(Philadelphia, Pa) —- This week showed that the best NFL football is played right here in the United States and not overseas. The excessively hyped NFL invasion of international venues starting with the Giants and Dolphins in London’s Wembley stadium was a monetary success with 81,000 plus fans gathering to watch “American Footballers”. NFL Network Analyst Steve Mariucci said of the historic game “It was a good thing for the NFL to go over there to show off our product”. But the game was rainy, soggy, and sloppy — 4 turnovers, 14 penalties, only 2 touchdowns, and a mere 208 passing yards — producing a pedestrian 13-10 G-Men victory with the only excitement coming from a second half streaker who had been dressed as an official. Maybe the “Commish” Roger Goodell should have sent one or both of the NFL’s two unbeatens –Patriots (8-0) and Colts (7-0)– to give the fans a more favorable product to peak their interest. I know the NFL stopped all of their 1:00 PM Sunday broadcasts to show the historic regular season game’s kickoff, but that was the brightest spot and we will have to see if European fans embrace “our” version of football. I think going forward a sprinkling of NFL regular season and pre-season games overseas (one of each every year) will work for now, but any thought of playing more games, placing a team, starting another minor league, etc should be very cautionary for the NFL. Remember America’s Game is an “unknown” to most Europeans as they have not grown up watching or playing the game, so there is a possibility that it may never catch on the way NFL suits want (Don’t forget the 15 year failed experiment that was WLAF, NFL Europe, and NFL Europa).
Speaking of the two unbeatens, they both made it through week 8 unblemished to reach their week 9 battle of the “Unbeatens” in Indianapolis. The Colts survived an early Panthers lead and Peyton Manning not completing a pass in the first quarter to steamrolling the Carolina Cats The Patriots in fact are riding an emotional high after throttling the poor Redskins 52-7 in Foxboro. The Patriots blowout win has sparked a heated debate by NFL fans and media around did the Patriots and their head coach Bill Belichick run the score up on respected Redskins head coach and his young team. The evidence would point to the Pats stepping on the ‘Skins throat over and over including going for it on fourth down and scoring, which should justify Gibbs not extending the courtesy of the a post game handshake. I am not going to throw Belichick under the bus for the score since you must continue to play until the end. But a coach and a team should be wary of “karma” as history has shown that these types of situations come back to “bite” the bullying team –- Former Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry’s decision to play his regulars and run up the score in replacement games in 1987 comes to mind as many franchises namely the “Eagles” never forgot how the Cowboys embarrassed their scabs—as everyone has incentive to knock them off their pedestal. I truly believe that the Patriots and Belichick relish in the “Darth Vader” role as it is “the team against the world” each week despite outside issues (spygate, nastiness to the media by the coach, running the score up, putting Brady back in games, showboating, etc). NFL Network Analyst Deion Sanders gushed over the Patriots saying “When they get the running game going with [Laurence] Maroney, they are going to be impossible to beat.” There is no question that the game will be much anticipated and overhyped this upcoming week and I will add my two cents in a full report on the battle in my week 9 preview.
One final note about “parity” before we go to the awards and game notes. I don’t know if it is parity or a dearth of talent, but there are 17 teams with a .500 or better record at the halfway point. There are also 15 teams with losing records including the surprising Super Bowl XLI runners-up the Chicago Bears (3-5), who have continued the Super Bowl loser “hangover” problem –since the ’93 Bills lost Super Bowl XXVIII, the big game loser has met with little success as 7 of the 13 teams since that team have missed the playoffs and only three won a playoff game in the subsequent season— that the Eagles and Seahawks ran into recently. Unfortunately for the job security of Scott Linehan and Cam Cameron, there continues to be two winless teams with the Rams and Dolphins (both 0-8). However give their coaching staffs credit as both teams have still have some fight in them and they have competed in almost all of their games with several “heartbreakers” (look for both of them to win one by week 12 as the 1976 Buccaneers 0-14 team should be safe).
No matter what any teams record at this time of the year, remember the “Any Given Sunday” rule as every team can be competitive and possibly beat another team each week. The NFL season is a long 17 week process that will no doubt go down to the last weekend for playoff spots, so every team except for the winless teams still has a chance to get to the dance. The key for all teams is you want to get “hot” and string some wins to together to make a playoff push in the crucial months of November and December (ex. 2006 Eagles went from a record of 5-6 to 10-6 and playoff spot).
New England Patriots OLB Mike Vrabel – The veteran linebacker was everywhere (Offense, Defense, and Special Teams) in the Pats dominating 52-7 win over the Redskins. In his primary role as the Patriots jack-of-trades linebacker (asked to cover, play the run, and rush the passer), Vrabel will be in ‘Skins quarterback Jason Campbell’s nightmares as he produced 13 tackles, 3 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles with one being recovered for a touchdown. If that was not enough on offense, he played as a tight end in the redzone and he caught his tenth career touchdown on a 2-yard pass from Tom Brady to give the Patriots a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. If you are still not impressed the former Ohio State defensive end even fielded a Redskins onside kick in the fourth quarter.
Philadelphia Eagles DE Trent Cole – The Eagles pass-rushing end told me when I visited with him in training camp “You have to get after and you need to have the dog in you to make plays” and that is exactly what he did in the Eagles 23-16 win over the Vikings. Cole, who has been the Eagles main force on defense, showed again that he deserves high Pro Bowl consideration as he contributed eight tackles, two sacks and applying constant pressured on Vikings quarterbacks. He now leads the NFC with 9 sacks.
Green Packers QB Brett Favre – Mr. Monday Night didn’t need much time in overtime as he threw an 82-yard touchdown reception to Gregg Jennings on the first play of overtime as the Packers beat the Broncos 19-16 in Denver. Favre finished with numbers of passed for 21-27, 331 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs. The Packers may now be the team to beat in the NFC at 6-1 and the rejuvenated 38-year old quarterback is a big reason.
New England Patriots QB Tom Brady – One week after winning my Game ball for week 7, Brady didn’t disappoint in a 52-7 rout of the Redskins. He finished with numbers of 29-38, 306 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT and 2 rushing TDs. He also extended his NFL record for passing for 3 TDs in each game at the start of the season. Look out Colts in week 9 as the “Golden Boy” will be ready.
San Diego Chargers CB Antonio Cromartie – The former first round pick from Florida State scored the first two touchdowns of his career. Cromartie pounced on a fumble in the end zone after the ball went sailing past Texans punter Matt Turk and he also had two interceptions, returning one 70 yards for a touchdown.
Chicago Bears QB Brian Griese – Completing one of the miraculous one-week spirals. Griese after getting a Game Ball Honorable Mention for a week 7 win over the Eagles, was terrible in the Bears 16-7 loss to the Lions. The game was important for the Bears to get back in the division race and Griese was a major reason for their loss. His numbers for the game against the NFL’s 30th ranked pass defense tell the horrible story (22-40, 208 yards, 1 TDs, 4 INTs, 1 lost fumble).
Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young – I don’t care that the Titans won 13-9 to run their record to 5-2. Young looked nothing like a pro quarterback throwing for 6-14, 42 yards with 0 TDs and a pedestrian 7 rushes for 11 yards. Even though he is recovering from a quadriceps injury, if the Titans want to make some noise in the playoffs, Young will need to step it up big time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jeff Garcia – It took until week 8 for Garcia to throw an interception and he sure did throwing 3 INTs in a bad 24-23 loss to the Jaguars. Garcia, who is known for his efficiency finished with bad numbers of 19-41, 267 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs. One of the interceptions was returned 28 yards for a touchdown by Aaron Glenn. All the interceptions stopped Garcia’s 217 passes without an interception streak.
New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick – I wrestled with giving Belichick this award, but you have to question why he needed to pound the Redskins the way he did on the way to a 52-7 win. I know that Hall of Fame Redskins Head Coach Joe Gibbs was not happy and he pulled a “Buddy Ryan” by forgoing the postgame handshake. Belichick didn’t make many friends around the league as he went for it on fourth down twice in the fourth quarter.
Scoreboard and Game Notes
Teams with Byes: Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Redskins (4-3) 0 0 0 7 7
Patriots (8-0) 7 17 14 14 52
WAS: J. Campbell (21-36, 197 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) , C. Portis (5-54)
NE: T. Brady (29-38, 306 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT and 2 rushing TDs) , W. Welker (9-89, 1 TD)
Saints (3-4) 10 14 0 7 31
49ers (2-5) 0 0 3 7 10
NO: D. Brees (31-39, 336) , D. Patten (5-109)SF: A. Smith (22-43, 190) , V. Davis (6-71)
Texans (3-5) 0 3 0 7 10
Chargers (4-3) 14 21 0 0 35
HOU: S. Rosenfels (17-27, 176 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) , M. Schaub (11/18 77 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs) , K. Walter (7-77)
SD: P. Rivers (7-11, 130, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) , A. Gates (3-92, 2 TDs)
Raymond James Stadium
Jaguars (5-2) 7 10 0 7 24
Buccaneers (4-4) 3 10 10 0 23
JAC: Q. Gray (7-16, 100) , F. Taylor (24-68)
TB: J. Garcia (19-41, 267, 1 TD, 3 INT), J. Galloway (6-115)
Bills (3-4) 3 0 0 10 13
Jets (1-7) 0 3 0 0 3
BUF: T. Edwards (14-21, 130), L. Evans (5-138)
NYJ: C. Pennington (13-20, 106, 0 TD, 0 INT) ,K. Clemens 5/12 67 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, T. Jones (16-70)
Raiders (2-5) 3 6 0 0 9
Titans (5-2) 3 0 7 3 13
OAK: D. Culpepper (15-32, 167 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT) , J. Fargas (12-61)
TEN: V. Young (6-14, 42, 0 TD, 0 INT and 7 rushes for 11 yards) , L. White (25-133)
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
Eagles (3-4) 3 14 3 3 23
Vikings (2-5) 7 3 3 3 16
PHI: D. McNabb (23-36, 333 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT), DE T. Cole 8 TKLS, 2.0 sacks
MIN: B. Bollinger (7-10, 94), A. Peterson (20-70)
Paul Brown Stadium
Steelers (5-2) 7 14 0 3 24
Bengals (2-5) 3 3 0 7 13
PIT: B. Roethlisberger (19-26, 230, 2 TDs, 1 INT) , W. Parker (22-126 yards, 1 TD), H. Ward 8 rec 88 yards, 2 TDs
CIN: C. Palmer (23-31, 205 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) , K. Watson (19-88)
Lions (5-2) 0 13 0 3 16
Bears (3-5) 0 0 7 0 7
DET: J. Kitna (24-35, 268, 0 TD, 0 INT) , K. Jones (23-105 yards, 1 TD, )
CHI: B. Griese (22-40, 208 yards, 1 TDs, 4 INTs, 1 lost fumble), G. Olsen (6-59), Benson only 13 rushes for 50 yards
Bank of America Stadium
Colts (7-0) 3 7 14 7 31
Panthers (4-3) 7 0 0 0 7
IND: P. Manning (14-30, 255) , R. Wayne (7-168)
CAR: D. Carr (16-25, 103), J. King (10-82)
Giants (6-2) 3 10 0 0 13
Dolphins (0-8) 0 0 3 7 10
NYG: E. Manning (8-22, 59, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 1 rushing TD), B. Jacobs (23-131)
MIA: C. Lemon (17-30, 149), J. Chatman (16-79)
Edward Jones Dome
Browns (4-3) 3 14 7 3 27
Rams (0-8) 14 3 3 0 20
CLE: D. Anderson (18-25, 248 yards,3 TDs,0 INTs), B. Edwards (8-117 yards, 2 TDs)
STL: M. Bulger (24-36, 310 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) , T. Holt (6-110 yards, 1 TD), S. Jackson 8 rushes 41 yards, 1 TD
Monday, October 29, 2007 8:30 PM
Invesco Field at Mile
Packers (6-1) 7 6 0 0 6 19
Broncos (3-4) 7 0 3 3 0 13
GB: B. Favre (21-27, 331 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs), G. Jennings (6-141 yards and 1 TD)
DEN: J. Cutler (21-34, 264, 1 TD, 0 INTs) , B. Marshall (3-74)