NFL Week 11 breakdown
Monday, November 17, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
There some exciting games this week, there were some dull as-expected affairs and there was one bizarre tie game.

Lame (I mean "game") of the week. What was up with the Philadelphia Eagles being unable to put away the lowly Cincinnati Bengals? Why can't the Eagles run all of a sudden? Donovan McNabb threw 3 INTs to help seal the non-victory, completing less than 50% of his passes for the day. Andy Reid seems completely fearful of running the ball, and called passing plays on all 18 of the Eagles 3rd down plays. That's unbelievable. I know we gave him crap about running 3 times in a row on goal line stances, but come on! You have to let one of the league's most dynamic runners get at least ONE shot during the game to make something happen. McNabb should NEVER be in the position of throwing the ball a whopping 58 times in one game. That's how you wear down a QB's arm, and that's how you show your run game you have no confidence in it. It's frustrating watching Reid's play-calling this year on offense. I don't have much to say about the Bengals - they played exactly like they've been playing all year, with flashes of competance as the anomolies in a showcase of mental mistakes and poor execution. The Bengals kicker missed a game winning 47 yard field goal that would have won the game in OT. Overall, a totally dull affair that was painful to watch (unless you really love watching punts, of which there were 21 in the game).

Oh baby, you look SO fine. Man, could there be two teams more alike than the Tennessee Titans and the New York Giants? Both have a dynamic, smash-your-face-in defense, both have a QB with a big arm that's normally asked to be a careful game manager, both have a RB tandem that defines "thunder and lightning". Both teams are playing just absolutely great football right now. At this point, if these two DON'T face each other in the Super Bowl, I'm going to feel cheated (after I wrote this, I went over to my favorite columnist Peter King, and saw to my delight that he feels the same way)

I can only imagine how much Kerry Collins must laugh to himself when he sees teams stacking the box to shut down the Tennessee run game. They seem to forget that Collins is 14th on the all-time passing yards list, that he's always thrown a mean long ball, and that while guys like Justin Gage aren't top tier WRs, they can still burn you if you fall asleep in one-on-one coverage. If he were able to hear the TV commentary I'm sure Collins would laugh to hear the announcers fret "How can Tennessee possibly come back from *gasp!* 14 points down in the first half!" I love watching Jeff Fisher prowling the sidelines for this team, because you can see the intensity burning in his eyes, and you can see how that translates into the way the team plays for him. Only Vince Lombardi has a better record when it comes to a coach whose team knows how to "finish" the game - in other words, the win-loss record when a team is leading going into the 4th quarter. I also loved seeing Vince Young shouting with joy over the go-ahead TD pass, running out on the field to chest bump with Kerry Collins. He may not feel like it now, but Young is gaining huge experience just being able to watch and learn from a guy like Collins, whose career path is actually quite similar to Young's own.

The Giants running game absolutely dismantled the normally stout run defense of the Baltimore Ravens. By the end of the first quarter, you could already see the confusion on the Ravens' faces, as they just were completely at a loss as to how to stop Brandon Jacobs. Coming into the game, the Ravens were only allowing an average of 65.4 rushing yards per game. Jacobs had 70 yards in the first quarter alone. Ahmad Bradshaw got 77 yards on a single rush in the 4th quarter. The Giants are really hitting their stride right now, though they may want to start resting Jacobs even more, since he got a little banged up this week. They'll need him in order to have post-season success.

An ugly win is still a win. There's no such thing as a perfect team - every team, no matter how great they are, is going to have an off-week against a "bad" opponent. What makes them great, though, is that they find a way to win, even when they're not playing great, or when the game is closer than it should be.

The Miami Dolphins are playing tough football week after week. Barring that one punt return for a TD, the game against the Raiders wasn't that close. Still, the Dolphins found themselves in need of a score to win late in the 4th quarter, and found themselves yet again thanking the football gods for the Favre trade to the Jets, since Chad Pennington's experience and calm demeanor was key to their final drive. He converted a critical fourth-and-5 play to keep the Dolphins moving. They needed this win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and will need to ride their emotional high from this game into next week (a critical matchup against divisional rival New England). Now, the Dolphins can't bank on a close-win every week, and probably need a good blowout to restore their luster a bit, so we'll see if they have what it takes to win when it REALLY matters.

The Cardinals kept it close in their win over Seattle, but their amazing offense continues to rack up the points and stats as it just rolls along. In their defense, Seattle was finally semi-healthy for the first time this season and they're a tough team to play at home. And again, a win is a win, particularly when it's a divisonal win that almost locks down the division for the Cards.

The Cowboys didn't look great against the Redskins, but they were good enough to get the job done in the late game. Romo clearly provided an emotional spark for the team, and with an easy couple of games in front of them, the Cowboys are in a good position to still make a playoff run. There were some signs that Romo's pinky is still bothering him (he threw a HORRIBLE pass that was picked off early in the game), so that's something to keep an eye on. The defense held when it needed to (though watching the game, they were aided by the fact that the Redskins' offense was just terribly out-of-sync for some reason for most of the game), and Marion Barber continues to justify the decision to release Julius Jones in the offseason. The Redskins were only down by 4 points with 6:40 left in the game. All they had to do was stop the Cowboys to get the ball back. Instead, Marion Barber touched the ball on literally every single play that drive and ground the ball down the field until the Cowboys could kneel on the final 2 plays to win the game.

Studs of the week. Lot of game balls to give this week. Give it up for my leading MVP candidate, Kurt Warner, who had his fourth 300+ yard game in a row this week (32/44, 395 yds, 1 TD). Kudos also to his WR tandem Anquan Boldin (13 catches, 186 yds) and Larry Fitzgerald (10 catches, 155 yds). Cards, you want to keep winning next year? Pay Boldin his damn money. Show him the money! (I normally hate this quote, but seeing as how the character in Jerry Maguire was an Arizona Cardinal WR, I feel it's appropriate in this case). Speaking of unbeatable tandems, no one cares how bad Jake Delhomme is playing when you've got DeAngelo Williams (120 yds, 2 TD) and Jonathan Stewart (130 yds, 1 TD) running the ball. Marion Barber is a stud for the reasons stated above. Troy Polamalu made a highlight reel interception and then should have had a fumble recovery for TD to end the game. Ryan Grant (145 yds, 1 TD) is finally healthy, and is the key that the Packers were missing earlier in the season. His continued success is paramount if they want to make a playoff run. No run, no problem for the Titans, as Justin Gage (147 yds, 2 TD) stepped up big. Last, but not least, Matt Cassel (30/51, 400 yds, 3 TD, 61 yds rushing) broke an NFL record by being the first player to pass for 400 yards and run for over 50 yards in a single game. His agent must be salivating at the deal this kid is going to pick up if he continues to grow like this.

Teams I like this week. I can't say enough good things about the Giants and the Titans. I also like the Green Bay Packers, who might be getting healthy just in time. They stomped the Bears in a critical game for their playoff prospects. I'm not 100% sold on the NY Jets, because they've had such a weak schedule, but this week I like the way they played the Pats and won when they had to. Favre looked great on that final drive. I love the way Peyton Manning (who would have gotten a Stud of the Week award had the field not been so crowded already) has the Indianapolis Colts playing this past few weeks. They're starting to look good again, and have a legitimate shot at one of the wildcard spots. Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers seem determined to set the standard for ugly wins. And guess what? They've got 8 of them and are at the top of their competitive division.

Teams I don't like this week. The St. Louis Rams are back to their pathetic ways, giving up over 30 points AGAIN in the first half. Heads will roll in that city soon enough, and not just at the coaching position. I hated seeing the Washington Redskins take a penalty for too many players in the huddle because they didn't know what play they wanted to call. THEN they compounded the problem by still needing a time out after the penalty had been called, and THEN they still lost yardage on the play they call after the time out. I also hated them looking to throw the direct out, when they hadn't bothered establishing the deep pass or really getting the run game going. They needed this win and they dropped the ball, bad. In other news, the San Diego Chargers aren't the same team without a healthy LT. It's got to hurt seeing Michael Turner tearing it up, and knowing they could have that as a fall back option. Lastly, I'm convinced that the Chicago Bears were better off leaving Devin Hester just on special teams. He doesn't add much as a WR, and I think running all those routes during the game is wearing him down and making him less effective in the one arena where he really shines: the return game.

bonus feature: come back later this week, when I break down the playoff picture for all 8 divisions.
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