1. Steelers lose at KC, Roethlisberger and Batch hurt
Things seem to be rapidly disintegrating for the defending Super Bowl Champs. Last week they suffered a demoralizing loss at home against the Bengals, which dropped them essentially 2 games off the pace in the AFC North. They followed that up in Week 11 by a complete disaster in Kansas City, which saw them drop a game in which they were heavily favored to the Chiefs, and then not only losing Ben Roethlisberger to the dreaded concussion related injury suffered late in the game, but then also losing their backup QB, Charlie Batch when he injured his wrist after entering for Roethlisberger. Now the Steelers are down to their 3rd string quarterback, Dennis Dixon, who we last saw blowing out his knee a couple years ago when he was an Oregon Duck. In other Steeler news, hats off to the writers of “House”, who in last night’s episode made the long overdue joke pointing out how much Omar Epps looks like Mike Tomlin. Worth pointing out that the Chiefs have been a different team since Jamaal Charles became their feature back, and Chris Chambers their number 1 wideout. They are making progress.
2. Bengals give up 10 points in last minute to lose in Oakland
The Steelers loss was a shocking one, but the Bengals losing in Oakland, and the way they lost it, was even worse. Cincinnati came into the game knowing that the Ravens and Steelers both lost, and that all they had to do was beat the horrible Raiders, who were starting the horrible Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback, and they would have the AFC North virtually sewn up by virtue of having a 2 game lead and having swept both Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Early on it looked like they would romp the way they should have, taking a 14-0 lead. Then they lost focus. The Bengals turned it over 4 times, the last being a completely inexcusable fumble on the ensuing kickoff after the Raiders tied it at 17 with less then a minute left. The fumble set up an easy Sebastian Janikowski field goal, and somehow the Bengals actually lost this game. The Bengals may be 7-3, but in this game they showed that they are still the Bengals. They are 5-0 in the AFC North, but 2-3 now outside the AFC North. Couple that with the Steelers losing in KC, and the Browns, a team who benefits everyone else in the division by being so bad, losing to the Lions, and I’m starting to think that maybe this whole division is just bad.
3. Colts go to 10-0 with close win over Ravens
You can add another entry to the seemingly endless list of games the Ravens have lost this year due to an incompetent kicking game. Indy escaped with a 2 point win over Balto due in large part to Billy Cundiff, who is replacing the dearly departed Steven Hauschka, boofing up a 30 yard field goal attempt in the 3rd quarter that had it been made in theory would have given the Ravens the win and in practice would have dramatically altered the complexion of the game. Also playing a part in the Ravens loss was their ineffectiveness in the red zone, because even though Cundiff missed that 30 yarder, he did make 5 other field goal attempts, which is really not a good thing for the Ravens. Curiously, the Ravens keep Ray Rice on the bench in goal line situations, instead opting to thaw out Willis McGahee, which is a policy they may want to rethink. Also in the category of other reasons the Ravens lost, Joe Flacco threw a horrible interception late in the game, throwing a look in pass to Ray Rice even though he had 3 Colts around him, aborting a drive that looked like it would at least end in a go ahead field goal. Ed Reed pitching the ball away on the Raven 40 on a punt return with less than 30 seconds left wasn’t such a great move either. All in all, the Colts once again do a thing they do very well, which is staying close and letting the opposition lose the game.
4. Saints blow out Bucs to stay unbeaten
The Bucs scored first, then their pirate ship was boarded by the NATO battleship that is the New Orleans Saints, who cruised to a 38-7 win to run their record to 10-0. I still maintain that the Saints haven’t really played anyone yet, but that will change this weekend when they take on the Patriots. If the Saints beat New England, I will get off their case. In the meantime, I just kind of heard about this story this week, and for all the stupid stuff that is blown completely out of proportion when it comes to the NFL, this is really a tragic story that has been for the most part completely ignored (and probably rightly so), I bring it up only because my God I cannot believe Drew Brees has been able to perform at the level he has under these circumstances..
5. Giants save season with OT win over Falcons
Here’s the way this fantasy season has gone for me and my brother’s team. Last week we start the returning Brian Westbrook over Ladell Betts. Westbrook leaves in the 1st quarter with a concussion, Betts scores 2 TDs. This week we start Betts over Jason Snelling. Snelling scores 2 TDs, Betts blows out his knee in the 1st quarter and is out for the season. I want my money back. As for real life, both teams needed this game very badly. The Giants were coming off a bye having dropped 4 in a row, while Matt Ryan has been regressing in a grotesque way that is sort of a cross between Jay Cutler and Benjamin Button. Ryan acquitted himself nicely in this game, playing better than he has in a while, completing 57% of his passes for 2 TDs and no INTS, including a very clutch TD pass to Tony Gonzalez to send the game into overtime. But this game belonged to Eli Manning. He was absolutely huge in a game where he needed to be, throwing for 384 yards and 3 TDs. Giants win 34-31 in OT in one of the more entertaining games of this season.
6. Broncos in free fall, get blown out at home by Chargers
Not a whole lot entertaining about the Chargers 32-3 demolition of the Broncos in Denver. Unless you are a big fan of diva wide receiver sideline freak outs, in which case you enjoyed Brandon Marshall’s tiff with Knowshon Moreno. Otherwise this game just drove home just how much the Broncos have fallen off since their 6-0 start, to the point where you seriously have to consider the possibility that they could close the season with 10 straight losses. Chris Simms was so horrid in his first start since 2006 that they had to bring out the Showtime at the Apollo clown to sweep him off the stage, and brought back in the gimpy ankled Kyle Orton, who wasn’t a whole lot better. The 7-3 Chargers now lead the AFC West by a game over the Broncos, but again, like I said, this thing is over and the Broncos have a better chance of finishing 6-10 than they do of winning the AFC West in my book.
7. Warner injured in Cards win over Rams
Roethlisberger wasn’t the only Super Bowl winning quarterback to suffer a head injury last week, not even the only quarterback who played in last year’s Super Bowl. Kurt Warner exited the Cardinals win in St. Louis. Warner then had to sit next to his coach Ken Whisenhunt on the flight home and answer questions from him so Whisenhunt could get a sense of whether or not he would be able to play this week, which Whisenhunt hopes to God he can because the alternative is Matt Leinart. Whisenhunt’s assessment of the convo, “We talked about the game. We talked about this week's opponent, potential plays. He seemed very upbeat and alert, so that was a good sign." And I think my job is bad. At least I don’t have my boss sitting next to me grilling me on a 3 hour flight after I’ve gotten my head slammed into Astro Turf and my brain smashed into the inside of my skull. That’s a good thing.
8. Eagles beat Bears, Cutler struggles again, Packers stay in WC hunt with win
I continue to be so right about Jay Cutler that it hurts. In Sunday Night’s loss at home to Philly which dropped the Bears to 4-6 and pretty much killed any playoff hopes they may have had, Cutler didn’t have a 5 interception piece de resistance like he did in Week 10 against the Niners, but he did overthrow wide open receivers on 3 separate occasions on plays that would have been TDs had he just been able to hit a wide open receiver. Now we’ve got people calling the sports talk radio stations here in Chicago saying that offensive coordinator Ron Turner needs to be fired. What? I agree that Turner probably isn’t the greatest OC around, but why you would you make that assessment after this game? I mean, Turner called three plays that got a guy open by 7 to 10 yards with nothing but end zone in front of him. Isn’t that all an offensive coordinator can do? At some point doesn’t the great Pro Bowl Future Hall of Famer quarterback need to be able to throw a ball 30 yards in the air to a guy that is wide open? I think it’s official that after back to back national TV horror shows, Cutler is the new Rex Grossman, meaning he’s become a national joke. Congrats. Meanwhile, Green Bay holds on for a home win over San Francisco which puts them squarely in the wildcard picture, even more so thanks to Atlanta’s loss to the Giants.
IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY
1. New Orleans 10-0
2. Minnesota 9-1
3. Dallas 7-3 (6-2 Conf)
4. Arizona 7-3 (5-2 Conf)
5. Philadelphia 6-4 (5-2 Conf)
6. Green Bay 6-4 (4-3 Conf)
Others Receiving Votes
NY Giants 6-4 (4-3 Conf)
1. Indianapolis 10-0
2. New England 7-3 (5-3 Conf)
3. Cincinnati 7-3 (5-3 Conf)
4. San Diego 7-3 (5-3 Conf)
5. Jacksonville 6-4 (5-2 Conf)
6. Pittsburgh 6-4 (4-3 Conf, win over Denver)
Others Receiving Votes
Denver 6-4 (5-3 Conf, loss to Pittsburgh)
Baltimore 5-5 (5-4 Conf)
Houston 5-5 (4-4 Conf)
Miami 5-5 (3-3 Conf)