Please forgive last week’s absence, but to make up for it, this week’s run down will be a two-parter- EXCITING! Since I fully expect that this is your sole resource for NFL news and you still have no idea what went on in Week 9, here’s the cliffs notes from last week’s games:
-The Chiefs’ winning streak ended yet Todd Haley did not shave his beard, which is the most unsurprising thing ever.
-The Eagles punter Chas Henry missed a WIDE open receiver by about ten yards on a game-killing fake punt against the Bears. Henry looked like he’d never thrown a football in his life, which is interesting, because he threw for 1700 yards as a high school senior and led his team to the Texas state semi-finals. He also spends, I don’t know, 50 hours a week literally surrounded by footballs. That’s like a basketball equipment manager shooting a free throw into the fifth row of the stands.
-Patrick Peterson went H.A.M, Phil Rivers played like a turkey, the Packers continued their roll and Joe Flacco still looks like Herman Muenster.
-The Giants came back to beat the Patriots and Mario Manningham proclaimed that you can’t spell “elite” without “Eli” which means nothing. He went on to say that “racecar” is spelled the same forwards or backwards, a square is rectangle but a rectangle is not a square then yammered for eight minutes about something concluding with “the horse’s name was “WEDNESDAY!”
That’s about it, let’s not live in the past- WEEK 10 GO!
Rams 13, Browns 12- You know when you reach that point in Oregon Trail when the same person keeps getting sick or hurt to the extent that you hope they just die so you can ditch the dead weight? Yeah that’s what the Browns are probably thinking at this point about Peyton Hillis. Hillis has missed five games this season with everything from an injured hamstring to strep throat. Despite openly vying for a big contract extension, he has been little more than a millstone on their offense and the weekly will-he-or-won’t-he-play routine has got to be wearing on them, especially since he legitimately missed a game with STREP THROAT. I’d imagine that at this point they’re just hoping he gets dysentery or cholera or gets bit by a rattlesnake so they could put him on IR and wait for the Redskins to inevitably give him a huge contract in the offseason. I think I’m mixing metaphors.
I watched the Carrier Classic on Friday night, which, if you’re unfamiliar, featured UNC and Michigan State playing basketball on the deck of an aircraft carrier. This, my friends, is awesome for innumerable reasons. First, the whole thing was surreal- the Obamas sitting courtside, the mid-game stoppage for the presentation of the colors- and the entire scene was incredibly patriotic without being over-the-top. Second, UNC’s camouflage jerseys were amazing. Third, this was bin Laden’s final stop before being sent to his eternal pineapple under the sea and now we’re playing basketball on it cause fuck him. Anyway, if we’ve learned anything from events like this and the annual NHL Winter Classic, it’s that when you stage in a traditional sporting event in an untraditional setting, it makes the whole thing far more interesting (and gets far better ratings). Why can’t the NFL take a page out of this book? With the advent of flex scheduling, which puts the best game of the week on during primetime, they should go a step further and take the worst game of the week and put it somewhere random.
For example, this Rams-Browns game was basically unwatchable for anyone outside Cleveland and St. Louis, but what if it was being played on a field on top of the tallest building in Cleveland (although I’m pretty sure that’s just the Browns’ stadium anyway). Or in a bullfighting ring, with BULLS? Or on another aircraft carrier, only not one anchored in the San Diego harbor- one out in rough seas. NO RULES IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS. I’m pretty sure people would die if the Lions played like that, especially when Ndomakong Suh inevitably tried to throw the opposing quarterback into shark-infested waters. I’d watch it.
Broncos 17, Chiefs 10- I want to know how drunk John Elway got while watching his quarterback complete two passes in an entire game. You have to believe he’s losing his mind watching the offense that he carried on his right arm for 16 seasons devolve into a high school team. Were it not for a late 56-yard strike to Eric Decker, Tebow would have finished with one completion for 13 yards. Instead he finished 2-8 for 69 yards and a touchdown which is still, um, horrendous. Keep in mind, the Chiefs pass defense is ranked 22nd in the league according to Football Outsiders, yet they entrusted Tebow with basically no quarterbacking duties. Even worse, both Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee got hurt in the first half, so the Broncos were left with Lance Ball running the ball 30 times (yes, 30). What do you do if you’re a wide receiver on the Broncos honestly? Eddie Royal caught 59 balls last year and looked like a really good young receiver. Now? He’s got 14 catches and has an overhyped fullback throwing three passes a game at his cleats. If I were him I’d become a witch doctor and make animal sacrifices in the locker room like Pedro Serrano or scream “Islam is the one true religion!” in every huddle until they cut me.
Fortunately for everyone who’s sick of hearing about how Tebow “finds a way to win”, reality comes to town on Thursday night in the form of Darrell Revis and the Jets defense. This game is going to be an absolute massacre. You know Rex Ryan is fuming after Sunday night’s beat down by the Pats and he would love nothing more than to restore his defense’s reputation by calling a never-ending string of jailbreak blitzes and pummeling the Broncos into submission. I’m wondering how they’ll use Darrell Revis in this game. Having the best defensive player in the league out covering a guy who probably wasn’t going to get a catchable ball all night seems like a waste. It wouldn’t surprise me if they have Revis spy Tebow or one of the backs all night. Either way, you know that guys like Calvin Pace and Bart Scott are salivating, as is Elway. Elway should come out at halftime of this inevitable beat down and scream “Are you not entertained. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? IS THIS NOT WHY YOU ARE HERE?”
Dolphins 20, Redskins 9- Last week, Roy Helu torched the phenomenal 49ers defense for 146 yards, so how did Shanahan use him this week against the Dolphins? Uh, sparingly. Ryan Torain got the start and Helu got just six carries. Even more perplexing, Torain had 11 carries for only 20 yards, while Helu’s six went for 41. If this were any other coach, you’d be pulling your hair out trying to understand what the motivating factor was here. But it’s Mike Shanahan, who happens to be a sociopath, so it makes perfect sense. In fact, I would have been far more confused if he started Helu and gave him 25 carries this week. I think Shanahan sets gameplan by using a modified slot machine, and this week it came up Grossman/Torain/Hankerson. That last name is Leonard Hankerson, who is a rookie receiver who exists apparently and was targeted nine times on Sunday, despite having just five catches all season. Last week, the slot machine came up Beck/Helu/Gaffney. Next week? I’m thinking Rex Grossman/Red Grange/Peter Dinklage. Now, much of the blame has to go on offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Mike’s son, but then again, the man grew up under his father’s roof which undoubtedly left indelible scars on him. I imagine waking up and walking to the breakfast table before school, one day he’d get Frosted Flakes, the next, old Shanahan would have vegemite and kiwis on the table, the next- osso bucco and Ovaltine. Some days his dad would pick him up for school in their BMW, some days he’d ride side car on a moped, other days he’d walk out of class to find nothing but a pogo stick and a map on how to get home. His childhood must have been like a never-ending game of MASH.
Seeing as John Beck apparently lacks the ability to complete a pass more than six yards downfield, Grossman is probably the right choice for this offense, then again, Grossman’s gun slinging capabilities are limited by a Plaxico Burress’ level of irresponsibility and inaccuracy. Down four with 12 minutes to play, Grossman threw a classic Grossman pick at the Miami 4-yard line and there went the game. ‘Member when the Redskins were 3-1? Looking at their remaining schedule, they could legitimately finish 3-13. Who knows maybe they’ll end up with Matt Barkley or Landry Jones next year, then Shanahan can inevitably trade them for Antwaan Randle-El and eight terrible running backs.
Cardinals 21, Eagles 17- I…I don’t even know what to say anymore. I hate everything and everyone associated with this game but let’s just go down the list of people who ruined Sunday for the Delaware Valley.
DeSean Jackson- I think DeSean Jackson is having an unspoken battle with Peyton Hillis to see who can damage their reputation more while trying to get a big contract. Unlike Hillis though, Jackson had actually played in every game entering Sunday, however he’s somehow gone from Jerry Rice to Sidney Rice overnight. Since week one, he’s surpassed 46 yards or three catches just twice in seven games. For all his talk of wanting to be paid like a premier play-maker, he has just three catches of 40 yards or more and eight of 20 or more on the year, good for 26th in the league. His 29 receptions have him tied with the likes of Michael Jenkins, Andre Caldwell and Doug Baldwin for 69th in the league and fifth on his own team. Perhaps even more alarming, his wild play-making ability has been altogether domesticated and he looks apprehensive running anything but screen passes and button hooks. His value as a punt-returner has also plummeted as well. His muffed punt last week was disastrous and on top of that he’s averaging less than four yards per return and has called for a fair catch on nearly half the punts that come his way. Add all of that to the fact that he somehow slept through a team meeting and DeSean has become emblematic of the Eagles as a whole this season- self-interested, undisciplined and wildly overvalued.
Kurt Coleman and Jaiquawn Jarrett- Good lord these two are just awful. Granted, they’re being asked to do far too much, especially Jarrett, a rookie, but at the same time, neither demonstrated the ability to hit, stop the run, play zone defense or cover man-to-man so umm, what exactly are they doing out there? I guess Castillo thinks that other teams will try to expose the Eagles’ safeties by throwing to their tight ends, so he tries some reverse psychology and makes them cover the top receivers instead. That uh, didn’t work. Jarrett was stuck covering Fitzgerald twice on Arizona’s game-winning drive and Coleman failed to cover Fitzgerald on his first quarter touchdown. Perhaps the icing on the hemlock cake came on Early Doucet’s go-ahead touchdown, when Coleman read the play and went barreling in at Doucet, who had his head turned towards his quarterback. Coleman had him dead to rights, yet somehow completely missed the tackle despite going unblocked and unseen by the ball-carrier. That’s fucking amazing.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – Remember last week when Anquan Boldin went up against his former team and became the football equivalent of Liam Neeson in Taken during the second half? Yea this was the exact opposite of that. DRC has been absolutely useless as a cornerback, kick returner and general human being this season and Sunday was no different.
Steve Smith- I like that Smith went overnight from being the injured guy who only plays in garbage time to the primary receiving threat all because DeSean Jackson can’t set an alarm clock. He had five catches all season then was targeted ten times on Sunday, which he turned into five catches, 47 yards, and the single worst 19-yard reception ever. In case you missed it, the game was tied at 14 in the fourth quarter and had 3rd and 20 when Smith caught a ball over the middle, turned up field then was apparently shot with an invisible laser one-yard shy of the first down. The Eagles receivers have a LeBronian ability to turn into bumbling morons in the fourth quarter. I hope the NBA lockout continues and the Eagles sign LeBron, NO FOURTH QUARTER LEAD WILL EVER SAFE.
Nnamdi Asomugha- Nnamdi got called for lining up offsides at one point which is remarkable solely for the remarkable lack of self-awareness that requires.
Juan Castillo- If Castillo isn’t fired within the next 48 hours I’m going to leave a trail of destruction from Baltimore to Lincoln Financial Field that will make Sherman’s March to the Sea look like the Mummers parade.
Michael Vick- Oh look everybody- it’s 2004 Michael Vick! You remember him right? The guy who can’t complete 50% of his passes or make smart decisions or stay in the pocket? Yeah, he’s back, but now he’s got the added bonus of being frail while refusing to ever slide feet-first, hence the broken ribs he sustained on Sunday. It got to the point while watching this game that I started researching how bad of a parole violation it would take for his $100-million dollar contract to be voided. Now I’m not saying I’d frame Michael Vick for a crime or anything, I’m just saying that if he goes 17-38 for 175 yards and two interceptions next Sunday night, don’t be surprised if Vick gets pulled over with a kilo of blow in his wheel-well and a malnourished golden retriever puppy locked in the glove compartment.
Andy Reid- With their top wide receiver suspended and their second wide-receiver injured in the first quarter, the Eagles did what any team with one of the best running backs in the league would do- abandon all principles of logic. Vick dropped back to pass 44 times this game and handed off the LeSean McCoy just 14 despite the fact that Shady was averaging a shade under six-yards per carry and Steven Jackson torched this defense for 130 yards last week. At this point, Reid is just effing with people right? He has to be. Vick was playing terribly (and with cracked ribs for much of the game) and making bad decisions. He threw two interceptions, and had another two that were overturned by challenge or penalty, took two sacks and had an intentional grounding penalty. Yet, from the time the Eagles scored to take a 14-7 lead at the end of the first half, they ran 24 pass plays, and handed off to McCoy just six times. I don’t even know what to say anymore. I honestly don’t. If it weren’t for the Cowboys win a few weeks ago, the streets of Philadelphia would look like a scene from The Happening. We’re getting to the point now that this is becoming one of the most underachieving teams in recent memory. What they’re doing would be like if the Heat finished 10th in the East and LeBron averaged 13 points per game or if the Red Sox won 70 games, played Carl Crawford at shortstop and blew a ninth inning lead every three games. I’m going to the Eagles-Jets game in December I plan on organizing a rally against Andy Reid that will make the Arab Spring look like #Occupy Des Moines.
Texans 37, Bucs 9- And things were going so well for the Texans weren’t they? They played without Arian Foster for their first few games but Ben Tate filled in nobly, they lost Mario Williams yet their pass-rush has remained strong, then they lost Andre Johnson but they were still able to win without him. Now, they’ve lost Matt Schaub and it doesn’t appear he’s coming back until next summer. Sure their two-headed monster at running back can carry them in upcoming games against the Jaguars, Colts and Panthers, but unless Matt Leinart can hop into his Hot Tub Time Machine and travel back to his 2004 USC days, this team’s Super Bowl hopes have vanished.
That ’04 championship-winning vacating USC team has had quite the pox on them in the NFL. For all its stars, very few have had even mediocre NFL careers, especially on offense. Leinart was benched then cut by the Cardinals, incapable of beating out Max Hall and John Skelton for the third QB spot last year. Bush lost his Heisman, and ultimately lost USC the same championship he won for them. His NFL career has been somewhere between mediocre and average but nowhere close to what the Saints expected when they took him second overall. LenDale White ate his way out of the league. Dwayne Jarrett, their star receiver, was cut in October of 2010 following his second DUI arrest and hasn’t been on a roster since. Steve Smith looked like he was on his way to stardom before shredding his knee and being relegated to the Eagles’ fourth receiver. Even Pete Carroll fled Southern California, replaced by Lane Kiffin and his endless array of visors. It’s strange and sad to an extent since that was the greatest college team I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’m hoping that Leinart can recover a little of that magic he had when he was rolling around Hollywood with Nick Lachey and slinging touchdowns every other play.
Titans 30, Panthers 3- The Panthers have allowed 12 punt returns this season. Nine of those have combined for one yard. The other three have been touchdowns, including Marc Mariani’s 79-yarder on Sunday in which he really went untouched and didn’t appear to even have to beat anyone, just run forward quickly. Feast or famine for those guys.
Hey look, a Chris Johnson sighting! CJ.5K had 27 carries and four receptions for a total of 171 yards and a TD, which I’m sure delighted the countless fantasy owners who relegated him to their bench this week. The Titans are having quite a bizarre season- they lost to the Jaguars, lost by 34 at home to the Texans and lost by 21 to the Steelers, yet they destroyed the Panthers and Browns and beat the Ravens by two scores. If CJ wakes up from his hibernation, they could make a strong push to steal the AFC South from the Texans, who will be without Matt Schaub for the rest of the year. The winner of this division should really face the winner of the AFC West in a play-in game.
Seahawks 22, Ravens 17-
Dropping a terrible game the week after a huge win? That’s so Raven. What is that? The Ravens beat the Steelers twice and the Texans then promptly lost their next game each time, all three of which were on the road to bad teams- the Titans, Jaguars and Seahawks. It’s not just a one-year trend either; it has inexplicably been like that for years. You’ve got to put a lot of that on coaching don’t you? That or an incredibly protracted hangover. If the Ravens ever win the Super Bowl they might literally not win a game the next season. As always, Cam Cameron did his best Andy Reid impression by incredibly limiting Ray Rice to just five carries all day. Yes, they were losing for most of the game, but c’mon, 55 drop backs for Joe Flacco is insane. Really though, this loss falls mostly on the shoulders of kick returner David Reed who fumbled two first-half kickoffs and somehow picked up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on another kickoff, backing the Ravens up inside their own 10 yard line. The three mistakes basically handed Seattle free field position resulting in three easy field goals. The defense didn’t even play that poorly on Sunday, limiting the Seahawks to one touchdown in five red zone appearances. On the Seahawks five scoring drives, they started at their own 40, the Baltimore 19, the Baltimore 42, the Baltimore 18 and the Baltimore 4. All in all it was actually a pretty good game from the Baltimore defense, although this happened:
Baltimore moves on to a do-or-die divisional game on Sunday against the Bengals that will move the winner to first place in the AFC North and knock the loser to third. This game is especially huge when you consider the teams’ remaining schedules. The Steelers have a bye this week then have an unbelievably easy schedule the rest of the way- @Chiefs, Bengals, Browns, @49ers (when the 49ers should have their divison locked up), Rams, @ Browns. At the very least they should win five of those six and finish 12-4. The Bengals play the Browns, @Steelers, Texans, Rams, Cardinals, Ravens. If they are as good as they claim to be, they should really win all of those home games before Baltimore, especially now that the Texans lost their quarterback, which would give them ten wins not including the two Ravens games. Finally, the Ravens have the 49ers, @Browns, Colts, @Chargers, Browns, at Bengals. Not a terrible remaining schedule but by far the most difficult of the three. They play two tough road games and host the 49ers on short rest after a big divisional game. As a result, a loss this weekend to the Bengals would mean they’d basically have to win-out to ensure themselves a playoff spot. The one thing we know from all of this is that it sucks to be Colt McCoy right now- five out of the Browns final six games come against these three defensive juggernauts. Their game this weekend against Jacksonville might be their only winnable matchup the rest of the season- let’s hope they play it on top on an aircraft carrier or inside the International Space Station.