Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday Morning Kick Returns

Okay, so it's Monday afternoon. I'm not going to change the name of my weekly post due to a technicality.

As usual it was another wild day in the No Freakin' Logic league. How wild? Three games were decided on last-second kicks, one a 60-yarder and one by the artist formerly known as Martin Gramatica. The Colts lost to the Titans and the Chiefs lost to the Brownies. And the Bears and Texans won despite their quarterbacks passing for 34 & 32 yards respectively. Wow.

Yup it's the NFL 2006. Motto: It May Not be Pretty, but it Rakes in the Dough.

Bears 23, Vikes 13
MY PICK: Bears 28-17
Being without DirecTv and with the Bucs not playing until 4:00 my son and I were forced to digest this horrible piece of crap of a game. How bad was it? The Bears (10-2) fumbled the opening kick. Minny QB Bad Johnson (11-26, 73 yds, 4INTs-whatever happened to the king of accuracy?) threw his first interception on the Vikes (5-7) 2nd series, but Bears QB Rex the Blunder Dog (6-19, 34yds, 3INTs) returned the favor 3 plays later. On and on it went. Granted it was a balmy 18 degrees in the Windy City, but what did those guys have, brain freezes? By the time the horror show ended you had 10 turnovers, 6-28 3rd down conversions, and the winning team had 107 total yards. And then the Bears had the nerve to wear NFC North Champions caps after the "game" was over while coach Lovie Smith reiterated over & over that Grossman will remain at quarterback. That's good news for the rest of the NFC. Because as long as that interception in the making (he now has 17 INTs on the season, 10 in the last 5 games) remains behind center, even the lowliest team in the conference has a chance to knock off these regular season wonders. I said it yesterday and I'll say it again, this is the worst 10-2 team in the history of the NFL.

Cleveland 31, Kansas City 28 (OT)
: Chiefs 27-13
Here's one of those WTF? games. A week ago the Browns(4-8) were imploding on the field & on the sidelines in an ugly 30-0 home loss to the Bengals. This week it played like a playoff team, knocking off the streaking Chiefs(7-5) thanks to 2 touchdown passes by backup QB Derek Anderson (who?) in the last half of the 4th quarter and a game winning 33-yard field goal in overtime. This despite the fact that KC QB Trent Green threw for nearly 300 yards & 4 TDs, RB Larry Johnson rushed for 110 yards, and Cleveland lost starting QB Charlie Frye to an undisclosed injury on the first series of the game. Anderson is an unheralded 2nd year guy from Oregon State who had never thrown a pass in the NFL before yesterday. Ah, parity.

San Diego 24, Buffalo 21
Bills 19-17
Well you can't blame me for going for the upset here. With temperatures in the teens and a gusty wind swirling around Ralph Wilson Stadium the warm-weather Chargers (10-2) could have easily packed it in and headed for nicer climes. Instead running back LaDanian Tomlinson continued his assault on the NFL single-season touchdown record with 2 more touchdowns yesterday, bringing his season total to 26 which leaves him 2 away from Shaun Alexander's mark with 4 games to play. Hmmm, wonder if he'll get that? With 178 yards rushing bringing his total to 1,324 on the season he became the second player to rush for over 1200 yards in each of his first 6 seasons, joining Eric Dickerson. Plus he admitted that he always wanted to play in the cold weather, saying he looks forward to games like this because "they don't happen too much." Memo to self: don't go against LT, even in Ice Bowl games.

Tennessee 20, Indy 17
Mannings 31-24
If you recall yesterday I said that in my friendly competition with my son I took the Titans in the upset. Too bad I didn't have the guts to put my money where my mouth was because something told me that the Mannings (10-2) were going to gag this game. Sure enough the Regular Season Wonders did just that, blowing a 14-0 second quarter lead en route to becoming the second straight Manning-led team to fall to the Titans (5-7) and blossoming QB Vince Young. Young (15-25, 163 yards, 2TDs, 2INTs; 9 carries for 78 yards) continued his ascension to winning NFL QB by guiding 2 scoring drives in the 2nd & 4th quarters, the last one resulting in a 60-yard game-winning field goal by Rod Bironas. After shocking the Giants and Brother Eli last week with a 21-point 4th quarter comeback Young the gunslinger added another Manning notch to his belt. Is younger brother Cooper still playing?

NY J-E-T-S 38, Green Bay 10
Packers 23-20
Boy when I'm wrong I am really wrong. Not only did the Packers lose this game they were an embarrassment to the tradition-rich history of the franchise. The first half was a house of horrors for the Packers in the normally friendly confines of the frozen Lambeau tundra: New York (7-5) compiled 340 yards of offense, 22 first downs and scored on every possession on its way to a 31-0 lead at the break; needless to say Favre (24-47, 214 yards, 1TD, 2INTs) & co. were booed off the field. Although the Pack (4-8) made it interesting for a bit in the third when it scored 10 points and recovered an onsides kick, the ensuing 3 & out and subsequent Jets touchdown to begin the 4th brought any hopes of a Favre miracle comeback to a halt. Now the Jets find themselves in the playoff hunt, while Green Bay awaits another long off season filled with "will he or won't he return" questions about their legendary quarterback.

Atlanta 24, Washington 14
MY PICK: Falcons 30-19
The Dirty Birds got back on the winning track after a slow start against the 'Skins (4-8.) Mike Vick kept his birds holstered long enough to throw 2 touchdowns out of his 8 pass completions and the Falcons did what it does best: run the ball. Atlanta (6-6) amassed 256 yards on the ground to offset Washington's 177 and the Falcons got back on track after losing 4 games in a row. And wouldn't you know the Falcons get just what it needs to start a winning streak heading into the home stretch: a date with the Yucs at RayJay next week.

New England 28, Detroit 21
Pats 45-3
Once again my picking prowess reaches new lows. I, like most other observers, figured a date with the pitiful Lions (2-10) would provide a springboard for the shaky Pats (9-3) to get back on the right path offensively & defensively to prepare for another Super Bowl run. Wrong. Instead the suddenly turnover-prone Pats struggled to defeat a team that had been humiliated on national TV on Turkey Day in their own building by the mediocre Dolphins. New England committed 3 more giveaways (a fumble & INT by Tom Terrific and a fumble by Corey Dillon) but the defense forced 5 Lion miscues and the Pats got a late touchdown run from Dillon (9 carries, 25 yards, 3TDs) to break a 21-all tie and take the win. With 18 turnovers in its last 7 games New England trails only Pittsburgh and Rex Grossman for most giveaways in that stretch. Correct me if I'm wrong but those numbers don't equate to a Super Bowl-quality club, do they? Sure Brady had a solid day (27-38, 305 yards, no TDs, 1 INT), but New England still relies on the pass too much (it only rushed for 79 yards on 24 carries) to be successful in big games. How on earth does Dillon only get 9 carries and the suddenly invisible Maroney only 4 is beyond me. Is the Hooded Genius trying to prove something? It makes no sense. He has gradually abandoned the running game on a weekly basis and forces Brady to throw 35-50 times a game. Hopefully this scare will force him to come to his senses, especially with a date with the defensively sound Dolphins up next.

Arizona 34, St. Louis 20
Cards 21-20
Woohoo, I got an upset right. And boy were the Rams upset. Arizona (3-9) recorded its first road win of the season and it came at the expense of the floundering Rams. St. Louis, which started the season 4-1, fell to 5-7 after its 6th loss in its last 7 games, prompting quarterback Marc Bulger (27-45, 314 yards, 2TDs, 3INTs) to rip into his teammates following the game. "There's more than one guy in this locker room that could care less that we're losing, or thinks it's OK to make mistakes," he said. "When we get embarrassed and you think it's OK and keep making the same mistakes, it's not OK." Ah Marc that may be true, but it is never a good idea to finger point, especially when the team is still in the playoff hunt and you yourself committed 3 of those mistakes you spoke about. Throw in 126 yards worth of penalties and what you have is a team on the brink of disaster. Meanwhile the Cards continue to improve every week, with QB Matt Leinart (15-24, 186 yards, 1TD) steadily guiding the offense and providing plenty of poise & leadership for a rookie quarterback. It's a shame coach Denny Green won't be around to see how many wins that maturity amounts to next season for this team.

New Orleans 34, San Fran 10
Saints 35-14
Hey ho, whaddaya know, I got 2 in a row. Not that this one was tough to call. Although I am breaking my arm patting myself on the back for this gem of a prediction: "they (Saints) also have 1st round pick Reggie Bust; maybe this will be his breakout game." If you are someone who believes that a 168 total yard, 4 touchdown performance qualifies as a breakout game, then I must be a genius. Bust shook off the bust label with a dominating performance in a game that was laced with memories of his past. Niner QB Alex Smith was his high school quarterback, his dad was in the stands to watch him play for the first time as a pro, and Bush & Smith's high school coach was in the stands as well. Toss in the fact that Bush said he was motivated by anger over his Trojans losing to UCLA the day before and it all added up to the kind of day that people envisioned he would have every week when he was selected with the #2 overall pick in the draft. He still did not light it up as far as rushing, as he only compiled 37 yards on the ground, but his pass catching prowess and ability to turn a short throw into a long gain (see his 71-yard TD catch that was about 5 yard pass, 66 yard run) was the kind of razzle-dazzle the Saints (8-4) had been hoping to see more of up to this point. But with phenom receiver Marques Colston still out with a high ankle sprain and WR Joe Horn going down with a groin injury in the first quarter it was the perfect time for Reggie Bush to get back to being Reggie Bush.

Houston 23, Oakland 14
Raiders 3-2
This one is almost as painful to write about as it must have been to watch. Wait a minute, scratch that. Watching a game where the winning team passed for minus-5 yards and had 10 first downs and the two squads combined for 7 turnovers could be the new form of torture in the next Bond movie. But somehow the Texans (4-8) prevailed despite QB David Carr throwing for 32 yards and compiling 124 total yards on the day. But a week ago Carr completed an NFL record-tying 22 straight passes and lost, so I guess this balances that out. But that's how bad the Raiders (2-10) are as a season of misery continues to slide into suicide watch territory for the inhabitants of the Black Hole.

Jax'ville 24, Miami 10
Dolphins 17-15
Another one of the "who woulda thunk it?" specials. Miami (5-7) had been making a late playoff push after ripping off 4 straight wins, while the Jags (7-5) were going backwards after losing to Buffalo and the Texans twice in the past 6 games. So much for logic in this league as the up & down Jags and QB David Garrard (16-22, 229 yards, 2TDs) put together a solid game and defeated their intra-state rivals. The Fins solid running attack was nearly nonexistent with the absence of leading rusher Roinnie Brown and the fading playoff hopes might be extinguished next week when the Pats come to South Florida.

Dallas 23, NY Giants 20
Giants 27-24
Well I was almost right on this one. New York had a good chance to knock off the Tony Romo express as it came within a 46-yard field goal by newly-signed Gramatica of taking this division tilt to OT. Unfortunately for the reeling G-Men, losers of 4 in a row to fall to 6-6, the Tuna made his second brilliant coaching decision this season, and both came at the expense of the Giants. The first move was when he replaced a struggling Drew Bledsoe with Tony Romo at halftime of their first Dallas/New York game; Romo (20-34, 257 yards, 2 INTs) went on to win that game and has now won 4 of his 5 starts since then. The second great move was cutting crybaby kicker Mike Vanderjagoff after last weeks' game and replacing him with the former Buccaneer standout Gramatica. All little Martin-y did was nail 3 of 4 attempts including the game winner with :01 left as the Cowboys (8-4) seized a two game lead in the NFC East. Although Eli Manning (24-36, 270 yards, 2 TDs, no INTs) had a much better performance than last week's stink bomb in Tennessee and the Giants had DE Osi Uminyora return after missing 5 games, the defense could not stop the Cowboys or running back Marion Barber III, who ran for 76 yards & 2 scores. Now the Ginats will have to scrap & claw to pull out a wild card spot, while Tuna and his minions can cruise into the home stretch knowing that every move they appear to make turns to gold.

Seattle 23, Denver 20
Seahawks 23-17
Memo to Broncos coach Mike Shanahan: you might not want to replace a shaky but experienced quarterback with a shaky but inexperienced one 13 weeks into the season. Especially with a playoff berth slipping away. But that's just what the Bronco (7-5) head honcho did, and the results were predictably not pretty. Jay Cutler went 10-21 for 143 yards with 2 TDs & 2 picks but 71 of those yards came on a short pass to rookie Brandon Marshall that the former UCF star turned into a long score thanks to some shoddy Seattle (8-4) tackling. In between he threw a horrendous pass as he was being bent backward on a sack that was intercepted and returned 25 yards for a touchdown by Darryl Tapp and generally looked like what he is- a raw rookie starting his first pro game in a contest with huge playoff implications. By the time kicker Josh Brown nailed his 4th game-winning field goal, a 50-yarder as time expired after the 'Hawks drove the field with just over 2 minutes to go, Shanahan was left to wonder if he made the right decision; after all, Cutler's stat line looked an awful lot like that of his predecessor, Jake the Snake.

Pittsburgh 20, Tampa Bay 3
Steelers 16-13
Boy did I overvalue the importance of Bruce Gradkowski returning to his hometown. I thought that bit of adrenaline rush would be good for at least 1 touchdown from the Pittsburgh native. Oh yeah, he would've had at least one if Butterfingers Clayton didn't drop a perfect pass laid into his hands at the 10 yard line late in the 3rd quarter. That was just one of the many miscues by the Bad News Bucs as it continues its slide back to the bottom of the NFL barrel and hopefully accelerates the removal of Chucky Gruden as coach. Gruden drew the ire of Steelers coach Bill Cowher when he had Matt Bryant kick a field goal with no time left in the game just to make sure his sad sack squad didn't register a goose egg. Nice move, bozo. With a team that has more screw ups in a week than Britney Spears (Gradkowski threw 3 interceptions, was 5 sacked times and had at least 4 balls dropped) you would think that a measly field goal would be the least of its worries. "I'm sure I'll be criticized for that," Gruden said. "I just wanted our quarterback to leave Pittsburgh with something. We left Pittsburgh with a field goal." Too bad you couldn't leave with any dignity.

So my record was a less-than-impressive 8-7 counting the Thursday night game and I blame it all on the No Freakin Logic League. All I can say is that I'm glad I'm not a degenerate gambler, or I might be living in a van down by the river right now. There is still one game to go, tonight's thrilling Monday Night Matchup. Maybe I can go out on a high note.

Carolina (6-5) @ Philly (5-6)
This is a battle of two teams that are struggling to find an identity. Actually Philly isn't struggling to find an identity- it's on the shelf as QB Donovan McNabb recovers from knee surgery. But Carolina is one of the biggest enigmas of this wacky season. Almost all the pundits had it pegged for a Super Bowl run after last year's impressive 11-5 campaign that led to an NFC Championship game appearance. Well so far the Panthers have been erratic, baffling, and anything but impressive. Caretaker QB Jake Delhomme has been below average, throwing only 12 TDs with 9 INTs despite the presence of 2 quality receivers, Steve Smith & Meshawn Johnson. Their problem has been a lack of a rushing attack; Carolina ranks 18th in the NFL in rushing (106 YPG), but it will be facing on of the worst rush defenses in the league. Jeff Garcia will start his 2nd game since McNabb went down, and the vet could provide the stability this team needs during these tough times. Philly has lost 5 of the last 6 games to fall down but not out of the playoff picture. It will be a chilly night at the Linc, and it will also be interesting to see which Panther team shows up and how the Eagles will handle the challenge of finishing the season without its field general.
MY PICK: Eagles 17, Panthers 14

No comments: