Sunday, November 22, 2015

Week 11 NFL notes

Another dull week in the NFL, unless of course you are a hard-pressed Cowboys’ fan. To wit:

Jaguars 19 Titans 13. A match-up between two teams looking for better tidings in the future, the only difference in being that the rookie quarterback was unable to pull the trigger for a comeback last play win over a quarterback who is “improving” after a few hapless seasons. Maybe Marcus Mariota is just better enough that he will be where Blake Bortles is today next season.

Buccaneers 45 Eagles 17. Sorry, I’m not going to put all of the blame for this lopsided loss on Mark Sanchez. Sure, he threw three interceptions, but that was after he started well, throwing two touchdowns by the second quarter. But it was only to tie the game against a Buccaneers team that would have been off the radar screen if it didn’t have a Heisman Trophy quarterback at the helm. The Eagle defense allowed Jameis Winston (246 yards passing) and running back Doug Martin (235 yards rushing) to run all over the yard without their leashes, as the Buccaneers piled up 521 yards of total offense. I don’t care who the Eagles’ quarterback is; this is a team designed to take the lead early and somehow keep it before the other team catches up. Within minutes of the Eagles tying the game, the Buccaneers were up 28-14, and it was all over. I might as well admit it—Sanchez has a “tendency” to make bad decisions when he feels he is forced to “make plays” (especially in front of the home crowd), and he did in this game to make the game even more lopsided that it needed to be.

Texans 24 Jets 17. Neither Ryan Fitzpatrick, nor T.J. Yates, completed 50 percent of their passes (19-39 and 16-34 respectively), but throwing two touchdown passes as opposed to two interceptions just might make a little bit of a difference.

Colts 24 Falcons 21. Former Seahawk Matt Hasselbeck appears to be one of those “ageless” wonders; subbing for the injured Andrew Luck, he is somehow 3-0 as a starter this season. He did have some help, of course; the Falcons actually led this game 21-7, but three late turnovers—including an interception returned for a touchdown—undid the Falcons. 

Chiefs 33 Chargers 3. Alex Smith proved in this game that it is possible to have a 100 passer rating (108.8) with at least 25 passes attempted while not throwing for a single touchdown; completing 80 percent of your passes for 10 yards per pass attempt accomplishes that. The normally “high-powered” Chargers’ offense managed a measly 201 yards before the home crowd in another embarrassing loss.

Ravens 16 Rams 13. If you are going to replace your quarterback at mid-season who at least got you to four wins in nine games, you’d better hope his replacement is “better.” It might have appeared that way as the Rams took a 13-3 lead into the fourth quarter, but then again, it was only 13 points. But as Case Keenum and company fumbled and bumbled their way to the finish line, Joe Flacco found some rhythm and passed the Ravens beyond the line just barely sneaking by the Rams for first place.

Lions 18 Raiders 13. Matthew Stafford has to have one of the lowest TD pass-per-attempt percentages among modern day quarterbacks, and this game didn’t help, as he threw no TD passes after 282 yards on 35 passes; in 2012 he had a mere 20 TD passes off an NFL record 727 pass attempts. But outgaining your opponent 375 to 214 and committing no turnovers generally leads to victory no matter how inefficiently the team plays.

Broncos 17 Bears 15. Subbing for the injured Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler did just enough to overcome Jay Cutler’s turnovers, including a late fumble in Broncos’ territory. Cutler did come right back to lead the Bears to the potential game-tying touchdown before failing on a two-point conversion. But while the Bears are out of the playoff picture for good, the question for the Broncos is if Manning will be “healthy” enough to play against his principle nemesis, Tom Brady and the Patriots; for that rare time, this would be one instance where I hope Manning does win.

Panthers 44 Redskins 16. The Cam Newton bandwagon is full horsepower ahead, but it seems to me that the Panthers’ defense has been getting the short end of the stick. A defense that allows just 184 net yards and forces 5 turnovers obviously makes it easier for someone like Newton to strut his stuff ridiculously. 

Cowboys 24 Dolphins 14. The Cowboys are certainly a different team with Tony Romo back at the helm. If the Cowboys had won just two of their seven games without Romo, they would be in first place right now in the NFC Least, having already beaten the 5-5 Giants. Not that the Cowboys are completely out of it; in fact, if they win out they could conceivably win the division outright, as bad as it is. But as good as Romo is, he can’t accomplish miracles, can he?

Seahawks 29 49ers 13. Blaine Gabbert didn’t embarrass himself against the Seahawks, in fact managed a 98.2 passer rating and leading the 49ers to 10 more points against the Seahawks on the road than they did with Colin Kaepernick at home. But Russell Wilson had a good time of it, because back-up running back Thomas Rawls rushed for 209 yards, and that always helps him to avoid bad decisions when the opposing defense is forced to consider stopping other pressing issues besides him.

Packers 30 Vikings 13. Don’t let the score fool you; Aaron Rodgers had another bad game, and clearly is trying to avoid the effort at passing the ball whenever possible. Completing less than 50 percent of his passes and having a passer rating 14 points below Teddy Bridgewater’s, something clearly ails Rodgers, and I doubt it is his relationship with his intimate partner; more likely it is a “hangover” from what ailed him at the end of last season. Adrian Peterson was a non-factor in this game, and as one suspects, Bridgewater can put-up what appears to be respectable numbers; but when you get sacked six times for 48 yards in losses, it generally means some of those yards are either “lost” or not sufficiently recovered, even though they “add-up” on the stat sheet. In any case, the Packers have recovered first place in the NFC North.

Cardinals 34 Bengals 31. You can't keep a good man down. and despite throwing two interceptions, as like last week against the Seahawks Carson Palmer recovered like a knocked down boxer and got off the mat to deliver the decisive blow, this time throwing four touchdown passes and leading his team downfield for the winning field goal as the Cardinals moved closer to securing the NFC West by maintaining a three-game edge over the Seahawks. The Bengals, meanwhile, have lost two straight after winning eight in a row--with the Steelers suddenly breathing down their necks.

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