2011 NFL Week 3 Remix by Lloyd Vance

The Baltimore Ravens (2-1) look to be back near the top of the AFC and rookie WR Torrey Smith was one of the stars from  Week 3 of the 2011 NFL Season

As the calendar changes to autumn, the NFL moves closer to the first quarter marker of the 2011 NFL season.  Week 3, which I dubbed “Separation Sunday”, definitely helped continue the 12-week process of sorting out which teams are contenders and pretenders before November and December’s playoff push.   T

One thing is apparent, no one in their right mind could have predicted the wacky start to this season.  Week 3 had an NFL record 9 games that were decided by 3 points or less.  The capricious world of the NFL was never more on display than this week as the Buffalo Bills coming off a  4-12 season impressively beat the New England Patriots 34-31 in Orchard Park, NY.  The win ended the Patriots’ 15-game regular-season winning streak over their AFC East rival.  The Bills also became the first team in NFL history to win consecutive games after trailing by 18 points or more.  Unbelievably the Bills were the last team to win in 2010, but this is a whole different season. Continue reading

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McNabb’s Washington Debut is a Success

Redskins QB Donovan McNabb had a strong performance in his Washington debut against the Buffalo Bills

After only having one preseason game last week, the NFL exploded this week with a slate of 16 early season battles.  One the most anticipated storylines of the 2010 NFL Preseason Week 1 was the debut of 12-year veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb with the Washington Redskins.

The former Eagles starter for 11 years had been performing in training camp to some mixed reviews.  But as usual “Game Time” meant that the former 6-time Pro Bowl passer was all business.  McNabb gave the Redskins’ faithful something to cheer about as he led Washington to a dominating 42-17 home victory over the hapless Buffalo Bills.

After a couple of errant throws in his first series, the notoriously slow starting McNabb picked-it-up.  Big 5 started to look comfortable in his new surroundings on Washington’s second offensive series.  And finished with respectable numbers 5 for 8 for 58 passing yards and one rushing yard in two series of work.  His biggest play was a 4-yard touchdown to Anthony Armstrong. 

McNabb said after the lopsided win, “When you play your first game, obviously, with a new ballclub, it takes you back to the first game you played.”  The dual-threat passer added, “Your adrenaline is high, and you have to settle down a little bit. The second time we went out, after our first drive, it led to us putting up some points.”

Next up for McNabb and the Redskins will face the Baltimore Ravens on August 21 in a territorial bragging rights game.  But you know the 33-year old passer is using every game until October 3rd (vs. the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field) as a warm-up.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Season – Week 11 Preview

RB Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jags will look to stay in the playoff hunt as they host the Buffalo Bills in Week 11

As the 2009 NFL Season moves closer to the third quarter pole and it is quickly becoming apparent that this season is going to come down to the bitter end (week 17) before everything is said and done.  After 10 weeks of play, there are still the “Have’s” including two undefeated teams (Colts and Saints both 9-0) and the “Have Nots” (six teams with 2 or less wins).  But there are also 15 teams currently caught in the league’s parity-filled middle (records ranging from 3-6 to 5-4) that still need to figure out, real fast, if they are joining or jumping out of the playoff hunt. 

There are currently 17 teams at .500 or better, so over half of the teams in the parity-laden league have a shot for one of the NFL’s 12 coveted playoff berths. Two teams that are very much in the driver’s seat for two the NFL’s playoff spots are the league’s  unbeaten teams  – the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints.  The Colts and Saints are just the third pair in NFL history to start a season 9-0, joining the 1934 Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears and the 1990 New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers.  Winning early in the year is nothing new for the Colts, who are 9-0 for the third time in the past five years and have won a franchise-record 18 consecutive regular-season games — tied with the 2003-04 Patriots for the second-longest streak in NFL history.  This week, the Colts will be pitted in  “The Charm City Grudge Match” as they return to Baltimore for a battle with the Ravens (5-4).  Colts rookie head coach Jim Caldwell said of his team’s good start, “We can’t be any better, but the fact of the matter is, there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

As great of a story the Colts run back up the NFL ladder without head coach Tony Dungy has been, an even better story this season has been the New Orleans Saints.  With their 28-23 win over St. Louis in Week 10, the Saints reached a record of 9-0 for the first time in franchise history.  Hard to believe, the Saints  were 4-5 at this time last season.  However this season with an embarassment of offensive weapons (QB Drew Brees, RB Pierre Thomas, scatback Reggie Bush, WR Marques Colston and others), the Saints have been the scoring machine of 2009 as they have put up an NFL-best 330 points (next highest is the Vikings with 271).  This week the Saints have a dangerous NFC South game in Tampa Bay against a Bucs (1-8) who play better than their awful record.  The Saints along with the Cincinnati Bengals (7-2 in 2009; 1-8 in 2008) and Dallas Cowboys (6-3; 5-4) are current division leaders who were in last place after Week 10 a year ago.    Speaking of division races, the nine 2009 division leaders (Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers are tied for first in the AFC West) are a combined 63-18 (.778) through Week 10, which is 22 wins better than their records from a year ago at this time (41-40, .506). 

For the second week in a row, the NFL’s weekly action began on Thursday night.  This week the Miami Dolphins (5-5) behind veteran running back Ricky Williams powered their way passed the Carolina Panthers (4-6) for a hard earned 24-17 road victory – more on this game in the Week 11 review.  Whenever I see that the NFL is playing games on Thursday Nights and the Thanksgiving holiday is approaching, I know that NFL bye weeks have concluded.  In Week 10, the NY Giants and Houston Texans completed the NFL’s off-weeks until the playoffs.  Without having byes and teams playing on short rest, teams have to study and prepare much quicker for their next week’s opponent.  Players will also have to heal quickly, which is always a challenge in the NFL this time of the year as team’s rosters sometimes resemble a MASH unit. 

But the good teams that have a chance to win the NFL’s championship rounds (Weeks in late November, December, and early January) will make the adjustments needed, will not turn the football over, and most importantly establish a running game on their way to the playoffs.

Since the real fun is beginning, I thought now was a good time to look at the remaining games for all of the NFL’s contenders (9-0 to 3-6 teams)

ARI (6-3)                @STL      @TEN     MIN        @SF        @DET     STL          GB

ATL  (5-4)               @NYG     TB            PHI          NO          @NYJ      BUF         @TB

BAL  (5-4)               IND         PIT          @GB       DET         CHI          @PIT      @OAK

BUF  (3-6)              @JAC      MIA         NYJ          @KC       NE           @ATL      IND

CAR  (4-6)                              @NYJ      TB            @NE       MIN        @NYG     NO

CHI  (4-5)               PHI          @MIN    STL          GB           @BAL      MIN        @DET

CIN  (7-2)               @OAK    CLE          DET         @MIN    @SD       KC           @NYJ

DAL  (6-3)               WAS        OAK        @NYG     SD           @NO      @WAS    PHI

DEN  (6-3)              SD           NYG         @KC       @IND     OAK        @PHI      KC

GB (5-4)                 SF            @DET     BAL          @CHI      @PIT      SEA          @ARI

HOU (5-4)              TEN         IND         @JAC      SEA          @STL      @MIA     NE

IND (9-0)            @BAL      @HOU    TEN         DEN         @JAC      NYJ      @BUF

JAC (5-4)             BUF         @SF        HOU        MIA         IND         @NE       @CLE

MIA (5-5)                               @BUF     NE           @JAC      @TEN     HOU        PIT

MIN (8-1)               SEA          CHI          @ARI      CIN          @CAR     @CHI      NYG

NE (6-3)                NYJ          @NO      @MIA     CAR         @BUF     JAC          @HOU

NO (9-0)                 @TB        NE           @WAS    @ATL      DAL         TB            @CAR

NYG (5-4)             ATL          @DEN     DAL         PHI          @WAS    CAR         @MIN

NYJ (4-5)                @NE       CAR         @BUF     @TB        ATL          @IND     CIN

PHI (5-4)              @CHI      WAS        @ATL      @NYG     SF            DEN         @DAL

PIT (6-3)                 @KC       @BAL      OAK        @CLE      GB           BAL          @MIA

SD (6-3)                  @DEN     KC           @CLE      @DAL     CIN          @TEN     WAS

SEA (3-6)                @MIN    @STL      SF            @HOU    TB            @GB       TEN

SF (4-5)                  @GB       JAC          @SEA      ARI          @PHI      DET         @STL

TEN (3-6)              @HOU    ARI          @IND     STL          MIA         SD           @SEA

WAS (3-6)           @DAL     @PHI      NO          @OAK    NYG         DAL         @SD

Week 11 in the NFL will features: 

Six divisional match-ups  — Redskins at Cowboys, Chargers at Broncos (first place in the AFC West on the line), NY Jets at Patriots,  Saints at Buccaneers, Cardinals at Rams, and Titans at Texans (Monday Night Football)

Some interesting reunions  —

  • The Tennessee Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers) return to their former home city to face the Houston Texans.  Too bad this game couldn’t be played at the Houston Astrodome.
  • Arizona Cardinals QB and former Rams’ Super Bowl winner Kurt Warner returns to the Edward Jones Dome to face the St. Louis Rams.  Also remember the nomadic Cardinals once called St. Louis their home from 1960 to 1987.
  • The Indianapolis Colts return to the Charm City again to play the Baltimore Ravens, but some Baltimore residents will never forgive the Irsay family for moving their beloved team 25 years ago. The Colts-Ravens game will also mark the first game in Baltimore for Colts kicker and former longtime Raven Matt Stover
  • The New England Patriots will play host to the NY Jetsand their emotional head coach Rex Ryan, who got real mouthy after the Jets’ Week 2 win in the Meadowlands.
  • The Niners will travel to Green Bay to face the Packers in a revival of one of the ‘90s greatest rivalries – who could forget their 1999 Wildcard Game where T.O caught the game-winner for San Francisco.

Some teams that I believe in must-win situations this week – Philadelphia Eagles (at Chicago), New York Giants (host the Atlanta Falcons), Houston Texans (host the Titans), Baltimore Ravens (host the Colts) and Dallas Cowboys (host the Redskins)

Featured Game

Buffalo Bills (3-6)  at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-4), Sunday 1:00 PM ET (CBS) , Jacksonville Municipal Stadium

Broadcast Team: Bill Macatee and Steve Beuerlein

Surprisingly these two teams seeming to be going in opposite directions will meet for the fourth consecutive year – have split their last 4 meetings.  To say the least the 2009 NFL Season has been nothing like what the young Bills thought it would be.  They have had too many injuries, poor quarterback play, lack of production from their first round pick and a multitude of other problems through the first 10 weeks of the season.  All the disappointment came to a head this week as 90-year old owner Ralph Wilson (wants to win now) fired former head coach Dick Jauron this week.  Wilson had seen enough of his 3-6 team to know that a third 7-9 season in row would not be very popular in Western New York.

The Bills will regroup with interim head coach and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell at the helm.  Fewell’s first order of business was re-installing heady former Ivy leaguer Ryan Fitzpatritck (38-77-362-2-4)as the team’s starting quarterback and benching Trent Edwards.  The Harvard grad can run with the ball and seems to have found a nice repoirre with ticking time bomb receiver Terrell Owens (only 26 catches for 366 yards and 1 TD in 2009).  Speaking of T.O, the mouthy one only needs 92 yards to pass former Colts WR Marvin Harrison for fourth all-time in receiving yards – currently has career numbers 977 catches for 14,488 yards, 14.8 ypc, and 140 TDs.   However it is more than likely that the Bills will try to lean on their RB’s Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch  in attacking a Jaguars defense that allows average of 357 total yards per game.  The key for the Bills will be protecting Fitzpatrick behind a make shift O-line, but keep in mind the Jaguars only have 8 sacks as a unit this season.

With two teams that don’t play much defense, the real fun will be on offense.  The Jaguars can match the Bills in terms of big names on offense, but no name is bigger than “Pocket Hercules” for the Jags.  Running back Maurice Jones-Drew  is putting together another Pro Bowl season and Sunday’s game should be a showcase for him.  MJD’s numbers are amazing (169 rushes for 860 yards (2nd in AFC), 5.1 ypr, and an NFL leading 12 TDs) and he is a threat to take it to the house at anytime in the game.  Jones-Drew also should get help from efficient quarterback David Garrard (178-292, 2088 yards, 7 TDs, and 5 INTs) and emerging receiver Mike Sims-Walker (39 catches for 603 yards,  and 5 TDs).  The player the Jaguars offense will have to keep an eye on his possible defensive rookie of the year safety Jarius Byrd.  The second round pick from Oregon has been an unbelievable ballhawk producing an NFL leading 8 INTs including one in 5 consecutive games.

This game will also mark a homecoming of sorts for former Jags and current Bills players DT Marcus Stroud and CB Drayton Florence.

LV’s Pick:   Though the Bills won their last meeting in September of 2008 by a score of 20-16 and they have a narrow 5-4 overall series advanteage, Buffalo has been a mess this season.  As stated before Jauron is gone leaving Fewell, who has limited coaching experience, both their offense and defense has a ton of injuries, their quarterback is not a downfield thrower and T.O is about to have a T.O moment real soon.  The Jaguars are on a roll at home — won three consecutive home games – and I don’t expect that to change on Sunday, especially with Jags head coach Jack Del Rio trying to save his own job.  Jaguars 31, Bills 17 

NFL Week 11

THU, NOV 19 

Miami (5-5) over Carolina (4-6), 24-17 (NFL Network)

SUN, NOV 22 

Washington at Dallas 1:00 PM (FOX)  

Cleveland at Detroit 1:00 PM (FOX)  

San Francisco at Green Bay 1:00 PM (FOX)  

Pittsburgh at Kansas City 1:00 PM (CBS) 

Atlanta at NY Giants 1:00 PM (FOX)  

New Orleans at Tampa Bay 1:00 PM (FOX)  

Buffalo at Jacksonville 1:00 PM (CBS)  

Indianapolis at Baltimore 1:00 PM (CBS) 

Seattle at Minnesota 1:00 PM (FOX) 

Arizona at St. Louis 4:05 PM (FOX) 

NY Jets at New England 4:15 PM (CBS)

Cincinnati at Oakland 4:15 PM (CBS) 

San Diego at Denver 4:15 PM (CBS)

Philadelphia at Chicago 8:20 PM (NBC)

 

MON, NOV 23 

Tennessee at Houston 8:30 PM (ESPN)

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Training Camp Questions – AFC East

Buffalo Bills

How will RB Marshawn Lynch’s legal problems and suspension (3 games) affect the team?

Can the small-market Bills continue to compete with the larger market teams given their stadium and economic issues plus are they a candidate for re-location (L.A or Toronto permantly)?

After a 5-1 start then limping home in 2008 and finishing 7-9 for the second straight season will owner Ralph Wilson get rid of head coach Dick Jauron, if the Bills disappoint again?

Can inexperienced QB Trent Edwards and a passing game that only generated 14 touchdowns in 2008 keep diva receiver Terrell Owens and emerging pass catcher Lee Evans happy?

Will the return of DE Aaron Schobel from injury and the addition of first round selection DE Aaron Maybin help a defense that only produced 47 sacks in 2007 and 2008 combined? 

Miami Dolphins

With a much harder schedule in 2009 (only played six teams with a winning record in ’08), will the Dolphins be able to duplicate their win total from their miraculous 2008 turnaround season?

Will the Dolphins continue to be the NFL’s leader in utilizing the “Wildcat” formation and how will the addition of 2nd Rd pick QB Pat White impact their packages and schemes?

Are 3rd year receiver Ted Ginn Jr and running back Ronnie Brown (there are organizational questions about his toughness) ready to have breakout “Pro Bowl” type seasons?

Will Dolphins starting quarterback Chad Pennington stay healthy for a second straight season and if not are any of his back-ups (Chad Henne and White) ready to be #1?

How will the return of former Dolphins star DE/OLB Jason Taylor affect LB Joey Porter (17.5 sacks in 2008) and a defense that led the NFL in turnover ratio (+17)?

New England Patriots

How healthy is QB Tom Brady (knee) and in case he is not 100% does the team have confidence in backups Kevin O’Connell and Andrew Walter?

Are there enough carries to go around in a very crowded Patriots running back group (Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Sammy Morris)?

Will the Patriots be able to workout a new contract for Pro Bowl NT Vince Wilfork and if he doesn’t get his new contract how much of a distraction will he be this season?

How will the losses of former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (Broncos), front office executive Scott Pioli (Chiefs), and veteran SS Rodney Harrison (retired) affect head coach Bill Belichick and the team?

Will QB Tom Brady, WR Randy Moss, and the rest of the Patriots offense pick right back up to their 2007 high-flying ways (NFL record 589 points scored)?

New York Jets

Will it be 1st rd pick Mark Sanchez or 3rd year veteran Kellen Clemens as the Jets starting quarterback in 2009?

Other than emerging TE Dustin Keller, which pass catcher (Jerricho Cotchery, Brad Smith, David Clowney, Marcus Henry or Chansi Stuckey) will step up to replace the 70 catches that Laverneous Coles took with him to the Bengals?

After a breakout season in 2008 where he scored 9 TDs in a part-time role, will the Jets be able to sign holdout RB Leon Washington, who wants a MJD type deal (our-year, $31 Million contract includes $17.5 million guaranteed)?

Is new head coach Rex Ryan ready to assume the role of a head coach and how will the Jets adjust to his brash style and attacking “46” defense?

How will the Jets defense handle pass rusher Calvin Pace’s 4-game suspension and is still developing former 2008 first round pick Vernon Gholston ready to setup in Pace’s absence?

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Get Your Popcorn Ready as T.O’s Circus Comes to Buffalo

Bills Owens Football

T.O’s traveling circus has landed in Buffalo and it will be interesting to see how long the honeymoon last’s in Western New York

T.O’s back and there’s gonna be trouble…Hey LA…Hey LA.. T.O’s back.  Future Hall of Famer and erratic receiver Terrell Owens must be part cat as he found yet another NFL home (4th team) less than a week after being released by the Dallas Cowboys, surprisingly signing with the small-market Buffalo Bills.  The desperate move by Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr, age 90, to sign the enigmatic Owens to a one-year, $6.5-million deal ($2.5 salary w/ $4 million signing bonus) is the 2009 Hall of Fame inductee’s latest attempt to infuse excitement into his struggling franchise.  The Bills already are playing two games a year in Toronto, because their stadium situation is one of the worst in the NFL and Wilson wants to see a winner before he leaves everything behind. Wilson said of the signing, “We are happy to announce that we signed Terrell Owens to our team, we all know of his tremendous ability and look forward to what he will bring to our offense.”  I guess any owner would be happy to add an explosive part to an anemic offense that last year ranked 25th in the NFL in yards gained and failed to have a 300-yard passing.

However in signing the disruptive Owens, you have to think that the poor Bills (three consecutive 7-9 seasons, no playoffs since 1999, and one of the NFL’s smallest revenue streams in a bad economy) may have bitten off more than they can chew.  There is no question that Owens, 35, brings a boatload of talent — career numbers of 951 receptions for 14,122 yards (14.8 ypc) and 139 TDs – but he also brings a circus type atmosphere fueled by animosity and a “Me-Me” attitude that has destroyed relationships/locker-rooms in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas.  Think about it, T.O is the one man who maverick Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who lately has been running a home for wayward NFL players with player personality guru and former Cowboys’ running back Calvin Hill serving as “Father Flanagan”, said “Enough” to — not even notorious “Bad Boy” receiver Michael Irvin heard those words from Jones.   When asked about his divisive reputation, Owens said, “That’s all hearsay. If you look at all of the comments that have come from all of my teammates with the Cowboys, it’s all been positive. Prior to that … I don’t really want to get into it.”

The one-year signing does make sense on one level for an offense that could use a quality partner for emerging talent Lee Evans and a small-market team trying to “catch lightning in a bottle” in the big-ticket NFL.  But you have to wonder if the Bills are even getting the real T.O at this stage in his career.  Owens will be thirty-six next season and despite decent 2008 numbers of 69 receptions for 1,052 yards (15.2 ypc) and 10 TDs, he has not been as explosive on the field to merit the problems that he has caused off the field — questioned former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia’s sexuality, fought with Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb over his Super Bowl performance, training camp verbal altercation with former Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress, TV Camera sit-ups on his front lawn during a suspension, fighting with Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo over game plans, and much more.  Owens also in his three-year stay with the Cowboys had 60 dropped passes including 33 in 2008.  The two people that better get “their popcorn” ready to deal with the divisive Owens are Bills 3rd year quarterback Trent Edwards and embattled head coach Dick Jauron – on a very hotseat entering ’09 — as they are the new ringmasters of the T.O Circus.  Which means get ready to stroke the ego of Owens while trying to keep fifty-two other players, assistant coaches, the front office, and the media from igniting T.O’s notoriously short fuse.

Edwards said of the addition of Owens, “I am really excited about the addition of Terrell Owens to our team, we spoke earlier and both look forward to working hard this off-season. We share the common goal of winning football games. His ability and experience will add to our offense and the weapons we already have.”  So we all know this summer including training camp will be one big T.O Honeymoon where Owens says and does all the right things including befriending players like fifth string receiver Justin Jenkins, former pal with the Eagles.  But I am officially setting the T.O meltdown alarm for September 13th, which is the opening Sunday of the 2009 NFL Season, when Edwards overthrows T.O and Owens digs into the young passer.  Only time will tell if this version of Owens, this time in Western New York, will finally be able to become a team-first guy.  But don’t’ choke on your popcorn when Wilson eventually sends T.O over nearby Niagara Falls without a barrel.

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

The Top Moments/Performances to Remember from the 2007 NFL Regular Season (Part 2)

Every season there are moments that like the commercial says are “priceless”.  I have listed some of the moments/performances that I thought left an impression on the NFL in 2007. 

( Part 2)

Week 9: Vikings RB Adrian Peterson against the Chargers – I am calling this performance “the game that showed the NFL the future”.  I guess the six teams that passed on him due to questions of him being injury prone wanted their pick back after week 9 as Peterson broke Jamal Lewis’ single-game NFL record for rushing yards with 296 yards on 30 carries without looking winded in the Vikings 35-17 win over the Chargers.  He also scored three rushing touchdowns (1, 64, and 46 yards) and catch one pass for 19 yards plus went over a 1,000 yards for the season (1036 yards w/ 8 TDs) in only 8 games. The Vikings also set a club single-game record with 378 rushing yards in the win over the Chargers.  NFL Network Analyst Deion Sanders said of Peterson, “He has the vision of a Marshall Faulk, the power of a Terrell Davis, and the speed of an Eric Dickerson. Let’s pray he has the endurance of an Emmitt Smith.”

Week 9: The  “Clash of the Super Powers” or “Super Bowl XLI ½” as the Patriots beat the Colts 24-20: This was a “good” regular season game, but would I call the Patriots (9-0) come from behind win over the Colts (7-1) an Instant Classic, “No”.  Unlike all of the hype surrounding the game it never lived up to the greatest game I ever watched the January 2nd 1982, San Diego Chargers 41-38 overtime win over the Miami Dolphins in the divisional playoffs.  Sure the Patriots “survived” as they broke a three-game losing streak against the Colts and move on their merry way to their undefeated regular season.  But it was a struggle to the end as they had to wake up to score two touchdowns in a four-minute span of the final quarter to overcome a 10-point deficit.  The game wasn’t over until Patriots LB Roosevelt Colvin recovered a Peyton Manning fumble on a sack by DE Jarvis Green with the Patriots nursing a 24-20 lead.  New England linebacker Junior Seau said after the game, “We were going against a hostile crowd, an undefeated team, we took our hats off to them. But we still played well enough to win”.  The boxscore will tell you Randy Moss (9 catches for 145 yards w/ 1 TD) and Tom Brady (21-32, 255 yards, 3 TDs, a franchise record 33 for the season and continued his record of 3 TDs in a game) did all the work, but credit for the big win should be spread around to all the Patriots from the first guy (Brady) to the fifty-third player.  After a first half where the Patriots were outscored 13-7, demoralized by an incredible Joseph Addai 73-yard touchdown catch and run right before halftime, and outgained 114 total yards to the Colts’ 229, they turned the tables around in the second half gaining 228 yards to the Colts 100 yards plus produced 17 points.

Week 10: Philadelphia Eagles RB Brian Westbrook against the Redskins – The mercurial Eagles multi-purpose back against the Redskins in his hometown area (Washington DC/Maryland) tried to save the Eagles season by catching a screen pass and zigzagging his way 57 yards for the go-ahead touchdown and quieting a sold-out FedEx Field crowd with 3:16 left. The Redskins never challenged again after that point in the Eagles 33-25 victory.   For the game Westbrook, finished with numbers of 20 rushes for 100 yards w/1 TD and 5 receptions for 83 yards w/ 2 TDs

Week 10: Cleveland Browns KR/WR Joshua Cribbs against the Steelers – I have been a fan of Cribbs since he was a 1,000 yard passing and rushing quarterback in the same season for Kent State.  Cribbs elusiveness was on display this week in Pittsburgh as he was a major component in the Browns almost victory.  He had a huge 90-yard kickoff return that directly led to one of Browns quarterback Derek Anderson’s three touchdown passes.  Plus he had the NFL’s highlight reel play of the week as he had an improbable 100-yard kickoff return touchdown after fumbling the ball near the goal line and then racing down the sideline to the “house”. Cribbs finished with more yards on kickoff returns (204) than the Browns offense had total yards (163).  Cribbs said of his 100-yarder, “It was a couple of inches from going into the end zone and I had to make a decision and live with it”.

Week 11: Dallas Cowboys WR Terrell Owens against the Redskins – 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.  At this point in the season, the almost thirty-five old had 58 catches for 1028 yards with a 17.7 average and 12 touchdowns in just 10 games.

Week 11: Arizona Cardinals CB Antrelle Rolle against the Bengals – After struggling for his first couple years in the league this former 2005 first round pick finally found his stride in week 11.  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 3rd return 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. He also had 4 tackles and performed some serious acrobatics after his scores.

Week 12: Chicago Bears Kick Returner Devin Hester against the Broncos – 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 tried to save the Bears season as he returned a punt 75 yards for a score and added an 88-yard kickoff-return for a score in the 37-34 overtime victory against the Broncos.  Both plays occurred in the crucial third quarter and Hester tied his NFL record from last year of five returns for touchdowns (later broke the record with two more returns giving him seven for the season).  In only his second season in the NFL, the “moves for days” runner has 12 returns for touchdowns in his career, which is two 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.”

Week 12: San Francisco 49ers LB Patrick Willis against the Cardinals – The Niners tackling machine showed why he will be the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year. 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.

Week 13: The Cowboys show the Packers who the kings of the NFC are in a big win – In a game billed as the NFC showdown of the regular, the Cowboys harassed and then knock Packers quarterback Brett Favre (Shoulder, Elbow) out of the game in a dominating 37-27 win.  The win improved the Cowboys to 11-1 as Favre (5/14, 56 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INT) continued his losing ways in Texas Stadium (0-9).  Golden Boy quarterback Tony Romo had huge numbers of 19-30, 309 yards, 4 touchdowns and only one interception.  Romo found all-world receiver Terrell Owens (7 catches for 156 yards w/ 1 TD) and TE Jason Witten (6 catches for 67 yards) as they overcame 10 penalties and one turnover in the big win.  The key play of the game was a pass interference penalty on Packers CB Tramon Williams against WR Miles Austin in the fourth quarter, with Green Bay trailing 27-24. The penalty took Dallas from the Packers’ 47 all the way to the 5-yard line. Three plays later, Tony Romo found Patrick Crayton in the end zone for the clinching touchdown with 7:51 remaining.

Week 13: The Vikings continue the Lions free fall with a huge win as Peterson returns – The Lions were crowing to the entire NFL after they started the season with a 6-2 record at the halfway point, but this game was their fourth loss in a row as they were throttled by the Vikings 42-10 in the Metro Dome.  The game was a coming out party for Vikings quarterback Tavaris Jackson as he threw for 18-24, 204 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT and 20 rushing yards.  Jackson was also supported by the return of running back Arian Peterson from a knee injury as the rookie of the year contributed 15 rushes for 116 yards and 2 TDs in the win.  Vikings amassed an amazing 216 yards rushing, 443 total yards, and had a huge edge in Time of Possession ( 37:02 to 22:58 )

Week 14: Tampa Bay Buccaneers DE Greg White against the Texans– In a game where the Bucs lost 28-14 to the Texans, the NFL got a good look at Arena Football mystery man Greg White.  White had been a player who had toiled for years on the fringes on the NFL in training camps and in the AFL, but never really got a good chance until his coach for the Orlando Predators Jay Gruden peeped his brother Bucs head coach Jon Gruden to him.  White played just as well as Texans’ former number one draft pick Mario Williams as the AFL vet helped Bucs hold the Texans to less than 280 total yards and contributed three sacks and two forced fumbles. For the season White finished with 8 sacks and 7 forced fumbles.

Week 14: Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Whitten against the Lions – In a game that the Cowboys had to win to protect their home field advantage lead, Witten was huge.  In Cowboys improbable 28-27 come-from-behind win, Witten catch a tight end record tying 15 passes for 138 yards (Kellen Winslow also had 15 in a 1984 game) including the game-winner with 18 seconds left in the game.  The catch was also set a new Cowboys single-game record (previously held by Lance Rentzel (13) in a 1967 game) and tied the record for most receptions in a game by a tight end.  The win brought the Cowboys record to 12-1 and clinched division for the first time since 1998.  Unfortunately the loss was the Lions 5th straight on the way to a bad 7-9 record after a hot 6-2 start.

Week 15: The Dolphins Win, The Dolphins Win – All season everyone has been saying that this year’s Dolphins squad was bad enough to finish winless — the last team to achieve the unenviable lowlight were the 1976 Tampa Buccaneers who posted a 0-14 season.  Well everyone stopped with the speculation and jokes for one week as the Dolphins led by quarterback Cleo Lemon (23/39, 315 yards, one huge touchdown pass and zero interceptions plus 12 rushing yards) refused to lay down.  They fought from beginning to end as they pulled off a huge “get the monkey off our back” win over the reeling Baltimore Ravens 22-16 in overtime.  Lemon connected with little used WR Greg Camarillo for a 64-yard touchdown pass to gain the relieving overtime victory that left Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga in tears. 

Week 15:  Houston Texans DE Mario Williams against the Broncos – Everyone that scoffed at the Texans making him the first overall pick last year – including yours truly – had to eat some crow in week 15 as the former North Carolina State star was a monster.  Williams was huge on Thursday night harassing fellow ’06 draftee Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler and registering a career high 3.5 sacks and seven tackles in the Texans impressive victory.  Despite the effort Williams didn’t make the Pro Bowl despite 14 sacks.

Week 15: Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR/KR Michael Spurlock against the Falcons – It took 32 seasons and 1,865 tries, but he former Ole’ Miss quarterback made history as he had a 90 yard kick return for a touchdown in the Bucs 37-3 over the hapless Falcons.  Did I fail to mention that kick return was the first for a touchdown in the Bucs’ history.   For the game, Spurlock had two returns for 98 yards with a 49-yard average. Spurlock said. “Everybody got their block, I hit it and found the end zone.

Week 16: Kevin Everett returns to Buffalo – The scoreboard will read that the Giants beat the Bills 38-21 to secure a playoff berth, but that will not matter.  The game marked an emotional high for the close-knit Bills as their injured teammate Kevin Everett walked into Ralph Wilson stadium.  Everett with the help of prays by many and fine medical rehab work had done the impossible of walking after he had severely injured his neck in week one against the Broncos on special teams play.  Many had said the back tight end would never walk, but he proved everyone wrong with his miraculous effort.

Week 16: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger against the Rams – In a must-win game for the Steelers to wrap up their first divisional title under Mike Tomlin, Big Ben came up big. The nation was watching on Thursday Night football, so Roethlisberger used the occasion to show why he was a Pro Bowl player in 2007.  In the 41-24 thrashing, Roethlisberger threw for 16-20, 261 yards, 3 TDs and no interceptions.  The performance by the former Miami (OH) quarterback showed that despite the loss of running back Willie Parker that the Steelers were ready to play.

The Steelers finished with 425 Total Yards only two penalties, and had an amazing 36:16 in Time of Possession and 24 first downs compared to 17 for the Rams.

 in the dominating win.

Week 17: Patriots Historical Regular Season ends with a 16-0 record against the Giants – History was made on December 29th as the New England Patriots became the NFL’s first 16-0 team as they came back from a 12-point deficit to win 38-35 (joined the 1972 Dolphins 14-0, 1942 Bears, and 1934 Bears as the only teams to be undefeated in the regular season).  To my chagrin, beleaguered Giants head coach Tom Coughlin decided that his team was going to stop history as he put his full compliment of players on the field in the Patriots historic 38-35 victory.  The G-Men would not back down to the mighty Patriots and they were led by the fiery play of workhorse running back Brandon Jacobs (15 rushes for 67 yards, 44 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD), who got in the face of several of the vaunted Patriots.  No matter what happens in the playoffs the play of often maligned Giants quarterback Eli Manning against the Patriots will be remembered, throwing for numbers of 22-32, 251 yards, and four touchdowns with one interception.  The interception to Patriots defensive back Ellis Hobbs proved to be costly as the Patriots immediately converted the pick into seven points on a Laurence Maloney 5-yard touchdown run.  NFL “Golden Boy” Pats quarterback Tom Brady was pinpoint throwing for 32-42, 356 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.  Brady found his favorite target Randy Moss twice with the last one being a historic 65-yard touchdown play for both players.  The throw was Brady’s 50th touchdown pass of the year breaking Peyton Manning’s 2004 record of 49 and for Moss it was his 23rd touchdown catch breaking Jerry Rice’s record of 22 set in 1987. The record touchdown also had huge consequences on the game as the 65-yard bomb after Moss had drop a pass on the earlier play busted open the game for the Patriots and sapped the will out of the “game” Giants.  The Patriots also smashed the 1998 Vikings scoring record of 556 by posting an amazing 589 points for the season and passed the 1984 Dolphins’ regular season touchdown record (70) by putting up 75 touchdowns. Unfortunately the “moral victory” for Coughlin and the G-Men may have been costly as Center Shaun O’Hara, backup safety Craig Dahl and linebacker Kawika Mitchell all left the game with knee injuries, and cornerback Sam Madison had an abdominal strain.