NYJ 26 @ CLE 20
The Jets’ inconsistent play this year and the Brown’s upset of the Patriots last week made this a must watch game. Prior to the start of the season no one would have guessed that this titanic sumo match between the Ryan twins would actually be a tremendous measuring stick for both teams.
From the beginning, the Browns and their fans brought the same emotion to the game that we saw last week against the Patriots. Browns’ fans were especially focused on making former first round pick Braylon Edwards uncomfortable booing him during warm-ups and cheering him when he dropped catches (you gotta love Cleveland).
The emotion propelled the Browns to score a touchdown on their first offensive possession, but unlike the Patriots, the Jets came prepared for a challenge and methodically restored balance to the game negating the Browns’ emotions.
It was similar to watching a fight between a young upstart and grizzled veteran, except neither team could find that knockout punch in regulation.
Colt McCoy impressed again, and was the difference maker in regulation for the Browns this week, not Payton Hillis. However, it was Mark Sanchez who spoiled McCoy’s heroic role, continuously avoiding pocket pressure and making accurate throws, which included the game winner in OT.
Injuries to key personally for the Browns, like Josh Cribbs, may have hampered their original game plan, but great teams find a way to win. Lead by Sanchez’s inspired play, the Jets time and again did the little things that insured their victory.
STL 20 @ SF 23
I’m surprising myself by writing in-depth about this game, but this classic NFC West match-up turned out to be another Sunday over-time thriller with a story of redemption.
Let’s be honest, for the first six weeks of the season the 49ers were a confounding team to watch. The honeymoon period for Mike Singletary was over and the never ending Alex Smith experiment wasn’t quite clicking, again. Enter Alex Smith’s injury against the Panthers, surprisingly poor play from David Carr (this guy’s brain must be mush from concussions and nightmares of blitzing defenses), and a guy getting a second chance.
One of the many reasons to love the NFL is second chances and the Niners’ quarterback Troy Smith is slowly becoming another great story of redemption. Having lost his chance to be a starting quarterback due to injury/sickness and cut by the Ravens this September, Smith found himself thrust back into a starting job by circumstance.
Making the most of his second chance, Smith has the Niners’ offense humming at a level seldom, if ever, seen during the Alex Smith era. Specifically the Troy Smith lead offense on Sunday continually made plays, exuding a resiliency and positive can-do attitude.
As for the game itself, the Rams played a hardnosed game and received another impressive showing from rookie Sam Bradford, including a last minute scoring drive that sent the game in overtime. That said San Francisco should have easily walked away with the win. The Niners had 3 touchdowns and an interception overturned by self inflicted penalties.
In the end San Francisco’s defense impressively stopped the Rams opening over-time drive and Smith marched the Niners down the field for the game winning field goal.
This was only Troy Smith’s third NFL start, but you can readily see the difference he provides to the Niners’ offense and the possibility of leading this team out of the cellar towards a .500 mark.
Coach Singletary and Niners president Jed York might have actually been correct when they stated a few weeks ago that the team would still win the division, but I have no doubt that they never expected their third string quarterback to be leading the charge.
CIN 17 @ IND 23
The banged up Colts walked away with another victory largely do to their defense, which scored two touchdowns. Overall, the Bengals kept pace with the Colts and had their chances, but you really have to wonder if Cincinnati will be looking for a new QB is off-season with Palmer throwing three detrimental interceptions.
MIN 13 @ CHI 27
Another mule must have kicked Mike Martz in the head, because he seemed to have finally made offensive adjustments that provided wide open targets for Cutler to throw to. Success in the passing attack and the inspired special teams play by Devin Hester, made for an easy win against an offensively inept Vikings team.
Frankly, the only Minnesota players who looked like they cared were on the defensive side. The offense looked like they had quit and Favre, focused as ever, was cracking jokes with Brian Urlacher while the game was still in question. You stay classy Minnesota.
Typical for Houston, a slow first half left them with a 17-3 deficit. Moving the ball almost at will during the second half, the Texans found themselves in the position to win the game at the end of regulation. Unfortunately, Houston bumbled with a fumble, which provided the Jaguars’ with one last Hail Mary pass to win the game for the weekend’s best finish:
TEN 17 @ MIA 29
This was a strange game in which the fieriness of both head coaches bled into a strange desperation for first Miami and then later Tennessee. Quarterbacks were dropping like flies and unbelievably it was third string quarterback Tyler Thigpen who was the hero and closed out the game for the Dolphins.
CAR 16 @ TB 31
This was the lock of the week pick and the Buccaneers didn’t fail me. Good teams are supposed to beat bad teams and this is exactly what Tampa did. John Fox is clearly out after this season, but probably won’t be fired, because it wouldn’t really make a difference.
DET 12 @ BUF 14
Buffalo’s performance was no different than the team’s last four games…a gritty, hard fought contest. However, this time the Bills were playing an emotionally depleted Detroit Lions and for once this season they made the plays, got the breaks, and now have a one game winning streak.
KC 29 @ DEN 49
The Chiefs were left as confused as Jean Girard in Talladega Nights, as the Broncos opened up their version of ‘Shake and Bake’ on the Kansas City defense. Kyle Orton guided lowly Denver to a 35-0 lead in the second quarter and never looked back.
DAL 33 @ NYG 20
Of course, right when you buy into the Giants they turn around and lay an egg against a supposedly talented Dallas team that here-to-fore had been an embarrassment. Giving up big plays throughout the game, the Giants made Jason Garrett look like a genius. Giants’ fans have a right to be over and done with Coughlin’s coaching and the below average play of Eli Manning.
SEA 36 @ Ari 18
Nothing surprising….the Cardinals somewhat inspired play from last week, was followed by a return to mediocrity. There is no clearer endorsement of Kurt Warner’s place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame than the Cardinals having no relevancy this season.
Seattle is clearly a better team with Matt Hasselbeck under center, but I have a hard time believing that they will beat out a rejuvenated Niners or a strong Rams team to win the division.
NE 39 @ PIT 26
The degree to which New England dominated this game was somewhat surprising. The Patriots were bound to bounce back from their loss to the Browns, but their complete control of the game’s momentum left the Steelers without an answer and their fans packing up early in the 4th quarter. Pencil the Pats in for another AFC Championship game.