Boston College Eagles at the 2010 NFL Combine

Posted February 27, 2010 by mpblewitt
Categories: NCAA Football

Tags: , , , , , , ,

All the usual suspects have arrived in Indianapolis for the 2010 NFL Combine this weekend and each promising player will be poked, prodded, and interviewed sufficiently before even hitting the carpet for their workouts. Boston College may not necessarily be the first school that comes to mind for producing NFL talent but with 25 players in the league in 2009, three consecutive first round draft picks (including two top 10 selections); you can be assured that the scouts love the kids BC churns out.

Center Matt Tennant and Linebacker Mike McLaughlin earned invites to the combine and will look to improve upon their stock after having noteworthy weeks at the Senior Bowl last month. A consistent team that runs a pro style offense and possesses a stalwart defense is an excellent breeding ground for players to make it to the next level. Let’s take a look at these two standouts:

Matt Tennant

Tennant started over 40 games during his career at BC

It should be noted that BC, often referred to as “O-Line U”, had eight different offensive lineman drafted in the last decade, two of them in the first round. Tennant came to BC by way of Cincinnati powerhouse Archbishop Moeller high school and proceeded to start his last 41 games at center for the Eagles. The only senior on the Eagles’ offensive line, Tennant was named team captain for his senior campaign and led the way for RB Montel Harris’ breakout season in which he topped 1,400 rushing yards and recorded eight 100-yard contests. At 6’5”, 300 pounds, he may be considered tall for his position but he is nimble enough at his lighter weight to keep in front of any oncoming blockers.

He was solid all during Senior Bowl week during drills and will likely be a strong addition to any team, even if he is not elite at this point. Only six centers were drafted in 2009, we often see the position filled by converted guards, but Tennant is pure at the position. He will likely need to add some bulk to his frame in order to be a star in the league but many said the same about former BC center Tom Nalen and he fashioned an All-Pro, Super-Bowl winning career for himself in Denver.

Analysis: Teams looking for a center will not reach on Tennant so he is a mid-to-late round selection in April’s draft. His pedigree and game tape speak for themselves so the combine will solidify his status and could even push him up a round or two but don’t expect him to fly up draft boards based on anything that happens in Indy this weekend.

Mike McLaughlin

"Mac" impressed NFL scouts at Senior Bowl Week

As the defensive captain for the last two seasons at Boston College, inside linebacker Mike McLaughlin set the tone for a defense that ranked in the top 20 in scoring defense both seasons. Considering this defense included NFL players B.J. Raji, Ron Brace, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Robert Francois, and All-American Mark Herzlich it is no small feat that he earned that type of respect. Known as a very vocal leader, he impressed at Senior Bowl week with his ability to run the defense as well as showing the versatility to be a long snapper when called upon.

His senior campaign at Chestnut Hill was hampered somewhat by a ruptured Achilles suffered during an offseason workout. He came back from the injury after missing the first three contests to contribute in the middle and on special teams throughout the remainder of the season. At 6’0”, 240 lbs, “Mac” may not have the elite athleticism of some linebackers but as you can see in this clip at the 13-second mark, he can certainly hold his own: http://bit.ly/a25jFl

Analysis: BC linebackers have found their way in the NFL for a long time and McLaughlin should be no different.  He is a tireless worker who will be fighting his way for a starting job in the league for the next several seasons. His versatility on special teams—and long-snapping if he chooses to do so—will be an asset for any team in the league. Expect a mid-round selection for McLaughlin but if he runs well at the combine next week then his stock will absolutely be on the upswing.

Why the Eagles Will Beat the Cowboys

Posted January 9, 2010 by mpblewitt
Categories: NFL Predictions

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Delivering heartbreak to the Cowboys Saturday night and extending their playoff winless streak to a 14th season would be oh-so-sweet for every single Eagles fan. Clearly being faced with a road game against a team that has handled them twice are is not an advantage for the Eagles but as my preseason pick to win the Super Bowl, I feel obligated to defend said prediction.

DeSean Jackson is the biggest threat in the NFL today

1. Andy Reid & Donovan McNabb have never lost a first round playoff game – While Eagles fans enjoy a highly-publicized on-again, off-again, love-hate relationship with both Reid and Donovan, they have simply been winners. Detractors will point to the conspicuous lack of a Lombardi trophy but five NFC Conference Championship games this decade is second to none; a perfect 7-0 in their first playoff games of the season bodes well for the Eagles. That level of experience is unmatched on the Cowboys sideline whose last playoff game victory occurred when Tony Romo was a 16-year old high school junior. (Incidentally, Romo never won a title in HS, either, just figured I’d mention that).

2. Wade Phillips is winless in the playoffs during his career – These historical arguments don’t always translate due to the rash of changes to the rosters over time but it does paint a specific picture of this coach’s success, or lack thereof. In seven full seasons as a head coach prior to this one, he made four playoff appearances. Here are the results in his losses with the Broncos, Bills and Cowboys:

  • 1993 – Raiders 42, Broncos 24
  • 1998 – Dolphins 24, Bills 17
  • 1999 – Titans 22, Bills 16 (Music City Miracle game)
  • 2007 – Giants 21, Cowboys 17

So, as a head coach, he has made exactly one playoff appearance in the last ten seasons and in that game against the Giants, his No.1 seed Cowboys lost a home game. Prior to that, the single biggest special teams breakdown in NFL playoff history was by his 1999 Bills team in a gut-wrenching loss to Tennessee. Special teams efficiency is almost directly linked to coaching in football so it warrants mentioning that he headed up the team who committed that grievous error.

3. DeSean Jackson’s explosive play – For years Eagles fans had begged for a playmaker in the passing game. Brian Westbrook was and is revered but he was never the vertical threat that many teams possess in current-day passing attacks. Enter DeSean Jackson. The second year man out of Cal is an all-around threat on the field both in the passing game and on special teams. The Eagles led the NFL in punt return yardage thanks to the Pro Bowl returner and his 18.5-yard average per reception was second in the league. His eight touchdowns of over 50 yards tied an NFL record and gave Donovan McNabb a weapon he never had in his career until now. While Dallas will key on Jackson, his pure athletic ability is unmatched by anyone in the Cowboys secondary and his return ability is the single biggest X factor of the game.

The Eagles are healthy with Westbrook and Jeremy Maclin back near 100% and had the luxury of getting familiar with the Cowboys new stadium last week. But, time to throw out the ridiculous idioms of “it’s hard to beat a team three times” and focus on what the matchups will be about. It will ultimately come down to the Eagles putting pressure on Romo and coming up with stops at the right time because their explosive offense will be on display in Jerry Jones’ new palace. Experience can be gained in losses but learning how to win and getting it done in the playoffs is invaluable and the Eagles have that all over the Cowboys.

Prediction: A big special teams play – maybe a DeSean Jackson return, maybe a Shaun Suisham miss –  will key the victory for Philly in Dallas.

Eagles 23, Cowboys 21

NFL Power Rankings – End of Season

Posted January 7, 2010 by mpblewitt
Categories: Power Rankings

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Since each NFL season carries with it the weight of expectations and the ultimate stark realities for every team and their fans, I tried something a little bit different for the final edition of NFL Power Rankings for the 2009 season. With the end of the holiday season and the end of the NFL season running parallel to one another, I decided to get some of my friends, colleagues, and readers involved in the assessment of their respective team’s season. It’s a ranking by the people, for the people, if you will.

Also, I did not try to justify any non-playoff team being better than one who actually made ‘the tournament’ – you’re either good enough or you’re not (I’m looking at you Steelers, Texans, and Falcons). On that note, I wish you all a Happy New Year, thanks for reading and one last time…let’s navigate all the way from No. 1 to No. 32…


1.      San Diego Chargers (13-3)—Ten wins to close out the year and a red-hot offense has San Diego ranked at the top of the list. My preseason pick for the AFC Super Bowl rep looks to be in great shape all around but ‘uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.’ A well-earned bye week awaits the Bolts.

2.      Indianapolis Colts (14-2)—All one can say is ‘I hope they know what they’re doing.’ They bailed on the 19-0 campaign only to insert starters in horrible conditions for personal milestones – seems counterintuitive. A loss in their first game of the playoffs will bring the entire organization into question but we have a week to wait on that debate.

3.      New Orleans Saints (13-3)—From 13-0 to 13-3 is not the way to close things out but the Saints don’t appear to be concerned about it. They earned home-field advantage throughout and will await some legit potential opponents for next week. The league’s No. 1 offense should be fine in the comfort of the Superdome.

4.      Minnesota Vikings (12-4)—The Vikings pounded the Giants into the next decade and earned a week off. Similar to the Saints, the Vikes will enjoy the comfort of dome and weather has been eliminated as a factor in the NFC playoffs altogether. Can Favre pull off another title and walk into the sunset? And then come back again?

5.      Dallas Cowboys (11-5)—Big D posted consecutive shutouts for first time in franchise history and grabbed the NFC East title, but this ranking is based on how I think they stack up. ML from Boston: “I came away satisfied from the season but not feeling Dallas has played their best yet – too many penalties and poor tackling.” For his sake, let’s hope he’s right. And, would Wade survive a first round loss to Philly???

6.      Philadelphia Eagles (11-5)—Despite getting shellacked in Dallas on Sunday, MM likes his team to come back and beat Dallas this week but concedes, “the defense will not get them to the Super Bowl…and anything short of that is a disappointment.” Andy Reid has never lost a first-round playoff game and if he does this week, there will be no calls for his head given the contract extension he just signed.

7.      Green Bay Packers (11-5)—The Packer bandwagon is pretty full at this stage. The sixth-ranked offense and the second-ranked defense reside in Green Bay and QB Aaron Rodgers looks the part of a seasoned veteran except he has no postseason experience. Arizona may not be bad place for this team to start even thought the smackdown last week was against backups.

8.      Arizona Cardinals (10-6)—The Cardinals are not an easy team to figure out. Last year, they shocked the football world and nearly won the Super Bowl after a 9-7 season so given their explosive nature on offense, it would not be wise to count them out. Looking towards 2010, a lot will depend on Kurt Warner and/or Matt Leinart’s future.

9.      New England Patriots (10-6)—A meaningless game in Houston resulted in a loss on the scoreboard and of go-to WR Wes Welker who is out for the playoffs after wrecking his knee. With Tom Brady rumored to be ailing as well, the Pats’ playoff expectations have taken a hit in the public’s eyes. Even die-hard New England fan RS admits “this team seems destined for a second round playoff loss at San Diego.”

10. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)—The AFC North champs did very little against the Jets last Sunday so that they could prepare for, um, the Jets on Sunday. Hosting a playoff game in Cincinnati will be a solid home field advantage but if they don’t stop the rushing attack early, they will be home early. Overall, Marvin Lewis finally has his team built the way he wants moving into the new decade.

11. New York Jets (9-7)—Living in NY, I am surrounded by slightly euphoric Jets fans this week who are dreaming of a Super Bowl appearance. DA is “very happy with Rex Ryan as he learned…and got better”. LJ adds “Sanchez’s regression was a bit alarming but I think there’s a reason to be optimistic for the future.” It seems most Jets fans would love a win this week in Cincy but are realistic about not advancing after that…for now…

12. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)—The Ravens did what they needed to do in Oakland by running all over The Black Hole. They make the third playoff appearance in four years and will head to New England to try to advance. Joe Flacco’s less than stellar play (9TDs and 7 INTs in his last 9 games) has some worried and a banged-up Ed Reed further hurts their chances to advance but with the way the Pats look, they may just steal one before bowing out.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)—MO agreed that watching the Steelers blow five 4th quarter leads was excruciating but “it might have been worse watching the Jets win two games that the other teams just handed to them”. Even with the Polamalu injury and winning out tough games against Green Bay, Baltimore, and Miami there are no excuses for the Steelers dropping earlier games to the Chiefs and Raiders. Getting healthy, building some depth through the draft and revamping special teams is likely to be the approach to get back to the playoffs in 2010.

14. Tennessee Titans (8-8)—Closing the season on an 8-2 run ranks them right up there at the top of the league in those last 10 games. Unfortunately, there are those pesky six losses to open the season that did not vanish from the record. But, the Vince Young Era has officially resumed and they will go into 2010 with a clear picture of who is leading them; Chris Johnson will be tearing up opposing defenses as well.

15. Atlanta Falcons (9-7)—A win over the Bucs secured consecutive winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. Unfortunately, the Falcons were the only NFC team with a winning record to miss the ‘second season’ but DH from Atlanta is less worried about “not meeting lofty expectations” for 2009 than he is about QB “Matt Ryan not progressing from his rookie year”.

16. Houston Texans (9-7)—The Texans beat the Pats to secure their first ever winning season but the celebration was tempered after being eliminated from the playoffs on tiebreakers. Matt Schaub led Gary Kubiak’s explosive offense very well and the defense has plenty of talent but poor special teams play led to some close losses that find them on the outside looking in yet again.

17. Carolina Panthers (8-8)—John Fox teams never quit, you have to give him credit for that. Saddled with an aging, expensive QB in Jake Delhomme the team struggled until he was injured. Backup Matt Moore won four of the last five games to get them back to .500 which gave all the doubters ‘evidence’ to call for Delhomme’s pink slip. Changes will be made to the roster but expect the Panthers to challenge for the playoffs in 2010.

  1. San Francisco 49ers (8-8)—The Niners throttled the Rams to close out the season winning three of their last four to finish a respectable 8-8 but clearly, the expectations are higher in San Fran. Mike Singletary: “In order to make wise decisions, we have to evaluate closely what we need to do. We’re going to take our time and be thorough.” So far, the special teams coach has been axed and while Alex Smith remains the top guy for now, the QB question will rage on throughout the offseason.

19. Denver Broncos (8-8)—The most hot and cold team in the NFL this year along with the Giants, the Broncos 6-0 start did not hold up when they lost their last four games to miss the important January games. Rookie head coach Josh McDaniels will have to deal with more drama regarding star wideout Brandon Marshall which is likely to end up in a trade around draft time. To an extent, I feel like they overachieved based on expectation but the perception is that they choked big time in ‘09.

20. Miami Dolphins (7-9)—Miami’s playoff hopes were officially dashed with a loss to the Steelers. KK from NYC thought his Dolphins had “hope and promise with a young, flourishing QB, but momentum was lost when Ronnie Brown went down.” Never lacking confidence in his beloved Fish he “guaranteed an AFC East title” in 2010.

21. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-9)—The Jags stood at 7-5 and controlled their own destiny to the playoffs only to drop their last four and end the season with a loud thud in Cleveland. Head coach Jack Del Rio is likely to stick there as he is owed $15 million over three years and rumors of the team being for sale swirl constantly these days. Del Rio tagging his QB David Garrard as “middle-tier” this week is accurate but a strange motivational tool when there is no football for such a long period after that commentary.

22. Chicago Bears (7-9)—While the Bears ended the season on a positive note by winning their last two, KL from Los Angeles summed up ‘09 by saying “this season got intercepted by another errant Cutler throw”. Ouch. The guillotine fell hard in Chicago already as six coaches were let go this week.

23. New York Giants (8-8)—The Giants uncharacteristically mailed in the last two games were summarily blown out and it cost people jobs namely defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan. AJ from PA sees a glaring “need for personnel changes” and “wouldn’t be surprised to see as many as 10 new starters” which is a long way from where the expectations were going into the season.

24. Cleveland Browns (5-11)—Jerome Harrison put the team on his back in this last month to close out 2009 on a positive note. TR says the Browns were “disappointing in every aspect” but admits that you “can’t sleep” on their first four-game winning streak since 1994. The Mangini-hating also seems to have quieted with the wins and the arrival of football guru Mike Holmgren. Promise in Cleveland? Always…

25. Oakland Raiders (5-11)—When a team is 5-10 and down eight points with three minutes to go in its final game, is punting and playing the field position/timeouts strategy really the way to go? Live a little, Tom Cable, it’s not like your job hung in the balance during the loss to the Ravens. Or maybe it did, I don’t know, but I’m not about to try to get into Al Davis’ head – I may never come back. Cable throwing JaMarcus Russell under the bus will not help save his gig since Al is apparently still a fan – we’ll know more next week regarding this soap opera.

26. Buffalo Bills (6-10)—The Bills beat up on the fake Colts in the snow and then fired the entire coaching staff following a very disappointing year that saw them finish in last place in the AFC East for the second year in a row. Interim head coach Perry Fewell will interview for the head job there but he is unlikely to land it as they look for someone with a strong resume to come in and turn this around. Bill Cowher will provide writers like me with a lot of puns, so, there’s that…

27. Kansas City Chiefs (4-12)—The Chiefs surprisingly stomped the Broncos right out of the playoffs with a resounding win at Denver. KC was a sneaky sleeper pick for many before the year but after ranking 25th in offense and 30th in defense, it appears the rebuild will continue onward towards 2010.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-13)—After the Bucs dropped the finale to Atlanta, RH wondered “Does the ship have a rudder?” which indicts everyone from the Glazers down through rookie Head Coach Raheem Morris. While Morris was officially retained, wholesale changes will need to be made to the roster and among the coaching staff. Josh Freeman has shown potential but we all know that’s a long way from being any good at the QB position in this league.

29. Washington Redskins (4-12)—Jim Zorn was our first post-season coaching casualty as new GM Bruce Allen made his first major move after a disastrous season. The ‘Skins lost 18 of last 24 games under Zorn and have more roster issues now than when he first came on board.  Kevin H. from D.C.: “Poor coaching and bad players…you get what you see”. I think Kevin will feel just fine with new coach Mike Shanahan but will Jason Campbell be around for 2010?

30. Detroit Lions (2-14)—Everyone expected a long road ahead for the Lions and two separate six-game losing streaks locked up the No. 2 pick in the draft. Building blocks like QB Matt Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson on offense are bright spots for 2010.

31. Seattle Seahawks (5-11)—There’s nothing worse than watching a team quit like the Seahawks did this season. They didn’t make it too tough for the Titans’ Chris Johnson to break the NFL yards-from-scrimmage record but they have made it tough for their fans to have faith in the direction of the team. What can Jim Mora, Jr. say to defend himself?

32. St. Louis Rams (1-15)—CG said about his beloved Rams: “With so many holes and so few current players showing much, it is hard not to see this as a three-plus year project back to respectability.” It may not be the sexiest No. 1 overall pick ever but everyone’s guess is that it will be Nebraska DT Ndamakong Suh since he will be a stable building block in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense for years to come. With that, the Rams are officially on the clock…

Mike Blewitt’s NFL Power Rankings – Week 15

Posted December 18, 2009 by mpblewitt
Categories: Power Rankings

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The NFL Power Rankings for Week 15 STILL features two undefeated teams in the Saints and Colts, two red hot teams in the Chargers and Packers, as well as the Bucs and Rams who just can’t get out of their own way.  Let’s make our way all the way from No. 1 to No. 32…

  1. New Orleans Saints (13-0)—Yet another tight one for the Saints who set their franchise win record in a season to 13 games. New Orleans clutch third-down conversions (8 of 12) allowed them to finish off key scoring drives in the three-point win. A key matchup against the Cowboys looms this week and could determine a big portion of the NFC playoff picture.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (13-0)—Despite Peyton Manning’s three INTs and Brandon Marshall owning the football for much of the game, the Colts came out on top again. Style points are of no concern when they are allowing the second least points in the NFL – a rare tip of the cap to this defense is deserved. Thursday night against the Jags has every fantasy owner associated with a Colts player worried about early benching but all should be well for this week at least.
  3. Minnesota Vikings (11-2)—The Vikings bounced back nicely after the Arizona loss by pummeling the Bengals 30-10 in the Metrodome. The Vikes eliminated the Cincy passing game and were efficient on the offensive side all day. They can lock up the NFC North with a win over the Panthers and a Packers loss this Sunday.
  4. San Diego Chargers (10-3)—Not only have the Chargers won eight games in a row but they have run off 16 straight in December dating back to 2005, an NFL record. A good road win over Dallas should translate into even more momentum when they host the Bengals this Sunday.
  5. Philadelphia Eagles (9-4)—A big win for the Eagles but allowing 512 yards of offense and 38 points will not be acceptable come January. DeSean Jackson may be the most explosive WR in the league and can contribute in ways that could make him dangerous all throughout the playoffs. Next up: 49ers.
  6. Green Bay Packers (9-4)—Ryan Grant paced the rushing attack with 137 yards and two scores as the Pack won its fifth game in a row over the rival Bears. The defense had another great game as they held Chicago to only 254 yards and forced two turnovers. They head to Pittsburgh to maintain the hot streak this week.
  7. Cincinnati Bengals (9-4)—QB Carson Palmer was shut down by the Vikings in a miserable performance that saw the Bengals throw for only 94 yards. Moving on to this week, they can clinch the AFC North with a win at San Diego…tall order against a scorching hot Chargers’ squad but it will serve as a measuring stick for the playoffs.
  8. Arizona Cardinals (8-5)—Seven was not a lucky number for the Cardinals against the 49ers on Monday night. Turning the ball over that many times is a guaranteed loss in this league. The Lions are nice team to bounce back against; it could get ugly in Detroit as Arizona tries to wash this taste out of their mouth.
  9. Denver Broncos (8-5)—The spotlight shone brightly on Brandon Marshall but the day belonged to the Colts. Marshall’s NFL-record 21 catches were not enough to get key conversions on third (6 for17) or fourth (0 for 3) down and left them short on converting Peyton Manning’s three INTs. They host the Raiders this week to try and get back on track.

10.  New England Patriots (8-5)—All the controversy surrounding the Pats’ win over Carolina was focused on Randy Moss and whether or not he quit. The fact that they actually won seems obscured but there is no question that New England is not very sharp right now.  They still lead the division by one game and will travel to Buffalo to keep that buffer intact.

11.  Dallas Cowboys (8-5)—The ‘December Dallas Woes’ story is old, I admit, but they have to win at some point for us to stop talking about it, right?  That’s what I thought…1 for 8 on third down is not going to cut it against good teams like San Diego. Heading to New Orleans is a heck of a way to try to stop a two-game skid but Dallas is desperate – they may need it badly to make the playoffs.

12.  New York Giants (7-6)—The Giants roll up 500 yards of offense with Eli Manning throwing for 391 and three TDs and they lose? Say it ain’t so.  Philly was opportunistic in all three phases and outpaced the Giants to sweep them on the season. The G-Men will be fighting for their playoff lives in D.C this Monday night.

13.  Baltimore Ravens (7-6)—The Ravens rushed for a staggering 7.7 yards per carry and 308 yards on the day in a 48-3 thrashing of the Lions. Utilizing several big plays, the Ravens’ offense showed signs of explosiveness that we have not seen for much of the year – pretty solid timing with the playoffs nearing on the horizon. Up next: Chicago Bears.

14.  Miami Dolphins (7-6)—The Fish overcame three turnovers and edged the Jags thanks to a strong day by RB Ricky Williams (108 yds, two TDs). The playoff push is very real for the Dolphins as they head to Tennessee on Sunday to try to make it five wins out of their last six.

Ricky Williams' has the Dolphins primed for a comeback to reach the playoffs

15.  Jacksonville Jaguars (7-6)—The Jags were stymied offensively gaining only 217 total yards on offense despite winning the turnover battle three to zip against the Dolphins. The playoff picture will only get murkier with another loss and up next are the undefeated Colts.

16.  New York Jets (7-6)—With QB Kellen Clemens filling in for an injured Mark Sanchez, the Jets piled up the rushing yardage (175 yards) in dominating the Bucs. Josh Freeman never had a chance as the Jets confused him all day with different looks and blitzes. Unfortunately, the Jets have convinced their fan base yet again that they have a shot at the playoffs…will they never learn?

17.  Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7)—The downward spiral of the Steelers’ 2009 season is nearly complete after losing their fifth straight game, the latest to the lowly Browns. One could blame injuries but that lame excuse doesn’t fly when Pittsburgh displayed a complete inability to protect the quarterback (eight sacs allowed) or stop the run (171 yards) against their longtime rivals. They host the Packers Sunday to try and save some pride as their playoff window officially closes.

18.  Tennessee Titans (6-7)—The Titans dispatched of the Rams easily and RB Chris Johnson continues his assault on the NFL and opposing fantasy owners. Nearly 450 yards of offense and 47 points kept the momentum going for the Titans who will try to extend their slim playoff hopes another week against the Dolphins.

19.  Atlanta Falcons (6-7)—Playing without Michael Turner and Matt Ryan yet again, the Falcons hung tough and were stopped by the Saints on a potential game-tying or go-ahead drive with just over a minute to go. The defense will need to come up with more stops if they have any chance to run the table against the Jets, Bills, and Bucs…not exactly murderers’ row.

20.  Houston Texans (6-7)—The Texans snapped a four-game losing streak by pouring it on offensively, mainly through the air. WR Andre Johnson hauled in 11 receptions for 193 yards and two scores to lead the way in a blowout win over Seattle. They will continue to fight back to .500 this week against the basement-owning Rams.

21.  San Francisco 49ers (6-7)—This is the type of team the 49ers hoped they would be this season.  Tough, opportunistic defense (seven forced turnovers) with a strong running game headed up by Frank Gore (167 yards); they got it for one game at least. Now, they head to Philly to keep their very slim playoff hopes alive.

22.  Carolina Panthers (5-8)—So, the Panthers shut down Randy Moss, force three turnovers by the Patriots, still lose by 10 points and they’re bragging???  What am I missing? Head coach John Fox’ seat is likely to get hotter after the Vikings come to town this weekend.

23.  Seattle Seahawks (5-8)—Seattle simply looks like a beaten team after the 34-7 drubbing they took in Houston. An abysmal 1 of 14 in third-down conversions highlighted their offensive struggles that managed only seven points in three trips to the red zone. They get a break with the Bucs coming into town but at this point, the ‘Hawks won’t rest easy until this season is over.

24.  Chicago Bears (5-8)—The Bears were swept by the Packers for the first time since 2003 and find themselves in a miserable offensive funk. I think it’s fair to say at this point that the Broncos knew they might have had a head case on their hands named Jay Cutler.  Grow up, Jay…and quickly because you’re playing Baltimore on Sunday.

25.  Buffalo Bills (5-8)—The Bills counted on the leg of K Rian Lindell in a 16-10 win over the Chiefs. Four INTs helped them seal the win on a day where the offense was conspicuously absent. Spoiler is the role of choice this Sunday when they host the Patriots.

26.  Washington Redskins (4-9)—The ‘Skins scored 30 points in consecutive games for the first time since 2006 and LB Brian Orakpo terrorized the Raiders with four sacks and a forced fumble. With a new GM in Bruce Allen in town, this Monday night game against the Giants may sadly be Coach Jim Zorn’s last.

27.  Oakland Raiders (4-9)—Committing 14 penalties for 118 yards is difficult for any team to overcome, let alone a 4-9 team with two quarterbacks who were running for their respective lives all afternoon against Washington. Charlie Frye will be starting QB No. 3 in the mix as they head to Denver.

28.  Kansas City Chiefs (3-10)—Matt Cassel threw INTs on the final three drives in a game that KC was trailing by six – difficult to overcome. Well, at least they didn’t lock him up with a $60-million dollar contract…oh wait. Hosting Cleveland this weekend will assure them only of millions of people not watching their game.

29.  Cleveland Browns (2-11)—The Browns climbed out of the cellar this week after an inspired defensive performance against the Steelers, allowing just over 200 yards of offense. Jack of all trades Josh Cribbs contributed big plays on offense and special teams in the win, their first over Pittsburgh since in 13 tries. This week the Browns try to do more damage to their chances of the potential number one overall pick by attempting to beat the Chiefs.

30.  Detroit Lions (2-11)—Duante Culpepper started for the injured Matt Stafford and nothing went right on offense. But, I suppose that’s an improvement over the defense where everything went wrong. This season has gone about as bad as expected and they will continue to try to improve against Arizona this Sunday.

31.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-12)—Sometimes you’re reminded how bad an NFL team can get after you’re forced to watch their crappy game against Gang Green because you live in New York.  As Forrest Gump eloquently said: “That’s all I have to say about that.”

32.  St. Louis Rams (1-12)—If you knew that starting QB Keith Null went to West Texas A&M then you can only be a Rams fan…or one of his family members. Throwing five INTs in a 40-point loss is a rough start to one’s career but I can only say this…it’s not your fault…it’s not your fault…it’s not your fault…

College Football Picks – Week 13

Posted November 27, 2009 by mpblewitt
Categories: NCAA Football

We got back in the winners’ column last week, going 6-4 (42-49 YTD), and face the toughest of all weekends…rivalries abound.

This is never an easy week as emotions run high for a lot of these teams, making this their make-or-break game of the season when we throw most of the stats out the window.

So, we’ll do our best and as always, here are the picks…

No. 3 Texas at Texas A&M (+21)—The Longhorns simply need to keep their eyes on the prize and not get tripped up against the Aggies this weekend. Texas’ Colt McCoy became the winningest QB in NCAA history last weekend but is only 1-2 against A&M, losing in 2006 and 2007. While the ‘Horns second-ranked offense has put up a ton of points, the Aggies have managed to put up over 33 points a game which is good for 17th in FBS. Unfortunately, their defense punches in at 99th place, which will be their downfall. Texas 42, Texas A&M 20.

No. 2 Alabama at Auburn (+10)—The games are only going to get bigger from here for Alabama and Auburn would like to end a potential championship run before it starts. The Crimson Tide ended their six-year Iron Bowl losing streak last season and will bring a dominant defense (No. 2 in FBS) and prolific rushing attack (No. 10 in FBS) to this year’s contest. Auburn runs similarly well but has had trouble keeping opponents out of the end zone. This is the biggest rivalry in college football by most accounts so there’s no need to hype it any further, just watch and enjoy. Alabama 30, Auburn 13.

No. 9 Pittsburgh at West Virginia (PK)—The “Backyard Brawl” causes a lot of blood to boil in this yearly matchup that will likely produce another classic. Pitt ended WVU’s run at a national title with a major upset in 2007 so payback will be on the mind of the Mountaineers on Friday night. The teams are relatively evenly matched statistically and there will be no overlooking this game for Pitt who likely plays Cincy next week for the Big East Title. I’m glad this is a pick ‘em because this might be the most fun game to watch all weekend. Pittsburgh 27, West Virginia 24.

Nevada at No. 6 Boise State (-13 ½)—We have two of the top five offenses going against each other for the WAC title when Nevada meets up with Boise State on Friday night. Both teams move the ball up and down the field with such proficiency that I think we can see an absurd amount of points put up on the board in this matchup. Boise’s defense gives them a clear advantage in addition to the famed blue turf but Nevada should hang tough for a while. Boise 56, Nevada 40.

No. 18 Clemson at South Carolina (+3)—A tricky game here as it is meaningless in the overall picture for Clemson. South Carolina is a disappointing 6-5 but a ‘state championship’ would put a nice bow on the season. Clemson is playing for the ACC title next weekend but will need to be focused against a solid Gamecocks defense. The Tigers have won the past two, six of the last seven and 10 of 12 so I can buy into their focus on this game. Clemson 24, South Carolina 16.

Florida State at No. 1 Florida (-24 ½)–The top-ranked Gators have won a school-record 21 straight games, also the nation’s longest current streak. The Seminoles’ program has been besieged by critics all year calling for Bobby Bowden’s job who, by the way, guided his team to a 28th consecutive year of bowl eligibility. I would like to say that you throw the stats out for this one, but the Gators give up less than 10 points per contest and ‘Noles freshman QB EJ Manuel won’t be prepared well enough for this. Tim Tebow will chomp away in his last game at The Swamp. Florida 42, Florida State 17.

No. 21 Utah at No. 19 Brigham Young (-7 ½)—With Utah’s two losses coming to Oregon and TCU, one would think they would garner a little bit more respect. Don’t expect the Cougars to argue their case for them as BYU is looking for payback after last year’s 48-24 drubbing at the hand of the Utes. The only game between two ranked opponents this weekend should be a close one. Utah 27, BYU 25.

Notre Dame at Stanford (-10 ½)—Charlie Weis’ tenure as Notre Dame Head football coach will come to an end with this game after a disappointing season ended without BCS bowls or championships yet again. Stanford may also be looking for a new top man if Jim Harbaugh decides to leave for alleged greener pastures in the NCAA or NFL; clearly tempered expectations have left him looking rosy even at 7-4 with a loss to their biggest rival. Offense should rule the day yet again for these two teams who have struggled defensively and the Cardinal win a close one. Stanford 35, Notre Dame 34.

Georgia at No. 7 Georgia Tech (-8)—Georgia is going to have a hard time getting used to this second fiddle thing…the Bulldogs had won seven straight over the Yellow Jackets before last season’s loss. Tech will be playing for a chance at the ACC title and a BCS bid next week but will certainly need to be dialed into this matchup against a team they have not beaten at home since 1999. This game is often dubbed “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate,” something Paul Johnson’s triple option attack will engender in UGA fans by the end of this contest. Georgia Tech 31, Georgia 21.

UCLA at No. 20 USC (-13)—USC is experiencing its worst national ranking in seven years when they take on cross-town rivals UCLA on Saturday night who will look to improve their bowl status with a win. UCLA has turned things around during a three-game win streak, which has seen them give up only 14 points per contest. USC is in unfamiliar territory having seen their defense get rolled over twice in the last three games. I think the week off will do wonders for the Trojans and they will try to earn back some pride to finish the last two weeks of the season strong. USC 28, UCLA 14.

NFL Power Rankings – Week 12

Posted November 25, 2009 by mpblewitt
Categories: Power Rankings

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Injuries and upsets were big stories over the weekend and the worst game of the year was actually the best. The Colts and Saints moved to 10-0 making it only the third time in league history with two undefeated teams at this stage, the AFC West threw down with the AFC North and won (!), and the Browns found yet another way to lose. Let’s make our way all the way from No. 1 to No. 32…

1. New Orleans Saints (10-0)—Efficient and dominant in each phase of the game, the Bucs were in control of this game against the Bucs throughout. By creating four turnovers and leading a perfectly balanced offensive attack, New Orleans put their stamp on this game. They are 10-0 for the first time in franchise history and will look to continue their unblemished run in a huge contest on Monday night when they host the Patriots.

2. Indianapolis Colts (10-0)—Certainly not their prettiest win of the year but as we like to say “good teams win ugly”. The Ravens forced three turnovers and held the Colts to just 17 points but Indy shut the door late with two late turnovers of their own to run their record to 10-0. Next up is a scrappy Houston Texans team who is looking to put a signature win up on the board.

3. Minnesota Vikings (9-1)—It doesn’t often go much easier than this in an NFL contest. QB Brett Favre was able to check out in the start of the fourth quarter holding a 28-3 lead after completing 88 percent of his passes and 4 TDs against Seattle. The reeling Bears visit Minnesota on Sunday.

4. New England Patriots (7-3)—The Pats certainly dished out a measure of revenge, embarrassing the Jets by holding the ball for 40 minutes and creating five turnovers. WR Wes Welker ran free most of the day racking up 15 catches for 192 yards and exposing a less-than-stellar game plan. The Pats play another “Game of the Year” when they travel to New Orleans to take on the undefeated Saints.

5. San Diego Chargers (7-3)—Right back where they belong, the Chargers withstood some early season trials and tribulations and fine themselves in first place in the AFC West and playing commanding football. San Diego ran over the Broncos on Sunday picking up 203 yards on the ground in a 32-3 shellacking. They now have their eyes focused on a No. 2 seed in the AFC Playoffs and will host the Chiefs this Sunday.

6. Cincinnati Bengals (7-3)—This will be permanently filed under ‘One that we let get away’. The Bengals of old would have even been shaking their heads after Cincy gave up 10 point to the Raiders in the last 41 seconds of the fourth quarter. A big special teams gaffe gave the Raiders the ball in field goal range one play after the game-tying TD which resulted in a 20-17 loss. They forfeited a huge chance to go up two games on Pittsburgh but will attempt to bounce back against the cellar-dwelling Browns this Sunday.

7. Arizona Cardinals (7-3)—The Cardinals have inched their way up the power rankings in recent weeks and find themselves in complete control of the AFC West yet again. Kurt Warner’s injury is not deemed to be serious and he staked them to a commanding 21-3 lead before being forced out of the game against the Rams. The Cards take on the red hot Titans in an effort to stay within a reasonable distance of the Vikings or Saints for the No. 2 spot in the NFC.

8. Dallas Cowboys (7-3)—This one was very ugly so Big D should be thankful this holiday for the win on Sunday. They scored their points (a Romo-to-Crayton-TD) with less than three minutes to play and hung on to beat the Redskins 7-6. The Thanksgiving tradition continues when they host the Raiders on Thursday.

9. New York Giants (6-4)—As head coach Tom Coughlin succinctly put it “it was miserable around here for a month” and that ended with an overtime victory over the Falcons. Eli Manning threw for a season-high 384 yards along with 3 TDs to pace the offense to 34 points. They go to Denver on Turkey Night to try to make it two wins in a row.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4)—Despite picking up over 500 yards of offense, three costly turnovers, ANOTHER kickoff return for a TD, and eight penalties doomed the Steelers in the OT loss to Kansas City. With S Troy Polamalu out for several more weeks and Ben Roethlisberger banged up after this loss the defending champs are in a danger zone. This week’s showdown against the Ravens should result in the losing team being out of the playoffs at year’s end.

11.  Philadelphia Eagles (6-4)—Was that balance we saw on Sunday night?  Yes it was. Philly came out running the ball and throwing which led to nearly 400 yards of offense despite three turnovers. They sealed the win with a LeSean McCoy with five minutes to go and now will need to keep pace with a jumbled wild card group in the NFC. Next up: Redskins in Philly.

12.  Denver Broncos (6-4)—After opening the season at 6-0, the Broncos are in serious danger of missing the playoffs. They managed exactly three points in four trips to the red zone and held the ball for less than 23 minutes.  Their 25th-ranked offense will need to get back on track for a huge Thanksgiving night game in Denver.

13.  Atlanta Falcons (5-5)—The Falcons battled the Giants into overtime in a game during which they trailed throughout, ultimately falling 34-31. They will need to find a way to get stops on defense if they are going to have a chance at a playoff run in 2009. The back end of their schedule is loaded with home games so they can get started with a win over Tampa Bay this week.

14.  Green Bay Packers (6-4)—The Pack completely dominated the 49ers despite only winning by six points. They held the ball for over 41 minutes including the last six to run out the clock and racked up nearly 500 yards of offense. The Pack takes on the Lions on Turkey Day and are back in the thick of the NFC playoff race.

15.  Jacksonville Jaguars (6-4)—The Jags came from behind to beat the Buffalo Bills by three and put themselves right into playoff contention. One of the hardest teams’ to figure out in the whole league, the Jags have a balanced offense and hard-hitting defense that creates problems for most of their opponents. A loooong road trip to San Fran is up this holiday weekend.

16.  Baltimore Ravens (5-5)—The Ravens failed to score a TD in four red-zone trips settling for five field goals on the day as their only points. Two late turnovers cost them in a game that was there for the taking against the unbeaten Colts. They are in serious jeopardy of missing the AFC playoff race and have a clash against the rival Steelers this Sunday night.

17.  Miami Dolphins (5-5)—A big week from Ricky Williams with 3 TDs allowed the Dolphins to keep pace with the rest of the playoff pack in the AFC. His role will be significant down the stretch as QB Chad Henne continues to develop. They received a nice 10-day break before they head up to Buffalo to take on the last-place Bills.

18.  Tennessee Titans (4-6)—While the hill may be a little too steep for the Titans’ to climb all the way back into the playoff picture, they are playing as well as many teams on that level. RB Chris Johnson, who ran for 151 yards against Houston, is following up his excellent rookie campaign with a breakout season that may make him the NFL’s next big star. The four-game winning streak will be heavily tested against the Cardinals and Colts the next two weeks.

19.  Houston Texans (5-5)—Yet another loss in the books thanks to missing a field goal on the last play of the game…just inexcusable. From clock mismanagement to poor execution, the Texans’ show no signs of being able to get above the .500 mark for any length of time. Titans’ RB Chris Johnson tore them up and now they will need to set their sights on Colts’ QB Peyton Manning.

20.  San Francisco 49ers (4-6)—The only positive thing the Niners showed on Sunday was their ability to fight until the end of the game. Their defense was beaten up all day and their offense only had 18 minutes with which to move the ball. The playoff window is just about closed on San Fran in what has shaped about to be a disappointing 2009 campaign; they host the Jags this Sunday.

21.  Carolina Panthers (4-6)—Carolina has been fighting inconsistency all year and likely dropped out of the playoffs with that loss to Miami. The Dolphins dared QB Jake Delhomme to throw and the he was unable to do so accurately or take advantage of red zone opportunities. They face the Jets this Sunday in a battle of two teams whose seasons have come off the rails earlier than anticipated.

22.  New York Jets (4-6)—The seemingly limitless prospects of rookie QBs are often perfectly counterbalanced with the reality of the developmental process. Mark Sanchez offered up five turnovers against the superior Pats’ team who combined pressure and good coverage to confuse the youngster making just his tenth NFL start. The playoff window has shut on the Jets as they wait ‘til next year yet again. Next up: Hosting Carolina on Sunday.

23.  Chicago Bears (4-6)—The Bears were unable to capitalize on three turnovers and ended the game with two punts, a blocked field goal, and an interception on offense. Unfortunately for the Bears, they appear to have personnel issues on both sides of the ball and will be retooling in the offseason after a third straight year of missing the playoffs. They travel to Minnesota this week in a must-win game for the Vikes…bad times…

24.  Kansas City Chiefs (3-7)—A look at the boxscore will not tell you the story of the Chiefs’ huge upset over Pittsburgh in Week 11. Key turnovers and a few clutch plays in overtime allowed them to snap their 10-game home losing streak, their longest ever. Head Coach Todd Haley has them playing inspired football and we’ll see if they can make it three straight against the Chargers this week.

25.  Oakland Raiders (3-7)—Kudos to the Raiders for causing and then taking advantage of the Bengals mistakes in a shocking 20-17 win over Cincinnati. The league’s worst offense managed 10 points in the final 41 seconds of the upset and look better suited having Bruce Gradkowski under center to run the show. Heading to Dallas on Turkey Day could be interesting as neither offense has lit the world on fire over the last month.

Gradkowski may not be the "future" but he is definitely the "now"

26.  Washington Redskins (3-7)—The Redskins battled for the entire contest keeping Dallas QB Tony Romo off-balance and holding them to only seven points. But they were plagued with their own inability to do anything in the red zone in losing their fifth game out of their last six. The ‘Skins go on the road to Philly to try to play spoiler for the remainder of the season.

27.  Buffalo Bills (3-7)—The Bills went 3 of 11 on third down, coughed up three turnovers and came away with three field goals in three tips to the red zone – tough way to win a football game. They played more inspired ball with interim head coach Perry Fewell and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick leading the way but will need to be better to break the three-game skid against the Dolphins.

28.  Seattle Seahawks (3-7)—The wheels have come off the wagon in Seattle. Injuries and abysmal play have them out of the playoffs and wondering where the future may lead them in 2010. Only four rushing yards on 12 carries put them in a position to hold the ball for less than 18 minutes. They visit the Rams this week to try and heal some of their war wounds.

29.  Detroit Lions (2-8)—The Lions and Browns combined for over 900 yards in a very competitive contest that ended with Detroit victorious. Their defense has myriad issues but Matt Stafford and the rest of the offense came back from 24-3 in the first quarter to take the game on the last play, 38-37. Lions host the Pack on Turkey Day in one of the oldest traditions in the NFL.

30.  St. Louis Rams (1-9)—The Rams went 4 of 16 on third down and failed to capitalize on another great performance by RB Steven Jackson. Their inability to stop the Cardinals’ offense put them in too big of a hole to finish off their second-half comeback. They will take on the Seahawks in an NFC West battle (read: pillow fight).

31.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-9)—Mama said there’d be days like this…a 38-7 drubbing at the hands of the Saints. Considering how badly he was harassed in this game, the Bucs should be thankful that QB Josh Freeman is not injured. They travel to the Falcons looking for improvement in all three phases.

32.  Cleveland Browns (1-9)—The Browns suffered a heartbreaker in finding a shockingly new way to lose an NFL game. A pass interference penalty on a “Hail Mary” pass was followed by an untimed down for a Detroit TD on the last play of the game; that really was a tough way to go out in Week 11. Bengals, Chargers, Steelers is a tough stretch for Cleveland as we head into December.

NFL Power Rankings – Week 11

Posted November 20, 2009 by mpblewitt
Categories: Power Rankings

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The old adage about football being a game of inches has come to the forefront of the entire league after the epic decision made by Patriots coach Bill Belichick against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night. Clearly, things did not work out in his team’s favor. The Bengals have made believers out of everyone (even me, finally), the Chargers caught the Broncos sooner than expected, and the Browns look just plain awful. Let’s make our way all the way from No. 1 to No. 32…

  1. New Orleans Saints (9-0)—OK, so it wasn’t their best week but I don’t think most of us would complain about any of the steps that got one’s team to the 9-0 status that the Saints enjoy. New Orleans played it tight with St. Louis but, as we know, on any given Sunday…Anyway the Saints will need to avoid the three turnovers they committed against the Rams if they want to stay perfect. A divisional game against the Bucs awaits them.
  2. Indianapolis Colts (9-0)—On a night when you give up 477 yards of offense, QB Peyton Manning throws two INTs, and allow Tom Brady & Co. to hold the ball for 35 minutes you shouldn’t expect positive results. But, the door was left ajar and a 17-point comeback ensued putting the Colts very much in the driver’s seat for home field advantage in the AFC playoffs. They will take their three-game lead to Baltimore for another tough conference matchup.
  3. Minnesota Vikings (8-1)—Adrian Peterson ran for 133 yards, the Vikes racked up nearly 500 yards of offense, and they rolled over Detroit 27-10. Converting only 3 of 11 first downs and committing 13 penalties kept it close until the fourth quarter but it still never seemed in doubt. Next up: Seattle in Minnesota.
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (7-2)—The Bengals hurried Big Ben and had the Steelers’ offense off-balance all day which resulted in a season sweep of the defending champs. Cincy is now 5-0 and in full control of the AFC North as they head to Oakland this Sunday.
  5. New England Patriots (6-3)—Fourth and two…ad nauseum. The Pats blew a big one in Indy but may have proved to themselves in the process that they can score at will on the Colts’ defense. It’s not often that you see 477 yards of offense racked up in defeat – no one would be surprised to see that rematch in January. The Pats go home and need to regroup against the Jets who dealt them an early-season loss.
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3)—The inability to protect Roethlisberger reared its head again on Sunday and puts the Steelers in a position of chasing the Bengals for the remainder of the year. The loss of Troy Polamalu was felt again when he left this game and will have a potentially big impact if he misses more time or plays hurt. The offense will be looking to put a hurt on the Chiefs in KC this week.
  7. San Diego Chargers (6-3)—The Chargers have been red hot and made a nice leap up the rankings leading into their big divisional showdown against the Broncos on Sunday. LaDainian showed us a flash from the past as he ran for 96 yards and two scores. After starting 2-3, their four game win streak has put them in contention to take the AFC West lead with six games to play.
  8. Denver Broncos (6-3)—The tide turned in a big way against the Broncos after QB Kyle Orton was knocked out of the game in the second half. They threw for minus-8 passing yards and were unable to hold the lead against Washington to drop their third straight. A HUGE battle for first place will ensue this Sunday against the Chargers.
  9. Dallas Cowboys (6-3)—The ‘Boys did not convert a third down until nine minutes remained in the game and snapped a four-game winning streak. While they had an uncharacteristic offensive performance, they still remain in first place in the NFC East and will face divisional foe Washington this Sunday in Dallas.

10.  Philadelphia Eagles (5-4)—The Eagles simply had a hard time punching the ball into the end zone and came up short against a hot Chargers team. In the now unpredictable NFC East, Philly missed out on a huge opportunity to gain ground on their divisional rivals. They will need to win at Chicago to keep pace with Dallas who leads by one game.

11.  Atlanta Falcons (5-4)—The entire Falcons team appears to be slumping right along with QB Matt Ryan’s play. His two picks were crucial in the loss to Carolina on Sunday. Michael Turner’s injury will add more intrigue to a must-win game against the Giants this weekend which amounts to a possible elimination game for two teams battling for a playoff spot.

12.  Arizona Cardinals (6-3)—Finding balance on offense may be possible after all as rookie RB Beanie Wells ran for 85 yards and two second-half scores in a win over Seattle. The Cards have opened up a two-game lead in the NFC West and still have the Rams twice including this Sunday; these are good signs for their playoff hopes in 2009.

13.  New York Giants (5-4)—The ‘sky is falling’ routine was bandied about New York all during the bye week but it is now gut-check time as the Giants host Atlanta and may be out of the playoff mix with a fifth straight loss.

14.  Baltimore Ravens (5-4)—It was an ugly game all around but the Ravens pitched a 16-0 shutout over the Browns. The offense was not impressive at all in scoring only 10 third quarter points but it’s best to turn the page and record the win in these instances. They have a fight on their hands as they try to stay alive in the playoff hunt against the Colts and Steelers the next two weeks.

15.  Houston Texans (5-4)—The Texans’ bye week was an extra day longer as they pulled Monday night duty versus the resurgent Titans. Perhaps the week off is just what they needed to prepare for Chris Johnson.

16.  Green Bay Packers (5-4)—The Pack sacked Dallas QB Tony Romo five ties, hurried him plenty more, and forced three turnovers in a huge win to keep their season alive. Green Bay can score with almost any team in the league and with the defense playing inspired football perhaps they can be the team to steal a playoff berth in December.

17.  Jacksonville Jaguars (5-4)—The Jags showed their discipline by running down the clock on the Jets and opting for a FG when being given the space for a TD by the Jets – not something you see very often. This team has been impossible to figure out all season and now find themselves back in the playoff hunt with seven games to go.

18.  San Francisco 49ers (4-5)—It may not have been pretty, but it counts. The Niners forced (and I use that term lightly) Bears QB Jay Cutler into five INTs and held on for a 10-6 victory. If you commit nine penalties, barely gain 200 yards of offense, and win then consider yourself lucky and move on the next opponent which is Green Bay at Lambeau in this instance.

19.  Carolina Panthers (4-5)—Head coach John Fox has his team back in business and doing what they do best: run, run, and run some more. After being an NFC worst minus-9 in turnover ratio they were able to protect the ball and force Atlanta into some big INTs. Hosting Miami on Thursday night could get them right back to .500 and in position for a late-season run at meaningful game in January.

20.  Miami Dolphins (4-5)—It was reminiscent of earlier this decade when Ricky Williams stepped up in the absence of Ronnie Brown late in the game and willed the Dolphins to victory over Tampa. The Dolphins racked up almost 200 yards on the ground and will face the Panthers on Thursday night in a game that could effectively end the loser’s playoff hopes.

21.  New York Jets (4-5)—The Jets and Jags matched up evenly across the board…except for Mark Sanchez’ two picks. They have got to protect him and the ball better if they have any chance against the Pats who will be looking to take out the fourth-and-two frustration on Gang Green this Sunday.

22.  Chicago Bears (4-5)—Five, count ‘em five picks for the alleged savior at QB.  Jay Cutler’s play and body language have been a very bad sign for things to come in Chicago and from the looks of it their playoff hopes are nearly extinguished. Trying to get back on track with Philly and Minnesota up next is not what they expected in Week 11 this season.

23.  Tennessee Titans (3-6)—Too bad the one thing we will remember about this game is owner Bud Adams getting fined $250,000 for flipping the bird at Buffalo fans. (Haven’t they had enough, Bud?) On the field, the Titans have been rejuvenated by Vince Young’s versatility and Chris Johnson’s spectacular running ability. They are legitimately fighting their way towards .500; Houston is next on Monday night.

24.  Washington Redskins (3-6)—Credit to the Redskins for fighting back from a fourth quarter deficit and earning the win over Denver. They held Denver’s offense in check after QB Kyle Orton went down and Skins’ RB Ladell Betts was a beast rushing for 114 yards in the comeback victory. The next stretch of games is brutal for Washington (Dallas, Philly, New Orleans) and may very well just secure the end of the Jim Zorn era.

25.  Buffalo Bills (3-6)—It’s not often you see a 24 point-loss declared a close game but this one was tied going into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Dick Jauron was our first coaching casualty of the season as he was let go after this loss. Coordinator Perry Fewell takes over for a Bills team with zero identity, so…good luck with that, Perry.

26.  Seattle Seahawks (3-6)—Amazingly, Seattle finds themselves in big trouble after another loss to the Cardinals. Allowing nearly 500 yards of offense and not punching the ball in during the second half has put them on life support for a playoff berth this season. The Vikes may put them out of their misery on Sunday.

27.  Kansas City Chiefs (2-7)—Despite three turnovers, KC was able to earn the victory and a season split with the rival Raiders. Jamaal Charles picked up 103 yards on the ground and may provide the Chiefs with a more consistent ground game than his predecessor did. There are signs of life with this team but a four-game suspension to Dwayne Bowe going into the Steelers game is not a god way to keep the momentum going.

28.  Oakland Raiders (2-7)—JaMarcus Russell went 8 for 23 and was benched, they committed 10 penalties, and continue to rank near the bottom of the league in almost every offensive category. Cincinnati, Dallas, and Pittsburgh is not the trifecta of teams they would like to be matching up against but they need to find some heart somewhere…quickly.

29.  St. Louis Rams (1-8)—As I say often in this space, there are no moral victories in the NFL. The Rams fought hard, Steven Jackson was his usual nasty self, and the defense forced three turnovers but it was just not enough against the top-ranked Saints. Another high-octane offense comes to town with Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals.

30.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8)—Tampa Bay committed nine penalties and allowed the Dolphins to run roughshod over them resulting in yet another loss, this one with only 10 seconds remaining. Rookie QB Josh Freeman was adequate for the Bucs but will continue his development throughout the year.  Next up is the Saints is what could be an ugly matchup for Tampa Bay.

31.  Detroit Lions (1-8)—The Lions allowed almost 500 yards of offense to the Vikings and continue to rank dead last in the league in points allowed. This is obviously a building process for the Lions who will have an opportunity to bounce back when the Browns come into town this Sunday.

32.  Cleveland Browns (1-8)—The Browns have managed only 5 offensive TDs in 36 quarters this season. That is truly remarkable. They travel to Detroit next in what may be their last legit chance at a victory for the rest of the season.


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