10 things we learned in Week 10
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Nov 13, 2010
By Jonathan "Colonel" Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts rhythm guitarist
For a Week 10 that was short on intriguing matchups, there were certainly a lot of excellent football games. First Atlanta edged out Baltimore, 26-21, in a great game Thursday night, then the early portion of Sunday's action saw all eight games still in doubt in the fourth quarter.
And, as usual, the better teams emerged with the wins – Jets over Browns, Bucs over Panthers, Colts over Bengals, all close, all finished in favor of the team with playoff hopes instead of home blackouts.
What we learned ...
1. Denver's first half vs. Kansas City is what makes the NFL must-see TV every week. We think we know how things are going to turn out every week, and then something like this happens. A team that got outscored 38-7 in the first half by a divisional opponent at home three weeks ago returns for its next home game ... and outscores a divisional opponent in the first half, 35-10.
The fact that the same team, playing in the same place, against an opponent of similar quality, can see a swing of 56 points in their successive first halves, is absolute beauty. It's the reason that people would rather watch pro football on television than literally anything do anything else (like feed their children or something).
As we always tell you, parity doesn't exist; the cream always rises to the top.
But equality does; having everyone operate on the same financial footing is the absolute No. 1 reason why the sport is so popular; Paul Tagliabue should be in the Hall of Fame if for no other reason than presiding over the birth of the salary cap.
2. We don't want to take a dump on the Buffalo's first win of the year, but has there ever been a softer win? The Bills were playing at home in the elements, against a visiting dome team with a backup quarterback at the helm and a 24-game road losing streak.
And they won by two, 14-12, when the two-point conversion failed. They were outgained in yards (390-290) and per-play (5.1-5.0), they allowed the Lions three successful fourth-down conversions in three tries, and they punted seven times.
But still the Bills won.
Enjoy it, Buffalo. There aren't going to be many more like it.
3. There is such a thing as being lucky, and Tampa Bay is it. And being lucky might just be enough to get the Bucs into the playoffs. Tampa beat Carolina 31-16 at home Sunday, and nobody has had an easier road to 6-3. The Bucs were 0-3 vs. Quality Opponents heading into Week 10 and the rest of the schedule isn't exactly Murderers Row.
The Bucs added their second win over Carolina Sunday to wins over Arizona, St. Louis, Cleveland and Cincinnati – six wins over teams with a combined mark of 14-34. Would the Cowboys or Vikings have a similar record against similar opposition?
We thinks not.
Let's put it this way: Wade Phillips wouldn't be job searching, and Brad Childress wouldn't getting his realtor on the phone, if the Cowboys and Vikings faced the same cushy slate as the Bucs.
Tampa gets credit for winning the close games against the poor teams on its schedule, and Josh Freeman's mistake-free leadership is starting to get him some MVP whispers. Freeman is playing like David Garrard did when the Jaguars were up-and-coming, making plays with his legs and arm while avoiding interceptions.
Tampa's schedule the rest of the way is still fairly soft – they will be clear underdogs only at Baltimore and New Orleans and home vs. Atlanta. Even if the lost all three, likely wins over San Fran, Washington, Seattle and Detroit gives Tampa 10 wins minimum, and that might do it in the NFC South.
4. It's time to stop talking about Randy Moss. It's just not going to happen for Moss in 2010. After a one-catch, 24-yard outing Sunday in Tennessee's 29-17 loss at Miami, Moss is now on pace for 41 catches and 603 yards – a doppelganger of his final season in Oakland (42 catches for 553 yards).
At best, he's a guy to run out there and run some fly patterns as a decoy and be a weapon the red zone. In other words, a role player – and that's what the Titans are likely to use him as, just as the Patriots increasingly did.
Yes, it's always fun to see him in his new duds. The guy is fascinating to watch, and it'd be tough for anyone to argue that position. But he's a subpar receiver on a 5-4 Titans team that doesn't appear to be going anywhere. He's not a headline maker anymore.
5. David Garrard just clocked in with one of the best back-to-back runs in recent memory. The Jaguars are suddenly in contention at 5-4 after their 31-24 win over Houston, thanks to Garrard's last-second Hail Mary touchdown pass to Mike Thomas.
In his last two weeks combined, against preseason favorites Dallas and Houston, Garrard went 41 of 51 (80.4%), for 602 yards, 11.8 YPA, 6 TD, 0 INT and a 155.1 passer rating.
And Jacksonville fans wanted Tim Tebow?
Granted, the last two efforts came against two truly terrible pass defenses, and he isn't an upper echelon QB. But Garrard has never been much worse than average and usually quite a bit above it. He's 36-35 as a Jacksonville starter without a signature receiver or blocker, and he's averaged less than an INT per start (0.648, to be exact). He's one of the main reasons the Jaguars are contenders this year despite their own huge issues on defense.
And he throws a hell of a Hail Mary pass.
6. The Jets aren't playing perfect football, but 4-0 on the road means something. The last three Super Bowl champs went a combined 23-4 on the road en route to a title – by and large, winning close games on the road represents a prerequisite for longterm success.
The Jers are 4-0 on the road today after their gritty and highly entertaining 26-20 win over the suddenly impressive Browns. The game did not end until the Jets scored with 8 seconds left in OT.
On paper, an overtime win on the road against an AFC North opponent like the 3-6 Browns doesn't come off as impressive. But it was a very good win in reality. The Browns played inspired football, and while the Patriots folded to their will a week ago, the Jets just kept getting up for more. New York even perservered despite three missed field goals by Nick Folk.
The Jets aren't playing lights out, but they have enough talent spread around the field that they're always going to be in it. And Mark Sanchez's play in the overtime was brilliant. He threw an interception on a basic heave on third-and-long, but it was absolutely the right decision: it pinned the Browns at their own 3. He avoided sacks brilliantly, one of which probably saved the game late in the overtime session, and repeatedly connected on big throws.
7. The Bengals almost did the impossible; win a game while being -5 on the turnover ledger. According to pro-football-reference.com, only one team since the start of 2001 has managed to win a game when they were -5 or worse in turnovers. The 2007 Cowboys memorably beat Buffalo, 25-24, in a Monday night game during which they repeatedly coughed up the football.
But the Bengals had their chances to do it Sunday against an Indianapolis team that did just about nothing right except force turnovers and avoid them. The Colts averaged 4.3 yards and play and allowed 5.2, and were only 1-for-3 in the red zone.
None of it mattered much when the Bengals were giving the ball away like greased Thanksgiving turkeys.
The poor Bengals have now lost six straight, all against good teams, and all by seven points or fewer. It goes to show how thin the line is, and how turnovers drag you across it.
8. The Vikings are as done as can be – should Brad Childress and Brett Favre be done, too? Phillips had to go in Dallas, but at least his players had his back to the end. In Minnesota, Childress has managed to piss off ownership and the lockerroom in seemingly equal amounts, and there's not much debate whether his team is underperforming or not.
They looked bad yet again Sunday, in a 27-13 loss at Chicago.
The Vikings didn't look as bad in Chicago as the Cowboys did in Wade's final days. But they certainly were beaten soundly by a Bears team that, at least according to the "pundits," doesn't match up with Minnesota's talent.
Minnesota is 3-6 and not going to make the playoffs. Even a 6-1 run probably leaves them on the outside looking in. So it's decision time.
Childress's contract runs through 2013 thanks to a 2009 extension, and firing him here doesn't make much sense. The Vikings had been on a nice upward curve until this year, and even the press leaks don't justify his firing.
What does make sense, though, is to start seeing what Tarvaris Jackson can do the rest of the way. BrettFavre threw three more picks in the loss to the Bears and once again leads the league in INTs (16).
The Jackson Era won't come this week, but it's time for Minnesota to give the 27-year-old former second rounder one more look as the starter before they prepare for what should be an interesting offseason for the Vikings.
Unfortunately for Vikings fans, that offseason is basically already under way.
9. Da Bears! Not sure anyone really saw 6-3 coming out of Chicago. They don't have any signature wins. In fact, their most memorable game was the 17-3 "Kill Cutler" loss vs. the Giants – but that defense is no joke. They came into Sunday's win over Minnesota tied for 8th on the Defensive Hog Index and second in Defensive Passer Rating, and lived up to both billings.
They held Minnesota to 70 yards passing, harassed BrettFavre into a bad day, and really only let one big play affect them (the long Percy Harvin touchdown catch on blown coverage).
The Bears don't do a lot right on offense, but Devin Hester is still a menace on special teams – they look an awful lot like their 2006 team that went to the Super Bowl. Will Jay Cutler do what Rex Grossman couldn't? Looks like they'll have a shot.
10. No team was better equipped to handle QB injuries like the Dolphins. You just don't see the No. 3 quarterback making plays in the fourth quarter to win games in the NFL. It just doesn't happen. When the emergency QB gets in, it's almost always in mopup duty of an embarrassing effort from the starters.
But it happened for Miami in its impressive 29-17 win at home over the Titans.
Injuries to both Chads (Pennington, Henne) brought Tyler Thigpen into the game. If Henne was the best No. 2 QB in the league thanks to his recent demotion behind Pennington, Thigpen was almost certainly the best No. 3 guy. He'd been pretty decent as a starter in Kansas City, and 4-of-6 for 64 yards in a tight, must-win game showed it.
And even if Thigpen went down, who better than Ronnie Brown, the most experienced Wildcat triggerman in the league, as a No. 4 QB?
It's too bad for the Fragile Chad, though, the one named Pennington. His numbers, when he has played, have been impressive. We can only wonder what might have been wihtout the injuries.
The 5-4 Dolphins have one big problem, though: they are a bit weak at No. 5 QB. Hey, you have to be ready for anything, people.
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