Baltimore Ravens, buffalo bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, houston texans, Indianapolis Colts, kansas city chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans
Buffalo 20, Cincinnati 23– After a fantastic 3-0 start, the Bills returned to looking more like the team of early 2010. Their second half performance was miserable, and the defense looked as vulnerable as many expected it to be at the beginning of the season. Credit also deserves to go to the Bengals defense, who stifled Chan Gailey’s spread offense, and Andy Dalton performed admirably in leading the team back. I do believe, however, that this loss goes squarely on the shoulders of Buffalo’s defense, who cannot consistently expect to get 3 or 4 turnovers to win a game. They will have to learn to stop drives on downs late in the game if they want to remain competitive in the AFC East.
Detroit 34, Dallas 30– No team lives and dies as much with one player as the Cowboys with Tony Romo. His first-half performance was outstanding, his second half performance miserable. There is no excuse for throwing three picks (two returned for TDs) when your team is up 27-3 in the third quarter. The Cowboys defense also deserves to be blamed, especially for that last TD, leaving Calvin Johnson in single coverage on the goal line, but frankly, without Romo’s mistakes there would be no comeback. The Lions, on the other hand, never give up in a game, and their belief that they can win any game is a remarkable turnaround compared to the 0-16 team of a couple years ago. I don’t think they will be able to overtake Green Bay to win the NFC North, but this team has become favorite in my opinion to take a Wild Card slot.
Pittsburgh 10, Houston 17– The Steelers once again showed a wide swath of vulnerabilities, and the outlook for this season is quickly going downhill. Their offensive line is atrocious, with several injuries and other aged linemen. Only center Maurkice Pouncey is noteworthy. Their defense is beginning to look its age and they were unable to stop Arian Foster. There pass defense still looks shabby, and their numbers would have been worse had the Texans needed to throw the ball more, but with Foster running rampant they did not. The Texans, however, nearly pulled a San Diego Chargers in somehow dominating the game, but letting it stay very close in score. Penalties killed them, including a blocked FG for a TD called back at the end of the first half. They got away with it today because of sound defensive play, but with Baltimore in two weeks, they need to fix the team discipline quickly.
Minnesota 17, Kansas City 22– In a surprise for me, Minnesota made Matt Cassel and Kansas City look like a decent team. Minnesota was competitive for most of the game, but that long TD catch and run by Dwayne Bowe just epitomizes the struggles of the Minnesota passing defense this year. They gave the ball more to Adrian Peterson in the second half, but they did not do much on the ground game all game, with Percy Harvin being their most effective runner. And finally, we get to Donovan McNabb, who in their last drive down by 5 with the game on the line went 1-5 for 15 yards, looking as bad as we have expected him to be. Their schedule does not show many obvious wins this season, and they could quickly become a favorite for Andrew Luck, whether they start Christian Ponder or not.
Tennessee 31, Cleveland 13– Tennessee’s defense may be the real deal. Their #1 overall right now and have looked the part in every game they have played. Hasselbeck has been a perfect fit to lead this offense, and even without Kenny Britt they can still move the chains. Chris Johnson finally turned in a good performance, and perhaps this gets him going for the rest of the season. As for Cleveland, now 1-3, this season is going downhill quickly. Colt McCoy does not seem to have improved much from last season, and his WR options are still very poor. The running game seems to go on hiatus at times, and the defense is obviously hurting in the transition phase to a 4-3. The goal for Cleveland this season may be to simply find out who fits the team and who does not and build from there, but another rebuilding season does not sound too goo to Cleveland.
San Francisco 24, Philadelphia 23– So much for the ‘dream team’. Frank Gore ran all over an Eagles defense that cannot tackle, and the passing defense could not stop Alex Smith in the second half. ALEX SMITH!!! Former offensive line coach and new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo may not be the man for the job. It’s not all on them though. The offensive line continues to suck, and Michael Vick was the Eagles running game (Lesean who?). This games goes to show, however, that a quarterback and skill players alone cannot win a game, however, especially if the QB is injury prone. Kudos to Jim Harbaugh for getting a lot out of a team that does not have a lot of talent on it. The 49ers are playing sound football, and are quickly becoming the favorite to win the NFC West.
New York Jets 17, Baltimore 34– A defensive battle was indeed what we got. Four turnovers for touchdowns…FOUR!!! That’s more than half the points scored in the game! Unfortunately for the Jets, three of the turnovers were committed by them. The Ravens pounced on an o-line with no Nick Mangold and demolished Mark Sanchez all night. Sanchez at one point even seemed to duck as he threw the ball, anticipating a hit. He had not time to find an open receiver, and the banged-up Ravens secondary covered well enough. The Jets defense performed alright as well, and Joe Flacco has a miserable night. The Jets, however, were not very capable at stopping the run in the 4th quarter, allowing the Ravens to milk the clock. The Ravens defense is looking as good as the 2006 one that led the team to a 13-3 record. The offense needs to realize that running the ball more with Rice is not a bad thing, and it makes Flacco perform better as well. A healthier team after the bye and two weeks before their next game should hopefully allow this Ravens team to improve even more. The Jets have to be worried, but don’t go hitting the panic button yet. They’re 2-2, but they also had a horrible game last year (against the Pats) and came back to do better. Even if they lose next week, it won’t be a season-ender, but they need to win against Miami and San Diego. Going 2-5 or 3-4 into their bye week could be devastating.
Indianapolis 17, Tampa Bay 24– Give credit to the Colts. They continue to play hard and competitively, but they just don’t have what it takes to be a top team in the NFL without Manning. Curtis Painter threw for a lot of yards (281), but was only 13/30. Without a running game, this offense does not have the firepower to go downfield and score a ton of points without a top-3 QB like Manning. Their defense also performed well, but got tired and were eventually ground in by Legarette Blount. As for the Bucs, while they won this game, they still do not look like a team that’s competing for a playoff spot. The offense continues to be poor in the first half, and the pass defense (including their pass rush and the secondary) is mediocre at best. The pass rush was better tonight, but it’s against an opponent who is underwhelming and not built to be led by Curtis Painter. A good team can win close games, but a great team can go out and dominate the game from the first minute. Tampa needs to learn to be the latter and not just the former.