It's November and the defending luckiest team on earth last season Giants have gone 0-2 this month, four quarterbacks were knocked out of action including Jay Cutler and Michael Vick, Mark Sanchez continues to prove their prior success was based almost entirely on their great defense and running game, Andy Reid and Norv Turner are on the hot seat, and the '72 Dolphins are drinking champagne. In other words it's been business as usual for the NFL this time of year.
Well Andrew Luck didn't throw for an insane 433 yards like he did last week against the Dolphins but when you're playing the Jaguars who have the league's worst offense you don't have to do much in order to win. Luck threw for only 227 yards and even had an interception but he had no problem leading his team to an early 17-0 lead and eventual trouncing of the hapless Jags. The two teams are also perfect examples of the right way and the wrong way to turn things around. Sure there was a little serendipity in the way the Colts were able to draft Luck, but the Jags actually gave away picks so they could move up in the draft two years ago to get Blaine Gabbert, fired Tom Coughlin as their head coach in 2002 only to watch him win 2 Super Bowls with the Giants, and even drafted a punter in the 3rd round of this year's draft. ''I'd rather take a starter over a backup, especially at a position where you can gain tremendous field position if you've got a guy with a leg like Bryan's,'' said Jaguars GM Gene Smith at the time. Dude, he's a punter. He's out there for maybe 5 plays a game, or maybe he just knew their offense would be so god-awful they'd need all the help they could get. Can we just move them to Los Angeles already and put the Jaguars fans out of their misery.
Giants 13, Bengals 31
It's November and that's the time of year the NY Giants start to lose football games even when they're playing a Bengals team that had lost 4 straight coming in. Andy Dalton threw 4 touchdown passes to 4 different receivers while Eli Manning had another bad day missing wide open receivers, getting sacked a season high 4 times, while also throwing 2 interceptions. This coming a week after Eli's brother, you know the one that's more famous even though he has one less Super Bowl ring, was given the VIP treatment by the Bengals secondary and pass rush where they not only didn't do anything to get his jersey dirty, they made sure to press and iron his clothes for after the game as well. Not like the rest of the Giants were doing anything either. Victor Cruz dropped a sure touchdown pass, they gave up a 68-yard punt return to Adam "don't call me Pacman" Jones to set up a Bengals score, and the Giants turned the ball over 4 times in the second half. "It's tough, painful and an embarrassment," corner back Corey Webster said. That sounds kind of like getting a prostrate exam.
Titans 37, Dolphins 3
Remember when the Titans were being embarrassed 51-20 by the Bears, a game so ugly the owner said he'd never seen one that was worse, and the Titans were on pace to give up the most points in a season in NFL history? Remember when the Dolphins had won 3 in a row behind the impressive play of Ryan Tannehill and even 2 of their 3 losses were decided in OT? Well as the old saying goes, "That's why they play the game." Well, that and they need to generate money from attendance and TV viewing. Tannehill threw 3 interceptions to go along with a Reggie Bush fumble and the Titans turned those gifts into a 37-3 smack down of the Dolphins in front of their own fans. When asked what Tannehill learned in this game Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said, "Don't throw to the other team." It seems like an obvious lesson but it's one Tony Romo is still struggling to learn.
It's the beginning of the 4th quarter and the Falcons have just scored a TD to cut the lead to 23-28, so you obviously go for two there right? That would make it a 3-point game and since it's the 4th quarter you have a limited number of chances left in the game to score. Even my 13-year old son who was watching the game with me knew to go for 2 in that situation. But I guess for Falcons coach Mike Smith the 4th quarter isn't the magical moment when you go for 2 it's only in the final 7 minutes. Anyone want to guess what happened? The Falcons had 4th-and-goal at the end of the game and had to go for it instead of kicking a tying FG to force OT. They were stopped and the Falcons lost their first game of the season. They also had Michael Turner run the ball on 3rd down despite the fact he had only 16 yards on 12 carries and watched as he got tackled for a loss of 1. "It's very frustrating," said Smith, who is 2-7 against the Saints and 49-15 against the rest of the NFL in his four-plus regular seasons as Atlanta coach. "We were close. ... This will be something we will learn from." Sure, like go for the two point conversion when it's the 4th quarter. The Falcons win streak may have ended but the Saints streak is alive and well. It's now 9 consecutive games the Saints defense has given up over 400 yards of offense (454). If they manage to keep this streak going all season what will they drink to celebrate each year? I hear moonshine's pretty bad.
Chargers 24, Buccaneers 34
I know I've asked this before but I just have to ask again. How the hell does Norv Turner still have a head coaching job? Does all that extra sun down there just make people more apathetic towards mediocrity? The Chargers are in a tailspin falling to 4-5 (meaning they're not that far out of it since they play in the AFC West) while the baby Bucs have all grown up and are sitting at 5-4 having scored 28 points or more in 5 straight games. Don't forget, this was the youngest team in the NFL last year who had a head coach that was younger than Ronde Barber. It was a complete team win for the Bucs who scored 2 offensive touchdowns and also scored a touchdown on both defense and special teams and it was the defensive TD that put the game away. Trailing 24-21 and in FG range Philip Rivers, who threw for 337 yards but also had 2 interceptions, was intercepted by Leonard Johnson who returned it 83 yards to kill any Chargers momentum. "In hindsight, not only do I wish I was throwing it over his head, I probably shouldn't have thrown the ball, period. Field goal ties it up. Quick decisions, and I made the wrong one there," Rivers said. "It's a humbling game because it shows how one play, essentially one play, can ruin a game," Since this is Rivers talking I'll just cut and paste this for every time he blows a game.
Broncos coach John Fox made his return to Carolina, a team that let him go just 2 short years ago, and showed what he could do when he has a QB leading his team that's not named Jake Dellhomme. OK, it's more than that since Manning is more than simply not Dellhomme, but he didn't do too bad with that other QB he had last year. Manning threw for 301 yards and a TD as the Broncos simply crushed the Panthers after staking them to an early 7-0 lead. "You just feel good to win," Fox said. "You put a lot into these things. It is seven days of hard work and countless hours. It's all for naught if you don't win." That must mean Romeo Crannel wastes more time than anyone in the NFL. As for the Broncos they look like they may not lose again considering their remaining schedule consists of the Chargers, Chiefs (twice), Raiders, and Browns, with only the Ravens on the road and the Bucs at home being possible challenges. I can hear the hype machine already.
One of the ways people try to make themselves feel better, especially those in High School, is to make fun of someone else. By pointing out someone else's short comings it makes our own imperfections seem smaller. So let's all take a moment to point our finger and laugh at Mark Sanchez. (Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!) Well I don't know about anyone else but I feel much better. Sanchez came into the game with the lowest completion percentage in the NFL and managed to complete just 9 of his 22 throws for 124 yards and an interception all while leading the Jets offense to only 185 total yards and 0 points (the lone Jets TD came from their defense). Meanwhile Russell Wilson completed 12 of his 19 pass attempts for 188 yards and 2 touchdowns while becoming the first rookie QB to ever win their first 5 starts at home. Of course it helps to have a running attack led by Marshawn Lynch that grounded out 174 yards and a TD. Now the Jets who are coached by the NFL's version of Eric Cartman find themselves at 3-6 closer in the standings to the Chiefs and Jaguars than they are to the Falcons and Texans, or for that matter the Seahawks, Vikings, and around half of the NFL that's still hoping to make a run in the playoffs. "I don't know how many more losses you can spot somebody before you think can make the playoffs," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "It's about a two percent chance at making the playoffs with the record we have and we are going to take that shot." Just once I'd love to hear him say, "Respect my authoritah!"
That giant thud you just heard was the Eagles season coming to an end. Sure they play in the NFC East and it's today's version of the old NFC West while today's NFC West is like the old NFC East, if that makes any sense, but while the 3-6 Redskins might be able to catch fire and win the East, this Eagles team is done. Maybe instead of firing their defensive coordinator they should have just moved him back to offensive line coach and fired the offensive line coach instead. They rank 28th in sacks allowed with 27 which is just one better than the 28 sacks given up by the Bears this year. Any coincidence Vick and Cutler were two of the quarterbacks knocked out with concussions Sunday? In the game the Cowboys and Eagles were tied at 17-17 going into the 4th quarter but Dwayne Harris returned a punt 78 yards for a TD with 13:35 to play and Brandon Carr returned an interception 47 yards for a TD just over a minute later to put the game out of reach. But cheer up Eagles fans. Your team will fire Andy Reid just like they did the last coach that led you to a Super Bowl Dick Vermeil, and then you'll go through a string of coaches with middling success for the next 15-20 years before you finally return to prominence. So you know you have that to look forward to.
Texans 13, Bears 6
Well this game sure was ugly. The two teams combined for just 464 total yards, or about what the Saints defense alone gives up every game, and 6 total turnovers including 2 costly Cutler interceptions. About the only offensive star of the game was Arian Foster who caught a TD pass and ran for 102 yards even though he needed 29 carries to get there. Cutler had only thrown for 40 yards before being knocked out and when Jason Campbell took over in the second half Bears fans everywhere were having flashbacks to last year when they started 7-3 but could only manage one more win after Cutler was gone for the season. The positive for Bears fans this time around is theoretically Campbell is a better QB than Caleb Hanie so he should do a better job, but then again, almost every QB in the NFL is theoretically better than Hanie so we'll see what that means. "You never want to lose anybody, especially our starting quarterback," receiver Brandon Marshall said. "He is our leader, he is the heart and soul of our offense so we definitely want him to have a quick, speedy recovery." Do you think he honestly believes that or is this one of those cases where you just keep lying to yourself hoping you can convince yourself to believe it?
Chiefs 13, Steelers 16
Oh good, another knocked out QB and another ugly game. The Chiefs took an early 10-0 lead which was the first time they'd led in regulation all season, but the Steelers came back and tied it at 10-10 with one of the sickest 1-handed, flick to the knees, back to the hands all while trying to not roll out of bounds catches you'll ever see in your life. The Chiefs were eventually able to force overtime on a last second FG thanks to not turning the ball over for the first time all season but on their first possession in OT they, yes you got it, turned it over. One chip shot FG later the Steelers were celebrating their victory. "We got the one that count baby," linebacker Larry Foote said referring to the final turnover. "We got the one that count. They did a good job tonight, but we got the one that was big time." That's generally how it goes for the Chiefs.
Raiders 20, Ravens 55
The Ravens are great at home now having gone 13-0 there over the last two seasons while only going 6-6 on the road, while the Raiders are horrible on the road with only one road win this year (in KC so it shouldn't really count) and just two in their last eight road games. So not surprisingly the Ravens made the Raiders look like, well how the 2012 Raiders have been looking like on the road all season adding to their 35-13 blowout in Miami and 37-6 blowout in Denver. Joe Flacco threw for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns and the Raiders turned the ball over 3 times in a game that never felt like much of a game. "We had too many mental errors on defense, gave up too many big plays, we turned the ball over too many times and we didn't execute on special teams," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "When you do those things, it generally results in something like that." So if real men wear black does that also mean real men get pushed around and made to look silly whenever they play on the road?
Lions 24, Vikings 34
The Lions have been outscored in the 1st quarter 53-28 so far this season and the Vikings were able to do the same jumping out to a 10-0 1st quarter lead. The machine known as Adrian Peterson continued to defy all logic gashing the Lions for 171 yards and a TD and is averaging 5.8 yards per carry on the year. At his current rate he's on pace to finish with around 1,800 yards for the season. Christian Ponder threw for 221 yards and 2 touchdowns and provided just enough of a threat in the passing game to allow Peterson to rack up 120 of his rushing yards just in the 4th quarter, including a 61-yard run the put the game out of reach. "I still can get stronger. I'm still not there, man. I'm pressing to get there," Peterson said, when asked for seemingly the hundredth time whether he's 100 percent healthy. "I'm going to come back stronger and better after the bye." If you're wondering who gets to try and stop this stronger and better Peterson it's the Bears. Now count how many times unstoppable force going up against an immovable object gets mentioned before the start of that game.
I know what you're all thinking. How in the world did the no account Bills make a game of this against the mighty Patriots? OK, maybe only those who've only been partially paying attention to football this year would think that but I'm sure there are some. Sure the Pats knocked the Bills around silly in Buffalo early this year and they're coming home fresh off their bye week after a trouncing of the Rams in London, but if you look more closely you'll see a flawed team that's hardly a world beater with losses to both the Seahawks and Cardinals (at home no less) and they needed OT to get past the Jets. Yes, the Jets! In New England! Meanwhile, since being completely and thoroughly humiliated by the 49ers the Bills have been competitive in their last four games. For the Patriots they have the 28th ranked pass defense and gave up 337 passing yards and 2 touchdowns to Ryan Fitzpatrick. In fact, if not for winning the turnover battle 3-0 the Patriots might have lost this game. With everyone else in the AFC East losing the Patriots are now in firm control of first place while the Bills at 3-6 are hoping to avoid their 13th straight season of missing the playoffs. "Still a chance," coach Chan Gailey said. "I think we'll get there. I know I'm in the minority, but thank goodness I've got a group of guys in that room in there that, I think, think the same thing." Sure, and if my dog starts pooping gold I might be able to get out of debt.
Rams 24, 49ers 24
I learned a few things from this game. First it was good to see the 49ers actually fight back after falling behind 14-0, no doubt playing the Rams certainly helped with the comeback. Secondly, Kaepernick looks like he could be scary good but he still is raw and needs more time (not seeing wide open receivers, fumbling a snap that luckily was picked up by Gore, and holding on to the ball too long when he should just get rid of it). But the real thing I learned in this game is that my sister is not a very good kisser (turns out the saying, "A tie is like kissing your sister" is not as common as I thought it was since everyone I've asked about it stares at me blankly and has no idea what I'm talking about).