Sunday, October 5, 2014

Week 5 NFL notes

The most interesting football game of the weekend was not any of Week 5’s NFL games, or the upsets of Alabama or Oklahoma, but that which occurred in a little town called Pullman in eastern boondock of the state of Washington. The Washington State Cougars may not be winning many games, but “entertainment” has not been in short supply during Mike Leach’s tenure there. In a hair-pulling loss to California, WSU quarterback Connor Halliday led the team to the one-yard line with 19 seconds to play, and a bonehead kicker was wide right on the likely game-winning 19-yard field goal attempt. Cal won the wild contest 60-59. 

Halliday finished the game 49 of 70 passing for an NCAA record (for all divisions) 734 yards, six touchdown passes and no interceptions. In just six games, Halliday has completed 250 passes for 3052 yards and 26 touchdowns. Needless-to-say, Leach’s team (as it was the case at Texas Tech) is not noted for defense—and thus not wins, at least for WSU—and this is likely the reason why Halliday is not receiving any national notice. But WSU is the most “exciting” football happening these days in the Pac-12 if not the entire FBS, if anyone would bother to take notice.

With that out of the way, the Green Bay Packers’ two principle rivals, the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, both took a fall on Sunday. Now, two weeks after commentators were placing the Packers third in the division, they seem to be back ahead of the “Pack” in NFC North—so Packer fans can "relax" for at least one more week. 

In other action, one must ask if the Philadelphia Eagles are a mirage. After a baffling offensive disappearing act against San Francisco in which they only needed one offensive score to win the game and failed miserably, against a lackluster St. Louis Rams team the Eagles nearly squandered a 34-7 lead by allowing the Rams to look like the offensive juggernaut. The Eagles at 4-1 would still appear to be the odds-on favorite to win the NFC East, but looks can be deceiving; in this game, two defensive touchdowns scored on fumble returns bailed out the Eagles’ offense, only underscoring the question marks about coach Chip Kelly’s offensive “genius.”

The Eagles need to get their act together, because all of a sudden Eli Manning is. Although he still is the best “threat” to break Brett Favre’s seemingly unbreakable career interception record, he hasn’t been throwing interceptions lately. Despite a not particularly spectacular performance against Atlanta, Eli the turnover machine has taken a vacation, and when that happens, the Giants tend to win football games. 

Unfortunately for Favre, the other Manning will likely break his career touchdown pass record in the next two weeks. Every time the stat-happy Manning encounters a secondary he can slice-and-dice, he’s becomes the playground bully shoving little kids faces in the sand (kind of like Russell Wilson). Manning was so pass-happy against Arizona that it didn’t faze him at all when he threw two interceptions; it just meant that he had two more opportunities to pile on. If there is one thing to be certain, next week Manning won’t feel bad at all for you-know-who if he gets the opportunity to cause more embarrassment and calls for heads to roll.

Elsewhere, Dallas and New Orleans avoided too many probing questions by escaping with overtime victories. Andrew Luck had a just slightly better day than Joe Flacco, the difference after the Colts nearly fumbled the ball and the game away to the Ravens late. For yet another week, the San Francisco 49ers are a team that looks better on paper than on the field, and for the second straight week their opponent failed to take advantage it. And is Cincinnati really the best team in football, like everyone is insinuating? Or was New England just conning the numbers people in Vegas to make a big score?

Now, I haven’t mentioned one particular name and one particular team which between the two of them had their worst performance in a season of laugh-a-minute embarrassment, but they deserve their own separate commentary.  

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