By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer
Time for another look back at the week that was in the NFLâ¦
THREE THINGS WE KNEW
1. Tom Brady is deadly with the ball in his hands in the last two minutes. Again, these are things we already knew, so I’m assuming Jason Garrett wasn’t comfortable with a 16-13 lead at the two-minute warning. That said, the Cowboys offense has to do a better job against a porous Patriots defense. A three-and-out with three minutes to go is simply inexcusable. Dallas had a chance to run out the clock by simply getting a couple first downs and couldn’t do it. There’s the ballgame, because once Brady got the ball back, it wasn’t IF the Pats would score, but WHEN and HOW. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, the answers were “quickly” and “touchdown.”
2. Picking for or against the Giants carries exactly the same risk. That’s because no one is ever really quite sure what Giants team is going to show up. Through the first six games, the Giants have destroyed a bad team at home (Rams) and lost to another bad team at home (Seahawks). They dismantled a division opponent on the road (Eagles) and looked downright dysfunctional against a division opponent on the road (Redskins). So how, exactly, is anyone supposed to be able to predict which Giants team is going to show up each week? Apparently last week, it was a bit more of the “good” Giants, who got a late field goal to beat Buffalo. Go figure.
3. The NFL is now a passing league. And this is where I’ll have a little tangent, because I don’t think it’s good for the league. Sure, the casual fan loves to see the ball thrown all over the field, but anyone that’s watched football closely for more than a decade knows that the offense has been getting all of the breaks since the mid-90’s. Offensive linemen can use their hands, receivers can push off virtually at-will, most defensive penalties are automatic first downs, and even butterflies can’t touch the quarterback. All of this has led to better pass blocking, more confident quarterbacks, and more wide-open receivers â thus more points. Once upon a time this used to be a league where successful offenses were balanced. Call me old-school, but I’d like to see a bit more of that. One thing all fans despise are penalties, because they just slow the game down. Let’s eliminate the illegal contact penalty and allow defenders to bump receives â and vice versa â unless the ball is in the air, and then let’s have all penalties measured out â no more “offsetting” a five-yard encroachment with a fifteen-yard personal foul â and see if that at least slows down the vertical attack just a tiny bit. Trust me, it’ll be better for the game.
THREE THINGS WE THOUGHT WE KNEW THAT WERE PROVEN TRUE
1. Houston isn’t quite “there” yet. Yes, I know they’re missing Andre Johnson, but the Texans still have to be able to win games in which they’re just a little shorthanded. In back-to-back weeks, Houston has been close, but two weeks ago couldn’t punch in the final score against Oakland, and then last week just had their doors blown off by Baltimore in the second half. If the Texans want to be considered as a serious contender in the AFC, they’re going to need to win at least one of those types of games against a fellow contender to solidify their position. Until then, they will remain “pretenders.”
2. Carson Palmer wasn’t really retired. ÂBut I would have said the same thing to get away from Mike Brown and the Bengals. Instead, he’s likely going to resurface with the Raiders, thanks to the injury to Jason Campbell. I’m not sure Palmer will be the answer here â rumors in Cincinnati seemed to point to Palmer as the source for a lot of the on-field issues offensively over the past few years â but he does represent a significant upgrade over Kyle Boller (I was unaware he was even still in the NFL). The key, as always, will be mastering the offense, from blocking schemes to receiver patterns and timing to the two-minute offense. It’s a gamble, but it just goes to show that even without the late Al Davis, the Raiders are still going to go for it when they get a chance, and that can only be welcome news to Raider Nation.
3. Detroit wasn’t going to be undefeated on Thanksgiving. It would have been a great story, and it will still likely be the best game that day (San Francisco @ Baltimore will give it a good run, but Miami @ Dallas stinks), but it won’t be a matchup of undefeated teams. It might, however, be a chance for Detroit to end Green Bay’s chance at going undefeated. Here’s what the Packers have between now and Thanksgiving Day: at Minnesota, bye, at San Diego, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay. Obviously the road game against the Chargers is the big hurdle, but the other three should be wins for the Packers. Meanwhile the Lions schedule reads: Atlanta, at Denver, bye, at Chicago, Carolina. Even a conservative 2-2 mark would set up 10-0 Green Bay at 7-3 Detroit to kick off Turkey day. Might be the most exciting start to my Thanksgiving since Santa got caught between buildings in the Macy’s Parade.
THREE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. Miami is just plain bad. And it really isn’t Tony Sparano’s fault. He didn’t decide to let two decent running backs leave, only to replace them with a pass-catching back and a really small runner who can’t make something happen between the tackles. He didn’t build a roster in a passing league with one legitimate wide receiver, no tight ends, and one offensive lineman worth anything. He didn’t build a defense that couldn’t get through a high school offensive line to the QB, let alone an NFL line. He’s just coaching what he’s been given, and even that has been diminished with the injuries to Chad Henne (who can be a serviceable NFL QB in the right situation) and Reggie Bush (who will never be a feature back but is a tremendous weapon when used correctly). Sure, he deserves to be fired because no one on the sideline seems to care a lick about what he says, but he didn’t build the roster, and whoever did should at least be fired at the same time, if not sooner. Oh waitâ¦ he already left. Go figure.
2. The bye week is no longer a good thing. This was detailed fairly well on MNF, but it’s worth repeating. Five of the six teams coming off of a bye lost this past weekend. Let’s first throw out Miami and St. Louis, because they were losing anyway. That leaves us with Baltimore, Cleveland, Dallas, and Washington. The Ravens struggled in the first half, but made good second-half adjustments and whipped Houston. There’s the win. Meanwhile Cleveland struggled against an average Raiders defense and could capitalize on Jason Campbell’s injury. Dallas never got into a rhythm offensively against the worst defense in football and coughed up a winnable game in New England. And Washington gave up the first 20 points of the game to the Eagles before finally reversing the trend, albeit too late in the 20-13 loss at home. What did all four teams have in common? They played a sloppy, out-of-sync first half with no rhythm or timing, a symptom of too much time off and not enough practice. The new CBA mandates that teams be given four consecutive days off, including weekends, during their bye week â which is going to lead to exactly what happened this past weekend for all of the teams coming off a bye. For the record, here are the upcoming games involving teams that had a bye this past week (bye team in bold):
San Diego at NY Jets
Denver at Miami
Seattle at Cleveland
Houston at Tennessee
Pittsburgh at Arizona
Kansas City at Oakland
Take the Jets, Dolphins, Browns, Texans, Steelers, and Raiders, go a minimum of 5-1 this week, and thank me later.
3. The Cincinnati Bengals are 4-2. Yes, I just learned this fact. I thought they were 2-4 or 3-3. Somehow I missed that Cincinnati is actually just a half game out of first place in the AFC North. Granted, I’m pretty sure LSU has had a tougher schedule than the Bengals first six (at Cleveland, at Denver, San Francisco, Buffalo, at Jacksonville, and Indianapolis), but it’s still a surprise that this team is where it is. The honeymoon will end soon, though, as they go on a bye this week and come out of it with trips to Seattle and Tennessee, a home game against Pittsburgh, and then back out on the road to play the Ravens. They’ll be lucky to be 5-5 at that point. But Andy Dalton has something working there along the banks of the Ohio River, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it won’t be long before they’re back atop the division again.
At least that’s what the voices in my head are telling me.