Week 13 NFL Rankings

(Philadelphia, Pa) —- We have reached the third quarter pole of the NFL season, so buckle up as we are coming in for a playoff landing.  This time of year has brought the usual separation pattern of contenders and pretenders in the “Championship Rounds” (November and December). We are starting to see:

  • Championship level teams showing their mettle (Patriots, Colts, Jaguars, Cowboys, Steelers, and Packers)
  • Early season potential playoff upstarts coming back to earth i.e. “Frauds” — Lions, Ravens, and Titans (Giants???)
  • Bunch of other teams fighting for their playoff lives weekly as parity continues (There nine 5-6 teams including the Eagles, Redskins, Bears, Vikings, Cardinals, Texans, Broncos, Bills, and Saints).
  • Teams getting ready for the draft in April (Panthers, Rams, Jets, Falcons, Niners, Raiders, and most importantly the winless Dolphins who seem assured of picking first – Arkansas RB Darren McFadden is quickly moving up my list, but I still like the pro prospects of Kentucky QB Andre Woodson)

For the second week in a row the NFL schedule for this week kicks off on Thursday as NFL Network will have the marquee match-up of 10-1 NFC leaders the Packers and Cowboys.  The game is a flashback to the mid ‘90’s where these two teams went at it routinely for NFL superiority.   The game will also feature America’s New Sweetheart, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo against his former hero growing up in Wisconsin, Packers quarterback Brett Favre.

R.I.P Redskins Safety Sean Taylor — We are all grieving over the tragic shooting death of the maturing player at such a young age (24) and hopefully time will help to heal our remorse. My thoughts and prayers are with the Redskins and Sean’s family/friends.

Now on to the rankings for this week.

1.  Patriots (11-0) – Got a scare from the Eagles on SNF, but they showed why they are the NFL’s best when it counted most.  Will travel to Baltimore to face a reeling and in-fighting Ravens’ squad on Monday Night Football.

2.  Cowboys (10-1) – The Jets played the role of the turkey as the ‘Boys feasted on the reeling team on Thanksgiving.  Host the Green Packers in a huge NFC deciding battle on NFL Network Thursday Night Football (BTW: Am I the only one that can’t see the game).

3.  Colts (9-2) – Their Thanksgiving day match-up with the Falcons sure looked better when the schedule came out, but after a slow start the champs pounded the “dead” Birds.   Host the Jaguars in a game for AFC South superiority.

4. Packers (10-1) – Made their annual Thanksgiving turkey of the Lions as they won easily in Detroit.  It will be the battle for NFC dominance as they face the Cowboys in Dallas (BTW: Favre is 0-9 in Texas Stadium).

5. Steelers (8-3) – Had an UGLY win over the winless Dolphins in the slop and soup that they call a field.  Hopefully Heinz Field will be playable as they host the spoiler Bengals.

6.  Jaguars (8-3) – Avoided a letdown by punching the tiring Bills into submission with their tough physical style led by their ground-churning running attack.  It is time to put up or shut as they travel to Indy to face the champs in a huge AFC South battle.

7.  Browns (7-4) – Dominated the Texans led by a rejuvenated Jamal Lewis and an improving defense.  Travel to Arizona to face a Cardinals team who are the definition of inconsistency.

8.  Buccaneers (7-4) – They are not pretty, but boy are they tough!!! Beat the Redskins in a game where it seemed the Bucs were constantly defending their goal line.  They are beat-up and now they have to travel to New Orleans to face the Saints in a NFC South make or break game. 

9.  Chargers (6-5) – May have finally realized the formula for saving their season is to ride LT, Gates, and their tough defense.  Must stop Kolby Smith as they travel to KC to face the Chiefs and the “red storm” crowd.

10.  Seahawks (7-4) – This team is winning, but they didn’t show me much as they hung on to beat the reeling Rams.  Must face the Eagles in a game that will have huge NFC wildcard implications.

11. Giants (7-4) – The Vikings dominated them in the Meadowlands and everyone is asking “Is Eli the player to take them to the promise land?” Will face the Bears in the cold of Soldier Field and here is a tip don’t kick to the ball to Hester.

12.  Titans (6-5) – Lost for the third time in a row as V.Y and his boyz on offense couldn’t move the ball and on defense the secondary keep the Bengals out of the endzone.  Will try to end their losing streak at home against the Texans in another V.Y bowl.

13.  Bears (5-6) – It was the world’s greatest returner Devin Hester to the rescue as they found a way to beat the Broncos led by their special teams and defense.  Host the Giants in a “must-win” game if they want to have any chance of making the playoffs.

14.  Lions (6-5) – The Packers showed the kitty cats what a “real” contender looks like as they filleted them in front of the entire country on Thanksgiving.  Will travel to the Metrodome to face an upstart Vikings squad, who are looking to get back in the playoff hunt.

15.  Saints (5-6) – Knocked the hapless Panthers right into the upper portion of the draft with a dominating NFC South win, but can they catch the Bucs.  They will get their chance at home to pickup some ground on the Bucs in a NFC South battle.

16.  Broncos (5-6) – For some reason they kept kicking the ball to Devin Hester, which led to a tough overtime loss in Chicago.  If they want to stay on the division leading Chargers tails they will need to dispose of the tougher than their record Raiders in Oakland.

17.  Texans (5-6) – Were no match for the Browns Air and Ground attack as the Dawgs rode Jamal Lewis to victory.  Will need to contain V.Y as they travel to Tennessee to face the reeling Titans.

18.  Eagles (5-6) – Led by backup AJ Feeley they almost pulled off Mission Impossible winning in New England, but there are no moral victories in the NFL.  Whom ever is quarterback will need to keep this team moving forward at home against the Seahawks.

19.  Redskins (5-6) – Couldn’t punch the ball in at the red-zone leading to a disheartening loss to the Bucs.  Will try to pickup the pieces of their season and quell their grief over the loss of comrade Sean Taylor at home against the Bills.

20.  Bills (5-6) – Were thoroughly run over by the physical Jags in Jacksonville.  Travel to DC to face a ‘Skins team dealing with their heavy hearts.

21.  Vikings (5-6) – They humiliated the Giants in the Meadowlands as their defense seemed to catch everything Eli threw and taking them back to the house.  Host the Lions in a must-win game that has wild card implications.

22.  Cardinals (5-6) – Blew a great opportunity to stay in the hunt for the NFC West title behind the Seahawks by coughing up an overtime win to the Niners.  Host the new “Cardiac Kids” as the surging Browns come to town.

23.  Chiefs (4-7) – Hello Kolby Smith, but they could not convert a crucial 4th and 1 when the game was on the line against the Raiders.  Host the Chargers in a game they must win to keep their flickering playoffs hopes alive.

24.  Panthers (4-7) – Showed that they are not a very good team right now by losing badly to the Saints and we maybe seeing the end of the John Fox era.  Host the Niners in a pride game for two teams going nowhere fast.

25.  Ravens (4-7) – The Chargers sent them to their 5th straight loss as they slept-walked through another game, which may lead to some changes at the top of this reeling organization.  It will be interesting to see if the Ravens can summon up their defensive swagger as they host the angry Patriots on MNF.

26.  Falcons (3-8) – With Vick unavailable, this Thanksgiving night game was a bowl of gravy for the champion Colts.  They will be singing “Meet me in St. Louis” as they go on the road to face the equally hapless Rams.

27.  Raiders (3-8) – Showed that they still had a little pride by finally stopping the run when it mattered most against the Raiders in an old-time AFL rivalry game.  Host the Broncos in an old-time AFL battle of two rivalry teams.

28.  Bengals (4-7) – Their fantasy football dream team finally came to play as they pushed the Titans further toward the playoff exit.  We will see if the Bengals Chad Johnson gets to ham it up for the cameras in Pittsburgh against the Steelers.

29.  49ers (3-8) – Tried everything possible to let the Cards off the hook, but Warner fumbled in overtime and the Niners finally ended their eight game losing streak. Travel to Carolina to face the Panthers in a game that only has draft spot implications.

30.  Jets (2-9) – Showed no fire or heart in an embarrassing loss on Thanksgiving Day to the ‘Boys.  Another bottom of the barrel game as they travel to Miami to face winless the Dolphins, who want just one win.

31.  Rams (2-9) – Had the Seahawks on the ropes in a home pride game, but Ferotte couldn’t get the snap at the goal line.  Host the Falcons in a game that only the players’ Moms can stomach.

32.  Dolphins (0-11) – In the mud and the slop this team continued their march toward the NFL draft in April.  They even lost comeback player Rickey Williams for the season after only six carries.  This maybe the week they finally get their win as they face the equally terrible J-E-T-S.

2007 NFL Week 12 Review

(Philadelphia, Pa) —- It is hard to believe, but Turkey Day has come and gone (hopefully everyone had a happy Thanksgiving) with the NFL hitting the third quarter pole toward its February close date.  You better appreciate this time of year in the NFL, because the season will be over before we know it and each week is a saga unto itself.  The weekly soap opera brings tremendous high and lows based on storylines that will keep diehard fans, fantasy football geeks, casual fans, guys that study betting lines, and everyone else on the edge of their seat for the entire rollercoaster ride from September to February.

The separation pattern continued in week 12 as the “Championship Rounds” (November and December) have led to several trends appearing.

  • Some teams are streaking forward toward the playoffs by stringing consecutive wins together — Patriots (11), Cowboys (8), Packers (6), Buccaneers (3), Seahawks (3), and Jaguars (3) — while others seem stuck in neutral and can’t seem to get a win continuing losing streaks – Dolphins (11), Ravens (5), Panthers (5), Chiefs (4), Titans (3), Redskins (3), and Lions (3)
  • Championship level teams are showing their mettle (Patriots, Colts, Jaguars, Cowboys, Steelers, and Packers)
  • Early season potential playoff upstarts coming back to earth i.e. “Frauds” — Lions, Ravens, and Titans (Giants???)
  • Bunch of other teams fighting for their playoff lives weekly as parity continues (There nine 5-6 teams including the Eagles, Redskins, Bears, Vikings, Cardinals, Texans, Broncos, Bills, and Saints).
  • Teams getting ready for the draft in April (Panthers, Rams, Jets, Falcons, Niners, Raiders, and most importantly the winless Dolphins who seem assured of picking first – Arkansas RB Darren McFadden is quickly moving up my list, but I still like the pro prospects of Kentucky QB Andre Woodson)

—The Eagles almost pulled off the impossible, hanging with the might Patriots for four quarters in a 31-28 loss. In the NFL there are no “moral victories” as only wins in the official standings count when the season is over.  Every NFL team can point to “shoulda woulda coulda” games that were almost victories, but the best teams find ways to win tough close games.  Sure I was happy to see the Birds go all out in a game no one including yours truly gave them any chance to win (NFL record tying 24 point underdogs).  But in the end the pretty girl talked to them and they went home without her number.  Andy Reid said after the game “Obviously, there are some good things we can take out of this game and there are also a ton of things we need to work on”.  What I did notice was that the Eagles might have shown other teams in the NFL the formula for beating the Patriots. 

1) Get pressure on quarterback Tom Brady – the Eagles brought “heat” from five pass rushers including LB Chris Gcong (1 sack) finishing with three sacks overall and how about the hit defensive end Juqua Thomas laid on the “golden boy” quarterback.

2) Minimumalize mistakes – the Eagles only had 3 penalties as opposed to the Patriots seven and their O-line allowed zero sacks, but turnovers was where the game was lost for the Birds (Eagles three, including one returned for a touchdown to the Patriots none)

3) Play physical with Randy Moss and tattoo any receiver that catches a ball – Moss was limited to five catches for 43 yards with zero touchdowns as Eagles corners Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard grabbed, pushed, and frustrated him.  The tandem also knew safeties Brian Dawkins and JR Reed were also lurking over the top to hit any receiver ready to catch a pass. 

4) Play loose — We saw an onside kick recovery, a flea-flicker, an almost pass by a receiver, and a “no fear” attitude throughout the entire team from embattled head coach Andy Reid to all forty-seven players that suited up for the Birds. See other NFL teams, they are human after all. 

5) Limit the Patriots number of runs causing them to be a passing team only — The Birds took away the Patriots running game (15 rushing plays), but they were unable to get an interception off the Pats’ season high 54 pass plays for 380 of the team’s 410 total yards.

—Everyone better start planning for the NFC playoffs to go through either one of two places Dallas or Green Bay, as the Packers and Cowboys are both 10-1.  These two teams showed on Thanksgiving by destroying their opposition that this maybe a flashback year to the mid 90’s when these storied franchises were at the top of the conference.  Their Turkey day wins setup a marquee Thursday Night Football battle on NFL Network in week 13 in Dallas.  The game will feature America’s New Sweetheart Dallas quarterback Tony Romo against his former hero growing up in Wisconsin, Packers quarterback Brett Favre.

Before we go onto the weekly awards and game notes a couple of Lloyd’s Leftovers.

  • R.I.P Redskins Safety Sean Taylor — We are all grieving over the tragic shooting death of the maturing player at such a young age (24) and hopefully time will help to heal our remorse. My thoughts and prayers are with the Redskins and Sean’s family/friends.
  • As a noted football historian I would be remiss if I didn’t also send out my thoughts and prayers to the family of NFL Hall of Fame player Bill Willis.  The former Cleveland Browns and Ohio State passed away on 11/27/2007 at the age of 86 after a brief illness.  Willis was a two-way player (Tackle and Linebacker), who was one of the first African American players after the thirteen-year drought in professional football from 1933 to 1946.  Willis not only played for the Browns of the All American Football Conference (AAFC) and then the NFL, but he and teammate Marion Motley showed that African Americans could play with ferocity and intelligence.  Willis is credited with being the first African American to play and excel at the “middle guard” position, which later became the coveted middle linebacker position (thinking man’s position on defense).  Willis was enshrined in the pro football hall of fame in 1977. Steve Perry, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s President/Executive Director said of Willis “The courage and leadership exemplified by him while leading the cause to break down racial barriers is a model for all of us all to live by.”
  • Hey Pittsburgh Steelers, fix your turf!!!  I know that the Rooney family is one of the classiest group of owners around, but it was a national disgrace that the Steelers and Dolphins had to play on a sloppy soupy playing field at Heinz Field last Monday Night.  The 3-0 win by the Steelers was one of the worst games that I have watched due to the field conditions and thank goodness no players were hurt due to the conditions.  I think the best way to fix this wear/tear and drainage problem for good – seems every year the Heinz Field turf is replaced – is to go with a synthetic grass rather than sod due to the Pitt Panthers, Steelers and several high school WPIAL championship games being played every year in late November.

Games Balls

Chicago Bears Kick Returner Devin Hester – I am no Larry Pasquale (vaunted former NFL Specials Teams coach), but even I know it is useless to kick to Bears uber kick returner Devin Hester especially down the middle of the field.  Hester may have saved the Bears season as he returned a punt 75 yards for a score and added an 88-yard kickoff-return for a score.  Both plays occurred in the crucial third quarter of the Bears 37-34 overtime victory against the Broncos and now Hester has tied his NFL record from last year of five returns for touchdowns.  In only his second season in the NFL, the “moves for days” runner has 10 returns for touchdowns in his career, which is four away from Brian Mitchell’s all-time record of fourteen (BTW: It took B-Mitch 13 years to compile his record). Former all-world returner Deion Sanders said of Hester “The reason he is so good is not only is he fast, but he has the strength to break tackles, good peripheral vision and impeccable timing.”

Honorable Mention

San Francisco 49ers LB Patrick Willis – Going into the season I thought Willis would e a solid candidate for the defensive rookie of the year and has not disappointed.  The first rounder from the University of Mississippi was amazing this week in the Niners 37-31 overtime victory over the Cardinals.  Willis had 18 tackles and .5 sacks while flying around the field.  He also made the play of the game running down Cards receiver Sean Morey on a 62-yard reception in overtime, when it appeared Morey was taking it to the house.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers DE Greg White – A relative unknown after toiling in the Arena Football League for two years, White showed he belonged in the big show. He made Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels look bad and in the process finished with four tackles, one sack, and two forced fumbles.

Kansas City Chiefs RB Kolby Smith  – After Larry Johnson’s foot injury and Priest Holmes’ retirement, everyone was asking, “who was going to step up to run the rock?”  The answer was the rookie running back from Louisville (5th rounder).  Smith in his first NFL start had 150 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-17 loss to the Raiders. Sure he got stuff on a critical fourth-and-1 late in the game, but Herm should have kicked the field goal.

Lloyd’s Lackey 

New York Giants QB Eli Manning – It seems every year we talk about the Giants and Eli’s swoon in the second half of the season.  Manning was “jittery” as GM Jerry Reese said as he threw for 21-49, 273 yards, 1 touchdown, and 4 interceptions.  Did I forget to mention that three of his four picks were returned for touchdowns in a bad 41-17 home loss.  I don’t know what Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier devised, but he sure made Manning look befuddled against the NFL’s worst pass ranked defense going into the game. 

Dishonorable Mention

Cincinnati Bengals WR Chad Johnson – I know “Ocho Cinco” had a good game catching 12 passes for 103 yards and 3 TDs, but ENOUGH with the antics.  I am here to tell all your posturing for the cameras does is separate you from your teammates in the ultimate team game.  I didn’t like your donning of a faux Hall of Fame blazer to celebrate a touchdown in week two and this week was worse.  Number #85 cost his team a 15-yard penalty and field position by using an end zone camera to celebrate his first touchdown.  If Johnson’s wants to help save Marvin Lewis’ job he will stop these shenanigans.

Baltimore Ravens – I think that the Ravens fans and their owner (Steve Biscotti) our getting tired of head coach Brian Billick and his reeling squad.  The Ravens have totally lost their way and Sunday they lost for the 5th straight time this week 32-14 to the Chargers.  The Ravens only had 210 total yards (only 56 rushing yards) and a poor time of possession of 28:05 plus 2 turnovers.  I am can just hear Ray Lewis’ mouth now and won’t get any better as the Patriots come to town after struggling against the Eagles.

St. Louis Rams QB Gus Frerotte – The journeyman passer fumbled on fourth-and-goal with the Rams on the verge of a potential game-winning touchdown with 27 seconds left, leaving everyone scratching their heads.  He also had pedestrian numbers of 20-32, 161 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT in a 24-19 home loss to the Seahawks.  The loss snapped the Rams two-game winning streak and now they should be thinking about whom they should take in the draft.

Game Notes

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Georgia Dome

Colts (9-2)     0   21   10   0      31  

Falcons (3-8)  10    3    0   0      13  

Texas Stadium

Jets (2-9)      0    3   0    0     3  

Cowboys (10-1)  7   14   3   10    34  

Ford Field

Packers (10-1)   0   17   14    6      37  

Lions (6-5)      6    3    3   14      26  

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Qualcomm Stadium

Ravens (4-7)    0    7   7   0      14  

Chargers (6-5)  0   22   7   3      32  

Soldier Field

Broncos (5-6)   3   10   14   7   0   34  

Bears (5-6)     3    3   14  14   3   37  

University of Phoenix Stadium

49ers (3-8)      7   10   7    7   6   37  

Cardinals (5-6)  7   14   0   10   0   31  

Giants Stadium

Vikings (5-6)   14   10   3   14  41  

Giants (7-4)     7    0   3   7   17  

Jacksonville Municipal Stadium

Bills (5-6)      0   7   7    0   14  

Jaguars (8-3)   10   6   3   17   36  

Paul Brown Stadium

Titans (6-5)   0   6    0   0   6  

Bengals (4-7)  7   7   14   7  35  

Raymond James Stadium

Redskins (5-6)     0   3   7   3      13  

Buccaneers (7-4)  10   9   0   0      19  

Edward Jones Dome

Seahawks (7-4)   7   0   10   7   24  

Rams (2-9)      16   3    0   0   19  

Cleveland Browns Stadium

Texans (5-6)   7   3   0   7      17  

Browns (7-4)  0   14   3   10      27  

Bank of America Stadium

Saints (5-6)    0   10   21   0  31  

Panthers (4-7)  3    3    0   0   6  

Arrowhead Stadium

Raiders (3-8)   3   3   7   7   20  

Chiefs (4-7)    7   3   7   0   17  

Gillette Stadium

Eagles (5-6)      7   14   7   0    28  

Patriots (11-0)  14   10   0   7    31  

Monday, November 26, 2007

Heinz Field

Dolphins (0-11)   0   0   0   0      0  

Steelers (8-3)     0    0   0   3      3  

NFL Family is Shaken as News of Sean Taylor’s Death Spreads

(Philadelphia, PA) — As someone, who is part of the “NFL Family”, I can only feel remorse today (November 27, 2007) as I have learned that Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor (24) died this morning from a gun shot wound suffered yesterday.  The former University of Miami star (the fifth overall selection in 2004) had been shot in the upper leg during an apparent break-in, losing significant blood that led to his horrific death.  Doctors had been encouraged late Monday night when Taylor squeezed a nurse’s hand, but he never regained consciousness.This type of situation like last season’s shooting death of Denver Broncos CB Darrent Williams brings to light the fact that the NFL is just a game and that our society has a horrible history of violence especially in the African American community. Everyone needs to understand that gun-crimes are happening everywhere and to anyone – Small town America to Urban cities – including NFL players.  I know where I live in Philadelphia shooting deaths are reported everyday like the weather and they are reaching an alarming rate (362 dead so far this year).  No one is safe and I appeal to the lawmakers, law enforcement, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to help curb these problems — Alright I am off my soapbox.

Taylor unfortunate death came at a time when he was growing on and off the field.  He did not play in the Redskins loss on Sunday to the Bucs due to a knee injury, but he was leading his team in interceptions with five and he appeared on his way to his second Pro Bowl.  Taylor in the past had an unfortunate history of run-ins with the NFL on and off the field (hitting violations, uniform infractions, spitting incident, off the field fights, and other acts), but he seemed to be getting his life together with the birth of his 1-year old daughter Jackie.  He was even considered one of the emerging leaders in the Redskins locker-room along with quarterback Jason Campbell, fellow Safety Laron Landry, Offensive tackle Chris Samuels and others.  Teammate receiver James Thrash said of his fallen teammate “From the first day I met him, from then to now, it’s just like night and day”.  He added “He’s really got his head on his shoulders and has been doing really well as far as just being a man. It’s been awesome to see that growth.”

No one knows how the team will respond as some may take a while to mourn and others may use the loss of their teammate as a rallying cry.  I know from my experience following the Philadelphia Eagles loss of teammate Jerome Brown in a car accident before the 1992 season that many teammates called the traumatic event a “hole that could never be repaired”.  The Eagles went on to a 10-6 record playing in a fog for most of the season, many times looking for their brother to them out of a rut and they even took his locker with them on game days.  But the ghost of Brown kept lingering in the player’s psyche.

No one has a crystal ball, but we do know that the Redskins have suffered a horrible loss that will take time to heal and they have to play the Buffalo Bills this Sunday.  But the machine that is the NFL will keep moving and now a 5-6 reeling team has to deal with a terrible tragic loss.  Coach Joe Gibbs said of his hard hitting free safety, “He loved football. He felt like that’s what he was made to do”.   The hall of fame coach added “And I think what I’ve noticed over the last year and a half … is he matured. I think his baby had a huge impact on him. There was a real growing up in his life.”

Miami-Dade Police are investigating the attack, which came just eight days after an intruder was reported at Taylor’s home.

R.I.P – Sean Taylor you were taken away from us too soon.

Eagles Almost Pull off the Impossible: As Feeley shines in a 31-28 loss to the Patriots

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Everywhere that I have gone since the Eagles 31-28 three point loss to the mighty Patriots — another one to match their Super Bowl 39 deficit — is that they have a “moral victory” to lean on.  Well people I am here to tell you that in the NFL there are no “moral victories” as only wins in the official standings count when the season is over.  Every NFL team can point to “shoulda woulda coulda” games that were almost victories, but the best teams find ways to win tough close games. Sure I was happy to see the Birds go all out in a game no one including yours truly gave them any chance to win (NFL record tying 24 point underdogs).  But in the end the pretty girl talked to them and they went home without her number.  What I did notice was that the Eagles had a flow and spark that has not been seen since their week three 56-21 rout of the Lions.  We saw an onside kick recovery, a flea-flicker, an almost pass by a receiver, no sacks allowed by the O-Line, a sack by an Eagles linebacker (Chris Gcong), inspired play from our quarterback, a Greg Lewis sighting (two touchdown catches), physical defensive back play, only three penalties and a “no fear” attitude throughout the entire team from embattled head coach Andy Reid to all forty-seven players that suited up for the Birds.  Were these spark filled changes due to AJ Feeley (27-42, 345, 3 TDs, 3 INTs) being under center instead of franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb… hmmm maybe so (more on that later), but either way the game was a loss.

I don’t know if the Patriots are starting to become complacent, but they had a team in front of them for four quarters for a change – See other NFL teams, they are human after all.  The Eagles’ 21 first-half points were the most scored against the Patriots in the first half this season.  The Birds never backed down until Patriots CB Asante Samuel intercepted a long A.J. Feely pass intended for WR Kevin Curtis in the end zone with 3:58 remaining in the fourth quarter. The drive like many in the Eagles history tortured their fans as their team went on a long seven-play 71-yard drive that ripped their hearts out again with a game-ending turnover.  The turnover bug once again was the Eagles undoing as they had zero takeaways, but three costly giveaways including Feeley being picked off three times including Samuel returning forty yards for the games initial score.  In order to make the transition to a playoff team from now 5-6 the Eagles must improve on their NFC low 11 takeaways.

The Birds took away the Patriots running game (15 rushing plays), but they were unable to contain the Patriots passing game — season high 54 pass plays for 380 of the team’s 410 total yards — especially slot receiver Wes Welker, who recorded season highs in receptions (13) and yards (149).   The Patriots went with a four-wide receiver formation the entire first half and Eagles just couldn’t cover everyone as star receiver Randy Moss was limited to five catches for 43 yards receiving, but former Eagles receiver Jabar Gaffney and Welker were often times wide open.    The defensive backs physical play often times caused a hiccup in the Patriots rhythm and potential MVP Tom Brady (34-54, 380, 1 TD, 0 INT) was limited to just one touchdown pass as the “Golden Boy” didn’t reach at least three touchdowns for the first time this season. The Patriots also had an uncharacteristic seven penalties and at least two almost interceptions that I counted, but the Eagles just couldn’t grasp the few straws America’s Team was leaving them.

Forget the “moral victory” talk as Andy Reid said after the game “Obviously, there are some good things we can take out of this game and there are also a ton of things we need to work on”.  Reid added, ” When you’re playing a good football team turnovers can affect the game”.   The lose could possibly show the Eagles the right direction to finding their five straight win 2006 season ending mojo, but not taking advantage of the Patriots vulnerability and not winning have to be sticking points.  I do not think that the season is lost, but it maybe time to start thinking of the unthinkable and giving the reigns to AJ Feeley if McNabb is not healthy.  I don’t know if it is the impending doom around McNabb (I believe he will be gone at the end of the year), Feeley’s timing in running a system he loves, or the team responding to a new challenge, whatever the reason we saw an Eagles team that was focused, spark filled, cohesive, and ready to play in a season where their middle name has been “inconsistency”. 

Everyone will have to live with “almost” for Game: Mission Impossible and welcome to a full fledged “quarterback controversy” Philly.  The whole situation eerily reminds of the 1992 version of the Eagles where former often injured superstar quarterback Randall Cunningham came back from a knee injury only to face questions of was fiery backup Jim McMahon better for the team.  That season ended with a wild card loss to the Redskins, but we will have to see where the 2007 version leads us with McNabb and Feeley stepping into the roles.  One thing is for sure is that the airwaves, water coolers, and lines at your favorite hoagie shop will be buzzing with “Who should start at quarterback for the Birds in their must win game against the Seahawks??”  Whomever the quarterback is under center for the Eagles this week, everyone including the team needs to put the “moral victory” in their rearview mirror and concentrate on making their playoff push as the Eagles are tied at 5-6 with the Redskins, Saints, Cardinals, Vikings, and Bears vying for the NFC’s last wild card spot.

Game Report: Cowboys crush Eagles 38-17

The BIGPLAY RADIO NFL PODCAST: HOME TEAM EDITION will feature game day blogs and podcasts. In this series, the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES are featured throughout their 2007 season from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA.Dallas Cowboys (6-1) AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (3-4), 8:15 PM EST, Lincoln Financial Field

(Philadelphia, Pa) — BIGPLAY Football NFL Writer and Correspondent Lloyd Vance was at Lincoln Financial Field to experience the most heated rivalry in Philadelphia sports as Terrell Owens and the hated Dallas Cowboys came to town.  Lloyd was joined at the game by 67,688 rabid Eagles fans.

Pregame Notes:  Sunday Night Football is back in Philly in a game I am calling “Show me something” as the Eagles have a chance to get back into the division race with a win and the Cowboys want to prove they are now the kings of the NFC East.  The 6-1 Cowboys, coming off their bye, start a three-game NFC East swing, with the first two on the road while the Eagles (3-4) are trying to get to the elusive .500 mark.  Growing up in Philadelphia, this was the only game on our calendar every year and this one is no different. The hated Cowboys will be bringing public enemy number one (Terrell Owens) and you better get your popcorn ready for a slugfest. Cowboys TE Jason Witten said it best about the tough battle that awaits against the Eagles, “We know the challenge that’s ahead of us”.  This match-up has gotten better each week as Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb has gotten stronger and the ‘Boys keep winning under America’s new golden boy quarterback Tony Romo (recently signed a six-year, $67 million deal that includes $30 million in guaranteed money).  The seemingly rejuvenated Eagles always seem to turn it up a notch at this time of year (Philly has the NFL’s second-best November-to-season’s end record since 2000, 43-18, .705), but the game comes after a tumultuous week for Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid as he missed practice Thursday to be in court with his two oldest sons. A judge sentenced Reid’s sons to prison and quotably called the coach’s home a “drug emporium.” The Cowboys lead the all-time series 53-42, but the Eagles have won their last two meetings including a 23-7 victory on Christmas Day 2006 in Dallas.  Statistically the two teams seem to be evenly matched with the Cowboys holding an edge offensively, both try to lean on their passing game and an attacking defense.  There are always players to watch in each game and this one is no different.  The Cowboys marquee players are WR Terrell Owens, TE Jason Witten, QB Tony Romo, and RB Marion Barber offense and on defense athletic LB DeMarcus Ware is the lynchpin.  The Eagles will counter with RB Brian Westbrook on offense (2nd in NFC with 670 scrimmage yards (411 rush, 259 rec.) and on defense they welcome back Pro Bowl corner back Lito Sheppard, plus watch for high energy sack man Trent Cole (36 TKLS, 9 Sacks to lead the NFL). Also watch for the emotional return of the Eagles heart and soul, Safety Brian Dawkins (5 games missed, neck stinger). 

First Quarter: Eagles 7 – Cowboys 14, Emotion was definitely in the building as the Eagles won the toss and elected to receive the ball.  After a 26-yard Correll Buckhalter return, the emotion left as quickly had assembled – took all of 13 seconds — as QB Donovan McNabb fumbled on the first snap from scrimmage.  On the play, McNabb was trying to make something happen by moving around the pocket and possibly looking to scramble when Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears chopped the football loose and Linebacker Bradie James recovered at the Philadelphia 37-yard line.  After the fumble recovery, the Cowboys went on a six-play three minutes forty-seven second scoring drive mainly encompassed by a 23-yard catch and run by Terrell Owens.  The drive ended with a Julius Jones 2-yard touchdown run.  The Eagles responded by going on a 75-yard, 8 play, 3:55 scoring drive of their own, which ended with a 2-yard Brian Westbrook touchdown run.  The biggest play on the Birds drive was a 45-yard catch and run from McNabb to WR Reggie Brown.  The Cowboys calmly took the field after the Eagles score looking for more of their own.  QB Tony Romo then engineered a 9 play, 72 yard, 5:24 minute drive ending with a short 1 yard Romo to Curtis touchdown pass making the score 14-7 Dallas.  The touchdown was set up by Cowboys RB Marion Barber catching two short screen passes and then running for 22 and 14 yards respectively.  The tough University of Minnesota back also had a 16-yard run to the Eagles 1.  The quarter ended with the Eagles having the ball in a drive that would end at the Dallas 36 yard line with a Sav Rocca punt.

Second Quarter:  Eagles 7 – Cowboys 21, This quarter was mostly filled with punts back and forth between Australian punters, the Eagles Rocca and the Cowboys Matt McBriar.  The quarter did get exciting near the end as the Eagles seemed to be poised to tie the game after a big interception by CB Lito Sheppard at the Eagles 8-yard line.  But on the ensuing series McNabb threw two incompletions and then set the Cowboys up for the kill with a bad interception by Ken Hamlin at the Eagles 28 yard line that was returned to their 14-yard line.  After the interception, Barber carried the ball three times in 49 seconds ending with a 5-yard up the middle touchdown run making the score 21-7.  At this point the Cowboys gleefully ran to the locker room knowing they were in control. 

Third Quarter: Eagles 10 – Cowboys 35, This quarter was fun for the Eagles nemesis Terrell Owens.  On the Cowboys opening drive, Owens and Romo beat an Eagles blitz with T.O taking a pass over the middle forty-five yards for a touchdown making the score 28-7.  Owens punctuated the score with his old Eagles wing-flapping dance as Eagles’ fans lamented about how times had changed.  The Eagles tried to get back in the game, but their next drive stalled at the Dallas thirty-six yard line and they settled for a David Akers field goal.  The Cowboys answered with a 10:32 minute drive ending with a 20 yard Romo to Witten touchdown making the score 35-10 that made many of the Birds fans leave.  Also on this drive there was a scary moment that NFL officials will definitely look into as Eagles DT LaJaun Ramsey hit Dallas running back Julius Jones helmet to helmet as the running back was sitting on the ground.  The play drew a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty, but Ramsey could have been ejected. The quarter ended for the Eagles with another drive ending punt by Rocca after McNabb was sacked and they stalled at the Dallas 43 yard line.

Fourth Quarter: This quarter was played in a near empty stadium as the two teams played out the inevitable ending as everyone knew the Eagles could not come back.  The Cowboys began the half with the ball and continued on their romp through the Eagles scoring on a 10 play, 5:50 minute, 85 yard drive that ended with a Nick Folk 22-yard field goal making the score 38-10.  The drive was helped by maybe the highlight of the NFL weekend as Cowboys TE Jason Witten absorbed a helmet flying hit and then raced 53 yards without it into Eagles territory.  The Eagles then operating in the no-huddle scored a meaningless touchdown on a 10-yard McNabb to Baskett with a little under six minutes remaining in the game making the score 38-17.  The team left the field to a smattering of boos and catcalls from the few Eagles fans that stuck around. 

Final Analysis:  Cowboys 38 – Eagles 17 — To me this game was an eye opener as throughout the Andy Reid era, the Eagles were solid against the Cowboys and in night games.  But this horrible loss was totally different as the Eagles were dominated in every facet of the game.  The Eagles usually stout defense — no team had scored more than 21 points in the first seven games and they only allowed eight touchdowns in 77 possessions — looked tentative as the Cowboys marched to 38 points in three quarters. Dallas racked up 437 total yards (Eagles 316), won the turnover battle (3 to 1), held the ball longer, and were an incredible 8 for 12 on third downs.  All those positive numbers were to the delight of Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens (appointed as captain before the game), who embarrassed the Eagles secondary producing 10 catches for 174 yards with a touchdown, which is a far cry from his Parcells numbers where he only caught five passes for 68 yards in the two meetings with the Eagles last year.  This truly could be a season threatening loss as the Eagles are now 0-3 in the NFC East and 3-5 at the season’s halfway point. The lone bright spot for the Eagles was the continued quality play of running back Brian Westbrook who had 65 yards rushing with a touchdown and tied a team record with 14 catches for 90 yards — Don Looney also had 14 receptions for Philadelphia at Washington on Dec. 1, 1940.  The loss was particularly hard on quarterback Donovan McNabb as he was 27-for-46 for 264 yards, one TD, two interceptions and he was sacked three times.  After the game McNabb said  “There’s no room for error,” and “We have to win these next couple games. Our mind-set can’t be what’s going to happen when we get to the playoffs. We just have to focus on winning the next couple games.”  The Eagles travel next to the 5-3 Washington Redskins (won 23-20 over the Jets in overtime) in a game where they truly do have their backs against the wall.

Lloyd’s Leftovers:

  • T.O moved into 12th place ahead of Jimmy Smith on the all-time receiving yardage list with 12,445 yards.
  • Cowboys tight end Jason Witten looked like a boxer that just finished a heavyweight bout with a bloody nose late in the 4th quarter, but he said of his hatless 53-yard run, “Hurt a little bit, but didn’t really feel it until afterward”.  He added “Helmets fall off sometimes, but not when it’s snapped off by the guy. Never had it and kept going. Probably just reaction.”
  • Eagles veteran safety Brian Dawkins seemed tentative in his return from a neck stinger producing 2 tackles in the loss and admitting that the T.O touchdown was his fault.

   

  • Eagles CB Lito Sheppard was injured in the third quarter (sprained knee) after trying to provide a shadow on Terrell Owens.

Week 12 NFL Rankings

 (Philadelphia, Pa) —- This week it was the poor Bills turn to get the boot in the butt as the Patriots throttled them 56-10 in Buffalo on Sunday Night Football.  Some may not like the “childish” way that Bill Belichick is proving his point that his team is more than a bunch of cheaters (told you when it happened forget “spygate” this team is special).  But I have no problem with a professional team “running the score up” against another professional team.  This is not the University of Miami beating up on Division 1-AA Florida A&M circa the ‘90’s; these are big boys being paid to stop each other.  Over the past few months I have constantly been on the side that the “America’s Team” will not make it unscaved through the 2007 season, but I may have to eat some crow.  The Boston pretty boys still need to navigate tough games coming up against the Steelers in week 14 and Giants in week 17 to reach the 1972 Dolphins Holy Grail, but I don’t even know if these two potential playoff teams have enough to compete with the Pats.  Someone has to step up though, right ??? I am guessing that there has to be one team out there that will get hype enough to fight the town bully –1985 Bears and 1998 Vikings, both finished 15-1 with lower level teams rising to knock them off for their only regular season losses — and I know everybody in the league will be pulling for all of  the Pats’ future opponents due to their presumed “arrogance”.There are now 18 teams with a .500 or better record after 11 weeks including the undefeated Patriots.  There are also 14 teams with losing records including the poor winless Dolphins (0-10). We are now in the time of the NFL schedule that I like to call the “championship rounds” — Late November and Early December — because byes are over and teams are making their final push towards making the playoffs. The key for all potential playoff teams is they need get “hot” and string wins to together in the championship rounds (ex. 2006 Eagles went from a record of 5-6 to 10-6 and playoff spot).

Happy Thanksgiving, Don’t eat too much (bring on the candy yams) and enjoy the NFL !!!

1.  Patriots (10-0) – The poor Bills were embarrassed by America’s team.  This week it is the Eagles turn at “Mission impossible” as they travel to New England for Sunday Night Football. 

2.  Cowboys (9-1) – This team has a lot of the pieces to challenge the Packers for NFC supremacy and maybe give the Patriots a scare.  Won a shootout over the Redskins as T.O showed why he has been reborn in Dallas.  Host the better than their record Jets on Thanksgiving.

3.  Colts (8-2) – They have not seemed like the same team since the 2nd half of their loss to the Patriots due to turnovers and injuries. Limped home with a win over the Chiefs and they should feast on the Falcons on Thanksgiving.

4. Packers (9-1) – Count me in as a believer in the Pack as they have continued to dominate.  Exploded on the reeling Panthers as Favre looks like the ’96 version of himself.  Better not look past their traditional rival the Lions as they travel to Detroit for Turkey Day.

5. Giants (7-3) – Showed that they are a legitimate contender by out-muscling the host Lions.  Will host the Vikings, who are still dangerous without Peterson due to a hard charging Chester Taylor.

6. Steelers (7-3) – I thought they could crack the upper echelon of my list, but they are too inconsistent as displayed by their OT loss to the Jets.  Will try to pick up the pieces on Monday Night Football versus the winless Dolphins, who may have Ricky back.

7.  Jaguars (7-3) – This team may not be flashy, but they are sure tough and they could challenge the Colts for AFC South dominance.  Showed the Chargers that they were not afraid in a big road win.  Host the upstart Bills in a possible letdown game.

8.  Browns (6-4) – Road the leg of the Phil Dawson in a wacky overtime win over the reeling Ravens.  Cannot rest on their laurels as they want to keep the “save Romeo” campaign going at home against the upstart Texans.

9.  Buccaneers (6-4) – Did just enough to get by the Cardinals as the veteran combination of Garcia to Galloway turned back the clock to the 90’s again.  Have a well deserved week off to get healthy.

10.  Seahawks (6-4) – Even though they don’t have Alexander running, they have seemed to make a push towards the playoffs.  Got revenge against the Bears for last year’s divisional playoff round.  Need to guard against a letdown as they travel to St. Louis to face divisional rival the upstart Rams.

11.  Titans (6-4) – V.Y passed for a ton of yards in a MNF loss to the Broncos, but he also had two bad picks.  Will travel to Cincy to face the Bengals in an old-time AFC Central battle.

12.  Redskins (5-5) – Lost a track meet to the Cowboys as Al Saunders finally opened up the playbook.  Will travel to Tampa Bay to face the tough Bucs in a potential wild card battle.

13.  Lions (6-4) – Yapped way too much in a bad home loss to the Giants and appear to be a “fraud” in my opinion.  Host the Packers in a traditional Thanksgiving game that will tell everything you need to know about the Leos.

14.  Chargers (5-5) – Were out-muscled by the Jags as Merriman got his lights put out.  Host the Ravens in a game that both teams need to keep their playoff hopes alive.

15.  Broncos (5-5) – Won on Monday Night Football as they harassed the Titans into several turnovers.  Will travel to Chicago to face the dangerous Bears.

16.  Texans (5-5) – Were singing “Hallelujah” as big play receiver Andre Johnson returned to the field in a win over the Saints.  Will have to face the Browns in the dog pound this week.

17.  Bills (5-5) – They are improving, but they had no answer for the Patriots in a landslide loss.  Have another tough battle against the physical Jags in Jacksonville.

18.  Eagles (5-5) – Struggled in a home victory over the winless Dolphins.  Will be facing Mission Impossible as they travel to New England for Sunday Night Football.

19.  Cardinals (5-5) – Led by gritty leader Kurt Warner, showed the Bengals that they are going in opposite directions.  Host the reeling Niners in a key NFC West battle.

20.  Chiefs (4-6) – This team looks lost as they cannot decide on a quarterback and they may have lost LJ and Priest for the season.  Put up a fight with the Colts, but it wasn’t enough.  Host the Raiders in a “Just Get a Win Baby” game.

21.  Bears (4-6) – Continued their Superbowl loser hangover by losing to the Seahawks.  Host the upstart Broncos in a game Da’ Bears have to win to keep their flagging playoff hopes alive.

22.  Saints (4-6) – I thought they had turned the corner after reaching .500 after four straight wins, but they have looked like a “pretender” the past two weeks.  Lost on the road to the Texans.  Need to come up big on the road against the Panthers, who are also fighting for their NFC South lives.

23.  Panthers (4-6) – This team is falling apart and I don’t see this changing anytime soon.  Were dominated by the Packers in a loss that showed they will be rebuilding soon.  Host the Saints in the NFC South’s version of the “Desperation Bowl”.

24.  Ravens (4-6) – They are reeling as their team is falling apart from the inside after two straight losses including their recent strange home loss to the Browns.  Travel out west to face the Chargers in a match-up of two ’06 playoff teams that are underachieving this season.

25.  Vikings (4-6) – Proved that they are not a one-man gang by running over the Raiders.  Travel to the Meadowlands to take on the improving Giants.

26.  Jets (2-8) – Mangini is starting to look like Man-genius again as the J-E-T-S physically beat up the Steelers in an overtime win.  Travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys in a Thanksgiving Day special.

27.  Rams (2-8) – Have now won two straight after the bye including their rivalry win over the Niners.  Host the Seahawks in another NFC West rivalry game.

28.  Falcons (3-7) – Still cannot decide on a quarterback, but does it matter.  Were throttled at home by the Bucs in a game that showed that they have a long way to go.  Host the Colts in NFL Network’s Thanksgiving Night Special.

29.  Raiders (2-8) – They have equaled their ’06 season total, but they need to show me more.  Couldn’t stop Chester Taylor as they were dominated against the Vikings.  Travel to KC to face the Chiefs in an old-time AFL rivalry game.

30.  Bengals (3-7) – Maybe seeing the end of the Marvin Lewis era as the Bungles are limping home.  Had way too many turnovers in a bad loss to the Cardinals.  Host the angry Titans in a pride game.

31.  49ers (2-8) – Have not won a game after starting 2-0 and now they are looking like one of ‘07’s biggest frauds.  Lost at home to the Rams, who also passed them in the standings.  Travel to Arizona to face a rising Cardinals team.

32.  Dolphins (0-10) – Despite a thrilling return for a touchdown by Teddy Ginn, they didn’t have enough versus the Eagles.  Travel to the Steelers on MNF in the welcome back Joey Porter game.

2007 NFL Week 11 Review

(Philadelphia, Pa) —- This weekend’s games brought more strange plays, separation between contenders and frauds, upsets, and surprises as once again the NFL showed that it is definitely the hardest league to predict. We are now in the time of the NFL schedule that I like to call the “championship rounds” — Late November and Early December — because byes are over and teams are making their final push towards making the playoffs by stringing wins together.  These wins are usually accompanied by the same formula of running the football (especially in bad weather), passing efficiently and protecting the ball on offense (25 or less throws), causing turnovers on defense, keeping penalties to a minimum, and making plays on special teams  (especially my favorite players kickers) — see Giants 7-3 and Bucs 6-4.  Conversely teams that are starting to fall to the wayside (ex. Panthers) continually have too many penalties (six or more), too many turnovers (2 or more in a game), too little rushing attempts (18 or less), injuries, and special teams gaffes (poor field position, no big plays on returns, and missed field goals).

One team that is not going anywhere, but to the top of the charts is the New England Patriots who continued to make the NFL their weekly Pop Warner game.  This week it was the poor surprising Bills turn to get the boot in the butt as the Pats throttled them 56-10 in Buffalo on Sunday Night Football.  Some may not like the “childish” way that Bill Belichick is proving his point that his team is more than a bunch of cheaters (told you when it happened forget “spygate” this team is special).  But I have no problem with a professional team “running the score up” against another professional team.  This is not the University of Miami beating up on Division 1-AA Florida A&M circa the ‘90’s; these are big boys being paid to stop each other.  And as Barry Switzer used to say when his vaunted option attack was destroying teams by sixty points or more “It is not my fault they can’t stop the run, they knew we were going to run it and they should have been able to stopped it”.   Over the past few months I have constantly been on the side that the “America’s Team” will not make it unscaved through the 2007 season, but I may have to eat some crow.  This team truly looks like a juggernaut with an amazing net point total of 254 points — Points scored: 411 (#1 in NFL) and Points allowed: 157 (#3 in the NFL) which is over 125 points better than the next team (Steelers at 124) — to prove no one is even close to them at this time.  The Boston pretty boys still need to navigate tough games coming up against the Steelers in week 14 and Giants in week 17 to reach the 1972 Dolphins holy grail, but I don’t even know if those two potential playoff teams have enough to compete with the Patriots.

One of the interesting storylines that has continue throughout this season is the struggles of former 2006 playoff teams the Baltimore Ravens (4-6), Chicago Bears (4-6), New Orleans Saints (4-6), Philadelphia Eagles (5-5), and San Diego Chargers (5-5).  Of this group only the Eagles won 17-7 over the winless Dolphins (struggled after being down 7-3 at the half). Coincidently their have also seen the rise of 2007 NFL Draft early selectors (Lions 6-4, Browns 6-4, Buccaneers 6-4, and Cardinals 5-5), which shows that the NFL is a year to year / week to week league where fortunes can change quickly. With byes completed, “good” coaches have made the adjustments necessary to win the championship rounds and are getting ready for the playoffs.

In case you missed it there were some “stop the presses” moments this week

  • Jacksonville Jaguars short but stout running back Maurice Jones-Drew putting out the lights of Chargers LB Shawn “Lights Out” Merriman.  Jones-Drew decked the flamboyant linebacker with an in your chest block that allowed quarterback David Garrard to throw a touchdown pass.  As Jones-Drew told me before the 2006 NFL Draft “I am not a small back, I just happen to be short but I am physical” and he sure is as each week he gets tough yards between the tackles taking on all comers.
  • I am going to call it “The holy pinball” as the scrappy Browns continued their rise up the standing thanks to a strange game tying 51-yard field goal by Phil Dawson. In the final moments of regulation, Dawson apparently missed a field goal that bounced off the right upright and then off the crossbar.  After the play had seemed to be completed with the Ravens going to their locker-room, but not so fast as the officials got together for 5:00 minutes (seemed like forever) to make the right call — Oh my goodness they got it right!!! Which is awesome considering they could not use replay.  They reversed the call correctly calling that the ball hit the upright went over the bar and then hit the pole behind the crossbar causing it to bounce back onto the field.  Fortunately for the Browns the play propelled them to an overtime victory.  Unfortunately the Ravens continued on their journey toward a major rebuilding job this offseason with another game they let slip away.
  • The holy pinball probably caused beleaguered Ravens head coach Brian Billick to grab the Maalox as their season seems to be slipping away.  Other coaches that also lost this week who are probably feeling the hot seat along with Billick include Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, Panthers head man John Fox, Niners head coach Mike Nolan, Falcon first year head coach Bobby Petrino and Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron.
  • I don’t know if it is me or what, but this year in the NFL seems to be the year of the kick returner.  It seems that almost every team (sorry Eagles) now has a guy in the mold of Bears return man Devin Hester that can take it to the house.  At the Eagles-Dolphins game which I attended, your jaw couldn’t help but drop to the floor as you watched the breathtaking speed of Dolphins returner Ted Ginn Jr as he made one move and sprinted 87 yards for a stopwatch touchdown. 

Games Balls

Arizona Cardinals CB Antrelle Rolle – After struggling for his first couple years in the league this former 2005 first round pick has finally found his stride.  Rolle was amazing in the Cards 35-27 victory over the Bengals intercepting not one or two, but three passes returning two for touchdowns.  Rolle would have had an NFL record 3 returns for a TD, but defensive end Antonio Smith was flagged for a block during Rolle’s 71-yard potential touchdown run with 32 seconds left in the game. Did I mention he also had 4 tackles and performed some serious acrobatics after his scores.

Honorable Mention

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrell Owens – For years here in Philly it has always been talk of T.O ‘s mouth, but this season Owens has reinvented himself in Dallas as of all things a leader.  Playing with his new favorite quarterback Tony Romo, Owens was spectacular catching 8 passes for 173 yards and scoring all of the Cowboys 4 TDs (4, 31, 46 and 52 yards) in their 28-23 win over the Redskins.  It is hard to believe Owens is almost thirty-five as so far this season he has 58 catches for 1028 yards with a 17.7 average and 12 touchdowns in just 10 games.

New England Patriots Combo: QB Tom Brady and WR Randy Moss – It seems every week one or the other or both are in my Game Balls section, so this week I am giving a combination award.  The pair continued their assault on the Patriots and NFL record book by connecting on four more touchdowns.  In the laughable 56-10 win over the Bills on SNF, Brady threw for numbers of 31-39, 373 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs) and Moss in seeing what his competition (T.O) did in the afternoon caught 10 balls for 128 yards and 4 TDs.  Brady currently is primed to set NFL all-time highs in yards and touchdowns as he currently has 3059 yards and a Patriots record 38 touchdowns through ten games.  Moss extended his numbers to 66 catches for 1052 yards with a 15.9 ypc and 16 TDs (Pats Record) in ten games, which may help people forget his two-year exile in Oakland (102 catches, 1558 yards, 15.0 ypc and 11 TDs).

Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis: Ray-Ray has been very loud recently in the papers and in the locker-room recently regarding his team’s play and coaching decisions, but he backed it up on Sunday producing 16 Tackles, 1 Fumble Recovery, and an 1 Interception.  Lewis’ 35-yard interception return of a Derek Anderson pass was the play of the game for the Ravens, but it was not enough as they lost at home to Browns in overtime.

Lloyd’s Lackey

Cincinnati Bengals QB Carson Palmer –  The nightmare season continued for the Bengals and Palmer as once again turnovers were there downfall in a 35-27 loss to the Cardinals, falling to a record of 3-7.  Palmer had to be singled out as the main culprit as he threw four interceptions, three to Antrelle Rolle with two going back to the house (see Game Balls). The Bengals threw the ball way too much and Palmer’s numbers of 37-52, 329, 2 TDs, 4 INTs show that in the NFL you need to have a balanced attack to be successful.

Dishonorable Mention

Philadelphia Eagles TE LJ Smith – The big tight end from Rutgers seems more concerned with his next contract rather than concentrating on his play.  Smith on the Birds’ second drive of the game nullified a beautiful flea-flicker pass from Donovan McNabb to Kevin Curtis for an apparent touchdown with a holding call. Smith also dropped a pass right on his numbers at the goal line and drew an unsportsmanlike player penalty for yapping at an opposing player after a touchdown.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Everyone thought they might be ready to compete with the Patriots for AFC dominance, but the Steelers (7-3) showed their inconsistency losing in overtime to the hapless Jets 19-16.  In the game, the Steelers had 8 penalties, 2 turnovers, and allowed 7 sacks (ouch Roethlisberger).

Detroit Lions – After talking a big game going into their crucial matchup with the Giants the Leos laid an egg.  In front of their home crowd, the Lions were dominated in the first half (were shutout) and they finished with only 25 yards rushing, 7 Penalties, 4 turnovers, 1 missed FG, and 3 sacks by venerable Giants DE Michael Strahan.  By the way, Detroit Lions quarterback Jon Kitna shut up!!, because you don’t get the right to say you are better than a team after they just whipped your butt.

Scoreboard

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Texas Stadium

Redskins (5-5) 7   3   3   10  23  

Cowboys (9-1)  0   7   7   14  28  

Monster Park

Rams (2-8)   7   3   0   3   13  

49ers (2-8)  3   0   0   6    9  

                  

Qwest Field

Bears (4-6)      10    7   0   6      23  

Seahawks (6-4)  7   10   7   6      30  

Giants Stadium

Steelers (7-3)   0   7   6   3   0   16  

Jets (2-8)      10   3   0   3   3   19  

RCA Dome

Chiefs (4-6)   0   3   7   0   10  

Colts (8-2)    0   3   7   3   13  

Reliant Stadium

Saints (4-6)   3    7   0   0   10  

Texans (5-5)   7   10   0   6   23  

Lambeau Field

Panthers (4-6)   3    0   7   7      17  

Packers (9-1)    7   14   7   3      31  

Paul Brown Stadium

Cardinals (5-5)   7   14   14   0      35  

Bengals (3-7)     7   6   14   0      27  

Jacksonville Municipal Stadium

Chargers (5-5)   0   3   7   7      17  

Jaguars (7-3)   10   7   7   0      24  

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome

Raiders (2-8)   3   16   0   3   22  

Vikings (4-6)   9   10   3   7   29  

Lincoln Financial Field

Dolphins (0-10)   0   7   0   0    7  

Eagles (5-5)      0   3   7   7   17  

Ford Field

Giants (7-3)    3   7   3   3      16  

Lions (6-4)     0   0   3   7      10  

M&T Bank Stadium

Browns (6-4) 3   10   14    3   3   33  

Ravens (4-6) 0    7    7   16   0   30  

Georgia Dome

Buccaneers (6-4)   7   7   10   7  31  

Falcons (3-7)         0   0   0    7   7  

Ralph Wilson Stadium

Patriots (10-0)   14  21   7  14  56  

Bills (5-5)            7   0   3   0  10  

Monday, November 19, 2007

Field at Mile High

Titans (6-4)      0  10  7   3   20  

Broncos (5-5)  14   6  7   7   34