Don't you just love it when work stands in the way of an organised attempt at blogging? Still, here's the week 3 round up: Titans 29 @ Giants 10 -- There's an old belief that I believe stems from Bill Walsh that if you can just make 25 first downs, then you have a great chance to win the game. The Giants put up 26 to the Titans 17 and still managed to sink the game by 19 points. The Giants followed an increasing trend among NFL teams to put up huge yardage numbers without being able to finish the deal off at the business end of the field. Eli Manning was 34/48 for 386 yards and 2 interceptions. No touchdowns. All yards and no scores. Ahmad Bradshaw provided the Giants only TD, finishing with 88 yards off 15 carries. Vince Young of the Titans completed just 10/16 for 118 yards and a TD, but Chris Johnson carried 32 times for 125 yards and 2 TDs, kind of supporting my theory on giving number one backs the 30+ carry mark. On defense for the Titans there were three who stood tall in tackles; safety Michael Griffin (11 tackles and a FF), DB Vincent Fuller (9 tackles) and LB Stephen Tulloch (9 tackles). Bengals 20 @ Panthers 7 -- The Panthers placed the load on the shoulders of rookie QB Jimmy Clausen, and like a poorly designed bridge he crumbled beneath the weight. Kind of. 16/33 for 188 yards and an interception. I've seen a lot worse from rookie QBs. Still, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were handed just 18 carries between them, one of which Stewart punched in for a score. Carson Palmer went 19/37 for 195 yards, a TD and 2 INTs, but was exasperated to see so many drops for his receivers. In the end Cincinnati went back to their plan of attack from last year as Cedric Benson carried 27 times for 81 yards and a TD. The only real defensive stand out for the game was Panthers safety Charles Godfrey with 9 tackles and an interception. Steelers 38 @ Buccaneers 13 -- Just as important as being right is acknowledging when you're wrong. Or nearly wrong. I nearly changed my pick at the last minute to the Bucs'. I was getting increasingly worried about the Steelers offense the more I thought about it. Turns out I had no cause for alarm. Charlie Batch only threw 17 times and only completed 12 for 186 yards. He even threw two INTs. But the key is that among his twelve completions he had three touchdown passes. Rashard Mendenhall piled on the hurt as well, taking his 19 carries for 143 yards (longest run; 34) and a touchdown. The Bucs' weren't nearly as lucky. Josh Freeman threw 20/31 for 184 yards and an interception. Finally his understudy was brought on with the game out of sight. Josh Johnson (yeah) went 6/6 for 67 yards. The Buc's only TD was scored by RB LaGarrette Blount (remember him from the Titans pre-season?) who finished with 6 carries for 27 yards and the TD. On defense I have to give credit to Steelers DE Brett Keisel for his Interception return... 79 yards for a TD!!!! I didn't think a 3-4 DE could run that far. 5 tackles and a sack for LB Lawrence Timmons was enough to lead a defense that didn't have much to do. Old man Ronde Barber led the Bucs' with 8 tackles, followed by a 5 tackle show from safety Cody Grimm who was featured in the NFL networks series "On The Fringe" this year. Well done Cody. Bills 30 @ Patriots 38 -- Question; name the Buffalo Bills first round pick in the 2010 draft? If you said C.J. Spiller (you did, didn't you?) then you were right. It's easy to forget bearing in mind that Spiller hasn't exactly featured in this offense this year. No longer though. Against the Patriots the Bills rolled him out. He took a kick off back 95 yards for a TD and caught a TD pass from Fitzpatrick. Admittedly his contribution really ended there (4 carries for 29 yards on the ground, longest; 19), but at least that was points the Bills normally dream of. Fitzpatrick ended 20/28 for 247 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs. That's not bad as far as the Bills are concerned. It also doesn't say a lot about a Patriots D that has real questions hanging over it. Tom Brady was his usual efficient self, posting 21/27 for 252 yards and 3 TDs. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried 16 times for 98 yards and a TD. On defense, Patriots safety Pat Chung led the team in tackles with 7 plus an interception. LB Jerod Mayo bagged six plus a sack. The fact that the Patriots only produced one sack against a suspect Bills O-line further serves to condemn the Patriots pass rush which struggled all of last year. On a last note, the Bills have cut ties with QB Trent Edwards. Presumably they like the direction that Fitzpatrick took their offense in. And It's about time someone gave the Bills a kick up the a**. Browns 17 @ Ravens 24 -- Not the one sided affair that many people - including me - thought it might be. Seneca Wallace posted 18/24 for 141 yards and a TD. Peyton Hillis put in another strong show for the Browns on the ground, with 22 carries for 144 yards and a TD. Joe Flacco recovered somewhat from previous weeks, throwing 22/31 for 262 yards and 3 TDs. Of note was receiver Anquan Boldin who had 8 catches for 142 yards and 3 TDs. Maybe this is the point where he starts to emerge from the shadow of Larry Fitzgerald and establish himself as a true number one wideout. Ravens safety Dawan Landry led his team with 7 tackles and a sack, followed by LB Terrell Suggs with 6 tackles and a sack. 49ers 10 @ Chiefs 31 -- Do I really have to cover this one? (... yes) The sad fact is that the score does the 49ers more justice than they deserve. They didn't bag their sole TD till late in the game on garbage time. By that point it was already a done deal. Matt Cassel looked much better, throwing 16/27 for 250 yards, 3 TDs and an INT. More to the point he actually looked like an NFL QB for a change.
On the ground Jamaal Charles carried 12 times for 97 yards, and Thomas Jones went for 95 yards and a TD off 19 carries as the Chiefs put on a ground and pound display that must have left Mike Singletary seething with envy on the plane ride back home. The next day he did something about it, dumping offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye (YES!! Ahem, excuse me) and promoting QBs coach Mike Johnson to offensive coordinator. For the 49ers, Frank Gore carried the ball 15 times for 43 yards. Alex Smith threw 23/42 for 232 yards, one TD and one INT. Gore's 9 catches for 102 yards seems to say a lot about Smith's relationship with his other receivers. On the other side of the ball the 49ers were led in tackles by..... Nate Clements? The corner put up 9 tackles to top LB Patrick Willis who had 7. It was the Chiefs D however that stole the show. Interesting for me has been the lack of hype after this game surrounding LB Tamba Hali. If this were Clay Matthews of the Packers then we'd be talking "defensive player of the year" candidate already. Hali had 3 sacks (of a team total 5) and a forced fumble (on top of an impressive pre-season). All night the Chiefs were impressive, effectively shutting the 49ers out of this one. Cowboys 27 @ Texans 13 -- As well as nearly going back and changing my Steelers pick to the Bucs' I nearly changed my Texans pick to Cowboys. I guess these things even themselves out. The Texans looked horrible. The loss of starting left tackle Duane Brown showed big time as DeMarcus Ware romped home with three sacks. Matt Schuab finished 23/32 for 241 yards, a TD and 2 INTs. RB Arian Foster had another 100+ yard game, clocking 106 yards off 17 yards. But the Texans just couldn't find their way in to the Cowboys end zone until a fourth quarter TD catch by under rated WR Kevin Walter. The Cowboys however found their way back into a groove. Tony Romo threw 23/30 for 284 yards and 2 TDs. Most surprising was that the Cowboys finally brushed the dust off their running game and let Marion Barber carry the ball 17 times for 55 yards and a TD. They even let Felix Jones carry the ball (!) for 7 carries and 43 yards (longest; 15). The big winner was Roy Williams, who caught 5 passes for 117 yards and 2 TDs. Defensively Cowboys corner Terence Newman and safety Gerald Sensabaugh led with 7 tackles each. LB Keith Brooking came alive with 6 tackles and a sack, while DeMarcus Ware also had 6 tackles, but topped Brooking with 3 sacks. LB Zac Diles led the Texans with 7 tackles. Safety Bernard Pollard (6 tackles, 9 assists) and LB DeMeco Ryans (5 tackles, 5 assists) are also notable. Lions 10 @ Vikings 24 -- This game is the perfect example of why making picks is hard. There are two basic approaches you can take to picking winners; 1) pick the team that seems "obvious". So based on last seasons records this would be the Vikings. It also means you're probably going to pick the Colts/Steelers/Saints/Packers 16 times this season. It'll be successful to a degree, but you'll never see the upsets coming and you'll routinely get punched in the gut by certain under achievers (Chargers, 49ers). 2) Try and actually predict the inter play of the various factors on both teams. This increases the likelihood of spotting an "upset" coming (my Chiefs over Chargers pick from week 1) but it also relies heavily on predicting the approach teams will take to the game. When they don't do what you think they will then your pick bombs; often in spectacular fashion. Exhibit A would be the Lions and the Vikings. I was convinced that after last week the Lions would be tripping over themselves to find ways to fit RB Jahvid Best into their gameplan, both on the ground and through the air. I also presumed the Vikings would continue to abandon Adrian Peterson in favour of trying to get Favre and the passing game to gel together better. The Lions proceeded to give Best 7 carries for 26 yards plus two catches in the passing game. Why? Why in Gods name would you do this after his showing last week? Sometimes I think teams out think themselves with the whole "they think we'll do A, so we'll do B instead because that's clever!". Not playing to your strengths will never be clever. Something the Vikings had proved up till this game, when suddenly they remembered they have probably one of the top three running backs in the league right now on their roster. So they handed the ball off to Peterson 23 times and the result was 160 yards (longest; 80) and 2 TDs. It's a miracle! Who'd have thought that if you give Adrian Peterson enough carries he might just bang home some good yards and a few TDs?! Shaun Hill finished 29/43 for 237 yards, a TD and 2 INTs. Brett Favre was still not back to his old self, throwing 23/34 for 201 yards, a TD and 2 INTs. On defense, Vikings LB Chad Greenway led his team in tackles with 9 and also recovered an important fumble. Corner Antoine Winfield had 8 tackles and an Interception. LB Ben Leber also came up with a crucial interception in the end zone. Falcons 27 @ Saints 24 (OT) -- Drew Brees turned back the clock to last season, throwing 30/38 for 365 yards and 3 TDs. He also threw 2 picks which didn't help. What helped even less was the Saints turning back the clock on their defense to 2008 as they gave up 19/30 to Matt Ryan for 228 yards and 2 TDs, with no Interceptions, as well as conceding 202 yards rushing. Falcons RB Michael Turner carried 30 times for 114 yards and a TD. What helped least of all was a chip shot field goal miss in over time. Last season I was very critical of the Saints given the amount of help they received from their opponents errors to make it to and ultimately win the Super Bowl, so it's only fair to acknowledge the fact that they basically handed the Falcons this one in the extra quarter. On defense, LB Sean Weathersppon (watch list) led the Falcons in tackles with 7 and LB Curtis Lofton & safety William Moore followed with 6 each. The Saints were led by Linebackers Jo-Lunn Dunbar and Jonathan Vilma with 8 each. Redskins 16 @ Rams 30 -- Oh dear! Don't think anyone saw this one coming. McNabb faltered to finish 19/32 for 236 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. The Redskins rushing attack was all but a non-factor. The same could not be said for St. Louis... Steven Jackson carried 10 times for 58 yards and a TD to kick things off before leaving the game with injury. Back up Kenneth Darby entered the game and carried 14 times for 49 yards and another TD. On top of this QB Sam Bradford went 23/37 for 235 yards, a TD and an INT. LB James Laurinaitis led the Rams defense with 6 tackles. For the Redskins it was LB London Fletcher making 8 tackles against the team that he won the Super Bowl with all those years ago. Eagles 28 @ Jaguars 3 -- If you're a Jaguars fan then I sympathise. David Garrard threw 13/30 for just 105 yards and an INT. But it gets worse. 6 sacks took 51 yards back off the board, leaving the Jaguars with a net tally of 54 passing yards. 54. Meanwhile Michael Vick was busy thanking Andy Reid for his faith by completing 17/31 for 291 yards and 3 TDs. RB LeSean McCoy didn't have another burner on the ground, carrying just 11 times for 54 yards (good ol' Andy Reid) but the Jags at least tried to give Maurice Jones-Drew a chance with 22 carries, but he could only muster 88 yards. Still, that's more than Garrard contributed. WR DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin vied for Vicks attention, with Jackson getting 5 catches for 153 yards and a TD, while Maclin took 4 for 83 yards and 2 TDs. For the Eagles D it was a battle between DE Trent Cole and DT Trevor Laws for top defender, with both nabbing 6 tackles, but Cole winning with 2 sacks to Laws's one. Rookie safety Nate Allen continued an impressive season with another sack, with DE's Darryl Tapp and Juqua Parker getting the remaining two. Safety Sean Considine led the Jaguars with 6 tackles and a sack. DT Terrance Knighton posted 1.5 sacks. Colts 27 @ Broncos 13 -- Remember what I was saying earlier about the Giants meeting a growing trend of putting up lots of yards with no end product? That applies to the Broncos too, as Kyle Orton went to the air 57 times, completing 37 for 476 yards.... but with just one TD and one INT. Peyton Manning must have been watching and thinking "jeez, even I don't pass THAT much!". But Manning came close, going 27/43 for 325 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. Take your pick as to who was the best receiver on the day. Austin Collie led the Colts with 12 catches for 171 yards and 2 TDs. The Broncos were led by Brandon Llyod with 6 catches for 169 yards and a TD. Jabar Gaffney snagged 12 for 140 yards. Key performances on defense were Colts corner Kelvin Hayden (10 tackles, 1 FF), safety Antoine Bethea (7 tackles) and corner Jacob Lacey (7 tackles, 1 interception). Broncos corner Perrish Cox (watch list) is notable for the wrong reasons, having been burned for two TDs and fumbling a punt that was recovered by Justin Tryon for the Colts. Raiders 23 @ Cardinals 24 -- So close. Sebastian Janikowski was 3/6 on field goals for the day. If any one of those misses had found a home between the uprights then the Raiders would have grabbed an important victory. Bruce Gradkowski finished 17/34 for 255 yards, one TD and one INT. For a Raiders QB that's practically Manning-esque. RB Darren McFadden had another good game on the ground, rushing 25 times for 105 yards and a TD. Cardinals QB Derek Anderson hardly led the charge against the Raiders, finishing 12/26 for 122 yards, 2 TDs and an INT. Chris "Beanie" Wells made his return with 14 carries for 75 yards. Safety Tyvon Branch led the Raiders D with 9 tackles and DE Richard Seymour pitched in with 4 tackles and a sack. The Cardinals were led in tackles by safety Kerry Rhodes with 8, but the hat has to come off to LB Paris Lenon who had another good game, with 7 tackles, a sack and an INT. DE Darnell Dockett had 6 tackles and a sack, while LB Joey Porter put up 4 tackles, a sack and a FF. Chargers 20 @ Seahawks 27 -- In case you hadn't guessed, a running theme I'm harping on this week is teams that pile on the yards and yet struggle to convert them into points. The Philip Rivers led Chargers are the latest example. 29/53 for 455 yards is great, except when you throw two interceptions and just two TDs.
Compared to Matt Hasselbecks 19/32 for 220 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, it should have been a winning show. Hasselbeck even got himself sacked in the end zone for a safety to help out. But alas it was not enough for San Diego (and my pick) as they let Leon Washington burn them on two kick off returns for TDs (101 yards, then 99).
On defense the real impact was made by Seattle (they certainly had plenty of opportunities). Safety Lawyer Milloy had 7 tackles and a FF. LB David Hawthorne had 6 and a FF. Rookie Safety Earl Thomas had 4 tackles but boosted his performance by snatching both of Rivers's interceptions. DE Chris Clemons accounted for two of the Seahawks 4 sacks.
Jets 31 @ Dolphins 23 -- Probably one of the most fun games I've seen in a while, there was a great tactical battle between Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning and Rex Ryan. At first the Dolphins abused rookie corner Kyle Wilson (watch list) in his match up against Davone Bess, but the Jets caught on and Wilson spent much of the later game tucked away inside.
Jets QB Mark Sanchez went 15/28 for 256 yards and 3 TDs. He wasn't a game breaker in terms of yards, but he made some great reads and throws on critical 3rd downs and in the red zone. RB Ladanian Tomlinson led the Jets on the ground with 15 carries for 70 yards and a TD (longest; 21). Chad Henne went 26/44 for 363 yards and 2 TDs, one INT. Ronnie Brown was the Dolphins leading rusher with 11 carries for 54 yards. Crucially again though the Dolphins struggled to get the ball into the end zone at times, nullifying all their hard work driving down the field.
LB David Harris led the Jets in tackles with 7. The Dolphins were led by safety Yeremiah Bell with 8.
Packers 17 @ Bears 20 -- Ho hum. So much for dismissing the Bears off hand. Guess I just didn't predict the 18 penalties for 152 yards. Some of them were ridiculous. I'd love to see a training film made by the league on how they expect teams to tackle QBs. I imagine it would be hilariously farcical.
Just how you're expected to make a tackle on the quarterback without accidently breaking the rules is beyond me. If you aim low and he steps away at the last second you get flagged for hitting below the knees. Go a little too high and your helmet will end up clipping the QBs and that's "contact to the head".
Anyway. Rodgers went 34/45 for 316 yards, a TD and an INT. Jay Cutler finished 16/27 for 221 yards, a TD and an INT. Neither team could truly be said to have had a run game of note. On defense, Packers corner Tramon Williams had 7 tackles and a sack. The Bears were led in tackles by linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher with 9 each (Briggs got an interception but Urlacher fought back with a FF).
So, there we have it. Another week done and I'm 7-9 pick wise, leaving me 21-27 over the first 3 weeks. Not good. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go and put a ballerinas dress on my QB.....
Have a great day everyone.