NFL Week 14 Breakdown
Monday, December 08, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Welcome to the Week 14 breakdown, a.k.a the Nothin' But Baked Good Metaphors Edition.

Fear the Bagel. Because the Detroit Lions are a bad team, and have been a bad team for some time now, they usually don't get much attention from people outside of Detroit. Thus, I think a lot of people were surprised when they tuned into the one and only NFL game airing at 1pm on Thanksgiving Day and witnessed just how BAD the Lions really are. I mean, you could almost see the secondary just pulling out their lawn chairs right on the field, so they could get a better look at the Tennessee running backs going right by them, untouched. I can't decide if it's worse to get blown out on most days, like the Tennessee game, or if games like this past week, where they put in an "almost good enough, but not quite" effort against the Vikings, hurt even more. The Lions blew a fourth quarter lead yet again, with the defense woefully unable to finish 60 minutes of decent football.

Let's take a moment to break down some stats, to get a real sense of how dedicated the Lions are to sucking on both sides of the ball. The other 3 teams in the NFC North currently have the following points for (PF)/points allowed (PA) stats:
  • Vikings (307/276)
  • Bears (304/278)
  • Packers (355/319)
The Lions, by comparison, have scored only 219 points on offense (almost 100 points less than the next closest competitor), and have allowed 413 points on defense (again, almost 100 more than the next closest team) - nearly a 200 point swing between the two stats. The only other team that's close to that are the St. Louis Rams, with (169/394) - not as good on offense, only marginally better on defense, BUT at least in possession of 2 wins (1 of which was against a legitimate contender).

Unlike the Dolphins from last year, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The Dolphins at least had a schedule that paired them against a simliarly struggling club late in the season, and they managed to squeak out the win over the Ravens. The Lions, on the other hand, are playing clubs (Colts, Saints and Packers) that are 1) much better than they are, and 2) have a lot to play for right now because they will all be taking a shot at a wildcard slot. All of this means that the Lions are on track to have the first winless season since the Tampa Bay Bucs of 1976. Having a bagel in the win column would just be the final demoralizing straw for this club. It makes me sad to think that a player with the potential greatness of Calvin Johnson has to be associated with this mess.

The Cake is a Lie. The following statements being floated by sports people over the past 2-3 weeks are, in fact, lies:
  • The Jets are the best team in the AFC. Sorry, no. They benefitted from a weak schedule, and from getting to play certain teams that hadn't hit their stride yet (Miami, New England) early in the season. They played well against the Titans, but that seemed more like the Titans finally having their long overdue week where they played poorly.
  • Tony Romo is 100% recovered from his finger injury. I watched that game last night, and he could NOT throw the ball to save his life. It was his first game without the splint, but it seemed like he had trouble getting his normal speed and accuracy on the ball. He was not helped, of course, by receivers who dogged their routes (TO) or who were otherwise completely out of sync with him (Witten, etc)
  • The Giants don't need Plaxico Burress. They certainly have other receivers who can help fill some of the void left by the superstar. Don't get me wrong - I have no sympathy for the guy, I'm just saying that he's not easily replaced. No one on that roster has the speed, strength and size to replace Plax completely. They don't need him to win a game, but they do need him to win games easily.
  • The Packers are bad because they miss Brett Favre. No, they're bad because their defense is playing poorly and is banged up. Aaron Rodgers is playing at the same level I assume Favre would have played at in the same situation.
  • Expanding the NFL into other countries is a good idea. Really? Because last time I checked, Los Angeles still doesn't have a franchise. Last time I checked, it's pretty grueling to play a game Sunday, get on a plane on Wednesday and travel thousands of miles to the UK, and then get ready for a game by Sunday. Also, the Bills playing a December game in Toronto is, to put it mildly, utter bullshit. It's insulting to loyal Buffalo fans to steal one of their favorite games of the year against hated rivals the Dolphins, and send it to a city that isn't that invested in the team. It's doubly insulting to then hold that game inside a dome, thus eliminating the weather advantage Buffalo traditionally enjoys when playing Miami late in the season. Booooo!
Life isn't always a cake walk for NFL players. Consider the case of Richard Collier, an almost forgotten story, even with all the Plaxico Burress hysteria going around right now. ESPN has an amazing article up about the night Collier was ambushed and shot 17 times and the aftermath of that incident. Collier is now paralyzed from the waist down and has had one of his legs amputated below the knee. His short football career is over.

It's interesting, because a lot of players, in response to the Burress incident, justify their own gun ownership by citing the Sean Taylor incident. To me, that's apples and oranges - Taylor was in his own home, and was the victim of a robbery. No one is saying don't have a gun in your home to protect yourself and your family. Burress was an idiot, and was apparently placing himself in situations (through his OWN choices) where he felt like he was at risk. The Collier incident seems like a much more apt comparison, in terms of potentially justifying carrying a weapon (save for the little detail that the nature of the ambush probably would have prevented Collier from saving himself, even if he HAD had a gun on him at the time). In any case, details are still unclear about what happened that night, but it's just a tragedy that a man that had everything good in front of him has been robbed of that chance.

Studs of the week. With Deuce McAllister facing suspension, Pierre Thomas (102 yds rushing, 1 TD, 1 receiving TD) stepped up and made the Falcons defenders his bitches, giving the Saints a critical divisional win and keeping their playoff hopes alive. A healthy Brian Westbrook (131 yds rushing, 1 TD, 72 yds receiving, 1 TD) is a force to be reckoned with. Ed Reed is a defensive TD machine. He's scored 11 TDs in his career, and had another dozen INTs or fumble recoveries that were close to being scores. The Falcons may have lost, but they're still in it, and they have GOT to feel great about how Roddy White (10 catches, 164 yds) and Matt Ryan (24/33, 315 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT) are gelling as a team. Lastly, even though he isn't playing in the league anymore, former QB Trent Dilfer has been doing a magnificant job breaking down plays as part of the MNF Countdown show. Props to him for delivering some fascinating discussions on game film. Tonight's was particuarly awesome, as he illustrated why Tony Romo made some seemingly inexplicable throws last night.

Teams I like this week. No one had a harder schedule this year than the Pittsburgh Steelers. They haven't always won pretty, but they're playing great football right now. December weather favors the smashmouth Steelers. I also like the Titans, who are back on track and need only 1 more win to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. I love the way the Baltimore Ravens play defense - they hit so hard, I swear MY teeth rattle when I watch. And, in a welcome change from years past, the offense is finally (FINALLY!) pulling their part of the load, racking up some impressive drives the past few weeks. Lastly, congratulations to the Arizona Cardinals for finally (FINALLY!) winning their division and making the playoffs.

Teams I don't like this week. The Dallas Cowboys looked awful on offense, and it wasn't just Romo and the WRs that were the problem, as Trent Dilfer illustrated why line breakdowns contributed to the meltdown at the end of the game. Both the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins are looking more and more like early season frauds.
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