What have we learned - Week 10
What can we say about Penn State? They controlled the ball for 23 minutes in the first half against Iowa but could only get 13 points. I wanted them to score touchdowns, obviously, but I thought Iowa's defense would be worn down in the second half and they could put the Hawkeyes away. Inexplicably, it seemed that Penn State's defense was more tired in the second half! Could they have gotten cold, standing around so much in the first half? And then, when they had a chance late, both their offense and their defense let them down. On 3rd-and-24 with 3 minutes left, Daryll Clark threw into the wind trying to get a first down and the pass was intercepted. Had he thrown short and tried to get 10-15 yards, they might have gotten a field goal to go up 26-21. The way Iowa moved the ball on the last drive, however, a field goal might not have done anything, as the Lions' defense simply could not stop the Iowa quarterback. And so Penn State's undefeated season goes by the boards, and because everyone in the country was praying for no undefeated Big Eleven schools, their shot to be a one-loss team in the National Championship Game goes away too (yes, pundits were enjoying Paterno's ride and were cheering for him, but they really want a Big XII-SEC MNC game, because this year, those two conferences have been anointed as the "best" in the country). Of course, if they win out, they might have a slim chance to get there, but it's more likely they'll play in the Rose Bowl against an angry USC team. That doesn't fill me with confidence. Cal, meanwhile, put up a fight against the Trojans, but didn't really have much of a chance. My only hope is that Oregon State wins out (they beat UCLA on Saturday) and, amazingly, wins the Pac-10 (both the Beavers and Trojans have one conference loss, but USC's was against OSU, of course). Arizona quietly got its 6th win by hammering Washington State (granted, not a big deal), meaning the Wildcats are probably going to a bowl for the first time since 1998 (Wazzou, however, broke a string of - wait for it - 172 straight points that they had given up, so there's that). I'd like to discuss the Big XII or the SEC, but they make me so mad that I can't. Oklahoma, I think, will demolish Texas Tech, while Florida will beat Alabama in the SEC Title Game, and then we'll have about 8 teams from the power conferences with one loss. Which means Utah should play Ball State for the National Championship! Who's with me?!?!?
And then there's the pros. During the day, neither the Eagles nor the Cardinals were on, so I watched only sporadically. After the Giants dominated the early part of the game last night, I gave the wife a break and turned the game off, so I missed a lot of it. I'm just impressed the Eagles had a chance to win, given how badly they played early. So let's check things out!
New York Giants 36, Philadelphia 31. You know how I list the turnovers and how teams that win the turnover battle do? Well, there's a reason. The only way the Eagles are in this game is because of two first-half turnovers by the Giants. New York looked like they were playing a high school team, as they did whatever they wanted to the Eagles. That's why I turned the game off, because it had that feeling of getting ugly early on. However, two turnovers kept Philly in the game (and two turnovers of their own took them out) until two idiotic running plays late in the game sealed their fate. The Eagles have talent, but not as much as the other three teams in their division do. That's just the way it is so years - if they played in the NFC North, for instance, they might be 7-2. Oh well. They can still make the playoffs, but they have to play perfect football for 60 minutes, and the way McNabb seems to take 15-20 minutes of game time to warm up these days, that's probably not happening. Sad. Time is growing short in Philly for McNabb and Westbrook, and although I've backed off my statement about getting rid of Reid, I wonder what the team needs to do to get back on top. I really don't know. As for the G-Men ... yeah, they're good.
DeSean Jackson update! 4 catches for 61 yards, 3 carries for 24 yards and a touchdown, no punt returns. Season totals: 38 catches for 586 yards and 1 touchdown, 10 rushes for 77 yards and 1 touchdown, 27 punt returns for 298 yards.
Turnovers: Giants 2, Eagles 2. Turnovers = loss? It's a wash, but the Eagles outscored the Giants off of the turnovers, 14-6. That needs to be included in the box score!
Denver 34, Cleveland 30. This was a fairly entertaining game, mostly because these are two deeply flawed teams, which can often lead to entertaining football. Denver's defense made Brady Quinn look good, while Cleveland's defense allowed Jay Cutler to carve them up and rebound from a 23-13 deficit in the fourth quarter and, later, a 30-27 deficit with time running out. Long touchdown passes are usually because someone blows a coverage, and Eddie Royal's 93-yarder to spark the comeback was just that. I like Jay Cutler, but there's no way he's as good as he looked against the Browns. Finally, the play-calling on Cleveland's last drive was atrocious - they had 2nd-and-3 with a minute left, and they threw three straight bad passes instead of trying to pick up the first down. Don't put Quinn in that situation - run the ball!
Turnovers: Broncos 1, Browns 1. Turnovers = loss? Another wash.
Atlanta 34, New Orleans 20. I keep skipping Saints' games, and I really shouldn't, as Drew Brees is one of the most entertaining quarterbacks in the league right now. The Saints ran the ball 17 times and threw 58 times. That's not going to win you many football games, but it will make you interesting! I guess that's all they care about in New Orleans. Deuce McAllister played, but I don't know if he's healthy, because you have to run the ball more than that, don't you? As for Atlanta, while Matt Ryan is probably the shoo-in for rookie of the year, they're 2-3 on the road. It would be a minor miracle if they made the postseason, but that's probably good enough for them this year. Good for them, turning that mess around.
Turnovers: Saints 3, Falcons 0. Turnovers = loss? Yes, even before Brees had an interception returned 95 yards late in the game. 1-0.
Tennessee 21, Chicago 14. All the Titans-haters out there should probably take notice of this game - on the road, Tennessee rushed for 20 yards. On 29 carries. And still won, because Kerry Collins was flinging it all over the field! Okay, not quite, but the few times I turned this on, he was doing a nice job finding open receivers. Da Bears aren't as good as they used to be, of course, but their defense is still pretty strong, as the rushing stats indicate. They just couldn't stop the Titans when it mattered. I still don't think Tennessee is going undefeated, but this was a nice road win that proved they don't need to run the ball exclusively to win. The next step is a comeback from more than two touchdowns in the second half.
Turnovers: Titans 1, Da Bears 1. Turnovers = loss? Yet another wash.
Jacksonville 38, Detroit 14. I don't have anything to say about this game except that Detroit is really bad. Oh, and welcome back, Daunte Culpepper. Too bad it's with this team.
Turnovers: Lions 1, Jaguars 0. Turnovers = loss? Sure, why not? 2-0.
Miami 21, Seattle 19. I should have watched more of this game, because Miami is becoming quite fun to watch, but once it hit 14-0, I figured the Dolphins would cruise. More fool me, I guess, as the Seahawks found some pride and made it a game, failing to tie on a two-point conversion with three minutes left. Pundits keep claiming that teams will be able to defend the single wing that the Dolphins (and now other teams, including the Eagles) run, but nobody does. Why stop? Good for you, Miami!
Turnovers: Dolphins 1, Seahawks 0. Turnovers = loss? Not even losing the turnover battle can stop the Fish! 2-1.
Minnesota 28, Green Bay 27. I'm very sad that I didn't watch more of this game, as the Vikings got two safeties ... in a row! Leading 10-7, they got two to take a 14-7 lead. That's good stuff, people! Also, the way Adrian Peterson is running the ball in his second season may make me re-assess my "this guy is overrated" feeling I get with him. 192 yards, and it's not even close to his career high. Dang. I'll cling to my beliefs, though! AP is overrated! That's why ESPN should give me a show, 'cause I'm all controversial and shit! Oh, and if you haven't seen the punt return for a touchdown that gave the Packers the lead late, check it out. It's a classic of completely awful tackling by the Vikes.
Turnovers: Vikings 3, Packers 0. Turnovers = loss? Adrian Peterson wouldn't allow it! 2-2.
New England 20, Buffalo 10. You know, the Cheaters are the horror movie killer of the NFL. Last year, they got caught cheating. Did that kill them? No. They went undefeated until they got slapped around in the Super Bowl. Did that kill them? No. They came into this season as favorites to make it back to the big game, and then Brady went down in the first quarter of the first game. Did that kill them? No. They inserted a guy who hadn't started since high school and kept going. Then they got smacked around at home by Miami. Did that kill them? No. Now they're in goddamned first place in the goddamned division, and as I can't bring myself to root for the New York Favres, I'm pinning my hopes for the division title on a team that was 1-15 last year just because I hate the Cheaters so much. Thanks a lot, Bills. Good job screwing up whatever you were doing earlier in the year.
Turnovers: Bills 2, Cheaters 1. Turnovers = loss? That and the final NE touchdown drive, which took 19 plays - more than the Bills ran in the entire second half. 3-2.
New York Jets 47, St. Louis 3. You're St. Louis. R. C. Favre and his Rambling Jets hung 40 (!) points on you in the first half (I bet nobody thought anything could be worse than the 34-0 Jets lead at halftime against the Cardinals a few weeks back!). You get the ball to start the second half and drive it to the New York 19. Yes, it's 4th-and-7, but you're 2-6 and you're losing by 40. What do you do? If you said, "Kick a meaningless field goal instead of manning up and trying for a touchdown," congratulations! You can coach in the National Fear-of-Failure League, where all that field goal did was allow Jim Haslett, the coach of the Rams, to say, "Well, at least we didn't get shut out." No guts, no glory, St. Louis. Sheesh.
Turnovers: Rams 5, Jets 0. Turnovers = loss? Yes, but St. Louis is so awful is probably wouldn't have mattered. 4-2.
Baltimore 41, Houston 13. Hey, how about those Ravens and Joe Flacco? Flacco, the other rookie QB having a strong year, isn't as impressive as Matt Ryan simply because he went into a better situation. The Ravens were lousy last year, but they still have a solid defense, and they're committed to the run. Willis McGahee by himself had more rushes than Flacco had passes, but Flacco is making the most of his throws. I still don't like Baltimore because they employ a scumbag like Ray Lewis, but they have a nice, under-the-radar thing going on. As for Houston ... well, ESPN the Magazine claimed they would make the playoffs. Maybe in 2014.
Turnovers: Texans 4, Ravens 0. Turnovers = loss? Of course! 5-2.
Carolina 17, Oakland 6. It must be sad to be an Oakland Raider, beyond the financial reward of playing professional football. Andrew Walter, who starred at Arizona State, got the start yesterday, and I watched more than I should have because I was curious to see how he would do. He looked so good at ASU, but yesterday, he looked lost. Part of it was his fault, of course, but the offensive line gave him no protection, his receivers ran ugly routes and didn't look for the ball, and nobody could block Julius Peppers (which is not an uncommon occurrence, to be fair). The Raiders are a complete mess, and I feel bad for people like Walter who are just trying to make it in the NFL but get stuck on a dysfunctional franchise. Why does Randy Moss get to get out of there and rehabilitate his selfish image but nice guys like Walter are condemned to stay there?
Turnovers: Panthers 4, Raiders 3. Turnovers = loss? The only reason the Raiders were even close in this game was because Carolina seemed determined to make it interesting. 5-3.
Indianapolis 24, Pittsburgh 20. This game was not unlike the Penn State-Iowa game, as the Steelers dominated early but just couldn't put the game away. And, as we've seen far too many times in the past, if you give Manning any life whatsoever, he will rise from the almost-dead and slay you. Twice Ike Taylor could have intercepted a Manning pass, and twice it slipped through his fingers, once for the first Indy touchdown and later for a crucial first down. Those little plays are all Manning needs, and he made the Steelers pay. Too bad - I know the Colts have little hope of catching the Titans, but I was hoping we'd see an Indy-less postseason this year. It could still happen, but this would have gone a long way toward that.
Turnovers: Steelers 3, Colts 0. Turnovers = loss? You betcha. 6-3.
San Diego 20, Kansas City 19. I guess some people are banging on Herm Edwards for going for two at the end of this game instead of kicking the extra point and sending it to overtime. Listen, you're the Chiefs. You're 1-7. What do you have to play for, really, except pride? Suck it up and get two yards for the win! I wish more teams completely out of the playoff picture would grow some stones and play like this. Unlike the Jim Haslett, who should hang his head in shame for kicking a field goal while trailing 40-0, Edwards can at least stand up and say, "We went for the win, damn it, and I'll do it again." I think teams like the Chiefs, who are now 1-8 and going nowhere, should cut their punter and simply go for every fourth down. Seriously, who cares anymore? As for the Chargers - if there's any doubt that they're not a serious contender, almost losing at home to the Chiefs should put that to rest. Man, that was ugly.
Turnovers: Chargers 2, Chiefs 0. Turnovers = loss? By the slimmest of margins, no. 6-4.
Arizona 29, San Francisco 24. Well, this was a wild game. I didn't watch all of it, but I did get to watch the ending, which was fun. The Cardinals still can't run the ball very well, and their defense makes way too many mistakes and commits way too many penalties (one negated an interception return for a touchdown), but their offense is so much fun to watch when Kurt Warner is able to fling the ball around. If you missed the end of the game, it was strange - Shaun Hill threw a bad interception that led to the game-winning touchdown, then threw another one that snuffed a drive deep in Arizona territory, and then San Francisco reached the Arizona 2-yard line with 20 seconds left. Frank Gore was barely touched but still went down, and then San Francisco ran it on the last play of the game, and I think if they had been able to set up a bit more it might have worked. But Arizona escaped, and they're dangerous. They're still not going far if they keep hitting runners after they're down and jumping offsides all the time.
Turnovers: 49ers 3, Cardinals 0. Turnovers = loss? Very much so. 7-4.
And yes, teams that turn the ball over less than their opponents are now ... 89-27. Don't turn the ball over!
Tennessee: 9 turnovers, +10 margin, 9-0 record.
Kansas City: 11 turnovers, +9 margin, 1-8 record.
Miami: 7 turnovers, +8 margin, 5-4 record.
Green Bay: 10 turnovers, +7 margin, 4-5 record.
New York Giants: 9 turnovers, +6 margin, 8-1 record.
Philadelphia: 11 turnovers, +6 margin, 5-4 record.
Chicago: 14 turnovers, +6 margin, 5-4 record.
Indianapolis: 10 turnovers, +5 margin, 5-4 record.
Atlanta: 9 turnovers, +4 margin, 6-3 record.
Arizona: 14 turnovers, +4 margin, 6-3 record.
Cleveland: 10 turnovers, +4 margin, 3-6 record.
New England: 12 turnovers, +2 margin, 6-3 record.
Baltimore: 14 turnovers, +2 margin, 6-3 record.
Jacksonville: 10 turnovers, +2 margin, 4-5 record.
Oakland: 14 turnovers, +2 margin, 2-7 record.
Washington: 8 turnovers, +1 margin, 6-3 record.
New York Jets: 17 turnovers, +1 margin, 6-3 record.
Carolina: 14 turnovers, +0 margin, 7-2 record.
Tampa: 16 turnovers, +0 margin, 6-3 record.
Pittsburgh: 13 turnovers, -2 margin, 6-3 record.
Seattle: 11 turnovers, -2 margin, 2-7 record.
San Diego: 13 turnovers, -3 margin, 4-5 record.
St. Louis: 15 turnovers, -4 margin, 2-7 record.
Detroit: 13 turnovers, -4 margin, 0-9 record.
Buffalo: 18 turnovers, -5 margin, 5-4 record.
New Orleans: 16 tutnovers, -5 margin, 4-5 record.
Cincinnati: 18 turnovers, -5 margin, 1-8 record.
Dallas: 17 turnovers, -6 margin, 5-4 record.
Minnesota: 19 turnovers, -6 margin, 5-4 record.
Denver: 20 turnovers, -11 margin, 5-4 record.
Houston: 21 turnovers, -12 margin, 3-6 record.
San Francisco: 23 turnovers, -13 margin, 2-7 record.
Maybe next weekend will be better. Penn State plays Indiana at home, so they better win by at least 5 touchdowns, and the Eagles play on the road at Cincinnati, a game they should dominate, but who the hell knows anymore? We'll see.