Not a bad week. Shoulda gone to Vegas. I wonder what a 12 pack pays straight up?
This was the week that the AFC North teams all believed the hype about themselves or their opponent and fell to pieces. The Steelers, Bengals and Browns all played on the road and thought they’d run roughshod over the Chiefs, Raiders and Lions. Every one of them had a rude awakening.
For the Bengals, the loss could be the beginning of the end. This is the second time this season that the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals have lost following big games in the division. On the heels of an early season win over Baltimore, the Bengals promptly lost at home to the Houston Texans. Yesterday, the Bengals were fresh off a physical win at Pittsburgh. They lost at the Raiders.
Note: The Raiders have beaten the Eagles and Bengals. They played the Chargers to a near draw. They’ve split two contests with the Chiefs. At 3-7, the Raiders remaining games are the type of games where they’ve played to the level of their competition all season. Week 12 — at Dallas. Week 13 — at Pittsburgh.
The Bengals were supposed to be in the “catbird seat.” In the next two weeks, they play Cleveland and Detroit. (You have to love the symmetry of the NFL schedule.) After that, they go on the road to face Minnesota and San Diego in consecutive weeks. What looked like a glamorous dance ticket featuring a 10-2 Bengal team vs. an 11-win Viking team lost a bit of luster yesterday. Cincinnati needs to get back to the form that allowed them to put up 45 on the declawed Bears.
As for the Steelers, there are two ways of looking at yesterday’s loss to the Chiefs. Let’s take the “best case scenario” first. “We lost to a team we should have beaten by 40 points. We dominated nearly every phase of the game. We didn’t lose any real ground in the playoff race because the Bengals lost, and because we still hold tie-breakers over the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos.” That’s the good news and embracing it would be foolish, at best.
The worst-case scenario goes like this: “Are you KIDDING ME?!?!? Three turnovers AGAIN! Special teams touchdown AGAIN!! QB knocked out of the game with Baltimore up next week!! Chris Chambers? Really? Matt Cassel? Jamaal Charles? Really?”
I missed the pick on both of these games, but I had a feeling that both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh could lose these games. The Steelers never play well in Arrowhead. The Bengals seldom play well in Oakland. After beating up on one another last week, it was natural to expect a let down…a loss of focus…an inattention to detail — and that’s what happened.
I went 12-12 on the rest of the picks…so it wasn’t a total loss.
Quick run down:
- Dallas 7, Washington 6. Washington’s pass defense is better than advertised. The Cowboys were able to win this war of attrition because they ran the ball 34 times and because the Redskins don’t have playmakers on offense. I thought it would close, but not that close. Two weeks of scoring a single touchdown in the final 3 minutes — nervous time in Big D at 7-3.
- Arizona 21, St. Louis 13. Arizona is doing exactly what they need to do — build confidence in their running game. 184 yards vs. the Rams is commendable. The Cardinals are beating the teams they are supposed to beat and they’re beating the teams they’re not supposed to beat. The defending conference champion is sitting pretty — even without a healthy Kurt Warner.
- Indianapolis 17, Baltimore 15. I don’t know what Ed Reed was thinking. I don’t know what Joe Flacco was thinking. The Ravens simply aren’t good enough to play this way. They’re not.
- Detroit 38, Cleveland 37. Riveting, exciting, down to the wire…just like I pictured it! Not exactly. I am a believer in Matthew Stafford and have been since I actually watched him play an entire game. The Lions have a lot of work to do, and they have to convince ownership that having a winner in Motown is worthwhile. The Ford family would rather lose and take the tax deduction.
- Green Bay 30, San Francisco 24. If this game was played in San Francisco, the score would probably have been reversed. Green Bay is on the outside looking in, but they hold tiebreakers over the Dallas Cowboys. The Packers have beaten every likely playoff team in the NFC except the Vikings. They play Arizona in Week 17. That game should decide their fate. If Dallas doesn’t win the NFC East, remember what happened between those 2 in Week 10.
- Jacksonville 18, Buffalo 15. Mediocrity and anonymity. Shush! Congrats to Mr. Owens who proved he can still do a little something-something. 9 catches for 197 yards and a score is outstanding production. According to nfl.com: (Jaguar WR, Mike) Sims-Walker asked Owens for his jersey after the game. Owens obliged, pulling it off and graciously handing it over with a smile near midfield. “Might show I’m washed up,” Owens joked. “I take it as a compliment that I can still play this game.”
- Minnesota 35, Seattle 9. The Seahawks are not a good team. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how they beat Jacksonville 41-0. Minnesota is a well-oiled machine right now. If you cannot stop the run and get pressure without blitzing, you’re not beating the Vikings.
- New York Giants 34, Atlanta 31 (OT). I told you that Jason Snelling would take care of business. The Falcons still miss Michael Turner, but they had their chances. Giants just got off life support. The Falcons have lost to the Giants and Eagles. The scheduling gods have been kind — sort of. In Weeks 13 and 14, the Dirty Birds host the Eagles (Welcome Home, Mr. Vick) and the Saints. If the Falcons invest as much emotional energy in that tilt vs. the Eagles as I suspect, they will get steam-rolled by the Saints and ousted from the playoffs. They’ll need to entice Philly into passing the ball 50 or 60 times and hope for an easy game.
- New Orleans 38, Tampa Bay 7. When the Saints run the rock, they are as tough as nails. Mike Bell finishes runs well enough to play for the Dolphins :). Next week’s game vs. New England is going to be a classic. As long as Payton remembers that Belichick is going to take away his three favorite options: Pierre Thomas on first down, Marques Colston deep, and Shockey on 3rd and short, the Saints should be fine. BTW, Colston will still be open deep. The Brady-Sharper matchup will be great.
- San Diego 32, Denver 3. Didn’t everyone just know that San Diego was going to maul Denver? Sure you did. I gave the Broncos too much credit. I thought they’d be able to muster one touchdown. San Diego will be representing the AFC West in the playoffs. Denver will be retooling to get bigger and younger on defense after the “Age of Reason” Experiment fails with Brian Dawkins and Ty Law and Blue Beard’s gray beard. (Note: It’s working about as well as it did with John Lynch.)
- New England 31, New York Jets 14. Ay papi, that was sloppy. The Jets usually need the Patriots to be distracted in order to play well against them. Last week’s loss at Indy sharpened the Patriots focus to a razor’s edge. So long Jets. So long Rexy. So long Sexy. The Jets will wait for next year and fade into the AFC East rear view mirror – like a roadside diner serving runny eggs and stale coffee.
- Philadelphia 24, Chicago 20. The Eagles run, the Eagles win…simple. 30 carries. 156 yards. Nice formula.
I should be so lucky next week. 🙂