, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, NFC, NFL, NFL News, Nick Saban, Pagano, Patriots, Peyton Manning, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Sunday Night Football Flex Schedule, Tavon Austin, Trent Richardson, Troy Brown, Ty Law, University Of Alabama, University Of Miami (FL)