Upon Further Review. NFL Week 7 Recap

The Steelers won in Miami with an assist from the officials, the wheels fell off for the Eagles in Tennessee, and Brett Favre handed the Packers another win in Lambeau. Also, Ryan Howard’s bat put a blister on his shoulder.

Week Two Headlines

Even Flipper is upset
It’s been a rough weekend for me too, Dolphin fans. Last I checked, Ryan Howard is still standing at home plate waiting for a pitch to hit. Who knew you could pay a world class hitter $100 million to NOT swing the bat? For his next Subway commercial, Howard should be shown staring at his hoagie while it decomposes over time. Let it come to you, Ryan……there you go….that’s great….well done! But I digress. Dolphin fans should be upset. Their Dolphins hung with the mighty Steelers for four full quarters (say that five times fast) and lost on a technicality. Ben Roethlisberger clearly lost control of the ball as he crossed the goal line late in the 4th quarter. The play was challenged and rightly overturned. However, because the officials claimed no team clearly recovered the fumble, Pittsburgh maintained possession and kicked the game-winning field goal. How many football games are going to be decided by ridiculous calls before the NFL makes a change? The Lions lost in week one because Calvin Johnson dropped the football before heading in for his post-game shower. The Dolphins lost because apparently the world stops when a touchdown is signaled. Once the ball popped loose, shouldn’t the officials have handled the scrum for the loose ball AS IF THE BALL HAD ACTUALLY BEEN FUMBLED? Where’s the downside? The scrum had already begun, the outcome of the game hung in the balance, and with replay review, there’s nothing to lose in such a situation. To come back and grant the Steelers possession because the officials stopped officiating is a tough way to lose. Kind of like watching your clean-up hitter stare holes through a 3-2 pitch with the season on the line.

The kids are not alright
The Philadelphia Eagles checked out for their bye week a quarter too early. As if the weekend weren’t depressing enough for this Philadelphia fan, the Eagles clubbed me across the chin with a knockout blow. There are a hundred reasons the Eagles fell apart in the 4th quarter. I could spend 2,000 words detailing every one of them. Instead, I’m going to chalk Sunday’s loss up to one thing; inexperience. Heading into the 2010 season, Philadelphia was tagged as a supremely talented team but lacking experience. That inexperience reared its ugly head on Sunday. Kevin Kolb couldn’t figure out how to handle a strong wind in Nashville. Any pass that traveled more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage looked like a drunk duck that’d been shot. I lost count how many times Kolb missed a streaking receiver with a 5 yard cushion on his defender. Rookie safety Nate Allen, who’s been hailed as a potential rookie of the year candidate, was victimized by the veteran Kerry Collins and the explosive Kenny Britt on more than one occasion. Despite all this, the Eagles still had a chance to tie the game with a touchdown and two point conversion. That was until rookie cornerback Jorrick Calvin fumbled a punt and squashed any potential comeback. Game over. Here’s the thing; the Eagles are young. A collapse like Sunday’s is part of the learning curve in the NFL. Winning on the road against a tough team requires four quarters of football, not three. The young Eagles will learn this soon enough. Or, at least I hope.
What I can’t stand are the veteran mistakes. A silly roughing the passer penalty on Juqua Parker on 3rd down extended a drive that ultimately led to a touchdown. Asante Samuel dropped a 4th quarter interception that would have slowed the Titans’ momentum. Ten team penalties totaling 100 yards, rookie or veteran, is totally inexcusable. In my week 7 preview, I offered that the Eagles would win unless their ensuing bye resulted in, “careless, disinterested, undisciplined football.” Those fears played out in the 4th quarter and ultimately cost the Eagles a victory. Instead of heading into their bye week as one of the top teams in the NFC with a win in a game they dominated for 45 minutes, the Eagles have two weeks to ponder 27 unanswered 4th quarter points and a playoff outlook that is bleaker at 4-3 than 5-2.

AFC favorites avoid meltdowns, but barely
Mediocre play has plagued the NFC in 2010. On Sunday, the mediocrity virus spread to the AFC’s heavyweights. The Steelers struggled immensely in Miami. Ben Roethlisberger is still looking for his timing and the defense was off its game. If it weren’t for the defense’s ability to keep Miami out of the endzone, the Steelers could have lost by double digits. In Baltimore, the Ravens climbed back from a 14 point deficit and survived a late rally to fight off the winless Buffalo Bills. Even more unsettling was the ease with which Buffalo put up over 500 yards of total offense. In San Diego, the Patriots squeaked out a win despite less than 200 yards from Tom Brady’s offense. If it weren’t for a number of senseless San Diego turnovers, the Patriots may have fallen in defeat. Granted, winning ugly is still winning, but this isn’t the first ugly win for any of these teams. I’m beginning to believe there are good teams and really good teams, but no great teams. At least not yet.

Someone take them to Chic-Fil-A (NFL’s top 5)

1. Steelers – As previously discussed, none of the top five teams in action on Sunday performed particularly well. Pittsburgh found a way to win, though. As long as they continue to win while Ben Roethlisberger finds his rhythm, the Steelers will accept the wins in whatever fashion they come.
2. Jets – The three way tie for second is gone. Although they had a bye, the Jets moved past New England and Baltimore.
3. Patriots – The Patriot offense has looked rather ordinary lately. They’re winning, so it’s difficult to complain too much. However, with a mediocre defense, Tom Brady and Co. will need to find a way to put up more points.
4. Ravens – Baltimore’s secondary was the team’s biggest question mark heading into the 2010 season. Through six weeks, the unit responded by ranking as one of the league’s best against the pass. The return of All-Pro safety Ed Reed would only strengthen the secondary, or so we thought. The Ravens surrendered 374 passing yards and 34 points to the winless Buffalo Bills and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Whoops.
5. Giants – The Tennessee Titans should be listed here, but management requires I list at least one NFC team in the top five. Thus, the Giants maintain their position for one more week.
(Last Week: PITT, BAL, NYJ, NE, NYG)

Not even Ramen Noodle worthy (NFL’s bottom 5)

28. Lions – Matthew Stafford returns next week. A gritty Washington Redskins defense will be waiting…or seething.
29. Panthers – Matt Moore made the most of his second opportunity by throwing for 308 yards in leading Carolina to the team’s first win of the season. Surprisingly, Moore racked up 216 of those yards by throwing to David Gettis and Brandon LaFell, not Steve Smith. The Carolina youth movement is gaining steam.
30. Bills – It wasn’t a win, but Buffalo was impressive in Baltimore. That’s enough to move them out of the basement.
31. 49ers – The severity of Alex Smith’s shoulder injury is unknown. Crawling back from 1-6 to win the NFC West won’t be any easier with David Carr under center.
32. Cardinals – Fox analyst, Brian Billick said that Arizona’s best chance to win is with Derek Anderson. When Derek Anderson is your best option at quarterback, you aren’t very good.
(Last Week: OAK, DET, SF, CAR, BUF)

Stock rising (but not in top 5, yet)

Titans – Tennessee has won three straight. Scoring 27 unanswered points in the 4th quarter against the Eagles on Sunday was a nice statement. While the Titans are 3-0 against the NFC East, they’re only 2-2 in the AFC – including a bad loss to the Broncos.
Seahawks –
The Seahawks now appear to be the favorites to win the NFC West. Time will tell if they’re good enough to compete with playoff contenders.

Stock falling (but not in bottom 5, yet)

Bears – Find me a team that has looked worse in the past month. I don’t think you can. Jay Cutler plays like he’s still concussed. Four interceptions is one thing. Four interceptions to the same defensive back is inexcusable. I guess the September version of Cutler was a facade.
Bengals – An amazing comeback followed by another collapse. When the offensive is scoring, the defense is off. When the defense is on, the offense can’t score. Marvin Lewis’ seat is getting uncomfortably warm.
Broncos – Continuing with the “B” theme. After dropping two straight, Denver welcomed the struggling Raiders to Invesco field…and were promptly thrashed. Surrendering a franchise record for points to a division rival at home is bad for business…and team morale. Remember when Josh McDaniels was the talk of the league about this time last year? Yeah, me neither.

Things I thought and would’ve said, but my son is only 4 months old and wouldn’t understand…
  • Percy Harvin is a weapon. He’s evolved into the Vikings best threat over the past few weeks.  Look at the four receivers taken in the last 14 picks of the 1st round of the 2009 draft; Jeremy Maclin (19), Percy Harvin (22), Hakeem Nicks (29), Kenny Britt (30). That’s quite a talented bunch.
  • The Dolphins lost to the Steelers because they went 0-3 in the red zone. Touchdowns beat good teams, not field goals.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers find a way to beat the average teams they’re supposed to beat. It’s not sexy, but they could win 9 games and sniff the playoffs.
  • I’m amazed Ladell Betts is still employed by the Saints. Two weeks ago, he was to blame for two devastating turnovers. This week, he zigged when Drew Brees expected him to zag. A red zone interception was the result.
  • Roddy White, Kenny Britt, and Darren McFadden combined for 622 yards and 65 points.
  • C.J. Spiller’s fumble at the end of the 1st half completely changed the momentum of the game. Instead of heading into the locker room with a 24-13 lead, the Bills lead was only 24-20. The Bills fought, but those seven points from Spiller’s fumble ultimately decided the game.
  • The Denver Broncos look like a lost cause. The last time we saw an Oakland offense like that, Rich Gannon was throwing to guys named Jerry Rice and Tim Brown.
  • Kevin Kolb gives up on the pocket too easily. Step up when the defensive ends get up field, Kevin. Don’t panic and flee east or west.
  • Brett Favre was the primary reason the Green Bay Packers won tonight. His interception returned for a touchdown will probably be one of the worst you’ll see all season. But hey, he’s a gunslinger. Pah-lease.
  • Matt Moore was mostly impressive today (one really bad INT). Even without an effective running game, Moore led the Panthers to their first victory by scoring 10 points in the final two minutes to knock off the 49ers.
  • I turned on the NFC West battle in Seattle between the Cardinals and Seahawks. I gave it a fair shot (10 minutes), but I couldn’t do it. It’s not as bad as Big 10 football, but it’s close.
  • The combination of Gus Johnson and a frantic pace in the Cincinnati/Atlanta game made for excellent television.
  • The Saints look awful. Not bad, not struggling. Awful. The Browns beat them in every way imaginable on Sunday. Good thing the Saints aren’t letting last year’s Superbowl title get to their heads, though. (Rolling my eyes.)
  • Kevin Kolb’s roller coaster of a season took another dip following the Eagles defeat in Tennessee. When asked who his starter would be out of the bye, Andy Reid did not hesitate. “Michael Vick,” he said.
  • The Chiefs running game is scary good. In three of their six games, they’ve rushed for over 200 yards at more than five yards per carry. Kansas City could have the AFC West locked up by December.
  • If you watched the Chargers game, you witnessed two of the most bone-headed fumbles you’ll ever see. Poor Richard Goodman thought he was still at Florida State. After diving for his first NFL reception, Goodman left the ball and got up. Only, he hadn’t been touched. New England picked up the loose ball. Later, Philip Rivers threw a backward pass that wasn’t caught by Jacob Hester. Hester didn’t pursue the ball until he realized it was a fumble, at which point New England had already recovered.
  • The fake punt by Cleveland was awesome. Maybe the best I’ve seen.
  • Jay Cutler and Donovan McNabb put on a clinic in Chicago on Sunday. If you want to know how not to play quarterback, study the game tape. Donovan will be skating on thin ice in D.C. if he doesn’t get it together soon.
  • On a similar note, the Bears should consider pursuing DeAngelo Hall in the offseason. He and Jay Cutler had a natural connection. Furthermore, Cutler said he’d go after Hall every play if he played him again. If throwing four interceptions to the same guy in a single game doesn’t humble you, I’m not sure what will.
  • Mike Singletary looks overmatched, confused, and totally flustered. Not exactly what you want to see from your head coach.
  • After seven weeks, the leader of the AFC West is the only division leader with a multiple game lead in the standings.
  • Andy Reid will be featured on the NFL Network’s SoundFX on Tuesday at 10:30PM ET. I wonder if the program is a full half-hour of, “I need to do a better job there,” or, “I need to put my players in a better position.”
  • Brett Favre and Brad Childress might come to blows before the end of the season. I’m convinced they sincerely hate each other.

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