NFL Week 10 breakdown
Sunday, November 09, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
I want to start this week's blog post with an observation: when you are up by 37 points on the lowly Rams in the fourth quarter, you don't leave your star running back in the game. That's poor sportsmanship, plus it's just asking football karma to bite you in the ass by having one of your key players go down with an injury. I even question letting Favre take snaps at all in the 4th quarter - you could have pulled him mid-third quarter without worry. Shame on you, Eric Mangini.

I was wrong! I may have to eat my words and acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, Bill Bellicheck might have known what he was doing when he kept Matt Cassel around for all those years. The Patriots have succeeded all these years by having incredible depth on their roster, going so far as to pay above average salaries just to keep guys on their practice squad. There aren't many squads that can pull a fourth string RB like BenJarvus Green-Ellis off the bench and have him put up a 100+ yard day with 1 TD. So why I was shocked that Cassel might actually have some QB skills is sort of beyond me. His steady leadership was huge in the Patriots big divisional win over the Buffalo Bills yesterday. Not only do the Patriots have a good chance at the playoffs, they're on track to win the division again.

I was also wrong at the beginning of the year, when I thought to myself that the 2007 Giants were a flash-in-the-pan, that their road to the Super Bowl was more about other people's mistakes than their own good play (see: the Seattle Seahawks from 2005). The Giants are the real deal, and are just rampaging through the NFC right now. Great win over the Eagles last night. The Giants are gunning for home field advantage throughout the playoffs at this point.

I was right! I said last week that the stats don't often bear out how much Kerry Collins brings to the Titans. The timing was pretty good, considering how the Titans found their normally mighty run game struggling against the Bears, achieving negative 5 yards for their first 13 carries. The Titans showed just how balanced they could be, even with a largely nameless receiving corps, as Collins put up the ball 41 times, completing over 73% of his passes and throwing for 289 yds and 2 TD. I think I was right about how losing Vince Young was a blessing in disguise for this franchise, because I just can't see Young putting in that kind of performance, to be honest. By the way, has anyone else noticed that the networks have largely avoided inserting shots of Young sitting on the sidelines? Is it just me? I mean, every time the Cowboys have a bad moment, whether it's on offense, defense or special teams, the camera seems to find Terrell Owens for some reason. So why the avoidance of Young?

I was also right when I speculated very early in the season that Matt Ryan was going to be a star for the Atlanta Falcons. While certainly helped by a stellar run game, the young QB has exceeded all expectations people have had for him in this first year. Watching him throw to Roddy White summons memories of Manning/Harrison in their earlier years. I'm happy for the city of Atlanta, as well as good natured owner Arthur Blank, who really deserved something good to happen with their Falcons after last year's debacle.

Is the college system a guy comes out of important? This brings up a point I've been musing lately. A lot of the commentary around Matt Ryan credits his time playing at Boston College in a pro system with easing his transition into an immediate starting role in the NFL. Conversely, last year's first quarterback selected, JaMarcus Russell, came from LSU, a system notorious for not producing quality NFL QBs, and he has struggled thus far to adapt to the speed and complexity of the game.

I wonder, then, how much impact the college system has on both players contemplating which program to select, and on NFL coaches and managers deciding which players to draft. Obviously, this is most important when evaluating QBs - you can put a RB in almost any system and still get a good feel for how he'd perform at the pro level. Still, if you're top tier QB coming out of high school, do you take a good look at a program like Boston College, where you might not have top rate players around you, but will get a chance to have 4 years of experience in a system that you will be expected to master at the pro level? Or if you're a physical freak like Tim Tebow, do you say "Screw it!" and just go to a gimmicky program where you can rack up crazy stats and win the Heisman as a freshman? Do you trust that you'll figure out the pro system when it matters, and enjoy the glory of a high profile program and so forth? If you're a talent evaluator, do you look at a guy like Russell or Tebow and think that you can just work with that, because they're so gifted physically? Or do you look at a kid like Ryan and prize the experience and system he comes from?

I'm not an expert on college football and rarely follow it, so I can't make a pronouncement one way or the other. However, I'd love to hear thoughts from any readers out there who have a better sense of the issue than I do. I'm very curious to hear your opinions on this.

Wild speculation. Based on nothing by my own gut, just for fun here's a few random predictions about the rest of the year. We'll see if I'm right or not. Feel free to wildly speculate on your own in the comments section.
  • The Atlanta Falcons will make the playoffs as a wild card and win their first playoff game.
  • The Dolphins will win the AFC East
  • The Titans will be the #1 seed in the AFC.
  • Young QB Matt Ryan will be rookie of the year
  • Old QB Kurt Warner will be league MVP

Studs of the week. The Vikings owe their narrow victory to the magnificant effort put forth by Adrian Peterson (192 yds, 1 TD on the ground). Melvin Bullitt (#33 in the picture) saved the game for the Colts, by reaching back for the tipped ball in the end zone and intercepting it with 0 seconds left on the game clock and his team ahead 24-20. Had he not made such an athletic play, there was a Steeler receiver standing right there ready to win the game by catching the TD. Jay Cutler had a career day (24/42, 447 yds, 3 TD) and led his team to a much needed comeback against the Cleveland Browns. Ray Lewis had 2 INTs in the game against Houston, and has been a model of leadership for the Ravens. DeAngelo Williams helped his team overcome the horrendous play of their QB by rushing for 140 yds and 1 TD.

Teams I like this week. You have got to love what Mike Smith has done with the Atlanta Falcons this year so far. The Baltimore Ravens put up impressive numbers on offense for the second week in a row, which has to feel good to their defense, who in the past had been forced to win games on their own. The Tennessee Titans continue their improbable run at perfection (though with their schedule, I predict a stumble somewhere along the line). I wonder if Jerry Jones is starting to regret letting Tony Sparano get away, given how poorly the Dallas O line has performed with him gone, and with how fired up Sparano has the Miami Dolphins playing right now.

Teams I don't like this week. This week I continue to be disappointed by the Buffalo Bills, who have dropped 3 straight (divisional losses, no less). The Carolina Panthers may have beat the Oakland Raiders, but neither team wowed me this week. I'm starting to think that the Detroit Lions may achieve nega-success as the first winless team the NFL has seen since the 70s. The San Diego Chargers aren't going to get far in the postseason if they let a terrible team like Kansas City come within one badly thrown 2 pt conversion away from beating them. The Chiefs should never have been in that situation in the first place - early in the game they muffed an extra point kick that ended up making all the difference at the end. I'm also pretty Herm Edwards just doesn't care anymore, as his decision to go for 2 instead of taking the tie and going into OT felt a lot more like a "Eh, who cares, why not?" call versus a legitimate "I believe in my team and we need this motivation" decision.

***(pictures are AP photos taken from the ESPN site)
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