In 1946, Football commissioner Bert Bell said, "On any given Sunday, any team can beat any other team." Mercifully that phrase has been shortened to, "Any given Sunday", and over the last 65 years it's kind of been true, but not really. Sure there are always some minor upsets, but you could still feel reasonably comfortable cashing in your 401K and placing it all on the 6-1 Patriots to beat the 2-5 Browns on a straight line bet.
Now, however, those same Patriots would need to be spotted 21 points. The 5-2 Jets would need a 4th quarter comeback in order to sneak past the 2-5 Lions, as would the 4-3 Bears in order to slip past the 0-7 Bills. About the only two teams you can really count on to lose every week are the Cowboys and Panthers (Damn you Carr!).
The NFL finally has the thing it's worked tirelessly to accomplish for so long. Parity. Now that it's here I can honestly say, parity blows. Which team is the one we're all supposed to collectively hate? Which team is worthy of our disdain and vitriol? The NBA has that team with the Lakers and now also the Heat. MLB has that team with the Yankees. The NFL used to have the Patriots. But parity has done to the Patriots what George Lucas did to Darth Vader. The menacing and evil Darth Vader got turned into the sniveling and whining Anakin Skywalker. Yes, I'm a geek. So rest in peace disparity. I enjoyed you while you were here.
With the Buccaneers and Falcons battling for first in the NFC South, it was a no brainer which game FOX would televise to the majority of their markets. Brett Favre and the 2-5 Vikings taking on the 3-4 Cardinals of course, because you can never get enough Favre. For most of the game it looked like all those fans holding up "Fire Chilly" signs would get their wish, but with 5 minutes remaining, Favre finally flashed some of his old brilliance. Trailing 24-10, Favre led the Vikings on two straight touchdown drives to send the game into OT, where Ryan Longwell hit a 35 yard field goal to end it. It was a career day for Farve who threw for over 400 yards for the first time in almost 17 years. Asked if he felt he was playing for Brad Childress' job, Favre said, "I felt like I was playing for mine." I wonder if he meant he wanted to take over the head coaching job from Childress. Not that he doesn't have it already.
If this was the first time you'd seen either of these teams this season, you would think they were once again at the bottom of the AFC West instead of in a battle for first. The Chiefs and Raiders combined to commit 27 penalties, 5 turnovers, and two blown fake punts. Their were also long stretches of offensive ineptitude, including the entire first half for the Raiders, but a Jacoby Ford kickoff return for a touchdown to start the second half finally got them going, and they were able to cobble together just enough offense to get past the sloppy Chiefs. Ford also provided the Raiders with the deep threat they thought they were getting when they drafted DHB last year. He had 6 receptions for 148 yards, including a key reception to help set up the game winning field goal. "It wasn't the way we draw it up but it was the way it was supposed to be," Raiders coach Tom Capble said. What? It was supposed to be a mistake filled sloppy game by two surprise teams battling it out for the AFC West crown? I'm glad the football gods have a sense of irony.
Buccaneers 21, Falcons 27
The Buccaneers, the self proclaimed best team in the NFC, are now 5-3 and a game out of first after suffering their first road loss of the season. The Falcons took a 27-14 lead with 46 seconds left in the 3rd but Michael Spurlock, remember him, took the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to six. The Buccaneers were then able to get the ball back and Josh Freeman, who threw for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns, drove them all the way down to the Falcons 2 yard line. But on 4th and 1 LeGarrette Blount, LBWOF, was stuffed for no gain and the Bucs turned the ball over on downs. It also helped the Falcons that the Bucs, rather than hitting the hole quick to get the yard, ran the slowest developing play in their playbook. Michael Turner then carried the ball 3 straight times for 14 yards to run out the clock, leaving him with 100 yards rushing on the day. When asked if this now meant the Falcons were the best team in the NFC, Falcons LB Mike Peterson took a slight jab by saying, "I don't know. We had a chance to play the best team in the NFC and we came out on top."
Bears 22, Bills 19
Not content by losing seven games to start the season, the Bills took their show up to Canada so the people up there could watch them lose as well. It's the Bills worst start in 26 years. The Bills did have a 19-14 lead in the 4th, but Jay Cutler found Earl Bennett for a two yard touchdown late in the 4th and the two point conversion was good to put the Bears up 22-19. It was the third straight week the Bills lost by three. The Bills played well enough to win, out gaining the Bears 340-283 and converted 10 of 16 3rd down chances, but two interceptions and a fumble were the difference. "It hurts," Bills coach Chan Gaily said. "It feels like someone kicked you in the stomach." Just be grateful this is only your first season going through this.
Patriots 14, Browns 34
Before the start of the season their was some speculation that the Browns would cut rookie QB Colt McCoy and go with only two QBs. Now they couldn't imagine life without him. Since taking over that starting gig in week 6, the Browns are 2-1 with both wins coming in impressive fashion, on the road against the Saints and now at home against the Patriots. McCoy wasn't dominant but he did what was necessary, completing 14 of 19 passes for 174 yards, no turnovers, no sacks, and he even ran for a touchdown. He also benefited from every quarterbacks best friend. A great running game. Peyton Hillis ran wild through the Patriots, rushing for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns. "They did everything better than we did," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "In every single aspect, they clearly were the better team." Like I said earlier, Darth Vader just isn't that scary anymore.
Jets 23, Lions 20
Trailing 20-10 in the 4th and with their ground game going nowhere, the Jets head coach Rex Ryan had to do something he's been reluctant to do. He had to let Mark Sanchez air it out. Sanchez missed a lot of throws, and I mean A LOT of throws, but when the game was on the line he suddenly looked sharp. Sanchez threw for a career high 323 yards and Nick Folk hit a game tying 36 yard fieldgoal as time expired and then hit a 30 yard game winning field goal in overtime. The Lions might have cost themselves the game when a questionable call was made by head coach Jim Schwartz. On 3rd and 6 with 1:40 left in the game and the Jets out of timeouts, Schwartz called a pass play for Drew Stanton, who was in the game because Matthew Stafford re-injured his shoulder. It was the first pass of the game for Stanton and he tried to force the pass instead of taking the sack, stopping the clock and saving the Jets around 40 seconds. "I didn't make myself clear enough that we shouldn't worry about taking the lost yardage play right there because the clock obviously was important," Schwartz said. Obvious to you maybe, and the 58,000 people in the stadium, and everyone watching the game on TV. Just not to Stanton.
Saints 34, Panthers 3
The game started off well for the Panthers, who intercepted Drew Brees on the Saints first drive of the game and drove it down for a field goal. After that it was all Saints. All three Panthers quarterbacks got into the game and none of them played well. As a team the Panthers were held to only 195 yards of offense and were 1-12 on third down. Even the one strength of the team, their running game, took a hit when Jonathan Stewart had to leave in the first half because of an injury. "I think they tried," Panthers coach John Fox said. "I think we're not real good right now, not as a football team." WR Steve Smith summed it up better when he said, "Pretty pathetic." Again, let me just say, "Damn you David Carr!"
With the Ravens clinging to a 13-10 lead to start the second half, their defense stepped up and took over the game. The Ravens forced two turnovers and held the Dolphins to only 128 yards of offense in the second half, with 58 of those yards coming on the Dolphins last drive after the game was already decided. While on the other side of the ball the Ravens offense led by Joe Flacco, who threw for 266 yards and 2 touchdowns, scored on 3 of their 4 second half possessions. "It was a ridiculous performance by our defense," LB Channing Crowder said. "It was too easy for them." According to Ravens WR Derrick Mason, Crowder was a big reason why it was so easy for them. "I don't even think they want him on this team," Mason said. "They took him out of the game, they played a bit better. He was getting knocked down, getting pushed out fo the way. They guy is horrible." Now there's some honesty you don't see everyday.
When the players of the Texans secondary have nightmares this week, it won't be Freddy Krueger they see. It will be Phillip Rivers. Rivers sliced up the Texans, completing 74% of his passes for 295 yards, with a 12.8 yards per pass average, and four touchdowns. However, despite Rivers heroics, the Texans still had a chance to win thanks to the power running of Arian Foster who rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns. With just under two minutes to play, the Texans had driven down to the Chargers 28, but on second down all-pro receiver Andre Johnson had a pass bounce off his knee and into the waiting arms of safety Paul Oliver. Rivers was then able to kneel down to run out the clock. "No matter what happened during the game before that play, we still had a chance to win that game," Johnson said. "I thought I had it. My knee came up, the ball hit off my knee, and the guy picked it off." It was the Chargers first road win of the season and first time they've won back-to-back games this season. Now if they can just figure a way to beat someone in the AFC West, they might get somewhere.
The only noise made by the 12th man in this game was the sound of them booing the home team. The Giants dominated in every single statistical category and it wasn't even that close. It was the Seahawks worst home loss since moving to Qwest Field. The heir apparent to Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Whitehurst, got his first NFL start and he looked like a career 3rd sting QB getting his first NFL start. Whitehurst's first NFL completion was a 3 yard loss and overall he completed only 12 of his 23 passes for 113 yards and had two costly redzone interceptions. The one bright spot for the Seahawks was that Whitehurst became the first starting QB in the last six games against the Giants not to leave the game early because of an injury. I guess when you've lost your last two games by a combined score of 74-10, you take whatever positive thing you can get.
If the Eagles are coming off the their bye week, you can pretty much pencil in the win. Even when they're taking on Peyton Manning and the Colts. Under Andy Reid, the Eagles are now 12-0 after their bye week. Michael Vick passed for 218 yards and a touchdown, rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown, and had every team without a good QB in the NFL wondering why they didn't try to sign him. The Colts did have one last chance to win the game when they got the ball back on their own 26 yard line with 40 seconds on no timeouts, but Asante Samuel's second interception of the game put it away for good. "We played against one of the best today -- one of the best teams in this league and one of the best quarterbacks, hands down," Vick said. Now if the Eagles were to somehow figure a way to beat the Bucs, that would really make a statement.
Cowboys 7, Packers 45
Every week it seems the Cowboys find a way to reach a new low on the season. What makes it worse for them is that they have only two games against teams with losing records the rest of the way in. They may very well end up with a record of 3-13 of 2-14. That's right. The team that so many predicted would win the Super Bowl this year just might get the top pick in next years draft. As for the Packers, they could do no wrong. Aaron Rodgers threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns. The Packers defense held the Cowboys to only 205 yards of offense and forced 4 turnovers. About the only blemish on the Packers game was when Clay Matthews returned and interception 62 yards for a touchdown but his "Lambeau Leap" failed to make it into the stands. "I think I might actually hang back and work on my Lambeau Leap skills," he said. The dismal showing by the Cowboys was the last straw for Wade Phillips who got fired on Monday. Too bad for Cowboys fans Jerry Jones won't fire himself.
In the history of the Steelers they've never lost a game that they led by 20. That streak was almost broken when the Steelers watched the Bengals cut their 27-7 lead all the way down to 27-21. The Bengals then drove down to the Steelers 16, but on 4th and 5 Carson Palmer threw a pass to Jordan Shipley and James Harrison arrived just after the ball to knock it out. Ben Roethlisberger, who only threw for 163 yards, was then able to take a knee to run out the clock. It's a reversal from last season when the Bengals always seemed to come up with the big play late and the Steelers blew 4th quarter leads repeatedly. "We've seen that horror flick before," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "I like this ending a little better." I think he's talking about the game and not "The TO Show".