by Ryan Meehan
One of the cliché things that I hate about a lot of sports blogs is the constant bitching about the officiating. The reasons this happens so much is partially because we have all of the technology at home, coupled with the fact that the television networks have the ability to slow everything down to a crawl. What we don’t realize a lot of times is that these officials have to make the initial call in real time, and then if it happens to be a judgment call they can’t go back and change their mind. So the refs do get a ton of shit, and I don’t see anyone walking around in Ed Hochuli jerseys so the fans aren’t ever likely to view them as more as a nuisance. All of that considered, we’ve seen some of the worst calls and no calls in the league this year. I’ve seen more of the “payback” calls than ever this season, and the consistency has been terrible. In some cases they can’t even remain consistent on consecutive drives (or plays) and it takes a huge chunk out of the precision of the game for me. Nonetheless, there were still some memorable moments in week ten.
Thursday: Raiders 24, Chargers 17
Week ten began too early as Carson Palmer got his first win as a Raider. The Chargers seem to be struggling more and more with each passing week, but it’s not like they’re putting forth contender-caliber effort so it’s hard to feel sorry for them. This puts the Raiders in first place in the AFCW, and in a great position to take a two game lead over San Diego next week as they head to Minnesota to face the overwhelmingly error-prone Vikings while the Chargers have to head to Soldier Field where they most likely will get crushed by the Bears. Sounds great, right Oakland? Don’t get too ahead of yourself.
Houston 37, Tampa Bay 9
Chalk this up as a loss for me. In all fairness, I did think that if the Bucs lost it would be bad. Freeman still has the jitters (who wouldn’t) and it appeared for a second that we would see the Texans make the playoffs and win the AFC South which they deserve. At least it did appear that way. Late Monday night ESPN.com reported that Texans Quarterback Matt Schaub has a Lisfranc injury (in layman’s terms -a fractured foot) and will be out for the rest of the season. So that means at 7-3 with the AFC South title in sight, all eyes are on Matt Leinart to take over the reins of this football team. Houston is headed into their bye week but does expect Leinart to start against Jacksonville on the 27th. I am not happy about this at all for all sorts of reasons, too many to list here. You wouldn’t think that switching over to a left-handed QB would change everything so much (you’d think the playbook would simply become a mirror image of its former self) but just wait until you see this thing go to hell. I was so pumped for the Texans this year, but who knows maybe Leinart will throw down. And maybe a redwood will grow out of my asscrack.
Bears 37, Lions 13
Right after Devin Hester returned that punt for a touchdown, there was someone on my Twitter account going off about how Hester’s special teams crew gets away with a lot of blocks to the back on his kickoff returns. Although he is extremely talented and it’s unlikely we will see a player with a similar talent during our lifetime, the Bears have been known to get away with a little bit of extra shoving when he fields a punt or kickoff. Now, that’s not to say that it doesn’t happen on other special teams plays around the league (and definitely didn’t when Brian Mitchell was still active) but since it’s Hester I think it is a little more obvious and raises suspicion that the league wants to see a lot more kick returns, especially by Hester. As for the rest of the Bears, they were really solid. In consecutive weeks, I’ve seen some extremely impressive pressure brought by Isreal Idonije. Idonije is one of the guys that will get left out of the Pro Bowl because it’s a popularity contest and not an accurate assessment of the players’ individual skill levels. Overall, the Bears are in great shape. They have the Lions’ number and may get into the playoffs after all. It’s pretty safe to say that the Buccaneers won’t so if you’re a Bears fan the teams that you have to hope get really shitty are Dallas, New Orleans, and Atlanta. The Lions are still a dirty team but now they’re a dirty team with three losses so it’s not nearly as special as it was week five when everything looked gravy. The Bears’ stock soaring at the moment while the Lions’ stock dipped a whole lot Sunday.
Jaguars 17, Colts 3
I’m trying to come up with a cool stat for this game, but in a matchup where both teams combined for 238 yards in the air they are hard to come by. I bet Maurice Jones-Drew and Marshawn Lynch are really good friends because they are both doing really well but no one is noticing. Those must be strange text messages to read. Indy looks like they’re on antidepressants all the time. And the Jaguars are an ideal team to fake it against if that is in fact the case, and the Colts couldn’t even get in to the endzone which would really help sell it. It’s still very difficult for anyone outside of these two metropolitan areas to care about what’s happening here…and while we’re on the topic of nobody caring…
Rams 13, Browns 12
The Rams are on a two game winning streak (fucking humor me, I’m trying to make this sound exciting) and Stephen Jackson rushed for 128 (for all of you fantasy dorks lying to yourself that it matters) in a nail biter that went “down to the wire” with seven and a half minutes left in the game. This is the type of matchup where I attempt to slang some kind of impressive statistics all the while thinking plenty of other things in parentheses (Aren’t both of these teams mathematically eliminated already? Did anybody even attend this game? Do I have to pick up cat litter on the way home?) See? It’s very easy to lose your focus.
Cardinals 21, Eagles 17
This game hurts Philly for several reasons: First off, the Eagles lost to the Cardinals who aren’t all that good. Second, this loss means they have the same record as the Cardinals, meaning if by some crazy occurrence both of those two teams won out and were fighting for a Wild Card spot, Larry Fitzgerald would be in the playoffs and Andy Reid would be at IHOP. And last but not least, with everything that the Eagles expected out of this year, the reality is they are going to finish next to a lot of teams like Arizona. I read a quote by Michael Vick after the game “Lord Willing, we can turn this thing around and finish 10-6”. That’s seriously lofty. Here’s the stat of the week: If every NFL game this year ended after the 3rd quarter, the Eagles would be 8-1 instead of 3-6. That’s pretty incredible when you think about it. This might be Andy Reid’s last roll in the hay with the fat girl, especially getting beat at home by one John Skelton. How could this get any worse? (Oh yeah, and Michael Vick has broken ribs again now too…)
Broncos 17, Chiefs 10
Tebow completed two passes (pathetic) of 8 for 69 yards, but it was enough to win. Denver did manage 244 yards on the ground, but that’s not unreasonable in a sixty minute NFL game and your offense has to have more of a sense of balance otherwise it’s going to be really obvious to anybody what’s coming next. And then when you do get stuck playing a team with a stifling run defense like the 49ers, they’re going to shove your arm into your own asshole elbow deep and the next thing you know you’re going to be the laughingstock of the league again. As I said last week, since the rest of the AFC West can’t get away from themselves the Broncos are very much still in it. Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel suffered an injured hand in this game which is very fitting because I still think he’s a total jack-off.
Steelers 24, Bengals 17
The truth hurts. And the truth was (and still is) that the Steelers are going to be better than the Bengals all year. Pittsburgh had to have this one and they got it. Andy Dalton threw two interceptions, but that’s to be expected getting thrown to the wolves. However, he’s going to see those same wolves an awful lot in the near future, so he’d better get used to it. Nothing out of the ordinary otherwise, Mendenhall only had 44 yards on the ground but he did have two touchdowns. And as far as the Bengals go, they need to focus on their running game a lot this week because they’ll be facing Baltimore who will likely go back to running the ball a lot so it should be a priority for Cincinnati to work on the pace of the game. The Steelers also had 24 first downs to the Bengals’ 14 and it’s almost impossible to kick your way out from underneath that pile.
Dolphins 20, Redskins 9
The embarrassing streak of failure continues for the Washington Redskins, as they have now lost six straight with this tank job against the Fins. Grossman went 21 for 32, which isn’t atrocious but two of those incompletions were picks and you can’t have that. Reggie Bush was the leading rusher with 47 yards as you might have seen had you been at the game, that is if you weren’t already at the box office demanding your money back by this point. I can’t tell who I’m buying into less. Thankfully for me it doesn’t matter now and it definitely won’t matter in a couple of months.
Titans 30, Panthers 3
God do I hate it when the Titans win. My buddy Acaeh is a huge Titans fan and I never really had that much dislike for them until Matt Hasselbeck showed up. Now they just seem like every other mediocre team with a washed up quarterback. And he’s not putting up amazing numbers (15 of 27 for 219) but I have to admit he’s getting the job done. The Titans’ situation is similar to the Denver thing with Tebow in the sense that in the modern QB-protected era of the NFL you can have a guy like that lead your team to a couple of victories, but it just won’t win playoff games for you in the long run. Like it or not, you’ll never see another 2000 Ravens or 2002 Buccaneers team ride an insanely talented defense off into the sunset on the back of an average QB ever again. It just isn’t going to happen. Carolina looked like an anal prolapse throughout the entire sixty minutes of this distraction from our regularly scheduled Sunday infomercials for Slap Chops and Snuggies.
49ers 27, Giants 20
Eli Manning played very well early but their red zone offense clearly struggled. They looked to be in control, but the Niners pulled a bastard move late in the 2nd quarter in this one: They set up an onside kick with about three minutes left in the half and the Giants had NO idea it was coming. The age old argument always goes: Did Team A win the game or did team B lose the game? The answer here is: Team B lost it. I can live with the fact that the 49ers defense is playing lights out and they won this game without getting a single yard on the ground from Frank Gore who left with an injury, but in that two minute stretch after the onside kick the Giants had the life sucked out of them and although they mounted a comeback late they wouldn’t have needed to if the 49ers hadn’t gone off like that in the first place. New York needs to get Ware more involved with the offense when you consider all of the position player injuries and just in general banged-upness they are suffering through.
Cowboys 44, Bills 7
Dallas opened up the second half of their season with a bang and showed everyone that maybe (I’m saying maybe) they fell victim to a tough early schedule and that they will fight this one until the end, possibly even coming up with the division title. They’re only a game behind the Giants now and since the Eagles don’t plan on making a push the Cowboys could sneak up and win that division. They won’t have the numbers, but they will have the victories and that’s all it will take. Buffalo is once again back in the “eh…” pool with Detroit…teams that looked unstoppable the first few weeks and have recently gotten exposed. To make it worse, the only Buffalo player to score a touchdown was that guy who was dating one of the Dallas cheerleaders so as you can probably guess that’s the one highlight Yahoo! Sports focused on in an week where there were some really awesome games.
Saints 26, Falcons 23
New Orleans did get lucky here. It was very risky for Falcons coach Mike Smith to do what he did, but that’s why it’s so ballsy to take chances: Because those same balls can be smashed in a vice within the blink of an eye. Speaking of testicles exploding, Marques Colston had some clutch catches in the final two frames and finished with eight catches for 113 yards. It seems like I’m repeating myself here but Drew Brees threw for over 300 once again as the Saints remain completely ineffective on the ground but still manage to get it done. These division games are statement ones, and this hurt for Atlanta as it happened in their front yard. The Falcons can get back on track but they have to hope something really, really horrible happens to the Saints otherwise they will be staying home in January.
Seahwaks 22, Ravens 17
To me this was the most disappointing loss of the week, even more disappointing than the Giants blowing it because of the manner in which the Ravens won last week: It was in dramatic fashion, on national television, and I thought Flacco finally was able to show everybody that he was for real…and then this happened. Ray Rice was relatively ineffective here with only 5 carries for 27 yards, and Ricky Williams only had three carries for eight yards. My point here is that if Baltimore is going to expect Joe Flacco to put on a show like he did against the Steelers, they are sorely mistaken when it comes to the direction of where they hope to be headed. The guy is high quality and gave an epic showing in the aforementioned game but there’s no way they can rely on him to win it for them by throwing 52 passes and certainly not with only 75 yards on the ground. That’s exactly what happened in the Seahawks game and they paid for it with an extra hashmark in the “L” column.
Patriots 37, Jets 16
Looking at the box score for this one I am very confused as Mark Sanchez did throw for 306 yards which somehow yielded only 16 points. Sure, he had two picks and his 20 for 39 outing wasn’t nearly as impressive as Tom Brady’s was, but if you can’t get more than sixteen points out of a guy who throws for 300 plus, there may be a larger issue there. Everyone who seems to be defending of Sanchez seems like they don’t have a choice: Rex Ryan has to support him because he’s his coach, Plaxico Burress has to support him because he has to say whatever his publicist tells him to, and Antonio Cromartie won’t talk to the media at all because he’s probably terrified that it’s going to be someone from DCFS undercover trying to get him to take another paternity test. The Patriots look very strong and I’m calling the Pats and the Pack in the Super Bowl here at the two-thirds mark.
Packers 45, Vikings 7
Wasn’t too far off here, this what we thought was going to happen. Was also good to see Green Bay get to point where they felt comfortable with sitting the first stringers down. It showed a lot of confidence in their backups, and even those guys embarrassed the Vikings. Minnesota has fallen into the “pathetic” category of adjectives where it’s just hard to find something constructive to say about their team or how they could possibly get better. Obviously big story here is that the Packers are 9-0, but my boss is a Packers fan and admitted that he believed Clay Matthews had gotten away with a helmet to helmet hit on Ponder in the first quarter of this one. It’s not really that shocking that the refs would turn their heads the other way for the sake of the Packers, but I almost shit myself when he said that because I don’t think I can remember a fan of any NFC North team ever admitting that they got away with a no call. I was floored.
Next Week’s Bonus Coverage:
Thursday afternoon we’ll be pressing a new column for week eleven as expected but it will be the start of our guest picks. We will be joined by Brain Chapman from Doin’ Work to pick the winners and give you the news that you can use. If you’d like to check out his site ahead of time, by all means do so…it’s right here: doin-work.com Until then, drive safe.
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