Monday, December 21, 2009

Week 15 NFL Wrap Up

How's this for a change? College football, always synonymous with chaos (cough - BCS), was a bit more predictable this year. And even more ironic is the NFL and how recent events has turned everything upside down.

Bottom line - the NFL has been more chaotic this year than college football. (There's a first.)

Without further ado here's a look back at the biggest story lines to come out of Week 15.

Cowboys hand New Orleans their first loss of the season

Someone forgot to tell Dallas they do not win December games and that no one wins in the Superdome other than the Saints. Outside of a late fourth quarter rally, Dallas dominated the vast majority of their 24-17 victory. I was most impressed by Tony Romo's maturity. Romo, who has been subject to his fair share of criticism, did an awfully good job on shutting up the doubters. He went 22 of 34 for 312 yards and a touchdown. Outside of a great game Romo also had ZERO turnovers. In Dallas's first three losses this year, Romo averaged over two turnovers a game.

One week after being carted off the field, DeMarcus Ware made a Willis Reed-like appearance that included two tackles and two huge sacks on Drew Brees.

Honestly, if there any reason to think that Dallas can't beat anyone if that play at that level again? Simply put, no. The Cowboys showcased on Saturday night that when they play their best they can beat anyone.

On other side the New Orleans Saints looked out of sorts for most of the game. Suffering from some key injuries on defense was apparent throughout the game, but even with those injuries I am still shocked how inept the offense was most of the game. Dallas did their homework.

Oakland Beats a Playoff Team...Again

This is getting awfully strange. The Oakland Raiders were swept by the Kansas Chiefs this year, but they still have somehow beaten four playoff teams. Each victory, believe it or not, makes people start to think that maybe Tom Cable is building a team for the future. Oakland has taken down Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and as of yesterday, Denver. The thing that's worth noting is the last two (Pittsburgh, Denver) where away games. And how about some redemption for JaMarcus Russell? A couple weeks after having been benched, the former No. 1 quarterback came into the game to lead the Raiders to a game winning touchdown. Sure it was only a measly 58 yard drive against a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde Broncos team, but rest assured the 20-19 victory by the Raiders speaks volumes about Russell. Basically, do not throw the towel in on him yet. The game was on the line and he delivered. That means something no matter how you cut it.

Carolina's Defense Cripples Minnesota

Everything was falling into place for the Vikings. The Saints lost meaning they could grab a game in the race for home field advantage and the Packers lost meaning the team had won it's second straight division title. But for some reason for the second time in three weeks the Vikings came out flat, and worse they never recovered. Carolina came into the game 5-8 and officially eliminated from playoff contention, yet John Fox's crew still played their best football of the year. In only his third start, Matt Moore outplayed Brett Favre by throwing for 299 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Even with DeAngelo Williams leaving the game with an ankle injury in the first half, the offense was still able to muster points against a stiff Minnesota defense. After three quarters the score stood 7-6 Minnesota, and the end of the fourth it read 26-7.

A couple thing really stood out. First, when Minnesota's running game struggles (only 41 yards)the rest of the offense struggles. Brett Favre is not capable of carrying the team to victory with just his passing. Adrian Peterson feeds off Brett Favre, and Brett Favre feeds off Adrian Peterson. Second, I know it's too early, but Matt Moore is getting better each game. Here's a list of how he has done in his three starts.

Game 1: Tampa Bay (16-6 W) 14/20 161 yards 0 TD 1 INT

Game 2: @ New England (20-10 L) 15/30 197 yards 1 TD 0 INT

Game 3: Minnesota (26-7 W) 21/33 299 yards 3 TD 0 INT

Are we looking at Carolina's QB of the future?

Also worth noting, if Minnesota wants to get home field advantage they will have to go 2-0 (@ CHI, NYG) and New Orleans will have to go 0-2 (TB, @ CAR). It's not entirely out of the question, but it will be difficult.

Rejuvenated Cleveland Browns

It's very difficult to find anything positive about a franchise that is currently 3-11, but I think for the Browns we can make an exception. Since the team's bye week in Week 9 the squad has been playing a lot better to say the least. Sure they are only 2-4 since the bye week, but unlike their first eight games the Browns are in all the games. In their four losses they are only losing by an average score of 25-17. Even better the team has reeled off a two game winning streak after 41-34 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. I really do not care if they beat a lowly Chiefs team, all that matter is the team is still playing with heart.

Lackluster Pats Win

The Patriots' defense was Belichikian in yesterday's 17-10 victory over the Bills, it's the offense that worries me. Yes, I know Buffalo has a solid defense, but still only 17 points? Even crazier is how Buffalo would of gotten the onsides kick back with just over three minutes left had it not been for an atrocious penalty on Buffalo. New England got the victory and that's all that matters. Still, as the playoffs approach I wonder how this team will respond against the likes of the Bengals, Ravens or Broncos. With all that taken into consideration these are the New England Patriots and when they enter the playoffs they always seem to play better.

Last Second Steeler Heroics

It may have only moved their record to 7-7, but regardless it was a much needed 37-36 victory over the Packers. With three seconds left, Big Ben finalized an amazing drive by throwing a laser to Mike Wallace from 19 yards out. Wow. What a play. Even crazier is the fact that Pittsburgh can STILL make the playoffs! Right now in the AFC six teams have the record of 7-7. I understand a lot has to go right for Pitt to get into the playoffs, but crazier things have happened. All that matters is that they are still in the hunt.

A couple things that caught my attention. This is not the first time the Packers have lost because their defense could not make a play in the games final moments. It happened against the Buccaneers earlier in the year and it happened Sunday. My point? This is an area of concern. What's to say Green Bay does not find themselves winning in the playoffs only to lose because their defense is invisible in the game's waning moments? Second, what happened to this Pittsburgh defense?! Big Ben threw for 503 yards and they still only won by one point because of an incredible play. Remember that Steelers' defense? They would shutdown high octane offenses and Big Ben would take care of the rest. That's not the case this year. In the offseason things are going to change.

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