By Jeff Risdon
Last Week: Into every life a little rain must fall. On this life, it poured. The worst week in over 10 years of picking games wound up 4-10. 98-61-1 on the season.
Gambling Update: The yearly profits were washed away in the deluge of bad picks. I lost all $2000 wagered on three games, putting me $500 in the hole on the season. Anyone want to lend me a debit card?
- Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders (+8): The wider world of football fans gets to see a winless Raiders team in prime time going against a Chiefs team that just beat the defending champion Seahawks. I know the marketing gurus will trumpet the intensity of the rivalry and the Marcus Allen saga, but the plain fact is this won’t be a very entertaining football game. The Chiefs still haven’t thrown a touchdown pass to a wide receiver, not exactly the kind of sizzle to sell a stinker of a game. The Raiders do play hard, and rookie QB Derek Carr has shown real promise. They’re just not talented enough to compete without the other team playing poorly.
Chiefs 24, Raiders 16
- Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans (-1.5): Echoes of past playoff failures haunt the Bengals in Reliant, where the Texans notched the only two postseason wins in franchise history at their expense. Andy Dalton was worse than awful in those two contests: 41-of-72, barely five yards per attempt and four INTs to zero TDs.
Those Texans teams were a lot better than the current incarnation, however. Dalton, a native of nearby Katy, is due for some vengeance. I think he got his legendary bad game against Cleveland out of his system. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before climbing to greater heights. Having Jeremy Hill and a return by Giovani Bernard to run the ball to balance the offense sure helps. I’m banking on at least one dumb penalty from safety D.J. Swearinger to help extend a drive, too. Ryan Mallett was decent in his first game, but now opposing teams have game film to evaluate and plan around. Cincinnati takes advantage and exorcises some recent playoff demons.
Bengals 24, Texans 20
- Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-6.5): I don’t care that this game is in Seattle, where the Seahawks are a significantly better team. No way is any team deserving of being a touchdown favorite over these 9-1 Arizona Cardinals, not with the way their defense can cover and create havoc up front. Not with their bevy of outside weapons and aggressive tactics. Not with the runaway coach of the year in Bruce Arians plotting out another masterful game plan. Will Seattle win? Maybe. Will they win impressively by more than a touchdown? I wouldn’t bet on it.
Seahawks 19, Cardinals 17
- Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos (-7.5): Prevailing wisdom is that the Broncos will be howling mad after their embarrassing performance last week. But I’m not so sure their angst will lead to success here. Miami has a very good defense, able to consistently get to the QB by rushing just four and dropping seven into coverage. They’re very good at bottling up the run, too. With all the missing or walking wounded Broncos offensively, Peyton Manning could very well struggle once again. Don’t forget they were sluggish for most of the game against lowly Oakland the week before St. Louis smothered them.
It’s Denver’s defense that will lead them to victory over the inconsistent Miami offense. I don’t trust Ryan Tannehill in the cold against his old Texas A&M teammate Von Miller, and Miami’s dink-and-dunk offense will not create the big plays necessary to attack the questionable Denver back end. The Dolphins will keep it close and low-scoring, but in the end Denver is the more trustworthy and proven team in these sorts of situations.
Broncos 21, Dolphins 16
- Detroit Lions at New England Patriots (-6.5): The Rob Gronkowski touchdown catch and run last week is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen on a football field. Going against NFL players, Gronk looked like the roller coaster crashing through the shaving cream at the bottom of the hill. He was not going to be denied.
The Lions have the best chance of anyone to slow down Gronk and the high-flying Patriots offense. And I think that’s exactly what Detroit will do--force Tom Brady to beat them with someone else besides the All-World tight end. If you’re one of the suckers who picked up Jonas Gray for your fantasy team, you’ll be dribbling the drool of remorse into the pillow of regret for starting him against this defensive front. Nobody runs on the Lions, period. Detroit has the ability to make the offense one-dimensional and also to limit Gronk. I think Brady will find some success against the league’s stingiest defense, but no more than two TDs and two field goals.
The question then becomes if the Lions can outscore that. Unless Matthew Stafford plays significantly better behind his patchwork OL, the answer is a resounding no. The underachieving unit continues to be the Achilles heel of what is otherwise an outstanding overall team. The Patriots ability in coverage will do enough to fluster Stafford, and his propensity to stick to his primary read will lead to an untimely turnover that puts the game away for the home team. Good game to take the “under”, currently at 48.5. I’ll be surprised if it gets within a touchdown of that number.
Patriots 20, Lions 15
- Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (+10.5): Lead pipe lock of the week. No reason to dwell much on what should continue to be Aaron Rodgers’ strong campaign to seize the MVP once again.
Packers 35, Vikings 12
- Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles (-11.5): Tough task for the Titans to travel on a short week and face an Eagles team licking its wounds from being blown off the (almost) frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Yet if both teams play this week the way they did last week, the visitors can absolutely pull it off.
One of the lessons from this unpredictable season is that what happened last week doesn’t necessarily impact what happens this week. In fact, teams often completely reverse their fates from one week to another for no particular reason. The Eagles are too talented and well-coached to get rolled at home, especially by the Titans. Gunslinging rookie QB Zach Mettenberger has provided a nice spark, finally unleashing the deep ball against Pittsburgh after slogging through a pathetic yards per attempt in his first two starts. The Eagles are vulnerable to breakdowns on the back end, so Tennessee could keep this game closer than expected. It’s extremely unlikely they win, however.
Eagles 30, Titans 20
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (-13.5): Back when Peyton Manning was running the Colts and Jack Del Rio was coaching the Jaguars, this was always a much closer contest than the records of the two teams would indicate. Even in their down years those Jaguar teams were always a handful for Manning and the Colts.
The Patriots exposed the blueprint for attacking the Indy defense: punch them in the mouth and run around them while they look for their teeth. Judiciously sprinkle in smart passes and the occasional shot down the field between the safeties. Unfortunately the Jaguars don’t have Tom Brady or Jonas Gray or Rob Gronkowski to do those things. The Colts are angry and motivated to redeem themselves after their prominent national whooping by New England. This is not apt to be pretty for the Florida visitors.
Colts 36, Jaguars 17
- St. Louis Rams at San Diego Chargers (-6): It’s hard to ignore what St. Louis did last week in upending the mighty Broncos and Peyton Manning. They got consistent pressure and the back end played aggressively smart and tackled well. Meanwhile the Chargers sputtered once again in barely edging out the winless Raiders. The Chargers have trouble in pass protection, while the Rams pass rush has finally heated up. San Diego cannot run the ball at all, averaging a league-worst (tied with Arizona) 3.1 yards per carry. It sure seems like the Rams ought to have a great chance to win, even on the road.
Flash to the Allstate Mayhem ad where he’s a cheap bungee cord holding a grill and various other loosely-tethered objects in the back of a pickup truck. Mayhew casually utters “Nah” and the road is strewn with debris. A car crashes into it, but Mayhem isn’t done. He flings a giant tub of cheese puffs into the air in celebration. St. Louis, you are the car behind Mayhem.
Chargers 27, Rams 10
- Washington at San Francisco 49ers (-8.5): Can’t help but to be impressed with how well the 49ers have turned the tide after such a fractious, uninspiring start. One underexposed reason: penalties. No team was whistled for more flags in the first eight weeks than San Francisco. But in the last three games they rank eighth in the league with just five accepted penalties per game. That’s shaving more than three per week off their early-season average. They’re not beating themselves anymore. Washington stands little chance in pulling off the road shocker, and the Niners’ uptick in discipline makes it even more unlikely.
This is a critical game for RG3, who was unexpectedly slammed by his own coach before Jay Gruden went back to his characteristic fence-straddling self. Griffin has not been good, but more importantly he doesn’t appear to be getting any better. Progress against Chris Borland, Aldon Smith & Co. will be hard to come by, though finding Desean Jackson would be a good place to start. $1000 on the home team.
49ers 34, Ethnic Slurs 19
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears (-5.5): It’s Lovie Smith’s return to Chicago, the city where he was a mediocre-at-best coach for far too long. The Bears replaced him with another apparently mediocre-at-best coach in Marc Trestman, unfortunately. It’s also the homecoming for Bucs QB Josh McCown, who was better than Jay Cutler in relief of the injured Bears QB a year ago. McCown won’t be fazed by the cold and wind, or the toothless Chicago back seven. Even though Lance Briggs played well last week, this Bears unit still has major holes all over the place. They’re going to have serious problems with dynamic rookie wideout Mike Evans, who looks like he fits right in with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery physically.
The problem for Tampa is that their own defense also stinks. Trestman will be able to easily pick up on Smith’s predictable tendencies, and the Bears also have the virtue of Matt Forte and a running offense. The Bucs don’t have that amongst their meager list of assets. $500 on the Bears to cover.
Bears 30, Buccaneers 17
- Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons (-3.5): This game marks Josh Gordon’s return to the Browns lineup after his most recent drug-related suspension. The NFL’s leader in receiving yards last year, it remains to be seen how quickly he can get back to his old self. It was encouraging to hear he took his car sales job seriously during his mandated time away, and he’s had quite a bit of time to get over his chronic stoner physiological addiction.
He gets a favorable matchup in his first game back. In fact, he could be poised for a big day because this game could wind up being a “last score wins” kind of affair. The first-place (at 4-6) Falcons have major issues in pass coverage. They rank 29th in Pro Football Focus pass coverage rankings and they get little help from an anemic pass rush. Brian Hoyer can’t look nearly as bad as he did in last week’s putrid loss…right?
I really like the message Browns coach Mike Pettine sent by dismissing perennially disgruntled RB Ben Tate. I think it will resonate in the locker room, where Tate had few advocates. Remember, this is a guy who openly complained about being behind Arian Foster in Houston when Foster was leading the league in rushing. Browns players will respect the smart decision, and I think between that and the Gordon bump they pull off the road win. Atlanta is never an easy place to visit but these Falcons just aren’t that good.
Browns 27, Falcons 24
- New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-4.5): The story here isn’t the game, it’s the snow. As of Thursday morning Ralph Wilson Stadium was filled with more than six feet of snow, and more was on the way. If the community can get this stadium ready for Sunday’s game, the Bills deserve to win.
Bills 14, Jets 9
- Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (+3): The rested Cowboys have a chance to pick up a critical NFC victory as they jockey for playoff positioning. The Giants have not quit on Tom Coughlin, but they’re not exactly crashing through cement for the venerable old coach either. Sometimes it can come down to something as simple as the date of the game, and I think that matters here: Tony Romo is 27-6 in November, while Eli Manning is 16-23. Romo finds ways to win in this month, while Manning is at his worst. I smell a big fantasy week for Dez Bryant. I also smell one for New York’s Odell Beckham, but he might be the only Giant to find the end zone in this one.
Cowboys 29, Giants 13
- Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints (-3): Somewhat surprisingly the Baltimore Ravens have quietly accrued the AFC’s second-best point differential at +80 on the season. They’ve accomplished much of that by pounding NFC South opponents. Baltimore is 3-0 against the NFL’s weakest division, beating Carolina 38-10, Tampa Bay 48-17 and Atlanta 29-7. That’s +81 in three games, meaning the rest of their season is pretty much a wash. I have a hard time seeing the Saints play so poorly once again under the spotlight at home in a game they really need to win, but Drew Brees is really going to miss Brandon Cooks. Baltimore’s defense will give Brees enough problems that Joe Flacco can outgun him.
Ravens 33, Saints 28
49ers -8.5 for $1000
Bears -5.5 for $500
Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins, IQ
By Christopher Reina
Our NFL Team Rankings are based entirely on the The Trench Counter, which is an objective formula measuring average yards per pass and run on both offense and defense, along with first downs registered and given up, turnovers for and against, and total penalty yards.
Over time, The Trench Counter rankings begin to closely resemble the standings but goes even further to determine which teams are truly the best when on the line of scrimmage.
The chief aim of the Trench Counter is to take the subjective out of the equation and even the somewhat fluky nature of teams actually scoring points, which is of course the whole point on a game-by-game basis.
The NFC has become extremely crowded with the Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys fighting over the two Wild Card spots beyond the division titles they're also vying for.
Looking at their remaining schedule, here's their projected records assuming the likely favorites in each game win out and a game against the Raiders projected as a win is a lot different than a projected win against one of these teams.
If the Seahawks do go 3-3 over their remaining games, it will come down to the 49ers and Lions for that final Wild Card spot.
Week 11 Rankings
1. Miami Dolphins: 8.0
2. Green Bay Packers: 6.5
3. Baltimore Ravens: 5.2
4. San Francisco 49ers: 5.0
5. Arizona Cardinals: 4.8
6. Denver Broncos: 4.7
7. Seattle Seahawks: 4.4
8. Dallas Cowboys: 3.2
9. New Orleans Saints: 2.9
10. New England Patriots: 2.7
11. Kansas City Chiefs: 2.5
12. Indianapolis Colts: 1.6
13. Cleveland Browns: 1.6
14. Houston Texans: 1.6
15. Detroit Lions: 0.8
16. Philadelphia Eagles: 0.2
17. Cincinnati Bengals: 0.1
18. Washington: -0.2
19. San Diego Chargers: -0.4
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: -0.6
21. Buffalo Bills: -0.8
22. Minnesota Vikings: -1.1
23. Chicago Bears: -1.7
24. Atlanta Falcons: -2.0
25. Carolina Panthers: -3.9
26. Jacksonville Jaguars: -4.5
27. New York Giants: -4.8
28. Tennessee Titans: -5.5
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: -5.5
30. New York Jets: -6.7
31. St. Louis Rams: -7.8
32. Oakland Raiders: -9.8
San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, IQ
By Jeff Risdon
$.01--The Green Bay Packers entered the weekend on the outside of the NFC playoff picture looking in with Aaron Rodgers’ bemused, sardonic grin. It took them about five minutes to throw open the sash and defiantly plant a flag square in the middle of the room that they are indeed a force to be reckoned with.
The resurgent Packers stormed out to a 30-6 halftime lead, doing whatever their hearts desired against the NFC East-leading Eagles. It was the fourth straight time the Packers have scored at least 28 points in the first half of games at home, a new record.
They scored in a variety of ways against Philly. Aaron Rodgers threw for three TDs, finding Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Eddie Lacy. The big running back also bagged a rushing touchdown. Micah Hyde returned a punt 75 yards for another. Casey Hayward ran back a fumble 49 yards for paydirt. Julius Peppers picked off an overwhelmed Mark Sanchez and took that 53 yards to the house. About the only thing the Packers didn’t do well was extra points, as they had one abortive effort and another blocked.
Rodgers is not so subtly asserting himself as the league’s MVP. He’s on a marvelous run since his famous R-E-L-A-X speech. In the last two weeks, both home games, Rodgers has completed 40-of-63 for 656 yards and 9 TDs, with no interceptions. Averaging over 10 yards per pass is absolutely ridiculous, yet Rodgers seems to be making it look easy.
The defense continues to come around, too. Moving Clay Matthews inside has provided a nice wrinkle that helps remedy the biggest weakness on the team, the up-the-gut toughness. It’s hard to make too much of the Green Bay defense in this one, playing against a backup quarterback while holding a huge early lead. But the fact they didn’t relent has to be encouraging for Packer Backers.
$.02--One of the teams now chasing the Packers for an NFC playoff spot is the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. Pete Carroll’s crew fell a game off the Wild Card pace with a 24-20 loss in Kansas City.
If you’re one of those people who loves to argue about which player at a position is better, this game featured an epic tilt at running back: Jamaal Charles vs. Marshawn Lynch. The verdict goes to Charles on this day. Kansas City’s elusive stud thrashed the injury-ravaged Seattle defense for 159 yards and two TDs. Charles averaged 8 yards per carry and had several runs where he wasn’t touched before getting well into the secondary.
Lynch was no slouch, putting up an impressive line of 124 yards on 24 carries. But he failed twice on critical fourth downs late in the game as the Chiefs keyed on his every little twitch. When the Chiefs held once again on yet another fourth down, forcing Russell Wilson to throw a wild scrambling pass, Kansas City notched a big win over a marquee opponent.
The Chiefs have won five in a row, but other than a close shave against what has proven to be a fading Chargers team to kick it off the strength of schedule hasn’t exactly been impressive. In beating Seattle, Andy Reid’s team proved their formula can work against another playoff-caliber squad.
Of course, if the season ended today the Seahawks would not be in the playoffs. The loss dropped them to 6-4, leaving them looking up at 7-3 teams in both the NFC East and North that will not win their respective divisions. Injuries have hurt them, but the loss of depth as players looked to cash in on the Super Bowl buzz makes it even worse. When Brandon Mebane, their best run stuffer up front, went down with an injury, they don’t have anyone to fill his considerable shoes. The best run stuffer from last year was Red Bryant, now a Jacksonville Jaguar.
If Seattle does make it into the playoffs, they will have earned it. Their upcoming schedule is ominous: Arizona, at San Francisco, at Philly, San Francisco, at Arizona, St. Louis. They will likely have to win at least four, but probably five of those remaining six games to earn the right to defend their crown.
$.03--The St. Louis Rams provided this week’s “Any Given Sunday” outcome, as the Rams shocked everyone by drubbing Peyton Manning and the Broncos 22-7. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone; almost 99% of more than 400K folks picking games at ESPN’s fantasy game had the Broncos. Almost 84% had the visitors covering the 9.5-point spread.
The Rams defense was one step ahead of Manning and the walking wounded Denver offense all afternoon. The Rams bagged just two sacks but consistently moved Manning off his desired launch point. They also showed excellent recognition of where he was going, getting their grubby little mitts on 13 of his passes. Two of those were interceptions, one a great play by linebacker Alec Ogletree.
This continues one of the more freakish runs in recent times. The Rams are not a good team, certainly not on offense. But they continue to beat good teams:
This is a team that lost 34-6 to the Vikings. They gave up 21 points in less than 5 minutes in losing to Arizona in Week 10. They gained a total of 200 yards in a 34-7 loss at Kansas City. Yet here they go legitimately beating the high-flying Broncos. Denver was without both Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas for most of the game, no small losses to their explosive offense. Yet they never appeared in sync against an aggressive Rams defense that flew all over the field. They also quietly tamed Denver’s running game, 28 yards on just 10 carries as the Broncos went without their top two RBs.
If you’re worried about Denver, don’t fret. Jeff Fisher teams always seem to give Manning trouble for whatever reason. They got their clunker out of the way early enough to regroup and refocus for a strong playoff surge. But (there’s always a but, and it’s not a Kardashian either), the next two weeks are no picnic. Miami is good enough to win in Denver if they bring their A game, and a trip to frigid Kansas City could wind up being for the AFC West lead.
$.04--The football weekend kicked off in Miami, where the host Dolphins pulled away from the rival Buffalo Bills in what sure appeared to be an AFC playoff elimination game. The 22-9 win was a real gut check for a Dolphins team teetering on the line between viable playoff contender in the topsy-turvy AFC and underwhelming disappointment.
The meter was pegged pretty hard to the latter when I tuned in shortly after halftime after my snow-lined drive home from my son’s basketball games (He posted 31 points, 16 boards, 11 steals and a gasp-inducing block in splitting two games). Buffalo’s Dan Carpenter nailed a long field goal to pull ahead 9-3 midway through the third quarter. The Bills defensive line was shutting down Miami’s short-range offense. With the season on the line, Ryan Tannehill responded. The young QB found his rhythm and led a huge TD drive. Miami’s defense then turned it up, scoring a controversial safety when Kyle Orton heaved a pass in the general direction of where Sammy Watkins was supposed to be. Even though Jarvis Landry fumbled away the ensuing free kick, Carpenter missed a field goal and the rookie wideout redeemed himself with a great touchdown plunge.
The Dolphins are a dangerous team if they get into the playoffs. Nobody wants to play that defensive front, which brings pressure off both sides and doesn’t allow yards between the tackles. When their secondary and running backs are playing well--both are talented but inconsistent--they can beat any team they would face in the Wild Card round. Tannehill continues to impress in his development, other than his strange apathy towards avoiding sacks. They’ll be challenged next week in traveling to Denver, but other than a trip to New England they will be favored in every other remaining game. Ten wins probably gets them in, as long as they are not tied head-to-head with Kansas City, which beat them.
For Buffalo, this game perfectly illustrated why Kyle Orton was on the street when they signed him to be their starter. It’s why he has disappointed and washed out of other chances. When his team really needs him to be at his best, he never rises to the challenge. I would switch back to E.J. Manuel just to see if it’s worth going forward with him, but I doubt Doug Marrone and his desperate staff will do that as they cling to the slimmest of playoff lifelines.
$.05--It was quite a week for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton. Earlier in the week, his wife gave birth to their first child. On Sunday, he accomplished a number of other positives:
- Leading a 14-6 win against the team that drafted him, the Detroit Lions.
- First career 300-yard passing game, over half of which came in the first quarter
- Quieting the skeptics who question if the Cards can keep winning with Stanton in for the injured Carson Palmer
The win improved Arizona to a league-best 9-1, dropping the Lions to 7-3. With Philadelphia’s loss, the Cardinals now hold a full two-game lead for the #1 seed in the NFC. They hold a three-game advantage over both Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West.
They did this one with two good drives at the start of the game and a defense that allowed those 14 quick points to stand up. Detroit’s offense was discombobulated all afternoon, unable to attack down the field or sustain drives. It was the first game without an offensive touchdown in five years for Detroit. The Lions defense clamped down hard after those first two drives--neither team scored in the second half--but Arizona Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles was a step ahead of Lions Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi all day.
This was the second week in a row where the officiating in a Lions game was completely unacceptable. I delved into that here at Bleacher Report, and I’d rather not get my blood pressure up once again rehashing it. Jerome Boger’s crew is not the reason Detroit lost the game, but their ponderous ineptitude certainly played a role in why Detroit couldn’t come back to win it, as they had done in the three previous games.
$.06--A bad team is going to win the NFC South. I can’t tell you which one of Atlanta, Carolina or New Orleans it will be, but if any of those three makes it to seven wins, the crown is theirs.
New Orleans has now dropped two in a row at home, where they hadn’t lost with Sean Payton at the helm in over two years. Cincinnati bounced back from an atrocious game at home against the Browns to overwhelm a flat Saints team. Drew Brees seemed incapable of attacking down the field and the Saints never picked up the offensive pace even when trailing 20-3 late in the third quarter. They limped to the finish on the wrong end of a 27-10 loss that says a lot more about New Orleans than it does the schizophrenic Bengals.
Atlanta and Carolina played a game of “which of us sucks less” on a cold, sloppy day in Charlotte. That dubious question was answered when Carolina’s Graham Gano missed a potential 44-yard game-winning field goal with 1:22 left. Miraculously, Gano got another shot from beyond 60 yards with one second left. That one was tipped at the line and didn’t make it past the 20. The two teams were so mad at their collective ineptitude that they brawled during the game. Atlanta is now 4-0 against division foes…and hasn’t beaten anyone outside the division. In looking at their schedule, they might not get one. It’s crazy but they might not even need one!
The best team in the division on this day was Tampa Bay, now 2-8 after going into Washington and clobbering RG3 and the Ethnic Slurs 27-7. All that accomplished for the Buccaneers was to take them out of the running for the #1 overall pick. A pyrrhic victory if there ever was one, though the two teams now worse than them (Oakland and Jacksonville) both already have their QBs of the future.
$.07--Saturday was a pretty momentous day for college football, so it earns a bonus cent this week. Specifically, Florida State and Miami’s instant classic from Saturday night really captured my attention.
I very rarely have any rooting interest in college football, honestly. But on this night I really wanted to see The U. pull off the upset. I even picked it to happen. It’s not any Seminole hatred; I just want there to be playoff chaos, and Florida State losing would open up viable arguments for about 8-9 more schools in the mix.
It sure looked like it was going to happen for most of the night. Miami, led by a true freshman QB, stormed out to an early lead and was the better team than the mistake-prone Seminoles. Brad Kaaya looked poised well beyond his years in picking apart the dead area between zone layers over the middle. Those are tough throws against a talent-laden defense, and the Canes were rolling.
Just as they do seemingly every week, Florida State and Jameis Winston rallied. Their offensive line played better. The running game perked up. The safeties started playing shallower to disrupt those Kaaya strikes. A couple of special teams gaffes really hurt Miami, notably a horribly shanked short field goal. Florida State’s own kicker, Roberto Aguayo, showed again why he’s a legit 4th-5th round draft prospect as an underclassmen.
And with that win, the Seminoles continue to remain a fixture in the inaugural CFB playoff. Close wins are better than close losses. Florida State’s ability to persevere despite being well behind in so many games tells me they’re going to be a tough out. I’ll take them over every team except a healthy Oregon team, which I think can put enough points up while the Noles struggle to actually put them away.
--Kansas City snapped Seattle’s impressive string of 28 games in a row without allowing the opponent to score on its opening drive.
--My perfect Survivor fantasy football season is over. I had the Ethnic Slurs this week, but they laid a giant egg in getting pummeled at home by a bad Tampa Bay team.
--San Francisco escaped from New York thanks to five Eli Manning INTs. It was easier for Snake Pliskin to get out of the Big Apple triumphantly. Fitting that Jim Harbaugh fancies himself as “Brain”. I wonder if his wife looks like Adrienne Barbeau…?
--J.J. Watt caught another touchdown pass in Houston’s surprisingly easy win in Cleveland. It harkened to his tight end days, a beautiful fade from Ryan Mallett over the defender and sticking both feet down as he tumbled to the ground cradling the ball. He now has four TDs on the year, two on offense. He won’t win MVP but he’s the best defensive player in the league by an ever-widening margin.
--It came out during the late afternoon games as a simple blurb, but the news of the DEA raiding locker rooms in regards to potential misuse of pain killers might wind up being the most significant development of the football weekend. Stay tuned…
I’m still trying to sort out all this playoff slotting and jockeying. Here’s the way I see it:
--If Alabama wins out, they’re in. If they lose to Auburn and Mississippi State wins out, the Bulldogs are in. If they both win out, they’re both in.
--Oregon is in if they win out. The Arizona State loss to Oregon State (?!) weakens the Pac-12 argument enough that the Ducks will have to win out to make it.
--Duke’s loss to Virginia Tech kills any chance for Florida State to absorb a loss. The ACC is so bad behind the Noles.
In trying to concoct a way for Ohio State to make it, I came up with one:
Alabama loses to Auburn
Mississippi State loses to Ole Miss
The SEC East Champ (Missouri?) beats the SEC West champ
TCU loses to Texas
Baylor loses to Kansas State
Oregon loses the Pac-12 title game
Four of the above five must happen, and then Ohio State blows out Michigan and then beats Wisconsin in the B1G title game to get into the 4-team dance.
Whew, that was complicated. I need some herbal tea or something…
$.10--One of the reactions I get a lot when people find out what I do for a living is getting peppered with questions about my workday. In that vein, I decided to write out a week of my work. Here is how I spent the last working week, Saturday to Saturday:
12-3 pm--surfed around the early CFB games, typically watching two drives at a time per game. Primary focus was Baylor/Oklahoma.
3:30 pm-12:15 am--camped out at Buffalo Wild Wings watching games and taking 4 pages of notes, most from Notre Dame/ASU and LSU/Bama. Met some Twitter followers and some new friends. Taxi home after Ohio State/Michigan State ends.
10:30 am--write tenth cent while watching Face the Nation, do quick mock draft for 9th cent. Eat lunch.
11:45 am-1pm--surf between pregame shows, take notes & look for tidbits on social media about games.
1-4:20 pm--Lions game, watching NFL Game Mix during commercial breaks. Wind up with 3 pages of notes. Briefly collapse in joyous bliss from comeback win.
4:30-6:45 pm--with game mix on, write postgame piece for Bleacher Report. Flesh out several cents, overhauling one draft that wasn’t working.
6:45-7:45 pm--focus on Cardinals/Rams game, finally eat something. Finish one cent and good progress on two others during the game.
7:45-8:30 pm--acknowledge my family is still alive, preoccupied interactions. Exchange texts with elated Lions staffer.
8:30 pm-1:05 am--finish the $.10 while watching the SNF game with moderate attention.
1:10-2:55 am--write Lions game takeaways for Bleacher Report. Celebrate end of long day with giant bowl of ice cream.
6:45-8 am--up with the kids, who are off from school for conferences.
8-11:30 am--rewatch Lions game, read various columns to get caught up. Kids watch Wild Kratts & play on iPads and periodically interact, primarily demanding food.
11:30-1:15 pm--basketball at the gym. I did not play well. Follow this with hot tub down time, shower & lunch.
3:30-5:30--outline Bleacher Report column, watch more of the Lions game for specific plays. Kids play at neighbors’ houses. I play some Little Alchemist on iPad.
5:30-6:15--kids get home, hang with them and make dinner, take son to basketball practice. Wife mercifully rescues me from whiny 6-year-old daughter.
6:45--11:45 pm--watch MNF until it’s an obvious blowout, finish up Bleacher Report piece. Celebrate end of work with two cheese sticks. Fell asleep around 12:30.
7:30 am--kids off from school again, they let me sleep in. The little angels!
9:15--neighbor kid comes over, plays with daughter for next three hours. Silly little girls having fun. Son continues to play on iPad and eats entire box of Honey Nut Cheerios.
9:45-11:45--outline today’s B/R piece & weekly Football Meteorology pieces, listening to Tony Kornheiser radio show. Play some Little Alchemist too.
12-4 pm--after lunch, watch Kansas State/TCU and Oregon/Utah games and take notes. Periodic interaction with children, who are in and out with various friends in tow.
4-5:30 pm--parent/teacher conferences. My kids be smart!
6-8 pm--hang out in coffee shop and finish B/R piece. Cute brunette barista keeps topping off my coffee so I don’t have to get up. Score!
9-10:30--volleyball. Despite having just 3 in a 4s league, my team wins 4 of 6. I haven’t played that well in a long time. Celebratory ice cream when I get home.
11-1:30--watch two Cardinals games on NFL Game Rewind while I come down from post-game buzz. They’re impressive.
8:30-11:30 am--after kids get off to school, watch more Cardinals and mentally outline weekly game plan piece for B/R. Streaming Spotify the whole time, new Dream Theater live album kicks butt.
11:30-1 pm--basketball at the gym. I play well early but tail off as hamstring flares up. Great fun talking to my gym friends.
1:30-4 pm--watch Old Dominion/Vanderbilt and Arizona State/Washington games and take notes. Cleaning out the DVR. Really like ODU QB Taylor Heinicke & UW DT Danny Shelton. Vandy frosh RB catches my eye.
4:00 and 4:35--radio spots
7-11:30 pm--produce B/R game plan piece. It’s one of my best ones in the last two years. Celebrate with big bowl of ice cream, but curses we’re out of chocolate sauce. Play Little Alchemist & go to bed listening to the John Batchelor show.
8:30--11:30 am--wrap up Football Meteorology piece. Celebrate with a burrito bowl and a Pepsi, a rare soda treat for me.
12:30-4 pm--begin work on a scouting piece (you’ll see it Tuesday) while watching Utah/USC. Exchange texts & emails with two different NFL scouts for their perspectives.
4:15--radio spot with ESPN Hawaii, wish it was in-studio spot as the snow begins to fall
5:30-9:30 pm--son’s 4th grade travel basketball games in Grand Rapids. He plays pretty well but gets too frustrated with himself and one bad official. Team wins three of the four halves but the one they lost was brutal. Layne scores 14 points in final half in leading great team effort to make game respectable. Get friendly handshakes from opposing team parents for my kid. Insanely proud of him.
I always turn off the football brain from the end of the Thursday night game until my Friday 3 pm radio spot on ESPN Grand Rapids. On this day I went cold turkey and watched zero football, spent the day doing family stuff and house work, played some Little Alchemist. Did outline this $.10 piece and wrote the TNF cent. Celebrated “off’ day by splitting giant bowl of pudding with my daughter.
9:30-11:15 am-- rewatch last week’s Ohio State/Michigan State game and take notes, listening to Dari & Mel on ESPN Radio.
12-3:30 pm--watch Ohio State/Minnesota and take notes. Impressed with Gophers RB David Cobb and TE Maxx Williams, OSU QB J.T. Barrett stands out too.
3:30 pm-1:30 am--surf around games, taking 5+ pages of notes. Primary foci were Wisconsin/Nebraska, Florida State/Miami and Arizona State/Oregon State. Melvin Gordon, wow. Celebrate end of work week with three sticks of string cheese.
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