Week 9 NFL Report Card Grades for Every Team

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor INovember 5, 2012

Week 9 NFL Report Card Grades for Every Team

0 of 28

    Thanks to the New Orleans Saints 28-13 victory over the staggering Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night, every team in the NFL will have played at least eight games in 2012.

    Forecasting which teams are headed to the postseason may be easier said than done given the unpredictability of today’s league.

    We’re not here to preview but to review. And after another interesting week of games, it’s still tough sorting out the contenders from the pretenders.

    So we return with this week’s grades once again. Please remember that they are based on a number of factors, not just wins and losses and final numbers. And they are marks for this week’s performance and not a team’s overall play this season, so those wondering how an 8-0 team like the Atlanta Falcons doesn't have an A+ need not worry.

    Let’s see how many passing grades were handed out during a week in which the run continued to make a re-appearance around the league. And it’s probably not hard to figure out who earned an F this week.

Arizona Cardinals: C+

1 of 28

    What are the odds that the Arizona Cardinals would stop the current bleeding at Lambeau Field?

    Ken Whisenhunt’s club had dropped four in a row following its surprising 4-0 start. And it may be time for a tourniquet, as the Cards dropped their fifth straight via a 31-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

    Despite throwing for 306 yards and a touchdown while being sacked only twice, quarterback John Skelton and company just couldn’t keep pace with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. And it doesn’t help that the usually stingy Cardinals gave up a season-high 31 points as Ray Horton’s pass rush totaled only one sack on the afternoon.

    Arizona’s running game also remained AWOL, totaling only 54 yards on 18 carries.

    It’s safe to say no team needs an off week more than Whisenhunt’s squad, which now finds itself below .500 after that promising start.

Atlanta Falcons: A-

2 of 28

    Off arguably their most impressive outing of the season via a 30-17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons were looking for the NFL’s 20th 8-0 start of the Super Bowl Era.

    Mike Smith’s team closed the deal on a hard-hitting 19-13 Sunday night win over the Dallas Cowboys. And while the Falcons struggled to find the end zone all evening, it was another example of this team simply finding a way to win.

    Despite being sacked three times and taking his share of shots, quarterback Matt Ryan never melted, completing 24-of-34 passes for 342 yards. Wideouts Roddy White and Julio Jones both topped the 100-yard mark in receiving yards, and running back Jacquizzz Rodgers made his share of key receptions.

    Running back Michael Turner added 102 yards rushing and the team’s only touchdown, although many of those yards came on a third quarter run.

    But how do 453 total yards and zero turnovers translate into only 19 points? While veteran placekicker Matt Bryant connected for four field goals, he pushed attempts from 37 and 43 yards wide right.

    So while it wasn’t exactly a perfect evening for Smith and company, their win-loss record remains spotless.

Baltimore Ravens: B+

3 of 28

    When last we saw John Harbaugh’s club two weeks ago in Houston, they were being drubbed by the Texans in a clash between the teams with the best records in the AFC.

    This week, the Baltimore Ravens traveled to Cleveland to battle a Browns team they had defeated nine straight times.

    You can now make it 10 in a row, as Harbaugh’s team jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead en route to a 25-15 victory over their AFC North rival. And after three straight games in which Baltimore’s defense couldn’t stop an opponent from piling up big numbers on the ground, Baltimore did just fine.

    While Trent Richardson did rush for 105 yards against Terrell Suggs and company, the Browns ran for only 116 by game’s end. And the opportunistic Ravens picked off a pair of Brandon Weeden pass attempts while Harbaugh’s team played turnover-free football.

    It was a prototypical victory for the Ravens, who obviously used their off-week to get back on track. 

Buffalo Bills: C

4 of 28

    It may be old-home week for Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams, but it was Chan Gailey’s team looking for a brand new start following a much-needed off week.

    The first overall pick by the Houston Texans in 2006, the former Pro Bowler took the free agency route to Orchard Park this offseason. But it’s been a very disappointing season for the supposedly revamped Buffalo defense, which has now allowed 201 points in the team’s five losses following a 21-9 setback at Houston.

    Give the nod to Williams, who led the Bills on Sunday with seven tackles and managed a sack of former teammate Matt Schaub. But Texans running back Arian Foster also rolled up 111 yards rushing and a score against Dave Wannstedt’s unit.

    Still, it was the Buffalo offense that had its issues at Reliant Stadium as Gailey’s club failed to score a touchdown and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked three times and lost a fumble, the lone turnover on the afternoon.

    Buffalo’s 2-1 start is but a distant memory, to say the least.

Carolina Panthers: A

5 of 28

    Losers of five straight games, the last four by a combined 12 points, the Carolina Panthers headed north looking to make a little team history.

    That’s because in five previous trips to the nation’s capital, the Panthers had yet to beat the Washington Redskins in their home park(s).

    So much for that.

    Carolina’s 21-13 victory over the ‘Skins featured a balanced attack and, more importantly, turnover-free football from the Panthers for the first time this season. Speaking of firsts, wideout Steve Smith caught his first touchdown pass of the season as quarterback Cam Newton threw for 201 yards and a score while rushing for 37 yards and a touchdown.

    But perhaps even more important was running back DeAngelo Williams’ 30-yard scoring jaunt in the first quarter, the longest run by a Panthers running back in 2012.

    At 2-6, there’s a long way to go for Ron Rivera’s team to get back into contention. But you have to start somewhere.

Chicago Bears: A+

6 of 28

    On Sunday afternoon at Nashville, the Chicago Bears gained only 25 yards more of total offense than the home-standing Tennessee Titans.

    Of course, there’s this little matter of the defense and special teams.

    Another week and another big afternoon for Lovie Smith’s incredibly opportunistic defensive unit, which came up with five more takeaways and once again scored a touchdown in the team’s 51-20 embarrassment of the Titans.

    Chicago rolled up a franchise-record 28 first-quarter points thanks to a blocked punt for a touchdown, an eight-yard TD run by Matt Forte, a 13-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall and Brian Urlacher’s 46-yard interception return.

    Smith’s club has now taken back seven interceptions for scores, two shy of tying the NFL record for a season (nine) held by the 1961 San Diego Chargers. Cutler and Marshall, the latter totaling nine receptions for 122 yards, would also connect for two more scores by afternoon’s end, while Forte ran for 103 yards.

    A sound thrashing, indeed, by a Bears team that seems to be growing in confidence.

Cincinnati Bengals: B-

7 of 28

    The good news is that Marvin Lewis’ Cincinnati Bengals took the Denver Broncos' best shot and rallied from a 17-3 third-quarter deficit to take a 20-17 lead in the fourth quarter.

    The bad news is that Peyton Manning and company had a few more upper cuts to deliver.

    The Broncos signal-caller threw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to give his team the lead for good while handing Cincinnati its fourth straight loss.

    Despite 299 yards through the air and a score for quarterback Andy Dalton, the second-year signal-caller threw an interception and was harassed by the Denver pass rush, sacked five times on the afternoon.

    And while the Bengals defense did hold the Broncos to only 68 yards rushing and picked off Manning twice, they couldn’t stop John Fox’s team when they needed to most.

    At 3-5, Lewis and company are starting to dig themselves quite a hole that will make a return to the playoffs difficult.

Cleveland Browns: C

8 of 28

    The Baltimore Ravens were there for the taking, and the Cleveland Browns just couldn’t close the deal.

    After falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter on Sunday, Browns head coach Pat Shurmur watched kicker Phil Dawson connect on five straight field-goal attempts to give his club a 15-14 lead in the fourth quarter. But it wasn’t meant to be, as the Ravens scored the final 11 points of the game to wrap up their 10th straight win in this series.

    While rookie running back Trent Richardson rushed for 105 yards, fellow first-rounder Brandon Weeden threw for only 176 yards and was picked off twice. Meanwhile, Baltimore finished with 137 yards on the ground and made the necessary plays that Shurmur’s club did not.

    Although the Browns continued to fall further behind in the AFC North standings, keep an eye on Richardson, who has run for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games and may be primed for a strong stretch run.

    And that’s even if the rest of the team is not.

Dallas Cowboys: B-

9 of 28

    Well, whose fault is it this week?

    Doesn't someone have to take the blame for the Dallas Cowboys latest loss, a 19-13 prime-time setback to the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome? 

    Quarterback Tony Romo looked pretty solid, completing 25-of-35 passes for 321 yards and a score without committing a turnover. And the Dallas defense held the unbeaten Falcons to less than 20 points, including only one touchdown, and sacked quarterback Matt Ryan three times.

    However, when Jason Garrett’s team needed to get a stop, it simply couldn’t come up with a play. And that Cowboys defensive unit allowed Ryan (who threw for 342 yards) and company to convert 50 percent on third down.

    The only saving grace for the 3-5 Pokes on Sunday is that the Giants and Redskins both lost as well. With half a season to play, Garrett’s club still has time to right the ship. But if you ask Cowboys fans what’s really wrong with their team, they make look at you with a little bewilderment.

    Can you blame them?

Denver Broncos: B+

10 of 28

    It’s safe to say that the Denver Broncos have finally found their groove. And for a rare time this season, the team wasn’t either ahead by or trailing by 20 or more points.

    It wasn’t long ago that John Fox’s team was sitting at 2-3 following a tough loss at New England. And then consider the Broncos dug themselves a 24-0 halftime hole at San Diego eight days later and Fox's club appeared to be in a bit of trouble.

    What’s happened since has been amazing. Denver rallied for a 35-24 win over the Chargers and are now on a three-game winning streak, the latest being a 31-23 victory at Cincinnati. Quarterback Peyton Manning overcame a pair of interceptions by throwing for 291 yards and three scores, the fifth straight game in which the veteran signal-caller pulled off the hat trick.

    Still, this was far from a one-man show in the Queen City. Wideout Eric Decker caught eight passes for 99 yards, two for touchdowns, while the Denver defense totaled five sacks of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and picked him off in the fourth quarter.

    With a hot Manning and a defensive unit that is starting to make plays, it will be interesting to see where this team is headed.

Detroit Lions: A

11 of 28

    "Better later than never" may be the Detroit Lions motto for the first half of 2012.

    Thanks to three wins in their last four games, the latest a convincing 31-14 road victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Jim Schwartz’s team is firmly in the NFC playoff chase. And the Men from Motown managed to roll up 31 points without a touchdown pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford.

    Don’t worry. The Lions signal-caller did his share, throwing for 285 yards while he and his Detroit teammates played turnover-free football. Instead, it was the 1-2 punch of running backs Joique Bell and Mikel Leshoure that combined for 143 of the team’s 149 yards rushing and all four of the Lions' touchdowns on the afternoon.

    Meanwhile, Detroit’s defense did its part against Blaine Gabbert, intercepting the second-year quarterback twice.

    Now, let’s see how many of their remaining opponents the Lions manage to pick off.

Green Bay Packers: A-

12 of 28

    Over the previous three weeks, perhaps no player in the National Football League had been hotter than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

    You can make it four, with a big assist from a second-year pro.

    Despite an interception, the Green Bay signal-caller threw four more touchdown passes, including a pair to Randall Cobb, and Mike McCarthy’s team held a very game Arizona Cardinals team for a 31-17 win.

    While Rodgers threw for 218 yards and wound up completing less than half of his pass attempts (14-of-30), the Packers also used a variety of players to roll up 176 yards rushing on 39 attempts, including 61 yards by running back James Starks, 33 by Rodgers and 29 by Cobb.

    Still, that lone Rodgers’ turnover combined with only one penalty charged to McCarthy’s team made this a solid win for a Packers’ team chasing the red-hot Bears in the NFC North.

Houston Texans: B+

13 of 28

    With the AFC’s best record at 6-1, the Houston Texans were looking to remain sharp following the team’s off-week.

    Although Gary Kubiak’s team didn’t blow the doors off the visiting Buffalo Bills, the team’s 21-9 win featured another stellar defensive performance, one in which did not yield a touchdown.

    Reliable running back Arian Foster carried 24 times for 111 yards and a touchdown, meaning the star performer has scored in each of the Texans' eight games this season. And veteran wideout Andre Johnson totaled 118 yards on eight catches, his first 100-yard performance since Week 1 versus the Dolphins.

    Still, the Texans were far from impressive on offense against a struggling Buffalo defensive unit. Houston’s third-down efficiency (4-of-11) left a lot to be desired.

    Credit the Houston defenders, who gave up just 308 total yards to the Bills. But more importantly, chalk up yet another win for the conference’s front-runners who have stumbled just once in their first eight games.

Indianapolis Colts: A-

14 of 28

    Fair or unfair, here come the comparisons.

    Is Indianapolis Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, who has now led his team to a 5-3 start this season, actually better than that other guy?

    Well, the first overall pick in April is “peyton” quite a rosy picture for a franchise that won just twice in 2011. And since that 35-9 debacle against the Jets, the Colts have won three straight games, the latest an exciting 23-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins in which Luck threw for 433 yards, the most ever by a rookie, and a pair of touchdowns.

    And Indianapolis needed all of those yards and all of those 23 points against a Dolphins team that is much-improved as well. But in the end, the Colts were just a bit too much for Joe Philbin’s team and the Miami defense, which failed to force a turnover and only sacked Luck once.

    Don’t look now, but Chuck Pagano’s club is very much a playoff contender in the wide-open AFC.

Jacksonville Jaguars: C-

15 of 28

    Once again, points were hard to come by for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    And once again, a win proved to be elusive as well, as Mike Mularkey’s club fell behind 24-0 in the fourth quarter en route to a 31-14 loss to the visiting Detroit Lions.

    The Jaguars offense managed only 279 total yards, and both of their touchdowns came in the final 8:36 of the game. On the other hand, Detroit’s attack rolled up 434 yards of offense, including 149 rushing, and the Lions didn’t commit a turnover.

    At 1-7 and riding a five-game losing streak, things don’t look very bright for the Jags. The eventual return of running back Maurice Jones-Drew can’t come soon enough.

    Chin up.

Kansas City Chiefs: D

16 of 28

    It’s almost hard to believe that it keeps happening.

    But there’s seemingly no logical explanation for the performance of the Kansas City Chiefs, who committed four more turnovers in a 31-13 Thursday night loss at San Diego.

    Romeo Crennel’s team trailed only 10-6 entering the fourth quarter. But then all hell broke loose as quarterback Matt Cassel served up a pair of touchdowns for the opposition, fumbling in the end zone for a Chargers score, and, a few moments later, watching linebacker Demorrio Williams return his lone interception of the night 59 yards for a score.

    In eight games this season, seven resulting in a loss, the Chiefs have committed a league-high 29 turnovers, including two or more in each contest in 2012. And it’s hard to find the positives when you’re in the midst of a four-game losing streak.

    And counting?

Miami Dolphins: B

17 of 28

    There are no moral victories in the NFL. But in an unexpected playoff-positioning clash between the improved Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts, the latter proved to be just a little better than Joe Philbin’s up-and-coming squad.

    The Dolphins' 23-20 loss at Indianapolis featured Miami’s defense getting shredded for 433 yards passing by quarterback Andrew Luck, the most ever by a rookie, while the team’s usually potent pass rush totaled only one sack in the contest.

    However, an even more glaring number was the lack of rushing yardage put up by the Dolphins against a Colts defense that has had its issue in this department. Philbin’s team managed only 84 yards on the ground on just 18 attempts, surprising figures considering the back-and-forth nature of the game.

    Still, it’s that "loss is a loss" thing. And off a 6-10 campaign, a 4-4 start seems like a good thing.

    We’ll find out soon enough just how good the Dolphins are feeling about themselves these days.

Minnesota Vikings: C

18 of 28

    It wasn’t terribly long ago that we were singing the praises of Minnesota Vikings second-year quarterback Christian Ponder and Leslie Frazier’s defense.

    It appears that we’ve hit a sour note or two.

    With a little extra time to cure what ailed them during the team’s 36-17 Thursday night home loss to the Buccaneers in Week 8, the Vikings managed to hold the home-standing Seahawks to “only” 30 points in a 10-point setback at Seattle.

    This time, the culprits were many, as rookie quarterback Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes, while Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch rumbled for 124 yards and a score on the ground. The Minnesota defense gave up 385 total yards by game’s end.

    There was a huge bright spot in the form of Adrian Peterson, who ran for 182 yards and two touchdowns. But just as was the case versus the Bucs, another big game by the former Pro Bowler didn’t mean much in terms of a win. That positive was offset by the play of quarterback Christian Ponder, who completed only 11-of-22 passes for 63 yards and an interception while being sacked four times.

    Suddenly, a 4-1 start has turned into three losses in four games.

New Orleans Saints: B+

19 of 28

    There’s still some life left in the New Orleans Saints.

    With wins in three of their last four games, including a sound 28-13 triumph over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night at the Superdome, the 3-5 Cajuns are still very much alive in a very crowded NFC.

    No, we’re not forecasting the Saints to make a run at the NFC South title. But despite their defensive woes, Joe Vitt’s team is learning to win again. And against the Eagles, New Orleans bent big-time but rarely broke, allowing only one touchdown by game’s end.

    Meanwhile, the Saints defense took matters into its own hands via cornerback Patrick Robinson, who took advantage of a tipped pass to score on a 99-yard interception return in the first quarter.

    Brees added 239 yards through the air and a pair of touchdowns and the New Orleans ground attack rolled up 140 yards.

    Still, the Saints did give up 447 total yards, the eighth time in as many games that the club allowed at least 400-plus yards of total offense.

    But for New Orleans fans, the much-better number is 3-1 these days.

New York Giants: B

20 of 28

    Up 20-10 very early in the fourth quarter, the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants appeared ready to close the deal against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers.

    But although we are accustomed to seeing Eli Manning and his teammates come up with their share of fourth-quarter heroics, it was actually the quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense that made the plays in a disappointing 24-20 loss for Tom Coughlin’s club.

    Despite the closeness of the final score, the Giants offense didn’t do a lot against Dick LeBeau’s defense. New York totaled only 182 yards on 48 plays, while linebacker Michael Boley’s 70-yard touchdown return of a Roethlisberger fumble proved to be the club’s most explosive play of the contest.

    Manning and company not only ran for just 68 yards, but the Giants were a mere 2-of-10 on third-down conversions. And the defense’s inability to slow down Steelers running back Isaac Redman, who rushed for 147 yards and a score, ultimately proved to be Big Blue’s undoing.

    Of course, given the circumstances of the week on the East Coast and how it affected the Giants on a personal basis, there’s no need for any harsh criticism here.

Oakland Raiders: B-

21 of 28

    The number 22 wound up holding special significance for the Silver and Black in their 42-32 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    That’s because it was number of rushing yards the Raiders offense would manage against their visitors from Florida.

    It’s also the jersey number of Buccaneers rookie running back Doug Martin, who shredded the Oakland defense for 251 yards rushing and four touchdowns on just 25 carries. Tampa Bay rolled up 515 yards of offense on Dennis Allen’s defensive unit.

    However, there was no quit in this team, as quarterback Carson Palmer, who was sacked twice and picked off three times, also threw for 414 yards and four touchdowns as the Raiders turned a 35-17 fourth-quarter deficit into a 3-point game (35-32) with just under four minutes to play.

    But it wasn’t meant to be, as the Oakland defense, as well as Palmer’s inconsistency, continue to be issues.

    And hopefully for Raiders fans, each is fixable sooner than later.

Philadelphia Eagles: D+

22 of 28

    A Monday night visit to the Superdome was supposed to cure what’s ailing the Philadelphia Eagles, losers of three straight games.

    But while the New Orleans Saints defense give-th in terms of total yards, they also would take-th in terms of a pair of crucial Eagles turnovers and Andy Reid’s team dropped its fourth in a row, 28-13, to fall to 3-5.

    The Birds figured to take advantage of a generous Saints unit that would give up 447 total yards by night’s end, including 221 yards rushing. But one Eagles drive ended with a Michael Vick pass that went off the hand of tight end Brent Celek and into the arms of New Orleans cornerback Patrick Robinson, who raced 99 yards for a touchdown. Later, a catch and fumble by Celek deep in Saints territory killed another scoring drive.

    Vick also lost 46 yards on seven sacks as the Eagles offensive front once again had no answer for a team’s pass rush.

    Meanwhile, the Philadelphia defense continued to have its issues and Todd Bowles group had its moments, Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 21-of-27 passes for 239 yards and a pair of scores.

    Out of sync would be a kind way to describe the Birds these days.

Pittsburgh Steelers: A-

23 of 28

    Five games into the season, the 2-3 Pittsburgh Steelers couldn’t win a road game, and their last two losses, to the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans, came via field goals on the final plays of the games.

    However, Mike Tomlin’s club has a different look to it these days, as the Black and Gold came away with a huge 24-20 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Giants at MetLife Stadium, made even more impressive considering the Steelers trailed 20-10 in the fourth quarter.

    But while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 216 yards and a pair of scores, he was also sacked four times and committed a pair of turnovers, including a fumble returned 70 yards for one of the Giants' two touchdowns.

    However, running back Isaac Redman enjoyed a career afternoon, totaling 151 yards of total offense and a touchdown (including 147 yards rushing), just 31 yards less than the New York offense (182) managed against Pittsburgh’s defense.

    The upcoming four weeks, which includes a pair of tilts with the first-place Ravens, should tell us a lot about where this Steelers team is headed in 2012.

San Diego Chargers: B

24 of 28

    There’s no truth to the rumor that the San Diego Chargers management is trying to schedule the Kansas City Chiefs for a third time in 2012.

    Another meeting with their longtime AFC West rival produced similar results for Norv Turner’s team, which was neck and neck with the visitors last Thursday night before the Chiefs self-destructed once again.

    The Bolts totaled four takeaways and scored on two of them, thanks to a fumble recovery in the end zone by Shaun Phillips and a 59-yard interception return by linebacker Demorrio Williams, both miscues at the expense of Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel.

    That means in two games versus the Chiefs this season, the wins by a combined total of 68-33, the Chargers have totaled 10 takeaways and returned three for touchdowns. In their other six games (2-4), Turner’s team has forced only seven turnovers.

    By the way, it was far from a perfect night for the Bolts, who committed two turnovers of their own in the win. But no harm, no foul for the Chargers. At least not this week.

Seattle Seahawks: B+

25 of 28

    Ah, the ebbs and flows of a football season. It’s what makes the game so very interesting.

    And Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks are certainly intriguing, snapping a brief two-game losing streak with a strong 30-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

    A week after giving up a season-high 28 points in a loss at Detroit, Carroll’s club rolled up a season-high 30 points, thanks to an efficient day from rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who threw for 173 yards and three scores, and workhorse Marshawn Lynch, who ran for 124 yards and a touchdown.

    Meanwhile, the Seattle defense somewhat did its share, despite allowing a whopping 243 yards rushing, 182 of that by Adrian Peterson, who scored Minnesota’s only two touchdowns on the day. That’s because the Seahawks forced a pair of turnovers and sacked quarterback Christian Ponder four times, as the Vikings passing attack’s longest play of the afternoon was a mere 14 yards.

    This is a very intriguing team, to say the least.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A

26 of 28

    The last time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders squared off was in 2008, a 31-24 win by the Silver and Black in Tampa, which proved to be memorable. It was the last game for Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, who six seasons earlier had guided Tampa to a win over the Raiders (his previous team) in Super Bowl XXXVII.

    While the Buccaneers' 42-32 victory at Oakland on Sunday doesn’t hold the same significance, it's safe to say it won’t be forgotten any time soon.

    Rookie running back Doug Martin ran for 251 yards and four touchdowns, including scores of 45, 67 and 70 yards. Greg Schiano’s improving club suddenly finds itself at 4-4, certainly a player when it comes to being in the mix for the postseason.

    After nine straight road losses, the Bucs have put together back-to-back wins away from home and scored a combined 78 points the last two weeks. And for the fourth game in a row, quarterback Josh Freeman threw at least two touchdown passes.

    Schiano’s team nearly squandered a 35-17 fourth-quarter lead before Martin’s fourth touchdown of the game iced it.

    Say what you will. Buccaneers games don’t lack excitement.

Tennessee Titans: F

27 of 28

    Details, details…

    Where to start when it comes to the Tennessee Titans' 51-20 home loss to the hustling Chicago Bears?

    Before you could say “Welcome to Nashville,” Mike Munchak’s team was down 28-2 in the first quarter, thanks to a Keystone Kops-like series of events. En route to five turnovers on the afternoon, the Titans also had a punt blocked for a touchdown, and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s lone interception of the game was taken back for a score.

    It marked the seventh time in nine games this season that the Titans have allowed 30-plus points. And consider that Tennessee has allowed a league-high 308 points in only nine games, a figure just nine points short of last season’s total in the same category.

    So where do Munchak and company go from here? Actually, it’s Miami, followed by a bye week.

    Perhaps then the Titans will figure out what’s really going on.

Washington Redskins: C-

28 of 28

    What are the chances Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder would consider building his team a new stadium?

    All kidding aside, FedExField has been absolutely and positively a nightmare for its current tenant.

    Three weeks earlier, Mike Shanahan’s club snapped an eight-game home losing streak with a win over the Vikings. However, on Sunday, it was back to the drawing board as the Carolina Panthers beat the Redskins on the road for the first time in six tries courtesy of a 21-13 win.

    Suddenly, a respectable 3-3 start has turned into three consecutive losses, as the Washington defense and 13 penalties were major factors in the setback.

    Redskins’ defenders not only allowed 129 yards rushing but also failed to sack Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on the afternoon. And while rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III threw for 215 yards and ran for another 53 yards, he was also sacked four times by a spirited Carolina defense.

    Now, let’s see what Shanahan and company can come up with as he and the team prepare for a brief vacation.