Things I Noticed from Week 13 in the NFL

Seattle Seahawks (5-7) defeat Philadelphia Eagles (4-8) 31-14

– Vick or no Vick, the Eagles are a mess. After a nice performance last week, backup QB Vince Young (17 for 29, 209 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions) came back down to earth, and couldn’t keep the ball out of the hands of Seattle defenders. A playoff berth is just a fantasy in Philly, but you would think the Eagles would still have a little bit of pride left in them. No disrespect to the Seahawks, but after dubbing his team the “Dream Team”, Vince Young and the rest of the Eagles should have come to play against a weaker team.

– The DeSean Jackson (4 catches, 34 yards) controversy in Eagles land continues to grow. His coach Andy Reid may not like to admit it, but Jackson has emotionally checked out on his team. Whether its due to his contract negotiations or his team underperforming, Jackson just appears to have lost all interest in this season. I suggest Eagles management and Jackson get on the same page, because he is one of the more talented players in the league, and a valuable asset. You definitely want him to be on the same page with what you are doing.

– Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (22 rushes, 148 yards, 2 touchdowns) is on one of the biggest hot streaks of his career right now. He is giving the Seahawks offense an identity, and in a season that is soon drawing to its conclusion, it is something the team can be happy about moving into next year. I am sure the Bills would love to have his services right about now.

New England Patriots (9-3) defeat Indianapolis Colts (0-12) 31-24

Bill Belichick said earlier in the week that defeating the Colts was not going to be as much of a given as one would think. Never doubt the genius, I say. The Colts actually made a game of it. Now it’s hard to say whether it was the Colts playing well, or the Patriots defense not caring in that 21 point 4th quarter. But didn’t it make you believe just a little bit that the Colts could shock the world and win the game?

– What is the secret to Rob Gronkowski’s (5 catches, 64 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 rush, 2 yards, 1 touchdown) success? He now leads the NFL in touchdowns with 13, which is also tied for the most touchdowns by a Tight End in a season. Do you think it has something to do with the “Golden Boy” Tom Brady, or the “golden touch” of porn star Bibi Jones?

– Third-string QB Dan Orlovsky’s (30 for 37, 353 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception) performance Sunday may have signaled the end of the Curtis Painter era in Indianapolis. Despite whatever small success Dan obtains in his career, all I am going to think about when I watch him play is this.

Denver Broncos (7-5) defeat Minnesota Vikings (2-10) 35-32

– “What cha gonna do, when Tim Tebow and all of his Tebow-maniacs run wild on you?!”  Sorry, I got caught up in all of the hype there for a second. Tim Tebow (10 for 15, 202 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 4 rushes, 13 yards) is starting to become the NFL’s version of a modern-day Hulk Hogan. No matter how bad he does during the game, he always comes through in the clutch and emerges victorious. I have to stop picking against this kid, because he is just making me look stupid with each and every improbable win. He proved me wrong on Sunday by winning his first game by actually throwing the ball and not milking his ability to run.  The Broncos are now winners of 5 straight games and share first place in the division with the Oakland Raiders. I’ll still take Hogan over Tebow in a fight any day of the week though.

– The Minnesota Vikings should have never given Donovan McNabb the time of day. Clearly, Christian Ponder (29 for 47, 381 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) was the better option and the future of the franchise from the get-go. Maybe if Ponder was the opening day starter, the Vikings wouldn’t have just 2 wins on the year. They are a bad football team, but a future with Ponder behind center does leave room for optimism.

Tennessee Titans (7-5) defeat Buffalo Bills (5-7) 23-17

– While I may have dubbed the Buffalo Bills the NFL’s biggest surprise during the first-half of the season, they certainly haven’t lived up to that choice over the last 5 games. They haven’t won a game since I wrote that! Did I curse them? Or maybe it’s because Fred Jackson is on the I.R? I think the more likely explanation is that the Buffalo Bills were never as good as they appeared to be.

Chris Johnson (23 rushes, 152 yards, 2 touchdowns) seems to have found his stride. It’s about time too. The highest paid back in the league should be playing up to his contract, and he finally is. The Titans need Johnson to remain on top of his game, because winning the AFC South is still a possibility. With the Texans playing a third-string QB and the Titans having an easy schedule the rest of the way, it wouldn’t shock me to see Tennessee overtake Houston in the division and make the playoffs.

Miami Dolphins (4-8) defeat Oakland Raiders (7-5) 34-14

– I still stand by what I have said in the past about the Dolphins. Winning games this late in the season accomplishes nothing. In fact, it is actually a step backwards. For this team to succeed in the future, they need to find their Quarterback of the future. Matt Moore (13 for 25, 162 passing yards, 1 touchdown) is playing well enough right now, but based on his history, those numbers will not sustain over time. They were better off tanking for a shot at Andrew Luck. Regardless if they can pick Luck or plan on sticking with Moore, they need to address the Quarterback situation in the draft. A future with Matt Moore and Chad Henne as your leader is not the answer. I may be a broken record on the Luck to Miami story, but Miami needs a long-term solution at QB badly. At least this winning streak has bought head coach Tony Sparano (one of the more underrated coaches in the league) another season in Miami.

– The Raiders needed this win more than Miami did. Oakland has to keep up with the Broncos surging momentum in the AFC West, but they failed to do so against a non-playoff team Sunday. The division lead and playoff spot is still up for grabs, but if the Raiders believe themselves to be true contenders in the post-season, then they need to beat teams like the lowly Dolphins. The season is almost over, and every game counts.

New York Jets (7-5) defeat Washington Redskins (4-8) 34-14

– The Washington Redskins need a Quarterback like the Colts need a win. How Rex Grossman (19 for 46, 221 passing yards, 1 interception) still has a job in the NFL baffles me. I think the same divine forces shining down on Tim Tebow must be overseeing Mr. Grossman as well. If not Andrew Luck, then Matt Barkley or Richard Griffin III would look awfully nice wearing the red and yellow next season.

Shonn Greene (22 rushes, 88 yards, 3 touchdowns, 3 catches, 26 yards) is finally emerging as the lead back the Jets always thought he could be. L.T (1 rush, 5 yards, 1 catch, 16 yards) may be gone at the end of the season, so its good that Greene is showing he can hold down the fort for the New York. His 3 touchdowns Sunday were more than he had in all of 2010.

Mark Sanchez (19 for 32, 165 passing yards, 1 touchdown) isn’t overplaying his hand as of late. He is playing “Alex Smith-esque” football by not doing more than is necessary of him. The Jets have the kind of schedule (vs Kansas City, at Philadelphia, vs New York Giants, at Miami) that they could realistically win out and sneak into the playoffs with a Wild-Card spot. If Sanchez continues at this pace and keeps his mistakes to a minimum, that could be a reality.

Houston Texans (9-3) defeat Atlanta Falcons (7-5) 17-10

– Maybe the Texans won’t need to go to Jake Delhomme if the defense keeps playing at this level. Houston’s defense held Atlanta QB Matt Ryan to 42% completion and picked him off twice. Texans third-stringer T.J Yates (12 for 25, 188 passing yards, 1 touchdown) did just enough to get the Texans the win and push their winning streak to 5 games. The defense is good enough to cover up any struggles Yates may have down the road.  It also helped that Atlanta was unable to slow down Arian Foster (31 rushes, 111 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 catches, 41 yards) and Ben Tate (11 rushes, 41 yards).

– You can now add WR Andre Johnson (4 catches, 97 yards) back to the injury list. Houston needs to get Johnson back on the field, because he keeps secondaries honest, and opens up the box for Foster and Tate to run all over teams. Hopefully injuries aren’t the downfall of the Texans, as this is the closest they have ever been to a division title in the Peyton Manning era.

Kansas City Chiefs (5-7) defeat Chicago Bears (7-5) 10-3

Caleb Hanie (11 for 24, 133 passing yards, 3 interceptions) is terrible. News flash there. The Bears are in the midst of a NFC Wild-Card chase, and Quarterback play like what Hanie is giving the Bears isn’t going to cut it. There are already rumors swirling that Donovan McNabb and…..ugh, Brett Favre may be options for the Chicago Bears. McNabb I wouldn’t mind seeing, as he is the hometown boy and may find his spirit lifted playing in the Windy City. As far as Favre goes, the Bears shouldn’t try their luck with him, even if they had no healthy QB options on the roster. I’d rather see a turnover prone Hanie lead the team than see Favre dawn a Bears uniform.

– On top of losing Jay Cutler for the season, the Bears now may be without their team MVP Matt Forte (5 rushes, 12 yards) for 4-6 weeks. Losing Cutler is one thing, but Forte has been 70% of the teams offense the entire year, and was a perennial MVP candidate before spraining his knee. Marion Barber (14 rushes, 44 yards) isn’t going to lead the Bears into the playoffs. They need Forte back, and they need him back as soon as possible.

– The number 1 rule when defending a Hail-Mary pass is to ALWAYS try to knock the ball to the ground. Otherwise, game-winning touchdowns like this will happen.

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) defeat Cincinnati Bengals (7-5) 35-7

The Cincinnati Bengals may be a feel-good story this year, but they have to start winning games within the division if they want to grow into a legitimate post-season threat. They are now 0-3 this year against the Ravens and Steelers. At 7-5, they could still get into the playoffs, but losing 3 games in the division isn’t going to help their chances.

– Is it even possible to be a quiet 9-3 in the NFL? The Pittsburgh Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger (15 for 23, 176 passing yards, 2 touchdowns) are putting themselves in prime position for the playoffs, and can be a sneaky pick to make it to the Super Bowl.

– Will Mike Wallace (3 catches, 38 yards, 2 touchdowns) ever get his just due? He is much more than a deep-ball threat. I have him up their with the Calvin Johnson’s, Larry Fitzgeralds and Greg Jennings of the league as one of the best receivers in Football today.

Carolina Panthers (4-8) defeat Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8) 38-19

– I find it very amusing that on Saturday, I write a column about how I believe Andy Dalton deserves to be NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year over Cam Newton. Then on Sunday, Cam Newton decides to break the NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a Quarterback and lights up the Buccaneers for 38 points (12 for 21, 204 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 14 rushes, 54 yards, 3 touchdowns). I believe I was right in picking Dalton earlier as his team is more likely to make the playoffs, but I can’t deny Newton anymore. His numbers are legendary and with the Bengals struggles as of late, I don’t see why Newton won’t run away with the award.

– What happened to LeGarrette Blount (11 rushes, 19 yards) yesterday? For the past 2 weeks, he has rushed for two 100 yard games against stout defenses in Green Bay and Tennessee, but he couldn’t even rush for 20 on the ground against the lowly Panthers? His play resembles that of the entire team; uninspired and inconsistent.

Baltimore Ravens (9-3) defeat Cleveland Browns (4-8) 24-10

The Baltimore Ravens have a tendency to play up or down to their opponents. They have defeated some of the better teams in the league (Steelers twice, Texans, 49ers, Bengals), but they have also lost to the bottom-feeders as well (Jaguars, Seahawks). I guess something finally clicked in their heads Sunday, as they took care of a much weaker team in Cleveland rather convincingly. The Ravens had the perfect game plan. The Browns have the #1 pass defense in the NFL, so the Ravens gave the majority of their offensive workload to Ray Rice (29 rushes, 204 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 catches, 10 yards) and Ricky Williams (16 rushes, 76 yards).

– Is Peyton Hillis (12 rushes, 45 yards) worth the headache he has given Cleveland this season? I think the time may be coming where Hillis and the Browns go their separate ways. I understand the contract he received at the start of the season, but for this team to grow, Hillis has to go.

Green Bay Packers (12-0) defeat New York Giants (6-6) 38-35

– WHEW! That was a close one. As a New York Giants fan, I was hoping for a little bit of an upset so I could forever gloat that the blue-men ended the Packers winning streak. I did predict though that the Packers would go undefeated during the regular season, so it was a win-win for me. When the Giants tied the game at 35 with 58 seconds on the clock, I just knew that Aaron Rodgers (28 for 46, 369 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception) was going to take the offense down the field and at least get 3 points to win the game. You know you are watching one of the best in the league when with less than a minute on the clock, you just know that he is going to find a way to score. 16-0 is there for the taking.

– Kudos to the Giants for taking it to the Packers and giving them their biggest challenge of the season. Eli Manning (23 for 40, 347 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception) had a great game, it’s just that he was going up against the best QB in the NFL today, so being great wasn’t going to cut it.

– If I was doing my year-end awards right now, I may have to give the biggest statistical surprise of the season to Giants WR Victor Cruz (7 catches, 119 yards). Cruz now has 1000 yards and 7 touchdowns on the year. This is a guy who was fourth on the depth chart at the start of the season, but is now 4th in the NFL in receiving yards. What a story Cruz has been.

Arizona Cardinals (5-7) defeat Dallas Cowboys (7-5) 19-13

– Good job icing your own kicker, Jason Garrett. If the coach hadn’t called the time-out that nullified the first kick (that was good), the Cowboys would have won the game and would now have a 2 game lead in the division. His excuse was that he wanted to give his kicker more time to set up and compose him. I am sure 6 seconds was plenty, as evident by him making the kick in the first place. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid.

It is good to see Kevin Kolb (16 for 27, 247 passing yards, 1 touchdown) healthy again. I just wish he would include Larry Fitzgerald (4 catches, 55 yards) more in the offense. Larry was more of a threat when John Skelton was behind center, so I hope Kolb and Fitz can continue to form a chemistry together. Larry is too good a receiver to not be heavily used in the offense.

– I wish Spanish Soccer announcers would cover more American Football games, so we could get more in-game calls like this.

San Francisco 49ers (10-2) defeat St. Louis Rams (2-10) 26-0

– The San Francisco 49ers are good enough to win the Super Bowl. No, I am not just basing this off of 1 shutout victory over the pathetic St. Louis Rams. The 49ers are for real. They have a defense that is good enough to stop the Green Bay Packers and take them to the big game. They haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown all year. That is insane. Jim Harbaugh is your Coach of the Year. The league might as well give him the award now, because no one else is even close. The 49ers also clinched the NFC West with their win yesterday. I originally called their success flukey, as their division was clearly the weakest in the league. Not anymore. The 49ers are now Super Bowl contenders. It is amazing what 1 really good coach can do for a franchise.

– Speaking of really good coaches…..the St. Louis Rams don’t have one. Steve Spagnuolo is on the hot seat, and basically has one foot out the door already. I had high hopes for Steve when he arrived in St. Louis, as he was the defensive co-ordinator for the then Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. He inherited a bad roster to begin with, so I hope he can latch on to another team as a co-ordinator and get back to what he does best.

New Orleans Saints (9-3) defeat Detroit Lions (7-5) 31-17

– If it weren’t for Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees (26 for 36, 342 passing yards, 3 touchdowns) would be your clear-cut MVP this season. He is now the fastest QB in NFL history to reach 4000 yards passing in a season. Brees, (along with Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady) is on pace to break Dan Marino’s record of 5084 passing yards. Sitting at 4000 yards 12 games in, I don’t see why he wouldn’t break it at this point.

– The implosion of the Detroit Lions continues. It seems like the team doesn’t know how to control their own toughness, if that makes sense. The team suffered 11 penalties that cost the team 107 yards. All they are doing is shooting themselves in the leg (to soon, Plaxico?). Lions receiver Titus Young blatantly hit a Saints player in the face….while being restrained by a referee. How dumb could you be? That itself just shows the lack of discipline on the Lions roster. Don’t even get me started on Ndamukong Suh.

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