Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NFL Week 12 News & Notes

A wacky week 12 ended with a wild game in snowy, slushy Seattle last night as the Seahawks and Packers combined for 58 points, 8 turnovers and nearly 700 combined total yards as the Hawks prevailed, 34-24.
It was a fitting end to a week that saw wild plays (is a flip a fumble or a pass?), monumental collapses (Giants? more like Lilliputians) and record-setting performances (rookie Joseph Addai's 4TDs, Tony Romo tossing 5 TDs on Turkey Day, Mike Vick flipping not one but two

Let's take a look back at the week that was Week 12 2006.

-Seahawks survive 4 Hasselbeck TOs, beat Pack on strength of Alexander's 200-yard night

When the weather outside is frightful...it makes for great pigskin viewing!

It was the kind of night made for NFL football: cold & blustery with a snowy/slushy mix flying through the air in all directions, covering the field in a blanket of white that evokes memories of great snow bowl games gone by (The Tuck Rule Game being my personal favorite.) Green Bay QB Brett Favre seems like he was born to play games like this, and for about 2 1/2 quarters it sure looked like it. Seattle got their injured quarterback Matt Hasselbeck back (that sounded pretty odd right there), and for the first half it looked like he was still hurt. At the very least he was hurting his team with 3 horrible interceptions in the first 15:15 of the contest. But the question is raised: why was Walrus Holmgren calling all those pass plays in the snow with a quarterback who is just returning from missing 4 games due to a knee injury? Plus they had MVP running back Shawn Alexander back for the second week, so wouldn't it make more sense to run him all night in those conditions rather than put the burden of the entire offense on Hasselbeck?

By the time Holmgren realized this it was 21-12 Packers just a few minutes into the second half. Favre (22-36, 266yds, 1TD, 3INTs), coming off an ulnar nerve (i.e. funny bone) injury a week earlier against the Pats, made his 252nd consecutive start, a record for any position, let alone quarterback, had control of the game & the conditions and looked well on his way to another MNF win. But then it dawned on Walrus to pound Alexander, who had been carrying the ball well and showed no signs of the foot injury that sidelined him for 6 weeks, and pound him he did. Alexander compiled 201 yards on a franchise record 40 carries, and after the Pack went up by that 21-12 score Seattle ripped of 3 touchdowns from 8:45 of the third to 8:47 of the fourth to seize control of the game. Hasselbeck (17-36, 157yds, 3TDs, 3INTs, 1 fumble)bounced back from his miserable first half to throw 3 touchdown passes, and by that time Favre started doing what he has done best these past few awful seasons- throw wild interceptions in hopes that a miracle will happen and someone will pop onto the field and catch them- and Seattle had a huge victory that could have been a disastrous defeat. Instead they sit at 7-4 with a two game lead over St. Louis & San Fran, and the have both of their offensive leaders back for the final 5 games.

Hopefully more of them will take place in the white stuff. (By the way, they spent all that money on that new stadium- why no retractable dome? Just curious.)

-Cowboys cut "liquored-up kicker" Vanderjagt
Mike Vanderjagt, the man who former teammate Peyton Manning once labeled as "our idiot kicker" at the Pro Bowl one year, was cut loose by coach Bill Parcells yesterday. Tuna had evidently finally tired of Vander-jagoff's diva-like ways, including missing part of training camp with a groin injury, balking at handling kickoff duties (little miss priss prefers to only kick when points are involved, cause it's hard to turn kickoff length into dollars) and failing to make even the most basic of field goals. The career leader in field goal percentage (230-266, 86.5%) was only 13-18 this season and missed 1 attempt from under 30 yards, 1 from under 40 and 4 from the all-important 40-49 yard range, where kickers earn their jack. And this guy earned plenty of jack, signing a 3-year, $5.4 million contract with Dallas in the off season with a $2.5 million signing bonus. But now he's kicked to the curb for Martin Grammatica of all people, a guy who has kicked exactly 1 field goal since 2004 and was booted off the Bucs, Colts & Pats in that time. Nice. And you want to know how bad Tuna wants the Idiot Kicker's name expunged from the Cowboy records? When you click on his name in the ESPN.com story and pull up Vanderjagt's bio, check out the pix at the bottom. Priceless!


-Pats lose LB Seau for rest of the season; career over?
The defense of the New England Patriots suffered yet another big loss when it was learned that off season free agent signee Junior Seau will not play again this year due to the broken arm he suffered in New England's 17-10 victory over the Bears Sunday. His departure is a huge blow for a unit already depleted with the injuries to S Rodney Harrison, CB Randall Gay, S Tebucky Jones, S Eugene Wilson and CB Chad Scott. Seau, the 37-year old former Charger great was persuaded to forgo retirement less than 24 hours in by his old Charger buddy Harrison. He was 4th on the Pats in tackles and made many big stops this season. The question now is will he ever put on a uniform again? He clearly was still playing well and his loss will be felt by the Pats, who will use a pre-planned rotation of Mike Vrable, Tully Banta-Cain & Rosie Colvin to get them through the rest of the season. But hopefully Junior comes back next year for one last go 'round.

- Hard-hitting Steelers safety Troy Palumalu is out for Sunday's contest at Heinz Field against the lowly Bucs. after spraining the MCL in his left knee during last week's loss to Baltimore. The Big-Haired One will need to rest the injury for at least a week, but the Steelers breathed a sigh of relief when the original, more serious diagnosis proved to be wrong and he will not need season-ending surgery. Palumalu, who has 67 tackles and 3 interceptions this year, has not missed a game due to injury in his 4+ year career.
Pittsburgh will also be without their top offensive threat as WR Hines Ward will be forced to sit out this week and possibly the next game as he recovers from knee surgery. The operation was necessary because of bone fragments that were causing discomfort for the star receiver, and his loss will be a big blow to an already staggering offense.
Oh yeah, they're playing the Bucs. Never mind.

-The "WTF?!" Award of the Week
This award has to go to the moronic dictator, errr coach of the New York Giants, Tom Coughlin. The thought occurred to me, as it probably did to 45 million other football viewing Americans, as I watched the lowlights of the Giants 21-point collapse to the Titans: why were the G-Men forcing Eli Manning to throw the ball when they held a 21-point lead in the 4th quarter and they have one of the best running backs in the NFL on their team? I mean it doesn't take an offensive genius to figure out that when up by 21 points with 13:00 to play, which then became 14, which then turned into 7, that you might want to run the ball to use as much time possible to prevent just such a miraculous comeback from occurring. ESPN.com's Gregg Easterbrook, otherwise known as the Tuesday Morning Quarterback, went into great depth about this, and other coaching gaffes, in his excellent & comprehensive column this week (I thought my posts were wordy.) I knew about Manning throwing the final pass that PacMan Jones intercepted with :32 left that led to Tennessee's game-winning kick. What I did not realize is that when the Giants held those other leads Coughlin was still calling pass plays that were stopping the clock and tempting turnovers throughout the Titans comeback. "From the point at which the Giants had a 21-0 lead and possession of the ball with 13 minutes remaining, Coughlin and his staff called seven passing plays -- which is seven too many" Easterbrook writes. Exactly. And then he goes out and blames his QB. Time to get the resume ready again, Tommy. You're act has grown thin in the Big Apple.

With so many teams alternating huge wins with critical losses it's time to take a look at my latest rankings. This time I'm including a special bonus list. You'll have to read to see what it is.


-Indianapolis Mannings (10-1) The demolition of the Eagles was just what the critics ordered for a team that had been searching for an identity after the departure of RB Edge James. They found it, and thy name is Joseph Addai. It's amazing what the presence of a running game will do for an offense- the Mannings had their highest point total (44) & rushing yard total (237, 171 by Addai) of the season. They'll still fold in the playoffs like origami, but right now they're at the top.

-San Diego Chargers (9-2) The Chargers keep finding ways to win, coming from behind again to hold off the rival Raiders. But any team that has the league's MVP- and have no doubt LaDanian Tomlinson will win the award- always has a chance to win. With QB Phillip Rivers playing well, too, this team reminds me of last year's NFC Champion Seahawks. Plus they get suspended LB Shawne Merriman back this week. Uh-oh.

-New England Patriots (8-3) I know Baltimore's defense has gotten all the attention, but what if I told you that the Pats' battered defense has given up fewer points (144-147) than that vaunted Ravens unit? Would you be interested in that stat? Or that the Ravens wins, other than against the Chargers, have come against teams with a combined 43-56 record, while the Pats have beaten teams with a combined record of 45-43 (although they only play 1 team with a winning record the rest of the way.) I'm just sayin'....

-Baltimore Ravens (9-2) ...that I'm still not totally convinced that this Baltimore team is for real. They are one injury to McNair away from reliving the Kyle Boller Era, which will send shudders down any Ravens' fan's spine. And that crap from RayLew about this defense being better than the 2000 SB winning-squad? See my comments just above. Let's just say there are a lot of citizens in Miami who are fearful of Lewis & his posse coming to town in February.

-Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) As the blustery weather approaches Kansas City is finally charging full steam ahead. After dispatching with previous AFC West leader Denver on Turkey Day they get their chance to knock off current leader San Diego in 3 weeks. But first they get to play the Brownies, and then get Baltimore at home. Repeat after me: TEAMS DO NOT WIN IN ARROWHEAD IN DECEMBER. Especially with LJ rushing for 150+ per game.


-New Orleans Saints (7-4) After stumbling a bit-losing 3 out of 4 after winning 5 of their first 6- America's New Team got back on track by whipping up on Mike Vick & his Dirty Birds. I still think they have the best overall talent in the NFC: Drew Brees is having a Pro-Bowl year (5 straight games over 300 yards passing); Marques Colston (869yds, 7 TDs) should be a lock for Rookie Of the Year; and hometown hero Devery Henderson is emerging as a big-play receiver as well (438 receiving yards in his last 3 games with a catch). If they ever get anything besides 5 yard receptions from Reggie Bust, they will be a playoff force to be reckoned with.

-Dallas Cowboys (7-4) The Cowboys are the hottest fad on the block right now, like next-gen Elmo, iPods and Borat all rolled into one. Quarterback/heartthrob Tony Romo is taking Big D by storm, with rumors that he is dating Jessica Simpson floating everywhere and requests for his goofy mug to appear on everything from the Today Show to Jimmy Kimmell Live. Tuna loathes one player-especially a quarterback- having so much notoriety, so this star treatment has to be getting under his skin. My guess is that the bloom comes of the Romo soon, maybe in New York this week where the wounded Giants will be ready to tear into their archrival & the newbie QB.

-Chicago Bears(9-2) How is it that a team this has a 9-2 record is only 3rd on the list? Because they start a former Gator quarterback at quarterback, that's how! My god is this Grossman experiment a disaster or what? It's like he & Eli Manning are having a race to see who can exit the league first. Both hold (or held) the reigns to division-leading teams, and both appear to want to give it away like candy to trick-or-treaters. Rex the Blunder Dog has tossed 11 interceptions in his last 6 games and is quickly becoming the Jake Plummer of the North Side. Is 692 times too much to vote Rex out as QB? Nope.

-Seattle Seahawks (7-4) We'll just chalk up Matt Hasselbeck's 4 turnovers last night to the weather and his return from a 1 month layoff. We'd rather focus on freshly-healed running back Shawn Alexander's 200 yard rushing performance. If the reigning MVP continues to look like he did last season and Hasselbeck rounds back into form this team will be tough to face in December & January. Especially at QuestField where despite wretched conditions of late it continues to be the most raucous stadium in the league. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow-covered field will stop the 12th Man from screaming its brains out.

-Mike Vick & his Dirty Birds (5-6) I know they are in the midst of a horrid stretch, losers of 4 in a row and embroiled in controversies over Coach Mora Sr.'s comments and the Vick Two- Fingered salute. But this team was just running over people when they started the season 5-2, and even in that disastrous defeat to the Saints Vick ran for 166 yards and the team rushed for 281. Once all the hoopla dies down and things start to play itself out this team is capable of running off a winning streak that will catapult itself into the playoffs. C'mon, it's the NFC- we know a mediocre team is going to the postseason, and who ya gonna pick right now, the Giants?

BRADY QUINN/TROY SMITH BEST BETS:(a.k.a. Race for the #1 Draft Pick)

-Detroit Lions (2-9) Obviously these clowns are in the driver's seat after their Thanksgiving Day debacle. Real classy, announcing Joey Harrington's name with the defense just to give disgruntled fans a chance to boo someone NOT wearing a Lions uniform. Up next: Hello, 2-10 (@ Pats.)

- Arizona Cardinals(2-9) It's a race to the finish line to see what comes first: Denny Green loses his job or the Cards win another game. Looking at their remaining schedule (@STL, SEA, DEN, @SF, @SD), I will choose the former. It's gonna be tough to knock these guys out of the race; they'll be there right till the end.

-Oakland Raiders (2-9) They fell a spot because they almost did the unthinkable last week- won a game. Luckily the Chargers woke up in time to foil that plan. Art Shell is on the Denny Green timetable, and judging by Oakland's remaining games (HOU, @CIN, STL, KC, @NYJ) Green might beat him.

-Tampa Bay Bucs (3-8) The Bucs have an excellent shot at winning this because their remaining schedule is BRU-TAL: @PITT, ATL, @CHI, @CLE, SEA. Now would be a good time to mention that the Bucs record is 2-22 when the temp in under 40 degrees. I wonder what the temps will be in Chicago & Cleveland in late December? C'mon Bucs, you guys can take this thing, I know it!

-Cleveland Browns (3-8) The Brownies had been playing well recently until they got blitzed by the Bengals last week. Still, they've got not 1 but 2 egomaniacs (Braylon Dirt on Your Shoulder Edwards & Sgt. Kellen Winslow) lining up to not catch passes from Charlie Frye and implode the team from within. Did I mention they also have Charlie Frye?

-Houston Texans (3-8) Think this team would want to draft Troy Smith after passing on Reggie Bush, Vince Young and Matt Leinart this year? Well they're sure playing like it. Texas even benched QB David Carr this season in favor of the immortal Sage Rosenfels. 'Nuff said.

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